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Hardly summer

It's amazing how much less squeamish you get about squashing little green caterpillars with your fingers the more of your precious leaves they eat.

I pulled some of the leaves off the brussels sprouts branch today so the little sprouts can grow. Come along, little sprouts.

Something, I suspect a bird grabbing the slugs, did for most of my carrot seedlings. Partly, yay birds but mostly damn. Time to deploy the net thingie. Everything else seems okay. Picked and ate two sugar snap peas which is instant gardener's reward. They're not as sweet as the earlier peas but still crunchy and refreshing.

Progress

Well, placing the markers out suggested the plan I had made for the Orchard should work (and leave room for the chook tractor to move through!) We've gone ahead and planted those—and an extra fig (because it crossed our paths, and seriously, who could resist a fruit tree called 'Italian Honey'!), and a Granny Smith apple (because it seemed a shame to waste the Pink Lady's flowers... Although it seems to have set fruit rather more rapidly than I'd anticipated, so maybe there's another suitable apple nearby!) So with those and the Pomegranate, our orchard has started:-) We also realised that we couldn't wait any longer before planting a lime, so we did a bit of a search to find a West Indian Lime (aka Key Lime), and decided we really should put in a Naval Orange now, as well. So the Citrus Grove is looking more like a Grove than just a couple of plants:-) Now we just have to keep it all alive over summer! (And oh my! How nice it is that I can take photos with my phone as I'm out in the garden, upload them to Flickr, and add the planting a and images to the site right then and there! Thanks so much to everyone who made all that work:-) )

Treasure

A colleague bought me a tray of 6 of her mature tomato seedlings today. What a score!

Plant seeds, get seedlings

I may never get over the way you can make food from dirt. Harvested lovely handfuls of sorrel and baby kale on the weekend, making a delicious accompaniment to salmon. The radish and turnip seedlings have shot up, the carrots, beetroot and spring onions are peeking out a little more shyly. Can you eat radish and carrot greens? I can see there'll have to be a bit of thinning.

The late sowing

Got some garden time in today, engaging in the usual jobs of slaughtering slugs, twisting the bok choy and watercress back into their pots so they reseed rather than drop seeds on the paving, tying up the sugar snap peas a bit more, watering and, at last, planting some things. I've planted little fat round carrot seeds, a mix of beetroot seeds and mini white turnip seeds in a white styrofoam box. In a shallow, rectangular yellow planter I've put French breakfast radishes (the long ones) and spring onions.

The radishes are five weeks away (20 Dec), the turnips seven (3 Jan), the beetroot between seven and twenty (though many leaves will end up in salads before then) (3 Jan - 4 April) and the carrots a long 17 weeks (14 Mar).

All going well. As long as I keep the slugs and the cat visitor away. And the fence doesn't fall down.

Plant lifecycle, suggested site usage

I'm trying to understand how my catalog of plants will need to be updated as my garden evolves.

What happens to plants that are harvested, die, or get transplanted? Should I delete them from the site? Maybe "Harvested", "Died", "Transplanted In", and "Transplanted Out" categories for plants would be useful, where all except "Transplanted In" would be archived.

Is there any way to link a particular harvest with a particular planting?

Hello Growstuff! I am growing some stuff in my aquafarm

Aquafarm Contents

Foodstuffs

Hello Growstuff! I am growing some stuff in my aquafarm

Aquafarm Contents

| Foodstuff | info link | | :--- | ---: | | Wheatgrass | link

( OMG Markdown, I love this site! :shipit: )

I have a plan...

a bit later than I'd intended (the heat/dry has started, so it's not really the time to be planting trees), but given our fig, pink lady apple and pomegranate are really needing to be out of their pots, we'll plant them anyway. The holdup has been in deciding just where to plant them, still allowing us room to plant the rest of the fruit trees on our wish list. And now, I have a plan (subject of course to checking tomorrow with stakes to make sure it actually works as I think it will:-) )

Slow times... because I'm moving

The share house where I'm living is breaking up in December, and that means most of my spring/summer growing has been disrupted :( I started the spring with a lot of garden work and planted lots of things, but now I'm slowing down and trying to eat what's left, rather than start anything new.

