Archive for the ‘Zucchini’ 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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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!

Updating…..

December 8, 2013

Mainly photos—easy post when you don’t have to write much.

The redcurrants are ripening. I haven’t protected them and I can’t believe the birds are ignoring them. Same thing happened last year:

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These ones made it inside. I’ve probably nibbled this many straight from the bushes:

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OK, so potatoes are relatively cheap. I still like growing them. These are Sebagos:

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The rhubarb in the hugelkultur bed has taken off:

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Here’s what it was like when planted a few weeks ago:

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Burdock leaves. Huge. Better dig up the root and see what I should do with it:

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Corn getting going:

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Oca leaves. The tubers won’t be ready till winter:

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Picked my garlic. Could be bigger, but better than last year. Will be useful:

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Small tree. Its first year. Only two apples. Cox’s Orange Pippin. Supposed to have the best flavour. Better put a net over these:

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Threw some old parsley seed amongst the zucchini on the hugelkultur mound. Who says parsley seed has to be fresh?:

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Borlotti beans. My first attempt at growing beans for drying:

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Pumpkins on the hugelkultur mound:

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Self-sown tomatoes on the hugelkultur mound. Really should pull them out, but will leave them to see what Mother Nature decides:

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Warm? Really?

October 9, 2013

They’re saying we had the warmest September on record. Well…I don’t know what happened to it once October hit. We had a week of freezing (well, cold), gale-force winds that saw a lot of trees and branches come down around Melbourne and culminating (at my place, anyway), in a humungous hailstorm that had me panicking about what to save first…the chooks or the solar panels. The solar panels came through it OK and when it had passed, it was hilarious to watch the Girls trying to pick up pea-sized hailstones in the belief that this was some new kind of treat that Mum had thrown at them.

I usually plant my first crop of beans on the first of October and subsequent batches on the first of every month thereafter, up until about February. They normally take 2 months to bear and I have a continuous supply of beans until autumn sets in. I checked the soil temperature in the wicking boxes and at 10º C there was no way I was going to plant them just to see them rot away. I’m still waiting for some warmth.

I also have this tray of curcurbits (zucchini, pumpkin and cucumber) to put out:

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I want to plant them on the hugelkultur mound but the soil temperature there is even colder than in the wicking boxes.

I’ve put out some tomatoes…ones I bought some weeks ago from the old guy at the Sunday market. I don’t know how he manages to get his tomato plants so big, so early, when my own seedlings are only centimetres tall. His tomatoes don’t have stems; they have trunks! I only buy from him when he has varieties I haven’t grown before and then I can collect the seeds and add them to my collection. I bought Golden Girl, Cherokee Purple and Black Krim. He reckons this one is better than Black Russian so I’m anxious to try it. It’s supposed to have a slightly salty flavour along with the typical richness of the black varieties.

Down in the garden, the salsify is flowering, so this photo is for Fran of The Road to Serendipity who sent me the seed:

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If it sets seed, I’m going to broadcast some of it into the food forest as bee forage. The flower stems are taller than I am:

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I have a nice patch of calendula growing in one of the veggie rings. I’ve been collecting and drying the flower petals in the hope of getting enough to make calendula ointment:

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These red currants are setting fruit already. I didn’t know they’d flowered:

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Oh, there they are. You wouldn’t call them spectacular. I wonder what pollinates them:

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Postscript:

I wrote this post a week ago and it was left in ‘drafts’ in favour of the solar posts. So I’m happy to say that warmer weather has arrived (forecast 30º C today) and I’ve planted those beans and some of the curcurbits.

Postpostscript:

A question for all you computer geek WordPress bloggers. In the above post I’ve got two celsius temperatures quoted. You’ll notice the little degree sign º between the figure and the C. Can anyone tell me how to do this without leaving the blogpost edit page?

Here’s the roundabout way I go about it. Return to desktop leaving blog page open. Open Microsoft Word to a new document. Click ‘insert/symbol’ and find the degree sign. Add it to document. Copy degree sign to clipboard and close Word. Return to blogpost edit page and paste degree sign into place.  It’s giving me the irrits doing this. I know I could just type 30 C and everyone would know what I mean, but I’m a stickler for doing things right. I annoy myself intensely about this. I suppose it’s the scientific training.

