Monday, December 30, 2013

A New Garden Hat

I've been feeling the need for a new garden hat for a while - my old one was a bit small, and the brim a bit narrow. This one was perfect - $5 from a cheap chemist, but lacking in personality.

Next stop was Vinnies, where I bought $3 worth of knives and spoons (needing tools for the potting bench, and don't want to ruin kitchen ones), so added a $1 purple scarf.

I ruched the scarf up with a bit of green cotton, and took the butterflies off my old hat (don't tell anyone, but there is a bat and an angel on there as well).

And voila! I have a new garden hat.

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Shadehouse and Diary


Harvesting seeds from dark blue Lobelia, planted some and Virginian stocks, in small pots.

18.12.2013. Created "new" shadehouse. You can see it on the right - it was purchased about ten years ago with a plastic cover - which finally shattered. It may have lasted that long because its early life was under a shady verandah. So we covered the back and one side with a sheet of wooden sticks (how do you describe that stuff?) and attached some shadecloth at the top.

You can see what the cover was originally like on our newer one on the left. We put shade cloth over the top of this one pretty quick. and have it where there is shade fairly early in the afternoon.

In between the two is our new growing-on area for advanced Hoyas that have not yet found a home.

Had pleasant lunch with a couple who garden-share with Italian neighbours, who grow all their tomatoes from seed. They are saying the same thing as us - the Grosse Lisse and Romas are not growing as well this year - especially the Grosse Lisse.  So since their plants definitely originated from a different source to ours, it has to be the season.

Picked and ate the first Cucumber (Lebanese) for the season. Reasonable sized Zucchinis are common.

First 40 degree day - very hot. Just keeping seedlings and plants alive.

Another 40 degree day. Not happy with the germination of lettuce seeds, went to put some more in, and found a warning on the back of the Lollo Rosso that they would not germinate in temperatures about 30 degrees. We may have the answer, and will try to germinate the next lot inside.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Plaiting the Garlic

Well, the great garlic plant-off is over, and the results are in. It is definitely better to plant in March than on the shortest day of the year - traditional onions these are not.

Every year I have a bit of an experiment with how to plait the garlic, and I think I finally have it.

I always pull my garlic when the tops start to brown off. Reading up a bit, it is suggested you let them flower, and pull them when the flowers die down. I find they rarely flower here before dieing down - in this case the stuff left in longest was starting to show signs of rust.

The process I went through was:

1. Pull each one, and roughly knock the soil off (closest to camera).

2. Cut off excess roots (blunts the secateurs). If you want exhibition standard at this stage wash them as well.

3. Strip back excess leaves. (I usually do them one at a time, but left them grouped for the picture to give an idea of how much to take. I think I could have taken more)

4. Bundle them up at that stage and leave them four or five days to wilt, so the stems become more flexible.

5. This year I rolled the stems fairly aggressively with the rolling pin to try to make them more pliable. I put a flexible plastic cutting sheet between the stem and roller, so my rolling pin would not smell forever of garlic. Bashing with a meat tenderiser also crossed my mind. After all that, I don't think it helped much.

6. Tie together four small plants, and hook to an anchor point so you can get some tension on the plait.

7. Start the plait, left side in to the centre of the other two, then right side in. Add two plants to the middle "cord", making one higher up the plait than the other.

8. Cross the two side cords in, left then right, add two more to the middle. Continue on this way, continually twisting left in then right in,  then adding two at the middle, until desired length is reached, or you run out of garlic.

9. Unhook, and tie off the end - either an overhand knot of the leaves, or tie some string around it and make a loop to hang.

The ones on the left, above, were planted mid-June, the ones on the right (plus the small bunch above) were planted in March. Definitely a higher yield for the earlier ones.

Next year I might try stripping them back even further (to make the stems thinner) and putting three new ones in each addition. Main problem is, just when I think I have the plaiting right, I run out of garlic!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another Mulch, and a Diary

 I am working on another bird-deterrent mulch. In this case it is the one closest to the camera - two fairly heavy stakes on either side of the beetroot. I had to take the cloche off them for another row of beetroot (at the top), and the birds were in there fast. The aim is to make it so hard for them to get to the seedlings, they go elsewhere, where they cause less damage.

That is another row of sugarbeet seed at the top. This time I have dug a shallow trench, filed it with potting mix (hopefully without too many weed seeds), edged it with sugarcane mulch and then planted the seed. I'm having fun trialling things.

This is another mulch version, below. Lighter stakes, either side of a row of carrot seed. As I have run out of cloches and heavy stakes.

Here is a diary of what I have been up to since the last report to the Garden Share Collective. It is a really busy time of year, and I find it easiest to just wander in here and some nights (if I get time), just put a couple of rough notes about what is happening in the garden. I am sure I am going to look back on them to work out what happened when. Every season is so different.

5.12.2013 Planted four seed of Giant Sunflowers from Mr Fotheringill in toilet roll holders - three came up, but the roots were already out of the bottom of the roll almost before the seed leaves appeared, and were showing signs of the roots being damaged. Next time I think I would direct sow. Looking for climbing pea seed to have ready to sow to go up the stems once they get going.

6.12.2013 Planted seed from an eight-varieties mixed lettuce pack from Green Harvest, who are organic growers in Queensland. We tried to do the sums to work out how many seeds to plant to make sure we would get all eight, and gave up. Some seeds are white, some are black, so we have planted four of each. We think if we do this every week we will have a continual and ever-changing range of lettuce. And the seeds (lots of them), are in date to September 2016.

