Archive for the ‘Beans’ Category

New ways with beans

December 9, 2017

I’m sick of Melbourne’s anti-bean weather. We get a warm spell in spring and I think, “right, this is it” and I sow beans. Then we get a cold snap, the temperature plummets and it rains and the soil is cold and wet. Seeds rot, exit beans, stage left. Oh, and I forgot to mention all the little critters below the soil surface who just love to chew on a nice tasty bean seed.

So I’m trying something new.

The beans in the milk bottle planters are doing well. That’s because, when the first lot of seeds rotted, I took the bottles into the polyhouse and filled them with clean potting mix, with a bit of dynamic lifter and blood and bone mixed in and sowed the beans in there. Warm, protected environment, clean soil, and watering just enough to get germination happening, but not enough to rot the seed. When they were up and growing strongly I hung them back on the side of the deck. No problems :

For the beans I usually sow in wicking boxes, I’ve sowed the seeds in 3″ round pots, again in the same medium and left them in the polyhouse until germination and they’re robust enough to plant out :

I’m mostly doing climbing beans this way and all I need to do when I plant them out, is provide a stake or framework of some sort for them to climb on. I’m not separating the individual plants, just planting the whole pot. These have gone into one of the large planter boxes with a tomato for company. As it gets bigger they’ll start climbing through it :

I think this will be my way of dealing with beans in the future.

February update

March 3, 2016

It seems safe to assume that summer is almost over, with less than three weeks to the autumn equinox, although 30º+ temperatures are predicted for the next week.

I added up my rainfall figures on the calendar and the total came to 5 mm. Surely there was more than that! Melbourne’s average for February is 46 mm. I can see the effects, in the dead and dying plants in the garden and also in the bush. I only water food plants, nothing else. The big 9000 litre tank is down to half and I’ve stopped using it, because it’s my drinking water (I won’t drink mains water with its load of toxic fluoride). The 2 smaller 4500 litre tanks are being topped up from the mains supply. I do this because it’s easier to water from them with a low pressure sprinkler than it is to water directly from the mains where the pressure is so variable.

I’ve been more than happy with yields from the garden this season.

Strawberries are still going strong in their wicking buckets, although the fruits are smaller now. They’ve been bearing for at least 6 months.

Cherries. The tree is in it’s second year and I got many more than last year. I can’t seem to find a photo of those. I expect most of them didn’t make it into the house.

Tomatoes have almost finished and I stopped weighing them when I reached 25 kilos. I cleaned some self-sown parsley out of one of the wicking boxes and topped it up with fresh compost. A few tomatoes germinated and have grown quickly :


I’ve staked them and might get a few more fruit before they succumb to the cold. No idea which variety. It will be a surprise!

Pears. I’ve been really happy with yields from the two trees. A Bartlett with a Josephine for pollination—both planted in the same hole. I’d let them get too big (visions of huge old pear trees dripping with fruit) and so too big to net and the birds/possums have always got them all. Last year I cut them back really hard, so now they’re not much taller than I am. They flowered and set fruit, but instead of netting them (my biggest net was over the apple), I put the little apple pouches on each fruit. It has worked and nothing has attacked the fruit :




I checked out Louis Glowinski’s book on fruit growing to see when I should pick them (pears ripen inside, off the tree) and the trick is to grab the hanging fruit and pull it up into a horizontal position. If it’s ready to pick the stem will snap at the abcission layer (the layer of weaker cells at the top of the stem). So each day I go down and tweak all the fruit. It’s working and this is the yield so far from the Bartlett :


The fruits of the Josephine are smaller and maturing a bit later, but so far I have these :


Pepino. There are huge fruits forming on the pepino in the wicking box. This box is at ground level so the wire is to keep hungry rabbits at bay :


Beans. A slow start when most of the early-sown seed rotted, but it’s picked up and I’m eating beans with every evening meal now. Beans are one thing I never buy (along with tomatoes), so I really look forward to bean season.

Cucumbers. Lots of success with those and there are 16 jars of bread & butter pickles in the fridge. There were more cucumbers than I could eat fresh and I discovered that the chooks loved them sliced down the middle. They eat out all the seeds and flesh and leave only the paper-thin skins.

Berries. Raspberries and blackberries fruited for the first time and although the yields weren’t large, it means two additions to the diversity of food from the garden.