Hugelkultur bed going well

January 7, 2013

I’m really pleased with the growth of the pumpkins and zucchini in the hugelkultur bed. The first zucchini are flowering:

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I didn’t expect them to do well because the underlying base of sticks is nowhere near broken down, but all the leaves and compost I spread over the sticks must be doing something good. I’m watering every second day, and daily on very hot days, so maybe the roots have managed to get through into the underlying soil. It’s only about 30 cm high at the moment, so I’ll keep building it up over winter. It’s a great way to use up organic material and put carbon back into the soil where it belongs.

The pumpkins are looking good too:

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First job of the morning is to take this highly technical piece of equipment down to the bed to do a bit of pollinating:

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Seems to be working. Baby pumpkin coming:

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I’m going to do more hugelkultur beds in a section right at the rear of the property:

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It has a few spindly wattles which I planted for a woodlot, but I don’t really need them as there’s plenty of dead wood coming out of the bush. I’m going to remove them and because it’s on a slope, I’m going to put in swales and plant on the mounds. I’ve already done one beside the path and will work back up the slope swaling and mounding. This first one needs deepening but I’m waiting for rain to soften the soil which is rock-hard at the moment (it’s all being done by hand):

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This area is furthest from the house and will only get natural rainfall, so I’ll need to do some homework to select plants that will survive there.

Finally, some eye candy. I’ve always grown alpine strawberries (which are small and full of flavour), but somewhere managed to acquire a regular strawberry plant and it’s in a tub with a tomato on the deck. Looking out the kitchen window, I noticed something large & red:

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They were delicious on my morning mueslii. And there’s more coming!

The Hugelkultur Sausage

June 17, 2012

The hugelkultur bed (I’m going to call it ‘the Sausage’ because of its shape), is going well. I’ve written about it here and here.

I’ve been building it up with sticks, raked leaves & twigs, grass clippings and a bit of wood ash from the fire and soaking it all in the liquid from the composting toilet, to help the carbonaceous material break down. It’s 10 metres of extra growing space and I want to use it for the first time this summer:

Today I covered it all in compost. A creeping native groundcover (Hydrocotyle laxiflora—Stinking Pennywort), which was growing there previously is starting to colonise it. That’s good, because it will help bind the whole thing together and won’t interfere with the growth of the plants I put in there:

The Sausage is destined for all my summer curcurbits—cucumber, zucchini and pumpkin and for the first time I’m going to try sowing the seeds direct, instead of growing them in pots for transplanting. I’ve never had a lot of success with transplanting curcurbits, even though I try to do it without disturbing the roots.

I could hand water it by gravity from the tank, but I’m thinking of fixing a length of plastic tube along its length with a hose connector at one end and a series of fine spray heads or drippers at intervals. I’ll be able to connect it to the hose from the tank and water the entire bed in one go.

Even though it’s right beside the main path to the rear of the property, there’s plenty of room for the plants to spread out behind the mound so that the path is kept free.

Just before I plant my seeds, I’ll cover the bed again, this time with my special chook poo compost mixture.

Looking forward to the warmer weather to see how it goes.

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.

Zucchini glut—so what else is new?

January 27, 2011

This is the time of year when you can’t give away zucchinis for love nor money. Everyone has them. I offered some to my neighbour, thinking, with a new veggie garden she mightn’t have gotten around to zucchini yet. “Oh….er….thanks, but we’ve got plenty. I was going to offer you some.”

My fault. Turns out I gave them the seedlings (I’d forgotten).

So I decided to pickle some a la cucumbers. I looked up my pickled cucumber recipe and have done a few  jars. They turned out so well, I probably wont be offering any more zucchini anywhere anytime soon. I used a combination of a yellow variety and the green Blackjack variety and  a few bits of red capsicum for added colour:

Here’s the recipe for the pickling liquid:

  • 3/4 cup vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tbsp sugar (I use raw sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seed
  • few sprigs of fresh dill

Put all ingredients (except fresh dill) into a saucepan and bring to just boiling. Heat jars in the oven and pack sliced zucchini, fresh dill and whatever else you fancy into the jars and pour in the hot liquid (carefully).

