Lovely Lettuce

It has been very quiet at the allotment over our hot Queensland summer. The weather is suddenly cooler so I am looking forward to getting the allotment planted and producing. And a bit more blogging.

Despite the heat, I have managed to grow a nice few heads of lettuce over the last few weeks, and yesterday I harvested them. Amazing that I managed to do that without them bolting in the heat.  Maybe I’m learning something after all !

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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.

I took my camera to the allotment today

With the camera in one hand and the instruction book in the other …

Not quite “raindrops on roses” as sung by Julie Andrews, more like “water on lettuce”. The ground was dry so I gave the allotment a hosing and wanted to see if I could capture the drops of water on this cute little lettuce.  Yay!!

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Note to self. When you take a photo make sure your shadow is not directly over the subject. But I still managed to capture drops of water on the rosy coloured leaves. Homework – check where the sun is next time.

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I like the detail on these leaves, below. Just wish I knew the name of the vegetable as it was gifted to me amongst a few lettuce seedling. It was such a tiny little thing I didn’t even know if it would live. But thanks to the magic of worm juice and some tender loving care here it is. Beautiful.

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I’ve got the bit between my teeth now and I’m determined to crack this photography lark.

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.

Now that’s a lettuce

Now that's a lettuce

I picked this lettuce yesterday. My favourite “Drunken Woman”. Started on it at tea time and I’ll steadily work my way through it during the week.

I always keep one box of matches in the house, firstly to light birthday candles and secondly to boast about the size of my lettuces.

(OK. I know you are out there and growing fabulously enormous veggies which win first prizes and all that – but I garden in Queensland and fight pests, disease and all manner of pestilence on a daily basis and I think this is the first thing I’ve ever picked without a hole chewed in it!)

Happy Gardening

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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

There’s greens in my bucket dear Liza dear Liza

Regular readers will know that volunteers meet every Wednesday morning at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment. We get together and work in the community garden.

We are having lovely weather this week and as we arrived at 9am the sun was already warm enough for me to remove my jumper, T-shirts were the order of the day. Remember we are in winter here until the end of the month.

The community garden is looking wonderful and it’s a time of real abundance.

The first thing to do was the harvesting before the sun got too hot. There was more silverbeet than you could poke a stick at so I started with that.  I had a couple of bucket loads in no time. Doesn’t it look healthy.  You could live to be a hundred if you eat enough of that wonderful stuff, full of minerals.

buckets of silver beet/ chard

My friend Zu, under the protection of her sun hat, tackled the Asian greens and lettuces.

Zu with the Asian greens

Zu with the Asian greens and lettuces

The harvest was destined for the share table together with herbs, limes, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, broccoli and more. It was shared amongst the volunteers at the end of the morning.

Happy gardening.

A harvest to share

I have mentioned before that at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment volunteers and allotment holders alike work in the community garden every Wednesday morning.

At the end of their labours the harvest is shared and at the moment the community garden is bursting with veggies.

I took this photo today of the ‘share’ table holding a variety of Asian greens, pumpkin, cauliflower, limes, lettuce, passion fruit and macadamia nuts.

The share table

The share table

What you cannot see is the huge bucket of limes sitting on the ground, plus a shopping bag full of them. Volunteers also packed one of the wheelbarrows to the top with more greens and John, one of our maintenance guys, turned up with a great mound of chokos from his own garden which were welcomed with gusto by the three of us there who are ‘choko lovers’.

With my share of chokos and limes I will be to making my favourite choko, lime and ginger marmalade and I’ll be making a big pot of choko, onion and curry soup to feed the freezer.

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.

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The Power of Thrift

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