Under the mulberry bush

When I was little it was well known that babies came from under the mulberry bush.  It had a ring of truth today – there were two little boys under the mulberry bush over at the allotments.

My grandsons.

We were told to expect 32º Celcius today so when I took the boys over to the allotments I wanted a job for them out of the sun. Fortunately the mulberry bushes are fruiting so it was a no-brainer to give each of them a small bowl. (The bowl is to hold the ones that you don’t pop in your mouth.)

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One of our mulberry bushes

We broke for morning tea at ten o’clock. Always a social affair on a Wednesday morning when allotment holders and volunteers in the community garden get together to eat cake and drink tea.  There must be worse ways to spend a morning!

Happy gardening.

I took my camera to the allotment today

With the camera in one hand and the instruction book in the other …

Not quite “raindrops on roses” as sung by Julie Andrews, more like “water on lettuce”. The ground was dry so I gave the allotment a hosing and wanted to see if I could capture the drops of water on this cute little lettuce.  Yay!!

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Note to self. When you take a photo make sure your shadow is not directly over the subject. But I still managed to capture drops of water on the rosy coloured leaves. Homework – check where the sun is next time.

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I like the detail on these leaves, below. Just wish I knew the name of the vegetable as it was gifted to me amongst a few lettuce seedling. It was such a tiny little thing I didn’t even know if it would live. But thanks to the magic of worm juice and some tender loving care here it is. Beautiful.

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I’ve got the bit between my teeth now and I’m determined to crack this photography lark.

Happy gardening.

The community tool shed

Down at the allotments we have a community tool shed which we open Wednesday and Sunday mornings. Today it was my turn to open up the shed.

Allotments in the UK tend to be rather large, but at Beelarong community farm each plot is eight square metres. No room to put a shed on that pocket handkerchief – hence the community shed, where tools and equipment are made available for any allotment holder to use.

Most of us keep our own gardening tools in the boot, but not many of us can fit a wheelbarrow in the back seat!  That’s where the community shed comes into it’s own.

Once I’d opened up the shed I checked on my allotment. The ground was lovely, thanks to some recent rain, and it was a pleasure to just admire my veggies – and pick them.  The silver beet (chard) has done really well this year, and the Cavalo Nero kale is looking wonderful, no caterpillar damage which I’m very happy about. One year the cabbage moth devastated the whole lot.  I picked more broccolini from my broccoli plants – just turned my back for a few days – those plants can’t help themselves.

The flat leafed parsley seems to be fashionable now but I prefer to grow the curly parsley – I love the rich green of the leaves – and I don’t know what it’s roots are sitting in but whatever it is, that parsley is revelling in it. So I just keep hacking away at it and pass a bunch of it on to anybody who wants some.

Curly parsley

Curly parsley.

I picked a couple of Kohlrabi to chop up and put in the savoury mince I cooked when I got home. (A whole lot of veggies went into the pot, I tend to get carried away, so if the army turn up on my doorstep I’ll be able to feed them all.)

I digress.  I had some time to kill before it was time for me to lock the shed up so I took the camera out. I bought a really nice camera ages ago but haven’t used it much because I haven’t mastered it.  So today I took the instruction book with me and practised with the macro lens.

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This lovely little lettuce is no more. I enjoyed it with my lunchtime salad.

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A daisy to attract the bees

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This is my Cavalo Nero kale, you can tell just by looking at it that it’s full of minerals. These leaves were chopped up and added to my savoury mince in the last few minutes of cooking. I’ll have muscles like Popeye.

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I thought this was pretty. It’s one of my spring onions gone to seed.

I’ve got a way to go with the camera. But you have to start somewhere. I really could use a few lessons.

The real reason behind my dusting off the camera is reading Mr Tootlepedal’s blog – his photos of birds and flowers are amazing. I’ll never reach those dizzy heights.

Happy gardening.

Digging in the dirt

The best de-stresser as far as I’m concerned. Go dig in the dirt.

My allotment has been a bit crowded of late, due to a really successful winter crop, so it’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to get ‘the big fork’ out. (In truth, the size of my tiny allotment I could probably achieve the same with a nail file – but I like to swagger through the allotments with the big fork.)

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A great way to spend a Sunday morning.

