How does my garden grow?

It is quite a while since I have talked to you about my garden (aside from reblogging an earlier post about the jacarandas in my street). That’s partly because I have had so many other things to write about, and partly because when I got home from the Flinders Ranges it was an overgrown jungle. How could there be so many weeds in such a small space?

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
How many weeds could there be? (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

Let me remind you that my vegetable patch is actually in my front yard, because that is the part of my garden that gets the most sun. It is a good size, about 3 x 2 metre. I have built up 4 beds and do my version¬†of crop rotation. One of the advantages of veggies in the front yard is that you have all sorts of interesting conversations with the neighbours and people walking past. It makes it very easy to give away vegetables. I thrust broad beans on anyone who stopped for 2 seconds! ūüôā And we have had some generous donations in return, as you will see if you read on.

Once I conquered some of the weeds I found that I had a silver beet tower and a glut of  broad beans. I was forced to be inventive when cooking them, and wrote about some of the recipes here.

I thought we¬†would have a break from silver beet…until a thoughtful¬†¬†neighbour brought me some more seedlings. They could not be abandoned, so they have gone in, and are doing well.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

I had some strawberry crowns that were past their best. So I dug them up and replanted them on the street front, where the non-existent fence is, as well as along the path to the front door. They are doing very well. I love strawberries so much that I bought 2 more plants, one is ‘Red Gauntlet’ and the other is ‘Bonnie’, a white strawberry. Such sweet little flowers and delicious fruit — if we can get to them¬†before the snails!

The neighbour who gave me the silver beet also gave me lots of tomato seedlings which are powering along. In the photo you may see a pumpkin leaf or two. It has come up out of the compost. Pumpkins tend to take over, so¬†if it wants to stay it must be well behaved. There are also photos of potatoes. Would you believe me if I said that they were free too? When I went to the nursery to buy seed potatoes they told me it was past the time to plant them. However, I could help myself to the bags over there, for no charge. I had nothing to loose if they didn’t come up, so I planted them out. They all sprouted¬†and are growing very well.

Next time I will tell you how to plant potatoes the easy way. And remind me to tell you about the sweet potato too.

I love the flowers of the Solanaceae family — tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants. They look like very fancy turbans, and are great fun to draw!

So, from mayhem to order, with a little help from the compost bin and worm farm and a lot of help from the Under Gardener (aka My Fella ūüėČ )

How does my garden grow….in early Autumn (Part 2)

Our front yard faces north. That is the direction that captures most of the sun in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a reasonable size, about 3 x 2 metres. So it is the perfect spot in my garden for growing veggies. Unfortunately, last year it was simply a pile of dirt, even though I tried to trick myself into believing that it was left deliberately as fallow ground! All that grew were untended parsley and strawberry plants.

This Autumn the time had come for an upgrade . My Fella grabbed the fork and turned over the soil. After some lovely soaking rain I added compost and lightly forked it again. Then I mounded it into “beds”. Two of them are finished; the other half is still to be worked.

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I planted out the silverbeet that had been growing in a pot. I rummaged through my old seed packets and found broad beans, radishes and beetroot. They weren’t too far out-of-date, so in they¬†went too. All enjoying today’s lovely soaking rain, no doubt.

I planted the silverbeet with a dollop of worm castings. This is an amazing, magical ingredient, which you get free from the worms. It is surprisingly soft, rather like chocolate mousse ~ and I am sorry if that image has put some of you off chocolate mousse for life!

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I also use the worm juice (the dark liquid that comes out of the worm farm into the square bucket). Diluted down it makes excellent liquid fertiliser and helps plants get established.

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There are some of my little beauties, munching their way through the kitchen scraps and leaf litter. Remember though, worms for the compost and worm farms are not the same as worms found in the garden. If you wish to set up a worm farm (and it is very easy), you will need to get the appropriate worms. That could be from someone else’s farm or compost. If you live in Melbourne, come and visit and I will give you some.

