Anybody out there want to Go to Seed?

I really don’t want to go to seed as in “to decline in looks, status, or utility due to lack of care”, sounds pretty awful to me. In general conversation the term certainly has a derogatory edge.

However, in the gardening world I believe it can add to the beauty of the garden and by allowing your choice veggies to go to seed it certainly adds to the garden’s abundance as you collect seeds for the next season.

I believe the hardest part of letting your vegetables run to seed is that if you are wise you choose the finest specimen and leave it alone. That might be your biggest gardening challenge. Feed it, watch it grow in size, health and beauty – and don’t eat it!!

So I went out to the allotment the other day and strolled around the farm with my camera.

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My best lettuce, shooting up ready to go to seed.

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Broccoli flowering and running to seed

We plant flowers at the farm to attract the bees. I didn’t plant this flower but I think it’s Cosmos.

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Cosmos (I think), still beautiful, going to seed

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A stall at the Morningside Festival

In the blogasphere is it ok to tell you about my Sunday on a Tuesday morning? Monday disappeared under a pile of washing as we had a beautiful sunny day here in Brisbane with a bit of a breeze – and a row of washing lines out the back just waiting to be filled with billowing sheets.

I set out for the farm at 6:30 on Sunday morning as it was the day of the Morningside Festival and Beelarong Community Farm  where I have my allotment were running a stall. My friend Di took on the responsibility of organising our stall and has been preparing for this event for months.

Volunteers met at 6:45am to load up everything required to set up and stock our stall. We had plants nurtured over the past few months, fresh posies made late on the day before from flowers picked at the farm, jams were made from the rosella bushes that grow at the farm, worm juice from our worm farm, we had gardening books and magazines.

Di also took a great variety of vegetables to set up an impressive display to catch the eye of the passing parade – as well as raising funds for the farm we wanted to encourage new members.

So three cars and a ‘Ute’ were loaded to the gunnels and off we went to set up our stall.

It was a bit nippy when we started setting up but the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day.

I took some photographs, of course.

Volunteers Amity and Di at the Beelarong stall, Pat seated at the back

A bowl of posies made by Judith using the farm’s flowers and foliage

Di arranged veggies from the farm – displayed with crusty bread to add to the rustic charm

I believe that days like this add so much to the life of our communities. And it’s fun!

There was a bit of excitement this morning

There was a bit of excitement at my place this morning.

The State Library of Queensland asked permission to archive my blog in the National Library of Australia as part of the PANDORA initiative to preserve our online documentary heritage.

PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive, is a growing collection of Australian online publications, established initially by the National Library of Australia in 1996, and now built in collaboration with nine other Australian libraries and cultural collecting organisations.

I still can’t believe my little blog is going to make it to the National Archives.

To celebrate, my dear friend Wendy who is staying with me for a few days took me out to our local (rather smart) florist and treated me to these lovely fresh flowers.

Altogether it turned out to be a very special morning. Not quite what I was expecting when I woke up today.

 

Oranges with garlic anyone?

This is proof indeed that my last harvest of garlic, despite it’s cloves looking rather puny, is strong enough to keep away an army of vampires.

What proof I hear you say?

Now I am an old fashioned ‘one chopping board only does just fine’ sort of girl (except for meat of course).  If it was good enough for my grandmother etc etc.  After each use a good scrub with soap and hot water should do it.  That is until confronted with my home-grown garlic.  Granted I did rather chop a lot of it the night before, added it to my pot of veggie soup.  Then into the sink for a big scrub (the board, silly).

Got up in the morning and sliced yummy oranges to go with my yoghurt.

Mmmm  – a curious hint of something –

I will no longer pour scorn on the owners of the multi-pack of different coloured chopping boards – one for every food group known to man (or woman).  Mind you, of course, THEY don’t have my garlic do they?

Happy gardening.

Beautiful vegetables

This weekend I decided to branch out into, what is for me, more exotic vegetables using seeds given to me by my gardening friend Wendy.

So I planted Scarola Gigante Degli Ortolani‘ giant endive. I’m looking forward to seeing the results as they are a beautiful vegetable, with each individual endive looking like a bouquet.

Next I planted red chicory Radicchio rossa di Treviso  with red leaves giving this vegetable a rather spectacular look.

Check out the photographs on these two links and we’ll see if I can reach that perfection with my crop.

Talking about beautiful veggies, my daughter-in-law sent me photographs of a couple of her successes. No problem with copyright here – she’s family!

