Wednesday, 26 January 2011

qarabali zucchini

I was sent some seeds of a Maltese zucchini called qarabali.  I've never grown zucchini before, but with free seed I thought I'd give it a shot.  On Friday it made its first female flower, which I hand fertilized with a male flower, and by Sunday this was here to greet me!
By Wednesday it was time to pick it.  Pretty fast turnaround.
As you can see, qarabali is a round zucchini made for stuffing.  So that's what I did!  After reading a few recipes for inspiration I had a go without a recipe.  Shallots, pumpkin, the insides of the zucchini and some raisins along with couscous and Moroccan spices.  Not all the stuffing fit so I ate the rest as a side dish.
It was pretty tasty if I do say so myself.  The zucchini itself is very mild, almost like a cucumber, so it's better with the stuffing.  Now if I'm lucky, I'll have a massive glut of them before long, zucchini is notorious for either never setting fruit or setting more than you could possibly eat.

goldfish come out to play goldfish were very skittish when I first got them, they just sat at the very bottom of the pond.  It took them a week or two but they've become more bold now.  I've started tossing caterpillars into their pond when I pick them off my plants, and watched until I saw them suck them down in one bite.  I managed to catch them in this shot when they were up at the surface eating algae off the ribbon weed.  Good thing, because the algae was going a bit nuts.  I've stopped feeding them fish flakes until they eat more of that algae!

drimiopsis a morning walk one day, I noticed a neighbour with a whole row of a cute little plant with leopard-spotted leaves and flowers like a small white hyacinth.  I did some research and found out it's called drimiopsis maculata (aka little white soldiers, African hosta, leopard plant) and that it's a tough little plant that likes dry shade.  It's not easy to find, but I found a mail order place that sold them for $3!  So I ordered 3, and was pleasantly surprised to get this in the mail - 3 clusters, each with about 10 pups.  Lucky me!'re smaller than the ones I saw so they're probably pretty young, but I took advantage of the glut and spread them around under some ficus trees.

It is nice when you get a lucky surprise like that.  Hopefully they'll thicken out this year and next year I'll have little white flowers in the early summer.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

more fun with cuttings

The cuttings are doing great in this warmish, damp weather.  The kenilworth ivy all rooted really well, as you an see here, so I decided to plant it out along the narrow front bed under the birch trees.  The blackbirds kick the bark dust into the path all the time, so I'm hoping it'll form a mat that along the edge so there's nothing for them to kick.
Three out of the four salvia cuttings have taken, and almost all the Mona lavender cuttings are taking too.  I don't know what I'll do with all these plants but it's good to have them on hand.  The Mona lavender cuttings in the ground are starting to spring up nicely too.
With a bit of patience, cuttings sure are a great way of getting free plants.  I'm finding that the trick is to keep them moist at all times but not too wet, and to make sure they don't get too hot.

january flowers update

It's not just the veggies that have gone crazy, the flowers are also loving this weather.  My gaura's coming into bloom now and is looking great.  I'm a little irked though.  It's hard to tell in this photo but the one on the left is a bit more pink than the one on the right, even though the label was the same.
The geum is starting to repeat-bloom as well.  Such a dainty little flower!
The ageratum is still small but a few of them are starting to flower.  I can't wait to see these guys at full size.
The vitex is huge!  It was this big when I planted it last year:
Now it's this big and growing every day:
The hydrangeas are starting to fade to pink.  Since this photo, they've actually faded to a pretty ugly brown.  But there's another set of flower heads still coming in.
And the sunflowers are still going strong.  They're obviously two different types as the one on the left is still going and the flower head isn't near opening yet.  The geraniums are doing pretty well too considering.

january edible updates

Here are some updates from around the garden in January.  We've had so much rain this year (hundreds of mms/around 8 inches in just the last few months), plus some very humid tropical weather, which has made the whole garden go absolutely bonkers.  Plants that were going slowly through the cool spring have really started to catch up. 

First, my tomatoes.  They haven't grown too much in the last week or two, but I was very right when I realised they were lacking in nitrogen.  You would think I'd figured this one out before, since the first year I grew tomatoes I did the same thing.  The other good news is the lower leaves are looking OK too, so either the disease has slowed down or it was all just low nitrogen!
Speaking of which, my firecracker chilies are now going spacko since I gave them a shot of nitrogen too.  I'd grown them in a pot that had snowpeas in it, which are meant to "fix" nitrogen into the soil. I've also learned that they end up spending that nitrogen on themselves; they only really put it back in the soil if you plow them in when they're still little plants.  So yeah, mental note for next year: make sure if I re-use potting mix I give them a bigger boost of fertilizer.  I'd put a sprinkle of organic fert pellets but obviously not enough.  In any case, my firecracker now even has one green chili ripening away, plus dozens of flowers.
The cherrytime capsicums are coming along brilliantly too.  Not red yet, but there are quite a few little caps on there.
My basil's doing really well this year too.  They seem to like this weather a lot more: mid-high 20s plus rain and humidity suits them better than past years' dry heat with the occasional 40+ day.  The weird thing is my Greek basil (on the left) is getting die-off on one side.  No idea why, otherwise it's very healthy.  Maybe there are grubs in the potting mix?
My twig is also coming along beautifully.  Both grafts have fruitlets on them, although one has more than the other.  If I get half a dozen fruit to ripeness this year I'll be a happy camper.  And look how green and lush those leaves are!
For a little while it was dropping its lower leaves, which didn't worry me too much.  But it's actually started putting out a lot of new growth from the middle.  That actually makes me happy as it was starting to get a bit leggy.  I'll have to make sure the two grafts have the same number of shoots but look at all that new growth!
The melons are also finally starting to go crazy, they absolutely adore this weather.  No fertilized melons I can see yet.  I should be out there with a paintbrush helping them pollinate, but I keep forgetting to do it in the morning.  And when I do remember, it's raining which makes it pretty impossible.  Also notice how big that colocasia has gotten there in the corner - it's huge!
All of this has resulted in some decent harvests - well, decent for my garden anyway!  The tomatoes are producing pretty well, especially the yellow currant.  This is what a typical harvest looks like for me these days - a few handfuls of herbs and some tomatoes.
Keep bringing on this weather!  I just need to keep on top of the weeds...