I mentioned parsley before. It loves my garden and all my plants are self sown. During the front garden’s “fallow” period it grew like topsy and set more seed.

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An avenue of parsley!

Just look at all the parsley seedlings we have growing ~ and this is only a small number of them!

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I have also planted out sweet pea seeds in the back garden. I quietly picked these seeds from one of my very favourite gardens in the neighbourhood. The gardener had mass planted the sweet peas so that they tumbled down her fence. It was a riot of flowers and colour and perfume.¬†So I only quietly picked a few pods from the mass, and they were on the street side of the fence ~ and I am sure she wouldn’t have minded!

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Last thing to tell you about is my hellebore. Once I planted about half a dozen bushes under my maple tree. Only one survived. Imagine my delight when I looked the other day and saw that it had had babies!

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When I looked further I saw that one little leaflet was growing up between the bricks in the paving, surrounded by weeds. (Brick paving is rather grandiose, but that’s a story for another day.) Not the best spot, so I dug it out. I thought it would be a seedling. Instead it had this strong root system that made me think it was a runner rather than a seedling. Does any one know? This is the root system.

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It is replanted nearer the parent plant. I hope it will have a long and happy life! It may be sharing its life with sweet peas, because I sowed the seeds around there too.

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How does my garden grow?

My Fella went to WA for a week, coming back last Monday. So I had a week to myself. By Friday I realised that I was on Holiday. Now some of you must think that, as a semi-retired person, I am on permanent holiday. (A big part of me agrees)! I didn’t go anywhere, except the movies, and some days I only ventured as far as the backyard. But interestingly I didn’t go into the Playroom, the room where the computer is, as well as my painting things. I seemed to be on holiday from Etsy shop, my painting and my blog (sorry about that).

I was also on holiday from Getting Ready For Christmas. You haven’t received my Christmas card in the mail because I haven’t sent it. The tree has just been decorated. Unlike last year, there are no tasty treats. But I may get around to them…..just not today, because it is 40 degrees C!

However, I came out of slothfulness to do some gardening. The last time I wrote about the garden it looked like this

The garden bed that is in the process of ungrowing. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013
August 2013: The garden bed that is in the process of ungrowing. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)

Now I can proudly unveil the same bed, which looks like this:

December 2013 (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
December 2013 (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

Because of a prolonged drought in Victoria — over 10 years — I couldn’t justify water for annuals. Now I have lobelias and pansies flowering, the foxgloves just budding and the ¬†aquilegias putting forth their light foliage. The fern like leaf in the foreground is from the prostrate banksia, and the flower cone is in the bottom right corner.

Another view, because I am so happy with the way it looks. This time I took the photo over the pot plants. My garden is not big. Keeping some in pots, like the chives, is a good use of space.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

The chives up close

IMG_8914The salvia and fox glove buds up close

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

And what is a garden bed without a rose? This one is something like Spirit of Peace.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

I have also carved some space out of the former jungle to put up the birdbath. It was a Christmas present from my Mum last year. I finally have it in a spot where the birds are happy to use it and where I can keep it topped up. I have planted some impatiens, which should look good. Fingers crossed that they grow!

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

I can see the birdbath from my window and know that it is used a lot. Where did the birds go before?

View from the window -- sneaking a peek at the sparrows! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
View from the window — sneaking a peek at the sparrow! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

And lastly (well done if you have got this far!), the hydrangea my sister gave me. I have always wanted one. As I was not sure where it should go, it went into a pot. The photo shows how cleverly I have been able to crop the other photos to not show the mess and raggedy bits of the garden, like the hose, bricks, leaf litter and weed mat!

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

Unfortunately the hydrangea is struggling today. It doesn’t like 40 degrees, but then not many of us do.

I am sure you are thinking “But where are the veggies?” How astute of you. Unfortunately, they are something else growing in pots this year. Our Veggie Patch, otherwise known as the Front Yard is a fallow wasteland at the moment. Enough said about it, as today I am enjoying the colours and pleasures of the back. I might have a moan to you about it next time.

