Don’t be fooled-Winter in the garden is busy!

It’s been many moons since I last did a Garden Share Collective post. I just don’t know where the time has gone, I blink and another month has passed me by!

We can no longer kid ourselves that summer has gone (didn’t really have one), and Autumn too is racing out the back gate being replaced by what appears will be a cold winter. As the sun shines and sparkles on these icy cobwebs in the early morning I revel in the changing seasons.

IMG_0722A couple of things to share this month:

A new bed and repositioning of the spud bath. The bed beside the chook house that had corn in it over the summer has been fed and garlic is planted in it. The bath across the back previously took the spot where the stepping stones are and I have moved it to make this area a little more attractive and easier to access and use. I can now get to the worm farm and one of the closed compost bins much more easily. There are a couple of small  spaces that I will fill with bee attracting flowers. Love that camellia!

IMG_0780I must admit I love winter in the garden, the feeling that everything has stopped kicks in and you then turn something over or see the cool climate crops return a harvest and you realise just how much does continue on. The sweet potatoes in the greenhouse are starting to die off and I’m eagerly awaiting to see how many and what size sweet potatoes I get.

IMG_0838The broccoli heads are starting to form and the garlic in this raised wicking bed is well and truly on track.

IMG_0852There are a couple of plants I’ve had to put some frost protection in place for. This is a Davidson’s Plum, the other is a tamarillo that I thought I had lost last year but it came good over the warmer seasons.

IMG_0824The couple of beds that you walk through on the way into the veggie patch are slowly showing signs of the seasonal changes. The nectarine on the front right is resisting yet the yellowing plant rear left is a cherry that has just about dropped completely. There are bulbs and irises poking up through the mulch, exciting. No eggs from the free loading chooks ATM though!

IMG_0903The last of the grapes harvested and slipped into the mouth with a sigh of appreciation.

Grapes

Looking forward to having a bit of time over the next couple of weeks to plant more, tidy up and plan for the spring. I’m looking forward to reading the other GSC posts.

http://www.strayedtable.com/grow/garden-share/

 

Seasons are Turning. GSC March

I’ve missed doing a post for a few Garden Share Collectives (GSC) recently, just can’t seem to make the deadline! Thanks to Lizzie at StrayedTable  for co-ordinating all of us home growers showcasing what is happening in our plots.

Harvests at the moment. What else? Tomatoes, tomatoes and yes tomatoes! I say that bit it has generally been a pretty average season. Also capsicum, cucumbers, grapes, zucchini and mini eggplant. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to planting full size eggplant. The ‘finger’ variety suits us well. There are a couple here left, centre.

Tomato harvestThe capsicum crop has been the best in years, yet I haven’t had much success with chillies that  are usually mounting up by now.

IMG_9815I discovered what an invasion of white cabbage moth on the capsicum growing in the greenhouse so a dose of Dipel was in order. Dipel is an organic pesticide derived from Bacillus thuringiensis. I’ve used this successfully in the past and I must admit I love seeing the little critters fall to the ground!

IMG_0116Yet again the value of using exclusion bags on crops as they mature has been proven. This shot shows tomatoes, some in the protective exclusion bag and one that didn’t have the protection. See how the birds ruined the tomato? Little buggers are even attacking green tomatoes this year!

IMG_0110I’ve started seed for kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts and cipollini onions. Hope I haven’t left it too late for the sprouts!

IMG_0124Time to gear up in preparation for the onslaught of autumn leaves that have already started to shed from our English Oak. This is a massive task. Will need to spread the 4 different compost piles I did last year and reset them ready to fill this year. This photo was taken last year and I love it. Quite look forward to seeing these pretty colours!

IMG_4643Head over to the Garden Share Collective and see what other gardeners are doing.

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Farewell to 2014. Hello 2015.

I must admit, I don’t really ‘get’ the hype that many have in relation to celebrating New Year. To me it is just another day, but I don’t mind any excuse to spend some time with those we love and to indulge in just a bit more food to well and truly top of the festive season.

My last weekend of 2014 was spent…….

Preparing the vegie patch to cope as well as possible during the anticipated hot spell (36c tomorrow and 40c Sat). With a camping trip coming up I like to leave things pretty well self managed as much as possible. First up was to offer the chooks some extra protection from the overhead and hot westerly sun by installing some shade cloth on the coop. I also added an extra water source that is in the shaded part of the coop to extend the water availability and it will be cooler there. Chooks don’t like hot water!

Chicken shadedBecause the summer sun is so much higher, it means the shiitake and pioppiono mushroom logs are exposed to a bit too much sun. I’ve rigged up a temporary shade cover that will do until I get a chance to make a more permanent structure (I hope). I’ve also put the plug into the bath they are stacked in to maintain the humidity to a higher level. I don’t anticipate harvesting anything from these logs for quite a few months yet, but I want to maintain the best the conditions I can. I am considering installing an automated misting system here, but it is not high up on the very long list of priorities!

Shiitake shade coverMulching of all the beds has been done in earnest. The ability to keep surface roots cool and minimise evaporation by mulching has proven to be extremely effective. I use organic sugar cane mulch just because its easy and readily available. I’ve mulched the asparagus bed, tomatoes, the potatoes growing in a bathtub, the wicking beds in the greenhouse and I will do the last couple of wicking beds over the next couple of days. The photo below is of the wicking bed in the greenhouse where I have had to heavily cut back the sweet potatoes (on right) because of their vigorous growth that was threatening to overtake all the strawberries. I doubt whether I will get tubers and as I only use the tops for greens in stir fry it doesn’t present an issue.

Sweet potato

One of the compost bins and the worm farm need a little more sun protection.  Some shade cloth and a piece of carpet should insulate the worms. They seem to hold their own pretty well if they have a deep place to dig down into.

IMG_6896This is what’s happening in the greenhouse. I’ve rigged up the gravity fed ‘auto pot’ watering system for the tomatoes (on the left). The old olive drum is full of nutrient made from an organic mix and it syphons into the pots when the water level drops to a specific point. It can go for several weeks without extra watering. There are cucumbers (yellow flowers) capsicum, lemon grass (gangbusters!) all doing well and the tomatoes I have trained along bamboo stakes have been maturing since mid November. I am now starting to harvest larger varieties which we welcome very much.

IMG_6901I planted up our camping herb planter box. By the time we head off, these lettuce, basil, coriander, chives and parsley will be a good size for adding to our evening meals. These little touches add greatly to our camping meals and saves buying large quantities that end up wasted. Not to mention how I can avoid having plastic packaging when I buy supermarket herbs.

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The exclusion bags I put over the blueberry fruit have proven to be excellent! I now need to go in and pick these luscious beauties. Some are as big as marbles. Hope the taste is big too!

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We spent New Years Eve with friends and their lovely guests and I have some interesting reports to make on the food I took to share. That will be covered in my IMK post tomorrow.

I wish everyone a happy 2015 and look forward to learning more from the wonderful bloggers I have hooked up with in 2014. It is such a fruitful and rewarding way to share knowledge and learn so much more than you would normally.

 

Weekend wrap.

Christmas thoughts.

I’m pleased to say that even though Christmas is about to hit us, all is calm, peaceful and smooth sailing  down here. I consider one of the best decisions we have ever made was to avoid the hype and marketing that goes with Christmas. We focus on friends, food and fun. I must admit that I am not a religious person and for a long time I struggled as to why we even have to acknowledge Christmas when we are non believers. I found it just too hard trying to explain to many of our ‘just because you should’ extended family, so I came up with my own justification that I use the Christmas period to celebrate family and friends and to reminisce. I am also a big fat sucker for pretty lights and I like nothing better than sitting on the floor staring into those sparkly delights. IMG_6682We decorated a tree this week and it was quite emotional. No kids live at home any more and they have pretty much cleared out all the tree ornaments with them. That’s OK, my plan was that they get a new decoration each year, then when they left home they would have enough to do their own tree. We are left with lots of broken balls, baubles without hanging hooks and tinsel that has lost most of it’s sparkle. We do however, have some beautiful memories, cards the kids made from kinder and early school years.20141214_194754books that were lovingly read in the lead up to Christmas and ornaments made with love from family and friends. Little knotted christmas bells that my sister gave me when our daughter was born 15th dec 1986, they went on her hospital crib and jingled around the ward for a few days. A decoupage egg ornament my niece brought back from America, a lead light decoration made by a family friend who has had long-standing mental health issues and I have no idea where  or how she is now. Especially nice are the few ornaments we bought way back when we were as poor as church mice and the only thing we could afford when we went to buy some decorations were pencil sharpeners. Important not forget how far we have come and the obstacles we have tackled to get where we are now.

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We went down to Monbulk yesterday morning to have a lovely catch up with friends and also managed to visit the Monbulk Market. Small market, but big on quality from what I could see. Our favourite organic vegetable growers Thorpdale Organics were there so I was able to thank Wendy and Tony for their ever consistent quality produce and outstanding service and wish them a happy festive season. I also got to sample some preserves from Grandmas Delights. Quite nice they were too!

We continued on to the Dandenong Market and returned with some pork ready for the next sausage making adventure, some turkish bread and mangoes. Summer is here for me when I start gorging on mangoes and this began in earnest today!

Outside wrap.

We (well, mostly Mr ATMT) finished fitting out the last wicking bed with its four poster poles. I can now train the tomatoes up the climbing twine and will be ready to fit shade cloth in preparation for the summer swelt that is bound to hit.

IMG_6695The plot where corn was  planted but had been decimated has had the chooks in there a few times this week to cleanse and I decided to put some diatomaceous earth in the drills with the new seed. DE is an organic product used for organic pest control management in livestock, poultry and agriculture. DE is a really interesting product and it would take far too long to cover its reputed benefits in this post so I recommend you do some research.IMG_6685Starting to get some decent harvests now. First tomatoes and capsicum were picked tonight, I also picked some very young butter beans. These went into a pasta dish along with some of the last of the broccoli, some snow peas, nasturtiums, asparagus and herbs.IMG_6703I made a pasta sauce out of sour cream, lemon juice, sage, S&P and some delectable pumpkin seed oil. This is an interesting oil that has the most amazing dark green colour and it adds a nutty overtone to the dish.IMG_6706 IMG_6708

Quite delicious really!IMG_6718Please take the time to enjoy your family and friends rather than get carried away with commercial activities this Christmas!

 

 

 

Weekend Round Up

What a cracker of a day it was yesterday! Promises of things to come in spring, blue sky, lightest of breezes, warm sun and no deadlines that had to be met. Pure and simply, a beautiful day that makes you feel warm and motivated.

I spent the day ‘pottering’ around doing all sorts of jobs. At this time of year, I start to list things that need to be done and I get a bit panicky that the sky might fall in if I don’t get to them. Hasn’t happened yet, but I do usually manage to get the jobs done so I don’t want to tempt fate! Some jobs on the list were, spray the fruit trees with copper and lime (bordeaux), feed fruit trees and roses, make sure tomatoes are started, top up veggie beds with compost and manure, clean out the chook house, plan spring and summer plantings, plan where I’m going to put things that won’t fit in the veggie garden and prepare the soil to give them the best shot. I need to make up some potato beds and find space for more tomatoes. I’m a bit disillusioned with spuds (potatoes) after the trouble I’ve had the last two seasons with them being eaten by earwigs and all sorts of other critters. I’m hoping that as the garden gets more and more established and natural ecosystems kick in this will be less of a problem…. I’ll persevere to test this theory.

I’ve just about got all the tomato seedlings potted up. I am in need of more coffee cups/milk containers to finish off the last few remaining ones. 14 Varieties totalling 354 seedlings, gee I hope my stall is a success!IMG_5177I planted some cape gooseberries I bought. Never had anything to do with these so It will be interesting to see what the outcome is. IMG_5186 I’ve been putting off getting this apple espalier  started until the fence around the veggie patch is complete but it really needed to go in and have the branches commence their training. The branch on the left is quite rigid so I’m hoping to slowly coax it down to close to a right angle. Depending on how successful this is (or isn’t) I may have to break the branch and re-graft it to the angle I want. Fingers crossed. This apple along with all the fruit trees, raspberries and roses got a spray of bordeaux mixture. It is possibly still a little early for best effect so I will most likely do another spray before blossom opens. This spray is a fungicide that helps prevent leaf curl which along with being ugly, debilitates the plant somewhat. Mix 50g copper oxychloride that has been mixed in 2.5 litres of water with 60g of hydrated lime which has also been mixed in 2.5 litres water. Combine both solutions together and using a pressure spray pack, spray all parts of the tree/plant. Make sure all safety precautions such as gloves, glasses etc are observed.IMG_5185 The garlic had its net removed for an extra dose of sun and some compost was added to the bed. Looking good at this stage.IMG_5181 Gave the whole veggie area a bit of a tidy up. Looking pretty good I must say. I also planted some carrot, snow peas and lettuce seed. Frosts should have finished by the time the snow peas flower avoiding damage to them. The garlic I planted in the asparagus bed is also going well.IMG_5231  I collected this pink grapefruit off the ground many weeks ago waiting for it to ripen to have a look inside. Yep, its crap!IMG_5224 Thick pith, no colour but the taste wasn’t too bad. I think the ones still on the tree should be a lot better. Will pick and compare shortly.IMG_5227Silver beet and parsley that I have planted at the end of wicking beds to utilise some extra space got a top up of compost and were fed.IMG_5234 Patiently awaiting the broad beans to grow. Such a pretty flower.IMG_5237 What’s that? Wasabi!IMG_5228I was fortunate enough to source a wasabi plant and have planted it in a damp, dark part of the garden. Trying some various techniques to keep snails and slugs away from it. Bit of a long shot but like the concept.

Sunday breakfasts are becoming a favourite part of the week. Today we had freshly squeezed orange juice from our oranges, toast from my sourdough, poached eggs from our chickens, mushrooms and a lovely pot of tea. All this sitting near the lounge bay window looking out at the magnolia that is just out in flower. Nice way to start the day!

IMG_5214As I am writing this post, I hear the rain bucketing down and think that all the bordeaux spray will probably be washed off everything I sprayed and will need to be redone. Oh well, that’s a gardeners lot!

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Lamb, oranges and leaf mold.

Citrus is in!

I pulled up the blinds in the lounge this morning (yesterday really) and noticed how many oranges were now singing out to me to be picked. Excuse the photo, it is taken through the 90-year-old glass!

Orange tree

With 2 of our 3 kids and their partners coming for tea I needed to think of a way to put some of these beauties to use. From another angle, you can see how this tree is loaded with fruit. I’m really chuffed as the first season here we only had 2 oranges that were like golf balls and as dry as a ….. Lots of chicken poo and water later and this is now a really valuable asset. Need to work out a plan, as its root zone is right where we are planning to build  a fence.

Orange Poppy Seed Cake and slow cooker roast lamb!

Dinner menu for the family was Slow cooker roast lamb, greek style roast potatoes served with carrots and broccoli freshly picked from the patch. I’d taken a leg of lamb I bought from ‘Wayne the great’ at Trafalgar Butcher Shop a couple of months ago out of the freezer to defrost, cut some slits and put garlic, rosemary into them and then rubbed some, chopped oregano and mint over it and poured some olive oil and white wine and lemon juice over, let it sit for about an hour turning a couple of times, then into the slow cooker.

LambGreek style roast potatoes are one of my favourite ways to serve spuds. Due to my limited kitchen, I peeled the spuds, cut them to required size and microwaved them for about 8 minutes, still a little firm in centre but a little soft on outside, shake to roughen them up. I made a coating of equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, chopped some oregano and put the potatoes on a tea towel to cool. These were going into an oven dish to bake about an hour before dinner was served.

Greek roast potatoesCarrots quartered lengthwise and cooked with the lamb, broccoli cut into florets zapped with some peas then topped with chopped spring onion and a little melted butter and S&P.  Didn’t get a shot of the finished dinner, but I served the lamb shredded off the bone, roasted spuds, carrots and broccoli and peas dressed with a reduction from the slow cooker juices. Yummy!

Dessert was an orange poppy-seed cake made with our oranges served with cream. I’d been saving this recipe for about 8 years. Not being big dessert or cake eaters (kids never got dessert or cakes) I wonder why I am now keen to bake. Maybe its getting older, or living in an old home that has brought this out.

Orange Poppy Seed cakeLeaf mold time!

We keep resisting the big clean up of leaves until they have all fallen but it gets to the point where it is just too overwhelming and we need to attempt to regain a sense of control. I must admit having the plan this season to blow them all into one spot has proven to be a great time and energy saver. Notice the fence line where leaves go up to and see the next picture, gives some sense of the volume.

Oak tree leaves16 mower catcher full loads later, chopped, added to the bin in layers with lime, blood and bone and compost in between layers, watered  and sit back now to wait for it to magically turn into beautiful leaf mold which can be spread where needed.

IMG_4447 IMG_4448So many people comment on what a pain it must be dealing with these leaves, but I reckon if you love the trees you have to relish everything that comes with them. While we can manage them I intend to do so.

 

 

 

It is summer isn’t it?

Another lovely summer day, not! At this rate we will not be seeing many tomatoes, pumpkins or much else that likes a bit of heat. Too yucky to work outside so took a pickie of todays harvest. Zucchini, thyme, parsley, asparagus, lettuce, strawberries, ONE raspberry and an egg. Asparagus just about finished as are the raspberries. If I could only grow one thing it would have to be raspberries. LOVE them!Not quite summer harvest