Tuesday, 20 April 2010

brassicas and the final melons

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/brocapril1.JPGFirst, and update on my brassicas.  The broccoletti and kale and the big tub have gone absolutely bonkers!  I think a few pellets of concentrated fertilizer probably helped on that front.  I have, however, been battling and absolute plague of cabbage white butterflies.  Just when we thought winter had begun, we got another seemingly endless streak of warmish weather.  As long as the weather is warm, the butterflies will be breeding like crazy.  I started by carefully scraping butterfly eggs off every day, but after a while each day there were dozens and dozens of eggs and the plants got bigger and bigger.  Eventually I lost ground and a few caterpillars managed to hatch so I resorted to Dipel.

I love brassicas, after the long slow growth of fruiting plants like tomatoes, pumpkins and melons, it's so rewarding to grow a green veggie like broccoli and see them go absolutely nuts.  I should be able to start picking kale leaves for soup in a few weeks, I don't know how long the broccoli will take.  But the butterflies are horrible, next year I'll prop up some kind of gauze or mesh to keep them off the plants.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/brocapril2.JPGThe Chinese broccoli is also getting nibbled as you can see.  I'm seeing if I can squeeze 2 into a pot but only 1 in the other pot to hedge my bets. 

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/melondead1.JPGI left the melons going as long as I could because the green nutmeg melon set three fruit late in the season.  But unlike pumpkins, melons only ripen when there's some good heat on them.  On top of that, as you can see the vine's not doing too well.  It's been hit hard by powdery mildew and an absolute plague of aphids.  This weekend is probably our last warm weekend (25 to 27 for the last four days!  It's meant to be winter!) so I bit the bullet and picked the melons this weekend.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/melondead2.JPGThey were a decent size for mini melons, the one on the right in particular.  As you can see, though, they're still quite dark green between the webbing and they're not meant to ripen after picking.  I left then on the bench for a few days but we're away for a week starting tomorrow so I cut the two small ones open today.

As you can see the flesh is much thinner around the outside compared to the Minnesota midget melons.  They're meant to be green like honeydew melon but not so dark green around the outside rind.  The flesh of the first one was hard and unripe.  Surprisingly, the second one was almost ripe and dripping wet - once again too much water!  So I put the largest one into the fridge to see if I can eat it when we return.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/melondead3.JPGIt may just be the premature harvest but the flavour wasn't that great. I think next year I'll stick with the Minnesota Midget.

focaccia and possum

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/focaccia2.JPGTwo very random things.  The first is that I made my second focaccia.  I promise not to take pictures of every single bread product I make but I was very happy with the improvement on this focaccia over the last one - more light and fluffy this time because its second rise went better.  Thick enough to slice and use for sandwiches if we wanted.  It didn't last enough for sandwiches this time!

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/possfence.JPGThe second is a random photo of our local possum.  I was taking out the compost last night and heard a rustle.  A quick peek revealed that the little poss-poss was caught out behind a shrub at the back fence.  She looked a lot smaller than the big fatty I snapped in the fig tree, so my guess is this is a female and the other was a male.  They are pretty freaking adorable even if they can be annoying.  I'd much rather share my garden with them than with rats (which I have also spotted on the fence before).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

winter plans

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/needfill1.JPGI've been thinking hard about two places in the garden that need work.  The first is the big square bed that used to be the fish pond, pictured here.  After filling it in last year I've spent the year growing vegetables in it whilst I decide what to do in the long-term.  Vegetables aren't a good long-term solution because only the bottom left corner gets enough sun, which is an awful waste of the other 3/4 of the bed.

So I've spent over a year considering what to plant instead.  I really wanted to plant a fruit tree of some kind but I just don't think it'll work.  Most are too big - citrus would want more sun - most smaller fruit trees need pollinators.  So then I moved to considering small ornamental trees like a crepe myrtle.  I want something that will grow a few metres and spread out in a pleasant umbrella shape.  I think this part of the garden would appreciate some proper "dappled shade".  It's a funny mix of boiling-hot sun and deep shade with not a lot in between, and the left-hand bed gets a lot more sun than the right-hand bed.  A spreading tree of summer shade will even this out, letting me plant shadier plants on both sides.  I have dreams of Japanese windflowers to replace the Statice some day (as it's a sun-lover), and probably some more hellebore since it seems to be doing pretty well in the other bed.  A small spreading tree would also be a nice compliment to the oakleaf hydrangea, which will read a decent size in time.  Wouldn't want anything too small or it would be dwarfed by the hydrangeas.