So here's the current garden status:

  • Front yard: two garden beds and some containers with greens and herbs of various kinds. The last lettuce has gone to seed, as have a couple of the older chard. The kale is on its last legs, badly attacked by slugs or snails or cabbage moths (not sure which). The asian greens are being chewed badly, too, but I can't quite bring myself to care or do anything about it. There's coriander doing okay in a semi-shaded spot in the front garden bed, and some mustard greens and new-season chard that are doing well.
  • Back yard: we set up pea and bean netting up the back fence to grow all kinds of beans, but I have stalled planting on those because of the move. The snow peas have finished. The only thing growing up the netting is a patch of triffid-like nasturtiums. I have lots of miscellaneous things in pots, including the last of the beets, lots of parsley and mint, some new-season greens (perpetual spinach) and older greens (sorrel), some herbs (dill, basil), a couple of over-wintered peppers, and tomatoes and other nightshades grown from seed at the end of winter are now starting to come along well.
  • I have way more tomato seedlings than I can use. You see, I have about six varieties, and I planted a seedling tray of each, which is 48 tomato seedlings in total. I also have various kinds of peppers and some eggplants and tomatillos. My goal at present is to plant them in intermediate-sized pots (6-8") in the hope that I can stick them in the soil as soon as I get to my new place, which will be early December. Later than the ideal planting date, but not too late. I have four tomatoes that I planted in larger pots (12" earlier), and these are coming along so well I almost feel like I'll have fruit on them before I move. Eep! I've bought some small stakes for the rest, rather than the 6' monsters I usually use, since those would be tricky to fit in the back of anyone's car.
  • I'm taking cuttings from a few of my herbs (sage, lemon balm) and growing small pots of other things (warrigal greens, dill, basil) so that I can plant them when I get where I'm going.
  • I planted cucumber seedlings (from Bek) in trays just before we decided to move, and sadly I've had to ditch them. I'll take the cucumber frame with me, though, and I hope I can get something going once I'm up there, even if I have to buy some commercial seedlings.

Over on my Dreamwidth journal, brainwane asked me some good questions about how I'm going about choosing a new place in Ballarat, in terms of gardening: am I considering sun, soil quality, etc? You can read the thread here if you're interested.

Winter garden planning and planting

I'm preparing for my winter garden right now, growing collard, pak choi, and tatsoi from seed, with spinach, lettuce, and chard from seedlings. I'm also starting broad beans now, as they overwintered well last year and came up fantastically in the spring.

Since I'm in USDA Hardiness Zone 6b and can reasonably expect the weather to stay above 10F (-12C), I can plant cold-hardy plants in my garden for the winter and have them survive.

So, suggestions for plants to put in the ground in the next few weeks?

Pressure-washer recovery

A week or so ago, I came home to discover that my landlord's maintenance guy had pressure-washed the stoop where most of my seedlings were, damaging a number of my plants. Things are recovering slowly.

  • Of the sunflowers I planted, only one is still alive. When I set out most of them in pots, I didn't expect the pressure washer, nor rain damage from the eaves of the house. The only one left is in the root pouch saddlebag on my porch railing. It's doing okay but not great because there's not a lot of sun there.

  • The scarlet runner beans are doing okay but not great. One of the plants is in a root pouch pot tucked into the crook of a multi-trunk palm, and it's getting enough sun I think. Two are in a tray on the top of my porch staircase, and they got worked over pretty badly by the pressure washer and are just now starting to put out new growth. (I suspect that they may have also gotten some soap from the pressure washer, because the foliage has turned yellow on at least one of them in a way that seems weird.) The last one is in the shady side of my saddlebag planter, and it seems actually to be doing well, having started to climb over the railing and grow mildly upwards. I'm hoping that once the rainy season ends, I can transplant it out onto something with more support.

