Category: Gardening (general)


A New Arrival

A new pet? A small child? Pretty close – I have, with hesitation, introduced an orchid into our lives. I have always felt orchids indicated that next level of obsessive gardening, indicating a point of no return. The more time that goes on however, I struggle to see why that’s a bad thing. orchid 2 I fell in love with orchids back when I went to the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show in March, which had the most spectacular display, and the desire to own one has gradually been building ever since. With a nursery voucher left over from my birthday (to get something special) I found myself last weekend contemplating taking home an orchid. At the time, I decided the responsibility was too great and wandered home. However that very same day, my partner Chris came home after helping clean out someone’s house with what he described as a bag of leftover, unwanted soil. I wandered outside to find a small bag of orchid potting mix – surely it was a sign! The next day I found a “beginning with orchids” book on sale for $10. I took that as a sign too…

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So today I ventured out with the knowledge there is no turning back. At the checkout the cashier said “oh you’re taking home a child!” which did make me feel a little better about the over-exaggerated feeling of responsibility growing in my head. She also made a comment regarding it not being too expensive if it dies. That really cemented it for me as my stubbornness boiled up thinking “I won’t kill it!” It’s now pride of place on my desk, beaming back at me. I’m also looking for names for my new “pet” if anyone has any funny or creative ideas…orchid 3

Yes – I have a purple cauliflower. And while it is tiny, and probably won’t get much larger than this – it has made me very, almost childishly, excited to know I have a purple cauliflower in the garden at the moment. It’s actually called “Purple Sicily” and I grew it from seed, which has also made me pretty happy as I’ve never managed to grow a cauliflower from seed before. Now all that’s left is to eat… caulie 1 caulie 2

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Spring is well and truly here and the remainder of the winter veggies are fading fast. I’ve already harvested heaps of celery and have been freezing a lot of it for future use. The broccoli is long gone, the broad beans are almost ready for picking, and for the first year – I have had cabbage heads ready for harvesting!

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I have tried to grow cabbage before, but haven’t had much luck. Wombok seems to grow easily enough – but with other types like savoy or red cabbage I seem to only end up with outer leaves and no tight heads (I really grow red cabbage as an ornamental plant! Just love the colour in a mainly green winter garden). However this year I have had a few savoy cabbages grow much better that any previously and last week they were ready for cooking. Although small, I wasn’t deterred and thought I might try a couple of different cabbage recipes for some fun (and it beats cabbage soup – sorry cabbage soup fans!)

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Given how much I love Japanese food, I thought I’d stick with a Japanese theme and make gyozas and okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes). The gyozas were made mainly with pork mince and of course – my home grown cabbage. The recipe did say to use wombok , however I did say I was “experimenting” with cabbage. The recipe (from the cook book “Yoshoku”) also included ginger, garlic, soy sauce, mirin seasoning, pepper and spring onions. Teaspoon of the mixture in a gyoza or wonton wrapper and then they’re ready to go. They are supposed to be deep fried, but I gave them a shallow fry in a little sesame oil instead (made me feel as though they were slightly healthier…as long as I’m convincing myself).

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The okonomiyaki were made with shredded cabbage and some fresh celery from the garden, along with the rest of the pork mince (but you can use chicken), grated carrot, shitake mushrooms, ginger, and then some flour and eggs to bind it all together. Then they are fried like any other pancake which made them quite a quick and easy meal.

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Overall the meal was a great success! Quite rich, but it felt like a real home grown treat. The only problem was the meal, and the cabbage, was gone too quickly! Good inspiration to grow more cabbage next year…

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Spring is here!

Towards the end of winter I planted out my first round of spring seeds. I’ve been keeping them inside next to a north-facing window and had hoped the warmer temperatures and protection inside would convince the seedlings it was spring. It worked! The seedlings are now a couple of weeks old and are looking pretty happy.

Now that they are larger I’ve been very tempted to plant some out into the garden, but the weather is still a little cool and fluctuating… so I might wait till the weather gets a bit more settled. For now, as with every year, our lounge room has turned into a mini nursery – but it certainly has started the spring excitement at our place!

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I’ve had the pleasure of a garden filled with flowering winter bulbs over the past couple of weeks. They have not only brightened the garden, but have been a great reminder of the winter beauty that can exist. But time to get excited – spring is only a day away!

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While it definitely won’t cure world hunger, or even my hunger – a little handful of fresh sugar snap peas from the garden seems like a nice little treat. I had planned to keep them for dinner – but realistically that was never going to happen… I ate them all straight away.

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Sunny Sunday

A new addition to the garden has popped up, just in time for the weekend sunshine…

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I’ve been asked by a couple of friends recently about what I’d recommend to grow in pots, particularly for those living with only a balcony or small courtyard. My initial answer to this question is usually “everything”, because truthfully I grow most things in pots as well as in the ground. Not only does it help expand the limited space I have, but I find it much easier to protect plants from snails and slugs (as they are off the ground and I can use copper tape around the edge). I also find I can access sunny spots in the yard that would otherwise get missed.

However with a bit more thought, there are some I would recommend over others – here is my top 10 list of plants I would recommend for pots. Keep in mind that these are the ones I’ve had success with in my garden, and really the best thing to do is experiment as different things may work better or worse in different locations.

