Turmeric flowering

I haven’t written anything here for a while, because, well…….summer was very depressing, with too many ultra-hot days which scorched the fruit on the trees and cooked the tomatoes on the plants and kept me busy just trying to keep ahead of the weather.

On top of that it has been dry and I mean dry. I recorded rain on only three days in January, even though the total was a good 60 mm (compared with Melbourne’s January average of 46 mm), including a good fall of 32 mm on the last day of the month. Since then there has been zilch……none at all in February and here we are nearly at the March equinox and still not a drop. The three tanks (one 9,000 litre and two 4,500 litres) are all down to a quarter full. I’ll be watering out of the mains if it doesn’t rain soon. It will take 4 inches (100 mm) of rain to fill them all. That’s 2 months of normal rainfall here. I can’t see this year being a normal rainfall year.

Everything is stressed, even the native plants. Some non-natives in the food forest have died outright, notably Pineapple Sage and Mexican Sage. Ordinary culinary sage would probably have gone too, but it is being watered. I’ve let the larger, older  tamarillos go….they were past their best anyway and I’ve planted a dozen smaller seedlings which are getting watered regularly. It means no tamarillo harvest this winter. The citrus trees are stressed, with dull and curling leaves and I’ve had fine sprinklers going on them for a day at a time, trying to keep them from going past the point of no return. The soil where they are growing had been introduced (by a previous owner) and it is heavy compacted clay which the roots haven’t penetrated to the depth that would make the trees more resilient, so I have to put water in slowly, hence the fine slow sprays. Being on a slope as well, means if I stand and hold the hose, the water is running off after a few minutes. It just won’t penetrate.

So all in all, there’s not a happy garden out there.

But I’ve just noticed something to gladden the heart. My turmeric is flowering for the first time! I’ve been growing it in large pots in the polyhouse, because I thought it wouldn’t survive in the open garden. When I potted on the tubers after the harvest last year, I had a couple of spindly-looking ones left over and no spare pots so I stuck them in a second-hand bath in a batch of chook poo compost and other rotted stuff. I was surprised when they actually grew leaves and even more surprised that they survived the summer heat, although it was a fairly shaded location and was watered regularly.

And then I noticed this:

Having never seen a turmeric flower before, I had to check that that’s what it really was.

Here’s a really good blog about plants in Hawaii, with some good close-up shots of the flower and useful information about growing turmeric :

The writer says:

Inflorescences arise from the center of the leaves. They are cylinder-shaped and made of loosely open bracts that are very white or tinged pink at the top of the cylinder and green at the base of the cylinder. The true flowers peak out from these green bracts and are tube-shaped, usually white with a yellow center and have two “fangs” that point down from the mouth of the tube. Fruit are never formed, even though the flowers do have male and female parts.

My turmeric flower also has the true flowers inside the bracts at the base, but they were a bit hard to photograph.

So something has managed to survive and do its thing despite the weather.

I did get plenty of tomatoes, though; lots of cherries and regular sizes which I’m still eating, although I pulled out all the plants last week. Most of the cherries have been dried. I had only two eggplants in again this season and so far there are 3 fruits coming. I picked lots of cucumbers too, and some reasonable feeds of climbing beans. Pumpkins were a dismal failure, yet again. I don’t know why I keep trying with them. They never produce male and female flowers at the same time and if they do manage to produce any fruits, they don’t mature before the season ends and the downy mildew kicks in.

So not much else to report. I’ve put a few broccoli seedlings into wicking boxes and early-sown silver beet is just starting to be pickable, but that has to be shared with the chooks, since the self-sown New Zealand Spinach they usually eat at this time of the year has all died back too.

Just waiting for the rain.



12 Responses to “Turmeric flowering”

  1. Specks Says:

    The sight of that plant doing its thing would give me a fillip also. I am sad to hear about your dismal summer though, I hadn’t realised it was so dry there. Trying to grow food is surely the stuff of optimists. I’ve also had a good tomato crop and my silver beet has served me well. Sadly, I did not follow your lead on growing my strawberries in wicking pots and didn’t get even a bite. Live and learn.

    Take care, Specks.


  2. Jo Says:

    I am also finding our ‘new normal’ weather quite frightening and downheartening. I am in a relatively new garden (to me) so I have decided to plant in zones. The English cottage garden plants will all move next to the vegies so they can be watered together, and I will grow a native garden for the birds that doesn’t require any watering. In the end I imagine the English cottage garden plants will go altogether and we will all learn a lot more about dryland gardening..


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Zones is a great idea, Jo. Keep all the things that want similar conditions and care together. The birds will appreciate having their own area, too.