So, yesterday I removed the last of my tomato plants which left me with a nice bit of ground. What to do with it?

I was given a handful of cabbage and lettuce seedlings a few weeks ago that were struggling as they were crowded in. And I had a couple of pots of flowers that I bought from Oaklands Street Community Garden the other day. So I put them in together which should give me something for my dinner plate in a few weeks, a bunch of flowers to cheer up the place, and keep the bees happy at the same time. Win, Win as they say.

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The first of the plants goes in. Narf from Serendipity Farm has given me of the name of these daisies. Osteospermum daisies.

And to keep to the theme of the day here is a pic of my favourite cushion.

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Go dig in the dirt folks. You know you want to.

Happy Gardening.

A visit to Oaklands Street Community Garden

On Friday a group of us from Beelarong went to Oaklands Street Community Garden at Alexandra Hills in Brisbane. Click on the links to learn more about this community garden, and lots of photographs.

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I have been a member of Beelarong Community Farm for over three years now, working both as a volunteer in the community garden and also working my own allotment there.  But it’s always interesting, and informative, to see what other community gardens are up to.

So we did a bit of car pooling and headed off, receiving a warm welcome from Tony and the volunteers at Oaklands who took us on a tour of the gardens. The first thing I noted was that they tend to use raised beds for their vegetables. These have been made by volunteers by re-using roofing corrugated metal. Nothing goes to waste over at Oaklands – same as Beelarong.

They also use lots of flowers amongst the veggie’s, apart from the visual effect it’s also beneficial in attracting the good insects. The bees were having a great time when we were there. These particular flowers are popping up all over the place and I took the opportunity to buy a couple of pots to take back to my allotment.

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They have taken one area and laid out flower beds in a geometric design, making a very peaceful place to sit. I’m afraid my camera-work is poor but I wanted to show you the two ‘totems’ they had set up at the entrance to this particular garden. They were covered with hand made tiles, all different, and giving a lovely effect.

IMG_4470Then we sat down for morning tea. A large pot of tea, plates of scones, and a good natter.

Happy Gardening.

The allotment is looking rather spectacular

If you never want to speak to me again I quite understand. Dear reader, it has been eleven months since I last blogged.

I haven’t been lazy, I’m still in love with my allotment and at the moment it is looking wonderful.

You may have noticed, I said ‘allotment’ singular. I gave up my second allotment during our last long hot summer, it was hard to keep up regular watering with no rain and regular 35 degrees celsius temperatures. So now I have one (tiny) eight square metres plot but it’s keeping me in vegetables and herbs. Take a look.

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The netting in the background is to keep the fruit fly off my tomato plants. I bought a mozzie (mosquito) net from the local op-shop for $2 and used that. Worked a treat and I’ve been eating tomatoes for weeks now. And they taste like tomatoes should.

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This season I scattered my veggies to confuse the pests. No straight rows and no ‘beds’ of the same veggies. Just a hotch potch and it seems to have worked. The ‘brides’ on the right of the picture are my netted tomato plants.

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Just an overview of my tiny plot. The bricks are the beginning of my little pathway through the allotment, long since disappeared under the foliage.

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This season I’ve also used flowers interspersed with the veggies to confuse the pests. That’s the theory anyway. It seems to work. With mixing the veggies up and adding the flowers I’ve had a really good harvest – and not too many ‘lace’ leaves.

It’s lovely to be back. Thank you to Sue over at the farm for giving me the push to revive my gardening blog.

I have a certain interest in another blog you may like to check out.   Happy gardening.

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

Plot 24

Readers may already have seen plot 24 on an earlier blog post when I cleared it a few weeks ago.

Lovely fresh allotment

Plot 24, dug over, fed and ready to go

This is the update. The dwarf beans are coming through.

Dwarf beans

Dwarf beans

My daughter-in-law gave me some Royal Blue seed potatoes a few weeks ago. I had wondered about growing them in potato bags but in the end decided to plant them into the ground. They won’t be so easy to harvest (as you try to find every last one) but I think they will fare better in the ground during our hot months – I don’t get over to the allotment every day and they would be more inclined to dry out in bags.  When I went to the allotment yesterday I was thrilled to see them popping up their heads.  I love growing potatoes, always a bit of excitement when you dig them up as you wonder “Am I going to cover the bottom of the bucket?”

