Archive for April, 2012


The winter veggie seedlings I planted a couple of weeks ago are growing strong & looking great! The copper tape has kept them safe from snails and some have almost outgrown their containers.

So pleased with the progress I was taking these photos and went to check the seedlings a little more closely… only to find almost all of them were covered with cabbage white butterfly eggs underneath the leaves! Argh! Lucky I found them before they hatched, but a great reminder that it’s not just snails I have to watch out for….. the war continues….

Sorry Beetroot….

I don’t like beetroot. There. I said it. Actually, I’ve never liked beetroot, but I thought maybe it was because I had always tried the tinned type and (like home grown tomatoes) thought if I grew my own maybe my opinion would change. It hasn’t. Unfortunately I don’t like fresh beetroot either and ended up giving my harvests away to family, friends and neighbours. At least someone got to enjoy them! Fun to try at least, but beetroot won’t be making its way into my veggie patch again anytime soon….

Sunshine & Sunflowers

I really haven’t been blogging for very long – but the support and feedback I have received from people has been amazing and truly uplifting. None more so that a post by Jennifer (http://harvestliberty.net/2012/04/18/versatile-blogger-sunshine-award/) who has nominated me for the Sunshine Award this week. The Sunshine Award is given by bloggers, to other bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire them (i.e. add sunshine to their day).

From Harvest Liberty post: “Penny’s Garden: a harvest beyond my front door — It is also comforting to know that across the globe in Australia someone else like me is venturing into the great unknown of their door yard. I read Penny’s blog not only for this companionship, but also for great gardening ideas and even for the tinge of jealousy that comes from hearing of her fresh zukes when it’s dead of winter here. It is after all that longing for fresh veggies that makes the blisters worth the while.

I am truly honoured and my sincere thanks goes out to Jennifer for her kindness.

There are a couple of rules for accepting the award: display the award’s logo, answer a few questions, and then pass the award along to others. Not a chain letter, but acknowledgement that there are some great blogs out there that really do brighten your day.

I would like to nominate the following blogs (in no particular order) for the Sunshine Award:

1. The Soil Toil (http://thesoiltoil.com/): Great photos and really useful tips, ideas and projects for gardeners.

2. A Little Slice… (http://destiany.wordpress.com/): This blog is an inspiration. A diamond in the rough who’s strength really shines through in this blog. Her post on “I love being the mother of an Autistic Child” really moved me. Highly recommended.

3. Harvest Liberty (http://harvestliberty.net/): Not because of the nomination – this would have been on my list regardless as it is one of my favourite blogs. Jennifer is a great writer and I love hearing the updates of her (definitely jealous worthy) large block.

4. Gettin’ Fresh! (http://gettinfreshblog.wordpress.com/): I love reading Sharon’s blog with all the great gardening tips and updates. She has a lot more wider knowledge of gardening than I do & I have a lot to learn….

5. Bellmeadow Allotment ( http://bellmeadow.wordpress.com/): Fantastic photos – will inspire anyone to get out into the garden.

6. Going Dutch (http://malouprestado.com/): Malou’s amazing tulip photos really motivated me to get some more bulbs planted!

7. Bike-n-Bake (http://bike-n-bake.blogspot.com.au): While a very new blog – the idea that I inspired “Chirpy Ann” (a good friend of mine) to create a blog definitely adds some sunshine into my life! Plus with possibly the best blog name ever – worth checking out!

Hope you get a chance to check out these pages ‘cause they really are worth the visit.