Jenny’s cauliflower

Not a caterpillar or bug in sight.

And here is her corn from the last harvest

My DIL has lifted the bar ….   I have to rush out to the allotment and dig in more compost ……

The potato harvest is in!

I set out for the allotment this morning with one job in mind. The potato harvest.

I have already picked a couple of hands full over the past week so I knew there were spuds down there.  It was with great anticipation that I grabbed  “The Big Fork” and sallied forth. The ground was soggy due to all the rain we’ve had which made it heavy going. Not a job for whimps as muscles were flexed, earth went flying, The Big Fork got red hot! (I have been known to exaggerate.)

If you promise not to laugh I will show you the results.

Here it comes ……….

The potato harvest

On the plus side I did have a good work-out.

Don’t know where I went wrong, perhaps the heavy rain hasn’t helped, but I’m not wasting tears over it – so I got on with the next planting.

This time I’m growing King Edwards and I’m going to use bags rather than plant them in the ground. I laid the potatoes on a layer of good compost and organic fertiliser. I’ll be topping up the soil as the plants grow, until I get to the top of the bag.

Here are three of the bags already in place.  Just behind the green bag you can see a small bed of potatoes that I will be digging up in a month or so. Hopefully there are some spuds underneath all that greenery.

I knew what I was doing when I named this blog “Allotment Adventures with Jean”  because gardening is an adventure. You put in the effort, you give tender care, and you may get zilch.  (Do you remember the catastrophic rhubarb?).  On the other hand, some stuff gets neglected and grows like Topsy.

When I set up this blog I had to decide between two names. It’s been on my mind today. The other name I thought of using was “Optimists Anonymous”.

Happy gardening.

An action packed weekend

The weekend just flew by and it’s only now that I have found the quiet time to sit and blog about it.

I went to Jan Powers’ Farmers’ Market over at The Powerhouse, New Farm Park on Saturday morning.  I grabbed my ‘Nanny Trolley’ and set off. The market was buzzing with folk out to enjoy a lovely sunny morning after all the rain we have had.

“Nanny Trolley”

I am lucky that I grow most of my own vegetables but there is still produce I need to stock up on. On the list I had eggs, avocado, tomatoes, a whole pumpkin (such good value at the moment) and enough new season strawberries and rhubarb to make jam.

I parked the car over near the library and strolled through the park, stopping on the way for a take-away coffee from the kiosk. As I was waiting for the barista to work his magic I noticed this lovely palm. Sorry I cannot name it, perhaps someone can help there.  Thanks to the passer-by for taking this photo.

Palm in New Farm Park

After strolling through the markets it was then time to retrace my steps across the park to New Farm library where Brisbane horticulturist Annette McFarlane was giving a workshop on vegetable growing, funded by Brisbane City Council.  I have been to quite a few of Annette’s presentations in the past. As well as being so knowledgeable, she is also an entertaining speaker.

Then I went home to make jam. A satisfying day all round.

Sunday morning was computer training over at the Apple Showroom at Chermside with trainers Jacob and Kim.

Onto coffee with son number one.

A quick sandwich and then it was off to the allotment. Always a good social time on Sundays as people who cannot make it during the week catch up with the gardening.  I seem to spend more time leaning on my fork on Sundays, yarning. But that’s good too as I learn so much and, just occasionally, hand out my pearls of wisdom.

An allotment neighbour had an abundance of lettuce and kale plants and generously passed some on to me. (She must have scattered the seed around in gay abandon – she could keep Brisbane in lettuces!). But we all get a bit carried away sometimes and cannot bare to destroy any of these precious seedlings.

One thing I had learned from Annette McFarlane’s talk the day before was that I was basically starving my vegetables. Evidently you should be able to grow a lettuce in six weeks.  Six Weeks! My last sowing of lettuce was six weeks old and still only two inches tall (in the old money!).  So even though I thought I had fed the soil – obviously not enough – I went out with the liquid feed and watered it in like mad. Willing them to grow.

Fortunately the secretary from the local Pony Club made a visit this week and has offered us pony poo. So that is the way to go I reckon.  Six weeks Annette? – just you wait I’ll have those lettuces popping up in five.

Finally I dug up some potatoes for dinner. Here they are. And they were delicious.

‘Nicola’ potatoes for Sunday dinner

Have a good week.

“A Tale of Two Spuds”

We’ve had heavy rain in Brisbane over the past couple of days. So I packed the Super-Wellies into the car boot and set off for the allotment this morning.

