What’s been going on in my garden?

Hello!
Just a quick post today, with the latest pictures from what’s been happening and growing in my garden.
With all this talk of dust storms and gale force winds, I’ve been so busy cleaning up! But my plants have been busy too- let’s take a look :)

Used to be parsley and dill.

Used to be parsely and dill.


The ducks have decimated my once-robust parsley and dill, but little signs of life are sprouting up so I think they will prevail! Time to get some wire mesh and fence off the pot so they can’t get their beaks into it again.

The seedling-house is going well.

The seedling-house is going well.


My little makeshift greenhouse/seedling nursery is doing well! Lots of sprouts have come up and are thriving in the protected semi-shade position. Currently there is tomato seedlings, jap pumpkin seedlings (yes they all sprouted!), radish plants (see below for a picture), cos lettuce, flower seedlings, beetroot seedlings, avocado seedlings, an orchid plant, and probably more that I can’t think of at the moment. If I were more organised, I’d keep a list of what plants I have and when I put them in there.

Speaking of the orchid plant!

I was told the name of this orchid when I bought it, but have since forgotten it.  An orchid ID book would be a useful addition to my library, I think!

I was told the name of this orchid when I bought it, but have since forgotten it. An orchid ID book would be a useful addition to my library, I think!


I bought this for $5 from a street-stall, from a nice old man who grew them all himself. I’m annoyed I didn’t write the name down when he told me, but he referenced an orchid ID book so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Isn’t it beautiful for $5!!! It’s starting to send out new shoots/roots at the bottom so in a year or so if it’s big enough I think I’ll try and divide it up and then have two of them :)

Radish!

Radish!


This is the first time I’ve grown radish from seed and am so pleased with how it’s going. The bulb of the radish is clearly visible at the base of the stem so it won’t be long until I can pull it up and see how it tastes. I’ve got a newfound appreciation of radish, since tasting the long white Daikon radishes (my local asian grocer sells them two for $1.50), and having surplus red radishes after buying the bunches and giving the tops to my rabbit. She loves the tops, and I’ve grown to love the radishes. It’s a shame I only have two radish seedlings, really! Radish only takes just over a month to grow and mature, and this site has a lot of helpful tips in regards to growing radishes. Can’t wait to taste mine :D

Grown from seed.  Maybe thats what I should have called this blog :-P

Grown from seed. Maybe that's what I should have called this blog :-P


My little pumpkin seedling is all grown up and is now a proper pumpkin plant! It has four flowers on it, two female and two male, as far as I can tell. You can see the female flowers because they have a little bulge at the bottom of the petals (this is the ovary where the pumpkin will be produced if the flower is pollinated).

Female pumpkin flower: (from here)

Male pumpkin flower: (from here

Here’s a good picture showing both together: (from here

One of the male flowers appears spent, so hopefully the two female ones will open at the same time as the second male one so I can hand-pollinate them and hopefully get two pumpkins going.

My tomato plants are all in flower now, and the beginnings of fruits are showing up on some of the spent flowers. If all the flowers produce a fruit, then I’m expecting close to 50 tomatoes :-D

Plenty more flowers where these came from.

Plenty more flowers where these came from.

And remember the poor little tomato plant that got snapped off right near the base by the blackbirds?

Aug 21st.  Not looking happy.

Aug 21st. Not looking happy.

I repotted it, and gave it some TLC and it has just grown so well over the past 4 weeks.
Look at it now!!

Sept 22nd.  Such an improvement!

Sept 22nd. Such an improvement!

And what looked like this on the 21st of August:

August 21st.  Theyre so tiny.

August 21st. They're so tiny.


Now looks like this:
Sept 22nd.  Almost ready to harvest.

Sept 22nd. Almost ready to harvest.

I think I’ll put another styrofoam box in the shadecloth area with my cos lettuce seedlings, but if I can’t do that then I think using Gai Lan as a shade companion plant would be just as good an idea.

And last (for today- there is still a lot more happening here) but not least:

Coriander going to seed.

Coriander going to seed.


