Archive for the ‘Bees’ Category

December update

December 31, 2014

The season of plenty begins!

The first zucchini :

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It looks like a nice specimen of the Lebanese variety. Except that my notes record that I planted a black variety in that spot. Oh, well…

First of the Gold variety forming :

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There’s another fruit forming at the top right of the picture. The flower has just opened. I hand pollinate all my zucchinis and pumpkins with this :

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It’s not that I don’t trust the bees, but if I don’t see many around I just like to cover all the bases. It has a big round head of nice soft bristles—just right for picking up plenty of pollen. I’m sure everyone knows how to pollinate with a brush, but just in case, here are the two flowers of different sexes—male on the right and female on the left :

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The male’s whatsit, in the centre of the flower, is small and pointy; the female bits are bigger and sort of wrinkly, but in case you’re still not sure, the male flower is on the end of a longish stalk and the female has a baby zucchini-to-be at its base. You can’t miss it really.

Anyway, what I do is gently rub the brush over the male bit and check to see if the brush has picked up a liberal sprinkling of yellow powder. That’s the pollen. Then just brush it over the top of the female flower and you’re done. The female flower will close soon after and the baby zucchini (or pumpkin) will start to enlarge.

The most infuriating thing about zucchinis and pumpkins is that when there are female flowers open, there are often no males within cooee, and vice versa. It’s always a good idea to plant several plants close together, firstly, because it makes pollination by bees easy (if you’re lucky enough to have plenty of bees) and secondly, it means you’re not running hither and thither carrying a paintbrush full of pollen, like a demented artist looking for a blank canvas.

Here’s a lady pumpkin flower that unfortunately didn’t meet up with a mate. It won’t develop and the pumpkin-to-be is starting to wither away and become a pumpkin-that-will-never-be. Sad, really :

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Here’s one that had better luck :

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I hope it’s going to grow up into a nice big pumpkin. I have no idea what variety because it came up in the compost. More on that below.

 

The New Girls are settling in nicely being tolerated by the Old Girls and have taken over the pile of logs in the playground as a sunbathing spot :

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They had their first encounter with a fox early one morning (they were quite safe—their run is really secure, but they didn’t know that), and ended up on top of the coop, where they stayed for the next hour and a half (I left them up there to get over it in their own time; these things can’t be rushed). The only problem was after that, they decided all over again that they wanted to roost on top of the coop at night and I had to go through another week of shepherding them in before they consented to go in by themselves (and more important, STAY in once I’ve left). Talk about herding cats!

They’re extremely active and agile and into everything, quite a change from the two oldies. They like going into Molly & Cheeky’s coop and have completely trashed the bedding and nesting material, so that I can’t just clean the poop from under the perches, but have to clean and replace all the stuff, because the poop is all mixed up with it. Their own coop is pristine…they never go in their during the day.

If I thought they were intelligent beings, I’d say they’re doing it in retaliation for being chased by Molly & Cheeky, but that’s too much of a stretch. They’re just having fun, like all kids. Molly & Cheeky, being mature ladies, just sit side by side in the sun, looking like a couple of stately spanish galleons, obviously deprecating such childish behaviour. The newbies are almost 20 weeks old now, so I hope they grow up soon and start laying eggs. If we get temperatures in the 40’s in January though, it might stop laying in its tracks. That’s when the two oldies stopped laying last summer and they didn’t start again until spring.

 

This Cape Gooseberry came up by itself next to the Girl’s playground. It’s some years since I’ve grown them and I’d forgotten that the little fruits fall off the plant when ripe, with their papery outer coating intact. They’re quite safe from birds and it’s a simple matter to do the rounds every few days and pick up all the fruits :

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When I built the new chook run, I put a couple of large tubs on either side of the doorway :

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I filled them with compost and left them until I’d decided what to plant in them. In the meantime a couple of pumpkins germinated in one of the tubs. It wasn’t what I would have planted, as there’s not much room for them to run rampant as they usually do, but I let them grow on anyway.

They’ve turned out to be a couple of oddballs. They’re not running everywhere, but growing in a clump like a zucchini :

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They’ve flowered already and a couple of fruits are forming (I did my thing with the paintbrush) :

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There’s a robust central stem and the new flower buds are in a tight cluster. It certainly looks like a zucchini :

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They can’t possibly be zucchinis because I eat all my zucchinis before they go to seed. There would never be any zucchini seed in the compost. They’re not like any other pumpkin I’ve grown. If they came from the compost, it must be something I’ve bought. I normally only buy Butternuts and the occasional Kent. And then I remembered.

