Tuesday, 28 September 2010

hellebore seeds

The other day I noticed that my hellebores are forming seed heads.  They didn't do this last year so when I first noticed them I was shocked - what strange and beautiful shapes!  I don't know what they'll look like when fully developed, but I've heard they'll self-seed and spread which is fine by me.  I like this photo, it almost looks abstract, so I set it as my desktop background.  Enjoy!

my little terrarium

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/terrarium1.JPGMonths ago I got it in my head to put together a little terrarium for the kitchen window.  I got the idea from the website Etsy (an amazing website of hand-made and vintage stuff) and thought to myself, why pay money for that when I could make one myself?

All it takes to start is a decent-sized jar, I got this one from an Op-Shop for a few bucks.  I was very happy to find one with a nice glass lid.  Then you just fill it with a little bit of dirt, rocks, or sand, whatever looks prettiest.  I recommend putting it on a bit of a slant to make it easier to see.  Then have a look around your garden for some moss - check a shady corner of your lawn or the cracks in your driveway.  Lay it on the soil, filling in to cover the whole surface, and give it a little bit of water.  Once you put the lid on, you shouldn't have to water it again for months.

Many terrariums come with little plants in them but I quickly learned that doesn't really work.  This is a photo of my first go: I chose some moss from my lawn that had a few little oxalis in it.  They were so tiny, I thought they'd be perfect for a terrarium.  But within a few weeks they'd done this - grew long and lanky and filled the whole thing.  Now some people might think this looks cool but I just thought it looked ugly.  So this weekend I finally got around to starting over.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/terrarium2.JPGThis time I decided to use some pebbles as well as soil, and just stick with the moss.  If you look around you might find there are actually several different types of moss about, I think I found three.  It doesn't look like much in this photo (I hadn't watered it yet and the moss was very parched).  But already I can see some of the moss putting up little tiny "flowers".  They're not proper flowers but they look like little crane bills.  When they get bigger I'll try to get a photo.

What I really need next is a little ornament to attract the eye, like a little red mushroom, a tiny birdbath, or (the thing that first caught my eye on Etsy) a tiny person pushing a lawnmower.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

spring planting

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/strawbsept.JPGThis weekend has been the first properly warm herald to spring.  It's not thin, winter sunlight, it's warm rich sunlight.  I took advantage of it today to do some important yard work, and found myself sweating and having to stop for a water break!  I'm sure we'll have more cold spells before the summer, but it's so wonderful to have a bit of warmth after a long cold winter.  Although I'm not appreciating the cabbage white butterflies that area already flitting about, eying my last broccoli plant.

First I planted out some strawberries that my work colleague gave me in return for some tomato seedlings.  I thought long and hard about where to put them - do I give up a precious pot?  Do I have any suitably sunny place for them that isn't in a pot?  Finally I decided to plant them on the north side of one of my cumquat bushes.  I know that citrus are greedy feeders and don't like competition at their roots.  But it's not like I eat these cumquats!  I more struggle to keep them compact.  Both the strawbs and the cumquats will enjoy rich compost and fertilizer, so we'll see how they go.  The strawbs should also enjoy the warmth from the flagstones.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/tomsplanted.JPGBut the main project this weekend was to plant my tomatoes!  I finished off the last of the Chinese broccoli (yum) and skimmed off about two buckets of old potting mix into the compost bin.  I knew the soil would need a good refreshing for heavy-feeding tomatoes.  I'm glad I dug right down to the bottom of the planter, because I found the bottom layer of soil was just starting to get a bit compacted and waterlogged.  I mixed a bit of sand in at the bottom to help with drainage, then mixed in a few buckets of manure mix and some of my worm casings, as well as fertilizer pellets.  Then I used our new cordless drill to get last year's wood frame into shape.  Having a good drill makes all the difference, it went together like a snap this year.  I still need long cross-beam supports to keep the stakes from bending in at the top, but that can wait.

I planted an Oregon Spring on the right, it should stay fairly compact and make smallish red tomatoes.  On the left is a broad ripple yellow currant tomato, it'll likely get very large and sprawly but it should have lots of yellow cherry tomatoes.  And just there in the doorway you can see Percival surveying his territory!

