Archive for the ‘Nasturtiums’ Category

July update

August 10, 2015

Despite the cold and the rain, I managed to get a few jobs done last month. The first was to get the dwarf Stella cherry ready for the new season…..its second year of growth. I dug a small swale behind it so I could keep the water up to it in the summer :

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Then I installed a support for a net :

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I picked only about eight cherries last year and I’m hoping for a bigger crop this year.

I bought a dwarf Granny Smith apple and planted it on a hugelkulture mound. I’ll eventually put in a couple of posts and a wire framework and have a go at espalier :

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It will get more TLC here because I’ll be planting my zucchinis on the mound when the weather warms and there’s a sprinkler system from the tank in place. The original Granny Smith I planted is right down the back where I never seem to want to drag the hose and the apples are always small. It’s too big for a net, but I try and protect a few with bits of netting, otherwise I generally leave them to the birds.

I also bought 5 bare-rooted, thornless blackberry canes and planted them on a new hugelkulture mound I’d been building up for a few months, with raked leaves and sticks from the walking tracks in the bush :

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This mound is on contour and on the slope that leads to the first of the three pools on the property. Although I haven’t yet dug out a swale in front of the mound, water is already collecting there and running underneath the mound and into the pool.

I’d love to have nasturtiums growing everywhere, but the rabbits love them as well. The only place I can keep them is inside a wire circle. These are keeping a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple company :

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Fortunately, the rabbits don’t like Warrigal Greens, so they’re doing a great job as a ground cover in the food forest :

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These climbing peas have just started to flower :

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Attractive foliage of Jagallo Nero kale :

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And Red Russian kale :

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I’m not picking much from the garden at the moment….just some greens and a few yellow tamarillos. The red variety has produced very few fruits because of an aphid attack last spring when they were flowering and most of the flowers dropped off.

On the chook front…..two of the New Girls have started laying again and I’m getting about 8 eggs a week from them. For the first time since I started keeping chickens, I went through the winter without having to buy eggs. Good one Girls!

I gave the pepino in the wicking box on the deck a haircut :

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It will be interesting to see if it recovers.

The blueberry in a pot on the deck is flowering :

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In the bush, Victoria’s floral emblem, Pink Heath (Epacris impressa), is flowering :

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And a large patch of native Nodding Greenhood orchids :

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Meanwhile, I’m hoping for spring and some warmer weather.

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September update

October 3, 2014

Good things finally started happening.

For one, the spring equinox occurred on the 21st. That means the sun will speed up on its return to the southern sky and that means more generation from the solar panels (it doesn’t really speed up, what changes is the rate of change. Or something. Don’t worry about it).

And those aforementioned little darlings (the solar panels) turned 1 on the 18th. I forgot to wish them happy birthday or otherwise mark the occasion, because the smart meter wasn’t reconfigured to show solar exports until the 1st of November and all my spreadsheet calculations in regard to solar credits start from there. But I was recording what the panels produced every day up to then, so I know that over the year they produced nearly 4000 kWh and that’s a daily average of 11 kWh. Much more than I would ever use from the grid so it’s not surprising I’m in credit moneywise and expecting to stay there.

It warmed up, too. How nice to be able to shed a few layers of clothing and not have to trek daily to the wood pile for firewood.

The new chook run is finally finished, the coop is ensconced within and all awaits the new occupants :

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The first run had one wall protected by being built against the polyhouse; this new run, although covered with a tarp over the top, was open on both sides. I was really pleased to be able to re-purpose some pine panels (the remains of the original vegetable planter boxes) from down in the back corner and use them to cover one of the sides. They were treated pine which concerned me a bit (the reason for abandoning the original beds), but a neighbour, who’s a vet, said he wouldn’t worry about the chemicals in possible contact with the chooks :

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The various varieties of kale in the big planter boxes suddenly took off. I put a few plastic butterfly look-alikes in amongst them to see if they had any effect on dissuading egg-laying females. I watched as a butterfly hovered near. It flittered and fluttered over the plants, dithered and dathered, hither and thither and finally flew away. Success! I smirked to myself for a couple of hours afterwards until I suddenly thought—maybe it was a male looking for a bit of what you fancy and was so bemused by the multitude of potential lovers that he couldn’t cope with so many to choose from and departed the scene in utter frustration. I haven’t found any butterfly eggs or caterpillars yet, so maybe the phoneys are doing their job :