  • The Cherokee Purple tomatoes are still tiny little seedlings, and I'm not sure quite why they aren't growing at the rate I expect of tomatoes.

  • The Chinese leeks got wiped out by the pressure washer. I need to plant some new seeds, I guess.

  • the sage was in the same pot with the ginger, and it took a beating from the pressure washer but mostly survived. I've transplanted out some of those seedlings into the shady side of the saddlebag pot, and they're okay but not great, probably because of low light.

  • In non-food-garden news, I've had to bring in a number of my plants because they were getting too much rain and were starting to be unhappy about that. I'll set them out again once the soil has dried out a bit and the rainy season is closer to done.

In short, beware high-pressure streams of water, whether from machines or falling from the skies. The rainy season here really does a number on gardens.

October roundup

So I was two days' drive away from my garden for most of the summer, leaving it in the care of the other people who live here. Now I'm back! I have no idea how the garden went while I was gone - they claim they watered, but everything (as usual for the end of summer around here) was looking pretty crispy by the time I got back.

Anyway, here's the result of this year's gardening:

  1. Beans: we got maybe a pint of beans? they were pretty good, though! The bean plants were completely gone by the time I got back; I have no idea if there was any harvest after I left. Two of them were left in the refrigerator and dried completely, though, so I might try second-generation beans next year, just to see what happens.

  2. The squash bloomed profusely and then set precisely 0 fruit, and then withered away; there was no sign of it when I returned. Oh, squash. Zucchini is supposed to be the plant you can't not grow around here! Alas. Possibly part of the problem was that I planted them too far apart for pollination? IDK. If I try them again maybe I will attempt to hand-pollinate.

  3. Beets: here is the entire beet harvest. I... guess it could have gone worse for a first try at root vegetables?

  4. Tomatoes: The tomatoes have grown into a thicket. I have no idea how many individual plants there are. I am getting a bowlful of cherry tomatoes every couple of days, which is faster than I can eat them, if not fast enough to be worth trying to preserve any. There are plenty ending up on the ground for next year's crop, though. And in early October, the plant is still flowering profusely, so I suspect that, like last year, I will keep getting fruit for at least another month, in complete defiance of cold and dark and rational seasonality. It is pretty much typical of my gardening history that the plants I put basically 0 effort into are the only ones giving me edible results. Maybe I should just give up on gardening all together and fall back on gathering. (A post on that shortly, hopefully.)

Anyway, I am quite enjoying that this site is cross-hemisphere! Just as I am getting discouraged at this year's garden, all you Southerners are getting excited about your new ones! Maybe I will manage to plan ahead some more, maybe I will actually intentionally grow some stuff next year, who knows.

Transplant carrots or not?

Do carrots transplant well at all when they are small? I set up some rows of carrot seeds mixed with radish seeds, but I don't know if the carrots will be amenable to transplanting once they sprout. Has anyone done this?

Spiny bastard

I finally found out what is growing in my flowerbeds along with my vegetables — Solanum quitoense — aka lulo, naranjilla, the spiny bastard.

I bought a few of the fruit last year as a curiosity from a vendor at the farmer’s market— the seeds must have survived composting and sprouted quite thoroughly in my garden. They’re only blooming now at the beginning of fall, so I’m wondering if it’s worth keeping a few of the plants around to see if I can get a harvest, or whether I should just cut them all down now before they eat my garden entirely.

Growing Garlic in Perth

Does anyone have tips for growing garlic in Perth, WA?

I planted several cloves back at the start of April and I'm waiting, waiting, waiting for the leaves to dry up and go brown but it's just not happening! I know we're in spring and having what feels like some nice winter weather at the moment. Could the crop be confused?

Do I thin squash or not?