Apricots. A reasonable yield from one seedling-grown tree and about a dozen from the named variety, Moor Park (only in it’s first season). These are the apricots (and cherry plums from the self-sown tree) :


Zucchini. A disaster. I got two. I pulled them out early. Male and female flowers just didn’t manage to co-ordinate themselves.

Pumpkins. Pulled out most of those, too. They were in a hugelkultur bed where the underlying wood hadn’t broken down and the ants kept bringing up the sand around them. It doesn’t hold water and I couldn’t keep enough water up to them to maintain growth.

But….there’s still one left in a recycling crate and it’s doing well. It’s the variety called Naranka Gold which is commercially grown exclusively for Coles supermarkets. I grew it last year but it went in late and didn’t produce any fruit. This year it’s climbing all over the wood heap (the leaves are meant to be that variegated yellow colour; it’s not a deficiency) :



and hidden under the leaves is this :


Quinces. The quince tree was grown from seed. From memory I think I planted three seedlings close together and they have all suckered into a large clump. It’s huge now and has flowered and fruited each year. I don’t really bother about it and last year the parrots got all the fruit. This year, since it’s next to the pear trees, I put apple socks on some of the quinces as well, so it looks like I will get a few :


The remains of a couple that didn’t get ‘socked’ :


Under-ripe quinces! Bleahh! Parrots apparently have no taste buds!

I’ve had more problems with roots entering the wicking tubs. Regular readers might remember this post where a grapevine found its way into the drainage hole at the bottom of a tub. It happens because there are zillions of ants here. They bring the sandy soil up to the surface around the base of pots and because it’s moist around the drainage holes, roots slide their way in. I don’t notice because the base of the tub eventually gets part buried in the sand. But I did notice that there was one tub that I could never seem to keep moist even though I watered it every day. It was nowhere near the grape vine and over 10 meters from the nearest tree. I thought the plastic in the bottom was probably perforated and it wasn’t functioning as a wicking tub any more. It’s a 51 cm diameter tub and very heavy. There’s a capsicum in it at the moment. I yanked it forwards from the back and it came away from the ground easily. No root problems there, so I cleared away the sand from around the front. See that thing that looks like a giant worm :


That’s a tree root that has come out of the soil, done a 360º about face and entered the tub! What a cheek! I cut it out and sniffed it. Eucalyptus! From now on all the wicking tubs will be raised up on bricks, well off the ground!

Around the middle of last year I was given a small pot with one sick-looking leaf in it. I think the owner thought I might be able to bring it back to life. The label said ‘turmeric’.  I was rapt. I’ve been wanting to grow turmeric for ages, but couldn’t find any greengrocer selling the rhizomes to plant. I tipped it out of the pot. The ordinary roots looked white and healthy; there was no sign of a rhizome. I hoped it wasn’t sick but just heading into winter dormancy, so I potted it into a slightly larger pot, left it in the polyhouse and kept it just moist.

In spring, to my delight, a little green shoot appeared. I fed it some Dynamic Lifter and began to water it regularly. The green shoot grew and another appeared. Eventually I repotted it into a much larger pot. This is it now :


If it grows any bigger there won’t be room for both of us in the polyhouse. Even if I wanted to put it outside, I can’t lift the pot. I’m hoping it’s making lots of turmeric rhizomes because I’ve promised to share with the original owner. Has anyone grown it away from its normal tropical home? Should I put it outside for the autumn/winter? I thought it probably wouldn’t like a low-humidity Melbourne summer, that’s why I left it in the polyhouse and misted the leaves every day. Here’s hoping for some nice rhizomes I can dry and crush.

My blueberry seedlings are growing and reaching the stage where I want to put them in their final growing spots. There are four left out of the six I had in October :


I bought some large plastic pails and drilled a drainage hole a third of the way up from the bottom (so they’ll be wicking pots) and used them this season for tomatoes :


They worked well, so I think I will use them for the blueberries. Not sure whether I’ll put them on the deck (it’s looking like a forest up there now), or stand them in the garden somewhere. They’ll be too tall for the rabbits and they’ll be easy to get a net over when they’re fruiting. One thing I’m going to do is buy an acid potting mix (for azaleas/rhododendrons) and use that, as blueberries like an acid soil and the chook poo compost I use for veggies tends to be alkaline.

Eggs. Bonny is still going strong with an egg every second day. She’s been laying constantly for just on a year now; surely she will take a break soon. She’s full of beans, eating like a horse and charges at me, pecking my foot, every time I go into the run. The other three stopped laying and moulted after Christmas. I’m not expecting any more from them until spring.

