It’s Hot down at the Plot

Do you know the musical “Annie” where she sings “The sun’ll come out tomorrow”?  Well, I’ll be singing that for the next six months as I work my allotment in the heat. The mercury is rising here in Brisbane, Australia.

29° Celcius today and 32° tomorrow, same as last Wednesday, and we are only in the first month of spring. We are yet to hit the high humidity of summer.

So that’s the challenge over at the allotment. I try to get over there before it gets too hot, and I had to pack up the tools at 10am yesterday.

So, I arrived there early yesterday morning, wielding The Seriously Big Fork, dug up a couple of old woody broccoli plants who had fed me regularly for the last few months. And I dug up a few utterly exhausted silver beet (chard) that had also produced like mad all through our winter. The silver beet may have been exhausted but they still provided my dinner as they valiantly pushed up the last of their bright green leaves before I did the kind thing, dug them up, and moved them reverently to the compost heap.

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Now THAT’S silverbeet. This pic was taken a few months ago at the height of the harvest.

Now that is what leaves me humble as a gardener.  Those few plants I had removed were tiny seeds just a matter of months ago and had provided me with so much food for my dinner plate you wouldn’t believe.

I still have plenty growing in my allotment. Some more silver beet and broccoli, plenty of Cavolo Nero black kale, plenty of kohl rabi, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, lots of robust curly parsley, thyme, oregano, spring onions, and the whole of my garlic harvest which will be ready in the next few weeks. The leaves are just starting to die off.

I’ll drive over to the allotments early again this morning and do a bit more. As I clear the ground I’m digging in organic fertiliser, compost, and blood and bone ready for new planting.

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.

Broccoli – the plant that keeps giving

I have four broccoli plants and they have been feeding me for weeks. The magic of growing your veggies in an allotment is that you are never short of advice, wanted or otherwise. So you pick up these tips. I was given four tiny broccoli seedlings months ago. (Another benefit of having an allotment.) It is of course reciprocated.

I thought to myself “Great, I can now depend on four broccoli heads”. Wrong. In due time, and with diligent care, the tiny little seedlings grew to their full potential, which gave me a glut(?) of four broccoli heads! Fortunately, after I harvested them, a much wiser gardener – and there’s plenty of them over at the ‘lottie’ –  stopped me yanking said plants out and told me to ‘leave them be’ and they would re-sprout.

So I did. And this is the result, below.  Now I know it’s not a very clear picture, but you should get the idea. You can see where I had sliced off the main broccoli head from the top of the plant and the new broccoli head is growing from the stem that I left in the ground.    More dinner for me.

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But wait, there’s more! This head of broccoli is from one of the plants that completely re-grew from the bottom of the original stem and I get a whole new head.

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Now if that isn’t enough I’ll tell you what happened next.  One plant had provided me with the original head of broccoli, then it had re-sprouted and I’d harvested that and I thought ‘surely it’s done it’s dash’ and I tried to dig the (by then, I would have thought, exhausted) plant out of the ground.

That stem was so tough I couldn’t shift it. I got it half out of the ground and gave up. Left it for another day. I’d managed to shift half, but the other half of the root was still in the ground. I gave up and went home. Days later I returned and this is what I found.  That darn stem was growing again! You can see below. That tough old stem, lying on the ground with just a few roots still in the soil, is sprouting.

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A week later and the new plant is ‘growing like Topsy’ out of this stump lying on the ground. And you can see the scars on the stem where I have been harvesting already.

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And today I found a second plant growing even further along the stem.

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The lesson I have learned from this is that if you find a plant that loves where it is growing then the seeds HAVE to be saved so that they can be passed on to other gardeners in the same area.

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.

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.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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