Monday, November 29, 2010

catch up post: artichokes, bugs, evil birds and more...

I'm having a temporary break from having the internet at home, so for the next month or so I'll be doing fewer but longer blog posts from the uni library (this post is therefore sponsored by UTAS...).  Today, I have a mega stroll-around-the-vegie-garden-style post.  The baby birds that have been tweeting from the gutter right above my bedhead have finally grown up, and just like their parents they like to dig up all my (not cheap) sugar cane mulch and seedlings, eat my strawberries, and fly off with entire pea seedlings in their grubby beaks.  The other day, as I was netting my strawberries, there was a line of 3 birds watching me from the fence with their yellow eyes, occasionally sharpening their beaks on the palings, plotting their revenge...

Initially, sensing a growing threat from the birds as the blueberries grew bluer, the birds multiplied in my gutter, and the sheer cheek of a bird flying off with an entire seedling in its mouth, I bought some 'humming bird wire' from the hardware store (you can vaguely see it in the above photo - it's running above the white netting).  $17.95 for bird wire, with the capacity to cover my entire yard with ease vs $50 for bird netting? I reasoned that the wire was a better option.  I leapt around the backyard, foolishly triumphant as I hammered in posts and attached the wire to old stockings, designed to take some of the slack (on a side note, what do single men use for garden ties?).  However, the wire turned out to be a false economy.  The next morning I went outside, and three cheeky birds were doing the early shift, checking the strawberries for ripeness and sifting through the mulch for worms. My message: don't buy 'humming bird wire'.  Needless to say, I had to pay the hardware store another visit, returning home with a mass of surprisingly expensive netting.  So much for 'saving money' by growing your own vegies...

Anyone (including myself) who has sneered at my Fine Arts degree and wondered what in the hell I'll use a sculpture major for, should check out my strawberry construction.  It's titled Bird Net Over Strawberries and challenges the notion that art and functionality are mutually exclusive.  In all reality it's just a bodgy construction of bamboo stakes, gaffa tape, netting and old tent stakes, but it's holding up surprisingly well.  The bird wire can be seen in the below photo as well.

Bird Net Over Strawberries (2010), dimensions variable

On another triumphant note, my green artichokes are sprouting well.  The mothership looks fairly ready to eat, and the smaller side-flowers are just about there too.  My purple artichokes, mentioned in previous posts are just about gone.  I had stall at a market on Sunday, where I sold a number of them (along with rhubarb and silverbeet), and I suspect that the stocks are just about drained.  I wonder if the purple variety always flower before the green variety, or whether it's just because the green plant is slightly younger?
The Mothership

et al
I also had my first pea harvest (so peas don't grow in frozen packets?).  I picked a decent bowl of pods (after finally establishing which area I had planted the peas as opposed to the snowpeas - an argument for  naming seedlings as you plant), and bought 300g of prawns ready for a prawn and pea risotto.  Just as the rice was soaking up the wine, I remembered that I had to get the peas out of the pods, and got out a big bowl for the peas in anticipation.  I needn't have bothered.  There are SO FEW PEAS IN A POD! Who would have thought...  Oh and it seems that you can eat the pods too, as I gnawed on a few pods out of hunger as I was cooking, and, well, I'm not dead yet...

A not-quite-ready pea
It's not all stories of triumph:  I'm still having troubles with getting a decent head of broccoli. I've tried planting at different times of the year, fertilising, companion planting, but they still go from here (tiny head)

scungy brocoli head

to here:

"but I never even saw you bud!?!"

The cabbages are also quite frustrating, although I can take my anger out on the green caterpillars that like to munch on the leaves.  They're delightfully fun to squash!

The creatures that I haven't come across before are those on my cherry tree that I just noticed this morning:  little black slug-like creatures (pictured below).  Help! what are they? how do I get rid of them?

The nectarine tree (I think - I forgot to mark the trees too), which has the leaf curl is producing cute little fruit things.  Now, I know that people say that you should break off fruit to encourage growth in the first year, but is it really necessary?  The poor tree's trying so hard despite the odds....

Oh and last but not least, my leeks are going to flower.  They're such beautiful forms with their curved buds and so I really have no regrets not eating them all.

For the last year, I've left a couple of almost all plant varieties to go to seed, simply because I'm curious about their life-cycles.  I think it's a good way of learning, and as an added bonus if you're lucky (like I've been), things like spinach and lettuce will come up the next year without you lifting a finger...


  1. Good luck with the untagged produce! I've a whole bed of sunflower, watermelon and rockmelon seeds, all untagged cos I was sure I'd know what I put where. Should be very interesting..

    How long did you have to leave leeks before they have moved to the flowering stage? I have leeks in for the first time this year.

  2. It'll be like Christmas (perhaps around Christmas) when they finally come up and you are able to identify them! I'm not usually too fussed about the confusion, however I think it was just more difficult with the peas/snowpeas because they both look very similar at first, then the peas swell out later.

    The leeks took quite a while to flower. I can't tell you for sure, but they've been there longer than the garlic. I planted them around winter, I think. I've been eating them for quite some time. Some people say they're woody when they're a bit older, but I've not found any problems. However, once they start flowering you can't eat them as the flower 'stem' is extremely solid. There's quite a bit window of opportunity in which to enjoy leeks though, and I'll definitely grow them again. They're such a versatile vegetable. However, next time I will bury the seedlings half under the ground (the stem, that is), as I had really short white edible bits. You either need to plant them half buried or mound soil around them as they grow apparently.

  3. Actually Jane, I can tell you precisely when I ate the first leek, because I blogged about it in July:

    I ate my most recent leek about a month ago, so that's about 3 months of munching, bearing in mind that I grew them in the colder months. They might be a bit quicker in flowering now that it's warmer. Thanks for asking though - now I know!

  4. Thanks for that! I put in a punnet of leeks and they all seem to be doing well so will no doubt have some to leave to flower. I knew about the heaping soil stuff, I've put mine in a mini-ditch down the middle of a raised bed so I can add soil as they grow. I love to cook with them, agree that they are versatile, but I think I will have plenty to spare.