The nine questions I need to answer are:

1. Favourite colour? Purple… followed very closely by red.

2. Favourite animal? How could I choose between my dog and my cat?!

3. Favourite number? 6. When you’re b-day falls on the 6/6 you only need one number.

4. Favourite non-alcoholic drink? Coffee, in all of its addictive glory

5. Favourite pattern? I have no idea….however as a replacement: my favourite flower is, and always has been, the pansy.

6. Favourite day of the week? Saturday – just me and the garden!

7. Preference for Facebook or Twitter? As I don’t have/use twitter, Facebook wins by default…

8. Preference for giving or receiving gifts? Can I say both?

9. Articulate your passion: Gardening! 😉

So what else brings sunshine into my life? This year it was my sunflowers. I have never grown full size sunflowers before (only dwarf ones) and I was blown away by how bright and cheery these giants were. While they didn’t seem to last too long, I couldn’t help but have a huge smile on my face every time I walked past them or looked at them through the window. Definitely a must for next summer!

_______________________________________________________________________

*The Sunshine Award carries the following duties:

• Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.

• Answer 9 questions about yourself: favorite color, animal, number, non-alcoholic drink, pattern and day of the week; preference for Facebook or Twitter; preference for giving or receiving gifts; and articulate your passion.

• Nominate other fabulous bloggers who bring sunshine to your life.

• Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

• Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

Autumn overhaul

The tidy up...

Although a bit later than hoped, I finally found the time to head out into the garden and give it a massive overhaul to prepare for the winter crops. I started by removing all the weeds and dead growth (mostly the remaining summer veggies). During this process I also found a group of parsnips that I’d completely forgotten I’d planted! Hidden harvests – always good….

I then turned over the soil using a fork and spade. For those of you who have clay soil you can sympathise with me for this part (for those who don’t – well it felt like the equivalent of digging up concrete…) I then added gypsum and mixed it in, followed by compost and mixed that in as well. Suddenly my soil had a new lease on life amd was ready for the next round of veggies.

Gypsum followed by compost

Gina helping me dig....

I planted an initial round of advanced winter seedlings including broccoli, red cabbage, wombok and celery (in random order – I don’t like to plant things in straight rows). I’ll be keeping them protected from snails with plastic bottles and copper tape until they’re large enough to fend for themselves. I finished the whole thing off with a thick layer of lucerne mulch and also revamped the dog run which wasn’t looking the best…

The dog run - before and after

Then all that was left was to head inside, bathe the blisters, massage the sore back and feet and collapse from exhaustion! A big weekend of work, but the finished garden is looking pretty great!

Finished!

About a month ago I got quite keen and started my first round of autumn and winter seedlings (see Preparing for Autumn and Winter – New Seedlings post). Not long after this I went on holiday…. Most people would have waited until they came back from holiday before starting their seedlings – but I’ve never been known for my patience. I decided not to leave them outside while we were away in case of extreme weather days, so they stayed under a window inside. I came back to an overgrown mess of leggy seedlings!

I was pretty impressed by the amount of growth, but a lot were just too leggy to plant as they were. A quick internet search about what to do lead to mixed results… a lot of people said leggy seedlings will simply die – just start again. There were a few sites/posts however saying it was possible to plant them up (similar to what you would do with tomatoes) and roots grow in the newly planted section. A whole lot else said the seedlings will rot if you try this… As it felt like such a waste to throw my seedlings away, I thought it was worth a try!

I firstly cleared out all the seed pots that hadn’t germinated at all and then I separated out the seedlings that were ready to go straight into the garden and planted them. I then selected out all the seed pots that hadn’t gone leggy and moved them aside. This really helped to reduce the chaos in the seed trays!

With the remaining seedlings I placed them (still in their paper pots) in the bottom of a standard small plastic pot. Then I filled up around the seedlings with soil to what visually felt like a normal seedling size/length (…the real scientific approach….)

Initial....

...after one week....

...Kale seedlings after two weeks...

Unfortunately I lost a few seedlings to snails in the first week (it really is a constant war… forget and lose the battle) but I’ve put some copper tape around the other pots to help keep the remaining ones safe. Two weeks later and a lot are still going strong! While some have died, there are still many alive and doing well. I’d say a successful experiment so far – more updates to come.