This coriander plant has served us well, and try as we might, it was always destined to be a seed plant (if you go by what the packet says) so it’s finally been allowed to bolt and I’m keen to see how fresh coriander seeds compare to the dried ones you buy in the supermarket. Some of those seeds will be replanted, and hopefully produce a true-to-form plant. Fresh coriander is infinitely better than the flavourless, overpriced, bunches you buy in the fridge section at Coles. Our local asian grocer (my favourite) sells big bunches for 40c which are market fresh and have a lovely spicy aroma, so at the moment I am happy to buy from there but it’s very convenient to have your own little plant out in the backyard.
The flowers are quite pretty, too :)
Coriander flowers.  Similar to carrot flowers, no?

Coriander flowers. Similar to carrot flowers, no?

Happy gardening everyone, and off I go to wash out the last of the red-dust that’s settled all over my garden and inside the house.

Here are the flowers from my little Viola ‘Johnny Jump Up’ that I grew this season from seed:

Arent they pretty :)

Aren't they pretty :)

Potato pickers.

Potatoes ready (or overready) to plant.

Potatoes ready (or overready) to plant.

Potatoes are one of my favourite foods. Chipped, mashed, boiled, baked, deep fried, there are so many ways to enjoy this starchy tuber. I’m on a mission to see just how practical growing potatoes at home is!

You know how it goes, potatoes are on special so you buy a bag or two and for some reason or other you don’t get around to using them in time and they start to go soft and sprout. With a newly aquired styrofoam box, I decided not to compost the little potatoes I had that were starting to grow and see what I ended up with. Potatoes would be the obvious answer, but the process of planting them and harvesting the end result is what I was interested to see and do.

Without getting too much into it, once the potatoes start to sprout or go green they are slowly becoming toxic (due to the presence of a nasty poisons called ‘glykoalkoloids’ that are present in the growing sprouts). You can still eat the potato after it’s started to sprout but cut off the sprouts and any areas that are green or starting to turn green.

It’s also recommended not to plant the potatoes you get from the shop, due to a number of reasons such as disease or poor crop/yield. Since this was more like an experiment that a need for food, I threw caution to the wind and planted them anyway. There is debate about whether certified seed potatoes are truly disease free and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that potatoes from the market perform just as well as their certified cousins.

Planting the spuds...upside down?

Planting the spuds...upside down?

There are a few different methods for planting potatoes. There are no-dig methods (Jackie French is a fan of this method, and it means that you can remove potatoes without ripping up the still-growing plant) and container planting and planting in well-prepared ground plots. With market potatoes, and my poor clay soil, I’ve decided on container planting to give the spuds the best growing environment and protecting the soil from any possible pathogen the market potatoes might have.
I’ve filled the styrofoam box to about 30cm (not forgetting the drainage holes in the bottom!!) with a rich mix of potting mix, blood & bone, sand, coir, and plenty of well-rotted compost. I’ve also added in some of the dirty straw from my rabbits litter tray to add extra fertiliser. Potatoes like nitrogen but I think my stinky rabbit straw is more ammonia than nitrogen. But judging from the following photos it doesn’t appear to have done any harm!

You’re supposed to plant potatoes about 30cm apart, but these are a bit closer than that. They are only small size potatoes so we’ll see how crowded it gets in there when I harvest them. Come to think of it, I did a few things ‘differently’ (aka ‘wrong’) with these spuds but it’s all a big learning exercise so I’m not too concerned about not being 100% ‘by the book’. I planted them with the sprouts facing down, mistaking them for roots I suppose, but usually the sprouts would go facing the sky.

Spuds covered with straw

Spuds covered with straw

I’ve covered them with about 15cm or so of sugarcane mulch/straw which will give the shoots an easy substrate to grow through and keep in the moisture.
My ducks just LOVE to get their stickybeaks into any pot or planterbox that is within their reach, so I covered the surface with an old bit of metal mesh we had lying around. The holes are just small enough to stop the beaks from getting in but big enough to let the plants grow through. It worked a treat!