I just planted several varieties of squash, some bush-style (zucchini) and some vine-style (spaghetti squash, potimarron). Looking around the internets, the advice is almost universally to plant three seeds in one mound of compost or whatever you're growing them in. What's unclear and inconsistent, though, is whether you should then thin them out so you only keep the one best seedling of the trio, or leave all three in place.

My instinct is to thin the bush-style squashes, but not the vine-style ones. Does anyone have any more knowledgeable advice?

New features: places, help text, bulbs, crop hierarchy, etc

Just pushed a bunch of new things up to the site:

  • The most significant new feature is the "Places" page, which shows where our members are located. This is a fairly trivial use of our geodata, but now we've got all the pieces in place, we'll be able to do maps of things like where crops are grown, what's being grown near a given location, etc.
  • We removed "search for nearby members" and integrated it into the Places pages eg. Melbourne. These specific place-pages are now linked from various places around the site, eg. member profiles, seed sharing lists, etc.
  • We also improved the "members near a place" function so it always shows the 30 nearest members, in order of nearness.
  • As a side effect of all this, the following new endpoints are available in our "Version 0" API: /places.json (a list of everything mappable, which for now is just members, but may include other things in future), and /places/ANYWHERE.json (a list of mappable things in order of distance from that location, in order of nearness)
  • We added helpful text in a few places, most notably on the planting form (in response to suggestions from Growstuff member mamagotcha.
  • We added "bulb" as a propagation method for plantings, thanks to a suggestion from someone on Twitter (sorry, my memory is not that great and nor is my Twitter client's)
  • We added a crop hierarchy page, mostly useful to crop wranglers but potentially of interest to others. It shows crops and their varieties in an indented tree format. The same code is now used for displaying sub-varieties on individual crop pages, too.

And that's it, I think!

This release was made from the Growstuff HQ blanket fort.

view from the blanket fort

Decorative Gourds

Howdy,

With the stupid cost to import seeds into West Aust now, does anyone know of WA based suppliers who might carry decorative gourd seeds?

I was able to check Bunnings but they don't, will have a look at Masters tomorrow but if anyone can point in the right direction that would be awesome thanks :)

Nita

Swap/trade (Australia): want large planting containers, will swap for seedlings/seeds/preserves/baked goods/ginger beer

I'm in Thornbury, in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

Our landlords won't let us replace the lawn with a veg garden, so we can only plant in containers. I'm on my usual spring quest for largish containers, 30cm diameter and above. We especially love the old-style rectangular recycling tubs that the cities of Darebin and Moreland used to use before they got wheelie bins -- a great size, and they already have drainage holes in them.

Do you have any of these sorts of tubs/containers available to swap?

We will swap for:

  • seedlings (tomatoes, peppers/chilis of various kinds, greens, cucumbers, eggplants, various herbs, ummmm other stuff I'm sure)
  • seeds (lots! some are listed http://growstuff.org/seeds/owner/skud but I have more that aren't listed there, too)
  • preserves (chutney, tomato sauce, plum sauce, kasundi, indian-style pickles, pear and quince jam, quince paste, I forget what else)
  • baked goods (especially fresh-baked bread or ANZAC bikkies)
  • sourdough starter
  • homemade ginger beer or ginger beer plant (seasonal, hasn't quite started yet, but will in a few weeks I think)

Oh and on the ginger beer topic, we'll also take any plastic soft drink bottles you have, especially 1.25L or 2L ones.

Drop me a note here or tweet at @Skud or email skud@infotrope.net.

Thanks!

Revamped Herb Garden

I have been meaning to post photos of my herb garden reconstruction that was done in Spring 2013.

Before -- Clearly a mess. Way too much time needed for weeding even with mulching.

herb garden before

During the process after the old garden was cleared out and the box was laid down. Then we laid down barrier cloth and refilled the box with the 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost mix, added in the grids, lights and started planting.

herb garden during

Pretty well finished with the start of the herb plantings.

herb garden after

As an added bonus the lights make pretty patterns at night.

herb garden lights

Smallest viable containers for tomatoes, peppers

We have an over-abundance of 20cm/8" and 25cm/10" pots. I'd normally grow peppers (mostly small ones like jalapenos, not huge bell peppers) in 10" pots and tomatoes in 12" pots. I'm wondering whether maybe I can get away with 8" pots for the peppers, move some of the tomatoes down into 10" pots, and have more of the larger ones (12" and above) available for other things.

