Archive for November, 2017

October update

November 6, 2017

Well, it finally warmed up somewhat and I managed to get one lot of beans (butter beans) to germinate. They’re in a wicking box with a tomato at the rear :

I bought 2 thornless blackberries at Bunnings and put one in a large tub beside the deck. It’s taken off and is heading upwards to the deck wires, where I want to train it. Hope it doesn’t decide to take over the house :

The other one went down the back into a wire ring of compost from the composting toilet. There’s nothing to train this one on, but I’m going to try pruning to keep it as a shrub :

Last year I grew Red-veined Sorrel in one of the wire rings down the back. It flowered and self seeded on the ground beside the ring. Boy, did it self-seed. Plenty there to dig up and repot :

The dwarf Stella cherry is setting fruit. This might be a good year. Better think about getting the net over it :

I’ve planted all my tomatoes—about 25 at last count—in various wicking boxes and tubs. They’re looking well. I took Aussie gardening guru Peter Cundall’s advice and gave each one about a tablespoon of potash and watered it in around the roots. It certainly makes the stems thicker and more robust and greens the leaves. These two Black Russians are in one of the corrugated metal beds :

The grapevine I’ve trained onto the deck wires has put out new growth :

It’s a purple muscat grape I grew from seed, so I didn’t expect it to flower for a couple of years or more. Last year it produced 3 small bunches and this year there are many more flower bunches :

The dwarf pear I planted in winter didn’t flower but it produced a nice crop of healthy new leaves :

I love the clumps of comfrey when the new growth comes in spring :

Last year the rabbits developed a liking for it and devastated most of the clumps. So far this year, they’re leaving it alone. I’m learning that each year we get a different crop of young ones and their tastes aren’t necessarily those of the parents. Much of this will go to the chooks who love it and it will replace the silver beet they’ve been getting for the last few months and which is running to seed now.

The strawberries on the deck, some in pots and others in wicking buckets, are putting out new growth and flowering. Looking forward to another bumper crop this year :

Bunnings have certainly improved their range of perennial food plants in recent times. I checked them out recently and bought four new varieties :

From left, a thornless loganberry, a lemon guava, a kiwiberry and a maqui berry.

I’ve never eaten loganberries, so looking forward to that one fruiting.

The lemon guava is related to the strawberry guava, which I’m already growing. The strawberry guava has small, red grape-sized fruit and the lemon guava has larger yellow fruit. I haven’t tasted that one either.

The kiwiberry is a related species to the well-known kiwi fruit, but has small berries, supposed to be similar in taste to its better-known cousin. It’s a climber too, and looks like being a rampant one, as it took me ages to disentangle the tendrils of my chosen plant from all the others in the display.

The maqui berry is new to me, so I had to Google. It’s a rainforest tree from Chile and Argentina. That one might be difficult to grow in my area. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.

Now I’ve got to find somewhere to plant them. Climbers are difficult because they need somewhere suitable to climb, while still being accessible for picking and netting from birds and possums. I don’t want to go to all the trouble of building a special trellis.

The lemon guava should be easy. My existing strawberry guavas are hardy and grow anywhere. The maqui berry, in the absense of a local rainforest, will need a bit more thought.

I checked the root systems. They should be able to stay in their pots for a while yet, while I do some thinking.


I did some more Googling on the maqui berry and found to my dismay that it’s dioecious, i.e. male and female flowers are on different plants and presumably, I need one of each sex to get any fruit. I was angry at Bunnings for selling a fruiting plant without proper labelling, but probably they’d say it’s not their fault as they are only retailers, although I think they should be aware and able to offer proper advice on the products they sell. We didn’t always have Google, after all.

Three of the new plants are in the Pick n’ Eat range and their website is listed on the label so I took a look. They certainly have a large range of plants available.

I decided to email through the ‘contact us’ button and ask about the maqui berry. No use asking Bunnings. I doubt whether anyone there would know what dioecious means.

I filled in all the details….name, email, phone number and wrote a message. Hit the send  button and got, ‘this email could not be sent.’

Bother! (I actually said something a little stronger).

So I phoned up the grower and asked.

That’s right, said she on the other end of the line, you need one of each sex to get fruit.

So, says me, I won’t get fruit with just one plant and I don’t know which sex I’ve got?

Oh yes, says she, as long as there’s another one in your neighbourhood.

I refrained from pointing out that the majority of my neighbours aren’t into growing their own food, and the ones that are, stick to easy things like lettuce. I doubt that few would be into rare and/or unusual fruiting plants. And I’m seeing very few bees now for pollination. And I still don’t know what sex I’ve got.

Oh, that’s OK she said, they will work it out.

I thought for a second and asked, what do you mean THEY will work it out?

The plants can change from male to female if they need to, she said.

There was a longer (sceptical) pause from my end.

I won’t keep going. I mentioned that although I knew certain species of fish can change sex mid-stream as it were, I didn’t think plants could. Do they talk to one another and decide who’s going to be which sex? Do they waft sex pheromones into the air? What if they both want to be girls?

I gave it up but I did mention, in the nicest possible way, that I thought the fact that the plants are dioecious should be on the label.

Oh, we’ve changed the labels, she said (well, she would, wouldn’t she?) Sigh!

I’m not going to pay another $12 to get a second plant and hope that they can work out the sex issues between themselves. I found the relevant Bunnings docket in the wpb. I’m going to return the plant and exchange it for something more reliable in its sexual orientation. One of those old-fashioned, non-fancy things that has male and female flowers on the same plant.

And next time I come across a plant I don’t know, I’ll leave it there and come home and Google first.