I’d bought a variety from Coles I’d never heard of, called Naranka Gold. It had bright orange flesh and was beautiful roasted. I’d Googled it at the time and found it had been specially developed and grown for Coles. They say it’s a cross between a Chilean variety and the Kent. I’d saved seed but some would have ended up in the worm farm and ultimately in the compost.

I hadn’t sown any of that seed this season, so I got it out and sowed some in a large tub. It will be interesting to see if that’s what’s in the chook house tub. I hope so, the flavour was exceptional.

 

I can’t grow parsnips. At least not the root bit. I can grow the top bit—the leaves and the flowers. The bees love the flowers and so I toss seed everywhere and grow a parsnip forest :

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One day I’ll get around to studying parsnips seriously—making a bed with a reasonable depth of friable soil and working out exactly when to sow the seed. In the meantime all is not lost. I collect buckets of seed from my parsnip forest and share it with my neighbour. And he brings me beautiful parsnips in return.

 

Remember the self-sown plant I thought might be a cherry, but turned out to be a cherry plum?

The fruits ripened, the birds left them alone and I picked and ate them. Wow! Delicious! I want more of these. I saved the seeds. I’ve never had plum seed successfully germinate just by sowing it in a pot. This time I’ve put the seeds in some moist cocopeat and put them in the fridge to stratify. I hope that might do the trick. In the meantime, I think I’ve found another self-sown seedling. Amazingly, it had reached almost waist-height before I discovered it. It’s in an ideal spot, in the middle of the food forest where I can give it lots of TLC. I missed it because it’s surrounded by parsnips! :

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Of course it might be a real plum which germinated from a seed I tossed in there as I was snacking on my own plums.

 

The first ripening tomato :

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Only a cherry, but oh, so special. The first time I’ve ever had a tomato ripen before Christmas! This one made it into the record book by just one day. It coloured up on December 24th.

 

A couple of years ago, I made my first hugelkultur bed alongside the path that leads to the rear of the property :

At first it was one long bed, but I realised I would be needing to access the area behind it and so I broke it into three parts so I didn’t need to be leaping over the top. I used it initially for zucchinis and pumpkins, but eventually planted rhubarb and asparagus in one section and this year, planted raspberries in another. The third section has no perennials in it and this year I’ve planted zucchinis there. I’ve been watering from the tank either by hand or with a microspray head mounted on a hose holder, moving it from place to place to cover all the bed. It’s time consuming, so I decided to put in three separate watering systems, one for each bed. I’ve put in the first one to cover the zucchinis and I’m really chuffed with it :

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There are four microspray heads each covering one zucchini. In between the zucchinis and slightly behind them are four button squash plants. Now I just have to click the hose from the tank onto the end of the pipe and the whole bed gets watered in one go. I’ll do the other two beds in the same way. It will save a lot of watering time.

 

I’ve worked out what’s going on with the cucamelons. I was seeing tiny little yellow flowers with even tinier cucamelons-to-be behind them :

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Then they were dropping off without forming. I realised that these are melons and probably will have both male and female flowers, so I kept watching and sure enough, tiny groups of male flowers began to appear :

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I have no idea what pollinates them, but it’s got to be a very small insect. If I do it with a paintbrush, I’m going to need one with about 3 hairs and a magnifying glass to see what I’m doing.

 

We had 64 mm of rain in December; Melbourne’s average is 57 mm. There were no really hot days, so no stress on the garden. Growth has been good and it hasn’t been hard to keep the water up to the plants. I hope that continues for the rest of summer but doubt that I’ll be so lucky.

 

Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope 2015 is filled with delicious food for you. Home grown, of course!

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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 :

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

My first cherries! :

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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 :

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I’ll be really interested in these apples :

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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 :

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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… :

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…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 :

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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 :

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

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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 :

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It’s already setting fruits in their papery capsules :

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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! :

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This is feverfew:

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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:

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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!

August update

September 9, 2014

Well it was nice to finally see some sunshine and warm days towards the end of the month and the winter blues slipping away. Here’s hoping the warmth continues.

Around the garden…..

