Monday, 22 March 2010

more harvests pathetic little pumpkin vine was so far gone I finally picked the two little pumpkins that managed to grow this year.  They're adorable, I love the colour and the little pink blush.  You can see the stems are dried-looking but still very green.  You're meant to leave pumpkins until the stems are brown, dried and dead looking.  Well the rest of the plant was brown, dried and dead, it didn't have one green leaf left, so I took what I could get!

They went into a pumpkin soup last night.  Not the best soup but it could be because they were under-mature.  Not green inside or anything, just didn't have that rich savoury full flavour.

You can also see a lovely little melon on my lap, the second of my Minnesota midgets.  It's the largest one, it just looks so inviting with those bulging ridges.  Unfortunately after getting 60mm of rain in a single weekend not long ago, the melon was once again flooded with too much liquid and this time ended up tasting a bit over-ripe.  I also have to be careful because unlike store-bought cantaloupe, this variety stays fairly green when it's ripe.  But I'll definitely grow them again next year, they're fun! edamame are finally starting to fully ripen.  Just look at how heavy with beans the plant is!  The rest of the plant is in tatters but it's heavy with beans.  I haven't had a chance to try them yet.

On the other hand, my potatoes are once again pathetic.  I actually managed to get more potatoes last year, growing them late in the season, than this year.  They were getting so mite-eaten and caterpillar-munched that there wasn't much green left on them.  You're meant to leave them until they turn yellow and die off before harvesting but I didn't think the tops would survive much longer.  This is all I got for this year's trouble. won't bother next year, two years of failure in a row are enough for me.  But a word of advice to others.  Both times I tried a method people keep swearing works: you plant the potatoes low down in the pot, and as the greens grow you bury more and more of the plant until the pot is full of dirt.  Supposedly potatoes are meant to grow all the way up the buried stalk.  But both years all I got were a few potatoes at the very bottom, and a very long stalk.  I actually wonder if the plant has been wasting energy growing a longer stalk that it should be putting into its potatoes! finally, not a harvest but a note on my new plantings.  This is a busy time of year for the cabbage white butterfly, when people are starting to plant brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale) but it's still warm enough for the butterflies to breed.  Sure enough, almost every day I check my sprouts and find half a dozen white eggs under the leaves.  I've already had to pick off two tiny caterpillars too.  So beware gardeners!  Even my butterfly decoys haven't helped one bit.  The lure of the brassicas is just too much. 

But on the plus side, my brassicas are powering along in this wonderful weather we've been having!  Just when I thought autumn had arrived, we've gotten another flush of 25+ weather.  And it seems Melbourne has had over 100 days in a row where the high always hit 20C or above.  This has blown away the previous record of 78 days in a row in 2000-01 ... oh and there's at least another week of 20+ weather forecast.

Monday, 15 March 2010

bats and redbacks

I'd suspected for a while that possums weren't the only nighttime visitors to my fig tree.  I'd seen bats flying overhead and heard ungodly screeches but never seen one in the act - until tonight!  I took a peak outside and there was a grey-headed flying fox!  By the time I went inside to get my camera it was gone, so no picture, but they look like this.

Now most Australians might think, big deal, in fact, fruit bats can be a major pest.  But as an American they're still exotic and exciting to me!

I discovered a bit more wildlife in my nighttime garden.  I've got a loud cricket near the front door, including one flat dead one the cats probably found.  And whilst looking for the living cricket I found my first redback spider!  I've never seen one before.  It was right up against the house in a thin web and it instantly ran away from the light from my torch.  Their bite is nasty but hasn't been deadly since they created an anitvenom.

After having a bit of a look at the spider I decided two things.

One, that I should explore my garden at night more often.

Two, that I really shouldn't do so barefoot.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

more planting and more lorikeets

I just wanted to record that I planted my next set of winter veggies, some Chinese broccoli.  I find if I don't write it down somewhere I forget and it's pretty useful to remember it! the meantime my kale and brocoletti have sprouted.  My kale had a surprise - a quadricot!  Most plants have two "seed leaves", the first leaves that come up.  Sometimes they mutate and have three leaves, called a tricot.  But the sprout on the left had four seed leaves!  The slightly wrinkled looking leaves in the picture are the first "true" leaves.

