Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It looks like we’re getting an unexpected delivery of top soil this morning. It must be blowing in from the west. The air is thick with red dust, so some poor farmers have lost a significant amount of soil which will be left as a fine deposit across the country side.

Gloria thought she could see a hint of dust in the air when I left for work today. The gathering clouds had a slight touch of redness. That “touch” has intensified to leave no doubt. It has the appearance of bushfire smoke without the accompanying smell of burning trees.
Apart from the visual confirmation, I am experiencing slight burning irritation in the throat that is different from the effects of a cough I’ve had for a few weeks.

We are supposed to get rain today, so afterwards everything will be coated with a streaky red deposit. The rain is needed and we always enjoy a downpour, but in combination with the dust the rain will be a mixed blessing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ordered at Last

I finally submitted the seed order mentioned in my previous post.
I made a few last minute changes. I bought corn seed from the supermarket because I hadn’t been too impressed by the varieties on offer through the mail order supplier – but maybe I was being too gullible, being easily swayed by the image on the seed packet.
I also dropped the zucchini from my order after buying some seedlings instead. And then I got home and found I had a packet of zucchini seed all along. Fortunately its expiry date is still a couple of years off so as long as I remember it next year I won’t have to buy seedlings or seed in 2010.

Eggplant was another culling victim. Since I’ve never grown them before and Gloria has never cooked them, I thought I could save a couple of dollars. We probably wouldn’t make much use of them anyway and they’d take up valuable gardening space. [It’s amazing how quickly the garden shrinks when spring growth starts to fill up the bare patches again].

As long as the supplier lives up to its word my order should arrive early next week. Their promised prompt delivery was a big incentive to give them a go.

There was an exciting development in the garden this week. The first sign of life from my potatoes! I had only planted them about three weeks ago and I had never seen results so soon in previous plantings. Hopefully it’s a sign of good things for my potatoes this year. But then again, the growth is probably coming from a stray scrap of peel that survived composting.

On the subject of “tatties”, I planted out a second crop over the weekend, this time in bags that I bought from the digger’s club. I have two bags of Kipfler and two of Nicola. After trying countless other ways of producing potatoes (and failing) I’m trying to remain optimistic about this method. My dad can’t understand why I don’t just stick with the old tried and true method of growing potatoes in the ground like he used to do.

Friday, September 04, 2009

A bit seedy today

I am ready to order my seeds and I’m considering my options. Do I stick with my previous supplier or do I try someone else?

The important factor is delivery time. After leaving things for so long I want my seeds delivered yesterday.

So far I’ve chosen 15 different types of seed to order. Thirteen are vegetables and two are flowers. The choices were not as easy as they should have been and I was troubled by the following questions:

Do I stick with the same things I’ve tried in previous years or should I get more adventurous? Apart from trying some new types of veggies should I change the kind of beans I’ve had in the past?

It’s easy to get used to a particular type of bean, cabbage, beetroot, zucchini (name a veggie of your own choice) and so miss out on a potentially BETTER kind.

At the moment my garden is growing small turnips and kohlrabi. Both of these were a bit of an experiment. We’ve never bothered with eating turnips in the past, but they seemed like a nice addition for winter casseroles. However, despite being labelled “harvest in 40 days” it has taken 4 months for them to develop enough to use them.
The same kind of thing has happened with the kohlrabi. It should also have been ready 3 months ago but is only just starting to show a swelling in the stem that will hopefully develop into something more or less tennis-ball sized.
(I gave some seedlings to my boss and we have a competition going to see who will be the first to bring a tennis ball sized kohlrabi to work).
Apart from the esteem of beating my boss, I’m not sure what use the mature plant can be put to. Again it was intended to be used in casseroles, but now we are moving into spring casseroles will soon be off the menu until next winter.

On the whole I’ve decided to take a reasonably conservative path, taking only two or three less predictable detours.