Enjoy your gardening, wherever you are. If your world is too cold to garden at the moment, I hope that my flowers have given you some extra warmth. ūüôā

How does my garden grow?

Well, it is ungrowing at the moment. That may not be a real term, but it sums up what I am doing.

I had a bed that was annoying me. It had my two rose bushes in the middle of it, an impossible position to easily to pick flowers and deadhead. I had planted two pear trees, with the (as it turns out) grandiose idea of espaliering them. One died. The other flourished. It has produced a couple of odd shaped pears and was regularly attacked by slugs. Again, I couldn’t get to it easily. Other things were overgrown and tangled. Time for a clean out — or an¬†ungrowing time.

The garden bed that is in the process of ungrowing. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013
The garden bed that is in the process of ungrowing. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013

I have cut back both roses and moved one out. If it survives I will replant it back in the bed, but closer to the edge.

One of the roses. This is the Red Cross rose. Believe it or not, the flowers are red! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
One of the roses. This is the Red Cross rose — believe it or not, the flowers are red! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)

During the clean out I found a correa that was lingering under another correa. So that came out. Again, if it survives, I will plant it back there, but with more room and light.

The 'half correa, and it is still alive! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
The ‘half correa, and it is still alive! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)

[By the way, correas are one of my favourite plants. They so hardy. I have four and a half (the half being the one I found!) and they all came through 10 years of drought. They got little extra water during that time.]

In the large photo above you can see a tufty thing up the back. That was the next to get a hair cut. I don’t know what it is, but it has rather vicious spikes and it too was very drought tolerant. As I was cutting back the strappy leaves I was thinking about keeping them to make into baskets. I don’t basket weave but if I did, these would have been perfect.

In need of a hair cut. Behind is another correa, called Chef's Cap. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
In need of a hair cut. Behind is another correa, called Chef’s Cap. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)

Then we took out the pear tree. “We” is probably¬†definitely the wrong pronoun! I stood and watched as my Fella used a block and tackle to drag it out.

Using a block and tackle to heave out the pear tree. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
Using a block and tackle to heave out the pear tree. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
Close up (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
Close up (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)

I have also found a number of bulbs, quite possibly snow flakes and nerines, as well as neglected iris rhizomes. I will spread blood and bone and compost. Then I will leave it, while I think about what I am going to put where. We have had some frosty mornings lately so it is too cold to plant anything yet. Any suggestions? Especially for something that might grow along a fence, need no looking after but will not be too vigorous.

In the meantime I will keep reading the gardening blogs of those of you who live in the Northern Hemisphere, and will enjoy your luscious photos of flowers blooming in ¬†Summer’s warmth. Like these

My Botanical Garden

Gwennies Garden

Dandelion House

Chris Condello¬† (I love his tag — plant petunias and question everything!)

Cheers!

How does my garden grow?

It’s the end of day light savings today. I love the feeling of adding an extra hour to my life. (I know, I know, it is just reclaiming it from last year, but it feels like a bonus!) It was also time to start to chop back the vine. I have mentioned before how useful our vine is to keep the house cooler in Summer. However, soon we will need the Autumn and Winter sun to come streaming in. So, the big chop has begun.

Chopping up the vine and into the green waste
Chopping up the vine and into the green waste (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

This photo makes it look like the vine prunings are tumbling into the green waste bin. (Our council collects this green waste for mulching and composting.) However, to fit it in we needed to chop it into smaller pieces. We have filled our bin, and our neighbour’s, and intend to ask the other neighbours if we can use their bin too!

Nothing to stop the sunlight streaming in now. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Nothing to stop the sunlight streaming in now.
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

The down side of clearing the windows? I can see how grotty they are. The next task was to give them a good clean.

