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.

My kitchen window sill

I’m an early bird so when I first walk into my kitchen in the morning it’s usually dark.

But I slept in this morning and the sun was well up in the sky and it struck me as I walked into the kitchen how pretty the place looked.  It’s an old kitchen and I imagine it’s the one that was in there when the unit was built but it was the harvest that I had sitting on the window sill, on the kitchen bench and on my lovely old kitchen table that pleased me.

This is how I choose to live, so I thought you might like to see these pics.

My kitchen window sill

My kitchen window sill

On the left a few tomatoes I’ve been ripening up, jar of curly parsley, a posy of herbs with a few flowers picked over at the allotments, curly and flat leafed parsley in another jar and my family sized yellow teapot which gets a big work-out when my sister-in-law visits from the UK.

Herbs and flowers from the allotment

A posy from the allotment

Here is a close up of my herb posy. curly parsley, flat leafed parsley, rosemary, nasturtium and a few sprigs of flowers. I have mentioned in previous posts that we grow flowers over at the farm to attract the bees and beneficial insects. Hopefully these few sprigs won’t be missed too much.

Here is a bit of a ‘still life’ with my curly parsley and trusty yellow teapot, but I thought you might also be interested to check out the view through the window. Palm trees – and the lovely old wooden Queenslander house across the road to the right of the photo.

'Still life'

‘Still life’

I’m on a bit of a roll now I’ve got the camera out …….

Ready to make a pasta sauce

Ready to make a pasta sauce

The tomatoes are ripe enough so I’ve moved them over to the stove ready to make a pasta sauce with the onion, red capsicum and the freshly picked sweet basil from over at the allotment.

Yoghurt

Yoghurt

I made a litre of Easiyo yoghurt overnight, it’s ready now to put in the fridge. I thought I’d show you this photo because you can see my lovely old pine table. It was a sad old table when I first bought it, covered in old linoleum which was nailed down. Once I had removed the lino and given the table a bit of a sanding down it revealed the lovely old green streaks in the pine wood.

I don’t have much bench space in the kitchen so I use this table in the old fashioned way before we had fitted kitchens. I do all my food prepping and baking on this table and I wouldn’t part with it.

Just a couple more pics ..

Lemons from Maria and Peter's tree

Lemons from Maria and Peter’s tree

I still have a few of these huge lemons left from the bag that Maria and Peter bought over last week. They are the juiciest I’ve ever come across. Maria and I used some of them last week in our marmalade and I’ve been juicing them since then. I managed to fill one ice tray with the juice from just one of these lemons.

lime and passion fruit from the farm

lime and passion fruit from the farm

“Ok, so it’s just a bowl of fruit” I hear you say. Not just any bowl of fruit, the lime is grown in Beelarong’s fruit forest and the passionfruit (black with a little stork in the picture) is from Leona’s passionfruit vine over at the farm.

So there you have it. I reckon with the food sitting in my kitchen I have just about covered every vitamin from A-Z.

Anybody knowing the Brisbane climate would realise that I can only have food out like this during the winter months. In the summer, apart from the tomatoes, everything lives in the fridge.

(Just a note for people who have only recently started to follow this blog. You might hear me talk about ‘the farm’, ‘the allotment’ and ‘Beelarong’. They are all one and the same thing really. My allotment is part of Beelarong Community Farm.)

Nigel, have you noticed I’ve managed to complete a blog post without mentioning a choko!

Happy gardening.

A time of abundance

This has got to be the best growing season for veggies in Brisbane. The community garden at the farm is looking fantastic and it’s a treat going over to my allotment. We are in winter now so we are not so plagued with pests which is good. The mornings are a bit nippy but we are having lovely dry sunny days.

I have been harvesting heaps of veggies over the past few weeks, in fact some have already ‘done their dash’ and today I’ve cleared the ground to plant new seedlings of silver beet and seeds of peas and beans.

But there is still plenty more to cut at in the allotment. I took these photographs this morning. It was in a funny light, shade and sunshine. But I snapped away anyway.

Brassica

Broccoli

Parsley

A row of parsley

Silverbeet

Silverbeet

Alyssum

Alyssum

Sweet basil

Sweet basil

Spinach

English spinach

Kale

Curly kale

Tatsoi

Tatsoi

Lettuce

Tatsoi and Lettuce

Brassica

Broccoli

Lettuce

Lettuce – garlic at the top of the photo

Beans

Garlic and lettuce

Beans

Bush beans

?

Row of lettuce

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My sweet potato bed with a patch of swede at the back

Hardly any weeding needed. Just watering and then filling my bucket with lovely fresh vegetables. Today I harvested beans, sweet potato, English spinach, kale, silver beet, beetroot and herbs parsley and basil.

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.

Allotment update and workshops at Beelarong Community Farm

I have been a bit lazy with my blogging recently but there is plenty going on over at the allotment. Our best growing season in Brisbane starts in April as we have fewer bugs invading our vegetables and the sun is not so fierce. We are still in autumn here but with the drop in temperature you would think it was winter already. Dry and warm during the day but with the temperature down to 11c degrees tonight.

I have already harvested generous amounts of silver beet, and enough sweet potato, beetroot, rocket and lettuce from my allotment this season to keep me happy. I picked a good handful of curly parsley today to make a parsley sauce to go with fish for tea tonight. I just love that aroma when you chop freshly picked parsley.

I’ll take the camera over to the allotment tomorrow so I can post a few pics of my veggie plot. I meant to today but once I finished watering it was time for me to hot-foot it over to the covered area for a workshop.

