Archive for February, 2012


Waiting for autumn finally got the best of me – last week I started preparing my first round of autumn/winter crop seeds. I’ve been using paper pots in the last few months to see if it helps reduce transplantation shock, but I must admit I haven’t noticed a huge difference so far. Some of the seeds I’ve planted are probably a little early, some a little late but I’m hoping for the best (and if you never push the boundaries, you never learn what can work!)

So what’s on my seedling list? I’ve planted:

  • Leek
  • Onion (red & brown) 
  • Silverbeet (standard & ruby chard)
  • Kale (tuscan, red & blue)
  • Parsley
  • Endive
  • Radicchio
  • Cabbage
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Broccoli (normal, purple sprouting & romanesco)
  • Cauliflower (normal & purple sicily)
  • Turnip
  • Radish (watermelon & china rose)
  • Kohlrabi
  • Pak Choi
  • Aquilegia (thre types)
  • Freesia
  • English daisy
  • Foxglove
  • Cornflower
  • Larkspur
  • Honesty
  • Nasturtium
  • Stock
  • Pansy
  • Calendula
  • Xeranthemum

 

So with over 90 seed pots on the go I realise I maaaaay have over done it a little… But I really wanted to try some new seeds this year and realistically they’re not all going to thrive.

Like a little kid I race into the “laundry” each morning (it has been a spare room, was then our kitchen and now a make-shift laundry … ahhh, renovations) to check the seedlings which emerge so much faster than first expected! I love checking the progress daily and it’s amazing how quickly they grow. I may have to find a new home for them very quickly though before they become too leggy. Looking forward to more growth & the harvest to come!

 

After reading that Snake Plant/Mother-In-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) can be propagated incredibly easily (in a book by my hero Alys Fowler) – I kept an eye on all my friends indoor plants hoping to find one I could steal a leaf off. Apparently Sake Plants have gone out of fashion recently as none of my friends have it! Although disappointed I did manage to find one on sale which felt like a bearable compromise. I would now really like a new plant for my desk (particularly if I’m going to be spending a lot more time blogging!) so I decided to try the “create your own indoor plant” experiment.

As it goes, all you have to do is cut up a leaf into sections and place into potting mix. Make sure the pieces are facing up (ie correct growing direction) and keep moist.It apparently takes 6-8 weeks for new signs of growth, so no change so far. Keeping my fingers crossed & look out for updates!

In the past week however I have noticed a change in the original pot that wasn’t there before….. A new shoot has emerged from the original plant, so looks like I will have at least one new plant after all!

Other easy indoor plants are avocados. Everybody needs an avocado plant – ask my brother, he has 10 of them!

Creating indoor plants from avocado seeds is incredibly easy!

"Ava" - current avocado plant, with constant new growth looks healthy

"Avie" - last year's avocado plant

All you need is a seed from an avocado which suspended over water (memories of primary school science coming back to me…) will germinate after a few weeks. A new indoor plant is created as easy as that! Seeds from overripe avocados work best and keep them in water until a few leaves have formed. I had one last year that died (& still not sure why) but one I germinated this year is looking significantly more healthy & is a great addition to the kitchen!

Companions in the garden

While I love my pets – Gina (a jack russell x sausage dog…. we think) and Lea (a small tabby cat) – how they see the garden doesn’t always align with my view. This year I have accepted it is not just my garden, it is theirs as well and have tried to adapt the space accordingly.

 

It was an easy solution for Lea. I could continue to have my plants squashed in certain pots that she loves to sleep in (I even tried skewers & sticks which she would also flatten and sleep on), or I could leave a few empty pots to keep her happy. Also I had to accept that any time I picked up the camera she would appear, wanting to be part of every photo.

Gina on the other hand, while small and cute – she’s quite territorial. Make that incredibly territorial. She guards our property from any dog who may walk past by running up and down the fence line reminding them of how big and tough she is (they are never fooled). After watching many plants become trampled and even setting up pots to try and break up her running (with mixed success) – I decided to make a formal dog run for her.

Creating the dog run

One of the hardest parts of the garden to get anything to grow has been the section directly behind the front fence. Gina had compacted the soil with her running and a large tree on our nature strip means little light ever falls there. To try and improve this I dug up all the soil, added gypsum (we have heavy clay soil here which I’ve spent a lot of time trying to break up), & compost and mixed it all in. I created a more formal dog run with small stakes and twine, and planted some shade tolerant plants in which have all taken off with great success! Gina no longer tramples my garden and she remains happy being the “big” guard dog. 

It’s lovely having the company in the garden – the pets supervise every planting and change made, and they have both really enjoyed what our front yard has become. They now spend loads more time in the garden than when we first moved in, enjoying all the new spots created by the new plants (e.g. lying in the shade of a pumpkin leaves) which is really a great compliment.

 

I have accepted now that February always means the inevitable -the winding down of summer and consequently the winding down of the summer vegetables. The leaves of the tomato plants wilt and brown, happy they have provided enough seed to keep the plant’s life cycle continuing. The nasturtiums have died off and already new nasturtium seedlings are growing from the dropped seeds.

While working to clear all the dying growth, I’m surprised as I realise I’m not feeling sad – the whole process feels very positive. I’m moving the garden forward and creating space for the next season’s plants. Clearing out all the dying material (and a lot of the weeds I’ve been turning a blind eye to) also makes the garden seem a lot tidier. With the extra space created my mind is already buzzing with ideas for the next season’s crops. Each season in the garden creates the opportunity to try something new and grow something again. That is something to be thankful for.

My very first tomato seedlings

My first love in the garden was, and still is, tomatoes. One of those original packets of seeds I spoke about in my introductions was cherry tomatoes. Knowing nothing about gardening at that stage I germinated almost the entire packet of seeds and ended up with over 30 tomato plants. Advanced gardeners would have picked out the strongest seedlings, but I was just so excited that I had grown something that I nurtured every single seedling and they all lived and thrived. Everyone received tomato plants for Christmas that year (which I still feel was a pretty good present!) and I received updates on how the plants were doing, and even photos of the tomatoes in salads which was just beautiful. Until then I never realised the pure indulgence and incredible taste of the home grown tomato.

Last year however, despite my efforts I really ended up with minimal tomatoes. (I prefer to blame it on the very wet summer Melbourne had, it makes me feel better…. ) However on the upside the zucchini plants provided us with enough zucchinis to last an entire year (fresh, frozen and preserved).

This year I put my concentrations back into tomatoes, now one of my favourite vegetables. Nurturing seedlings, checking plants every few days to make sure they were growing and supported correctly. Looking back – I may have over done it a tad… my garden now feels like the land of tomatoes!

Regular harvest size

 

I am still not sure why each season results in completely different harvest outcomes (any comments or advice would be helpful!). My zucchini plants look healthy and have grown big, but have produced a disappointing amount of fruit this year compared to last year. The tomatoes on the other hand have thrived this year. Eaten daily in salads or recipes I am nowhere near running out.

Trying my best to eat as many as possible, I have been left with the worry they would go off faster than I am able to eat them. Which only means one thing – preserving! Last weekend I made tomato chutney – a personal favourite of mine. It’s the easiest recipe – put ingredients in a saucepan for half an hour, stirring occasionally. After sitting for a month, the flavour is unbelievable. For me, preserving adds colour to cold winter days, reminding me of the beauty that was the summer garden.  For people that like chutney they make great gifts too.  I also made a tomato soup to freeze for winter, however I doubt it will last that long before I’ll eat it….