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.

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.

The potato harvest is in!

I set out for the allotment this morning with one job in mind. The potato harvest.

I have already picked a couple of hands full over the past week so I knew there were spuds down there.  It was with great anticipation that I grabbed  “The Big Fork” and sallied forth. The ground was soggy due to all the rain we’ve had which made it heavy going. Not a job for whimps as muscles were flexed, earth went flying, The Big Fork got red hot! (I have been known to exaggerate.)

If you promise not to laugh I will show you the results.

Here it comes ……….

The potato harvest

On the plus side I did have a good work-out.

Don’t know where I went wrong, perhaps the heavy rain hasn’t helped, but I’m not wasting tears over it – so I got on with the next planting.

This time I’m growing King Edwards and I’m going to use bags rather than plant them in the ground. I laid the potatoes on a layer of good compost and organic fertiliser. I’ll be topping up the soil as the plants grow, until I get to the top of the bag.

Here are three of the bags already in place.  Just behind the green bag you can see a small bed of potatoes that I will be digging up in a month or so. Hopefully there are some spuds underneath all that greenery.

I knew what I was doing when I named this blog “Allotment Adventures with Jean”  because gardening is an adventure. You put in the effort, you give tender care, and you may get zilch.  (Do you remember the catastrophic rhubarb?).  On the other hand, some stuff gets neglected and grows like Topsy.

When I set up this blog I had to decide between two names. It’s been on my mind today. The other name I thought of using was “Optimists Anonymous”.

Happy gardening.

“Drunken Woman” lettuce for lunch today

I would grow this Drunken Woman lettuce in my allotment just for it’s name alone even if it wasn’t so beautiful. I love the pink tinge to the leaves, and the abandoned way it throws out it’s leaves.  OK, I’m getting carried away. Thank you Wendy for the seeds. I picked this one for lunch.

Drunken Woman lettuce

No problem, there are plenty more …..

A row of Drunken Woman lettuce

The radishes are coming along nicely. I am not a big fan of the radish but I planted them to mark where I had planted the rows of the much slower germinating root vegetables – parsnips, swede, carrots.

Rows of radishes as a marker

My “Nicola” potatoes are coming along nicely. In fact they are growing so well that when I banked them up with more compost and straw I had to build a cage around them to hold the whole bed together. I fancy I should get a nice crop later in the year. New potatoes dripping in butter – delicious but straight to the hips probably!

Potatoes in their ‘cage’

Here’s a shot taken from the top.

Healthy spuds

Happy gardening.

Banking up the potatoes – again

I had a really good afternoon at the allotment yesterday. They open the tool shed at the farm from 3pm every Sunday afternoon so that allotment holders have access to wheelbarrows, hose pipes and a whole range of tools to use on their plot. There is only so much you can carry in your car boot so this is a wonderful opportunity to do the heavier jobs using the farm’s equipment.

My original idea was to do a bit of weeding and tidying up. But wouldn’t you know it. Never goes to plan. I took one look at the potato bed and realised the only job I’d be doing that afternoon was banking up the potatoes a second time. The plants had really grown and were just starting to fall over. So out came a wheelbarrow and I trolled around the farm collecting compost. A barrowload of wet compost is not for wimps. Here I have to thank Craig for helping with shovelling and pushing the loaded wheelbarrow back to my little plot. I finished the job off with a layer of straw mulch.

Still found time to have a yarn with the other allotment holders and see what they were growing. The sun was setting when the last of us stragglers left.

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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