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.

“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?

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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.

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

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

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.

An action packed weekend

The weekend just flew by and it’s only now that I have found the quiet time to sit and blog about it.

I went to Jan Powers’ Farmers’ Market over at The Powerhouse, New Farm Park on Saturday morning.  I grabbed my ‘Nanny Trolley’ and set off. The market was buzzing with folk out to enjoy a lovely sunny morning after all the rain we have had.

“Nanny Trolley”

I am lucky that I grow most of my own vegetables but there is still produce I need to stock up on. On the list I had eggs, avocado, tomatoes, a whole pumpkin (such good value at the moment) and enough new season strawberries and rhubarb to make jam.

I parked the car over near the library and strolled through the park, stopping on the way for a take-away coffee from the kiosk. As I was waiting for the barista to work his magic I noticed this lovely palm. Sorry I cannot name it, perhaps someone can help there.  Thanks to the passer-by for taking this photo.

Palm in New Farm Park

After strolling through the markets it was then time to retrace my steps across the park to New Farm library where Brisbane horticulturist Annette McFarlane was giving a workshop on vegetable growing, funded by Brisbane City Council.  I have been to quite a few of Annette’s presentations in the past. As well as being so knowledgeable, she is also an entertaining speaker.

Then I went home to make jam. A satisfying day all round.

Sunday morning was computer training over at the Apple Showroom at Chermside with trainers Jacob and Kim.

Onto coffee with son number one.

A quick sandwich and then it was off to the allotment. Always a good social time on Sundays as people who cannot make it during the week catch up with the gardening.  I seem to spend more time leaning on my fork on Sundays, yarning. But that’s good too as I learn so much and, just occasionally, hand out my pearls of wisdom.

An allotment neighbour had an abundance of lettuce and kale plants and generously passed some on to me. (She must have scattered the seed around in gay abandon – she could keep Brisbane in lettuces!). But we all get a bit carried away sometimes and cannot bare to destroy any of these precious seedlings.

One thing I had learned from Annette McFarlane’s talk the day before was that I was basically starving my vegetables. Evidently you should be able to grow a lettuce in six weeks.  Six Weeks! My last sowing of lettuce was six weeks old and still only two inches tall (in the old money!).  So even though I thought I had fed the soil – obviously not enough – I went out with the liquid feed and watered it in like mad. Willing them to grow.

Fortunately the secretary from the local Pony Club made a visit this week and has offered us pony poo. So that is the way to go I reckon.  Six weeks Annette? – just you wait I’ll have those lettuces popping up in five.

Finally I dug up some potatoes for dinner. Here they are. And they were delicious.

‘Nicola’ potatoes for Sunday dinner

Have a good week.

Potatoes, Kale, and a Saturday morning on the allotment

I had a big day in the allotment today. Started this morning with the weeding, did the whole allotment, very satisfying, non of it’s wasted, onto the compost it goes. Made a trip to Bunnings for some organic compost and incorporated it around the plants to build up the soil generally. Fed the plants where necessary.

No need to water as the ground is quite wet after the recent rains. One job I don’t have to worry about.

The main job of the day was to build up the soil around the potatoes which are now growing really strong. This is my main spud bed after I had weeded. My allotment is really small, so are my two potato beds! This variety is Nicola.

Then I built up the soil around the potatoes with a good layer of compost.

And finally I added a layer of straw mulch.

Today’s challenge is with the kale, my favourite Cavolo Nero.  It has been struggling this season, maybe the weather is still too warm in Brisbane for the kale.  But it is my favourite green veggie through the cooler months so I am going to persist, needs a bit of spoiling I think.  So I gave it a top dressing of fertiliser and compost. fingers crossed!

I’m back to the allotment in the morning.  Seems, at last, the snake beans are giving up the ghost. They have got to be the most productive veggie I ever ever grown, but I noticed today that suddenly they seem worn out. I’ll really need to feed the soil before I plant anything else in that bed.

So it’s been a good day.

Happy gardening.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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