Well, I think I’ve just about covered most things. All I need now is some rain. A lot.

The New Year

January 3, 2016

I don’t ‘do’ New Year resolutions. It’s too easy to let them go. But one I have made is to try and do a regular monthly update to this blog, with at least a few smaller posts in between. The small ones will probably be of not much consequence, as I’ll probably just be desperate to write something, but I hope some readers will get some information of value from them.

So here we go with the first for 2016.

I staggered out of bed on New Year’s Day after a hot night of non-sleep to let the chooks out and see what had suffered due to the heat the previous day. The temperature had reached 39 Celsius in Melbourne.

Luckily I went down the back past the bath full of water in which I grow azolla fern for the chooks. A little sugar glider was flailing about in the water. I don’t know how long she’d* been there but she was wet and exhausted. I lifted her out and took her inside. She was still pretty feisty—yelling loudly in protest—so I dried her off as best as I could, trying to avoid the sharp little teeth—I’ve been nipped by one previously—and found a pillow case to put her in. Sorry, it’s not a very good photo. Look at those tiny feet. She gripped my hands really hard with them, maybe thankful to have something solid to hang on to at last :


I’m fortunate there’s a very good wildlife carer not far from me. It was 6.30 am, but I hoped she’d be up and she was. So there I was, at (almost) the crack of dawn, driving the 10 minutes to her home. I didn’t see another car on the roads.

The glider will be in good hands. The carer will keep her there, giving her nourishing feeds with an eye dropper until she’s ready to come home and then she’ll ring me and I’ll go and pick her up. Probably around dusk when her nest mates will come out of their tree hollow for the night’s feeding routine. I know which tree they’re in so will put her on the trunk and let her be off to join them. An interesting start to the New Year!

(*note: I don’t really know what sex she/he was but I can’t refer to something so tiny and beautiful as ‘it’, so I’m assuming  the most important sex).

I picked my first tomato a couple of days before the end of December. Cheating really, because it’s a very early variety anyway—Silvery Fir Tree, with pretty divided foliage :


Since I never buy the tasteless cricket balls that pass for supermarket tomatoes, I’m going to relish eating this, the first home-grown tomato I’ve had since last autumn.

The lettuces in the milk bottle planters had reached their use-by date so I removed them and replaced them with Purple King climbing beans :


The planters are on the side of the deck and I’ve attached strings so that the beans can climb up and onto the deck railings :


I’ve added more planters since I wrote about them previously, so it’s looking like a feature wall of sorts :


I’m growing endive now, instead of lettuce. I find it easier to grow; it doesn’t run to seed in hot weather like lettuce and the chooks prefer it to lettuce. It doesn’t have the sweeter flavour of lettuce, but put it in a mixed salad with a decent dressing and you wouldn’t know the difference :


There’s more here, in a wicking box with capsicums :


And in another wicking box with basil :


You can see from the photos that with small plants like these, I can get six to a wicking box. The boxes are 60 cm long x 40 cm wide x 25  cm deep. Sometimes a bit of thought is necessary to decide what plants will go together. The basil and capsicums will grow taller than the endive, which grows flatter, and they’ll shade it from the sun. That will keep the leaves soft and lush and tastier.

The thornless blackberries are colouring up :


I can’t wait to try these. Meanwhile their little apple pouches will stay on until they’re fully ripe :


This Naranka Gold pumpkin is doing well in an old recycling crate (not a wicking box—it has drainage at the bottom—but about the same size). I wrote about this variety here. This season I made sure I planted seed early so it would have time to flower and hopefully set fruit. It’s starting to trail and since the crate is beside the wood heap, I’m going to train it over the top :


The passionfruit climbing over the chook run has finally flowered and is setting fruit. It’s been there long enough; maybe it can read my mind—I was thinking of removing it :



Funnily enough, a lot of food plants that haven’t flowered well previously, did so this season. Does the (changing) climate have something to do with it? Do they know something I don’t? As long as I get more food from the garden, I’m happy.

January update

February 5, 2015

The best thing about January was the weather….only a few days with 30+ temperatures and rainfall (64mm) which exceeded Melbourne’s average for the month (57mm). I was well pleased…living on a bush block in a bushfire zone, with a warming climate, I tend to get rather paranoid in summer now.