The first of the tomato seedlings are out in the polyhouse after being sown at the winter solstice and being kept inside in a sunny window for a couple of months. I sowed three seeds to a pot and will let them grow on a bit, then take mini cuttings of the extras as I did last year :

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The tamarillo season ended with a flourish with this beautiful truss of fruits. Almost a shame to eat them :

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I’m really going to miss them on my breakfast cereal. Some fruits still haven’t ripened and I don’t know why, or if, or when, they will. I don’t know what triggers ripening—is it increasing warmth or lengthening days? They’ll be getting both of those from now on, so maybe there are delicious breakfasts still to come.

Leeks are looking good. These are in a wicking box. There’s a similar batch in the garden looking just as good :

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Likewise garlic. These are in the garden and also in a wicking box :

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This is a dwarf nectarine. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it’s only about 50 cm high, and is supposed to grow to about a metre. The flowers are also much pinker than the photo shows. In its first year it had 5 nectarines and a rabbit/possum got them all. Last year it had 2 and I got them.  I’ve made a special cage for it this year :

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All of the larger stone fruits are flowering too, but it’s a worry that I’m not seeing many bees around.

I’m not really a great one for growing plants in odd-looking containers, but when my 15 year-old wheelbarrow finally died, I decided that since it was too tall for the rabbits to get to, it was worth being repurposed for veggies in Zone 1. It’s now sporting some kale and chicory and I’ve tossed in seeds of mizuna :

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While I was taking photos for this post, I saw the first Cabbage White Butterfly for the season. Damn & blast. That means it’s probably too late for netting, so daily inspections of all things cabbagy for eggs and caterpillars will be needed.

Er….? :

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Fooled you?  I cut them out of some white plastic sheet. Because…..

…..on last Saturday’s ABC Gardening Australia program, one of the presenters came up with the idea of plastic white butterflies, pinned to the top of sticks and poked in around plants in the cabbage family, the idea being that if a female Cabbage White sees other butterflies there, she won’t waste her eggs but will go somewhere else and lay.

Don’t laugh…..I did it years ago and it worked! Only then I hung the fakes on fishing line above the plants. I stood and watched and it was true; the butterflies wouldn’t land on the plants while ‘other’ butterflies were hovering there. There was only one problem—I had to spend some time each day untangling wind-blown fishing lines. I didn’t repeat it in subsequent years, and think the fakes must have been thrown out, but after that TV program, I’m going to have another go. On sticks this time.

I’ve had a few meals of asparagus. There are new spears popping up every day now. To store them until I have enough for a decent meal, I just stand them in  cup of water. It keeps them hydrated and they will even continue to elongate :

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I harvested oca during the  month. These were the largest tubers. I planted the tiddlers straight back into the garden, but in a different spot. I’ll probably pickle most of these. I don’t like them roasted :

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This is purple mizuna. It has beautiful, lacy foliage and looks stunning in a salad :

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Solar…..

Generation from the solar panels bottomed out in July and started to take off again towards the end of August, with 9.7 kWh being recorded on the last day of the month. Amazing what a difference a sunny day makes! Over June and July I imported more power from the grid than I sent back to it, but I’m in front again now and exporting more than I’m using. I’m still waiting for a corrected bill from the retailer. According to their web portal there are 46 days in the January-April billing period that show no export to the grid, and this represents a credit of over $200 they owe me. They keep sending me texts to say they’re “working on it”, but since these are probably automated, I doubt whether they actually are. Main thing is, I haven’t paid a cent for electricity in the last ten months and don’t look like paying anything for the rest of the year. Or ever again. Maybe.

Rainfall…..

At 64 mm, we scraped in just 7 mm above Melbourne’s average of 57 mm for the month. It’s been good for the citrus and the oranges that looked a bit undersized are now looking a normal size.

I was about to hit the publish button when I remembered the most important thing. Eggs. The Girls haven’t laid since mid-January. I’ve been giving them subtle hints nagging them for a couple of weeks now. Molly apparently got sick of me harping on the fact that it was spring and normal chooks lay eggs in spring and laid one on the last day of the month. And as if to say, “there I’ve done it, now will you shut up”, hasn’t laid since. Not to be outdone, Cheeky has laid three. And one dropped out of someone during the night and broke. Oh, well. It’s a start.

Time for something new

April 4, 2014

I’ve done wicking boxes. I’ve done chooks. I’ve done swales and hugelkultur. I’ve done drying food. I’ve even done solar.

It’s time for something new.

I’ve had several major projects on the backburner for ages. They include:

Making cheese: I make cottage cheese; that’s easy. I want to do more involved stuff like hard cheeses.

Fermenting: I make kimchi and yoghurt; that’s the extent of my fermenting skills. I want to extend ferments to other foods.

