Archive for the ‘Broccoli’ Category

Brassica time

March 14, 2016

Brassicas are all those members of the cabbage family—cabbage itself, plus broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and all the numerous varieties of Chinese and Japanese greens.

In this part of the country brassicas are generally considered winter vegetables, so sowing seed should commence in late summer and autumn, to get a winter and early spring crop. I’ve heard that some gardeners sow as early as mid summer, but I’ve never managed it, because tending to summer veggies usually takes all my time and effort.

However, I’m into it now and have been sowing seed daily, some direct sown and some in punnets to be potted up later.

The wonderful thing about brassicas is that they germinate so quickly. Here’s some of my seedlings; the fastest (black kale, on the left) took 2 days and the others took 3-4 days. As well as the black kale, there’s Wombok Chinese cabbage, Dwarf Siberian kale and mustard Osaka Purple (just coming up on the right) :

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The problem with brassicas is that they are the food plant for the Cabbage White Butterfly, which lays its eggs on the leaves and the green caterpillars which hatch set to straight away and demolish all the leaves. I can keep my seedlings in the polyhouse until the cooler weather puts an end to the butterflies (or they’ve laid all they can manage and have gone to god with the satisfaction of a job well done), or I can put them out in the open when the butterflies are still around and monitor them daily for a caterpillar squashing session (of course I can net them too, but that gets a bit cumbersome). I like to get them out as soon as possible because they tend to get leggy in the polyhouse, owing to the shadecloth over the top of the plastic (which I can’t get at to remove now and in any case it gets far too hot in there in summer without it).

There hasn’t been nearly as many white butterflies around this season as normally, but there are still a few to make life difficult for the ardent brassica grower. So inspecting and squashing becomes part of the daily routine.

If I get in early before the eggs have hatched, I can simply rub the eggs off the leaves with my thumb. They’re quite easy to see (glasses on) and are usually on the underside of the leaves (the butterfly thinks I won’t see them there, but she doesn’t know I have a (slightly) bigger brain than her and worked that one out long ago) :

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Sometimes I’ll leave eggs on a few trap plants to hatch and wait till the caterpillars get to a reasonable size, because the chooks love them as a treat.

I’ve also direct-sowed a lot of seed too. This is Mizuna, a Japanese green that comes in both green and purple-leaved varieties. This was mixed seed collected from the garden, but it seems to be all green :

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I’ve sown it in the second-hand bath which I received from a family member for Christmas. I harvest it by cutting handfuls of leaves just above the growth point with scissors and it keeps growing back :

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That’s a really good net—the openings are too small to allow the butterflies in and it will also keep the rabbits from browsing the leaves around the edges. In a couple of weeks I’m going to plant my garlic in the other half of the bath.

This is broccoli in a large tub :

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Although all these self-sown seedlings are very close together, I’ll be continually thinning them and either eating the thinnings or giving them to the chooks. They love all brassicas, especially kale.

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 :

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The goal is to fill this jar with dried tomatoes :

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

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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!) :

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

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but there’s gotu kola…:

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self-sown lemon balm…:

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a cucumber…:

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and what looks like a self-sown tansy…:

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but wait, there’s more…:

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…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 :

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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 :

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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 :

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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 :

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

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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 :

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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?) :

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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) :

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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 :

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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 :

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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 :

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Pods are forming :

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Basil & endive going well together in a wicking box :

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

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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 :

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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 :

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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 :

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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 fix.com given in the article. Another useful site worth bookmarking.

Bread & cheese on a wet day

June 13, 2013

We had 47 mm of rain on the first day of June; just over the June average for Melbourne. Then another 23 mm by the end of the following week, 20 mm last night and it’s been raining all day today. The gauge is visible from the bathroom window and it looks like another 20 mm so far. The 3 pools at the rear of the property are brimming. I’d be happy if I was a duck but I’m not. The chooks are disgusted; they’ve been confined all day to the only bit of their playground that’s covered by a tarpaulin and their holes are just puddles. But not muddy ones thankfully; the soil is sandy and water drains quickly, so I don’t expect any cases of chookfootrot.

It was obvious no outside work was going to be done today, but I had a batch of bread lined up to make and also some cottage cheese. I’m making the cheese weekly now, using the recipe from Green Gavin’s e-book, Keep Calm and Make Cheese. It’s a bargain, downloadable from Gavin’s blogsite for just a few dollars, as are his other e-books.

The bread turned out fine:

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As did the cheese. Here it is draining in the sieve:

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From a litre of milk I get 200-250 gm of cheese, depending on how long it drains. I keep and freeze the whey to use as stock:

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The cheese has a lovely fresh taste and it’s free of all the additives in the commercially made stuff. One day I’m going to have a go at a hard cheese.