  3. Frogdancer Says:

    Pretty flower! I’m going on holiday to China and Nth Korea in a couple of weeks. When I get back I’m having heaps of wicking beds put in, as part of the landscaping of the backyard. 🙂


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Good for you. China will be interesting. I hope you get out of Nth Korea alive. Not my choice of a holiday destination! Look forward to reading your blog about it.


  4. notsomethingelse Says:

    Good to get your report Bev. I don’t say much these days but I am still in the food growing narrative.

    What you say about the Summer weather is true. I knew it was going to be a difficult year when my Jonathan apple only produced a single bunch of blossom. With little to work with in the cross-pollinating season, none of my apples produced much this year except for the Cox’s. I didn’t even bother netting them this year. But I made up for that by a bumper first crop from my Nashi tree. Lovely. Love those Nashis. I planted two new fruit trees this year, a dwarf pear and a peach. The peach was in blossom and, while I didn’t expect much to come from that, it produced 10 lovely peaches. The future looks good, if the weather is kind. I am of the growing opinion that everything we grow will soon need much more care and protection from the elements and the flying and crawling things that go with all that.

    Yes, it was a good year for tomatoes. I only planted 4 tomatoes this year (plus a few self-sowed) and all produced well. Two of my tomatoes were bought as mature grafted plants (just to see how they went – first time I have seen that). They have become so strong and thick and spreading and are still covered in viable fruit. I’m leaving in for a while longer just to see how they go.

    I also have a number of egg-plants which recently came into flower and are now prospering after the heat. I guess it is touch and go whether they now come to fruition in time.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      I didn’t have many apples either but I think they might do their thing in alternate years. I haven’t got a Nashi pear, in fact I’ve never eaten one! I’ve got a Bartlett and Josephine pears planted together for pollination, but I’ve let them get too big to net and the birds get the lot, although this season was a bad one for them, too.

      I put in a dwarf pear and a dwarf peach last year, too. The pear didn’t flower but the peach did, but didn’t set any fruit. I’m just not seeing many bees any more.

      Tomatoes are about the only thing I can grow well. As climate change kicks in all the rules are going to change, both for the plants and their predators. Think of all those gardening books with what will eventually become useless information!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jane Says:

    Hot and dry and dusty here also. Totally depressing, really need it to rain now as I’m not on town water and the house tank is very low. My apple trees get smaller every year because the kangaroos eat them when there is nothing else, this year they finally managed to kill one, however the peach trees are loaded and although the birds and maybe rats have already started on them I’m hoping to maybe get a taste for the first time since they started fruiting years ago. Usually all the peaches go whilst still green. My baby fig trees have grown well and although still small one has tiny figs on it, and the young almond tree has powered along as have the silver wattles I planted last winter.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Jane, sorry to hear about your problems; it seems I’m not alone, I guess we just have to take it as it comes and be thankful for the good years.

      I’ve realised that if I want to get fruit from the trees, I just have to keep them small enough to get a net over. Dreams of having huge old fruit trees dripping with fruit are just that…dreams. Possums and parrots make it impossible in this country anyway and I suppose people in other countries have their own wildlife to contend with.

      I suppose too, it’s one of the problems of living away from suburbia where there aren’t possums and rabbits and kangaroos. I envy those with small concentrated suburban gardens who seem to get huge yields of everything without much effort. I just keep trying!


  6. Jane Says:

    Hi Bev, the trouble is I think, that we don’t live in a perfect world! So many times I have been ready to give up but it seems that I just can’t. Sooner or later my fingers find the dirt again. I love living here in spite of my moans and groans, it’s so peaceful and I love the birds and the animals who pass through, I just don’t want them eating everything! One of my friends lives in a Melbourne suburb in a lovely single story house on a long narrow block. She has cockies possums and fruit bats visiting her garden. Over the years her place has gradually been dwarfed by double storey houses, flats and town houses the whole streetscape has totally changed. Now the last house on her fence line is going to be demolished and two tall town house built on the block. My friends garden will be almost totally shaded out and sunlight greatly blocked from her solar panels. Suddenly my place seems so good in comparison and I just remind myself that it will rain again eventually. Here’s hoping for a wet winter this year. Not too wet though,don’t fancy being flooded out🙂


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Yes, I agree. I couldn’t go back to living in quarter-acre suburbia again. The noise and the people would drive me mad. Even if I can’t grow most of my food here, I can grow SOMETHING. The peace and quiet is worth having. Even if this is going to be a very dry year, it will sort out the sheep from the goats….in the plant world, I mean. Appreciate your comments. Always good to see how others are doing.


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