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

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.

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.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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