What do you think? What's the smallest viable container? Any tips for growing these plants in small pots?

Wanted (Australia): potimarron seeds

Potimarron is a small (1-2kg) pumpkin/squash that will grow up a trellis. It's available from Diggers but before I make an order for just one packet of seeds I was wondering whether anyone in Australia had any seeds they'd be prepared to share, or swap for anything I have?

What to plant

I'm currently trying to decide what to plant next, as some of my current flowers die back. I have planter boxes and a few small flowerpots on the balcony. The rosemary is doing well, but I'd like some vegetables, as I use those far more often than herbs. I have no idea what I'm doing, though. It's semi-shade (west-facing), and I'd like things that don't need too much TLC. What can I grow in the northern hemisphere at this time of year?

Leaf hopper pest

Well they just looked like green thorns and I actually originally thought they killed pests, but green coloured leaf hoppers are actually sap suckers! Had to kill 2 of them. :/

New features: member bio, crop wrangler homepage, some bugfixes

Hi everyone,

Just did a quick code push which included the following new features and bugfixes:

  • Member bios -- you can now write a short bio to include on your profile page
  • Crop wrangler homepage -- a handy page with info/tools for our new crop wranglers (and yes, we're still recruiting)
  • Bugfix: when editing seeds that were available for trade, the "will trade to" field kept getting reset to "nowhere". This should now be fixed.
  • Bugfix: no longer always redirects you to the homepage after login
  • Bugfix (fingers crossed!): some Firefox users were finding their email address pre-filled in the "location" field in their member settings page. We've told Firefox not to auto-complete that field, and hopefully it will help. Please let us know if you still see this problem.

Want to be a crop wrangler? We're seeking volunteers.

"What's a crop wrangler?" I hear you ask. Well, a crop wrangler is a Growstuff member who volunteers a little bit of time (we'd estimate an hour a month, averaged over time) to keep Growstuff's crop database up to date, make sure it has a wide variety of crops, respond to other members' requests for new crops and so on.

To start off with, we'll be making an effort to fill in a wide variety of:

  • Peppers (chilli peppers, bell peppers, and the like)
  • Tomatoes
  • Squashes
  • Brassicas (kale, cabbages, turnips, mustard, many varieties of Asian greens)

We'll work together using shared spreadsheets and a mailing list to keep everyone in the loop, and Growstuff's coders will provide help when we need to mass-upload heaps of crops at once.

Interested? If you'd like to be a crop wrangler (and gain our perennial love and appreciation) just drop a comment here.

Garden tour, end of winter 2013

I thought I'd post a tour of my garden as it currently stands at the end of winter, to act as the "before" pic in relation to the spring planting we're planning. Like all "before" photos, there's likely to be a fair bit of "ugh"... I'm definitely aware of how much work I want to do here!

Let's start in the backyard. Our house is an early 20th century bungalow that was originally on a 1/4 acre block, but it was recently (past couple of decades) split in half an we now have neighbours in what used to be the large backyard. So instead of a large backyard we have this:

backyard looking west

I'm standing under the clothesline to take that pic. You can see the back door (leading into the kitchen area) and our little BBQ and the chair I sit in on summer mornings. Close at hand are a few pots of herbs in the one patch that gets sun through the winter. In the summer, this whole area gets sun, but right now the fence and the house between them shade most of the narrow area. Growing in containers in the foreground are parsley, a couple of kinds of mint, and sorrel. Some of the containers are just self-sown parsley which I'll probably pull out and use for something else soon, but figured I may as well leave over the winter. Behind the containers, at about the level of the back door, there are self-sown nasturtiums starting to spread widely across that patch of ground. They reach from the fence to the paving already, and are at least as wide as that too. In the very foreground, right under my feet -- so you can't see it -- is a small comfrey plant that I planted directly in the ground and am hoping will take off.

