A Garden Surprise

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One of the biggest threats to successful gardening in this area are scrub turkeys.  For those readers who are unfamiliar with these pesky birds you can read more about them here.  One of their favourite pastimes is digging up and eating sweet potatoes so I have resorted to placing a large panel of pool fencing over the top of the raised bed in which I am trying to grow the sweet potatoes.

However, some sweet potato runners had obviously escaped from one of the compost heaps and manged to grow in amongst the raspberry canes.  Even better, they had remained undetected by the scrub turkeys.

When GMan was doing some tidying up near the raspberry canes yesterday he noticed some errant foliage and discovered these beauties ready to be harvested.

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2kg of sweet potato that we did not know existed! I think I will need to re-arrange my menu plan and incorporate these into some upcoming meals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camera, Internet and Rain

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I am sure you are scratching your head at the title of this post so I will explain what these three things have in common.  There has been precious little of any of them and all are impacting on my ability to post.

The camera is currently being repaired and will be ready next week, I hope.  It had been playing up for a while with the automatic flash getting stuck intermittently.  This was becoming more of a problem so I decided to take it to be repaired because I want it in good working order when we head off overseas in November.  So, I will use existing photos for any blog posts at the moment.

Our internet access (not NBN) is average at best but lately it has been virtually non-existent for hours at a time which culminated in minimal, very slow access for the past couple of days.  It seems to be better at the moment so I am grabbing the opportunity to post.  At least I haven’t had to resort to carrier pigeon!  It is not as though we live in the outback – we are barely 80km (50 miles) from the CBD of the third-largest city in Australia!

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Speaking of things being non-existent – that is the state of our rainfall here at the moment, too.  We live in what is generally regarded as a high rainfall area with reliable rainfall throughout the year, however, thanks to climate change it is becoming much less reliable.  The type of vegetation which grows in area is dependent on regular rainfall so everything is a bit stressed.  I have not planted too much in the vegetable gardens except beans which I am hand-watering.  I am also watering the blueberry bushes as they are loaded with fruit at the moment and I want to make sure that I don’t lose that precious fruit.  The kale just keeps on growing regardless of heat, cold, water or not.  It is very resilient.  I know that it will rain again but in the meantime the lack of rain is impacting on my enthusiasm for the garden.  We depend entirely on tank water but we are in a better position than most as there are only 2 of us, we are generally fairly frugal with our water usage as we know what it is like to have very little and we have twice as much storage as most people in the district.

Thank goodness for a hose!

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Spring has Sprung

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Even though it is barely the middle of August there is definitely spring (some would say summer) in the air.  Our winter was very mild here and we could be in for a long hot summer so it makes sense to get a head start on the summer growing season before it gets too hot.

I harvested the last 4 purple cabbages and dug over the bed in readiness to plant some beans.

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We have never had quite enough soil to fill these beds to the level I would like so I took the opportunity to add some more material to the bed before I planted the beans.

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This is one of the various mulch/compost piles that are dotted around our property.  GMan uses this one exclusively for grass clippings.  I know that the purists say that you cannot compost just one type of material such as lawn clippings but I can assure you that the underneath of this heap had broken down beautifully into rich compost and was teeming with worms.

We removed the decomposed material from the bottom of the heap and returned the rest to the heap for another day.

Here is the bed topped up and ready to plant.

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Meanwhile, I weeded the carrots which are continuing to grow nicely.  I have harvested some baby ones as I thinned them out.

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The newer blueberry bushes which are now a couple of years old, are finally getting established and showing some real signs of progress.  Some, like this one are covered with flowers and fruit.

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A closer view.

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Finally, a reminder that the garden is not only about growing food.  It is about enjoying our surroundings.  This photo is of the natural sculptural form of the the deciduous white cedar which dominates the back garden.

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What season is it in your garden?  Is it changing?  Have you modified your planting habits or even what you can grow to accommodate changes?