Out in the garden, I’ve been making more hugelkultur beds from sticks, raked-up litter and leaves. The bed I made last year has been invaded by fungi which is good because it means the underlying wood is being broken down:

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I’ve been adding wood ash and chook poo compost to the bed and I’m hoping to get a good crop of pumpkins from it this summer.

The garlic and potato onions I bought from Yelwek Farm earlier in the year are growing well. The garlic took a long time to eventually sprout but it’s OK now:

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These are the brown potato onions. The nets are to keep the blackbirds off. Their constant digging is driving me crazy:

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There’s not much else happening at the moment. It is winter after all. I’ve planted Sebago, Desiree and Kipfler seed potatoes and still getting lots of greens and two (small) heads of broccoli. It’s almost the winter solstice and time to think about what tomato varieties I’ll be sowing this year. I may wait another month and start sowing in July. Time to get out the seed bank and do some sorting out.

Autumn photos

April 8, 2013

‘Twas a chilly autumn morning and the camera and I went for a walk.

This is wormwood planted outside the chook run. I love the silvery, ferny foliage. Such a contrast to the usual greens. I have more plants in other parts of the garden. When I prune them back I put it through the mulcher and spread it in the Girl’s nestbox. It’s supposed to deter insects. It certainly has a very medicinal smell:

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A wicking box with a newly-planted pepino. Those seedlings all around it are amaranth (there’s a single bok choy there, too). Normally the amaranth self-seeds in the food forest. When it’s finished flowering (and I’ve collected as much seed as I can), I mulch it up and add it to the compost. Seedlings come up in everything that gets topped up with compost. I’ll probably pick some of these and dry them for winter use. At the moment I’m using them as a garnish on soups, in omelets and with other steamed greens:

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I have a tub on the deck with one strawberry in it. It’s been flowering for ages and producing delicious fruit. I used to rant about those huge supermarket strawberries and say they weren’t normal and now this plant is producing fruits equally as huge. I think it likes the chook poo compost I put on it. I’ve put a wire cage around the tub. Birds don’t come onto the deck very often, but bright red treats like this will bring them from miles around:

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The bags of cow poo I was given recently have finally all made it into one of the compost bins. I’ll add worms from the worm farm and let them go through it and make it more friable:

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Now that we’ve had rain, the oca has really kicked on:

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This is mizuna. The chooks love it and there’s generally enough left for me, too. Pretty foliage:

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Broccoli and kale in a wicking box:

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More kale and senposai in a wicking tub:

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This is chicory. I grow it for greens for the Girls. I don’t eat it because I usually have plenty of other greens:

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Not the most elegant parsnips in the world, but the best I’ve grown so far:

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Autumn jobs

March 14, 2013

While it’s not autumn yet (my seasons follow the solstices and equinoxes), it’s time for some particular jobs.

Taking out tomatoes

They’ve all pretty much had it and I’m beginning to think I’ll go bonkers if I see another tomato! I picked almost 30 kilos in all. There are whole tomatoes in the freezer. There are tomatoes in the fridge, in pasta sauce, green tomato pickle and tomato relish. There are tomatoes (cherry types) out on the deck in the sun, drying. I’m all tomato-ed out. These are my dried tomatoes. Last year I managed to fill both jars. Not as many this year:

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After taking out the plants, each wicking box gets a top-up with chook poo compost and mulch:

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Wicking tubs likewise:

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Planting new seedlings

New seedlings are ready to go in. These are broccoli and kale:

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And in a wicking tub, more kale and senposai, a green I haven’t grown before:

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Collecting seed

Tomato seed pulp fermenting:

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Dill seed, bean pods and a head of lettuce seed:

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Drying herbs for winter teas

This is Lemon Verbena. It makes a lovely morning cuppa. Since it dies back over winter, I need enough dried to get me through to spring:

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Moulting

Well, the Girls do that, not me. Cheeky and Lady had an early moult and have finished re-feathering, but not re-laying. Molly decided to be late for some reason (so like a woman, some would say), but she’s well into it now. Her bald spots fascinate the others who can’t resist pecking at them (especially her bare bum…yuk!), but she’s quick to retaliate with a clout around their ears:

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Planting garlic, potato onions and shallots

This is one of the major autumn jobs, but I don’t do it till the equinox, on the 21st. I’m hoping this oppressive heat will be over by then. 10 days in a row above 30 C is just too much!

Simple wicking box butterfly excluder

January 27, 2013

I’m determined to grow a good crop of brassicas this year. As well as the usual kale and broccoli, I’m going to have a go at red cabbage. I’ve been buying it recently and love it—sliced, steamed and dressed with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of raw sugar.

I always seem to put brassicas in too late and they don’t get much growth on before they’re slowed down by the cooler weather and winter. Then annoyingly, I find them running to seed in early spring.

I note that some of the other food-growing bloggers in Melbourne are sowing their brassica seeds in January, so this year, I’m doing the same.

