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 garlic harvest

Today I harvested my garlic over at the allotment.

It was a very small garlic bed, could even have been missed if you didn’t know where to look. Here it is between the lettuce and the alyssum.

The (tiny) garlic bed

The garlic bed

But just look at the lovely crop I harvested this morning. When I’ve dried it off it will be enough to last me through until next season.

Garlic harvest Sept 2013

Garlic harvest Sept 2013

I plant the garlic in April and harvest in September so whatever land I use is tied up for six months and that’s why I’m a bit stingy with it as my allotment is tiny compared to the ones in the UK.

This garlic looks wonderful to me. The heads are much bigger than last year’s harvest which I’m pleased about. I practice seed-saving.  I started a couple of years ago with some garlic given to me from the community garden over at the allotments and some from my daughter-in-law who bought it from Green Harvest up in Maleny in Queensland.  Both lots were organic.

I’ll be saving one of the garlic heads to plant out next April. I’ll also use the baby bulbs that you find growing in the stems of the garlic plant.

I put my keys in the basket so show the size of the bulbs.

Garlic

Garlic

Garlic

Garlic

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.

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.

Exotic Herbs and Spices

I spent an interesting morning today at a workshop on “Exotic Herbs and Spices to Grow at Home” given by Annette McFarlane as New Farm Library.

This was something new for me.  Raised in England I know a lot about growing mint and parsley!

It was an opportunity to learn about the sort of herbs and spices that we can grow in South-East Queensland, except for saffron – you would need to move to Tasmania or New Zealand to be successful with that.  We covered garlic, tamarind, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, galangal, peppercorn, coriander, saffron, vanilla and horseradish.

I already have a bed of garlic and coriander at the allotment but I’m certainly going to be more adventurous after what I learned today. After morning tea we went outside into New Farm Park and potted up turmeric and ginger and were able to take them home. So that’s a good start.

If you want to know more about growing these exotic herbs and spices you can check out this link to Annette’s website  where she has posted a PDF of the workshop.

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.

Beetroot

Lettuce

Oranges

Garlic

Parsnips

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

Oranges with garlic anyone?

This is proof indeed that my last harvest of garlic, despite it’s cloves looking rather puny, is strong enough to keep away an army of vampires.

What proof I hear you say?

Now I am an old fashioned ‘one chopping board only does just fine’ sort of girl (except for meat of course).  If it was good enough for my grandmother etc etc.  After each use a good scrub with soap and hot water should do it.  That is until confronted with my home-grown garlic.  Granted I did rather chop a lot of it the night before, added it to my pot of veggie soup.  Then into the sink for a big scrub (the board, silly).

Got up in the morning and sliced yummy oranges to go with my yoghurt.

Mmmm  – a curious hint of something –

I will no longer pour scorn on the owners of the multi-pack of different coloured chopping boards – one for every food group known to man (or woman).  Mind you, of course, THEY don’t have my garlic do they?

Happy gardening.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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The Blog that Challenges Policitally Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

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Allotment, garden and other stuff

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

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