Are your seeds still in the shoe box?

If they are – then liberate them!

It’s very tempting to keep your seeds in a favourite shoe box, or similar, and enjoy going through them. I do that too.

However, the magic only happens once you put them in the ground.

Just a little effort can change this ….


into … this

Version 2

And that’s the joy of it.

Planting Carrots:

Carrots do enjoy a fine tilth so when you prepare your carrot bed if your soil tends to be heavy, incorporate some sand. This will make it easier for those roots to grow down without hindrance and ‘forking’. Give the soil a good rake over to remove as many little stones or obstructions as you can.  Those tiny seeds will love you for it.

Save a handful of that sand for when you sow your carrots. Those seeds are really tiny and by adding the seeds to your handful of sand and then sowing them, the seeds are less likely to ‘clump’ and it cuts down on the job of thinning out the seedlings when they pop up.

Another useful tip I find is incorporating some radish seeds in that handful of sand as well, this will help in two ways.  Radish germinate much quicker than carrots so you will soon be reminded of exactly where those precious carrot seeds were planted.  Secondly, as you harvest the little radishes it will automatically help thin out your row of carrots, thereby saving you some work.

Finally, those tiny seeds sit so close to the surface of the soil that during the first days of sowing, make sure you keep the soil moist, and carrots don’t like to be too crowded so it helps to keep the carrot bed well weeded.

Now, I know you can buy carrots cheap enough in the supermarket. So why bother? Let me tell you that the scent of the carrot as you pull it out of the ground at harvest time cannot be beaten. Smells like a carrot should – and so far you have only pulled it out of the ground!  Just wait until you go home and boil them and add a knob of butter.

Take the first step and get out the shoe box.

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.


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.

Romance in the carrot patch

It’s been hot in Brisbane for a few days now with temperatures of 26c degrees and yesterday went up to 29c so I gave the allotment a good watering, especially my little seedlings in plot 24.

While I was there I harvested some vegetables for my dinner. The carrots are just about ready so I pulled on one and wondered why it was resisting – until I realised that it was entwined lovingly with it’s neighbour.

I washed them under the garden tap and unwilling to separate them entirely (I know, I’m mad) I laid them on the grass while I rinsed my hands and it bought to mind the old Flanders and Swann song from the 50’s Show in London “At The Drop of a Hat”.

The song is about the the right-handed Honeysuckle and the the left-handed Bindweed and it’s called Misalliance. Click on the link for the words.  I have two sons who will remember it – this is for you.


I have been unable to find the original version of the song on YouTube sung by Flanders and Swann themselves.  However, I have found this  delightful version by  Jason Hardy you might like.

Happy Gardening.

Starve yer carrots

I’ve got this thing about growing the perfect carrot. There is something about pulling a carrot out of the ground, it’s the smell, it’s the way a carrot should smell, and it’s hard to recapture again. 

I am prepared to go to great lengths to grow my perfect carrot and I’ll be preparing my next carrot bed today by doing nothing.  By not digging in manure.

I’m feeding the soil in my little allotment with manure ready for my next big planting season in March. Except for one little corner which I am saving for my next carrot bed. I grew my kale last season up that same little corner. 

Carrots do really well after a well-manured greedy leaf crop such as kale. So all I plan to do is add some horticultural sand when I plant the seeds. This helps because if carrots as they are growing hit anything to stop them they will fork. And just how many legs do you want on your carrots???  By adding the sand it will lighten my soil and hopefully there will be nothing to stop them reaching their full potential.

So like I said, today I’ll do nothing to my new carrot bed.

What I will do when I go over to the allotment today, however, is harvest some carrots. I planted a late bed of this lovely root veggie and even in the heat of this December I’m still pulling them. 

Now just because I like to finish with a photo this is one taken in our winter and you may have seen it before. No apologies.

So, as all the good foodies say, “this is one I prepared earlier”. 


Happy Gardening.

“We’re having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave”

Who first sang that line?  I’m singing it today!

It’s 39c degrees in Brisbane as the heatwave continues this week.

I went over to the allotment at the crack of dawn this morning to see if anything is still living!  It was.

It amazes me that stuff is still growing despite this heat as I cannot get over every day to water it. But I thought it was a good idea not to push my luck and to harvest as much as I can, while I can.

I filled up insulated bags with plenty of silverbeet, kale, parsley, cucumbers and carrots. Once I’ve finished this post I’ll process the silverbeet and kale for the freezer. The curly parsley is starting to go to seed so I picked heaps of it and I’ll chop it up and freeze it in ice cubes.

I’ll check over the cucumbers to make sure the fruit fly hasn’t stung them and I’ll probably have enough to do another small batch of bread and butter pickles.

It will be a good way to spend the afternoon, in the air conditioning.

Just to finish off, here is a pic of my first tiny little melon. It was hiding under a leaf.  Is it cute or what?


