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.

My kitchen window sill

I’m an early bird so when I first walk into my kitchen in the morning it’s usually dark.

But I slept in this morning and the sun was well up in the sky and it struck me as I walked into the kitchen how pretty the place looked.  It’s an old kitchen and I imagine it’s the one that was in there when the unit was built but it was the harvest that I had sitting on the window sill, on the kitchen bench and on my lovely old kitchen table that pleased me.

This is how I choose to live, so I thought you might like to see these pics.

My kitchen window sill

My kitchen window sill

On the left a few tomatoes I’ve been ripening up, jar of curly parsley, a posy of herbs with a few flowers picked over at the allotments, curly and flat leafed parsley in another jar and my family sized yellow teapot which gets a big work-out when my sister-in-law visits from the UK.

Herbs and flowers from the allotment

A posy from the allotment

Here is a close up of my herb posy. curly parsley, flat leafed parsley, rosemary, nasturtium and a few sprigs of flowers. I have mentioned in previous posts that we grow flowers over at the farm to attract the bees and beneficial insects. Hopefully these few sprigs won’t be missed too much.

Here is a bit of a ‘still life’ with my curly parsley and trusty yellow teapot, but I thought you might also be interested to check out the view through the window. Palm trees – and the lovely old wooden Queenslander house across the road to the right of the photo.

'Still life'

‘Still life’

I’m on a bit of a roll now I’ve got the camera out …….

Ready to make a pasta sauce

Ready to make a pasta sauce

The tomatoes are ripe enough so I’ve moved them over to the stove ready to make a pasta sauce with the onion, red capsicum and the freshly picked sweet basil from over at the allotment.

Yoghurt

Yoghurt

I made a litre of Easiyo yoghurt overnight, it’s ready now to put in the fridge. I thought I’d show you this photo because you can see my lovely old pine table. It was a sad old table when I first bought it, covered in old linoleum which was nailed down. Once I had removed the lino and given the table a bit of a sanding down it revealed the lovely old green streaks in the pine wood.

I don’t have much bench space in the kitchen so I use this table in the old fashioned way before we had fitted kitchens. I do all my food prepping and baking on this table and I wouldn’t part with it.

Just a couple more pics ..

Lemons from Maria and Peter's tree

Lemons from Maria and Peter’s tree

I still have a few of these huge lemons left from the bag that Maria and Peter bought over last week. They are the juiciest I’ve ever come across. Maria and I used some of them last week in our marmalade and I’ve been juicing them since then. I managed to fill one ice tray with the juice from just one of these lemons.

lime and passion fruit from the farm

lime and passion fruit from the farm

“Ok, so it’s just a bowl of fruit” I hear you say. Not just any bowl of fruit, the lime is grown in Beelarong’s fruit forest and the passionfruit (black with a little stork in the picture) is from Leona’s passionfruit vine over at the farm.

So there you have it. I reckon with the food sitting in my kitchen I have just about covered every vitamin from A-Z.

Anybody knowing the Brisbane climate would realise that I can only have food out like this during the winter months. In the summer, apart from the tomatoes, everything lives in the fridge.

(Just a note for people who have only recently started to follow this blog. You might hear me talk about ‘the farm’, ‘the allotment’ and ‘Beelarong’. They are all one and the same thing really. My allotment is part of Beelarong Community Farm.)

Nigel, have you noticed I’ve managed to complete a blog post without mentioning a choko!

Happy gardening.

Allotment update and workshops at Beelarong Community Farm

I have been a bit lazy with my blogging recently but there is plenty going on over at the allotment. Our best growing season in Brisbane starts in April as we have fewer bugs invading our vegetables and the sun is not so fierce. We are still in autumn here but with the drop in temperature you would think it was winter already. Dry and warm during the day but with the temperature down to 11c degrees tonight.

I have already harvested generous amounts of silver beet, and enough sweet potato, beetroot, rocket and lettuce from my allotment this season to keep me happy. I picked a good handful of curly parsley today to make a parsley sauce to go with fish for tea tonight. I just love that aroma when you chop freshly picked parsley.

I’ll take the camera over to the allotment tomorrow so I can post a few pics of my veggie plot. I meant to today but once I finished watering it was time for me to hot-foot it over to the covered area for a workshop.

I have mentioned before that we  hold workshops over at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment. Today we held one of our regular Cob Oven Cooking workshops.

Here are a few pics I took this morning. The first thing we did was to take a walk around the farm to collect vegetables and herbs for pizza toppings and root veggies and tomatoes to roast in trays, topped with a selection of freshly picked herbs and with a big glug of olive oil.  Dessert was baked apples. Delicious.

Loading the cob oven

Peter ready to load up the cob oven

Below, tomatoes, turnip, squash, aubergine, choko and herbs all picked from the community garden – food miles just a few metres.

Roasted vegies ready for the cob oven

Veggies ready for roasting in the cob oven

Another tray of delicious 'home grown' veggies

All grown in the community garden and tended by volunteers

Craig had prepared a yeast bread mix overnight. We each took a small handful of dough to prepare our own individual pizzas. The cheese and salami supplemented the veggies and herbs and we picked some of those tiny really hot chillies for the folk with an asbestos mouth.

An individual pizza ready for the oven

An individual pizza ready for the oven

The cob oven smoking and ready to go.

The cob oven smoking and ready to go

The cob oven smoking and ready to go

Another workshop next Saturday

I have cut and pasted  these details below from the Beelarong website.

Preserving your fruit and/or vegetables

When: Sat, 1 June, 09:30 – 11:30
Where: Beelarong Community Farm, cnr of York and Beverley Streets, Morningside.
Description: Come to the farm and learn how to preserve your fruit and/or vegetables. Depending on what is in season you’ll be collecting the produce from the farm to make either chutney, jam or relish. Cost is $4. To book please call Beelarong Community Farm on 0401 168 657
Happy gardening.