Plants emerging!  August 21st

Plants emerging! August 21st

This was only a month later :-)
The mesh kept out the foraging ducks and the plants had no problem growing up through the mesh. I’ve planted three potatoes and so far only two of them have growing tops. So we wait…

One week later, August 28th

One week later, August 28th


Now all the little spuds are showing vigorous signs of life! It’s all very exciting, in a nerdy kind of way. But it gets better!!

Going strong- August 31st

Going strong- August 31st

Less than a week later and they are growing rapidly.

They’ve been getting bigger over the last two weeks and tiny little flower-buds have appeared, but so far no flowers have come out. The flower heads seem a bit dry and when I tried to poke them to get a better look some of them ‘crumbled’ and fell off. Hmmmmm I would expect them to be flowering by now! The very bottom leaves are starting to turn yellow as well, which is a sign that the plant is winding up and getting ready to die back (but then it’s harvest time!). It would be a little disappointing if I don’t get any flowers, because I’m keen to see if I can collect some ‘true’ potato seeds. True potato seeds are the little seeds from the potato berries. They are a bit useless for most people because it takes a lot longer to grow a potato plant from seed rather than from a tuber, but with a seed you get sexual variation which can produce different strains and characteristics. I’ll take some more photos tomorrow and leave the plants for another fortnight or so. I think the life-span of potato plants is around 3 months, so there is still a bit of time left before that is up.

Either way, stay tuned for when I have the ‘big reveal’ and dig up the plants to see what they have produced!!!

Happy Gardening :-)

Links!
http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s1983589.htm
Gardening Australia’s How To for planting potatoes

http://www2.dpi.qld.gov.au/horticulture/5231.html
Queensland Department of Primary Industry guide to growing potatoes (slightly more commercial than home-gardening)

http://www.aussiegardening.com.au/articles/growingpotatoes.html
Aussie Gardening guide to growing potatoes (no dig)

http://www.forums.permaculture.org.au/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=144
Permaculture Research Institute Forums thread on Certified Seed vs Store-bought potatoes

http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s867068.htm
Gardening Australia (because I love them so) guide to no-dig potato growing.

Much Ado About Weeding.

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of Spring and all your long-awaited flower bulbs and perennial plants are exploding into life with the warm weather, but with the good- comes the bad.

WEEDS

lawn weeds

lawn weeds

These little buggers are the bane of my existance. Or at least one of the banes. I hate their very presence and feel offended that they dare to grow in my garden!!!
However, they are just trying to survive and populate like the rest of the living things on earth. If they weren’t so good at it, they wouldn’t be weeds now, would they?

A loose definition of a weed is ‘any plant that grows where you don’t want it to’ and following on from that you can add ‘populates spontaneously and in great numbers’. A broad definition like this can encompass many types of plants; from aquatic (eg Water Hyacinth) to grasses (eg Pampas Grass), trees and shrubs (eg Privet or Lantana), herbs (not the ones you eat, but rather a herb is the name for any small shrub or plant that doesn’t have a woody stem, eg lawn weeds like Oxalis), and vines (eg Morning Glory). Basically, any ininvited or potentially dangerous plant that is in your garden without you having planted it or wanting it there, is a weed.

Asparagus fern.  A particularly annoying garden weed!

Asparagus fern. A particularly annoying garden weed!

Mint- can be an enthusiastic grower, but since I dont mind it growing here I dont consider it a weed.

Mint- can be an enthusiastic grower, but since I don't mind it growing here I don't consider it a weed.


The NSW Department of Primary Industries classes weeds in five categories, determined by seriousness of the weeds’ impact and the ecosystem/landscape they are of greatest risk to (the categories are Noxious weeds, Environmental weeds, Agricultural weeds, Weeds of National Significance, and National Environmental Alert List Weeds). The government created the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 to give guidelines and requirements for the management of weeds, as some plants can cause serious environmental and ecological damage if left uncontrolled.
Pattersons Curse - Echium plantagineum - toxic to livestock

Patterson's Curse - Echium plantagineum - toxic to livestock

If you have a think about where you have seen weeds, and what you think and feel when you see them, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bindii, Lantana, Thistle, Patterson’s Curse, Privet, Clover, Asparagus Fern, etc all come to mind. It would be unusual for somebody living in Australia not to have encountered or at least heard about these weeds at some point in their life.