But Cabbage White butterflies will be around well into autumn. Even though the hot weather has all but eliminated them at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a comeback when it gets cooler. So I need to keep them off the plants right from the seedling stage.

So—covers for the wicking boxes are needed.

Easy! Just poke a short stake into each corner:

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Two lengths of poly tubing over the stakes:

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And some fine netting over the top:

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That should keep the little so and so’s out! I should stress that the netting should be fine. I’m using mosquito netting, but any old lace curtains will do. I’ve seen Cabbage Whites get through wire mesh with a 1 cm opening. Bird netting is too coarse, too. I don’t know how they do it—just seem to fold their wings and they’re through. They’re very persistent where their food plants are concerned.

I’ll be potting up seedlings in the polyhouse but will want to put them out in the open eventually to grow on, so I’ll just put the tray of pots under the cover, on the surface of the box, until they’re ready to be planted out.

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:

Novel foods

August 27, 2012

Sharon Astyk over at Causaubon’s Book has a short post about foods most of us don’t normally eat, or know it’s OK to eat.

Mention of broccoli stems and how delicious and useful they are made me think of a sign that some greengrocers put on the broccoli, to the effect that if you break off the stems you’ll be charged for them! That always makes me laugh! Although to be fair, home-grown broccoli stems are much more tender than their shop-bought counterparts.

Since trying to become a more self-sufficient foodie, I’ve learned about a whole slew of unusual edible things that other people turn their noses up at. Things like dandelions (leaves and flowers), chickweed, calendula flowers (really attractive in a tossed salad), nettles (nettle & potato soup is yum!), and so on.

I was at a neighbour’s recently and their rather neglected veggie garden was covered in chickweed. We really must get the weeds out, she said. I said you can eat that, it’s chickweed, it’s rich in iron; they grow it by the acre in the US to extract the iron for iron tablets. Her jaw dropped quite a bit.

One day, I will make a list of all the edible ‘weeds’ and similar plants I can find info on and start an edible weed garden.

How much am I growing?…3 month update

February 6, 2012

I wrote this post back in November about how I was going to record all the food I bought and all the food I grew, for a whole year. I want to see what percentage of my food I’m actually providing from the garden.

I’m writing it all in an exercise book and I’ve also put it on a simple spreadsheet which adds up the totals and calculates the percentages.

So far, in the first 3 months, the average is 25%. In other words, of all the food that’s come into the house in that time, 25% of it has come from the garden.

Not too bad, but it’s summer—the best season of the food-growing year, with tomatoes, zucchini, beans, cucumbers & carrots in abundance and fruit (not a lot this year) from the trees. I know I won’t be able to keep that up over the winter. There’ll be peas, leeks,  plenty of greens (silver beet, chinese cabbage & kale), but my broccoli leaves a lot to be desired (I really must do something about keeping the Cabbage White Butterfly off the plants and I must learn to grow better broccoli). Right in the middle of winter there will also be oca & yacon and asparagus in the spring.

So it looks like I’ll finish up with something less than 25% for the year. The only thing that might boost the % is that I may not need to buy much over the winter. The fridge is bursting at the seams with bottles of pickled veggies, pesto, tomato paste, pasta sauce and marmalade. There will be tomatoes in the freezer and jars of dried tomatoes in the cupboard, plus potatoes under the sink and pumpkins, if I’m lucky. I have enough bread flour and wheat to make a year’s supply of bread and enough pasta and rice for at least that time, too.

Oh, and I forgot eggs. A dozen eggs a week will help boost the totals, too (speaking of which, top egg weight this past week was 53 g—going up!).

In no way am I self-sufficient in food and I doubt whether I ever can be, especially where meat protein is concerned, but it’s an interesting exercise anyway.

Winter food

May 10, 2011

The weather’s cooling down now, but the garden’s not exactly in limbo.

Spot the persimmon. The leaves are putting on their autumn show and there’s just one fruit hiding in there. Last year the tree set three fruits for its first effort, but they all dropped off before maturity. This one looks as though it will make the grade:

Tamarillos are ripening, too. These ones are a bit late. I’ve already picked 2 kilos from the earlier-ripening trees:

Oca foliage. Oca is a South American plant with pink, wrinkly underground tubers. I’m hoping there’ll be a good lot of tubers under all that:

Another South American tuberous plant—yacon. Should be some nice tubers under there, too:

This Japanese Seedless mandarin is going to have a nice crop. Last year the possums showed a bit of interest.  I’m ready and waiting with the net at the first sign of damage:

This new little Meyer Lemon has a nice crop, too. Lemon butter coming up:

Wicking box with garlic and lettuce. First time I’ve tried garlic in a wicking box:

Celery, also in a wicking box. Celery just loves all that moist soil:

Broccoli coming on. No problems with Cabbage White butterflies now:

Silver beet going well in the new planter box:

And finally, Corn Salad, also called Mache by the French. It’s a delicate winter green, with a beautiful buttery flavour: