No, I havn’t fallen off the edge of the world. I’m still tending the allotment but really there is nothing fresh to write about as we harvest the last of our winter veggies and prepare for a long hot summer.
I have harvested the last of the winter crop, just a bit of silverbeet, carrots and a few (tough) beans. Fortunately there is a stash of veggies blanched and in the freezer, some are turned into preserves (this is one I prepared earlier!)
Apart from a few tomato, cucumber and snake bean plants the plot is lying under a layer of mulch for the summer so things will be quiet for a while on the blogging front. If I grow an amazing tomato you’ll be the first to know. In the meanwhile, time to take a bit of a break.
This is a lovely day spent on a friend’s boat on the Coomera river just south of Brisbane. Here comes summer. Rock on.
This is it folks, Queensland summer has begun early.
We are in the middle of a heatwave with long-standing records being broken all over the place with some towns reaching 39 degrees yesterday and it’s still only spring.
Fire warnings have been issued and crews are battling scores of grass and bush fires around south-east Queensland.
Over at the allotment the pressure is on to keep my little seedlings from giving up the ghost. Water is a precious commodity and one of the answers during drought conditions is mulch, mulch, mulch. We can buy a bale of sugar cane mulch for $7 at the community farm where I have my allotment and that’s what I use.
Sugar cane mulch
Mulch is essential to your garden during drought conditions. (Our recent storm is just a memory.) It will reduce the amount of water that evaporates from your soil reducing your need to water your veggies. It acts as an insulating layer keeping the soil cooler in the summer and roots like that!
The potatoes are mulched
I’ve already mulched the potatoes and I’ll work my way around the allotment this week.
But just to lighten this post – there is plenty of green still around the place. I’m harvesting lovely carrots but I would grow them anyway just for the pretty carrot tops.
pretty carrot tops
Love these peas. They have a lovely snap when you break them open. Could be why they call them Sugar Snaps.
And I grow these Cosmos flowers amongst the vegetables, just for the insects.
Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)
After weeks of drought it rained this week and veggies ran wild.
Couldn’t believe it when I got to the allotment yesterday, I’ve been watering for weeks to keep them alive and one big downpour and it caused a riot in the veggie patch. Growth everywhere. It’s wonderful.
It was a Wednesday morning, and that’s when we all work over on the community garden.
After working in the community garden the volunteers share the produce at the end of the morning. Pat had done a lovely job of cleaning and trimming the vegetables ready for their close-up (Mr DeMille) so I couldn’t resist getting the camera out.
Now that’s what you call a beetroot. Not sure if it will taste any good but Molita and I couldn’t resist getting the camera out.
I picked this lettuce yesterday. My favourite “Drunken Woman”. Started on it at tea time and I’ll steadily work my way through it during the week.
I always keep one box of matches in the house, firstly to light birthday candles and secondly to boast about the size of my lettuces.
(OK. I know you are out there and growing fabulously enormous veggies which win first prizes and all that – but I garden in Queensland and fight pests, disease and all manner of pestilence on a daily basis and I think this is the first thing I’ve ever picked without a hole chewed in it!)
Today I harvested my garlic over at the allotment.
It was a very small garlic bed, could even have been missed if you didn’t know where to look. Here it is between the lettuce and the alyssum.
The garlic bed
But just look at the lovely crop I harvested this morning. When I’ve dried it off it will be enough to last me through until next season.
Garlic harvest Sept 2013
I plant the garlic in April and harvest in September so whatever land I use is tied up for six months and that’s why I’m a bit stingy with it as my allotment is tiny compared to the ones in the UK.
This garlic looks wonderful to me. The heads are much bigger than last year’s harvest which I’m pleased about. I practice seed-saving. I started a couple of years ago with some garlic given to me from the community garden over at the allotments and some from my daughter-in-law who bought it from Green Harvest up in Maleny in Queensland. Both lots were organic.
I’ll be saving one of the garlic heads to plant out next April. I’ll also use the baby bulbs that you find growing in the stems of the garlic plant.
I put my keys in the basket so show the size of the bulbs.
The weather in Brisbane is wonderful at the moment (31c degrees and sunny yesterday) and the mulberries are out.
I went to the farm yesterday morning to water my allotment and help other volunteers in the community garden when the word went round “the mulberries are out”.
The mulberry bush
I love harvesting vegetables that I have grown but there is something different and magical about foraging for ‘free’ fruit. As we were picking the fruit it wasn’t hard to get Jo and Maria to give me a smile for the camera. Lovely to be out in the fresh air.
Jo and Maria picking mulberries
Maria and I will be making jam from the fruit on Sunday morning so I went home with our stash, trimmed the tiny storks from the top, rinsed the fruit and then popped them in the freezer. I’ll take them out on Saturday night so they can de-frost in the fridge ready for Sunday morning.
I picked up a little hint yesterday about washing these berries as the ripe ones might be quite fragile. You don’t run them under a running tap. Just put the berries in a container, fill it with water, gently strain off the water. This fruit is not sprayed so that gentle rinse is enough.
Over at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment we have an Australian Native Garden where – you’ve got it – we plant trees, shrubs and ground cover that is native to Australia.
In this garden we use Warrigal Greens as a ground-cover plant. Warrigal greens are also known as New Zealand spinach and Botany Bay Greens.
It was one of the first native Australian vegetables to become popular with European settlers. Captain Cook was known to encourage his men to eat them to prevent scurvy.
WARNING: Caution should be taken with Warrigal Greens as the leaves contain toxic oxalates which can be harmful consumed in large quantities. It’s important to blanch the leaves for 3 minutes and discard this water. Then rinse the leaves in cold water before using them in salads or for cooking.
I have been reading up about Warrigal Greens and their importance to the early British settlers as a source of nourishment and if you have a few minutes to spare – it’s a long post – check out this link to The Forager’s Year blog. Fascinating stuff.
I love this line from The Forager’s Year “Overall, eating tetragonia may be beneficial if you are a scurvy struck convict.”
So, in conclusion, why would you bother eating it? Because it’s our native spinach, it’s available all year round - and nutritionally it reduces the risk of scurvy! Just make sure you blanch it first and don’t pig out on it.
And why would you bother growing it? It has no known diseases and snails and slugs will NOT eat this (if that doesn’t send out alarm bells I don’t know what will!). And it’s great ground cover.
Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia Tetragonioides)
I know I have posted this photograph before but it cheers me every time I look at it. So here it is again. On the edge of the Australian Native Garden is this Bottle Brush tree and the birds love it.
“I can eat upside down”