The choices so far (probably subject to change):


1) Mary Washington Asparagus
2) Lazy Wife Beans (our usual)
3) Purple King Bean (still beans but trying a different type)
4) Bulls Blood Beetroot (branching out again to see how they compare with our usual “globe beetroot”.
5) Royal Chantenay Carrot (have yet to find a preference – so hopefully this will be the one).
6) Jolly Roger Corn (not much choice available and this one’s picture looked most tempting – oh the subtle power of an advertising image!)
7) Lebanese Cucumber (the only one Gloria seems to like).
8) Black Beauty Eggplant (I’ve never grown or cooked this before but I love Moussaka.)
9) Plum Purple Radish (a change from the French breakfast)
10) Glaskins Perpetual Rhubarb (supposedly bright red).Our current rhubarb has the merest hint of insipid pinkness along predominantly green stems. We wasted a lot while we waited for it to change colour, only realising our mistake when most of it had spoiled.
11) Mesclun Salad Mix (non-hallucinogenic I hope)
12) Zucchini Black Beauty (another vegetable from the stable of the Anna Sewell fan club).
13) Turnip purple top


1) Pentstemon
2) Larkspur

These are all potential ADDITIONS and do not take into account what I already have in my seed collection. The most noticeable absence from the above list is a tomato. Last week I bought the Burkes Backyard magazine and received some free tomato seeds. They have been sown and are hopefully germinating in a makeshift indoor "greenhouse" (a clear plastic storage container in the garage).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Resprouting of Optimism

Winter is officially over and very slowly I’m discovering some encouraging signs in the garden. It has lacked any serious winter character since our Cootamundra Wattle fell apart a year and a half ago.

According to neighbours the wattle was a very old tree and it had obviously endured some very heavy-handed pruning in the past which left some very ugly stumps in the place of former branches.

But despite its flaws it really brightened up the back yard in winter. The wattle blossom seemed to last for ever and glowed in the sunlight. Even on a cloudy day the colour was vibrant, almost fluorescent.

Then one morning half of the tree had fallen onto the back fence and over the next few days I started to dismantle what was left (of the tree, not the fence). This exercise significantly opened the back yard to more direct sunlight and also opened up more possibilities with the veggie garden which could now be expanded.

Despite the new possibilities, the tree’s loss robbed us of the major feature in the back garden. While its physical presence restricted our use of so much garden area, it had given the backyard character. It dominated the outlook from our most lived-in room at the back of the house. It acted as a screen between us and our back neighbour. And it gave us a lot of colour over winter. Its loss has perhaps made winters less appealing. Everything else in the backyard is more noticeably dormant without the amazing glow of the wattle blossom.
As if to emphasise our loss, the tree was able to leave behind a solitary orphan offspring in our neighbour’s yard. Halfway down their side fence line an immature tree is now big enough to remind us of what has been lost.

Since the loss of our tree I’ve been trying to grow something that will give us some of the benefits that we now lack, but at the same time not rob the yard of suitable growing space. As yet nothing is coming close to restoring some of the privacy we (and our neighbour) previously had. And nothing is producing the stunning, lengthy display of vibrant blossom that made it a pleasure to look from our back windows.

While there is still a way to go before the back garden regains its healthy spring and summer appearance, those first hints of life are becoming noticeable. We now have a “paddock-load” of healthy garlic that almost overnight have changed from low grass-like blades into foot high plants.

Our newly planted raspberry and gooseberry plants are both showing healthy new leaf growth, as are the older Goji berries from last year. (I didn’t realise the Goji’s were deciduous until their leaves started to look distressed and I checked their label again).

The roses are also covered in juvenile, burgundy coloured shoots. I pruned most of them earlier than last year to see if I can extend their flowering season before summer scorches the health out of their blooms. I think they need much more water than I’m willing to give them to keep them in peak health over the hotter months.

And some of our perennials are starting to show some new healthy growth giving a hint of the potential display of colour they have in store for us over the coming months. And that is the key word: POTENTIAL. I can see things starting to happen, and the regrowth in the garden (as subtle as it may be) is starting to inspire a refound optimism.