Sunday, 9 January 2011

january tomatoes

Just a quick snap of my tomatoes to keep you updated.  Last year on January 17th, my tomatoes looked like this!
This year, they seem to have stopped growing a few weeks ago.  The broad ripple is still going, but the new growth on the Oregon Spring keeps dying off.  The die-off on the lower branches has slowed though, and the Oregon Springs are still ripening (but not making new blossoms).  And looking at those photos, I actually think my toms need a good dose of just plain nitrogen.  We'll see if that greens them up.

early figs

As I mentioned a little while back, I decided to try "bagging" my figs to protect the early breba crop from the birds.  For the early crop, they'll happily start into a fig that's only half ripe.  Well, it sort of worked.
I managed to get one fig out of five.  It still wasn't quite as ripe as I'd like, but it was starting to get so big I didn't know if I could get it out of the bag!  The flavour was pretty good nonetheless, so I'm not complaining.

However, the other bags ended up like this.  The birds were not fooled, they just pecked right through the bags.  Others were knocked off the branches.  Unless I think of another scheme for next year, I've pretty much given up on trying to save any of the breba crop!
I'll have to wait for the main crop, which won't come in until the autumn. Oh well, at least I got a taste of a fig, if ever so fleeting.

Monday, 3 January 2011

my second-least-favourite chore

Other than carrying buckets of rocks or sand, my least-favourite chore in the garden is trimming tall hedges.  We have a tall hedge along the driveway that just gets taller and taller.  I felt unsafe trying to trim the top on the ladder, so I made a practical decision: to trim it only as high as I felt comfortable standing on the ladder!  In this photo, that straight line is the height I cut it to, and those tall things behind the hedge are the back half.  That's how tall it used to be!  I'll have to get to the neighbour's side of the fence to do the other half, but the ground is higher on the other side so it should be much easier.
The only satisfying part is seeing the massive pile of branches I hacked down.  The big hole in the hedge isn't my fault, that's where the ficus trees used to be so the hedge didn't grow.  I hope it fills in.
The depressing part about that pile is that it won't fit in the council waste bin, so it'll sit there for weeks until I can fit it all in.  That, and the half on the neighbour's side I still have to do.  Yipee!  You know what, I think this is actually my least-least favourite garden chore.

cat pond? pond in a pot is already serving another purpose.  One of my cats loves to drink water out of anything that isn't his water dish - a dirty bowl in the sink, a muddy puddle on the outdoor table, a glass he just knocked over, or a pond in a pot.

finishing up the west beds

My goal during the Christmas break was to finish widening the west beds.  This was the last bit to go:
My husband was kind enough to supply some of the hard labour moving the rocks out of the way and into the giant pile of spares.  Although we overloaded my little hand-cart and when it rolled off a step it took a chunk out of one of the wheels. Now it sort of limps along.
Then of course I had to decide what to plant there.  In the long-term, I want the vitex in the large bed to grow wide enough to cast shade in that corner.  But in the short-term, the part closest to the camera is heavily shaded and the part farthest from the camera gets a fair bit of sun, making it hard to figure out what to plant across the two beds.  So I decided on an annual, the short-term solution.  It's called Ageratum "China blue", never grown it before but it looked cute in the picture. 
They're still just little seedlings, of course.
As a reminder, this is what it used to look like.
The geum is already starting to repeat-bloom, and I'm really happy with how everything's turning out so far!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

water garden

My latest garden fad has been around water gardens.  Before you say it, yes, I know, my husband and I spent a lot of time and hard work turning our goldfish pond into a garden bed.  But what I had in mind was a lot smaller scale - just a decent-sized pot with the holes filled in, a few water plants and a pair of gold fish.  And I wanted it at the front of the house where I'll actually see and enjoy it every day.

I already decided to use one of my colocasia "Amazon Queen" - they make so many babies I had heaps to choose from.  Then I got a white water lily and some ribbon weed which oxygenates the water.  Here they are in their temporary home whilst I sorted out their pond.  The colocasia is the tall plant.
I got a nice pot and had to fill in the holes with silicone.  Unfortunately I'm not very good at being patient with these things.  t said to wait 48 hours to cure ... I waited 24.  I tested it out by putting in some water for 15 minutes and it wasn't leaking so I thought it was good.  This is my little pot all assembled.
And this is where it is in relation to the front garden.  That big empty space is where the ficus trees used to be, it's still very open and stark at the moment until I decide what all to plant there.  The zucchini got moved here because the front porch was getting a bit cluttered.
Unfortunately the next day there was a bit of water leaking from the bottom.  So I'm afraid I'm going to have to start over again, pull all the plants out, empty the pot, let it thoroughly dry, put on another layer of sealant and wait a full 48 hours.  But I can't bring myself to do it just yet, because of this: the main reason I wanted a pond in a pot.  The water lily is in flower!
It's just so beautiful I can't bring myself to putting it in a bucket for a few days.  I'll wait until the flower finishes to fix the leak, it's not very big anyway...

Unfortunately I also have to wait a few weeks from when the leak is fixed to when I can get some gold fish, so the water has time to settle.