February update

Well, it looks like summer is almost over and a coolish one it was. We didn’t have any days over 40º C and the ones in the 30’s didn’t drag on for days on end, but were punctuated by cooler days. Hot, northerly winds on the hot days were conspicuous by their absence. It was calm, simmering, fry-an-egg-on-the-footpath heat.

It has been the worst year for tomatoes I can remember. The cold wet spring meant I didn’t get them planted till early November and straightway they started to get blight—late or early, I can never work out which—but the lower leaves get yellow patches and brown spots and gradually that creeps up the stem leaves. This time they got some other sort of lurgi as well, where the lower leaves just went brown and shrivelled. I’ve never had that before. Luckily, the upper leaves just managed to keep ahead, but the whole lot looked very sick and sad. But at least the cherries started to ripen this month :

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I’m not drying any this year—I haven’t got enough, the weather hasn’t been great for sun-drying and I still have plenty of dried ones left over from last year. I’ll freeze the excess instead and use them for casseroles and soups in winter. I still have 2 packs of frozen cherries from last year in the freezer.

The eggplants are doing well, flowering and setting fruits. There are just three, in one large tub :

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I’ve never grown them before—in fact I’m not even sure if I like them. I’ve eaten them out but never bought them to cook at home. If they’re going to be easy to grow, I guess I can learn to like them!

I grew these Italian Long Red (rossa lunga) salad onions again this year, because they were so easy :

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And so pretty :

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The seedling-grown purple muscatel grape is setting a couple of bunches for the first time :

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I tried one and they’re surprisingly quite sweet even at this stage. I hope they grow a bit bigger and I’ll wait till they colour up before picking them.

These are carrots from a wicking box. I agree, they wouldn’t win any prizes! I think the wicking boxes aren’t deep enough to get a good, long carrot. Not to worry—they’ll make good lunchtime nibbles.

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Apples are ripening :

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Those in the big basket are from a seedling tree, grown from a seed of Red Delicious. Apples are notorious for not coming true to seed. It looks like they have a few Granny Smith genes in them, which wouldn’t surprise me, as the 2 original varieties are growing next to each other. Those on the top right are the real Red Delicious, just starting to colour up and those at the lower right are Cox’s Orange Pippin. I bought it because it’s supposed to be the Queen of apples (or something like that) but I can’t say the flavour is anything to write home about. The good ol’ Red Delicious is still my favourite and there’ll be a good harvest this year because I have a net over the tree :

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I keep poking my head under to check :

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I’m going to dry as many as I can :

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I planted some of the turmeric tubers I grew last year (and kept some back for drying) and they’ve sprouted and the plant has grown even bigger than last year :

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I’ve kept the pot in the polyhouse over summer and now there’s not really enough room for both of us, so I’m wondering whether to risk putting it outside for the winter. Has anyone grown it outside this far south?

The Girls have all moulted and stopped laying, so I’m buying eggs at the moment. Nice, new shiny coats for the winter :

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This is Evening Primrose. It’s self-seeded and more or less taken over this spot beside the pool :

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I grow it for the seeds (when the parrots don’t get them). The oil in the seeds is supposed to have a high concentration of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) which is good for reducing inflammation. According to a study reported in the Lancet, GLA-rich evening primrose oil was found effective in controlling rheumatoid arthritis in a substantial number of patients. I have RA so I’ll try anything that helps. I put the seeds in my bread.

Finally getting enough Purple King climbing beans for a feed. They’re on a wire frame at the rear of a wicking box, which also contains basil, parsley and some self-sown mizuna. I really get my money’s worth out of a wicking box! :

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Looks like I’ll get quinces again this year. I’ve protected some with apple socks (the one on the lower left) and the birds or possums have had a go at a few (upper left) but mostly they’re untouched. The tree still gets those brown fungal spots on the leaves but I’m not into spraying with chemicals, so it has to cope as best it can :

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Pepinos are ready to ripen :

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We had 2 nice dumps of rain in February—one of 37 mm and one of 40 mm—exceeding Melbourne’s monthly average of 46 mm. There were a couple of smaller falls as well. It topped up the tank and made a huge difference to the garden, especially to the size of the apples which I hadn’t bothered to thin.