This weeks harvest:

  • Butter Beans  65 gm
  • Purple King beans  361 gm
  • Black Russian tomatoes  1132 gm
  • Red Pear cherry tomatoes  23 gm
  • Reisentraube cherry tomatoes  60 gm
  • Principe Borghese tomatoes  160 gm
  • Burnley Bounty tomatoes  137 gm
  • Roma tomatoes  336 gm
  • Green Grape tomatoes  58 gm
  • Green Zebra tomatoes  45 gm
  • Gold zucchini  592 gm
  • Romanesco zucchini  937 gm
  • Lebanese zucchini  575 gm
  • Carrots  1122 gm

First harvest

December 8, 2010

First harvest for the 2010/2011 planting season—a kilo of Dutch Creams and a golden zucchini—a bit on the small side to be picked, at only 230 gm, but I  wanted it for dinner. It was delicious—lightly cooked with salt & pepper and butter.

Last year I started weighing all my harvests and will do so again this year, just to compare year-on-year yields. Of course things like alpine strawberries don’t get weighed; they’re generally picked and eaten on the spot. This morning I managed to get a whole cupful to have with my breakfast mueslii. They are so much more prolific than conventional strawberries; they don’t put out runners and don’t seem to be subject to any diseases. They’re smaller, but packed with flavour, not like the tasteless supermarket giants and easy to grow from seed.

The rain this year has been phenomenal. Today we had a thunderstorm that delivered 22 mm; it was just a week ago that we had the mother and father of all storms that delivered 27 mm in only half an hour. I’ve never seen rain like that before.  Only that morning I’d spent some time deepening all the swales, so a lot of water was retained in the soil instead of running off. I’m fast becoming a bit of a swale fanatic.

The tomatoes are loving the rain, but I’m worrying about fungal diseases. I’ve been spraying the foliage with Seasol each week, assiduously picking off any suspect yellowing leaves and generally removing the lower leaves to improve air circulation around the plants. Fingers crossed! There are already small fruits forming on most of them. I’m hoping for a Big Tomato Year!

Spring planting & eating

October 11, 2010

Warm temperatures are predicted for the next few days so I should be able to complete the planting of tomatoes for this growing season.  That will mean 50 tomato plants in all. Varieties I’m growing this year include Black Russian (fast becoming the #1 favourite), Grosse Lisse, Burnley Bounty, Green Zebra, Purple Russian, Grub’s Mystery Green (a potato leaf variety from a member of the Ozgrow Garden Forum), Roma, Green Grape, Principe Borghese (a new one for me) and Reisentraube (a great little cherry variety for sun-drying). If I can get a kilo of fruit from each plant (not that hard to do) I should get 50 kilos of fruit; plenty for eating fresh, drying, freezing and bottling. I’m salivating already, in anticipation of the first meal of fried, home-grown tomatoes of the season.

Roma tomatoes in a water-wicking box with lettuce and silver beet

The asparagus beds are really producing well now and I’m getting a handful every couple of days. I read a good tip somewhere for keeping asparagus fresh—simply stand the spears in a glass of water till you’re ready to use them.

Tonight’s dinner

I’m also starting to put out zucchinis—Romanesco, Gold, Lebanese and the normal dark green form. They should do well this year—I’ve dug out a long swale on a slight slope and will plant them onto the mound on the low side. Watering will mean simply filling the swale every few days. Not watering overhead might hopefully lessen the inevitable fungal problems.

Zucchinis ready to go

I put Butter Beans into a couple of wicking boxes last week and they’ve germinated already. I’m not going to do my usual bean tepee for climbing beans this year. Instead, I’m going to try poking a few seeds  in amongst the tomato plants and letting them scramble up through them.  I tried that with the sweet corn a few years ago and it seemed to work well. It will save me the fiddly job of threading up the strings for the tepee.