Sunday, 28 February 2010

autumn planting

One of my favourite parts about gardening in Melbourne is that because we don't get winter frosts, we get two vegetable growing seasons. Summer is for tomatoes, pumpkin and melons, but it's when you have to fight the heat with shadecloth and lots of extra water. Winter is the easy growing season as the rains are much more steady. So it's a joy to sit down around February and plan for my winter veggies.

On my list this year are:

  1. Broccoletti - I grew broccoli last winter but I want to try this small, thin type grown for its thin tender stems and slightly milder flavour
  2. Broad beans - probably not worth the really long growing season but I'll grow one plant
  3. Kale - cavallo nero is a Tuscan black kale that's just magic in a winter minestrone
  4. Chinese broccoli - aka Chinese kale aka gai lan aka kai lan, it's so tasty with oyster sauce
  5. Snow peas - I have a helluva time getting good harvests of these but I'll give them one more shot this year; rather than going for pretty heirloom climbers I'm going for a standard Oregon bush-type
I still have to wait for the potatoes, pumpkin and melons to finish and it's too early for peas. But this weekend I planted the brocoletti and the kale where the tomatoes used to be. Here's hoping for a good harvest!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

a little hedge trimming the back of the house runs a long bed.  It alternates between camellias and tall pine hedges.  The camellias have always struggled - they get shade all winter but sunburned in the summer.  Each year they seem to lose as many leaves as they put on, and most of the flowers get eaten by the possums.  Still, last autumn I replaced two that had died.  They're doing ok, but another one has died this summer.  I feel like I'm fighting a losing, uphill and expensive battle.

In the meantime I hate the pine bush on the end closest to the melons.  It shades the bed in the summer and because of it one of the melons never set fruit.  It's actually taller and thicker than in this photo but I'd already cut a chunk out of it before I thought to take a photo.

So I decided I was done mollycoddling precious camellias along.  The dead one is coming out and I'll try to transplant the other.  I'm slowly going to replace them all with agapanthus, a plant that's nearly indestructible in Melbourne.  I actually have a plant that's formed a cluster of 5 or 6 that I'll transplant. 

And though I'll keep two of the pines, the one on the end has seen its last days. was a lot easier to cut out than I thought, the wood is very soft.  I'll wait a few weeks for the next step; the agapanthus you could transplant in the middle of a heat wave but the camellias would appreciate cool weather.  It's starting to cool down for autumn but we could still have some high-30 weather before the end.

Speaking of autumn, you can just see the wilty pumpkin vine in the very corner.  It gave a very bad showing this year, only two tiny pumpkins and I'm a bit worried about them ripening before the vine fully carks it.  I did a lot better last year with the potimarrons but this year I planted them far too late. speaking of unsuccessful plants, I give up on chillies.  I've had grief germinating them, I've had them barely ripen before autumn, and this year I didn't get a single fruit.  Just a lot of flowers that dropped and a lot of leaves that fell off.

Monday, 15 February 2010

first fig and a magnolia blossom though it got a good hair cut this winter my fig tree is loaded with figs, if anything it seems like more than last year.  I could tell they were almost ripe because of the unmistakable cloying sweet scent that I adore at this time of year.  A few of the early figs had already been pecked at but yesterday I was surprised to find an untouched ripe fig.  It was a bit bland in flavour but that's probably because we got 30mm of rain on Friday.  Lots of rain right before ripening tends to make big figs but waters down the flavour.  Indeed today after work I found two more fat, ripe figs, but one of them has split.

If the rain holds off a bit the others will have a better flavour when they ripen.  Not that I'm complaining about 30mm of rain!  They're talking this up as the end of the summer's real heat but I'll believe it when I see it.  But I've got to admit it's been a lot nicer this summer than last - only one or two days above 40, and rain showers every week or two.

And finally I want to leave you with this beauty.  I thought my little gem magnolia only blooms once a year but here's an autumn bloom!  It's just a shame they only seem to last a day or two at most.

edamame soybeans decided to grow edamame soybeans this year.  They're a variety you eat fresh; you just steam or boil the pods, add some coarse salt and pop the beans out of their pods.

I planted four bushes in the spring.  The back two are dead or nearly so.  One of the front two is about three times the size of the other.  This is only because of the different amount of sun this bed gets.  There are high fences on the west and north so only that corner gets any amount of sun.

They struck me as pretty delicate plants.  I had to stake them because the wind was whipping them over and almost snapped one.  They kept getting nibbled by bugs.  I hardly ever watered them, wondering if it was worth it.  But then one day realised they were blooming! don't have a photo of the flower but they're like absolutely tiny pink pea blossoms.  So tiny I thought they'd died when I saw them shrivel - surely they were meant to get bigger before turning into beans!  But no, they're just tiny, and now the big plant is covered with fuzzy bean pods.

I thought the smaller plant was a complete write-off but it turns out it also has beans.  It doesn't have very many but they're actually the largest pods so far.  I'm not 100% sure when to pick them, they're almost as big as the ones I've had before but still quite thin.'t be long before I'm tasting!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

happy valentine's day

A bit of red to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

supermelon! after my last post I found this guy.  I can't believe I missed it for so long but there you go, it was hidden under the leaves.  It got a hammock too and it's my biggest melon so far.  I do believe I'll end up with more melons than pumpkins this year.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

vines update

I'm so excited about my first melons that I have to share more update pictures.  Look at this little fuzzy melon!  It's still small but I don't know how strong the vines are so it got its little hammock this week.  I've started going out with a paintbrush to help the melons along, so there are a few more that I think have "taken".  For the record, pumpkin flowers are early risers but melon flowers are lazy - they don't seem to open until the sun is on them so I've had to do my rounds twice a day.
The pumpkin vine is doing something weird.  One of the branches is wilting during the day.  You can see here that it looks like it's about to cark it.
But by the evening it recovers.  I noticed today that about halfway up that branch it's a bit kinked from where it went behind that black mesh. So I'm going to cut the mesh and hope releasing the kink solves it.  There's now a second pumpkin on the longer, stronger vine there on the right but I'm hoping for more than 2 before the season's over.

RIP tomatoes

It's been less than a month since I diagnosed my tomatoes with fusarium wilt. In that time they've continued to ripen, I've gotten about two dozen rouge de marmandes (minus a few more with blossom end rot) and several cereal bowls worth of Tommy Toes.  But the plants went from this on January 17th:
To this on February 6th:
The poor things hung on for a while but once they started downhill they went down fast.  On Wednesday I picked another set of ripening Tommy Toes but the seeds inside were black.  That's when I decided they had to go, despite a few more fruit desperately clinging on.

But when I went to complete my diagnosis I was in for a surprise.  This is what the inside of the stem looked like:
Those white bits are perfectly healthy tissue.  With fusarium wilt they're meant to be discoloured brown, like this.  So now I'm confused and frustrated.  Did they really have wilt?  Should I have pulled up the plants or left them longer?  If it wasn't wilt what else could have made them cark it so quickly?  And how do I keep this from happening next year?