You can see a picnic table further away. In the summer, we had that in the space where the containers of herbs now are, where the earth is kind of bare. I moved it in the autumn, when we stopped eating outside, so that I could use that space for plants that needed the sun instead. I'm not sure where it'll go this summer. I did just buy a new(-to-me) striped umbrella for it though!

Now the same area looking the other way:

backyard looking east

I'm standing outside the back door to take this photo. You can see our clothes line, compost bins (Clarissa and Jennifer), and the corner of the shed. This area is dry and parched in summer -- or at least it was last summer and the one before. The grass tends to die off. Around the corner to the left, near the shed, the path turns down the side of the house and leads through a gate to the front yard. That area is partially shaded in summer, fully shaded in winter.

Next to the shed there's a small garden bed where I put a geranium we inherited from the previous tenants (I didn't care whether it lived or died, but it appears to be thriving) and I'm growing some warrigal greens aka NZ spinach, an Australian native plant that can be used like spinach.

next-to-the-shed garden bed

You can also see some parsley there, but it's not really thriving. In summer we had a few different herbs there and they did okay, but the shadier winter hasn't been kind to them.

Heading through the gate you find yourself in the carport area, and there's another garden bed on the other side of it.

carport garden bed

It's quite shady and the only thing that's doing well here right now is parsley. I planted a lot of mint-type herbs, but I think the overhanging tree is sucking up all their moisture and they never really did very well here. There's also chard and sorrel here but again, while I don't think they mind the shade too much, the tree overhead isn't doing them any favours. The taller plant is a loquat tree that an ex housemate planted. I'm not sure what she was thinking; it's way too close to the other tree -- right under the edge its canopy. I really should cut it down/pull it out. I don't have anything against loquats but this isn't the place for them. Oh, and there's also some random aloe vera near the fence on the right. It's doing okay.

Here's where it gets to the good stuff, at least as far as the current state of things is concerned. The front porch:

front porch

This seat is where I sit to drink a cup of tea in the sun in the morning. From here I can also see most of the containers where I'm growing things over the winter. See, the backyard is mostly shaded in winter, but the front gets plenty of sun. To the left you can see lavender peeping around the corner, some tubs with nasturtiums, lettuce, and other greens, along with two over-wintered chillis (one Thai chilli, one jalapeño) that seem to be doing quite well and perking up with the approaching spring. To the right are a couple of little tubs of "winter mix microgreens" from Diggers (mustard, kale, beets, etc) and a strawberry plant I got as a freebie. I really ought to figure out whether strawberries need any particular care other than soil and water and the odd bit of feeding. The front porch is also where I do a lot of my potting at present, just because it's handy to where I put most of the things I'm potting. You can't see it, but there's a bag of potting mix and another bag of small pots against the wall near the chair.

Coming around the corner, you can see more of my winter containers and my seedling trays:

winter containers and seedling trays

Most of these were in the backyard in the summer, but I brought them out front as the weather cooled down and the backyard got shady. I've got chard, kale, lettuce, beets, and some snowpeas coming along (though see below for my previous snowpea disaster). The smallish pot with a plastic bag over it is some rhubarb that was just roots (no green) and which I thought would be helped by a bit of a greenhouse environment, which turned out to be absolutely right -- some leaves shot straight up! I'll take the bag off in a couple of weeks when it's better established.