 

Seasonal Produce

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There are many good reasons to eat what is in season where possible.  Food miles are reduced if you eat local seasonal produce.  It is more likely to have been picked ripe and have better flavour.  An abundance of a particular crop will invariably see the best prices for the consumer.

Most of all though, if you only eat items that are in season you will appreciate the wait for those crops which only bear at a particular time of the year.  Like the first sweet bite of a new season mandarin.  In our climate we pick fruit from our mandarin tree during June and July which are our winter months.

Once the fruit are ripening I have to cover the tree to protect the fruit from the local scrub turkeys.

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You can also see one of the orange trees next to the netted mandarin.

This afternoon I removed the netting and picked the last of the fruit.

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We have picked a lot of mandarins over the past month or so but these are the last 30 of them.

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We will savour these fruit as we know it will be another 10 months before the next crop is ripe.  In the meantime, there will be plenty more seasonal delights as the months roll by.  Imagine if I could eat these all the year round.  They would no longer be anticipated longingly and the delight of that first burst of delicious flavour would soon become ho-hum.

We are fortunate because we live in a temperate climate so many crops can successfully be grown during most months of the year.  However, seasonality still exists for the citrus trees, raspberries, mangoes, passionfruit and avocadoes.

What is in season at your place?

This was our glorious winter day here today.  No, it has not been photoshopped – the sky really is that blue.

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Garden Expo

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Tonight I am taking a break from the Plastic Free July posts and want to share our day that we spent at the Garden Expo in Nambour.  This 3 day event is held each year in July and attracts over 35,000 visitors.

Although we do not go every year this was our third visit and we spent several hours looking at exhibits, buying plants and listening to some of the many presentations.

Here is a selection of the goodies we bought.  They include a finger lime, 4 hibiscus, 3 kangaroo paw, 6 lomandra and 4 punnets of flower seedlings as well as a new pair of secateurs and a bottle of organic herbicide.

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There was a reason for everything we bought.  I have always wanted a finger lime (native citrus) and was excited to see them available at the show.  The hibiscus will join the existing ones which are planted in front of the verandah.  We already have a yellow kangaroo pay so am hoping to have success with the new ones – dark red, orange-red and pink.  The lomandra  will be planted on the steep escarpment at the back of our block.  We will be using the organic herbicide to reduce some of the nasty weeds beforehand and hope that the lomandra will help to suppress the regrowth of weeds while the previously planted trees become more established.  The secateurs will replace 2 pairs that have well and truly seen better days.

Aside from our purchases, we saw several exhibits offering items which are of interest to us including solar exterior lighting  and gabion walls.  Thanks to the internet we will look into these in more detail at our leisure.

There were many booths and exhibits promoting a huge range of products and services relating to gardening, home and leisure.  One which was a standout for me was promoting an online platform called Spare Harvest.  This has been set up right here on the Sunshine Coast by Helen Andrew, however, it is designed to be able to be accessed by people all over the world.  I am reminded of the phrase, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”.  This great new example of the power of the sharing economy is in its early stages but with your participation and promotion could grow to become a global phenonomen.  If you are interested in buying, selling, sharing or swapping garden produce, plants or resources please take a look and get involved.

We were excited to attend presentations by Jerry Coleby-Williams and Sophie Thompson from ‘Gardening Australia’.  Jerry’s topic was ‘Sustainable gardening in context’ and he made some very interesting points.  The talk included many examples from his personal experience and having had the opportunity to visit his garden some years ago we were able to visualise exactly what her was talking about.  The first talk we saw was Sophie Thompson’s presentation on ‘Gardening for health and wellbeing’.  Sophie is a passionate speaker and knowledgeable about her subject.  Many of the statistics she quoted from well-regarded studies bore out what many gardeners have known for years.  Sophie’s other talk was titled ‘Saving the world with gardening’ and while the title may have been slightly tongue-in-cheek, she clearly showed how this can be done but we have to start with ‘saving’ ourselves, our families, our neighbourhoods and communities.  The point was that we really can make a difference.

I have come home inspired to do more – gardening, growing and sharing.