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Royal Blue potatoes

See below what happens when you don’t concentrate when you are planting lettuce seeds. I remember that day, I had a packet of lettuce seeds Annette McFarlane had given to me at one of her workshops and I was keen to get them into the ground. But. A couple of other gardeners had moseyed over to see what I was up to (as allotmenteers do) and not concentrating on the seeds I dropped the lot.  Not to worry, I used my little fork to spread them out a bit and they germinated just fine. But in a clump.

I’ll re-plant the seedlings now they are up. There will be plenty to share, I can only eat so many.

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“free range” lettuce

Tatsoi is coming up nicely. I like to pick this Asian green very young and use it in salads, picked a few leaves yesterday and it went well with my lunchtime salad. It goes well in stir fry too.  Tatsoi just grows like Topsy for me. As long as I plant it in decent soil I reckon I have 100% germination. This is one plant I have to be sparing with as I plant the seeds or I’d be over-run. I (try to) plant a few every few weeks but the seeds are so small sometimes that’s a bit of a challenge.

Tatsoi

Tatsoi

Below is my first attempt with clumping onions.  This little clump was another gift from one of Annette McFarlane’s workshops. What I love about Annette’s workshops, done through our local libraries, is that as well as the information she imparts you always come away with something to grow and if you have a soul at all you are not going to let it die.

What a great incentive to grow your own veggies especially for first-time gardeners. That’s what started me off three years ago.

And this is the specimen transplanted from a pot a few weeks ago, I am told that once I get this clump growing well I will never be without onions. As they grow I’ll be able to split them into other clumps. Sounds good to me.

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clumping onions

Last but not least I have a few Drunken Woman lettuces. My favourite, they are so pretty. They grow so large that I only need a few at one time to pick at. I just take a leaf or two when I need them. The original seeds came from my friend Wendy. I now have my own stash of seeds which I seed-saved from my last planting.  I have never seen these seeds in the shops so I think that is when seed-saving becomes really important.

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Drunken Woman lettuce

Happy gardening,

A post script. I have just read through this post prior to printing and I’ve realised that plot 24 is almost solely planted with gifts from others. So thanks to my daughter-in-law for the spuds, Annette for my clumping onions and “free range” lettuce and friend Wendy for the original Drunken Woman lettuce seeds.

Cutting the bamboo

Work continued on these raised garden beds at the community farm yesterday. While John and Brian worked on the metal uprights Craig, Peter and (another) Craig set about cutting down bamboo grown at the farm for the rafters.

Building raised beds

Raised garden beds

We have a huge clump of bamboo growing beside my allotment and they set about cutting down four poles. Here the guys are all ready to go chain saw and safety gear at the ready. Craig doesn’t always wear an orange hat and ear muffs! and Peter’s not really going to chop off his leg with that chain saw. Boys will be boys.

Chain saw at the ready

Chain saw at the ready

This photo will give you some idea of the height of the bamboo they were to cut down.

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The clump of bamboo

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Bamboo poles cleaned of leaves and propped up against the clump of bamboo

A job well done. These bamboo poles can now be used as rafters for the top of the raised beds and will be draped with shade cloth. Nothing goes to waste and the green leaves stripped from the bamboo poles will be mulched for the compost bins.

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A job well done

Thanks guys.

There’s greens in my bucket dear Liza dear Liza

Regular readers will know that volunteers meet every Wednesday morning at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment. We get together and work in the community garden.

We are having lovely weather this week and as we arrived at 9am the sun was already warm enough for me to remove my jumper, T-shirts were the order of the day. Remember we are in winter here until the end of the month.

The community garden is looking wonderful and it’s a time of real abundance.

The first thing to do was the harvesting before the sun got too hot. There was more silverbeet than you could poke a stick at so I started with that.  I had a couple of bucket loads in no time. Doesn’t it look healthy.  You could live to be a hundred if you eat enough of that wonderful stuff, full of minerals.

buckets of silver beet/ chard

My friend Zu, under the protection of her sun hat, tackled the Asian greens and lettuces.

Zu with the Asian greens

Zu with the Asian greens and lettuces

The harvest was destined for the share table together with herbs, limes, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, broccoli and more. It was shared amongst the volunteers at the end of the morning.

Happy gardening.

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