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Blueberry futures :

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This dark purple variety of kale called Redbor has been in a wicking box on the deck for ages. It’s finally flowering which means I can collect seed :

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The strawberry buckets are covered in flowers. Can’t wait for fresh strawberries on my breakfast cereal :

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I started planting out the first of the tomatoes. Most are going into wicking boxes where I don’t have to worry about constant watering :

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This is Senposai, also called Japanese Greens. It produces huge amounts of foliage which is great for stir fries. Being a brassica, it has the obligatory white butterfly look-alike to guard it :

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The plants in the old wheelbarrow have really taken off. I’m not surprised as I filled it with compost from the bin where I put the stuff from the composting toilet :

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I’ve made a new bed behind one of the rows of wicking boxes. The dwarf nectarine had been there for some time and also some sage and I’ve added some garlic chives and a couple of strawberries. The rabbits don’t usually come this close to the house, but if they do, it’s easy enough to put up a wire fence :

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I’ve planted a Heritage raspberry into one of the hugelkultur beds :

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Down in the food forest, the tamarillos that didn’t ripen earlier are starting to colour up :

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There are a couple of odd coloured ones that look like they’re going to ripen yellow and orange even though all the others on that particular tree are turning from green straight to red. I know a yellow-skinned variety exists; I’ve grown a single plant of it from seed, but it hasn’t flowered yet. I’m wondering if there’s been a gene mutation somewhere in the development of these two fruits. (I’m doing an online genetics course at the moment so my mind is full of mutations…not literally though, I hope) :

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The yacon is starting to appear :

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The comfrey is shooting up again. The Girls will be glad; they love it :

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The basil mint is running rampant. I don’t really like it that much, but I can do the permaculture chop-and-drop thing with it and use it as mulch :

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The redcurrants have come into leaf and there are lots of tiny flower buds forming :

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The cherry is flowering for the first time :

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The Bartlett pear is covered in flowers but its pollinator mate next door doesn’t have a single flower on it, so I’m not sure if it will set fruit  :

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The flowers are so pretty :

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The rabbits love nasturtiums and I can’t grow them unprotected, so I throw a few seeds inside a circle of wire which is protecting a fruit tree. Somewhere in there there’s a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple :

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Yep, there it is :

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Plum futures :

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Apricot futures :

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And possibly, apple futures :

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Chokos sprouting :

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The passionfruit that was hacked to bits to get a new trellis into place around the water tank seems to be none the worse for its ordeal. There won’t be any fruit this year though :

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But there are flower buds on the one over the old chook run :

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And plenty of oranges for a vitamin C hit until the tomatoes ripen :

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The egg situation has been the only flaw in the month. The Girls laid 4 eggs between them at the beginning of the month and haven’t laid since. So I’m buying eggs. Not pleased Girls.

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:

Who’s a clever plant, then?

October 6, 2011

I was sitting on the deck enjoying the morning sunshine and a cup of coffee, watching the chooks cavorting in their new play area, when I noticed the nasturtium starting to climb up from the wicking tub beside the deck. The plants self-seeded there from last year.

Nasturtiums put out long growths and will cover a huge area of ground if there’s nothing to scramble up and over. They’re often listed in gardening books as climbers but they don’t possess tendrils like other climbers, for example, a passionfruit.

They have a clever way of hanging onto things to get where they want to go, though. Each leaf, if it comes in contact with something it can grab, wraps itself around the object and supports the growing stem. This one is just starting to curl around the wire:

This one’s done a double back-flip and is securely fastened to the wire. No falling off now:

This is very clever. It takes energy to make plant structures like leaves, flowers and seeds. Nothing in nature wants to waste energy making unnecessary bits of infrastructure. Before you ask “how can a plant ‘want’ anything?”, think of it this way. Organisms that use energy wisely, grow and proliferate successfully. They’re good at getting their genes into the next generation, which is what life is all about.

Energy wasted on unnecessary infrastructure is not available to make offspring for the next generation. If energy is scarce, those organisms may not be so successful in the game of life.

What the nasturtium is doing is using the available energy to make one structure which does two things—photosynthesise and support the plant. A typical tendril would only provide support. A typical leaf would only photosynthesise.

If you know your permaculture you’ll know that one of the design principles is: each element should perform more than one function. Here’s an example of a plant practising permaculture.

So there’s a clever plant!