Archive for the ‘Borage’ Category

Around the garden

February 16, 2013

I was weeding under the quince tree, stood up and was donged on the head by this:

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A quince! It’s the first and only quince the tree has borne! There are three trees, all grown from seed, planted in a group. They’ve flowered each year for the last 3 years but have never set any fruit. See the brown spots on the leaf. That’s a fungus disease. I think it’s quince leaf blight. The trees get it each year and generally lose all their leaves prematurely. It’s spread by water and since it hasn’t rained for a while, most of the leaves haven’t been too badly affected. The recommended controls are chemical, which I don’t want to use. I might try a seaweed spray.

These are Diva cucumbers. The good thing about them is that all the flowers are female! And they don’t need a pollinator. They’re bearing like crazy. I’ve already bottled five jars:

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The three large jars are using my standard bottling recipe and the two on the right are using Suburban Tomato‘s bread & butter cucumbers recipe. I’m looking forward to trying them.

These are some of the pumpkins growing in the hugelkultur bed. They’re Red Kuri, a variety I haven’t tried before:

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These plants haven’t been watered at all and are looking remarkably green and healthy:

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They’re all self-sown from seed dropped last year. Just a single tall stalk, 2 metres or more high, with clusters of yellow flowers at the top:

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It’s Evening Primrose and its seeds contain a very high concentration of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is found mostly in plant based oils such as borage seed oil and blackcurrant seed oil. Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: they are necessary for human health, but the body can’t make them—we have to get them from our food. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. I’ve been harvesting the seeds for a few years now and mostly put them in my bread and sprinkled on mueslii  (I need to work on brain function!).

My Black Kale was nearing the end of it’s life and was being attacked by Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillars. I was gradually taking off the lower leaves (plus grubs) to give to the chooks (they go mad for it) and in the end, completely cut off the tops of these 2 plants, leaving bare stalks which I intended to deal with later. In the meantime we had 16mm of rain—the only rain in January—and the stalks started to shoot again:

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I’ve noticed this happens with silver beet—when it’s gone to seed I don’t dig up the plant, just cut it off at ground level, cover the stump with fresh compost and mulch and it usually shoots out new growth. I’ve been wondering about perennialising plants by cutting them back severely and then feeding and watering, to promote new growth. It’s worth doing some trials, I think.

I’m not a great fan of summer any more (let’s be honest, I hate it), but it is good drying weather. Today I put tomatoes and chopped pumpkin out on the deck (the wire frames standing up at the rear go over the drying racks to keep insects off):

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Last but not least (it was hard work!), I’ve finally finished clearing out all the water plants from the first pool. Waiting now for some rain to fill it so I can see real water again:

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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:

The Great Honey Drought

September 11, 2008

Winter viruses and the wettest August for years have combined to leave Britain’s beehives dry. Read on…

This is disturbing news. I don’t think the average person realises the importance of the process of insect pollination in providing most of our food (Grasses, like wheat and rice, are wind-pollinated).

I was interested to see the reference to borage in the article. I knew that it was highly favoured by bees, but apparently it is planted as a crop for the pharmaceutical industry and the bees benefit from this fact. Now, farmers are planting wheat to profit from high prices and borage planting has dropped by 75%.

I planted borage a couple of years ago and ever since then it has self-seeded readily in all sorts of places, even despite the fact that the parrots discovered it last year and began to help themselves liberally to the maturing seeds. 

Although it’s early spring, I’ve noticed lots of bees already on the borage, so this year I’m going to collect as much seed as I can and broadcast it everywhere. It germinates with the autumn/winter rains. The deep blue flowers can be used with striking effect in a tossed salad.

Spring has sprung!

September 6, 2008

Warm weather at last! It’s about time. I thought it was just me getting old, but everyone has been complaining about the lack of winter sunshine and the cool temperatures this year. Normally I don’t mind the winter; the temperatures outside are bearable and I usually get lots done, but this year we’ve had more rain than usual and everything has been so wet and boggy.

In July we had 81 mm of rain; the average for Melbourne is 49. In August, a stunning 125 mm compared with an average of 57. September’s average is 53 mm and so far in the first 4 days we’ve had 12 mm. Still, there is the sunshine and things in the garden are starting to move.

Today I noticed the first Cabbage White Butterfly of the season and did a frantic covering-up of all the brassicas with netting. The native Showy Bossiaea in the bushland area is flowering and is covered in bees; likewise the self-sown Borage of which there are dozens of plants. I’m happy to see the bees around; it’s a real worry that their numbers might be declining. We do have native Blue-banded Bees, but not very many.

I’m busy preparing more water-wicking boxes for the spring/summer growing season. There are already three up on the house deck and five down the back in the main vegetable garden. I’m putting another two boxes beside the deck; these won’t be fenced off from the rabbits but will sit up on polystyrene fruit boxes where I hope their contents will be out of reach. Not sure what I’ll put in them, probably lettuces and maybe I’ll try some french beans when the weather warms up.

In the boxes on the deck, I’ve sown peas and beetroot and will put a couple of early San Marzano tomatoes in the third. They should relish the heat coming off the house wall. It’s just a trial to see how they go in the boxes as tomatoes normally have large root systems.

Of the five boxes down the back I’ve got Bok Choy chinese cabbage in one and broccoli in two others. Peas have been sown in the fourth and I’m keeping the last for celery (seedlings still small and waiting in the polyhouse). I’d have more boxes if I could, but I’m running out of homemade compost to fill them.

Self-sown Borage