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.

One allotment – just eight square metres

It never ceases to amaze me how much food you can grow in just eight square metres.

I have two allotments that size, but one is given over to sweet potato and swedes. This is what I grow in the other one and it supplies me with all the greens, beans and beetroot, I can eat.

I harvest this small bed of silverbeet once a week then give it a good liquid feed. My reward is another harvest a week later. By growing the leaves this fast it seems to beat the caterpillars. You can see how healthy the leaves are.

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Silverbeet

Flat leaf parsley seems to be fashionable these days but I still prefer the curly leaf. I think it has a stronger flavour. And I grow lots of it. Can’t do without it when I’m cooking. I like to keep a jar of these lovely green leaves sitting on the kitchen window sill too. I think a jar of freshly picked herbs really livens the place up.

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Curly parsley

I’m picking this curly kale in the same way as I harvest my silverbeet. Harvest once a week and then give it a liquid feed. More ready for the pot a week later. I don’t want to speak too soon, but by picking the leaves quickly, and nice and young, they don’t seem to be troubled by caterpillars.

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Curly kale

Asian greens do really well in Brisbane and I like to keep a few plants of Tatsoi for stir fry, or the young leaves do well in a salad. Such a pretty plant.

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Tatsoi

Just a small bed of beetroot (below) but I still managed to pick two at the weekend. I like them pickled. It wasn’t worth going all out with the pickling for just two beet which I intend to eat within the week so while they were boiling up in the pot I heated up a small jug of vinegar and pickling spices in the microwave and added the cooked beets to that. They soon absorbed the vinegar and I tried them a few hours later with my salad. Nice and tasty. You can see there’s a bit of damage to the leaves, but that didn’t affect the beet itself.

Incidentally, you can see in this shot just how close I grow my veggies and that’s why I have to keep the soil well fed and topped up with liquid feed during the growing season.

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Beetroot

Four different varieties of young lettuce in this shot, next to my tiny garlic bed to the right of the picture. I planted about 20 cloves in April. They should be ok to harvest in October/November.  The white alyssum flower is to attract the good bugs.

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Young lettuces

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More pretty lettuce leaves

You can just see the marigolds to the left of this pic. I grow them for the good bugs.

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Still MORE lettuce

I’m dabbling in brassicas a bit this year, despite the challenge with caterpillars this seems to bring. This is one of my four broccoli plants surrounded by nasturtium and alyssum. Not sure if that will help. As a back-up I’ll use an organic spray but for now we are doing fine.

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Broccoli

I have just a few dwarf beans. I planted climbing beans earlier this year, a much better idea in a tiny plot, but they did no good at all. Even the dwarf beans struggled but these few plants are doing better.

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Dwarf beans

Happy gardening.

A Monday morning at the allotment

It was a fine morning today at the allotment. Early mornings are a bit nippy but once the sun is up the days are really lovely at the moment. I started off with a jumper but soon hung that over my sweet-pea frame and worked in my T-shirt.

I spent quite a bit of time there yesterday watering, harvesting and drinking tea. Thank you Zu for sharing the dinky little chocolate muffins. Delicious.   Then I picked a few flowers and herbs to make a herb posy. Judith, a talented florist, put it all together for me. The big leaves are Lemon Myrtle which makes a nice tea if you add them to a cup of boiling water.

A herb posy

A herb posy

You can see the curly parsley, and the dark leaf poking up at the back is a fancy basil, not sure what it’s called.

A side view

A side view

So all that was left to do today was to give my veggies a liquid feed and get the camera out.  I fiddled about with the settings to try for some ‘artistic’ shots. I was quite pleased with some of the results as I tried to capture drops of water on the leaves. Bare in mind I took nearly a hundred, how the time flies, so there are a lot on the cutting room floor.

Lettuce, too pretty to eat

Lettuce, too pretty to eat

More pretty lettuce

More pretty lettuce

Still more pretty lettuce

Still more pretty lettuce

Some of my lush parsley

Some of my lush parsley

Beetroot

Beetroot

Sweet basil

Young silverbeet with a new row of curly parsley. I can never have too much parsley.

