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.

Cavolo Nero – RIP

My allotment comprises 16 square metres of land and so everything growing there has to be held accountable. Perform, or else!

Then just once in a while I meet an over-performer. In this case my Cavolo Nero (also known as black cabbage, Tuscan Cabbage, Tuscan Kale, Lacinato and dinosaur Kale)

I have been cutting at this kale for months, more than I can eat, so much has been blanched and is now deposited in my food bank (i.e. the freezer in the garage).

Which brings me to the point of today’s post. I made the painful decision early this morning that the time had come.  From the original five plants I still had two left, still producing valiantly, but home to more pests than I could control.

The kindest thing was to make the final cut. Out they came, and I moved them over to the area where Peter will now put them through the mulcher and they will live again via our compost heap.

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In memory of happier times. Here is a photo taken at their peak.

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These plants have been heavy feeders so all that remains for me to do now is to feed the soil where they have spent the last few months. I’ll add plenty of organic matter and give the bed a bit of a rest while the worms do their stuff.

Happy gardening.

Much Mulching

Plenty happening over at the allotment today.

The weather is warming up again so I made an early start over at the allotment at 7:30am and I harvested what was left of the kohl rabi, flat leafed parsley and giant endive before clearing the ground. I added manure and blood and bone before using the ‘Big Fork’ to turn it all over.

I hosed over the whole allotment and covered it with sugar cane mulch which should hopefully see me through the worst of the summer, keep the weeds down and keep the moisture in the soil.

I will be planting zucchini in the foreground, where I cleared the ground this morning.  I have already planted melons, dwarf beans and cucumbers but they are only just emerging as tiny plants so you cannot see them in the photographs.

Here is the allotment from the other side. I still have plenty of silver beet, Cavolo Nero and curly leafed kale.  In the foreground a row of Freckled Lettuce and the potatoes growing in the orange bags. Still a few weeks before I can harvest the potatoes.

Below is my first climbing bean of the season. Should have a nice handful for dinner by the end of the week.

I have lots of these Freckled lettuce, better eat them pretty quick as once the weather heats up I’m expecting they’ll bolt. Silly really, we can grow lettuces in Brisbane in the winter, but in the summer when we all want salads – lettuces bolt!

I finished the heavy work by 9:30am which was good because Linda Brennan from Ecobotanica arrived at the farm to give us a workshop on growing “Fruit in Pots”.

Tatiana and Linda at the workshop

While we were walking around the farm and snipping clippings from trees to propagate we came across this cute little fellow. Look closely and you’ll see the tiny tree frog sitting on a kafir lime leaf. If you know the size of one of these leaves, and you see that the frog is sitting on one leaf without it drooping, you can guess how tiny it was. No bigger than the first joint of my thumb.

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.

Spring has sprung

It is the first day of spring and it’s a perfect spring day in Brisbane. Fine and sunny, it’s now well over 40 days since we had rain.

So I took myself over to the allotment armed with the hose pipe to give the plot a good watering. My last visit was just three days ago and I was surprised to see that some of my veggies seem to have had a growth spurt in the meantime.  Very satisfying to see, but I was surprised how they have come on because although I have been watering, it’s not the same as a good downpour.

Then I took a leisurely stroll around the community garden with the camera.

Flowering brassica

Flowering broccoli

The harvest, cos lettuce, Italian kale, silverbeet

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.

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.

Back at the allotment

It has been a few days since I went to the allotment due to the heavy rain. But it has cleared up now so off I went yesterday to check out the damage, if any.  The ground was soggy in places and some of the young silver beet plants had snapped off at ground level. So I planted a few more seeds to fill the gap.

There was hardly any weeding to do, unbelievable really when you think of the rain we’ve had. Not even the dreaded nut grass! Mother Nature shining on me at last.

I took a chance that the ground had dried enough for me to plant a row of carrots to keep the supply going.

Then the fun part. I pulled a handful of harlequin carrots. Always a surprise to see what comes up. Here they are after a wash under the allotment tap. The two at the front had strong purple tints, but underneath really they were just ordinary orange carrots trying to be a bit exotic!

Harlequin carrots, yellow, white, orange and a couple of purple/orange mix.

Then I picked a few greens for dinner.

Drunken Woman lettuce, Italian flat leafed parsley, Harlequin carrots and Cavolo Nero kale.

I like to use plenty of parsley in my cooking, but really, I’d grow it anyway just to cheer up the kitchen bench. (No! I don’t have a depressed kitchen bench. You know what I mean.)

Italian flat leafed parsley

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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

myproductivebackyard

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...

Foodnstuff

Energy decline & self-sufficiency from Melbourne, Australia

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'obbitry of the horticultural kind

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