I only need one plant though so I plucked out the quadricot, because I don't know if the grown plant would be slightly "off".

And I couldn't help it, I had to take more photos of the lorikeets.  They're skittish and rarely give me such a clear shot, and the lighting behind them was so beautiful.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

melon! Wednesday I noticed my first melon was starting to turn tan.  Seems like within 24 hours of noticing the colour change, it was this colour.  I lifted it slightly to have a close look and it came right off in my hand!  Turns out some kinds of melon make it very clear indeed that they're ripe.

It was a little split at the stem end.  I had been watering them a fair bit in the last few days and it seems that like the figs and tomatoes, they split when over-watered.  The worry was that the flavour would also be watered down. needn't have worried!  Two days later I had it for breakfast.  It looks over-ripe and look at how juicy it is.  The texture was a bit too mushy but the flavour was just right - beautifully sweet.  A lovely melon!  I saved some seed to plant next year. are only two more melons on the plant but I suspect that if I plant them on time next year I'll have plenty more.  In the meantime I have a few little watermelons growing too, I hope they ripen soon.  I might get a lot more fruit splitting though, we got 25mm of rain yesterday, as well as hail the size of marbles.  A seriously crazy storm. soybeans on the other hand are still taking their sweet time.  I split one open to check but the beans are still too small to harvest.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

the downfall of the statice

I love my perennial statice (Limonium perezii) and I've spoken of them a few times.  I planted them almost exactly a year ago and they've been in bloom almost constantly ever since.  I've known from the beginning that they prefer full sun but their shady spot didn't seem to bother them, they've absolutely thrived.

Well.  Until now anyway.

A few weeks ago I noticed them slightly wilt.  I thought they needed water, which is a bit odd because they've never needed a drop of extra water.  Turns out they definitely didn't need water, they needed treatment for powdery mildew.  This is what they looked like at first, and what the one in the sunnier position still looks like:
The one in the shadier spot was looking much, much worse.
I'm familiar with powdery mildew on pumpkin and other vegetables but didn't realise it could hit perennials.  But a closer look under the leaves confirmed it.
In retrospect it's a perfect recipe for powdery mildew - shady, dense leaves, and when I took a look under the leaves there were layers and layers of dead leaves underneath.  Thick matted foliage like that keeps the air from circulating and encourages mold.

The plant in the shadier spot was so far gone that I took a punt and chopped all the leaves off - they were dying so quickly anyway. When it's that far along, fungicide sprays can only do so much.  So I hacked it back to this and doused the stumps in fungicide.  Let's hope its tough nature lets it bounce back.
The second plant I decided to cut out all the dead leaves, the flowers, and several handfuls of healthy leaves too.  Each leaf got a spray on top and bottom and I'm hoping it will fight back.

Even if they die, I've decided I'll replace them with statice.  Next year in the summer I'll be sure to cut out all the dead foliage and I'll try using a milk spray a few times in the summer.  Milk spray puts "good" critters on the leaves that don't leave room for "bad" mildew.  It won't work after the mildew sets in but it could head it off next year.

fig visitors know I spent a lot of time last year gushing about how much I love my fig tree.  But well, I do.  And it isn't just eating them.  I like figs - I don't adore them the way some people do, but I like them.  It's more that in fig season I suddenly have so many friends!  Family and friends and neighbours love them too and it makes me happy to bring them around to people.  And ofcourse they make the birds happy too!

The lorikeets are my favourites.  They always wait a few weeks until there are quite a few figs ripe before coming to visit.  But tonight I met some of the night time visitors who also enjoy the figs.

I'm pretty sure the fruit bats are visiting.  I saw them flying very low in my yard, usually I only see them high above flying between the large botanical gardens in Melbourne.  But when I got out the flashlight to see if I could spot some bats, this is who I found instead!
It's our resident ringtail possum.  You can just see the white tip of her tail holding the branch below her.

I love my fig tree.  It provides more than enough for the birds, possums, bats, and for the humans.