Roll on autumn. The nicest time of year in Melbourne (usually).

 

Postscript

That eggplant. I wasn’t sure when to pick it. The experts said, ‘when it’s black and shiny’. So….. :

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Yes, I know. Laughter is permitted, but rude comments are not!

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13 Responses to “February update”

  1. Jane Says:

    Lol, love your eggplant. Here we have had a few 40c days and been in the high 30s most of the time. We have had 26mm rain for Feb so far and a lot of the time it’s been very humid. I’ll be glad to see some cooler weather, but the next week is forecast to be hot (by my standards) and dry. My veggie patch has done really well thanks to the bottle idea from Fran, the best summer garden I’ve ever had. You are way ahead of me on tomatoes, I only planted two cherry tomatoes in pots and the first one is ripening now. My favourite parts of the year would be mid to late autumn and the same with spring.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Think I might have spoken too soon weatherwise. Have just looked at the week’s forecast and we are in for 3 days 31-32 and 3 of 29 then 25. Oops! Call it a warm start to autumn, maybe. Fran’s bottle idea is good, I have tried it myself with some plants and it really works!

      PS sowed my gooseberry seeds…nothing yet.

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  2. kayepea Says:

    Nice newsy post thanks Bev and I do lke your eggplant too – I had a similar lemon but have to say ”mine was bigger than yours!” 😉

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  3. narf7 Says:

    Just imagine what it’s like here! Our cherry tomatoes are only just starting to ripen, my eggplant (one died) is only just starting to flower, let alone set fruit. We grew some purple spring onions this year. I didn’t even know that they were purple till they grew bigger. Way to go on labeling Bunnings ;). I am thinking I might like to try growing shallots this year. Our grapes have gone absolutely mental up in Sanctuary but the actual grape harvest won’t be anything to write home about. They appear to have succumbed to some kind of mould and the bunches are about half the size of yours and they are still tiny and green. Oh well, back to the old drawing board!

    Steve wanted to try carrots this year and bought a punnet (yes I know “for shame!” but we only got the wicking beds filled late November and so our whole growing year was late) of round carrots. I think that they would be the very best option for wicking boxes to be honest. Lovely sweet round carrots that don’t need to quest for space. We have a solitary apple growing on Steve’s ballerina apple. The rest dropped off. I am thinking that pollination has been really low this year. Plenty of bees around now, buzzing the coriander and borage but their work was needed months ago when they were still sleeping out a very long winter. The pear trees didn’t set any fruit at all this year and that is very strange as they do their own thing usually without fuss.

    Slugs are decimating my turmeric but they are loving living in the end of a wicking fridge. (Note to self. “get the pellets!) My chooks are repopulating the earth and we are going through a 20kg bag of wheat every 3 days thanks to exponential cluckies going AWOL and not being able to find them. Your evening primrose is lovely Bev. We get it growing wild on the side of the road for some reason. That wicking box is really stacked Bev. Excellent result. I was given a seedling quince tree that limped it’s way through it’s first few years. It got powdery mildew really badly the first two years but this year I mulched it and watered it well and removed every single (stinking) pear and cherry slug from it and it’s looking pretty good but we have had a really mild year this year so fingers crossed it doesn’t succumb to mould. My pear trees have been decimated by pear and cherry slug this year. Lucky they didn’t fruit.

    I have 3 big pepino this year as the rats appear to have been cleaned out by our efforts last year and the feral cats patrolling. When do I harvest them? I SO envy you your eggplants! I adore them. They are absolutely lovely. I would eat them every day if they weren’t $9 each in the shops here for tiny specimens. Lets call that an eggplant “nose” and be done with it ;). Awesome garden post Bev. As usual, full of glorious results, wise words and educational to the max.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Gosh, Fran! You’ve just about written a whole post yourself! Maybe you can copy it into your own blog and add photos. LOL! But thanks for taking the time. You are my greatest fan!

      I’ve seen those little round carrots in the seed catalogues….I think I will have to get some to try….the wickers are so much better than the garden (or get some deeper boxes just for carrots).

