Aspiring Asparagus!

My newly purchased Mary Washington asparagus crowns were showing signs of shooting so it was time to get them into their permanent(ish) home. Last week I marked out a bed with temporary edging and am now planting the asparagus and a couple of grape vines. This bed is alongside where I plan to put a greenhouse at some later stage. There should be sufficient sun for the grapes and once I have removed the tin from the roof of the old shed the timber can serve as a framework for the vines and in turn shelter the greenhouse in the heat of summer. As grapes are deciduous there should also be enough sun to heat the greenhouse in winter. Fingers crossed please!

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I attended a grafting workshop last year and had a go at grafting a cherry that is supposed to be a smaller variety than most. This has been sitting in a bed all year and appears to have taken well, so today we planted it into the new vegetable area. I have no idea how it will go or how much it will impact on the rest of the area so we will just have to wait and see.

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As an added bonus I picked the first bunch for the season of cheery bulbs and some hellebore (winter rose). I just love having a vase or two flowers on display in the house!

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Wet, wintery weekend.

BEEF CURRY VIETNAMESE STYLE

Saturday was not terribly conducive to working out in the garden so I thought a dish of tasty Vietnamese nosh was in order. I referred to the cook book we got from the Gioan Family Cooking Class while in Hoi An Vietnam and promptly did some basic translating!

I had picked some lemongrass and even though it was a bit woody it served the purpose of adding traditional flavour to the dish. I mixed up the marinade using the tomato, lemon grass, spices, chilli sauce as I didn’t have any paste,  for ‘2 tomato Blender’ I used 2 tablespoons of tomato paste thinned with some chicken stock (I will reduce to 1 next time). Didn’t worry about the condensed milk.

I separately stir fried some onion, snow peas, carrot and red capsicum in a dash of sesame oil and some chicken stock. This was then added to the beef stir fry when nearly cooked.

I added approx 2/3 cup water with some potato starch mixed in and also threw in some tip shoots off the broad bean plants. Because there was a fairly strong tomato overtone I also added a generous tablespoon of fish sauce. Served with some rice steamed with turmeric (1 tspn to 1 cup). All in all not too shabby!

Fence in a bucket!

I am keen to establish a hedge of sasanqua camellias along the laneway fenceline. Unfortunately sasanquas are very slow to establish and it is proving difficult to source the variety I like in anything bigger than tube stock. I had the idea that good old Abelia is an old-fashioned plant that takes easily from cuttings (I hope) and can be easily removed once the camellias are at a height suitable to make an impact. I am endeavouring to establish a stack of  cuttings that I can plant as the temporary fill in and remove at a later time.

I took a few sections off an existing plant. Please excuse the quality of this photo, forgot to put memory card back into camera so had to use my phone.

I then cut a suitable section from the best pieces, dipped the end in hormone powder and planted into a cut off bucket.

I then covered the pot with a plastic bag and placed into my make shift heat bed. This is an old frying pan, filled with sand and I keep the sand moist. Thermostat doesn’t even need get to WARM and its at a suitable temperature. This must cost next to nothing to run, is extremely reliable and a lot cheaper than the specially designed heat pads (of which I do have as well and it is great!)

Now sit back and hope that in  few weeks I will have successfully created another 70 or so plants.

Weekly Tip 25th July

Sustainability is not only about recycling, saving energy and reducing carbon footprints. For our whole planet to be more sustainable it should include emotional and cultural sustainable practices. Is was with awe I listened to Abraham Maluk who is one of Sudan’s ‘Lost Boys’ tell his journey of escaping from a community where none of these practices prevail to build a life for himself in our fortunate country. It certainly makes me think how there are some severe shortcomings in the world  when communities are in such dire straits. Please visit http://www.bororphanage.com/ to not only read of his story but maybe to prompt some actions that you can take to make a difference.

Preparing for warmer weather.

I always like to have plenty of tomatoes to harvest for making passata, tomato sauce, drying and of course to enjoy the incomparable taste of just eating them.

There is something quite tantalising about watching a tiny speck turn into a two meter high plant that produces such an abundance of juicy, beautiful bounty.

Planting usually happens in late July into Jiffy Peat Pots which I buy in bulk. I like these because they are made from a waste product and create a complete environment for the tiny seeds to germinate and commence their life cycle. Because we will have a much bigger area to plant in this year I am increasing the varieties (past couple of years I have only grown bottling tomatoes and a few eating varieties) that I plant. Along with my favourites of San Marzano (bottling and sauce), Gross Lisse (eating) I will be planting some Cerise (cherry size on trusses), Purple Russian and Buddia(?) which is apparently a heritage variety that I have saved seed from but can’t find much information about.

The pots are put into my greenhouse on a heat mat and an old frying pan I have improvised as a heat bed and when they are big enough I pot them up into a larger container until ready to plant out. There has been noticeable lack of sun this year so even the greenhouse is not really getting warm enough to kick-start the germination so the extra warmth from underneath the pots will help.

Feel like we are getting off the ground-literally!

Today was a big step forward, the first of the wicking beds was started and the electrician came to discuss the rewiring of the house. We have been in limbo since purchasing the property and not able to do much until some basic upgrades such as reblocking and rewiring have been done. Unfortunately these are high price tag items and have had to wait until cash resources are available. We have been diligently squirrelling funds to enable us to get the rewiring done as it feels quite unsafe in its current (pardon the pun) state. Raspberry bed is finished and I planted out sixteen hollyhocks that I have started from seed saved from last years blooms (Very proud of that!).

We decided on wicking beds for a couple of reasons, elevated for easy access, easy to bird proof, shade cloth or poly covers can be added to cool or warm the beds as necessary and watering can be easily managed. The theory with wicking beds is that they work on much the same principle as the self watering pots you can buy but in a specially constructed bed so that a reservoir of water is available to plants as they need it. Evaporation is minimised and watering is kept to a minimum. For more detailed information on the construction and use of wicking beds visit http://www.urbanfoodgarden.org/. There is also a wealth of information here for living more sustainably and growing food for the table.

Very productive day!

I have been very frustrated with planning and getting started on the new garden layout. For one thing we have been having exceptional levels of rainfall and everything I think of can’t happen until something else happens first, the domino effect! For example where the compost will go will just be in the way when we build the car port and garage. I’ve just wanted to ‘rip’ into it and achieve something. I had planned on putting in a temporary bed for my raspberries but when I started clearing some of the oak leaves between the “Fowlers Room’ and the fence I decided that would be a perfect spot to establish the permanent raspberry bed . Close to the kitchen for easy picking, easy to net for bird protection and good position in relation to getting enough sun and rain.

I shaped two beds allowing enough room to access a barrow between the beds and leaving enough room for the canes to spread while still having room for covering with bird netting . Compost was then added to the beds and sprinkled with blood and bone. I have several old bales of hay that are breaking down so some of that went on top. This will break down beautifully over time creating a great feeding base. The edging of the beds will eventually be replaced with a more attractive and permanent product but this recycled timber will do for now.
 
 
This is my four-year old pear tree ‘sensation’ that I have espaliered onto the driveway fence. It is too big to transplant (so my husband says!) without destroying a large area of the driveway. Have to start over! I Purchased the bare rooted stock yesterday.
Espaliering trees gives you the opportunity to create productive or picturesque plantings of trees or large bushes in narrower spaces. The technique can be used for both ornamental and flowering plants but I love the way you can turn small spaces into productive food banks. It makes it easy to manage pests and to protect from birds.

First pruning cuts have been made. What would normally grow into the main trunk has been cut just below a bud, this should encourage more sideways shoots which will make the second layer of the espalier. The two lateral branches will be tied and weighted down to encourage horizontal shaping.
 
 
We cannot establish a more permanent potato (spud) bed until the vegetable patch wicking beds are in place and the area is more organised. I have decided to put a temporary spud bed in the area under the mulberry tree behind what was originally stables for the property. This temporary bed will also work as a productive compost heap while yielding some very delicious produce (hopefully).
 

Woo hoo, here we go!

After deliberating for ages, I have finally plucked up the courage to have a go at establishing a blog! I live in Gippsland which is about 2 hours east of Melbourne Australia and have a hobby of having a go at growing, cooking and preserving all kinds of foods and beverages. Many years ago I was a successful home cheesemaker but the family got sick of me taking over the entire kitchen (and sometimes the lounge as well) with my processing equipment. That along with upping my work hours to full-time meant I slowed down on the cheese production (and a lot of other things I really enjoyed!). I am keen to get back into cheesemaking and when we move I will  have a dedicated area for my preserving and cheesemaking, this will be called the ‘Fowlers room’ named in honour of the age-old Fowlers Vacola Preserving system. I love growing all kinds of fruit and veg and can’t wait to establish the new produce garden. We have purchased an historical house (1920ish) which needs a major dose of TLC and renovation. The focal point in the backyard of this house is a very old mulberry tree, the aim of this blog is to record and share all that goes on ‘around the mulberry tree’ whether in the garden, in the preserving room or in the renovation of this lovely old property.