But to be honest I'm not crazy about crepe myrtles and again there's a slight concern it wouldn't get enough sun.  Then finally, a wonderful suggestion from the OzGrow forum, a small tree I've never heard of before called Vitex agnus-castus.  Like the crepe myrtle it's a small deciduous shrub or tree, but instead of white or pink flowers it makes long crazy spikes of purple.  Purple suits me much better, and all the other flowers in that corner are either purple or orange/yellow.  Vitex also tolerates shade better than crepe myrtle.  Hopefully it'll look like this.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/needfill2.JPGThe other tough spot is behind the house where the camellias used to be.  I've considered a number of option but I think I'll go with Murraya paniculata, also known as mock orange or orange jasmine.  It's a member of the citrus family, tough and not fussy, but I was sold on it when I walked past a hedge in flower.  It has the most heavenly scent of orange blossom you can imagine, it actually stopped me in my tracks.

After a bit of deliberation I decided to save the last two pine bushes even though I really don't particularly like them.  Hedges aren't cheap and leaving them means I can buy two less Murraya than otherwise.

But before I undergo either project I need to top up those beds.  I've learned that soil tends to sink quite a bit after a while so it's important I fill up the beds as much as I can.  Which meant a call to Fulton's garden supplies for a big pile of dirt and another of barkdust.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/dirtpiles.JPGI only ordered a cubit metre of soil and a half-metre of barkdust but I reckon I got a lot more than I paid for!  Just like last year I now have a big pile of dirt in the driveway.  It's a lovely soil called a "three-way" mix of two soils and horse manure.  It's quite light and friable and full of organic matter which is just the thing for my beds.  I have so much extra I'll probably spread the love into some of the beds with really inorganic "builder's rubble".

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/needfill3.JPGI've filled up a fair bit now as you can see, hopefully some of the dirt will settle and I can pile on some more.  I've certainly got plenty of time, winter's the best time to plant deciduous trees. 

Exciting times ahead for this winter!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

even more fun with the bread machine - updated!

I've been enjoying making bread in the bread machine about once a week - we eat toast on the weekends so Friday night I'm usually throwing a loaf into the machine. I decided I wanted to branch out and not just learn to make better bread, but to see what kind of breads I can make. I've made pizza crusts, bagels, and the richest most amazing brioche imaginable (which made the most amazing French toast I've ever had). Whilst trying to find resources on bread making the name of one book kept coming up - an out-of-print book called "Rustic European Breads from your Bread Machine". The Easter long weekend has given me time to have a real play.
http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/focaccia.JPGMy first try was focaccia with garlic and sage. It didn't rise properly (I messed up and put olive oil on it before it rose instead of after) but the taste was absolutely amazing - rich, salty and olive-oily. The sage is from the garden which is my excuse for this rather non-gardeny entry.

If by any chance you own and love your breadmaker, take the extra effort to find this book online and order it. I can't wait to bake from it again soon!

EDIT: Two more creations over the long weekend. First I made bagels again using the recipe from the book and quite a few learnings from the first batch. They definitely turned out better this time! Look how plump and golden they are.
And finally, I made a fougasse which is a French flatbread like focaccia with green olives in it. I've got to say, leave the focaccia to the Italians - the French fougasse was downright bland in comparison. It didn't have the rich flavour of the focaccia at all, even though the olives were nice. I'll stick with focaccia.

Friday, 2 April 2010

long weekend

Easter is a long weekend in Australia so it's a good opportunity to get a lot of projects out of the way.  I've got a bit of pruning to do but the big project is to clear out the bed along the south side of the house.  As I mentioned in this post, the camellias in this bed have always struggled and a few die each year.  I haven't quite decided what to replace them with but I'm thinking of a simple hedge of Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom).  It seems to be a nice hardy hedge that will tolerate both the sun and shade of that bed, and twice a year they're coated with white blossoms that smell like orange blossoms. I once walked by a Choisya hedge in blossom and stopped dead in my tracks, the smell was so incredible. 

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/camelliabuckets.JPGI already transplanted one of the camellias last week, I'm going to try transplanting two more to the bed out near the street with the birch trees.  They're currently soaking in a Seasol solution to help them with the shock.  The small one is one of the new ones I bought last winter and the big one is one of the originals.  They both got a trim too to make up for losing roots in the transfer.  I think I'll chop out the pine trees too, they suck so much water and nutrients from the soil.  After that the beds need a top-up of soil before replanting them.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/soybeansharvest.JPGIn the meantime, here's the final harvest I got from the soybeans.  I probably could have gotten more if I'd been happy to leave the ones that weren't quite ripe yet, but that was a bit tedious.  So I just picked off everything plump and put the rest in the compost.

It may not look like many soybeans but I eat them as a snack, fresh from the pods, and don't eat too many in one go.  So it's actually quite a lot for this purpose!  They're absolutely lovely though - not quite as big as ones you can buy imported from Japan but a lovely flavour, rich and sweet like a pea.

Update:  Here's a photo of the camellias in their new home, I hope they like it!