As expected I sloshed through the farm to reach my bit of dirt (allotment!).  But today it was more like my patch of mud.

The object of the exercise was a bit of bandicooting. For the uninitiated it entails grubbing round in the dirt (or mud in this case) to forage for the new potatoes. ‘Why bother?’ I hear you asking.  BECAUSE there is nothing like a new potato boiled with a few sprigs of mint  and slathered all over with as much butter as your doctor will allow, and when I woke up this morning that is what I fancied for dinner.

As it happened I ended up with only a ‘side order’ of potatoes but they are so young and tender and so gorgeous that I am happy as this is the first harvest of the season.  I took them home, washed them, set them on a bed of mint (from the allotment of course) for the photograph.

‘Nicola’ potatoes and very ordinary mint from the allotment

I have to admit that the plate is a side plate.

The other spuds (please refer to the subject of this post) are sitting on the kitchen windowsill while I wait for them to chit.

‘King Edward’ seed potatoes.

So I’m looking forward to a crop of King Edward potatoes before Christmas.

Happy gardening.

A morning’s work in the community garden

Today was our usual Wednesday morning gathering of volunteers who work together on the community garden at the farm where I keep my allotment.

The weather didn’t look very promising, dark clouds coming and going and a threat of rain. We turned up in our various wet-weather gear.

I wore enough layers to tackle Everest – I feel a bit ashamed really because Brisbane is 19c degrees today. But I did peel a couple of layers off once I’d been working for a while.

My first job in the community garden was harvesting. The carrot bed is coming along nicely, when the seeds were planted we incorporated plenty of sand to lighten it up. Despite this, we still found some of the carrots were a bit forked. But this is the one I pulled up first and I think it’s a beauty.

Then we cleared the ground of the old beans which seemed to be going nowhere, into the compost they went, and we planted some fresh seedlings.

Beans cleared and new seedlings planted

Another bed was cleared. We opened one of the big compost bins and barrowed the stuff over to build up the bed before planting English Spinach seedlings.

Bed cleared, compost added, English Spinach seedlings planted

This cauliflower is looking so healthy and strong, no caterpillar holes, but no flower head either! Oh well, perhaps there is still time. I can’t believe it’s not possible to use the leaves anyway, they just look too good to waste. It calls for a bit of ‘Googling’ to find out what to do with them.

Cauliflower – without the flower!

The broad beans are looking good, except that they are just starting to be attacked by bugs.  So one of the ladies mixed up a home-remedy organic liquid and we sprayed it on. See if that works.

Broad beans in the community garden

My last job was over at my allotment. My daughter-in-law had given me a couple of red cabbage seedlings. I planted them and watered them in with Seasol liquid seaweed to help them get over the shock of transplanting.

Red cabbage seedling

My plan is to pickle the red cabbage when it’s mature and I do not intend sharing it with the caterpillars. To that end I have put a cage over the seedlings – one cage per seedling – are they spoiled or what?  Next time I’m over there I’ll cover the frames with a fine mesh.

Cages for red cabbage seedlings

(The frames were hanging around the farm and look like they were originally shelves from an upright freezer. Either way, I think they might do the job.)

We can but try. Happy gardening.

The Big Fork gets a work-out

I rolled up my sleeves and got the big fork out yesterday over at the allotment. The Big Fork, in my 16 square metres, is my equivalent of an ‘Earth Mover’.  I grubbed out some poor performing plants that were not earning their corn, take no prisoners, on the compost heap they went.

I wanted to clear some ground and feed the soil ready for the next planting. We had no compost bins ready at the farm so off I went to Bunnings for bags of organic compost.  Then I added blood and bone, and raided a pile of lawn clippings rotting away beside the community garden. The heavy rain we had a few weeks ago had turned some of the soil into a heavy clay-like substance and I dug everything in, in an attempt to break it up.

I had raised the level of the soil so much that the little slabs I use as a footpath vanished.

Never mind, I dug them up, moved the soil around a bit, and re-laid them.

I was quite pleased with my efforts and to make this post even MORE interesting here is a photo of the finished job. Good eh?

The ground cleared, fed, and ready for planting

And just to show that there is something still growing I took a few photos.

The small potato bed

The only silverbeet that seems to be surviving after the wet

‘Artistic’ shot of my Cavalo Nero Italian kale

Curly parsley. doing just fine.

Finally. The last remaining Drunken Woman lettuce.

Parsnip seedlings, been like this for weeks, seem to be going nowhere. But I live in hope.

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