Tomatoes were the biggest bearer. I seem to have a lot of cherries this year, but that’s alright. They’ll be sun-dried :



The goal is to fill this jar with dried tomatoes :


San Marzano, a Roma type. Most of these will be frozen for winter cooking :


There are still Black Russian, Green Zebra and Debarao to come. This is my first time growing Debarao (sometimes called De Barao). It’s a Roma-type too, with egg-shaped fruit with less watery pulp and will also be useful for cooking. I freeze a lot of tomatoes and use them over winter for making relish and pasta sauce. Rather than juicing them and bottling and storing the juice, it’s much easier to just defrost the quantity of whole tomatoes that I need, when I need them.


Pepinos are forming. This plant is in a wicking box on the deck. When I plant them in the garden, the rabbits demolish the fruit. I wish I could fit the whole garden up on the deck! (then I suppose the pesky rabbits would learn to negotiate steps!) :


It’s amazing how much growth can be fitted in a wicking box. Not only is the pepino in this one…:


but there’s gotu kola…:


self-sown lemon balm…:


a cucumber…:


and what looks like a self-sown tansy…:


but wait, there’s more…:


…a self-sown alpine strawberry.

An example of what permaculture guru Geoff Lawton likes to call, ‘abundance’.


I forgot to mention in the December update that I had a visit over the Christmas period from Maree, who writes Around The Mulberry Tree blog, and who brought me a healthy-looking elderberry plant :


I’ve sent away for elderberry seeds so many times and have never had any germination, so I was delighted to get an established plant. I can see elderflower cordial and elderberry wine somewhere in the future. Thanks Maree!


I’m disappointed in the cucamelons. The plants have climbed skywards and wound themselves around the deck railings, but there’s no sign of fruit. There are plenty of female flowers with little pre-cucamelons behind them and some male flowers, but it seems no pollination is occurring :




The plants in the strawberry wicking buckets have done well after a poor start in which the first fruits were badly deformed, due I think, to poor pollination :


I’ve picked a steady supply of strawberries, not a huge amount, but enough to have a few on my breakfast mueslii each morning, so I’ll plant a few more buckets for next year. I haven’t even had to net them because they’re up on the deck where birds don’t usually come. The plants are putting out new runners at the moment and it’s easy to pot up a few. Runners grow a tuft of new leaves along their length :


At the base of each tuft of leaves is a collection of roots-to-be :


I peg the runner down into a pot of potting mix with a piece of bent wire, but leave the runner attached to the parent plant :



Once the roots have grown down into the new pot, the runners can be cut away from the parent plant. I wish all plants were as easy to propagate as these.


The New Girls are 24 weeks old and there’s still no sign of eggs. The Old Girls laid at 22 weeks, so I’m anxiously checking daily. The Newbies are so full of beans; any unsuspecting butterfly stupid enough to get through the wire is snatched out of the air with a huge leap; they rocket up and down the 7 metres of connecting corridor between the two runs like mad things; they come when called (well, most times); they love the green grubs off the kale (Molly and Cheeky won’t touch them), and they’re into everything—a perfect trio of lively, alert, naughty kids. That’s two of them on the left (looking good, eh, Julie?) :


And the remainder of the trio. She’s wondering if the camera is something to eat. (Cheeky behind on the right and Molly bringing up the rear) :


If I can ever tell them apart, which seems unlikely, their names will be Bonny, Missy and Clover (the last after the rabbit in Watership Down….there’s no connection, I just like the name), but until then, they’re just the Newbies, or Newbs, for short.

I’ve been giving Molly & Cheeky a daily treat of grated carrot and yoghurt, which they love. At first the Newbs weren’t interested—they didn’t understand ‘treats’—but lately they’ve taken an interest. Of course, M & C won’t allow them anywhere near, but Molly is moulting and a bit off-colour so less aggressive and Cheeky has become a bit indifferent to them (only whacks them occasionally), so they’ve managed to elbow their way in and steal some and they like it. So I call them down to their own quarters and give them a bowl on their own. The squeals of delight as they wolf it down and peck splattered yoghurt off each other’s faces has me in stitches.