Confusingly though, some native species can also be weeds- for example a West Australian wattle (Acacia saligna) is a problem species since being introduced to the eastern Australian coast. In my backyard I find ‘Bower of Beauty’ (I had to google the common name- I’ve only ever known it by its proper name Pandorea jasminoides) to be a weed because it grows uncontrolled and it keeps growing or sprouting new shoots as fast as I can cut it all back! It’s a beautiful plant when it’s in flower, but it has a tendency to grow over other plants and suffocate them. The dead and dying branches also stay trapped in the vine and create a huge mess of sticks and twigs. Great habitat for little birds, but it would be preferrable to me to give them lots of native trees to hide in instead (my little bottlebrush is growing, but it’s taking its time!!).

It can be a neverending battle to keep the weeds away from the garden, and whilst most people hate it and avoid it…in a strange way I find weeding to be very cathartic and relaxing. Relaxing only until you stand up, knees and back aching, and survey your work and realise you’ve just spent an hour weeding a patch that turned out to only be 2mx2m.

Petty Spurge - loves popping up all over the lawn and in my garden beds!

Petty Spurge - loves popping up all over the lawn and in my garden beds!


Petty Spurge - luckily its easily ripped out.

Petty Spurge - luckily it's easily ripped out.

So this is the time of year to be tackling the weeds, before they get too big and too out of control. With this warm weather it won’t take long for them to completely overrun your lawn or garden beds. I know in my garden, it seems like all I have to do is turn away for a minute and that’s enough time for them to multiply and take hold!

There are two, maybe three, weeds that are on my absolute KILL LIST. I’m not sure if everyone else has the same problems with them as I do, but I figure if I can eradicate them from my garden at least that will be one less patch of earth that they can take over and compete with natives or my ornamentals.

    Number 1: GREEN CESTRUM

Cestrum parqui
This plant was introduced as a garden ornamental from South America, and for the life of me can’t figure out why anybody would want this invasive, disgusting-smelling, ugly looking plant in their yard!!!

Green Cestrum infestation

Green Cestrum infestation

It is a woody plant with large bright green leaves that are borne mainly from the main stem/trunk. It has an invasive and long-lived root system that sends up shoot and suckers both close to and far away from the main plant. It has a characteristic stench, and bright yellow coloured roots.

Green Cestrum plant and shoots/suckers

Green Cestrum plant and shoots/suckers

It gets yellow flowers, which are slightly pretty, but these too stink during the day (although they apparently smell sweeter at night). It gets black berries which are eaten and dispersed by birds.

The fight with Cestrum in my garden is never ending, but I’ve added a new weapon to my arsenal and slowly but surely I am getting rid of it. The only way to truly get rid of it is to dig the roots out, which is hard and labour-intensive but well worth it because if you get almost all of the root out then you will probably not see the plant in that particular location again.

Green Cestrum shoots/suckers

Green Cestrum shoots/suckers

My new weapon-

MATTOCK- I call it the weedinator

MATTOCK- I call it the 'weedinator'

    Number 2: ASPARAGUS FERN

Asparagus sp. (most commonly Asparagus densiflorus, but there are over 100 species)

Asparagus fern comes from South Africa, and started as a garden ornamental plant because it has a fluffy octopus kind of look when it’s fully grown. But since I know what it is and what it does, when I look at it all I see is a big green spiny pile of PEST.

Asparagus fern - deceptively invasive and horrid.

Asparagus fern - deceptively invasive and horrid.

