Saturday, May 29, 2010

Snail Poison Castle (and more)

Today, furious that many of my seedlings planted last week are now skeletal stalk, I upped the ante on the snail war.  I made a snail poison castle, complete with moat drawbridge (edit. moat is such a lovely word, my mistake) for easy access:

you can see a few cabbage stalks behind the newly installed weapon

The reason for a castle, rather than a scattering of blue pellets, is due to my small fur child, who for some reason quite likes to eat dirt.  I also don't like the idea of the poison getting into the soil.  My initial model (1.1) didn't have the drawbridge over the sharp cut edge.  I thought it was a nice touch, even if only aesthetically....

The seedlings that this castle is protecting are broccoli, red cabbage and mini cabbage. I have a few more broccoli plants growing a few beds away, and they're just starting to sprout:

Over the last 8 months that I've been working on this garden, I've discovered that while the beds are relatively small, to access the plants in the centre of each bed requires me to step into the garden bed. I have heavy clay soil and so when I step onto it, I compress it, which makes it harder to dig into later.  So in the newly planted beds, I've been lying old planks along the centre of the beds.  When you step onto the planks, your weight is redistributed slightly, and it means that you don't get dirty feet either (I have a bad habit of walking out in ugg boots to the garden patch at night to get last minute vegies for dinner, then having to wash my ugg boots when I come back in. Der)

Last weekend's planting of garlic and beetroot seeds 
between the planks.  Plus leeks, spring onions.

Access planks in my cabbage/broccoli/established cauliflower bed

On another note, my rocket and one of my lettuces are going to seed.  I've never seen a lettuce go to seed as it's the first time I've successfully grown them, so I thought I'd sit back and watch the show!

seeding rocket in background and foreground, 
a seeding lettuce centre left, and some happy lettuces separating

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

tidying up for a change of seasons

I returned from Sydney on Sunday to pumpkin, cucumber, tomato and basil plants that were shrivelled and dead or dying.  You see, while I was frolicking in the sun at the Sydney Biennale, Hobart experienced the first snow for the year. 

Winter is coming, the happy times are over. 

Ok, maybe I sound a bit macabre, but that's how it feels.  The days are so short that I can no longer see the vegies to pick when I come home, let alone garden at 9pm (which I enjoyed in the peak of summer).  I've never been successful with winter vegie growing, although maybe that has to do with my method of gardening.  Polystyrene boxes are great for moving plants around to take full advantage of sun/rain/wind; however, things take so long to grow in winter, and I just am not quite as enthusiastic and the plants consequently would historically suffer quite a bit of neglect. 

This winter I plan to be more organised, more enthusiastic, and try a bit harder.  After all, I have an entire backyard begging to be used.  So on Sunday, I covered everything in blood and bone (which the dog was later caught munching on. Etch); I pulled up and composted the beans and pumpkin and cleared the weeds, dug in mushroom compost into the pumpkin and bean beds where I will plant cabbages/ broccoli in the latter and garlic/onion/ potatoes in the former.

For the first time in my life I've been confronted with the need to practice crop rotation.  I've never rented a house for more than 16 months in a row really, so crop rotation was not really an issue.  It's quite confusing, as the crop rotation 'groups' are not the same as companion planting 'groups'.  I'm not much of a planner so it's proving quite hard to manage.

The one thing I have planned though, is the row of fruit trees that will be down the back of the yard, along the southern boundary so the vegie beds aren't shaded.  I've ordered from Stoneman's Nursery in Glenorchy a Granny Smith/ Pink Lady tree, a Greengage/Golden drop plum tree, an apricot tree, a Japanese plum, a Stella/White Cherry Tree, and a white nectarine.  I tried to order a Plumcot, which is a divine apricot/plum hybrid, but apparently it wasn't available after all.  Booo...

Now to weed the back beds in preparation for the trees... [groan]

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Picked Cucumbers

Overwhelmed by the sheer number of cucumbers in my garden, I finally took a couple of my friends' suggestions and pickled them.  I pickled 10 of them, but bear in mind that they were massive mofos.

Immediately after pickling.  They're now a darker colour.

I chose a Pickled Cucumber recipe from the website after considering pages and pages of recipes.  I was also tempted by this recipe, and a couple of bread and butter cucumber recipes, however, in the end I couldn't go past the sheer simplicity of the Taste version.  It basically required you to thinly slice the cucumbers, stick them in the jars (note, the recipe states a preparation time of 10 mins, yet it took me about 2 hours to cut and arrange the items in the jars and sterilise the jars) along with dill and black pepper (I added black mustard seeds as well), then pour over a boiling mixture of water, white wine vinegar and salt.  Too easy! 

You have to wait a week before eating.  I was a wee bit nervous this evening when I performed the ceremonial pop of the jar, however, they tasted perfect.  

I'm feeling slightly smug right now.  Happy times.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The cutting of the pumpkin

I cut my first pumpkin tonight.  Quite a ceremony!



oh shit the knife's stuck

oh so orange!

Like many of the plants I've grown in the last 6 months, pumpkin's a new experience for me.  My friends gave me a small plant which they grabbed from their compost heap, and it seemed to appreciate the mushroom compost and fertilizer I fed it, as it grew across two garden beds (I built a bridge from some lattice for it).

Pumpkin in its peak.  It's now spread beyond this image frame.

It's now dying off, and there are 6 mega pumpkins lying in the leaves.  I've been a wee bit anxious about when they'd be ready to eat, and have received quite a few suggestions, such as 'when it sounds hollow' (hollowness is subjective), when the skin turns grey (hmmm...), when the plant starts to die off.  I chose the latter and evidently it was a good decision. 

We're having roast pumpkin tonight with our Garlicy Lemon Roast Chicken (recipe courtesy of last week's Weekend Australian Magazine).  But for this week we have planned: pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin and spinach curry (two birds with one stone), and pumpkin risotto.  My flatmate is planning pumpkin soup too (unfortunately, my brief career as an aged care nurse means that I have a severe aversion to all liquid foods, and will be sitting that one out).