Not a happy Moulting Molly :



I’ve finally got my act together and planted kale and broccoli seeds early. I always seem to leave it until autumn and then have to wait as they grow too slowly through the cooler winter. I was reading someone’s blog where they said they sowed their winter brassica seeds at the summer solstice (21st December), so I did the same and now I’ve actually got kale in a wicking box growing well. Of course, Cabbage White butterflies are still around, but if I inspect the plants every few days and rub off all the eggs before they hatch, I’m able to keep on top of the problem :



These are Tepary Beans. I have to thank Fran of Road to Serendipity blog for sending the seed a couple of years ago. The first year I grew them I just left them to set seed. I forgot to grow them the following year and thought I’d better put them in this season and collect more seed. I’ll probably leave them for seed again this season then finally grow them to eat. They’re said to be extremely drought tolerant :


Pods are forming :



Basil & endive going well together in a wicking box :


And what’s that in the back left corner? Looks like a seedling plum :



You wouldn’t believe it, but under all that growth on the left, there’s a planter box just like the one on the right :


In the left-hand box there are two cherry tomatoes and some beans that didn’t have a label (looking like climbers). This box had a liberal dose of chook poo compost before planting, hence the rampant growth :


The other one has Purple King climbing beans at the back and basil, kale and silver beet in front. These aren’t wicking boxes, so they need watering every day :


Well, that’s about it for the January wrap-up. I hope February will be as good temperature-wise, but next week is forecast for over 30 C every day, so all I can say is, “roll on autumn”.

Before I go, here’s a really useful post from the Permaculture Research Institute about tomatoes. And check out the link to given in the article. Another useful site worth bookmarking.

November update

December 4, 2014

Whenever I see a new variety of potato at the supermarket I generally buy a couple to take home and try. Growing, that is. So back in June I saw the variety Ruby Lou for sale in Coles and bought 3 tubers to plant. I harvested almost 2 kilos in November. The plants were pretty healthy—no sign of late blight, no little nasties attacked them and the majority of the tubers were clear of scab :


I’ll keep some back for replanting and will probably freeze the ones I don’t eat right away.

My first cherries! :


There are just six! I immediately put a net over the plant. It’s only small and has been in a couple of years. There were more flowers but not all of them have set fruit. I’ll really savour these!

Quince futures. They’re covered in a furry down at this young stage. The tree was grown from seed; so easy to do :


I’ll be really interested in these apples :


They were grown from seed from a Granny Smith variety. The tree flowered for the first time this year and has only set 5 fruit. Since apples rarely come true from seed, it’ll be interesting to see how they turn out.

Our local council had its annual hard rubbish collection in November. I put out a small pile of stuff and had a look at my neighbour’s pile to see if there was anything I could rescue.

I scored two 44 gallon plastic drums which will be useful for storing water and a small rabbit-cum-guinea pig hutch in good condition. It might be useful if I ever have a sick chook and want to isolate her from the others :


Although technically it’s illegal to take something from a pile once it goes out on the naturestrip, everyone ignores that and it’s amusing to see the cars and trailers cruising up and down to see what they can pick up. I think it’s great to see what is rubbish to someone being re-claimed by someone else, instead of going to landfill as most of the stuff does. Most of my neighbour’s pile disappeared within an hour or two of him putting it out, so I was lucky to get the drums. I had put out a toaster that had died and someone came and cut off the power cord and left the toaster. I already had a large collection of power cords minus their appliances, so didn’t bother.

For the third year in a row I didn’t put a net over the redcurrants and nothing touched them! I can’t believe it, especially since some of the fruiting stems were right out in the open in full view of the birds! I harvested 2 cupfuls of fruit and that’s not counting the dozens I picked and ate every time I passed the line of bushes. I haven’t done anything with them other than to sprinkle a few on my breakfast cereal each morning :

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Of course the most important happening during the month was the arrival of the New Girls—three 12-week-old Barnevelder pullets from Julie at Country Chooks. They’ve settled in well, after a few hiccups with preferring to roost on the top of the coop instead of inside… :


…but I settled that by shepherding them into the coop and barring the entrance with a wire panel. It only took 3 nights of doing that before they got the idea and started going in by themselves. I’ve allowed them into the 5 x 1 metre long corridor that connects the two runs, but they’re still not able to access the main playground where Molly and Cheeky are. There’s been considerable interest as the 3 newbies meet the 2 oldies at the wire barrier. Molly and Cheeky have never shown any interest in the various wild ducks and pigeons that parade outside their run, not even in the baby wild rabbit that can get in with them through the wire (only while it’s small), but somehow they seem to know that these other feathered things are their own kind. Molly seems to want to be friends, but Cheeky only wants to show them who’s boss. I may keep them apart until the newbies have started to lay. I want them to become attached to their own nest and coop and always return there at night. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with Molly and Cheeky returning to their own quarters, but I don’t want the New Girls trying to roost in there as well. My nerves won’t stand the kerfuffle if Molly and Cheeky decide to object to that idea!

