The season of plenty begins!
The first zucchini :
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 :
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 :
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 :
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 :
Here’s one that had better luck :
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 :
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 :
When I built the new chook run, I put a couple of large tubs on either side of the doorway :
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 :
They’ve flowered already and a couple of fruits are forming (I did my thing with the paintbrush) :
There’s a robust central stem and the new flower buds are in a tight cluster. It certainly looks like a zucchini :
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 :
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! :
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 :
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 :
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 :
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 :
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!