Build a rocket stove: I have electricity and gas for cooking. Both fossil fuels. Both with a limited future. I have kindling wood coming out of my ears. A rocket stove would make me independent of fossil fuels.

Bees: There aren’t many bees in my garden any more, even when there are plenty of flowers. Pollination is an important bee service. Maybe I could improve that situation with my own hives.

Most of these need work to get up and running, some minor, some considerable.

For hard cheeses, I’d need a full cheesemaking kit, including a cheese ‘cave’—a small refrigerator with a thermostat able to be set to proper cheese ripening temperatures. The only bit of kit I have at the moment is a cheese thermometer.

Fermenting would be easier to get up and running. I already have Sandor Katz’s excellent book on the subject:

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Rocket stove? Where to put it? I’d need a proper undercover outdoor cooking area. There’s only the carport at the moment and while there’s room, it’s not perfect and I don’t want to rush into anything without serious thought.

Bees? I don’t want to do beekeeping as it’s done at the moment. I want the bees to do what comes naturally and the closest thing to that is a top bar or Warre hive. I like woodworking and I reckon I could make my own top bar hive. I’d still need protective kit and probably should take some lessons.

There’s one other project that has taken my fancy lately, thanks to some excellent posts from Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture. Growing my own mushrooms. A shiitake log, to be exact. I have eucalypts and can provide fresh-cut logs. It’s only a matter of buying the special spawn, inoculating the logs and waiting for the mushies to grow.

Looks good doesn’t it? I can almost smell them cooking:

This week, Kirsten has another post about shiitake cultivation and increasing the vitamin D content of the mushrooms by putting them in the sun. People yes…but mushrooms! Who’d a thunk it?

And if I needed any more persuading, I opened my copy of Australia’s new permaculture magazine, PIP, which arrived yesterday, and there was another article from Milkwood about shiitake logs. Something is pushing me in that direction. I think I’ve found my new project.

Giving Lemon Balm a haircut

October 22, 2012

There’s no doubt in my mind that lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a weed very successful plant.

Being a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), means it spreads by underground runners and can eventually cover large areas. It also self-seeds quite well and that’s how most of mine has spread to different places.

It has its good points, though. Listed in permaculture circles as a dynamic accumulator, it can be cut regularly and used as a nutrient-rich mulch on garden beds (preferably without seed heads). It’s dormant through the winter and grows again in spring. It’s rocketing away at the moment:

That’s a comfrey plant in the centre, struggling to get its leaves into the light.

I continually cut back the lemon balm through the spring & summer and either put it through the mulcher for mulch or compost, throw it straight into the compost, or just leave it lying on the ground in the food forest to break down there. I use hedge clippers. No noisy, fossil fuel burning whippersnippers will ever be used on this property! Hello comfrey!:

I’m using the chopped stems to build up the extension to my new hugelkultur bed:

I’ll always leave some to flower because it’s very attractive to bees. New seedlings coming up where I don’t want them can always be pulled out and unwanted established clumps can be sheet-mulched out of existence. It’s too valuable to not have in the garden.

Oh, and it makes a nice cup of herbal tea, too!

Spring things

September 2, 2012

While everyone seems to think it’s officially spring, I have to be different! My season changes go with the solstices and equinoxes, so I don’t consider spring will start until the spring equinox around the 21st of this month. Maybe climate change will eventually force an opinion change!

Anyway, here are a few ‘pre-spring’ things happening around the garden.

Red Russian kale and Purple Sprouting broccoli in a wicking box. I love the combination of colours:

Lacinato kale and parsley seem happy together in a wire ring bed:

First fruits on the loquat. Considering the number of flowers it had, not much fruit has set, but since I’ve never tasted loquats before, I’m looking forward to whatever I can get:

Native Philotheca myoporoides (formerly Eriostemon) in flower. This was in flower and covered in bees when Frogdancer brought her garden group to see the garden and she was so impressed, she went out and bought one for her garden. Sadly, there don’t seem to be many bees around so far, on this or any other flowers. I hope it’s not a bad omen for fruit set this season:

Another native, Grevillea sericea. Again usually covered in bees, but only a few on this occasion:

Nectarine in flower. This one was grown from seed (they’re one of the easiest fruits to grow from seed):

Another nectarine, this time a dwarf variety I bought at a local nursery. It’s still only 40 cm high and should get to about a metre:

A wicking box with Spinach variety Galilee from The Lost Seed. I just broadcast it over the top, covered the seed with a layer of sieved potting mix  and got excellent germination:

The Girls, heads down, bums up, digging holes (what else is new?):

Trays of seedlings inside, in a sunny window:

Wormwood. Nice ferny, silver foliage. I grow this because it’s supposed to repel insects. I’ve just pruned out all the top growth, mulched it up and spread it around the Girl’s nestbox:

Japanese radish (Daikon). First time I’ve grown this. If it’s successful, I’ll add it to my next batch of kimchi:

Wheat, growing in a wire circle bed. I want to be able to grow at least some of the chook’s food. This year I’m determined to keep the parrots off it!:

I’ve cleaned out one of the planter boxes and prepared it for a beanfeast, in other words it is going to be planted out entirely to beans. I’ll put climbing beans (Purple King) at the back and French beans in the rest of the box. I’m rather chuffed with the trellis I made for the climbers, in that the uprights are cut from melaleuca saplings which grow on the property:

Photo shoot

January 9, 2012

Some photos from around the garden.

A view of the wicking box line. Butter beans in the front, followed by beetroot, bread wheat, lettuce and capsicums:

Close-up of the lettuce. This was self-sown. Lettuce seed is so easy to collect and I have lots of it. Bread wheat in the background. I’ve grown ordinary wheat successfully before, so thought I’d try the high-protein wheat I bought for the bread. Every 100 g I can grow means an extra batch of bread. (I still have to buy the bread flour from the supermarket for the other 400 g flour in the batch):

Lemon Verbena is my favourite choice for herb tea in the morning. It has an attractive terminal flower head. I’m drying the leaves for use over winter when the plants have died back:

This is the first time I’ve tried basil in a wicking box. That’s a silver beet in the centre, trying to muscle its way in. It was only a tiny seedling when I planted the basil and wasn’t growing at all. Now it’s taken off. I wonder if it likes the basil as company:

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), a local native plant. It likes water and has established itself around the pool edges. It flowers in summer and the bees love it:

This is the only apple on this particular tree. I’m very excited about it because it’s a seedling from my Red Delicious tree. Apples don’t come true from seed, so I have no idea what it’s going to taste like. I’m hoping it will be good, because the tree itself is huge and will be a bonus for the garden:

Green Zebra tomatoes, close to ripening:

This is ordinary wheat, planted in a wire circle. I last grew it in 2007 and found a jar of it in the cupboard. Now that I have the Thermomix and can grind my own wheat into flour, I thought I’d start growing wheat again. This is probably a low-protein variety so will be good to make wholemeal flour for baking things other than bread:

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia sp.). I was given this plant by the Mornington Community Garden Group after I gave them a talk on permaculture. Very pretty:

These are Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes. There are 8 fruits on this truss and many more trusses on the plant. It’s the first time I’ve grown this variety. Hope they’re tasty:


I offered to sow a pot of coriander seed for a friend. I just pushed the large seeds into the soil and noticed that in every spot two seedlings appeared where one seed had been sown. This is like silver beet where each seed is actually a composite of many seeds and more than one seedling will appear. I checked it out and coriander ‘seed’ is actually a fruit containing two seeds. You learn something new every day!:

Remember those tomato cuttings I took? This is one of them, planted in a pot beside the chook run. It’s almost as tall as the plant the cutting was taken from:

This self-sown pumpkin has appeared in one of the compost bins. It’s probably come from pumpkins my neighbour gave me, in which case it’ll probably take over the garden. Hers was an immense vine and they got about 30 huge pumpkins from it. I’ll let it go and see what happens. It’ll have to be gently trained to go where I want it, so that I can still access the garden!:

Have rabbits & butterflies given up sex?

October 10, 2011

I can’t believe it’s spring and there are NO Cabbage White Butterflies flying and NO baby rabbits eyeing off the greenery.

It’s warm enough, so where are they? This year I actually WANT Cabbage Whites. Can you imagine that? I want nice, fat green grubs to throw to my chickens. The rabbits I can do without.

I suspect they’ll both be along sooner or later, so, in the case of the rabbits, I’m trying to get as much planted as possible, so the plants will grow big enough to withstand the rabbit attack when it comes.

Even so, I’m not taking any chances and everything I plant is being protected with wire guards. It’s a real pain in the neck to have to do this; it takes twice as long to plant anything.