 

Garden Notes – Seedling Success

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It is 8 days since I planted the seeds which I wrote about in my previous post and I am pleased to report success, almost beyond my wildest dreams.

Here are the trays of cabbage and cauliflower.  It looks as though the germination rate was almost 100%.

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The cauliflower had begun to lean towards the sun so I brought them out from their sheltered spot and they are now in the full sun on some mesh which is covering one of the garden beds.  The mesh is to keep the scrub turkeys out of the sweet potato which I transplanted from the compost heap.

The broccoli seedlings are also looking good but a few days behind the others.

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The germination rate of these is also excellent as I think there were only 20 seeds in the packet – they are a hybrid bred specifically for our warmer sub-tropical climate.

The celery and spinach are still in the sheltered area and I continue to be hopeful.  I think I can see some celery just poking through the soil but the spinach are not showing any signs of life just yet.

The red cabbage seedlings have doubled in size in a week and the beans which I planted directly in the bed are growing at a rapid pace.

On another note, and related to the garden, I wanted to show you a bit of work we did last week.

When we fenced the area for the vegetable garden we installed a couple of gates.  Due to the slope of the land we set this timber sleeper beneath the wide gate.  It has stayed in position and works well.

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There did not seem to be a need under the standard width gate but over time we have noticed that the ground had settled and a few rocks were placed to thwart the efforts of the chickens to access the enclosed area.

So last weekend we found another sleeper and cut a piece for this gate.

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I need to encourage the grass to grow on this side of the gate.  I am not worried about the enclosed area as that will eventually all be mulched with no grass at all.

While we were doing this we decided to also do the gate for the chicken run which had the same problem.

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The gate is propped open as the girls were out free-ranging when I took this photo this afternoon.

Garden Notes – Raspberries and Rocket

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We have fruit trees and a vegetable garden.  Some years the vegetables garden does better than others.  A lot depends on the weather and how organised I am.

This year I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to successfully produce more of our own food.  Since the hot summer is over and we finally have some moderate autumn weather I have made a start on planting.

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The lettuce and kale seedlings which I planted about 5 weeks ago are now thriving full-sized plants and we are enjoying plenty of fresh lettuce.  I planted red cabbage seedlings about 10 days ago and they are established and looking healthy.

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On the weekend I sorted through a pile of seed packets which I store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Many of them are expired but I decided that I had nothing to lose by planting them.

There are bush beans interplanted with the red cabbage. Coriander and rocket are in the freshly-dug strip in the background of the same photo.  I am excited to report that exactly 48 hours after planting them, the rocket seeds have germinated and I now have hundreds of tiny, two-leaved seedlings.  Other beds have carrot, red onion, peas and radishes.  If they all grow I will have a bumper harvest, if not I will try again with some fresh seeds.

Some seeds are best raised in seed trays before transplanting them.  These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and spinach.  Here they are on a temporary potting table which I created from a couple of sawhorses and a piece of pool fencing.  There is another piece of pool fencing over the top in an attempt to prevent the chickens from digging them up when they are free-ranging.

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Here is a close-up of the trays with their labels cut out of an old ice-cream container.

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Finally, I wanted to show you the raspberry canes on the left-hand side of the photo below.

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We have a substantial clump of raspberry canes from the original 4 canes that we planted about 3 years ago.  In an attempt to control the growth of these we have tried to contain them using star pickets and a couple of strands of wire.  When we dig up the canes which are beyond the designated area we will plant them in the vacant area beside the gate.  Our goal is to have a raspberry patch stretching from the front boundary to the gate and extending 600mm either side of the fence which forms part of the garden enclosure.

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Many people are quite surprised that we can grow raspberries in our climate.  Ours are an autumn fruiting variety which are suited to our climate and we are very happy with the yield.  This year has been the best crop so far.  While we are not exactly inundated I am picking about 50 – 100g every few days at the moment and that is definitely enough to have for dessert with some ice-cream.

Growing our own food means that it is raised without pesticides and artificial fertiliser, it comes with no additional packaging and it saves us money.  What is there not to love?