As you can see, I've also got several trays of seedlings of various kinds: more kale, chard, mustard, Asian greens, tomatoes, peppers, coriander, and I forget what else. Basically I'm trying to get a head start on spring. I have two of those little white greenhouses from Ikea (the other one is indoors). I start things from seed in the indoor one, then when there are shoots I move them either into the outdoor Ikea greenhouse or my bedroom windowsill, which also gets lots of sun:

bedroom windowsill

So basically the seed progression is:

  • Plant seeds in seedling trays in Ikea greenhouse in the kitchen area (though it's by a window it doesn't get much sun at this time of year)
  • When they sprout, move them to the bedroom windowsill or outdoor Ikea greenhouse (brought indoors overnight) -- full sun
  • When they get their second set of leaves, pot them up into small pots (though sometimes they just pause at this stage and I do it anyway, which seems to hurry them along)
  • When appropriate (depending on what they are), start leaving them out overnight. We're not getting frost any more, though it's still a little chilly. Brassicas don't mind, but I wouldn't do this for eg. tomatoes yet.
  • When well established as seedlings, plant out into bigger containers.

This all takes quite a bit of puttering around moving things from one place to another. I think next winter I'd like to acquire/make a small greenhouse or cold-frame of some kind, with enough space in it to leave all the seedlings out full-time.

Anyway, moving right along. Under my bedroom window you can see the Great Snowpea Disaster of 2013:

snowpea disaster

Those three tubs each had a bamboo tripod, and snowpeas growing up them very well. Then the weather got windy. I tried a bunch of different things to try and keep them stable, but in the end I had to give up. You can see the pulled-down tripods piled in the gap in the lavender under my window. I need to pull all the peas off the bamboo stakes and put the stakes aside for another use. I'll probably just dump the dead peas where they are: that gap in the lavender will be used for planting something (probably zucchini) in due course, but the soil could use whatever mulch/organic matter it can get. So I have another set of snowpeas sprouting and I'm planning to move them out back and grow them up the fence, instead. Should be more stable.

And then there's the front garden bed:

front garden bed

This used to have a couple of ugly shrubs in it, but they died last summer and the owners sent round a handyman to pull them out. The bed's empty now, and I'm thinking what we can use it for. It is shaded in winter, but gets sun in summer. I'm watching the sun crawling across the garden wondering how late in the season it'll be before it's actually giving decent light to that garden bed and I can plant things in it. I'd rather like to plant some squash there, and let them sprawl all over that otherwise useless bit of lawn. The bed needs mulch/compost/organic matter/general love. I piled a buttload of autumn leaves on it a few months back, but it'll need more if we're to do anything with it. I was thinking a good deep layer of lucerne all over the bed and then bucketloads of compost where we want to plant the squash themselves, with the seeds put straight into the compost. What do you think?

Finally, on the other side of the driveway we have this mulberry tree (on the left):

mulberry tree

And some herbs growing along the narrow bit of earth to the right:

herbs

The parsley's got a bit out of hand (I just threw a random handful of seeds in the general area, I swear!) and there's some grass coming in there. I don't want to have to commit to weeding it all the time. I'm thinking about what other things I can plant there that won't need much attention and will stop the grass from taking hold. I might put some borage in near the rosemary. More kinds of thyme and oregano? You can't really see, but there's some oregano buried under the parsley. Of the two kinds of thyme, the one that's thriving -- lemon thyme -- is the one we use less often. Sigh. More thyme, yeah, that's a plan.

So that's the tour of the garden as it currently stands. I'll post more about the plans for spring as they unfold -- hopefully with some "after" pics!

One day my sun will come

Slowly, slowly the sun line is moving down the fence. It shouldn't be too long before my garden gets some direct sunshine and springs into life.

I picked up some seedlings from the Slow Food Market at Abbotsford Convent today: dwarf kale, bok choy, chervil and Tom Thumb lettuce, and planted them out this afternoon. Good luck little seedlings!

The sugar snap peas are carrying on. At least they're lasting longer than their predecessor seedlings.

Planning for spring

We're about a week away from the official start of spring in Melbourne, but the weather for the last month has been what the indigenous people of this area consider "pre-spring": "warming, first flowers, birds begin nesting". It's definitely a different season from the "true winter" of June. The wattle is blooming, the front lawn is quickly getting out of control, and I'm starting to get the first tickles of seasonal allergies.

