Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Vegetables and plantings for Spring 08

I've been meaning to post our plantings this season and just haven't had a chance to sit down and do so, ...so here goes!

We've made the most of our new garden beds and now seem to have more space for things too.

Bed #1: Most recently planted chicory, raddichio and basil, pruned back the parsely and removed an old parsley bush. About to pull out old celery for composting and have let the chard go to seed for next planting.

Bed #2: Dwarf broadbeans are very healthy here and are starting to produce now - I just love the scent of their flowers too. Also in this bed are some potatoes - Desiree, which are already poking up through the soil. We've also moved some of the herbs here (sage, tarragon) to a sunnier spot (garden bed #3a).

Bed #3a (by the back gate, left of the shrub above in graphic): beetroot (2 rows) and cos lettuce, along with the abovementioned herbs.

Bed #3b + 4 (along the fence as shown by #3 above):  more cos lettuce (as a border), 3 blueberry shrubs (1 early-season,  1 mid-season and 1 late-season variety), corn, snowpeas, galangal, lemongrass, golden and black zucchini, plus a couple of rogue tomato plants. This bed gets really good sun, but will need some attention when it really hots up!

Bed #5: More dwarf broadbeans, chard and celery, plus carrots (2 rows) and garlic. A Silverwood and recently sown yellow squash and patty pans. Also some lemon balm doing really well and some lemon thyme. There's a transplanted parsley bush here too (you can tell we love our parsley). After cutting back the bay tree, this bed gets much more sun and is producing well now. The garlic are almost ready to harvest too. We've also let some of our spring onions go to seed (much to the delight of our bee friends) and will save these for next season.

Our compost is doing really great too! We beefed it up with some cow poo and lots of green waste from our spring clean.

The citrus trees are growing well in the half wine barrels. The lemon has lots of flowers and the kaffir and Tahitian limes each have lots of new growth. I have lots of carrots around the kaffir lime as well - I wonder if this will impact the flavour at all - we'll soon see!

Simon pruned the passionfruit vines right back as well, ready for new summer growth - can't wait for those plump passionfruit to start dropping from the vine!

That's a quick rundown for now, will post as we harvest or as more news from the garden occurs (like our aphid moment!).

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Ladybird warriors

It's almost 2weeks since the aphid infestation on our plum trees, and there's been a marked improvement, helped by ants and those bespeckled garden companions, the ladybirds!


Jerry from Gardening Australia says: "Adults [ladybirds that is!] will consume 2,500 aphids during their life."

That's lucky for us! :o)

I've used the water and detergent solution three times in that time and it seems to had quite an effect - the trees now smell like fresh lemon!

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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Aaaah! Aphids!

I'm a bad bad gardener!

A couple of weeks ago I noticed aphids on the little Hellebora that sits at our front doorstep and thought "hmmm, there's a lot of aphids on that plant, lucky they aren't going for our orchard trees or anything", then thought no more of it (as you do).

Then, Simon says, "I think there's aphids on the plum tree." I'm in denial. "Why would they be on the plum tree? Are you sure they're aphids?"

Sure enough, the poor plums were both covered brown with aphids!! Thank goodness for the Internet! :o) I searched for home remedies for aphids and came across this very practical website titled 'Getting Rid of Things' (including aphids). I noted the method and promptly emptied a pump spray bottle of detergent and lukewarm water over both our plum trees and Clancy's weeping apricot, all the while bemoaning my gardener neglect! More about aphids from the website:

There are many species and colors of aphids. They come in shades of green, red, brown, black and yellow and almost all have fat little pear shaped bodies with several little tubes poking up out of the back end called cornicles. They feed by piercing plants and sucking their juices. In doing so they can transmit viruses that cause yellowing, curling and distort growth. Aphids also secrete a sticky substance
called honeydew that often results in the colonization of an ugly sooty black fungus.

Aphids love new growth it seems (uh, duh!) and have a protective coating which deters birds and other predators from attacking them, especially when they clump in large numbers, as they tend to do. You can disperse them with a good jet of water, but our plum trees are so seriously covered that we'd empty a rainwater tank of water on them if we tried that way! :o)


We will see how the detergent and water trick goes. It's supposed to remove the aphids' protective coating and leave them not only vulnerable to ladybirds, spiders and ants, but also dehydrated, so they die. Ladybirds are a great biological control for aphids. The site suggests some ways to encourage ladybirds into your garden.

Postscript: Day 3 after spraying and so far, so good. The aphid movement has dropped dramatically. Another dose of detergent and lukewarm water in a few days should see the aphids take flight altogether to another poor soul's garden!

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Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Slow food, calm learning

I've just started reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our year of seasonal eating (2007) and I've been reading it out aloud to my daughter, Clancy, aged uh... 2 months (in the hope that she'll take it all in by osmosis). :o)

[Image source: Amazon]

It's a witty read that's for sure. Kingsolver rolls together her family's learnings and some pretty crazy stats and knowledge of the world at large when it comes to food production and consumption, at least in North America anyway.

Since having my daughter, I've been viewing the world in a different light - sort of a 'what if' lens that focused entirely on potential benefits for her! So, of course, given we've been gardening and learning about growing our own produce in our back yard in the suburbs of Canberra, I'm hoping that this will rub off in big chunks for Clancy. I certainly don't want her to think food comes from supermarkets! Take this cute-yet-scary passage from Kingsolver's first chapter (pp. 11-12):

    Steven, also a biology professor, grew up in the corn belt of Iowa but has encountered his share of agricultural agnostics in the world. As a graduate student he lived in an urban neighborhood where his little backyard vegetable garden was a howling curiosity for the boys  who ran wild in the alley. He befriended these kids, especially Malcolm, known throughout the neighborhood as "Malcolm-get-your-backside-in-here-now-or-you-won't-be-having-no-dinner!" Malcolm liked hanging around when Steven was working in the garden, but predictably enough, had a love-hate thing with the idea of the vegetables touching the dirt. The first time he watched Steven pull long, orange carrots out of the ground, he demanded: "How'd you get them in there?"
    Steven held forth with condensed Intro Botany. Starts with a seed, grows into a plant. Water, sunlight, leaves, roots. "A carrot," Steven concluded, "is actually a root."
    "Uh-huh . . . . ," said Malcolm doubtfully.

Now it's over the top, but scarily real for many. I grew up on a farm and can't imagine life without that experience, yet I fall to buying things to satisfy a culinary urge that shouts NOW! Even a trip to the farmers' markets on Saturdays doesn't guarantee seasonal produce, simply because the farmer sells it - cold storage is very often used as are some pesticides (depending on who you might buy from, or talk to, of course), and some farmers are more 'farmers' than others.

I have found our backyard gardening project a wonderful hands on learning experience in which we have become totally engrossed, and now, with Clancy, it is somewhat of a living, productive legacy! I only hope it serves to slow her desires that will inevitably burgeon with the info overload of the 21st century, so she can appreciate the joys of production and consumption following a timeline, rather than the instant-just-add-water promise of cardboard food.

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[image source: Organic Gardener]

If you're interested in the slow food movement check out the site. There's info on organic and companion planting scattered all over the net and in local associations and libraries too. I also recommend the wonderful Gardening Australia program on ABC (now minus the energetic Peter Cundall, but brill all the same!).

So, in the words of a happy and wise gardener, that's your bloomin' lot!! :o)

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