The amount of sores I’ve gotten on my hands from embedded spikes, and the hours of sweating away in the garden removing it, makes me hate this plant with a passion. It has underground tubers that kind of look like tiny little pointy potatoes. These hold water and nutrients and mean that even if you pull out all the leaves/fronds/stems then it still has enough energy to grow more.
It gets a bright red berry which is eaten by birds and, you guessed it, spread by birds. It is a problem in bushland and home gardens because the tubers and roots form an impenetrable network which stops any other plant from being able to grow, and it can also impede water percolation into the ground.

I find the root mass is easier to remove with a weeding tool such as:

Which uses a levering method to pull the plant up by its roots. Particularly useful for flat weeds (dandelions, etc) and spiky things that you would rather not touch (thistle, etc).

Those are the two main weeds in my garden that I hate with a passion, but there are plenty more that deserve to be eradicated. Thistles, oxalis, petty spurge, carrot weed, bindii, etc etc. I don’t have the time to talk about them all though.

Carrot Weed

Carrot Weed

Clover is also a weed which invades lawns, but when you get clover in your lawn it tells you that your soil is nitrogen deficient. Clover is a special type of plant (legume family) that is able to grow in very poor soils, because it can draw from the atmospheric nitrogen in order to get the nourishment it needs but can’t get from the soil. It is common for farmers to plant a crop of nitrogen-fixing plants such as clover or peas, and then till them back into the soil to give it the nitrogen it needs in order to grow other crops. A permaculture spokesperson I was listening to once told us all of the dangers of the world ‘running out of nitrogen’. This is impossible, and all her little speech did was make her look like a fool. Whilst it is true that the main nitrogen ‘mines’ off on the Christmas Islands and the like, which are ancient piles of guano (bird poo) are being depleted, Nitrogen is an element and as such can’t be destroyed and will always be around. It’s like trying to say that the world will run out of carbon because all the forests are being chopped down and the fossil fuels mined. Nitrogen exists in the nitrogen cycle and we will never run out of it.

Clover invading the lawn

Clover invading the lawn

SO…
Now is the time to assess your garden and be brutal about getting rid of the weeds. What looks like a little innocuous plant now, could soon turn into a big nasty invasive weed! I don’t use chemicals unless absolutely necessary- I prefer to pull them out by hand for instant gratification and beautification of the lawn. After you’ve pulled out the weeds in the garden bed, a thick covering of mulch (such as pine chips) will help stop the weeds from growing through again.
Chemical-free is also safer for the animals that might frequent your garden and also safer for the ornamentals and natives you want to keep! Now really is the best time to get out in the garden as well, because it’s not hot enough to make it impractical and it’s before most of the weeds have set seed or come into flower. The trick with weed removal is to get the plants BEFORE they reproduce, otherwise it will be a pointless exercise. When you pull up your weeds or cut them right back to the ground, DON’T put the waste in your compost or in the normal bin, put them in a plastic bag and tie it up. Leave it outside for a week or so, to be sure the plants are completely dead (they can be tenacious little buggers) and then throw the bag into the bin. This will ensure that the weeds won’t live to see another day somewhere off down the track.

Now it’s time for me to get out and tackle the thistles…
Happy weeding :-)

Links:

http://cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Environment/PlantsAndAnimals/CurrentStatus/NoxiousWeeds.asp

Pictorial Guide to the weeds declared ‘noxious’ under the Noxious Weeds Act (1993).

http://www.sydneyweeds.org.au/docs/Sydney-Green-Cestrum-Plan-06-11.pdf

Comprehensive Report/Action Plan on the noxious weed ‘Green Cestrum’Cestrum parqui.

http://www.weeds.org.au/

Weeds Australia- by the Australian Weeds Committee (has a good Weed ID database).

http://www.thelawnguide.com.au/lawn-care/weeds-pests-diseases/27-pests-and-diseases/294-petty-spurge.html

A list of common lawn and garden weeds in Australia, and how to control them.

Seed saving!


The American project (http://www.seedsavers.org/) has been running since 1975.