The cucumelons are growing slowly :


Their tendrils are like fine threads and once the waving tip has grabbed onto something, the tendril forms a tight little spiral to strengthen its hold :


Could that be a tiny flower bud with a tiny baby cucamelon behind it? Yay! :


This Cape Gooseberry came up by itself beside the chook’s playground. It couldn’t have picked a better spot as it will give them some cool shade in summer :


It’s already setting fruits in their papery capsules :


The first of the cherry tomatoes are setting fruits. I’ve never had a ripe tomato before Christmas; maybe I’ll do it this year! :


This is feverfew:


Masses of flowers; I planted it in the hope of attracting bees, but I haven’t seen a single one on it. Instead, there are dozens of tiny flies and wasp-like things:


I have no idea why the bees don’t like it.

I did a head count of the main crop veggie seedlings I’ve put out so far. There are 35 tomatoes; 7 cucumbers; 15 pumpkins and 8 zucchini. Direct sown seeds include beans, carrots, sweet corn, dill and caraway and some more pumpkins and there are leeks and celery sown in the polyhouse for next winter. Three dozen basil seedlings are waiting to go out. I should get something to eat out of that lot!

November saw the beginning of the second year in operation of the solar panels and they continue to be worth their weight in gold. I imported an average of 1.5 kWh per day from the grid and sent an average of 17.3 kWh back to the grid. The panels produced 20.1 kWh per day and the average daily credit to me worked out at $4.13. Overall, for the month I earned a credit of $123.81. If it wasn’t for the heat, I’d wish every day was summer. Imagine earning that much every month and being able to grow tomatoes all year!

We had 53 mm of rain during the month; Melbourne’s average for November is 58 mm. Everything looks green and lush for now, but it won’t stay that way.

Onwards to summer!

Lessons from the meltdown

January 18, 2014

I took the camera around the garden this morning (loving the coolness!) to assess the damage.

The most important thing is to learn from this. If this sort of weather is going to be the new normal, we have to learn and adapt or die. Natural selection eliminates the unfit and preserves that which adapts and survives. That goes for us, our gardens and our animals.


Most important, three happy chooks who survived:

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It was upsetting to see that both Green Gavin and rabidlittlehippy each lost a hen to heat distress. In my case, the Girl’s secure run and playground is close to the house on the morning sun side. Once the sun goes over the house there’s shade at least on the secure run. There’s also a large tarp over the top and a row of greenery along one side. I covered the floor there with leaves and kept them wet. The Girls made themselves a hollow in the wet leaves and sat there during the hottest part of the day. I pegged a heavy old curtain over the playground and sprayed it every half-hour with the hose. Eventually going out into the sun to do it started to stress me out, so I used the hose which I always connect to the cold water outlet of the washing machine on fire risk days and with that I could stand in the laundry doorway and spray all over the chook’s area, without going outside.

In the garden, the first thing to notice was that everything in wicking boxes was unaffected. Frogdancer has also commented that her wicking boxes were OK. I think it’s the way to go. I lost some cucumbers planted in the garden down the back, I’m guessing because they were lacking sufficient water at the roots. These cucumbers in a wicking box were unaffected. Not even any burned leaves (no, I didn’t cut them off for the photo!):


So long as there’s plenty of water in the root zone, plants won’t be too badly affected. Even if I think I’ve watered the garden well, that sort of weather really rips it out of the plants and if there’s no adequate reserve in the soil, the plants suffer. In a wicking box the soil below the drainage holes is always saturated. I could have watered every second or third day and still not have lost any plants. The only thing I did was cover the beans in wicking boxes with shadecloth. Those large leaves lose water faster than they can take it up and even though there’s plenty of water in the root zone, the leaves will fry.

Down in the food forest there was a lot of damage. Unfortunately, it’s on a slope (the only place on the property that was cleared of existing vegetation), and the soil is heavy and compacted. It’s hard to get water into it. If I stand there holding a hose, within a couple of minutes the water’s running off, so I water by gravity from the tank using a fine spray, which means it takes ages to water the whole area. The furthest parts were really dry and plants there suffered.