Staggered planting. My follow-on lettuce crop

Staggered planting. My follow-on lettuce crop

My vegetables are looking really healthy at the moment which is very satisfying.  However, I know there are some caterpillars just waiting in the wings ready to take centre stage. But for now I’ll just bask in my success.

Happy gardening.

Good fences make good neighbours

Good fences make good neighbours even over at the allotments.

My sweet potatoes wanted to take over Brisbane one runner at a time and I was having difficulty keeping them off my neighbour’s allotment as the railway sleepers dividing our plots had rotted and the boundary was lost.

No problem. Batman (aka Peter who oversees our allotments) to the rescue. Sawing and lifting these railway sleepers is not for the faint hearted but in no time, and with help from Brian and Tyron, he had two new sleepers in place and peace reigned once again down at the allotments. No turf wars will be erupting between the lovely young family gardening ‘next door’, and me!  Thanks Pete.

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The new boundary

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The new railway sleepers on the left of my sweet potato bed

The weather in Brisbane is still hot and we are getting temperatures of 28c degrees even though we are well into Autumn so I’m going over to the allotment in the early morning to beat the worst of the heat. April is the beginning of my best growing season and things are happening again. I have planted two lots of beans which are coming through. A couple of rows of dwarf beans and the climbing “Kentucky Wonder”.

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Dwarf beans

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Climbing beans “Kentucky Wonder” staring to pop up (in the background with the circular metal support)

It may seem strange to folk in the UK who are used to big allotments to see my two tiny plots of eight square metres each. One is given over to the  sweet potato so to get a variety in the other eight square metres I need to plant small quantities. But it still amazes me just how much food I harvest from my little patch of earth. I even pick enough to pickle sometimes.

Below, you can see the beetroot is coming along nicely, I’ll be pickling it when it’s ready, but you can also steam the leaves and use it like silverbeet or spinach.

Beetroot

Beetroot

Wednesday morning is always busy over at the allotments when we all get together, and volunteers work on the community garden. We break for morning tea at 10am, these morning teas are legendary. As well as cake and enough tea to float the back teeth it’s an opportunity to taste relishes, pesto, chutney and all manner of things people make using produce from their allotments and the community garden.

At morning tea today we were asked for a few volunteers to help pick the rosella’s as the bushes were laden. These rosella’s are used to make jam and raise funds for the farm. Below is just one of our rosella bushes. I don’t look very busy in the photo but I promise you I filled my bucket.

Harvesting Rosella's for jam

Harvesting Rosella’s for jam

Happy gardening,

More help down the allotment

Everything is bone dry in Brisbane as we’ve received hardly any rain for two and a half months. Fire fighters are coping with numerous bush fires around South-East Queensland.

So this week my youngest grandson and I went over to the allotment and I set him to work with the hose pipe.

In a rush of enthusiasm my allotment neighbour received a watering too. I am sure she will be grateful.

Watering the neighbours allotment

Then finally it was time to harvest our produce. Jerry knows his way around a veggie patch and soon set to pulling up beetroot and carrots to be grated on our lunchtime salad while I set about gathering the lettuce and silver beet.

When I’m harvesting climbing beans the ones right at the bottom of the plant tend to get left (all that getting down and up and down and up …) The secret of success is to find a little person who is nearer to the ground. Even looking at his back you can see the concentration.

Harvesting the climbing beans

We left with heaps of sweet young beans – as well as the ones we nibbled while we were picking.

I’m so lucky to share days like this.

Happy gardening.

The gardener, at the allotment, with a hose pipe

The hose pipe is the tool of choice at the moment.

After two months without rain we’ve had a little rain recently but it has hardly touched the surface so my main job at the allotment yesterday was to give it all a good watering.

The potatoes growing in the bags are coming along nicely, lots of green tops (if that counts for anything) and I gave them a good hose down. Then just to check I opened the little ‘trap doors’ in the side of the bags and the soil was still bone dry.  The hosing seemed to have no affect beneath the surface. How is that?

We need a good downpour.

Having said all that I am having a good harvest so Mother Nature is doing a good job.