Sick of buying expensive imported seeds? Want to do something good for your local environment (in a way) and become more self-sufficient? Do you want to join a network full of other like-minded gardeners? Do you have an annual plant that has done very well, and you’d like to have the same success next growing season?
Seed Savers is a worldwide grass-roots project where local gardeners and home horticulturalists let their favourite or most successful plants go to seed, and save these seeds to distribute to others. Doing so encourages local diversity and also encourages ‘heirloom’ plant diversity. It is also something very simple that home gardeners can do to decrease their reliance on commercial seed companies and gain more satisfaction from their gardening practices.

What is an heirloom plant?
Heirloom plants are plants that have been cultivated for many years (generally agreed as 50 years plus), most likely because they have desirable qualities such as pest-resistance or high yield or good quality yield and to help prolong rare or importance species.

A ‘sciency’ aside…
Natural Selection?
A lot of you are probably wondering “Why worry about natural selection and heirlooms? I can buy all the seeds I want from the nursery!”.
There’s nothing wrong with buying from the nursery or from Bunnings, if you don’t mind where your seeds came from or if you want to experiment with different seeds, or if you don’t mind buying your seeds every year when your annual crops die off.
The beautiful thing about letting your plants go to seed, is that if you have a successful crop and want to be able to grow it again next year you can! This is technically called artificial selection but it is done in such a way that no genetic modifications or chemical agents are used to make the plants ‘better’ or to aid the survival of weaker plants.

Hypothetical scenario:
Say you sow 12 sunflower seeds…out of those 12 seeds only 10 germinate. Out of those 10; 6 are ‘normal’ height, 2 are shorter than normal and 2 are taller than normal. If you wanted to grow only tall sunflower plants, you could try your luck again with another dozen seeds the next year, or you could collect the seeds from the two tallest plants in the hope that their seeds will produce only/mostly tall sunflowers.
Congratulations- you’ve just acted as an agent of artificial selection!

Back to saving your seeds, and why you should do it.
When you buy seeds from the store, or even seedlings, it is more than likely the plants are hybrids that won’t produce viable seeds or will produce seeds that turn into plants that look and possibly taste nothing like the parent plant.

Will these seeds I took from store bought pumpkin and avocadoes grow into plants that will produce fruit that is just as big and tasty?

Will these seeds I took from store bought pumpkin and avocadoes grow into plants that will produce fruit that is just as big and tasty?

This is a deliberate move by seed companies and producers. With annual plants which need regrowing from seed each year (eg carrots, lettuce, celery, beetroot, etc), if home gardeners could harvest the seeds from their mature plants and save them for the year after to grow them again- how would the seed companies make any money? The same goes with the seeds of the fruit and vegetables you buy in the supermarket.
Being crafty with genetics and cross-pollinations means that hybrids can be made which won’t be viable to grow the next year. Or if they do grow, they will be weak (pest or disease prone) or produce fruit which in no way resembles the delicious crops you got off your original packet of seeds.
Not all food crop plants are bred to have useless mutant plant-growing seeds, but it’s very very common.

Will this Hass Avocado seed sprout into a nice fertile tree?

Will this Hass Avocado seed sprout into a nice fertile tree?

But that doesn’t mean we should not bother trying to collect and grow seeds from the plants, fruits, and vegetables we have already.

I have started to collect and grow any seeds I can get from my fruit and veges, and to let the plants I have grown from store-bought seeds ‘bolt’ (go to seed) and collect the results to plant again.
I’ve had mixed results, mostly with the seeds collected straight from store-bought produce not germinating. I have had some success with pumpkin seeds, however. Those little seeds are so determined and will grow anywhere!

Here is one that I pulled out of a tomato planter tub that I had put compost (from my pile) in:

It was obviously somewhere deep in the dirt, and has grown all the way up to get to the surface. Determined, isn’t it. Only the top green leaves were poking up above the soil level.

This pumpkin plant was grown from a seed I took from an ordinary old pumpkin I bought at Coles. Butternut, I think? I hope it’s butternut, at least- I love those things! Whether it will grow into a nice big plant that produces pumpkins that look and taste like the one I bought in the shop remains to be seen.

At the beginning of August

At the beginning of August

Here it is less than a month later!

