I’ve put the allotment to bed

Yesterday morning I went over to water the allotment and the bugs had moved in. Three days. That’s all it took. So I know that even though it’s still spring – summer bugs are here.

Fortunately I had harvested most veggies.  But I still had some kale which the caterpillars were revelling in and fighting amongst themselves to see who could eat the most. I had a couple of kohlrabi still to harvest and they were covered in a heaving mass of little white critters. Fortunately the turnip part of the kohlrabi was ok and I just stuck it under the garden tap and they were as good as new.

I have nothing to complain about because this last season, all through winter, has been my best harvest yet since I took over this allotment three years ago. I’ve frozen some veggies, I’ve pickled others, made chutneys, and I still have some left in the crisper in my fridge. I will not starve Dear Reader.

So I have decided to put the allotment to bed for the summer.

I have been working on it for a week or so, adding manure, used coffee grains, lawn clippings and veggie scraps so yesterday I finished the job off with a sprinkling of rock dust to add the necessary minerals. I gave the whole thing a good drenching with the hose pipe which will (hopefully) start it all breaking down – thanks to the piles of horse poo.

Then I used a bale of sugar cane mulch to cover the whole allotment. All eight square metres of it!

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The farm gets in a load and we can buy a bale for $7. A bargain, and it does encourage us to mulch well during the hot months to conserve water. Some of the allotment holders choose to keep going during the summer and this mulch keeps the ground cooler and at a more even temperature.

This is what it looked like when I finished the job. Nice and snug under the thick layer of mulch and the worms will do the work of breaking it all down over the next few months.

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My allotment, lying fallow for the summer. The one in the foreground, with the flowers, belongs to my neighbour. Looks like he has the same idea.

As a reminder, this is what my little plot looked like just a few weeks ago. Allotment heaven. You can see why I need to rest the soil during the summer – it must be exhausted!

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Fortunately Beelarong Community Farm never closes (a bit like the old Windmill Theatre) so I’ll join the volunteers working in the community garden throughout the summer. I’ll be blogging about the goings on there as we toil like peasants in the field battling the ravages of the tropical storms, plague and pestilence of a Brisbane summer.  (OK. So I’m a bit of a Drama Queen.)

Happy gardening.

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.

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.

Good fences make good neighbours

Good fences make good neighbours even over at the allotments.

My sweet potatoes wanted to take over Brisbane one runner at a time and I was having difficulty keeping them off my neighbour’s allotment as the railway sleepers dividing our plots had rotted and the boundary was lost.

No problem. Batman (aka Peter who oversees our allotments) to the rescue. Sawing and lifting these railway sleepers is not for the faint hearted but in no time, and with help from Brian and Tyron, he had two new sleepers in place and peace reigned once again down at the allotments. No turf wars will be erupting between the lovely young family gardening ‘next door’, and me!  Thanks Pete.

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The new boundary

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The new railway sleepers on the left of my sweet potato bed

The weather in Brisbane is still hot and we are getting temperatures of 28c degrees even though we are well into Autumn so I’m going over to the allotment in the early morning to beat the worst of the heat. April is the beginning of my best growing season and things are happening again. I have planted two lots of beans which are coming through. A couple of rows of dwarf beans and the climbing “Kentucky Wonder”.

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Dwarf beans

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Climbing beans “Kentucky Wonder” staring to pop up (in the background with the circular metal support)

It may seem strange to folk in the UK who are used to big allotments to see my two tiny plots of eight square metres each. One is given over to the  sweet potato so to get a variety in the other eight square metres I need to plant small quantities. But it still amazes me just how much food I harvest from my little patch of earth. I even pick enough to pickle sometimes.

Below, you can see the beetroot is coming along nicely, I’ll be pickling it when it’s ready, but you can also steam the leaves and use it like silverbeet or spinach.

Beetroot

Beetroot

Wednesday morning is always busy over at the allotments when we all get together, and volunteers work on the community garden. We break for morning tea at 10am, these morning teas are legendary. As well as cake and enough tea to float the back teeth it’s an opportunity to taste relishes, pesto, chutney and all manner of things people make using produce from their allotments and the community garden.

At morning tea today we were asked for a few volunteers to help pick the rosella’s as the bushes were laden. These rosella’s are used to make jam and raise funds for the farm. Below is just one of our rosella bushes. I don’t look very busy in the photo but I promise you I filled my bucket.