The loquat’s large leaves really burned:

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The comfrey just lay down and (almost) died:

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That’s not a problem, though. I’ll cut it back and stuff it into a bin of water and make nutrient tea. I’d been going to do it anyway, but just hadn’t got around to it.

I’d picked all the Satsuma plums, but there were a few on the Mariposa that were still green. They’re not green any more:

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Anyone for stewed pears?:

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The rhubarb plants in the hugelkultur mound were OK as they had dappled shade from eucalypts, but this one was out in the open:

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I’d been giving the tamarillos plenty of water, but those dinner-plate sized leaves were not going to like the heat regardless:

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The developing fruits were mostly OK but a few got a bit of a tan:

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Here’s one surprise…the asparagus fern. It hasn’t had any water except rain since I stopped picking the spears in November, yet it was untouched. Since it’s about 2 metres tall, it makes me think a row of asparagus might be a good shelter for a row of something smaller, say strawberries:

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The corn was fine. I’ve been pumping water into it and it had a tamarillo for afternoon shade:

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Another surprise was the quince. It’s next to the loquat, so is in a dry spot, but look at the new tip growth. Green and unburnt. Those dark spots on the older leaves are the fungus disease it always gets—quince rust, I think—not burned areas. Maybe this is another plant that can tolerate dryness and be used as a shade tree:

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You know it’s hot when bracken will burn. This frond was out in the open, but even so:

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Redcurrants won’t tolerate hot sun. I knew this from last year and should have protected them:

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Burnt apples:

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And right in the middle of it all, tomatoes in a wicking box, untouched:

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What have I learned? Wicking boxes are the way to go for vegetables. They’re small, so individual shade can be erected, if necessary over a single box. Plants with large, soft leaves, like beans, need shade even in a wicking box. Site them so that they receive morning sun only. Poke the boxes  in behind a tall plant that shades them from the afternoon sun. I have a row against the side of the deck, which gets only morning sun.They were fine.

Cover any developing fruit. If you can’t keep water up to everything, prioritise. I’m letting one orange tree go, the Lane’s Late Navel. It’s never been a good bearer and I have a Valencia and a Washington Navel which are better trees and get priority. It’s under the drip line of a eucalypt and even though it gets afternoon shade (it wasn’t burnt) it competes poorly for water. When I take it out I’ll put a couple of wicking boxes in it’s place. They’ll get shade from the eucalypt and the plants in them won’t have to compete with its roots.

Look after your animals. That goes without saying. The chooks were my biggest worry. I’d have taken them inside if I could. I bought a half-watermelon at the beginning of the week and gave them some every day. They love it and it helped to keep them hydrated. I didn’t get any myself!

I’m still making notes about what did well and what didn’t and how I can change things for a better outcome next time. I think it’s safe to assume summers like this are going to be the norm from here on.


December 8, 2013

Mainly photos—easy post when you don’t have to write much.

The redcurrants are ripening. I haven’t protected them and I can’t believe the birds are ignoring them. Same thing happened last year:

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These ones made it inside. I’ve probably nibbled this many straight from the bushes:

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OK, so potatoes are relatively cheap. I still like growing them. These are Sebagos:

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The rhubarb in the hugelkultur bed has taken off:

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Here’s what it was like when planted a few weeks ago:

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Burdock leaves. Huge. Better dig up the root and see what I should do with it:

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Corn getting going:

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Oca leaves. The tubers won’t be ready till winter:

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Picked my garlic. Could be bigger, but better than last year. Will be useful:

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Small tree. Its first year. Only two apples. Cox’s Orange Pippin. Supposed to have the best flavour. Better put a net over these:

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Threw some old parsley seed amongst the zucchini on the hugelkultur mound. Who says parsley seed has to be fresh?:

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Borlotti beans. My first attempt at growing beans for drying:

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Pumpkins on the hugelkultur mound:

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Self-sown tomatoes on the hugelkultur mound. Really should pull them out, but will leave them to see what Mother Nature decides:

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Not has-beans now

November 21, 2012

I wrote this post about a month ago, about the punnet of Bonaparte beans I’d bought at a Sunday market. I said that I’d always sowed beans direct and wasn’t happy about buying large seedlings in a shallow punnet, but wanted this particular variety and had never seen seeds of it for sale.

Here they are after I’d planted them out in a wicking box:

And here they are today, a month later:

They’ve grown better than the seeds I sowed direct!