Pumpkin on the left, basil on the right.

Pumpkin on the left, basil on the right.

Another plant I’ve been growing, but from seeds bought at the shop, was Pak Choy. I love asian greens so thought it would be so convenient to grow my own.

Unwittingly, I put the whole packet of seeds in the planter box…so I ended up with a planter absolutely jam packed with pak choy. That’s not the way you should do it, because there it places a lot of stress on the plants through competition for water and nutrients and leaf area/available sunlight.

Anyway, this is the planter box in the beginning of June (sorry for the bad quality photo):

June 2nd

June 2nd

Give it a few weeks, and they had turned into very nice leafy plants. Then the ducks managed to get to them and almost demolished the lot of them. I did manage to save some though, and repot them into their own pots.

July 23rd

July 23rd

These are getting on a bit, and are at the point of ‘bolting’. The leaves are still tasty and not bitter so if we wanted we could have kept harvesting them. But these ones I specifically wanted to let go to seed so I could collect the seeds to plant again in spring.

I thought they would stay small, but I was very wrong!

August 14th

August 14th

They’ve grown to 1m tall, or more, and I’ve since moved them to behind a mesh fence to help keep them upright in the wind.
The bees love the blossoms, and it’s very interesting watching the different stages of seed formation in the plant.

Here is what they look like now, after the petals have withered and dropped. The seeds form in an elongated inferior ovary so each petiole turns into/supports the seed pod.

September 3rd

September 3rd

Not long now before the seeds will be ready and I can replant them, and see how the second generation compare to the original plants.

I’ve also collected seeds from the sweet pea trellis and hope to get them back in the ground as soon as they’ve dried out enough.

Will update with more pics soon, as the chinese broccoli/beetroot/spinach have shot up and are so much bigger now, and I have lots of little tomato seedlings and new lettuce plants…not to mention to potatoes going crazy! It’s all going on here :-)

Remember: taking away your dependance on big businesses for your gardening and food requirements is one step closer to a self-sustainable, and more ethical lifestyle.

Fat Betty the rabbit approves of self-sustainability!

Fat Betty the rabbit approves of self-sustainability!

Magnolia welcomes the season.

Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia grandiflora

It doesn’t look like more than a bunch of sticks from that picture, but this little Magnolia grandiflora (‘Little Gem’ dwarf form) is finally showing signs of life after what seemed an eternity.

I bought it in Spring 2007, and unfortunately wasn’t able to plant it in the ground until February this year. I’ve heard that Magnolias don’t take transplanting well, and this one was quite rootbound, so the odds were not on its side. It’s planted in a semi-sun area that gets morning and early afternoon sun (on our block it approximates to an easterly aspect) and the same horrible heavy clay soil. I prepared a hole for it with lime, and dug it to twice the width of the root ball. As it was rootbound I teased the roots apart a bit to try and encourage lateral growth.

Over the last month or so I’ve noticed buds forming and swelling all along the branches, and when every other magnolia around Sydney is in magnificent blossom at the moment the buds on this tree held a lot of promise.
All of a sudden, as if it knows what day of the season it is, the buds have all split and opened!

Leaves, not flowers!

Leaves, not flowers!

They all contained leaves, and are almost all split and opened. I expect in the next few days the leaves will fully emerge and it will be able to start photosynthesising and making food for itself to grow over the warm seasons. Magnolias are notoriously slow growing, and since the ‘Little Gem’ dwarf form has been introduced to Australia from the United States not enough time has passed for people to see just how big they will grow! Regular M. grandiflora get to be up to 30m tall, but ‘Little Gem’ is said to grow between 4 and 8m tall. For my purposes, as an ornamental tree in a house-front garden, that’s perfect house-height. Ideally it will grow tall enough for the bottom-most branches to pass the top of the windows but not too tall as to not give the house any shade in Summer.