Harvesting Rosella's for jam

Harvesting Rosella’s for jam

Happy gardening,

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

Many shades of green

I find this is the best time of the year to be gardening in Brisbane, during these cooler months.

We have had some wonderful rain showers recently and you only have to look at my allotment to see the benefit.  Healthy plants and so many shades of green.   Here are a few photos taken at the plot this week.

Radish

Potato bed

Salad greens

Italian kale ‘Cavolo Nero’

Lettuce ‘Drunken Woman’ ready to pick

Pouring down and potting up at the allotment

After a dry spell we had a wonderful downpour at the allotment yesterday. It seems to me that one good drenching of rain will do more good in the garden than a couple of weeks of hand watering.

I have been potting up cuttings this week for the Morningside Fair being held on Sunday 29th July. Beelarong Community Farm where I keep my allotment has a stall there to promote the farm and to raise funds too. We sell plants that we raise ourselves and jams made from the fruit grown at the farm. Committee member Di works tirelessly to make this stall a success. I will be writing more about the Fair nearer to the time.

When I was at the allotment on Wednesday I pulled out a large Rosemary bush that was getting very woody making it hard to snip off pieces for my culinary needs, and taking up far too much room. So I am using the bush to start up new plants, one for myself and the rest for the Morningside Fair. This is one of them, looking pretty strong.

Rosemary cutting

Today I’m going to tackle the Brazilian Spinach. I grew this plant from a tiny cutting given to me by Lissa at our local Seed Savers meeting. But that too has rather taken over my tiny plot so I will be taking lots of cuttings from it.

This was the original plant after just a few weeks.

Brazilian Spinach

Now it’s like this – growing vigorously in a corner of my allotment, and I’ve been picking at it constantly.

Brazilian Spinach

I’ll pot up some cuttings for the Fair, but I also want to pot one up for Tatiana who leads our gardening group at New Farm Library. Brazilian Spinach grows vigorously in the sub-tropics where I live, but it seems to be one of those plants that you don’t see in nurseries. So there is a bit of an ‘underground movement’ in Brisbane to ensure it’s survival as we pass around snippets of the stuff.

Talking about survival.  Will you just look at this.  I will never understand Mother Nature. I planted lettuce seeds in the best potting mix weeks ago and after much cosseting up popped these tiny seedlings. (Look hard – they are there!)

Cos lettuce seedlings

Put that alongside this testosterone fuelled plant that is growing valiantly out of a dry brick wall outside my garage.

Happy gardening.

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.

Monday afternoon at the allotment

It has been a beautiful day in Brisbane, 25 degrees, warm and sunny. The perfect day to work in the allotment. I prefer to go in the morning but there was a Labour Day March today which closed some of the roads until midday so I spent the morning at home baking  rye and caraway seed bread.  Very nice thank you with a dollop of my plum jam.  But I digress ….

I’ve been having a bit of trouble on the allotment with caterpillars getting to my lettuces before I do.  I don’t mind sharing – I was brought up properly – but I do want some left for myself.  So before I set off for the allotment I mixed up a special organic molasses and soap brew.  Check out  this link which will take you to Annette McFarlane’s website for the ‘recipe’. She is my guru as she lives in Brisbane so all of her gardening information is relevant to where I live.

Well, I had such a productive afternoon on my scrap of dirt.  Unlike yesterday, which was all sweat and tears.  The climbing frame that I struggled to try to get out of the ground yesterday shot up with a bit of a yank today and left me with a lovely clear bed ready for my new seeds – root vegetables.  I planted parsnips, carrots, beetroot and some organic swede seeds (try saying that when you’ve had a drink) my daughter-in-law had given me.

I sprayed Annette’s special brew over my lettuces, watered the little seedlings I planted yesterday, tied up my rampant cherry tomato plant (it’s taking over Brisbane) and got eaten alive by the midges.  I love Mother Nature. Why does she send me plagues and locusts!!

Before I left the allotment to go home I took a stroll around the farm as I usually do. I love it. It is so peaceful and I am so lucky to have found it. This is the community garden, and it’s surrounded by the allotments. The late afternoon was warm, balmy and just beautiful.

This is one of the gardens Dorothea has started on the edge of the farm, and surrounding my allotment.

I’ll be eating veggies and herbs from my little plot with my dinner tonight. And that’s what it’s all about folks.

Happy gardening.

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