Archive for the ‘In the veggie patch’ Category

Have had some wonderful blog posts all formed in my mind, but they have stayed there… It happens when I’m gardening. Beautiful words and thoughts form as I weed and plant and till the good old soil. What I need is to write it then and there, because by the time I finish in the garden, I don’t want to go on the computer. They don’t go together well for me. When I’m all doused in nature, the call of the keyboard grows faint and is easily ignored.  Oh well.

This spring is so full of growth – I have watched the cherry blossoms burst into intense pink glory, dissolve into a carpet of pink snow upon the path, and now rot into brown mush. Must be time someone swept I guess. Under the cherry blossom and extravagance of old bearded irises sings loud and bright, there were sweetest lily of the valley before, sending wafts of perfume everywhere.

this iris bud fell into the fallen blossom. After the photo, I placed it in a water bowl, it opened and shone for a couple of days before shrivelling into a crinkled, crepe thing.

I have picked the largest rose I ever saw, a Mr Lincoln, and more are coming. It’s of course a classic velvet crimson thing, and was a gift to me from Patsy Hollis, who loves roses and words, and to whom I mentioned my fondness for Mr Lincoln. The roses I grow are all gifts, except my Iceberg, which I bought because I was feeling left out of Hobart’s obsession with iceberg roses. Coming along is Pierre de Ronsard, recent gift from the garden of a wonderful friend who thought she was moving, so gave me her roses, then changed her mind, but lets me keep them. Two x Pierre to adorn the brand new rather raw fence, and a couple of David Austens about to reveal themselves.

Soon I go to India. Some travellers are coming to mind house and garden. I hope it can be their

Light on Columbine

haven for a while, and that from its kind welcome they can go out exploring Tasmania, returning to the gentle realm of the garden. There will be raspberries soon, and the goji berry has flowered! We will see if it comes to anything.

The fence is also about to be clad in PEAS, which are climbing nicely and will feed the houseminding travellers, and hopefully Scarlet Runner Beans, the shiny deep coloured seeds of which are planted, but not yet up. Will they come through before I go?

I have a million photos to show you, am just uploading a couple. At least I have written.




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Somehow it’s already the 1st of July and in Tasmania that means DEEP WINTER. The garden is mostly dozing, although some wonderful self-sown things are coming up in masses. Namely, some obscure greens I picked up from the herb lady at Salamanca market last spring. One is called Miner’s Lettuce, which our always helpful friend Wikipedia tells me  is Claytonia perfoliata, also known as winter purslane. It has most delightful round leaves and tastes green and earthy. I let it go to seed, as I do so often, and as autumn fell into winter, a million green dots came through. I left them of course, just in case they were friends and edible friends at that. Sure enough, I can now go with my scissors and snip masses of the wee cotyledon sprouts, like mowing a lawn with snippers. Elsewhere they are growing with more room, and so becoming shapely and wide armed, though tiny arms of course.

Meanwhile across the way in another bed the healthiest crop of corn salad is glowing from the soil, such deep green glossy and perfectly formed beautiful leaves, and next to it, land cress is taking over, no need for flowing streams of water cress, though of course, that would be divine. The rocket is also bursting out of the ground wherever it can, keeping me supplied with peppery sprigs. There are still dandelions to keep me extra healthy, and lo, the nasturtium rounds of course! All these kindly leaves are there for the picking, with no effort from me, just as the parsely, chives and other standbys are really finished. Sometimes it’s worth doing nothing much. Let the seeds fall, and let the seeds grow. Nature understands itself much better than we do.

The garlic is also spearing through the surface, as are old faithful broadbeans. I am having fun with new beds as I have a fab new fence which I neglected to tell you about. It’s amazing construction was one of the things that kept me preoccupied outside and away from this blog. My fab new fence means that I am inspired to keep its lovely boundary lines clear and the best way to do it is with gardens, so in they go. More landscaping is underway, with rocks and sleepers and helpers.

A  little Eucalpytus leuhmanii is planted just above Charlotte. Charlotte’s nest is now underground, she died in April. The tree is a special one, it was a birthday gift, and now it is a memory tree. She grows well, and Charlotte rests well. I posted photos of her on Facebook, so that’s where you’ll see her.

Another tree planted this winter is a fig – took the cutting from the other fig, which has had misfortunes but was also a gift a few years ago. And a new border is at the front of the property, edged with marvellous rustic bits of the old fence. Look out for bits of the old fence everywhere, including in the fire that burns us warm inside these winter days and nights. Will do photos that show these things shortly. The new border was a great effort of mine, a great frenzied effort of dividing and digging and watering the holes and planting the divisions, all the way along the street edge. The name of the plant escapes me, it’s one that always does. Gets a starry blue flower followed by blue berries arranged along an arching and slender stem, it’s a native plant with clumping abundant leaves and it’s name is… tell you next time.

Now it’s me that dozes, have had a long and productive day working up an idea that maybe one day I’ll be able to report to you happily about! It’s a garden thing, and a writing thing, so it’s allowed on this blog.

Subha ratri – that’s Nepali for good night xxx.

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Both kids are out for the evening. Interestingly, upon return from the supermarket with multiple bags of shopping now covering the kitchen floor, all sense of domestic obligation has suddenly evaporated. No-one wants to know what’s for dinner… time to blog…

The undisturbed shopping bags seemed quite peaceful...

As it’s a summery Saturday I spent the entire morning at Salamanca market, arms being stretched by bags filled with very sweet and very cheap strawberries and cherries while I indulged in pleasant and drawn out conversations with long-lost friends. One of them was the purveyor of the cherries. I stayed chatting so long that people started asking me for half kilos and I ended up packing bags for her while we caught up. It was Sally Dakis, of ABC radio’s Country Hour, wife of  Chris Wisby, also of ABC broadcasting fame – while he’s on air from 6am, she’s out selling the cherries he’s been farming all week. I shared an office with Chris for a while during my Gardening Australia days when I was an itinerant desk-occupier. But that’s another story.

The point is, I shall dine on those fruits while I blog, as no-one else needs dinner. The bags on the kitchen floor look very peaceful. Let us think GARDEN instead.

It’s high time we discussed zucchinis. In languages other than Australian, I believe they are known as courgettes. Same thing.

The plant, the zucchs, the garlic that grew there before them, and some friendly nasturtiums

The important point here is that they are a vegetable with a potentially bad attitude. It’s tempting to compare them with the adolescently undisciplined nasturtiums – lacking regular attention, they get away and do their own thing. But the comparison doesn’t quite stand. Zucchinis have to be watched for a different reason. They look innocent enough, but they have a cunning streak, and if given less than half a chance, very quickly develop an oversized ego akin to that of the alpha male. To avoid this, you must visit your plants daily and eat their babies!

If you don’t, you can be certain that one fruit, most likely hiding under a leaf (bit like Adam?), will start doubling its dimensions daily. This display of dominance is at the expense of the plant’s overall productivity. The alpha-male zucchini demands all the plant’s resources for its exponential, self-centred growth. Its sole motive is reproduction. Left to its own devices, that so-called zucchini will soon become a marrow. The marrow is not what you want. The marrow is full of large seeds, the flesh around them is stringy and mushy at the same time, the flavour is non-existent, the skin is thick and hard, like a shell. That’s right, it has become thick-skinned, domineering and devoid of endearing qualities. Know anyone like that? Would you want them in your garden? I think not.

At the back is the one I found under a leaf - on the way to alpha-maledom

The only culinary solution to the marrow is stuffing ie you scoop out the unwanted stuff and stuff in things that taste good. In my experience, we often don’t get round to stuffing. The thing hangs around the kitchen, or shed, or back verandah, taking up space while you prepare better meals, meals with subtlety.

What we want from our zucchini plants is to eat its babies. Toddlers at the most.  A small zucchini is a good zucchini. I reiterate, you must visit your plants daily, preferably in the morning. Why morning? Because they need help with sex, and that’s when it’s possible. Incidentally, this applies to pumpkins as well. If there are no bees and you do nothing about it, there will be no zucchinis and no pumpkins. The window of opportunity is brief, and morning is the time. Let us talk botanically now.

These plants, known as the cucurbits, have separate male and female flowers. The flowers are wide open in the morning and then they close and shrivel. It’s easy to tell the girls from the boys. The girl flowers are held on a stalk that is a baby version of the mature fruit ie a mini-zucchini. The parts inside the flower are complex compared to the male’s flower parts. The male flower is held up high and proud on its long stem, no babies to hold it back. Inside the flower there is just one prong of pollen held up to the sun and the bees. It is that prong of pollen that you must steal. Here’s how…

  • Break off the male flower at its stalk;

    Male flower on the left, female on the right

  • Ruthlessly tear away the petals;
  • The pollen stalk is now exposed;
  • Rub the pollen stalk onto the female flower parts;

That’s it! You have fertilised the flower and the fruit will set. If the pollen is not transferred by you or a bee, the baby zucchini will soon look sickly, go rotten, and fall off – failure to thrive.

Zucchini management is an important aspect of vegetable growing. If you handle them well, the rewards are many. It’s a simple formula – help with the sex, eat the babies and curb their alpha male urges.

On a sunny morning the bees should do the work for you. Here they are pollinating a female flower.

This bee is headed for the pollen stalk of the male flower.

Practical: Cucurbita pepo; common names: zucchini, courgette, summer squash

General: A summer crop, very easy to grow and bears abundantly. Needs quite a lot of space as it sprawls around continually increasing its spread.

Climate: Zucchinis thrive in dry heat with adequate moisture at their roots. Humidity results in mildewy leaves and shortens the productive life span.

Sun: Full sun is best, less is okay.

Soil: Well drained with good moisture retaining properties and plenty of organic matter and nutrients. Incorporate compost and other organic fertilisers before sowing. Mulch well to keep soil cool and moist.

Water: Regular water is needed for good growth and production. Large leaves soak up lots of sun for fast summer growth but also lose water quickly. In humid climates it’s essential to water the soil not the leaves as mildew will be a problem.

Propagation: In spring sow the large seeds where they will grow or else in small pots. Protect from snails, slugs and rats as they germinate. Given good conditions the plants will quickly establish and grow very fast.

Management: Apart from the obvious needs for water, weeding and mulching, the most important thing is to keep picking the small fruits. Visit your plants daily for two reasons: if there are inadequate bees you need to hand pollinate (see above); regular picking means constant supply. If you allow one to grow into a marrow the flowering will be affected as the plant’s energy goes into producing one big fruit with mature seed for reproduction. That is all it really wants to do, so if that’s going on, the need to keep throwing out new flowers ceases.
Uses: Both flowers and fruit are edible. The flowers are quite delicate and need harvesting in the morning. They only last half a day and then close and wither. Both male and female flowers can be harvested, the males being held on a long stalk while the females are attached to the mini-fruit. The mini-fruit and flower can be picked together. The fruits should be picked after only a couple of days growth as their flavour is superior when young and there are no seeds, just soft white flesh. Their uses are many: slice then grill, fry, barbecue, steam or add to soups, stews, curries, pasta sauce etc. Overgrown fruits are best grated for use in fritters, cakes and breads. Grated is also suitable for salad use.

India sunset

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