Here is what I have in the allotment at the moment.  The aforementioned potatoes, carrots, kohl rabi, parsley (curly and flat leafed), mint, giant endive, freckled lettuce, curly leafed kale, Cavolo Nero Italian kale, leeks and garlic which should be ready to lift in the next week or so.  And I’m awash with silver beet. Which is good because I never tire of it. I just steam it, nothing fancy, and ‘down the hatch’ as they say.

I planted six zucchini seeds a few weeks ago but only one has germinated. I planted six seeds with the idea of choosing the two strongest as that would be enough for my small allotment.  So I still need one more, as I have now lost a couple of weeks I may just buy a seedling from Bunnings.

The big decision now is what to plant for the summer months. The weather will be hot, many days over 30 degrees celsius, and high humidity so we tend to suffer with mildew. (The plants, doh!)

The good news is that Linda Brennan from Ecobotanica is coming to the farm on Monday morning to hold a workshop on organic veggie growing and I’ll pick her brains as to what to plant to get me through the summer. Linda will be giving advice on organic pest control which I am particularly interested in having sacrificed my red cabbages to the caterpillars recently, and it’s almost impossible to grow a tomato at the farm without it being stung by the fruit fly. She’ll also look at the soil and give us general advice on how to improve our harvest.

I’ve been to Linda’s workshops a number of times, she is a mine of information, and I always learn so much.

So that’s the news today.  I’m getting so much pleasure from my little plot, despite the dry conditions my little plants soldier on – except for the baby beets and I have to say their days are numbered unless they lift their act!

And because I can’t resist getting the camera out when I see a nice healthy veggie plant – here’s a silver beet for you.

Happy gardening.

Self sufficiency – and a trip to the Farmers Market

For one brief moment in time I have reached the stage when I am eating all my own vegetables.

I have my potatoes stored in a brown paper bag and garlic dried off in the garage from the last season, small but potent. In the freezer I have an abundance of snake beans – I may never get to the bottom of them as I had a bumper harvest.

I’m picking fresh carrots, parsnips, kale, silverbeet, lettuce, and the herbs mint, parsley, garlic chives, rosemary.

Whoops!  I buy onions, but I am told that South Australia is the onion-growing capital of Australia. So perhaps I can be forgiven as our weather is sub-tropical. I havn’t mentioned tomatoes because I am classing that as a fruit – and so does the dreaded fruit fly which has stung every tomato I have ever tried to grow except the tiny cherry tomatoes.

Talking of fruit, that brings me to the reason for my visit to Jan Power’s Farmers Market at the Powerhouse in New Farm Park yesterday morning. We seem to have a glut of strawberries at the moment and I wanted to buy a few kilos for jam making. I also needed a dozen free range eggs. So off I set with my ‘Nanny Trolley’.

It was a beautiful morning and lots of people had turned up. You couldn’t have hurried if you tried (why would you want to?) because there were so many strollers, an amazing variety of shopping trolleys, and dogs of all description on the end of a lead (oh my grammar – they each had a lead of their own!).  Every man and his dog had turned out to enjoy the sunshine.

The first thing that hit me was the smell of frying bacon. Now I had already eaten fruit and yoghurt at home, but suddenly it just wasn’t enough.  So I stopped at Jon’s Delights for breakfast and he cooked me the most amazing bacon and egg burger.

Breakfast at Jon’s Delights, The Barn

Then I got a bit snap-happy. These are only a few of the pics that I took of the wonderful array of stalls.

Beetroot

Lettuce

Oranges

Garlic

Parsnips

You want to get me locked up!?

And finally I picked up my booty. Three kilos of strawberries for $10.

Going home to make jam

The allotment in pictures

Things are looking pretty good at the moment down at the allotment. We havn’t had rain for weeks but I have kept up the watering and the veggies are thriving so I got out the camera and tried a few different angles.

Cavalo Nero, Italian Kale

The kale bed

Silverbeet

Lettuce, not sure of the variety as the seedlings were a gift

Red cabbage has a long way to go

“Baby Beet” beetroot

A little visitor on the mint

And this post wouldn’t be complete without another pic of the ‘Drunken Woman’ lettuce. As it goes to seed it just gets taller and taller and I think, rather lovely.

Drunken Woman lettuce going to seed

Happy gardening.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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