Water conservation at the allotment

I’m putting the allotment to bed for the summer.  This week I ripped out the lettuces that had bolted, and the climbing beans that had done their dash before covering the whole allotment (all 16 square metres!) with another layer of sugar cane mulch.

The water bill over at the farm has escalated to such a degree through the past dry months that we have been asked to be more diligent with our use of water and a good layer of mulch is the answer.  After watering it keeps the moisture in the soil, and it protects the soil from drying out in the hot sun. It reached 32c degrees today.

So although I mulched a few weeks ago I topped it up. That should be enough now to take me through the summer.

The summer crops are planted – zucchini, Lebanese cucumbers, eggplant, melons and pumpkins. I also have a small bed of dwarf beans which are flowering but have already been attacked by rust on the leaves. The hot humid weather seems to bring all the pests and diseases with it.  Despite that, it never ceases to amaze me just how much stuff I manage to harvest.

I am growing capsicum and tomatoes in pots on the balcony at home so that I can give them daily care. It’s rather thrilling to see the little capsicums emerging, and I’m rather proud of the single tomato now growing strong.  (I know. I don’t get out enough!)

I realise that a photograph is straw is not very exciting. But here it is anyway.

Lebanese cucumber – keeping it’s roots nice and cool

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.

A busy day at the allotment

I had a busy day at the allotment yesterday. There is always the weeding and the harvesting to do but this time I wanted to clear out some old crops and do some fresh planting.

I had nothing pressing so thought as the weather was absolutely perfect in Brisbane, clear, sunny and not too hot it would be a lovely way to spend the day.

Upon arrival I had a good chat with my allotment neighbour Tim and admired his sweet potato patch. He showed me the bags of sweet potato he had harvested that morning and I just hope his wife has her recipe book out because I know who is going to have to deal with them. He was generous enough to give me a couple of these wonderful tubers – I love sweet potato, especially roasted in the oven. I was able to reciprocate with my crunchy radishes.

Then a couple of visitors to the farm rocked up and questioned Tim and myself about how you go about getting an allotment. They were a nice couple and that took a while of course. And they left us with a possum joke – see my earlier post.

Time eventually to get down to work. I started by ripping out the wizened pea plants. I was still able to harvest the last of the peas but basically they had done their dash. The cherry tomato plant was in the same state so out it came, but not before I had gathered the last of the little tomatoes. I am going to cook them tonight in my pasta sauce.

Then I got my big fork out and turned the ground over. Not sure what will be planted there yet, I need to feed the soil first anyway.

The next job was to weed the whole plot (I only have 16 square metres so it’s not a scary job to tackle).

By the time I had finished the weeding it was time for lunch. This meant a trip to Bunnings (hardware store) and their weekend sausage sizzle. Stuff I don’t normally eat but tasty as all get out. They slap a sausage onto a piece of white bread, smother it with fried onions and then you add a generous squirt of the sauce of your choice. Tomato, barbecue or mustard. I noticed one particularly adventurous diner eating his swimming in both tomato and mustard sauce. It cannot be done elegantly as he was able to display! I have a theory that the reason folk visiting Bunnings at the weekend wear their daggiest clothes is not because they are taking a break from the gardening or the DIY jobs – it’s because they don’t want tomato sauce on their best clothes.

I got off lightly at Bunnings’ gardening department on this occasion, buying only a punnet of Rainbow Silverbeet.

Back at the allotment I planted the silverbeet then used the farm’s watering cans to give a good dose of liquid fertiliser around the plot. The last job was to get out the camera ….

Weeding done and liquid feed watered in

Rainbow Silverbeet seedlings planted and watered in

Hollow Crown parsnip plants just popping up their heads

Baby Beets looking a bit straggly, hopefully they’ll pick up as I’m planning to pickle them – I have the jars and vinegar at the ready but looks like I’ve got a bit of a wait.

The curly parsley’s looking good

A pansy just starting to bloom up the corner of the allotment

Tomato plants and dish cloths

This is a lovely time of the year to be gardening in Brisbane. Yesterday morning was warm and sunny, a pleasant 25 degrees.  My first job of the day over at the allotment was to knock in more stakes to support the cherry tomato plant.  It is really hard to raise a decent tomato at the farm as it’s a case of ‘fruit fly rules’.

The only tomato that seems to be ignored by the fruit fly is the cherry tomato, and they are so prolific over at the farm they grow like weeds.  The seedlings pop up all over the place, and not necessarily where you want them, but I made an exception a while back when I found one particularly strong little critter growing on my allotment.

It has been providing me with a steady supply of tiny tomatoes for a few weeks now. And they are so sweet. But they do tend to go a bit rampant so I knocked in even more stakes to support this plant.

I needed something to tie the plant to the stakes and re-cycled an old chux dish cloth, cutting it into narrow strips. I have tried string in the past but it’s a bit harsh for the soft tissue of the tomato plant. It’s lifted the tomatoes off the ground, so hopefully I’ll be picking tomatoes for a while yet.  Does look like it’s wearing hair ribbons tho’.

Should have left the red tomatoes on the plant until after the photo but I had already picked them for my lunchtime sandwich, and a few more to go on top of my pasta dish for dinner.

Still plenty of green leaves in my little salad greens area, picked some leaves to go with the tomatoes for lunch.


I need to keep salad greens coming along so here are the new Drunken Woman lettuces filling out. They’ll be next. You can also see the tops of a row of harlequin carrots. I only have a small allotment, so I plant in small rows, but it also cuts down on waste.

Linda Brennan will be giving one of her interesting workshops at the farm this morning. More about that in the next post.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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