I think I’d better take back everything I said about not planting large seeds into small punnets!


October 15, 2012

Ordinarily I would always grow beans and other large seeds (peas, corn), by sowing direct into their final spot in the garden, the reason being that the large tap root that appears first will serve the plants better if it’s allowed to get itself straight down into the soil.

This doesn’t happen if seeds are first sown in a shallow punnet with a view to transplanting later. What I’m trying to say here is that I would never bother to actually buy a punnet of seedlings of beans, peas or corn or similar large-seeded plants, or sow them first in a container. I know you see these for sale and I know people buy them, it’s just that I wouldn’t, unless I could be sure of a large success rate. Even then, I figure they would take a long time to recover from transplanting shock.

There’s one way to find out, of course, and that’s to do it, so when I saw punnets of bean seedlings for sale at my local Sunday market, I bought a couple. The main reason was that they were a variety called Bonaparte which I’d never heard of, or seen in any seed catalogues. The old guy selling them knows his veggies though, and he said it was a good variety:

I’ve planted them in a wicking box and will see how they go. I only need enough to survive and set pods and I’ll have seed to direct sow for next year:

Around the garden

October 4, 2012

I’ve planted out the tomatoes I bought at the Sunday market. They’re big enough and the weather is warm enough and I hope it’ll stay that way.  I notice Suburban Tomato (who also lives in Melbourne), has planted hers out too, so I feel encouraged. My own seedling tomatoes are still too small to go out.

Two Rouge de Marmande in a wicking box. I haven’t grown this variety before and Suburban Tomato has a stunning photo of one at the link above. Hope mine are that big!:

And two Roma, also in a wicking box (with silver beet for company):

The two small plots of wheat I planted (bread wheat & cake wheat), started to flower and I was determined to keep the parrots from getting the developing seeds this year. I’ve netted both plots and if there’s no wind, will give the plants a shake regularly, because grasses are wind-pollinated:

It looks like some nice plump grains in those heads:

The daikon (Japanese radish) is running to seed and I’m disappointed that it hasn’t produced roots of any size. Obviously I planted it too late. Back to the drawing board. I’ll let some plants go to seed and hang the rest up for the chooks to gorge on:

Now I know why I always get such a good crop of blueberries from this plant in a pot on the deck. This Noisy Miner is doing a spot of pollination:

The six redcurrants in the greywater line are flowering for the first time. The plants have been in for three years and most are over a metre tall. They were all grown from seed, which is probably why they’ve taken so long to flower:

I don’t know what pollinates these tiny flowers, but fruits are already forming. More netting needed:

Nearly all the garlic in the ground has died. First it got garlic rust fungus and then black aphids finished it off. I sprayed the aphids, but had already given up on it for this year. But the garlic in the wicking box is doing well. Minimal rust and no aphids. I can’t explain it; I’m just happy that I might get some sort of a crop this year:

Shallots in a wicking tub. There are flower buds appearing, so I hope I’ll get seed and be able to grow more that way. Buying shallot bulbs to plant can be expensive:

This year, for the first time, I’m planting leeks in a wicking tub:

The problem with leeks in a tub is the depth of soil, or at least, not so much the depth of soil as the depth of the tub. The tubs I use are 25 cm deep. When I grow leeks in the garden, I cover the stems way up with mulched bracken, so they develop that nice white colour out of the light. They’re also in a wire ring in the garden, so the bracken stays in place. The tub is too shallow to do that, so I’ll have to build up the sides with some wire or timber to get more depth. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem. This tub is right next to the Girls’ playground fence. The row of leeks at the back might suffer the dreaded beaks-through-the-wire syndrome. THAT will be a problem!

Lettuce seedlings almost ready to plant:

Are you following me? Native Crested Pigeon wanting a feed. Friendly little birds; they’ve become very tame:

And finally, beans. I normally start planting beans in October and plant a batch every month until February. They invariably take 2 months to bear and that means from December onwards I have beans to pick every week until May. I grow Purple King climbers wherever there’s something for them to climb on and French beans everywhere else. French beans grow very well in wicking boxes. This year I got a head start with the climbers and planted them in early September in one of the two corrugated planter boxes where I’d prepared a trellis for them. It’s up against a north-facing wall and I hoped they’d germinate there, even though some days were still a bit on the cool side. They did germinate and so now I’m a month ahead with beans. That’s silver beet in the front of the box: