Monday, November 10, 2014

Tropical wet season or weed season?

I have been avoiding facing up to the weeds out in the veggie patch.  The more you avoid them the more rampant they become so this weekend I made weeding a priority.  As I go through the beds I throw the weeds onto my weed mat paths.  Once done, I simply turn the weed mat over and voila!  the weeds are gone :)  Making weed tea attracts mosquitos in this climate, and yet I dont want to throw anything that comes out of my garden away.  doesnt it look nice  and clean now?
 I also moved one of the worm bins into a more accessible area, right here in the asparagus bed.  This one has a bucket on top with fresh yummy veggies to entice the worms to move up.  That will leave the castings in the lower bucket that I can add to plants that need an extra boost.  I think the lime tree might need some boosting.  Not sure what is going on -one of the branches has started dying and there are these white spots all over the dying branch.  I cut back the dead part and sprayed with soapy water with a bit of oil added.  Not mealy bugs as I cant scrape them off.
 The hippeastrum are looking lovely although I dont seem able to get the whole row to flower at once...
 I cut back all the faded heleconia, and gosh that opened up the back path quite a bit and let lots of light in.  I also cut back the lower lychee branches as it looks as though the only fruit we are going to get are too high to reach - sigh.  That means the bats will find them...
New heleconia are starting to shoot up as the wet season is their main flowering season.
 The other side of the path is also more open and light fill now.
This was about an hour after mulching up all the leaves, but at least my compoost bin is pumping away, and I am able to get some pretty good compost about every 6 weeks. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Garden share collective, heading into November

Once again it is time to link up with Lizzie at the Garden Share collective
I looked back on last month where I was saying how dry it was, and it is still dry!  We had a few sprinkles, but watering the garden is something that we just do not do here!  I put up an extra shade cloth, but really need to purchase in some sugar cane mulch for the veggie patch.  I have been using my compost, but it is not enough.  We have never seen so many leaves falling, all the compost bins are continually topped up, I have to keep adding water so that they can rot down. I have two shade cloths up, and the only thing I am trying to do is keep the weeds at bay.
The yellow cherrry tomatoes are still producing, and I have two types of eggplant the tsalonika long purple and a little round thai  white one that I got from a  lady at the markets. Both growing in wicking beds.

The asparagus bed was quite over run when I returned so that had to be attended to.  I had mulched well before leaving for my trip, but there were cosmos, amaranth and even some cherry tomatoes trying to wend their way in.   The tomatoes in the wicking beds in front were tied  up so that they were not sprawling all over the paths, and that looked a bit neater immediately.  This weekend I pulled out the last of those tomato plants.

The rosella was full of flowers on my return, so I dried some for tea and saved seeds and will plant more out along the back fence.  I have started the seeds, and have three that have come up.  I might start some more.

There are some little buds on my coffee bush, so I am anxiously watching those to see what happens.

The pepper vine seems happy enough.  I heard that it only fruits on sideways branches so I have been pruning it back.

 I purchased a rhubarb plant and planted it in the front of the asparagus bed.

The microgreens I started out did not survive outside, under the shadecloth, even with daily watering, so I am trying them in some coir in my multilayered sprouter inside the kitchen.

In the next month I am going to add some mulch and keep down the weeds as much as possible.  This time of the year is not our best growing season

Friday, October 24, 2014

Counting my blessings....

I feel so blessed to have a garden, with flowers and little dribbles of food (we certainly cannot live on what I grow!) ......... and butterflies ...... and a peaceful place to sit and enjoy it all.  
There was some lovely soft seaweed on the beach yesterday afternoon, so we gathered a couple of bagfuls.  I laid it out as mulch on the asparagus bed, but clearly will have to get some more.  I am sure I can be talked into another walk on the beach some time soon.  This asparagus stalk was chopped up and divided between the two of us - tender all the way to the bottom.  The Mary Washington is skinny little stalks as you can see in the background.  I have decided I will go ahead and plant some more purple asparagus seeds.
Look!  I have some eggplant too :)
 Purple basil - this is such awesome basil - leaves of this and also amaranth, parsley and lettuce were  added to the leafy mix of our salad.  I guess we are getting enough of the vitamins that purple food supplies!
 The Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are beginning to bloom :)
I can never get enough of these stunning flowers.  Look at those beautiful stirpes, and the perfect little stamens - with one long white one...
 Opening up the bed has brought the golden candles to life as well and I do love the purple and yellow together.
 I have been blessed with two grandchildren here in Australia and my new little one in America.
 No matter where we are I will hold them in my hearts, I will think of them as as I go....

Happy grandparents day to any other grandparents out there.  
Have a very blessed weekend.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spring buds

It has been so dry here lately, and windy, which dries out the soil even more.  There is promise though in all the buds popping up around the garden....
I love the excitement of seeing little curled up pockets about to unfurl into sheer awesomeness.  As a child I couldn't resist peeking inside the poppy buds to see what colour was going to open next!
Firstly there are amaryllis coming out all over the garden.  I know they like a bit of dry weather to induce flowering.
 This little red amaryllis is happier in a  shady spot.
The giant peace Lilly are living up to their name, the flowers are huge and the stephanotis buds weave through the greenery.  I really must look up some ideas of how to train this vine as I keep looping it back onto the frame.

I just think the little buds are so pretty, and their scent is awesome, but it looks very straggly in this corner.  does anyone else grow them and have any ideas of how best to tie them back?

The desert rose also loves this time of year and my white one is bursting with lovely blooms

These awesome lady slipper orchids are all over - so, so cool!  That vine is meandering all over the weeping tea tree just as I anticipated.

Last night we got some very welcome rain, so maybe the drought is over.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Food forest in the tropics becoming a reality?

Everywhere I look I see food forests being referred to as the way to go growing food in a small area.  I often have to put up a shade cloth to protect the delicate greens like lettuce.  I have toyed with the idea of planting a dwarf avocado, and growing lettuces and greens in the shade of the tree instead of putting up a shade cloth.  A couple of weeks ago I saw a grafted avocado which the market seller assured me was not going to grow too big for my little yard.  In a leap of faith I purchased it, pushing aside the memory of the 40ft tree that was growing in my back yard in Africa.  This weekend I added yet another shade cloth.  It is so hot and dry and the shade cloth helps to keep the plants cooler and they dont dry out as quickly.

I had to prune back the long branches of the barbadoes cherry so that they didnt touch the shade cloth.  I have been mulching with my own compost instead of buying mulch, but at this rate if it doesnt rain soon I might pick up a bag of sugar cane mulch. 
  The bok choy and rocket has gone to seed, so that will remain until I can harvest the seeds.  I dont mind if that area just self seeds itself every year, but feel as though I should save some seeds just in case.  Wouldnt it be marvellous if my little garden could grow up again year after year.  Is there anyone out there who does that?  Do you just let the plants die in place and cover them over with mulch?  I often like to grow a green manure crop in between, so does that upset the balance and drown out the original seeds?  I know my amaranth comes up all over the place, but then that is easy to recognise.  At the moment the entire front bed is covered with tiny amaranth plants, so I guess I could dig that in.  what is better for the soil?  A green manure crop, a ground cover type of crop ( or mulch?  The asparagus bed is weeded and I have started harvesting a few tasty stalks.  I keep them in a jar in the fridge until I have neough for a meal.   Only the purple asparagus has lovely thick spears.  My little seedlings didnt make it through the dry season :(.   I am not sure whether to start more seeds or hope that the green ones thicken up a bit.

 I moved the little potting bench next to the bins, right at the end of the path.  Front and center, as I want to make sure that I do keep up the watering and taking care of the seedlings and microgreens.  I was tempted to buy a small greenhouse for this area since they were on special at Bunnings, but they are flimsy and wont last more than one season.  I bought another tree too :)  a bay tree!  I am not yet sure where to plant it, so it is just sitting on the potting bench waiting further instruction.   The leaves are strange - they grow right alongside the stem before they open up.

  I am starting out some microgreens (carrot, leek and radish)  so that I have some salad greens to go with all the cherry tomatoes that are in full production.  I also started some rosellas as I want to grow more this year along the back fence and tatsoi - which I got from Liz at 8 acres. I am waiting for my rocket to seed so that I can send her some of those seeds.

All in all I think I had a rather productive weekend in my food forest.

PS - I fixed the trouble that I had with photos turning sideways!  Edit and rotate them in picassa and then add them from there to the blog.  :)  Happy me!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Garden share collective heading into October

I missed last months catchup as I was away.  linking to The Garden share collective for October.
Hubby took care of the garden and was inundated with scrub hens trying to roost in the garden, so I am afraid the veggie garden took a bit of a beating.  I have been giving it some good long soaks, sprayed a bit of soapy water on the pests, and cut back overgrowth. We are over-run with cherry tomatoes, I even oven roasted some and popped them into the freezer to add to casseroles etc at a later date.  I think they are now coming to an end as the weather heats up.

 About a year ago I mentioned in a post that I had placed an order for some seeds that were only 1.00 a packet,  It all sounded too good to be true.  I must admit that when the seeds arrived I thought they were a little stingy with the seed, but carefully planted them out.  I can be a little lazy in following up how a particular seed has been performing, unless they perform in a truly outstanding manner.  They e-mailed with a request for photos, offering a 5.00 off coupon, so I dug out my old order: Eggplant Tsakoniki, Basil dark opal, Lettuce parris island cos, lettuce salad bowl red, cucumber lebanese, Petunia, Kale red russian, Warrigal greens, Tomato cherry cocktail, Bunching onion, Italian parsley.  Amazingly most of those are the seeds that have done really well in my garden!

After I came back from my overseas holiday I found the eggplant in the wicking bed in a sorry stage, full of bugs.  I began to water them well, gave them a  soapy water spray a few times, and split the plants between two wicking beds.  They bounced back very well, as you might know I have lots of trouble trying to grow eggplant in my garden.  It is Tsakoniki variety.  No fruit yet, but they are looking hopeful.
 The dark opal basil is another favourite.  It is more mellow than the green basil I normally grow.  I notice some of it is variegated, which is pretty in salads.  I dont mind lots of basil so have let some of it go to seed.
 Of course the "hedge" of italian parsely is amazing.  I love the fact that it is easy to harvest, and I hope this becomes a permanent feature along the edge of my herb spiral.
On my return the red russian kale was also covered with bugs, but with a soapy water spray and regular watering it has bounced right back again.  It is the first time I have had any success with kale.
 I noticed that the leaves develop little "baby kale" sprouts.  Has anyone else had this happen?  I tear the leaves away from the central rib and have the pieces in my mixed salad greens, along with amaranth, baby lettuce leaves, dill, basil and rocket.  Such a nice mixture.
 There are always lots of cherry tomatoes to top off my salads with.   I am especially loving these little yellow ones.

The borage has all come up in a nice line.  I have never grown it before, and read that the leaves are edible, but I took a nibble, and am sure I am not adding it to my salads.  Maybe I have a different variety.
The choko vine developed some strange white spots on  the leaves, and then seems to have died. 

I planted gemsquash seeds kindly sent to me by Kim at Little black cow and lots of plants have come up - more than I planted -  whaat?  They look very similar to loofas or pumpkins  so hopefully I have some gems, and they dont all turn out to be loofas.

 To do:
It is very dry around here now but I need to be thinking about the wet season just around the corner.  I planted out some winged beans on the middle trellis, and dont think I need any green manure as the amaranth is pretty much covering that whole bed! .
Once some of my purchased sweet potatoes sprout I will plant a few around the avocado tree.  I reckon that will work as a ground cover/mulch for the wet season. They need to be rotated and I have never grown them in that bed so they should do well.
I placed an order (making sure to use my 5.00 coupon) with the seed collection for Okra (yes I am going to give it a try!) leek sprouts, radish red arrow sprouts and carrot sprouts. That will be it for my wet season crop.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Afternoon tea with gluten free and diabetic guests

It was time for another afternoon tea in the garden.  One of my friends had been ill, and another was feeling sad, there were a couple I just wanted to spend more time with.  An afternoon in my garden accompanied by friends, birdsong and good food was what was needed.

My friend took this photo on her ipad,  and gave me permission  to use it here, as I was busy pouring tea.....

 Out of 7, three guests  have type 2 diabetes and two are gluten intolerant, so the menu had to be carefully planned.  I have been "baking" life changing bread for a while now, and that is great for diabetics and is also gluten free so that was a definite.  I served it on a bed of rocket, with some yellow cherry tomatoes from the garden.  Simple with a slice of cheese and a piece of sundried tomato, so that the bread is the star.  I first found the recipe here and there are many recipes on the net, but here is my version:

Life Changing Bread

Mix together
2 cups sunflower seeds
1 cup ground linseed
1 cup chopped nuts
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup psyllum husks
4 Tbs chia seeds
1 tsp salt

In another bowl mix the liquids together
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1 Tbsp honey
2 cups water
1 cup whey or water

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and then press firmly into 2 loaf pans.  Cover with cling wrap and leave on kitchen counter overnight.  The whey reacts with the grains, making them more digestible and gives a slightly sourdough flavour.  If you dont want that flavour you can use all water, but the grains need to thoroughly soak up the mositure and soften.
Bake at 180*C for 30 minutes.  Tip out of pans and then place them straight on the oven rack for a further 20 minutes or so until dry and firm.  Once cooled, it can be sliced and then stored in the freezer in a plastic bag.  I simply take out a slice as needed.
I make two loaves to make use of having the oven on for an hour, but you can halve it for one loaf.

the other recipe suitable for both diabetics and coelics is

Chocolate date truffles

1 cup coconut milk (freeze the rest of the tin for use in curries)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dates, pits removed
1/2 cup coconut flour

Place in food processor until well chopped, If it is not sweet enough you could add some stevia, but I find the dates add enough sweetness. Roll into teaspoon sized balls and then roll in coconut if desired.  These freeeze very well.

I am posting these recipes on my recipe blog as well - easier to find as they can get lost among all the gardening posts.


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