You may be wondering why I didn’t put the prunings into the compost bin. Firstly, they would have overwhelmed the bin. And secondly, I am having trouble with the compost bin at the moment. It has been invaded by thousands of grubs, which I think they are black soldier fly larvae. They are consuming all the matter I put into the bin, especially the kitchen scraps. And consuming it at a great rate. Can anyone help me? Metan? Is my identification correct?

Inside the compost bin (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Inside the compost bin (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

It’s not easy to see all the larvae, but you can see see the ones on the sides. That onion peel was actually moving as the critters were munching it!

So we put in a small amount of the vine clippings and added some sugar cane mulch. They are buried under about 60 cm of material now. But I will certainly keep my eye on them! And please, any more suggestions?!

On a different note…..Last Spring I posted these photos of my ornamental garlics.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what they look like at the end, just before I cut them down:

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

And these are big the cloves:

The cloves of the ornamental garlic (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
The cloves of the ornamental garlic (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

 

 

How does my veggie garden grow?

Summer is over, the crisp mornings of Autumn are here. So, how did my Summer veggie garden grow? (If you would like to see the beginnings of the summer garden, my post is here.)

I put in three tomato bushes. The fruit were really slow to develop, and in fact I thought one bush was not going to produce at all. Whitefly was a problem, even though we used yellow sticky traps. They breed so quickly that the traps need to be replaced regularly. The tomatoes were prone to the diseases the whitefly brought. We harvested some but I don’t think tomatoes are worth the effort. (Remind me of that in November, when I am raving on about planting out my tomato plants!)

The best bush of the three was Mortgage Lifter. While the fruit looked a little dodgy, the flesh was rich red, meaty and tasty.

Some of the better looking tomatoes, with an eggplant. These long skinny ones are great for stir fries.(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Some of the better looking tomatoes, with an eggplant. These long skinny eggplants are great for stir fries.
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

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The flowers are really pretty (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
The flowers are really pretty (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
The leaves were quite broad. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Broad leaves.
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

The beans were an experiment — yellow beans. Next year I will go back to the other varieties I have grown. This variety was not very prolific. I also found that the stems seemed to break really easily.

Enough of the grumbling. Did anything grow well? The strawberries continued to produce luscious fruit. And the eggplants are still producing. The capsicums were good. I had a couple of varieties:

These black capsicums were a glorious glossy colour. They were grown in a pot. (Photo copyright:  Anne Lawson)
These black capsicums were a glorious glossy colour. They were grown in a pot. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Orange capsicums (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Orange capsicums (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

By far and away the most successful was the pumpkin. As for many gardeners, the pumpkin plants arrived via the compost bin and quickly took over. I worried that the tendrils were about to attack unsuspecting people on the footpath!

Watch out strawberries! The pumpkin vine is coming! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Watch out strawberries! The pumpkin vine is coming! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Out onto the footpath. It would have been half way up the street if we had let it go! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Out onto the footpath. It would have been half way up the street in a trice if we had let it go! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Out to catch unwary passerbys! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Out to catch unwary passerbys! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

So far we have harvested 20 pumpkins!! Yup, 20. No typo there! Pumpkin soup, roast pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones….. anyone know some good pumpkin recipes? Please share!!

So now we are pulling up the pumpkin vines and the tomato bushes. We will work the soil, adding compost and manure, to get the area ready for some winter vegetables. Garlic usually does well for us, as do potatoes, and silver beet likes to take over. It is always so nice to plan what is to go in. It is always an optimistic time, as everything will grow well and produce kilos of veggies! (I am such a glass half full person!)

How did your vegetable garden go this season?

How does my garden grow?

This is a beautifully cool as it looks
This is as beautifully cool as it looks

Recently the temperature in Melbourne reached 37 degrees. This is not unusual, and we can have a quite few days around that temperature. (It usually manages to get really hot in February, just as kids are going back to school for the start of the year.) Some places in Australia have been having obscenely high temperatures. Moomba, in South Australia, hit the highest recorded maximum with 49.6 C. That’s 121 F. That’s horrible.