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.

Caterpillars’ Playground

That will serve me right for ‘gadding off’ for a week and leaving my allotment to the critters.

It’s turned into a caterpillars’ playground.

I’d sprayed with a home-made molasses spray but I obviously didn’t do it right, or often enough.

So when I arrived at the allotment yesterday I ripped out the couple of red cabbage I’d been growing for pickling and threw them on the compost heap as it was too late to rescue them. Then it’s over to the kale bed, the plants were not so badly affected and I decided to harvest as much as I could before the caterpillars really took over. The silverbeet wasn’t affected at all.

I had a good harvest, two huge bags of kale, a bucketful of silverbeet, flat leafed and curly parsley and a very pretty Red Coral lettuce.

Red Coral Lettuce

The Italian and the curly kale have got so many little places where tiny caterpillars can hide (and I don’t need the protein) so when I got it home I filled the sink to the top with cold water laced with a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of vinegar and soaked for ten minutes to make sure there was nothing lurking that I had missed.

Kale and silverbeet seems to disappear to nothing when you cook the leaves but I still had plenty to pop into the freezer.

Despite the cabbage moths using my plot as their own special nursery there is still plenty of food left for me.  I got a bit carried away when I was sowing my Speckled Lettuce seeds and despite giving seedlings away, and transplant some too, I am still left with this carpet of young lettuces which I will pick and use the tender new leaves in my salad.

Speckled lettuce living ‘tenement’ style

Here is one I transplanted and you can clearly see the speckles on the leaves. (I had just been around with the hose pipe.)

Transplanted Speckled Lettuce

This curly kale plant looks almost too pretty to eat. I harvested the outside leaves yesterday. The caterpillars left this one alone.

Curly kale

Here’s a pic of the allotment yesterday after I had thrown out the cabbages and harvested food to take home. Starting at the front and moving backwards I have flat leafed and curly leafed parsley, mint, giant endive, kohl rabi, harvested silverbeet in the bucket, silverbeet plants, various lettuce, carrots, beans, two types of kale, leeks, garlic and the potatoes still growing in their bags.

The rather bedraggled looking lettuce just behind the bucketful of kale is a Drunken Woman lettuce that I have left to go to seed. It has a huge seed head so I am expecting to have plenty of seeds to share. The original seeds were a gift, I’m not even sure if you can buy them in the shops.

As I have said before, I have just the 16 square metres of land so I plant small amounts of each vegetable.

The allotment

Happy gardening.

The saga of the new carrot bed

I won’t rest until I’ve knocked carrot growing on the head over at the allotment.

I am convinced that there is nothing like the taste of a fresh carrot pulled from the ground and eaten within a few hours. I am picking a few carrots from the allotment at the moment but when I think of the number of seeds I planted ….. don’t start me!

So this fine Monday morning I took a trip to Bunnings Hardware Store and bought a fresh packet of carrot seeds and a bag of washed horticultural sand (to lighten the soil).

I had to find a space for the new carrot bed somewhere within my 16 square metres of allotment. I have read that onions are great companion plants to go with carrots so I decided to put them alongside the garlic bed as garlic is “a species of the onion genus”. I read that somewhere.

I have also read that you plant carrots after a heavy feeder crop. No problem there, I had a bed of flat leafed parsley that was as high as an elephants eye and going to seed. And it was next to the garlic bed.

A perfect spot.

All I had to do was rip up the parsley. It had grown huge, and I already had the new row of parsley growing nicely so I could afford to despatch it to the compost bin.  So I thought. But by the time I had removed it all I ended up with a huge armful of parsley and it smelled wonderful. “Can’t waste that” I thought. So I put it in the car and will chop it and freeze it this afternoon, fine to put into my soups.

The rest was easy, I added the sand, raked it over, watered the seeds in and covered the bed with a layer of shade cloth to save the seeds drying out as they germinate.

Now I just wait.

I had just finished my labours and was packing up when who should walk across the farm but Tatiana from New Farm Library who also runs the Gardening Group there.  I showed her (modestly!) around my little plot and never passing up a photo opportunity I picked this (magnificent) cos lettuce for lunch and Tatiana took a pic.

A cos lettuce from my little plot

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.






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

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Jerry Coleby-Williams

Sustainable Gardening in our Continually Surprising Climate

Nourishing Traditions

The Blog that Challenges Policitally Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

Allotmentals Plot 103

Allotment, garden and other stuff


Sustainable Backyard Food Production

My Front Burner

making what matters

30 acres of sunshine

organic, sustainable and self-sufficient hobby farm in the making

Lottie Land Girl

Living the 'Good Life' the Brown way!

Throwback at Trapper Creek

An ongoing chronicle of meeting the expectations of the land...


Energy decline & self-sufficiency from Melbourne, Australia

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

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