      I have never even looked at eggplants in the shops…had NO idea they were that expensive…will definitely be growing them again.

      When the pepinos are ripe the skin goes from green to pale orange. They don’t seem to ripen inside if picked green.

      Problems with bees here too. It’s very worrying. My neighbours are thinking of ‘hosting’ a hive for a friend. Don’t know what they’d find to eat around here though. The gums are massive flowerers when they do, but it doesn’t happen every year. I didn’t even write about the pears….lots of flowers but no fruit at all on one tree and very few on the other…plums were the same. Can’t see me climbing trees with paintbrush in hand to pollinate. Would you believe they do it in China? Saw a photo of a tiny Chinese lady up a tree doing it with a brush. Honestly, what are we doing to this planet!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • narf7 Says:

        Don’t get me started! Cheers for the info about the pepinos. I had 2 on the shrubs last year but the rats chewed both of them before they were ripe so I didn’t know when to harvest them. I have 3 this year (after pruning back the straggly bush I didn’t expect to get anything really) and they are just turning from lemon yellow to a slightly darker colour so I will watch them now. Do they soften? Best of luck getting rid of me now Bev, I love reading about your updates. I always find something that excites me and wants me to start something new. I am laughing about the Chinese lady up the tree. They are very tenacious and if “I” even managed to climb one of my fruit trees it would likely suffer as much as I did when it snapped! We actually have an apiarist up the back of our block so no problems with bees but they were just really late this year. Our pear trees didn’t even flower! The little round carrots are brilliant as they just get round and fat and only need about 6 inches of soil to do it. Eggplants might not be as expensive in your shops but here in Tassie, where they are shipped in, they are $9 for a small one so the only real option is to grow your own. I will be buying the Japanese finger eggplant (or the small Thai ones that look like eggs) seeds this year as that’s really the only kind that does well here and ripens in our short growing season.

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        • foodnstuff Says:

          The pepinos don’t really soften, just change colour. I peel them and they are incredibly juicy and slippery. Once you get some of the peel off, it’s hard to hold the damn thing to get the rest off! Hope you get them to the eating stage.

          Liked by 1 person

          • narf7 Says:

            The rats are AWOL at the moment. I think the feral cats are prowling around scoffing them. I know that there is one that sits just outside the chook coop hunting rats for most of the day and we haven’t had a rat in the roof at all this season which is a lovely change so nothing (aside from the odd blackbird) has been scoffing the fruit of anything. The three pepinos are ripening nicely and after your excellent advice, I might harvest the first one soon as we are having a few days of actual hot weather which seems to be making everything go mental. My 2 cherimoya babies (a variety of custard apple that I grew from seed) are both thriving and growing exponentially in the heat. They should be OK over winter as they have been overwintering inside Sanctuary for a couple of years now and I only just planted them out this year. They are in a bed with a couple of avocados so that should be an interesting mix when it eventually starts fruiting. I was talking to an African guy who is doing a diploma in film and he was lamenting that coconuts are SO expensive here and that they just grow everywhere where he comes from. That made me think that I might have a go at growing one. Why not? They seem pretty hardy and anything that will grow after floating around in the sea for ages should at least have a chance of growing here. People are growing bananas here. I might experiment…

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Nicola Says:

    We had a great year for tomatoes, usually it does not get that hot in the upper mountains, but a friend said she would rather ghave less tomatoes. With the blight some varieties get it some don’t. One of the best varieties is still tigrella and this year St Pierre did well too.
    Evening primrose is declared as a weed here. If they would rather encourage people to use the weeds!

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Nicola, I grew Tigerella a few years ago and remember how good it was. Must try it again next season. Haven’t heard of St Pierre so will look it up.

      Not surprised to learn that evening primrose is a weed, judging by the way it self-seeds here, but have never seen it anywhere else. I’ll have to keep a watch around my place. I don’t want it to cause a problem anywhere else.

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  5. fergie51 Says:

    I am glad to see you have had some great results. This year I am wiping from my mind, useless. I do admit that I didn’t do nearly as much prep nor TLC but still….. Lovely eggplant, lucky I can’t think of anything to say!

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