I have mentioned before that we  hold workshops over at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment. Today we held one of our regular Cob Oven Cooking workshops.

Here are a few pics I took this morning. The first thing we did was to take a walk around the farm to collect vegetables and herbs for pizza toppings and root veggies and tomatoes to roast in trays, topped with a selection of freshly picked herbs and with a big glug of olive oil.  Dessert was baked apples. Delicious.

Loading the cob oven

Peter ready to load up the cob oven

Below, tomatoes, turnip, squash, aubergine, choko and herbs all picked from the community garden – food miles just a few metres.

Roasted vegies ready for the cob oven

Veggies ready for roasting in the cob oven

Another tray of delicious 'home grown' veggies

All grown in the community garden and tended by volunteers

Craig had prepared a yeast bread mix overnight. We each took a small handful of dough to prepare our own individual pizzas. The cheese and salami supplemented the veggies and herbs and we picked some of those tiny really hot chillies for the folk with an asbestos mouth.

An individual pizza ready for the oven

An individual pizza ready for the oven

The cob oven smoking and ready to go.

The cob oven smoking and ready to go

The cob oven smoking and ready to go

Another workshop next Saturday

I have cut and pasted  these details below from the Beelarong website.

Preserving your fruit and/or vegetables

When: Sat, 1 June, 09:30 – 11:30
Where: Beelarong Community Farm, cnr of York and Beverley Streets, Morningside.
Description: Come to the farm and learn how to preserve your fruit and/or vegetables. Depending on what is in season you’ll be collecting the produce from the farm to make either chutney, jam or relish. Cost is $4. To book please call Beelarong Community Farm on 0401 168 657
Happy gardening.

First planting of the year – and sweet potato greens

At last. The first planting of 2013 over at the allotment. We’ve had some good rain and the daytime temperatures have dropped to a lovely 28c degrees so hopefully the weather will be kind to my little seedlings.

Much of my allotment has laid fallow and under a thick layer of mulch for weeks during the worst of the summer. Recently I have been over there feeding the soil. I’ve dug in heaps of organic fertiliser, rotted manure, blood and bone, and liquid fertiliser from the horse ‘poo’ barrel at the farm.  I should have the happiest worms in Brisbane in my little patch of dirt.

It was lovely to lift off the sugar cane mulch this morning and find the soil so beautiful and friable.

The first seedlings

The first seedlings, curly parsley and mignonette lettuce

You will see from the photograph, if you notice the little labels, that I cheated a bit. I will be sowing seeds and raising my own seedlings but my impatience reared it’s ugly head this morning. After all, that’s what Bunnings nursery department is for. So I took myself over there. I bought little punnets of silverbeet, curly parsley and that pretty green mignonette lettuce.

A small punnet each may not look like a lot to gardeners in the UK who tend to have much larger allotments but once they spread out they’ll soon fill the space up.

Parsley, lettuce and silverbeet planted

Parsley, lettuce and silverbeet planted

I finished the job with a good dousing of Seasol liquid seaweed to help the seedlings get over the shock of transplanting and then put the mulch back around the plants.

Over on the other side of the allotment the sweet potato which seems to cope beautifully with the extreme weather we’ve been having is really flourishing. You can see from the holes in the leaves that the grass hoppers have been having a nice feed off them.

Incidentally, on the subject of sweet potato leaves I have been told that if you pick them when they are young and tender they are good to eat, either raw or cooked.  I’ve been googling the subject of sweet potato greens as I write this post and there is heaps of information out there. Try this link for a start.

Mmmmm. Perhaps the grass hoppers will have to learn to share – maybe I’d like those leaves on my dinner plate too!

Sweet potato

Sweet potato

Happy gardening.

Preserve your harvest

At some stage most veggie growers have to deal with the question – how do you deal with the surplus?

I have just 16 square metres and I STILL get a surplus. This is great really, gives me chance to share with others (who don’t mind odd-shaped veggies or ‘lacey’ green leaves) and some left over to preserve.

I’ve done well at the allotment this weekend.

Another good picking of cucumbers to pickle.  Plus a nice bunch of sweet basil for a little jar of pesto.

I have already posted about my cucumber “Bread and Butter “pickles here and here at the end of November. (If those three cucumber plants keep going at this rate I’ll be drowning in these pickles!)

So in today’s post I’ll concentrate on the pesto. I started with a bunch of Sweet Basil but I also had a surplus of parsley which I decided to mix with the basil.  The basil had been going to seed giving it a much stronger flavour so I was quite happy to add the milder tasting parsley to boost the quantity of herbs required for the recipe.

I assembled the simple ingredients for this recipe. You will see that the recipe also requires parmesan cheese but I add the parmesan just before I use the pesto.  I read somewhere that the pesto keeps a bit longer if you do that.

Pesto ingredients with garlic

Pesto ingredients with home grown basil, parsley and garlic

And here is the result of my labours of the morning, three jars of pickles and one little pot of pesto. The joy of this is the fact that I produced so many of the ingredients myself (with Mother Nature of course).

What I didn’t mention is that I have a small red pepper plant growing on my balcony and I also added the peppers to the cucumber and onions in the pickle but they are obliterated by the labels. Nothing is wasted in this house.

I will store my little jar of pesto in the fridge as we are at the height of summer here in Brisbane. I plan to use it within the week, spread over a slice of crusty bread, drizzled over sliced tomato and mixed through a nice bowl of pasta with a good grating of cheese.

The result of my labours

The result of my labours. The little pot of pesto on the left.

Happy gardening.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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