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/cliviasept.JPGFinally I couldn't resist getting a snap of my clivia even though they're not quite blooming yet.  Last year only the one on the far left bloomed, this year all three have blossoms coming in.  And the little begonias I planted last summer have survived the whole winter without complaint, so I reckon I'll just leave them be for this summer.

I love the spring!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

mmm gai lan

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/gailansept.JPGI finally planted enough gai lan (Chinese broccoli) to really enjoy it.  It grows quickly but you need 2 stems worth to make a small portion, more if you're feeding several people.  I have 8 plants reaching maturity and yesterday for lunch I ate two in my favourite way - stir-fried quickly with garlic and oyster sauce.  And in this case I had it with some pan-steamed dumplings from the freezer.  Now that was a great lunch!

Otherwise, here's just a few snaps from around the place.  My snow peas are still chugging along.  Although they're a "bush" type, they're still a bit leggy.  They outgrew their teepee and I've had to flop it back over the twigs a few times.  Next year they'll get a bigger teepee!  The broad beans (behind) still haven't set pods and I'll be wanting to use that pot in a few weeks.  I don't think I'll wait around for pods in the end.
I feel like I take this same photo every year but I do love my spring stars! 

Saturday, 11 September 2010

spring spring spring

Spring is well and truly here!  We're getting more and more days that touch on 18 degrees and the last week has had a fair bit of sun.  The days are longer, the fruit trees are flowering and deciduous plants are starting to break dormancy.  Here's my little Japanese maple, bursting with life in its new home.  It has lost a bit more of its tip growth but I'm hoping this new spot will see it thrive from now on.  I love how vividly golden the first growth is, it's actually tinged slightly with red too.

This is that little Brunnera "Jack Frost" I mentioned.  Almost not worth the photo at the moment but isn't that foliage lovely?  By next spring it should fill out to around a half-metre clump with blue flowers that look exactly like forget-me-nots.
And I can't stop taking photos of the hellebore!  I can't quite believe just how many flowers they put out!  Last year only one clump had any flowers and it only had a few.  This year all three clumps are covered with blossoms that start out dark purple and fade to mauve.
Unfortunately, my cavallo nero has also felt the call of spring and decided to flower.  It's kind of cute actually, a little mini broccoli head.  Shows you how closely related the brassicas are (broccoli, kale and cabbage).
This is the purple-sprouting broccoli I started late in the winter.  I don't know if it'll grow fast enough to harvest a head before I want the pot for a summer vegetable.  But in the meantime the radishes I planted around it are coming in really well.  They should be ready to start eating within a week.  I'm thinking I'll make a salsa with tomato, onion, radish and parsley.
Finally, I had to take a picture of my compost.  In the autumn I ran out of room and had to leave a lot of the fig leaves under the tree.  They became absolutely full of worms, which all got dumped in the compost bin once there was room.  And now whenever I turn the compost, it's packed full of them.  The photo's pretty blurry but it gives you an idea - there are even more than this but they instantly shy away from the light.
Mmmmm that's good compost.  I've actually run out of space for compost in the beds where I usually put it.  I went to put some under the hellebores and realised there was already so much of the manure/soil mix that any compost would start to bury the plants!  I'm going to have to start putting it on plants I don't usually bother with, like the cumquat trees or the birch trees out the front.  Better to have too much of the stuff than not enough, I say.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

the fig tree's annual haircut

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/figprune1.JPGI'm not very good at remembering to take "before" pictures but for once I did!  This is the fig tree this winter.  It gets a haircut each year to keep the branches from going too crazy.  last year I focused on keeping the branches from dragging on the ground.  This year I decided there were too many large, long branches growing upward.  Great for the birds, not great for me.  And besides, on pretty much any fruit tree branches that grow upward produce less fruit than branches that go sideways (laterals).

Ihttp://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/figprune2.JPG spent several weeks at this, waiting for weekends with good weather.  I filled up two council bins worth of branches before I was satisfied.  I'm not very confident on ladders but for some reason I was happy to scramble up to get amongst the branches.  The worst were some of the really big upward-growing branches right in the middle of the mess, with fig branches clawing at me from every side.  But now it looks like this.  The picture isn't very good but you get the idea - a lot fewer upward-branches and a general thinning out.  I hope it's another good crop this year!