Friday, January 28, 2011

Flowering vegetables: the curiosity continues

A few months ago I blogged about letting my vegetables go to seed just out of curiosity, and I've now got quite an interesting collection of flowering vegies in my backyard.

My leeks have been in flower for quite awhile now, with their beautiful purple and white bulbous heads.  I'm thinking of planting them in the front garden as ornamentals next year, along with some artichokes.

flowering Leeks

I also had a good hack away at my purple artichoke thinking that it'd stopped producing for the season.  The green artichoke had just started so I'd moved on.  Apparently the purple artichoke loved the hacking back to the stem (it had grown to about 2m cubed) and immediately started producing buds again.  So there's a tip! To be honest, artichokes are a real treat, but I'm pretty sick of them now. I'm letting both the purple and green artichokes go to flower now for the season, just to see their big thisley flowers and compare the different varieties.

A large purple bud opening up

You wouldn't have thought I hacked this plant back a month ago. The artichoke's revenge

My green artichoke buds opening up
 This is just an observation, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that the green artichokes go purple on their tips when they're opening (and I suspect just past the point of edibility), and the purple artichokes go green on their tips.  If you look at the photos above of the purple and green artichokes respectively, you'll see what I mean.  When the buds are younger they're pretty much all purple or all green.

I've also let one of my green cabbages (actually one of my only cabbages that survived the great snail plague of 2010) go to seed.   It went from being a smooth round surface one day to having these curly flowering stalks exploding out the middle the next. I was thrilled!

the flowering cabbage with some broccoli seeds hanging overhead

 and now to the plants that I get to see flower AND still eat them...

My first tomatoes are starting to blush.  I loathe buying tomatoes at the shops when I have so many plants in the backyard, and so I've been hovering over these plants constantly, waiting for the first tomatoes to ripen.

Roma tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
I also have my 'experimental' eggplants starting to grow spikey things.  I say experimental, because people keep telling me that Tasmania is too cold to grow eggplants. I thought I'd try anyway.

one of the spiky things growing on the eggplant.  I'm assuming it's the fruit.

more spiky things with some arty-looking water drops

one of my great successes last year were my lebanese cucumber plants, so I thought I'd relive the dream
I've never grown corn before, and I'm a bit concerned that my plants are a lot smaller than those at the community garden down the road.  Could it be because I planted them too late? Or perhaps that they had to grow over and over after snail attacks?  I'm not sure exactly what stage they're up to yet, or how the corn forms, but to be honest they're fulfilling quite an interesting role at the moment: garden sounds.

When I think of gardening and the senses, sight, touch, smell, and less so, taste, are all obviously engaged.  However, I think the sounds of the garden can get discounted. Obviously birds have a significant place in the sound landscape, but the sounds of plants are usually only activated when wind is involved.  Even with only a small breeze, corn makes an amazing sound.  It's more than rustling. I only really noticed it today for the first time (I've not been gardening much lately due to work commitments), and at first I couldn't work out where it was coming from.  I wasn't consciously searching for the sound, it was just something that was mulling around in my head. It pleased me that such a distinctive but soothing sound was produced by my largely ignored corn stalks.

I wrote recently about planting all these watermelon seeds.  I transferred the happy-looking seedlings to the garden once they got to about 4 cm in height.  From I think a total of 20 seedlings, this little one below is the only one left. Snails. Again. 

A happier story involves my pumpkins that are keeping my apricot tree company:

to the left of the tree are the turkish pumpkins, to the right, butternut. In the foreground, asparagus.
a butternut pumpkin mid-growth (when are they ready to eat?!)

I can't remember the full name of this pumpkin, but it has the word Turkish in the name.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Christmas garden overhaul: bulbs, beds and box

I was fortunate enough this Christmas to have my parents visit Tasmania, or more specifically, help me in the garden.  We spent 2 out of the 5 days, digging up bulbs (with surprising results), weeding, de-claying soil, uprooting the evil roses, and most importantly, eating a christmas vegie feast. 

The Christmas Day vegies from the garden: artichokes, red cabbage, beetroot, silverbeet, broad beans

My Green Globe Artichokes, pre-cutting. 

Pip enjoying some cabbage company.  The purple cabbage behind her later became lunch

broadbeans, hiding behind the beautiful flowering chives

Mum's interpretation of 'dead heading' the daisies. 
Dad with his 'shovel' (apparently a shovel is different to a spade - he had to buy his own shovel for the job)

Dad's amazing digging job in the two top garden beds.  The nearest patch was the 'bulb patch' (see below)
the bulbs extracted from the 3msq patch
I decided to move the bulbs from a 3 square meter patch near the clothes line, and turn it into an extension of the lawn for now.  The patch had a revolving show of bulbs most of the year, and while it was beautiful, the patch was quite weed-ridden, and not exactly in the most convenient location.  I've not had much to do with bulbs in the past, however, the previous owners obviously loved them, as they magically spring up all over the garden.  The small patch in the back was completely overcrowded with them, and after a quick google search I found out that I should actually be lifiting and dividing bulbs occasionally (depending on their variety), so it was quite fortuitous that I decided to move the patch.  Apart from the daffodils, which mostly have their yellowing stems still attached, I'm not really sure which bulb is which - they all look very similar.  So I think I'm going to dry them all out and plant them around Easter. 

Some of the websites that I consulted had some very involved instructions: dig the bulbs up every year, store them in boxes lined with sand or peat moss, put them in the freezer, plant them in specific areas etc etc.  I think I'm going to stick to the more simple instructions: plant them, leave them in the soil, dividing them occasionally, and if they seem upset, readdress the issue then. The KISS rule...

Box hedging, which we planted around my greengage/golden drop plum tree.

Agapanthas have replaced the evil roses
 My mum helped dig up the evil miniature roses, which I've loathed since I moved in: they have tiny thorns which spike through gloves and clothes, they were always weed-infested and impossible to weed because of the thorns, they were various shades of pink, and, well, they were 'suburban' roses (not my kind of aesthetic).  Unfortunately, when we dropped the roses off at the tip to be recycled into mulch, my mum spotted someone emptying a heap of agapanthus plants into the pile too.  She grabbed them for my garden, despite my pleas otherwise.  Evidently, she's still 'boss', even though it's my house. I'm a little confused about the weed status of agapanthus - in the weeds of Tasmania booklet I have, they're listed as a weed, yet they're beautiful plants which are sold at nurseries around Hobart and planted by Hobart City Council.  I think if I'm vigilant about cutting the stems off before the flowers go to seed, it'll be okay.

The dog supervising the rose bush removal
 Mum also removed the daisy-like bushes that were responsible for my really bad hayfever last month, which turned into an infection - not a good infliction for a gardener...

My leeks in flower.  I'm glad I left some of them to satisfy my curiosity.  Such stunning flowers!

SBS Featured Foodie

I've had the honour of being SBS's recent 'Featured Foodie' because of Polystyrene Garden Junkie.  The article can be found here.

If you haven't already, I recommend that you have a further look at the SBS food site.  It has a lot of great (and achievable) recipes, and links to all their food-related shows, including the fantastic Tasmanian-based Gourmet Farmer.  I also have a soft spot for Heston's Feasts (which screened late last year) and Food Safari.  Last year an Indonesian-focused episode of Food Safari led me to my new fave Sydney restaurant Jimbaran, which serves a dish of stir-fried Morning Glory - a plant which I'd previously only known as a weed, and definitely not a weed I'd consider edible.  I love discovering edible weeds and flowers.