Unlike many people we don’t have air conditioning. There are times when I consider it, but I always come back to its environmental impact — and the fact that we really don’t need it.

Instead we use a ceiling fan and a pedestal fan. And the passive cooling of our vine and maple tree.

My house faces north. There are no windows on the west side, and house next door is pretty close. So the west is protected and little heat comes in that way. This leaves the east and south sides. As you can see the vine covers the area between our eastern fence and the back door (which is sort of at the side!). This blocks out the morning sun, and heat.

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The maple tree and rain water tank

The maple tree protects the house from the south. So today the temperature indoors was only 27, about 10 degrees cooler. The heat rises when there are a few hot days — but then even air conditioning can struggle. (I am sure that air conditioning, fans, vines and everything else would have little impact in Moomba.)

And of course, both the tree and vine are deciduous, so they let in all the glorious warming winter sun.

The back yard, from under the cool vine
The back yard, from under the cool vine

And the veggie patch…? Well it is a waiting game — waiting for things to ripen.

Ripening capsicums -- orange ones!
Ripening capsicums — orange ones!
Ripening tomatoes
Ripening tomatoes

But I have munched a couple of early beans, and there are always some strawberries to harvest. My next garden job is to fertilise with the worm juice from the worm farm.

January books (yes I know that it is February!)

Some of the books I read in January…..

Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan:¬†Sunday’s Garden

Reading¬†Autumn Laing rekindled my interested in John and Sunday Reed, and their life at Heide. My public library’s catalogue has turned up a few books, including this one.

The Reeds’ property Heide was a meeting point for artists and intellectuals, who, as the foreword says “rejected the more conventional avenues of living and learning.” It goes on to say

The Reeds, along with Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Arthur Boyd, John Perceval, Max Harris, Danila Vassilieff and others embraced radical art and politics, and pursued a freshness of vision that saw many of them become key figures in Australia’s cultural history.

A story about Sunday and Heide must include the artists and intellectuals who lived there or came to visit. However, this book looks at this fascinating era from a different angle.¬†Sunday Reed was a passionate gardener, and her creative talents came to the fore in her garden. Sunday’s garden details how she designed it, worked in it and encouraged others to enjoy it too.

In 1980 the Reeds sold Heide to the State of Victoria. The art gallery shows world class exhibitions and Sunday’s gardens are still an integral part of the property.

I enjoyed the book. It is crammed with luscious photos, letters, works of art. I wonder though whether I would have enjoyed it as much if I was unfamiliar with Heide. If you are in Melbourne, make the time to go there, if only to wander through the beautiful gardens on the banks of the Yarra and think of Sunday and John.

J.K. Rowling: A casual vacancy

Barry Fairbrother dies, leaving a vacancy on the local council and Rowling follows the ripples that his death creates in the town of Pagford. Actually, there are more than ripples. For many characters tidal waves sweep over them, exposing their foibles, secrets and strained lives.

I wasn’t a Harry fan, so I had no feelings one way or the other about Rowling’s new direction.¬†I didn’t really want to read it, so I grumbled a bit when Ruth suggested it as our Book Club read. However, I am glad that she did because I enjoyed it. (Thanks Ruth.)

Rowling creates a believable group of characters and their actions drive the book. As in Harry Potter, her teenagers are the most credible and well rounded. I really enjoyed the strength and integrity of Krystal.

Robert Engwerda: Mosquito Creek

Set in 1855 on a gold field in Victoria; it gave a good insight into what life would have been like. It was a good read, but the ending was most unsatisfactory. Why did it have to end abruptly and leave so many loose ends?

How does my garden grow?

The trees in my street are beautiful jacarandas — one of my very favourite trees. I also have one in my backyard. Really, it is too big for my small yard, but I can’t bring myself to ¬†do anything about it.

The jacarandas were out in December and were simply beautiful.

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After some heavy rain and wind the fallen petals look a little like purple snow.