Magnolias are known for their massive creamy-white blooms, delicately perfumed, and their large dark green waxy leaves. The Magnolia is deciduous, so when it starts to get cold all the leaves will fall off.
The garden that I have planted it in has a variety of plants in it at the moment, and I am aiming to have a wide range of foliage and flower types in it to add interest. The dark shiny leaves will contrast against the silvery leaves of the lavender bush, and the bright green lobed leaves of the Seaside Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus ) which you can see behind the Magnolia in the first picture up above. As the underside of the leaves is a contrasting colour to the top (in this case, silvery white, not the regular coppery-bronze of most Magnolias) which will add an extra element of colour to the garden.

I've 'mulched' around the bottom of the trunk with stones and pebbles, which have helped to keep moisture in and prevent the soil from washing away when I water it. It is planted on a slight slope which will help water drainage in the root zone. Magnolias are popular as container plants not just for their beauty and interest, but also because they are very low maintenance and it is more or less pest/disease free.

I look forward to watching the progress of the little Magnolia, and eagerly anticipate the arrival of flowers in Summer- although I'm not holding my breath for them!

*edit* I apologise for the sloppy HTML. Lesson learnt to check my work before I post!

Happy Spring!!

Of course on the day that I change the duck pond water and use it to water all the plants in the garden, it starts raining. We haven’t had rain in how long now? Oh well. The ducks are happy and the plants get a double dose today I suppose.

Over the last few weeks the garden has been slowly unfurling into flower and bud, and now it’s Spring it’s only going to get busier from here!

It’s only a short post today, because I have errands to run but I have a number of different posts in the works (including my potato explosion!) so keep tuned and enjoy the rain we’re getting today if you also happen to be in Sydney.

:-)

Carrots!

Thanks everyone for the views and for your comments :-) There are plenty more posts to come, and as soon as I upload and organise all my photos I’ll be adding more.

Just a short one today, about my lovely little carrot seedlings!
I’ve never grown carrots before, and as an annual plant, it is much more economical (and rewarding, I think) to grow them from seed rather than from a punnet of ready established seedlings.
For the price of a punnet of maybe a dozen seedlings, you can buy a packet of a couple of hundred seeds. You also don’t have to worry so much about transplanting as you can sow directly where you want them to grow. I’ve bought a punnet of celery seedlings and the little plants were so intertwined with their roots and leaves that it was a real hassle to pry them apart- and once I did I had a terrible success rate. You’ll find that seeds grow rapidly so it only takes a few weeks extra for the seeds to catch up to the seedlings.

I planted the first row of carrot seeds (will update with the actual variety name tomorrow) a month or so, and planted another row about a fortnight after. Just so they aren’t all ready for harvesting at the same time and we have too many carrots at once.

This was taken in the last week of July, about a week or two after I sowed them:

And this is taken just this week- see how much bigger they have gotten.

When I planted them, I spaced them closer than it advises on the packet (they say something crazy like 10cm apart) but then thinned out the weakest ones along the way. I’ve probably thinned the first row from about 35 down to 20 or so, and the second row I will check on in the next day or so and make sure there aren’t any seedlings too close to each other. How close is too close? Carrots love space to grow, and if you plant them too close together they will feel crowded could grow into strange shapes. Another reason that carrots grow into weird shapes is because there are sticks or stones or obstructions in the ground which cause them to fork, etc. One thing that I am a little worried about is the depth of my container- I’ve chosen a variety that is either a dwarf or smaller-type variety so hopefully they won’t hit the bottom of the planter box and get stuck in the reservoir grate.

I’ve left about 15mm or so on the side of each seedling, so doing the math that means my container probably has more than 15 little seedlings in each row. You get the idea, anyway. When they get a bit bigger I will do another ‘cull’ so they have about 20mm on each side. I’ve read that by this stage the carrots should be at a nice ‘baby carrot’ stage and can be eaten!
Carrots don’t transplant too well, either, they tend to get bent and won’t grow straight. But they all taste the same!

I’ll keep updating as they get bigger and hopefully in another 2 months (carrots from seed usually take 3 to 4 months) I’ll have pictures of the tasty carrots we’ve dug up :-)

Happy gardening!!