Today I put out 8 borage seedlings and there are another dozen growing on, to go. I also have plenty of calendula and a few nasturtiums. The nasturtiums self-seeded and were dug up from a spot where I didn’t want them. Usually, I just sow the large seeds direct; in warm soil they germinate easily. I want all these mainly to attract bees to the garden, although calendula petals are edible and look attractive in a salad, as do nasturtium flowers and of course, nasturtium leaves are edible, too.

I’ve also started putting out tomatoes, since they were big enough in the pots, and everyone else seems to be planting theirs. This year I’m growing Grosse Lisse, Burnley, Black Russian, Black Cherry, Red Pear Cherry, Roma, San Marzano and Green Zebra. There’s also a single Purple Cherokee I bought at a Sunday market and a couple of Silvery Fir Tree which I’m growing for the first time (because the foliage looked nice in the picture).

The red cherry tomatoes  will go into the grey water line. They did very well there last year and I won’t have to worry about watering them. Some of the tall varieties will go into the deep wicking tubs and the rest into the main garden. The smaller-growing Roma and San Marzano will go into wicking boxes. In total, I think I potted up about 50 tomatoes. I’ll plant some in a friend’s garden and give a few cherry varieties to a neighbour for her kids to enjoy picking.

And finally, because no post would be complete without ‘the girls’, here they are, resting from their labours:

Naming chickens….& other stuff

September 8, 2011

Even though I haven’t got them yet, everyone has been asking what I’m going to call my new chickens.

I loaned a friend Watership Down by Richard Adams recently and (as the rabbits were named), I’d like to go with wildflower/plant names.

Clover, Thistle and (maybe) Yarrow.

But then I thought, what if they don’t have Clover, Thistle and Yarrow personalities? What if they’re Grumpy, Frumpy and Bossy?

So, I think I’ll observe and wait and for the time being, they’ll just be, “Oy, chooks!”

In the meantime, spring has sprung……

I’m picking asparagus—a half dozen every couple of days (tip—to keep asparagus fresh, stand the spears in a glass of water):

There’s a volunteer lettuce in there, too.

All the stone fruits are flowering. This is my new dwarf, yellow-fleshed nectarine. Dwarf is right—it’s only a foot high at the moment. I expect it to top out at a metre or so:

Alpine strawberries are flowering (the red-fruited form just clumps; the white-fruited form runs everywhere. It’s covered about 5 square metres so far, a great ground cover for the food forest).

The citrus trees are literally dripping with fruit:

I’m potting up dozens of seedlings…..tomatoes, sorrel, borage, celery, gazania (for the bees), parsley, sage, huauzontle (look it up…I had to!), liquorice, calendula (bees again, although the petals are edible and look great in a salad), rocket and lettuce.

I’ve planted an experimental early crop of butter beans in a wicking box. It’s been so warm I thought I’d start sowing early. I normally start planting beans at the beginning of October and each month from then till February. They take 2 months to bear, so I have beans continuously from just before Christmas till April.

The quinces are covered in new leaves. Thank god! I thought they’d died. Last year they got quince rust and dropped all their leaves. Unlike the stone fruit, they flowered after leafing out (which took me by surprise) and even set a few fruit, but they dropped off as well. Hoping for better things this year:

I’ve started potting the early tomatoes into their final pots, from which I’ll plant out. I decided to go for the deep (15 cm) tubes this year, instead of the half-size ones. That should give a really large, sturdy seedling to put into the ground as soon as the soil warms up. In previous years I’ve succumbed to impatience and planted too soon and then been frustrated by a sudden cold snap which has set them back:

They’re still in the polyhouse at the moment. They only came out to have their photo taken. Even though we’ve had a few warm days, I’m not taking any chances. Tomatoes are too important!

Bees and bee forage plants

February 20, 2011

Most references to Zoning for bees relates to positioning of hives, however it can also be applied to planting bee forage Plants

So begins this interesting post from a writer in the UK. He’s talking about permaculture zoning, i.e. the efficient and beneficial placement of the elements in a permaculture design.

I’ve said previously that some day I’d like to keep bees, but I hadn’t thought about deliberately planning to provide forage for them as the writer has.

So I probably need to go into it thoroughly, making lists of ideal bee foraging plants for every season and getting the growing of them trialled and successful before doing anything about actually getting some bees.

I particularly liked his idea of giving suitable plants to neighbours to extend the bees’ foraging range.

His blog looks interesting also and I’ve bookmarked it for future reference.

Before leaving the subject of bees, here’s a really good post from Milkwood Permaculture on natural beekeeping.

And another one about the problems bees face when exposed to our non-ecological gardening activities.