I also have the next round of seedlings are off and running! This time I’m moving them daily to get the best of the sun and so far their growth (and even the colour of the seedlings) has been a lot better.

Next round of seedlings

So yes, initial care is the best method – but is seems not all is lost when it comes to leggy seedlings.

Look what I found….

Look what I found in the garden yesterday morning – the first eggplant of the season!

Yay! Grow my little one, grow!

 

Seed saving

Broccoli in flower with a bee helping create seeds

Given my large run of tomatoes lately I currently have pages of seeds all around our house drying, so I thought I’d share what I’ve found about seed saving. When I first started gardening one of my goals was to learn how to save seeds from my plants because it seemed like such a difficult thing to do. How is it done? How can you it’s the right time?  Will I be able to hold/catch the seeds? It seemed a bit overwhelming at first… but it didn’t take long to find how easy it really is! Mainly because the plants tend do all the work for you….

For example:

Nasturtiums: when the seeds are ready to collect the plant literally just spits them over the ground. All you have to do is pick them up. I usually leave mine for about a week on a tray inside to dry out before storing them. Not that I’ve ever needed to use them though – Nasturtiums drop so many seeds and self sow so easily I’ve never had to regrow any since planting my original 2 plants. I tend to give the seeds away as gifts and I even made Christmas bon bons/crackers last year with seeds in them rather than a toy.

Aquilegia: small seeds, however very easy to collect due to the “cup” design of the seed pods. They dry out and you simply tip them upside down and the seeds pour out. Absolutely no effort required for these!

 

Tomatoes: all my gardening books talk about leaving tomato seeds soaking in water/ fermenting seeds/using dishwater liquid to help separate them. I’m not a lazy gardener, but the whole process just seems too complicated and unnecessary given how easily tomatoes germinate out of the compost. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and spread them over paper towel. Leave to dry for a couple of days then rip the paper up to separate the seeds. When it comes time to plant again I’ve been planting the seeds still stuck to a bit of paper and I’ve never had a problem with germination.

Kale seeds forming

Broccoli in flower

Broccoli and Kale: I actually really enjoy letting Broccoli go to seed as I find the flowers really pretty (especially as by the end of winter/start of spring I’m dying to see something in flower). Where the flowers have been, long pods will develop and I tend to leave them until they look a little “bulgy” (I figure that must mean there are seeds in them!) I then cut off sections and hang them upside down. Keep the seeds somewhere dry like on a veranda or inside if the  people you live with are easy going (I find comparing plants/ seeds throughout the kitchen to power tools and renovations very helpful…) and they will take a couple of weeks to dry out (they change colour when they’re dry). Word of warning though, once dry the seed pods really pop open – I’ve lost loads of seeds over the floor before, but I’ve found opening the pods in a bag can help avoid this.

Broccoli and Kale seeds left out to dry (changing colour)

 


Capsicums and chillies: simply scoop out the seeds from ripe fruit (eg red capsicums not green). Make sure you’re saving seeds from non-hybrid fruit as hybrids will germinate and grow but not set fruit. You can tell this by looking at the original seed packet (will state hybrid or F1 on the packet) and most seedling punnets will state if they’re hybrids. Be careful though as I collected seeds from a broccoli I bought in a seedling punnet (no mention of hybrid or not on it) and ended up with lots of leafy growth and no broccoli head!

Chive flower (no seeds yet) and dried flowers that have formed seeds

A lot of other plants seem to be really similar – flower, set seed and pick off/collect the seeds when dry, or for some veggies scoop the seeds out from an over-ripe vegetable. I initially tried keeping my saved seeds in the fridge (again from book advice) but the seeds went mouldy. Instead I now keep all my seeds in envelopes in boxes out of direct light. Have never had any seeds go mouldy/bad. In as short as two seasons I’ve doubled my seed collection not including all the seeds I’ve given to friends and family. Not overwhelming in the slightest and helps save money too!

Lettuce starting to flower