 

Top 10 for pots

1. Blueberries

I must sound like a broken record by now – but blueberries would have to be my top recommendation for pots. They look stunning most of the year and you get food as well! Blueberries prefer acidic soil which can be easier to control in pots (as you can buy acidic potting mix) and they are one of my favourite flowers.  Although I have both, if you’re only planting a couple (plant at least 2 – they do better in pairs) I’d stick with ones that are evergreen to have something visually nice throughout the year.

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2. Tomatoes

Definitely a close second – if I could only grow two things, tomatoes would always be in the top two as the taste of a home grown tomato cannot compare to ones from the supermarket. I’ve had equal success with tomatoes grown in pots and in the ground. I even tried “Florida basket” last year, which is small and compact. Kept in a pot on the deck it was quite cute, but I had a lot more tomatoes from my other taller plants. I prefer growing cherry and grape tomatoes for the massive abundance of tomatoes they produce, however I usually grown several types for a variety.

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Florida basket

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Roma tomato growing in a pot

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“Sweet bite” cherry tomato in a pot

3. Climbing Beans

I try every year to grow beans in the ground and snails always find their way in my protective containers and destroy any hope I had of a crop. The majority of beans I’ve harvested have been from pots. It also gives me a chance to experiment with places to put them and things to climb up, such as my mailbox beans in the photo below. As they grow up, they really don’t take up much space, so won’t overcrowd a small area.

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4. Potatoes

Last year I tried a mix of potatoes and planted some in the ground and some in pots. Planted in winter, I eagerly awaited the harvest in summer. I’d forgotten one thing though – we have clay soil. By the time summer came around and our clay soil had hardened to brick-like consistency in areas (despite my best attempts to work with the soil, there are still rock hard patches) – I realised potatoes in the ground probably wasn’t well thought out. After trying for a while to dig the potatoes out (imagine trying to dig a potato out of a brick), accidently splitting several as I went – I decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble. By comparison I had loads of buttery potatoes from the ones I’d planted in pots and grow bags. I’ll only be growing potatoes in pots from now on.

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Potatoes growing in grow bags – add more soil as they grow

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Potato in flower

Potato in flower

5. Strawberries

While they have grown really well in the ground at my place too – I never make it to the ripened strawberries before the slugs do. I now really only grow them in pots and they look very cheerful too which is a bonus! Mine tend to get very thirsty in summer, so keep an eye on watering.

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6. Baby carrots

As with potatoes, carrots can be a nightmare to get out of the ground. Many times I’ve ended up pulling off the green top of the carrot and have to dig the root out. Baby carrots can easily be grown in pots and harvesting is a lot less effort. Just make sure the pot is deep enough to fit the carrots in.

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7. Flowers

Very broad I know – but if you’re growing veggies in pots I’d highly recommend flowers as well to help bring bees in for pollination. They also instantly cheer up any area! I tend to stick with annuals which grow fast and are pretty hardy. I’ve had particularly good success with alyssum, dwarf sunflowers, petunias and violas.

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8. Broad beans

I grow broad beans in pots and in the ground and I’ve had equal success with both. In the front yard I often grow them in pots purely for extra sun access. I’ve found they are pretty hardy plants and a good winter/spring crop while you’re waiting to plant summer veggies.

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9. Lettuce

Compact and can be grown pretty much all year round. What else do you need?! I tend to use a mix of different types as I like the variety of colours.

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10. Dwarf fruit tree

Although I haven’t had a huge amount of success with my orange tree –I love the smell and the flowers which is why it makes it into my top ten list. As you may have seen in my previous post, all of my fruit trees are currently growing in pots due to limited space. A fruit tree may be a bit a stretch if you only have a balcony, but the “lots of lemon” citrus tree is a very dwarf citrus and some types of fruit trees are even grown specifically for small spaces (such as my ballerina apples). A bay tree cutting will start out pretty small too.

So hopefully this has given those of you with limited space an idea or two past the obvious kitchen herbs. And if none of this seems to work – try cats. I’m extremely good at growing cats in pots….

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winter garden 1 The garden has been plodding along quite nicely lately, with only the occasional fertilisation and weeding from myself. Both the front and back garden are now in full swing and looking pretty lush.  winter garden 5 winter garden 6 winter garden 8 I have been eating leafy winter greens from the garden (mainly mizuna, silverbeet/chard and kale) regularly over the past month as they’ve been doing well, but this week I’ve had a larger harvest – broccoli! winter garden 4 brocc 1 Earlier than expected (they were quite late last year), the broccoli heads have grown and are ready for harvesting. They were probably ready last week, but I thought I’d try to leave them to see if they got any bigger. However as they now look like they’re about to move towards flowering it’s time to feast on them instead. Given the pumpkin soup I made in summer never made it to winter, I thought it was high time to try making some winter soup from the garden – so today I harvested a few broccoli heads and set out to make some broccoli soup for lunch. My recipe included about 6 small broccoli heads, as well as some mizuna, kale, oregano and rosemary from the garden. I also added garlic, an onion and a couple of potatoes to help thicken it. brocc 3 After it was all cooked up (and given a good pounding with a potato masher) – I added a sprinkle of parmesan cheese to finish it off. I have to admit it tasted pretty good! Almost better though was the smell that filled the house of the freshly baked homemade bread to go with it. Too good 🙂  soup 1 soup 2