We have also been buying a few seeds from The Seed Collection - very impressed with the prices.

11.12.2013 Cool, intermittent rain, windy.

There are lots of chillies and cappies of various sorts in punnets, coming along from seed.

Soaked some red beet seed for 48 hours, and now keeping damp in wet paper toweling. Roots already coming out, so they need to go in the ground. Getting very interesting in pre-soaking seed - have some carrot in now.

Harvested first two small zucchini, small beans off climbing bean so it bushes up a bit more. Transplanted wild rocket to main beds.

12.12.2013 Planted out Parsnip seedlings (hand raised), some spring onions (commercial punnet), soaked and unsoaked carrot seed. Lots of both Lebanese and Apple cucumbers coming. Potted up the chillies from the ten-years-old seed. And plaited the garlic - more about that soon.

13.12.2013 Quick trip to Garden World in Melbourne. So finally sourced Yates Majestic Red carrot seed. But not as good a range of Thyme as I had hoped. Need to go back to BAAG

Put in a few seeds of Blue Lake climbing bean (from Goodmans), where two of the four un-named seedlings (Brunnings?) have failed to thrive.  I always come back to Goodman's seeds - a genuinely local family firm, where I was honoured many, many years ago to have editorial input to the family history.

Does anyone know any good nurseries between say Warragul and Malvern they would recommend? We are going to be doing that trip a few times in the next few months.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beautiful photos

This is a beautiful series of photos of a woman and her cat in, I think Japan. But it is also a stunning series of a woman as a gardener. Please don't miss this opportunity.

Watering Cans

I have been spending a little time thinking about watering cans. The first in my armoury are the two galvanised iron ones that I have, one being a family heirloom. The modern one holds undiluted worm juice, ready to pour into the other in very small quantities. I need to get a 9l Hortico-style plastic can for that, as I think the worm juice is eating through the tin. I think they are out of the same maker, just a long time apart - the modern one has a screw for the rose (which I never use), and the handle pivots, but they are otherwise the same.

Then, there is the little 1.5 litre (?) Hortico one, that lives on my potting bench. I have to be careful with that, as the dog got to the last one and gave a fair chew of the spout, and it no longer poured properly. But I do like the colour purple.

Then, there are these ones, above, from the reject shop, at $2 each. Which is what started me thinking about watering cans. I needed three small watering cans for my vats of water, and was not prepared to pay the price for three Horticos, so was left with these. I have had various green dinosaurs and pink elephants (and everything in between) in the past, but they neither pour well or load fast.

I was pleasantly surprised by these - the long spout makes it easy to be exact with the application, and the bestest thing (apart from the price) is that they do not block up. Lots of stuff gets into these vats. The worst thing? You cannot pour a lot at once, as it spills over the side of the spout. But I still like them for this application: grab the spout and swing it through the vat and it is full.

However, this is the ultimate. It is the Decor version of the famous Haws English watering can. I see they now do a plastic one too, but the metal ones were more than $140 here when I last checked. And not easy to source.

I found one of these about 12 months ago in my local nursery, and know it was somewhere over $30. So I was delighted today to see one in Garden World in Springvale Road in Braeside (Melbourne) -  one of my favourite places. However, I don't think the $8.95 tag with it referred to it. I reckon mine is worth the price I paid, but I make sure I keep it in the garage, and not out in the sun.

The wonderful thing about this style is the upturned rose, which allows a large quantity of very gentle water to be applied to lines of seeds that have been direct-sewn in the garden. The conventional ones can be a little aggressive, and wash fine seed around. The little precision attachment is said to be good for filling self-watering pots. Certainly it would be easy to reach small seedlings in the middle of a bed.

Probably a bit late to drop hints for Christmas, so you can get one ordered in to a local nursery. But there is always a birthday or next year.

Or this:

This is how we water punnets of seedlings. A can with nail holes in the bottom, in a bucket of water. Nice, gentle and inexpensive.

It is a watering can!

Any garden bloggers out there have a favourite watering can? I would love it if you blogged yours, and left a comment here with a link. If there are enough, I will repost them in another post.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More Kangaroo Paws

Another photo for those who liked yesterday's Kangaroo Paws. We have lost the label for this one, but it might be Mighty Red. It is in a slightly raised bed, but the Head Gardener is 5' 10" (or 177cm in new-speak), so this is one mighty tall Paw.

It has been on a diet of dilute worm wee though.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This is War!

Those bloody feathered fiends! This is War!

You may remember on 1 November, I had a spotto! moment, when the first tomatoes were sighted.

These were developing nicely into a couple of yellow cherry tomatoes, so we decided to have a ceremonial first eating. I went out to pick them, to find the two ripe ones had totally disappeared. Not a sign to be seen.

Bloody Birds! They were on the plant on the right. They will not get any more.

I have also developed a new mulching method for small areas. It is called the "Brick Technique". No bird is going to be able to lift them to scratch out the remains of the red bunching onions. I can target water and the soil stays cool and moist underneath the bricks.

Just wish I had a few more bricks. Might buy a few more pavers.

So here is a bright spot instead. The Kangaroo Paws are in full flight.

Job to be done - return the sundial to its plinth.