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

Plot 24

Readers may already have seen plot 24 on an earlier blog post when I cleared it a few weeks ago.

Lovely fresh allotment

Plot 24, dug over, fed and ready to go

This is the update. The dwarf beans are coming through.

Dwarf beans

Dwarf beans

My daughter-in-law gave me some Royal Blue seed potatoes a few weeks ago. I had wondered about growing them in potato bags but in the end decided to plant them into the ground. They won’t be so easy to harvest (as you try to find every last one) but I think they will fare better in the ground during our hot months – I don’t get over to the allotment every day and they would be more inclined to dry out in bags.  When I went to the allotment yesterday I was thrilled to see them popping up their heads.  I love growing potatoes, always a bit of excitement when you dig them up as you wonder “Am I going to cover the bottom of the bucket?”

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Royal Blue potatoes

See below what happens when you don’t concentrate when you are planting lettuce seeds. I remember that day, I had a packet of lettuce seeds Annette McFarlane had given to me at one of her workshops and I was keen to get them into the ground. But. A couple of other gardeners had moseyed over to see what I was up to (as allotmenteers do) and not concentrating on the seeds I dropped the lot.  Not to worry, I used my little fork to spread them out a bit and they germinated just fine. But in a clump.

I’ll re-plant the seedlings now they are up. There will be plenty to share, I can only eat so many.

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“free range” lettuce

Tatsoi is coming up nicely. I like to pick this Asian green very young and use it in salads, picked a few leaves yesterday and it went well with my lunchtime salad. It goes well in stir fry too.  Tatsoi just grows like Topsy for me. As long as I plant it in decent soil I reckon I have 100% germination. This is one plant I have to be sparing with as I plant the seeds or I’d be over-run. I (try to) plant a few every few weeks but the seeds are so small sometimes that’s a bit of a challenge.

Tatsoi

Tatsoi

Below is my first attempt with clumping onions.  This little clump was another gift from one of Annette McFarlane’s workshops. What I love about Annette’s workshops, done through our local libraries, is that as well as the information she imparts you always come away with something to grow and if you have a soul at all you are not going to let it die.

What a great incentive to grow your own veggies especially for first-time gardeners. That’s what started me off three years ago.

And this is the specimen transplanted from a pot a few weeks ago, I am told that once I get this clump growing well I will never be without onions. As they grow I’ll be able to split them into other clumps. Sounds good to me.

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clumping onions

Last but not least I have a few Drunken Woman lettuces. My favourite, they are so pretty. They grow so large that I only need a few at one time to pick at. I just take a leaf or two when I need them. The original seeds came from my friend Wendy. I now have my own stash of seeds which I seed-saved from my last planting.  I have never seen these seeds in the shops so I think that is when seed-saving becomes really important.

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Drunken Woman lettuce

Happy gardening,

A post script. I have just read through this post prior to printing and I’ve realised that plot 24 is almost solely planted with gifts from others. So thanks to my daughter-in-law for the spuds, Annette for my clumping onions and “free range” lettuce and friend Wendy for the original Drunken Woman lettuce seeds.

Feel the serenity – a weekend at “The Castle”

I spent a weekend at The Castle and really did ‘feel the serenity’ (with apologies to anyone who has never seen the Australian movie).

I stayed with  Fairy and the Duke from Organised Castle blog who are also B&B (Bed and Breakfast) hosts.  Their home, “The Castle” is a small rural acreage near Maleny, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. If you click on the link to the blog you can find details about their accommodation.  I received a warm welcome and they made me very comfortable. If you decide to take the breakfast/dinner package you will enjoy lovely home cooking with a lot of the produce taken fresh from their own garden and eggs from their chickens.  I’ll be back!

Maleny is situated in the heart of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Queensland. Approximately 100 kilometres north of Brisbane. Rolling green hills and sub-tropical climate help make this an area that attracts tourists from all over the world.

My first stop in Maleny was a gem of a bookshop. Rosetta Books.

Bookshop

Rosetta books in Maleny

It was a cold day, it is the middle of winter after all, and as I walked in the door I was greeted with lovely warm air and the tantalising smell of freshly brewed coffee. This is their beautiful brass coffee machine. I could go no further without a cappuccino.

Beautiful coffee machine

Beautiful coffee machine

I sat at the big rustic community table and sipped my coffee before checking out the rest of this beautiful bookshop. The array of books was SO tempting and the seated areas around the shop encouraged one to linger. They had a lovely children’s area at the back of the shop – makes you want to be a kid again.

Then it was time to take a stroll up the main road and discover what else Maleny had to offer. What I like about Maleny is the fact that as well as being a tourist town it’s a thriving rural community. Walk down the high street and there is a mixture of interesting boutique shops that will draw you in; their IGA is the best I’ve ever been in with some lovely rustic dark wood shop fittings; there’s a fabulous ice cream and cheese shop where you can also get a coffee or a bite to eat and plenty of places to buy your organic produce.

After lunch over a bowl of hot soup I took the car on a scenic drive along the Blackall Ranges via the pretty town of Montville, through Flaxton which is a tiny village where you will find lovely arts and crafts and excellent devonshire teas and on to Mapleton where I stopped for a nice cup of tea and views over the beautiful rolling hills as far as the Sunshine coast.

From Mapleton I took the Obi Obi road as far as Mapleton Falls National Park and this is where I gave the camera a bit of a workout.  It was so beautiful standing there on the lookout. I cannot really capture the peace and serenity of the place, but I’ll have a go.

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I had a lovely weekend, and on the drive back to Brisbane on Monday morning I visited the strawberry farms and stalls selling local produce.  I topped the boot up with pineapples, strawberries, local honey and a great big cabbage I’ll be turning into sauerkraut.

Today it’s back to the allotment as my daughter-in-law has given me some seed potatoes. They are called Royal Blue and have purple skin and golden yellow flesh. Sounds exotic enough for my little allotment!

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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