I’m taking a break

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.

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This is a lovely day spent on a friend’s boat on the Coomera river just south of Brisbane. Here comes summer. Rock on.

A spring heatwave

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.

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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

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

pretty carrot tops

Love these peas. They have a lovely snap when you break them open. Could be why they call them Sugar Snaps. :)

Pretty peas

Pretty peas

And I grow these Cosmos flowers amongst the vegetables, just for the insects.

For the insects

Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)

Happy Gardening.

One big downpour and a bountiful harvest

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.

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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.

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Happy Gardening.

Now that’s a lettuce

Now that's a lettuce

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!)

Happy Gardening

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The garlic harvest

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 (tiny) garlic bed

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

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.

Garlic

Garlic

Garlic

Garlic

Happy gardening.

The Mulberry Pickers

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

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

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.

Happy Gardening

Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia Tetragonioides)

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)

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.

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“I can eat upside down”

Happy Gardening.

Gardener’s gifts

I received some lovely gifts with a gardening theme for my recent birthday.  Thought you might be amused by this pretty little cushion.

Gardeners know the best dirt

Gardeners know the best dirt

I smile every time I look at it.

A bit of a drought

I’ve had a bit of a blogging drought for the last couple of weeks. That is not the only drought around here as we havn’t had rain for weeks now and my gardening tool of choice is the hose pipe.

Despite the dry weather and the high temperatures (28c degrees yesterday and we are told to expect 32c degrees later in the week) everything at the allotment is coming along nicely and keeping plenty of veggies on my dinner plate – and more lettuce than I can manage to get through.  My Drunken Woman lettuce are doing really well at the moment – the size of a dinner plate.

Here is one lettuce I’m allowing to go to seed.  Looks stunning and the red tips on the leaves seems to grow more intense as it goes to seed and reaches for the sky. It’s almost up to my waist already. (That’s not saying much though – I’m not the tallest fork in the shed.)

Going to seed

Going to seed

I spent yesterday afternoon working on my bed of Royal Blue potatoes. I have already earthed them up once but the plants are growing even taller so I earthed them up again and topped them with a thick layer of straw.  I used the straw for two reasons, firstly in the hope that I might get a few more potatoes, but also because we are expecting some really hot weather and I want to protect the plants. So really the straw layer is a bit of an experiment on my part.

Earthing up is an important part of the growing process. It involves drawing mounds of soil up around the plant. This encourages more potatoes to form from the buried stems, helps to prevent blight infection and stops the tubers turning green and poisonous. If you want to learn more about it check out this link

Earthing up

Earthing up

I’m picking peas and climbing beans now.

Climbing bean

Climbing bean

I have problems with Fruit Fly when I try to grow the bigger varieties of tomato so I’ve planted this Yellow Cherry tomato from seeds given to me by Annette Macfarlane at one of her seed saving workshops.  They are fruit fly resistant so I’m looking forward to giving these a go.

You will see that I’ve also planted sweet basil around the plant which you can just see in the photo. Sweet basil and tomatoes are supposed to grow well together. They also go well together on my plate!

If you think this photo looks like it was taken with a flash, you are right. It was the last pic I took as I was leaving last night and it gets dark pretty quickly here in Brisbane – especially when you are messing about at the allotment and don’t notice the time.

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Yellow cherry tomato with sweet basil

At the moment I’m harvesting lettuce, Asian greens, kale, silverbeet (chard), beans, peas, carrots and more parsley than you can poke a stick at.  Did you know that you can make a pesto out of parsley, doesn’t have to be made from basil!

My allotment space is 16 square metres so I have to make every square foot earn it’s keep but I make sure that I give some space to beneficial flowers too. Gotta keep the insects happy.

I’m growing alyssum and cosmos to attract beneficial insects and fortunately I’m surrounded by nasturtiums.

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Alyssum for beneficial insects

I don’t have room in my allotment for a nasturtium bed as they tend to take over but fortunately we have swathes of this delightful plant all over Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment so I reap the benefit anyway. Nasturtium is a wonderful plant, it attracts beneficial insects, it’s so pretty, and you can eat both the leaves and the flowers. They make a pretty addition to any salad – they taste peppery.

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Nasturtium

Happy Gardening

It’s extraordinary – but I’ve just turned 70

I’ve been ‘off the air’ for a few days because I’ve been carousing on the Gold Coast with my family to celebrate my 70th birthday. I have been utterly spoiled.

Thank you to my two sons, two grandsons and especially my daughter-in-law who arranged everything from the booking of a beautiful penthouse – to the exceptionally fabulous cake!

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Add balloons and and your own rooftop pool ….

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A view ‘to die for’ ….

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And two grandsons ……… you have the perfect weekend.

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Just to show you can have fun at any age – take two little boys to help you find the perfect pair of sunglasses!

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frugal feeding

n. frugality; the quality of being economical with money or food.

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