In the garden, we still have winter veg like kale and chard growing. We have some really nice cos lettuce that I've been using in a lot of salads. There's heaps of parsley. The nasturtiums, which have been triffid-ing all over the place since autumn, are starting to flower. The first purple buds are appearing on our lavender bushes. The temperature's becoming milder, but it's blustery: the strong winds knocked down branches all over the neighbourhood, as well as the rather precarious bamboo tripods I was using to grow snow peas. As a result, I've pulled down all the peas and tossed them into a bit of garden I'm mulching in preparation for growing zucchini in the summer.

So I'm planning for spring. I love gardening, but it's also important to me this year as I'm short of cash, and saving even $10 or $20 a week on groceries makes a difference. This year, I'm hoping to pick a significant proportion of our vegetables from the garden. In fact, I hope that between now and autumn we can grow all, or nearly all, of our own:

  • salad greens (lettuce, thinnings/microgreens of various kinds, herbs)
  • cooking greens (chard, warrigal greens, asian greens)
  • salad tomatoes (we'll still buy bulk quantities for preserving)
  • salad cucumbers (might buy some for pickling)
  • green beans
  • peppers (chillis, capsicums/bell peppers, etc -- though we'll only be growing mini capsicums so might still buy some)
  • herbs (especially basil, mint, parsley, rosemary, thyme)

I'll also be planting some things which I haven't had much luck with before, or haven't tried before, but I'm hopeful we can get a crop out of them:

  • zucchini (not very successful growing in large tubs over last 2 years, going to try putting them in the ground in the front garden and plant more bee-attractors nearby)
  • squash (butternut and spaghetti, I think)
  • eggplant (first time, will plant in large containers as we do with tomatoes and see how it goes)
  • tomatillos (unsuccessful last year but let's have a second shot)

This leaves our vegetable shopping needs as:

  • alliums (onions/garlic)
  • potatoes, carrots, and other root veg
  • mushrooms
  • avocado
  • coriander (cilantro), which we use frequently but which bolts rapidly in these parts
  • fruit for eating (all we have is a mulberry tree)
  • gap-filling if the stuff we're planning isn't productive (eg. zucchini, eggplant)

And of course bulk fruit/veg for preserving, which will probably be a box or two of tomatoes in the late summer, and a few kilos at a time of whatever stone fruit is priced around $2/kg.

I emailed my housemates with a summary of what I hoped me might harvest in a typical week in high summer, and it looked like this (with retail prices given for conventionally grown produce, from the Preston Market or Psarakos on High St where we usually shop):

  • 2 meals worth of cooking greens, eg. a bunch of chard and some asian greens (retail: $3)
  • 2 salads worth of salad greens ($2)
  • 2 small cucumbers (retail: $2)
  • 1 zucchini (retail: $1)
  • 3 small bowlfuls tomatoes for salads (retail: $4)
  • 1 bunch basil (retail: $2)
  • 1 meal worth of green beans (retail: $2)
  • handful chillis/peppers of various kinds (retail: $2)

That's $18 worth for the week. I did a rough calculation and said if we get $16/week worth of produce in the 4 "high summer" months, and half that in the 4 less-productive months surrounding it, we'll come out of it with about $400 of produce. And I reckon we can do it for about $200 in investment: pea and bean netting up the back fence, a bit of lumber (possibly scavenged) for a cucumber frame, a couple of bales of lucerne hay, some netting for protection against birds, and a lot of potting mix for the tomatoes and peppers and all that stuff that's going in currently-empty pots (unsure yet whether to buy it pre-made or mix it from parts; probably the former for now.)

So that's the plan. I've got seedlings coming along (I planted a lot of tomatoes/peppers from seed over the last month or so), and I'm starting to order netting etc from the internets. On September 1st my housemates and I are going to have a working bee to get everything set up, and plant the first beans. Wish us luck!

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