Friday, 21 April 2017

Lack of updates - and planning for 2017/2018 season

Sorry about the lack of updates since November - pretty much the whole growing season. I took plenty of photos but just too busy to organise them and write blog posts. I am working on starting up a proper YouTube channel in addition to the blog, will probably start that next spring.

It was a disappointing season in some respects and a good one in others. Did well with some of the cucumbers, really badly with the squash. Most of the tomatoes did really well with a few exceptions. An overload of Jimmy Nardellos the point I got tired of eating them. Other capsicums and eggplants were variable. Poor main bed design meant too much shading, hard to do pruning/maintenance in the middle of the bed and so on. Definitely planning to do things differently next season.

The lime tree gave us limes finally and it's still putting out new flowers in mid Autumn so we might even get more over winter. I plan to prune the citrus pretty heavily early spring to shape them and possibly pot them up one last time to a 40L pot.

Chillis were really successful on the balcony, in fact, all of them are still loaded with fruit. Will try to overwinter the Jalapenos to get an early start next year, but might give the hots a break next season as I don't really have a great method of preserving the huge excess of fruit outside of freezing. I did make some hot sauce and try pickling some but to be honest I don't really tend to use them much like this. I still have bags from last season in the freezer too, let alone this season.

Haven't had a frost yet, it's been a lovely Autumn really, with the first of the real cold set to arrive next week. A little late with starting my winter crops, ending up buying most of the brassica seedlings because I had neglected my own seed starts and they had been eaten pretty badly by caterpillars.

One note of good news this season was the arrival of a tiny black ladybug which feast on my arch nemesis, the spider mites. I sure hope they overwinter here so that they can keep them in check next season as they really do wreak havoc with cucumbers, beans and some other crops. I suspect my strategy of hosing them off every few days in summer rather than using pesticides is what allowed the black ladybird population to flourish.

Next season I plan to do the larger capsicums in pots. My favourites this year with the anaheim, although I got very few because I planted it in a really sub-optimal position, and a supermarket-seed saved variety called bullshorn, which were simply delicious roasted. Maybe one of the smaller beds for the tomatoes plus one or two in pots. Main bed probably corn and squash. I am thinking of moving my raspberries into a raised bed by the fence as although they seem to do okay in a pot (bar some annoying new ant I got this year eating much of the fruit) I think they'll do a lot better grown in a more traditional fashion. I could add a second variety too. Could probably put strawberries in front of that. My focus next season now that I have tried out a lot of varieties in the past two seasons will be a "less is more" approach, trying to get better production with fewer plants, being those I've enjoyed eating the most as well as those that have done the best in our climate.

Thanks for reading and I promise more photos and updates in the future as well as hopefully videos.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Grow-vember Part 2

Another November update. We had a week of 30 plus, a bit of rain, and now the weather is mid 20s again. Summer is just around the corner.

First some harvests.



Broad beans. These were double peeled and sauteed with butter and garlic. On hindsight the pod skins were probably tender enough to eat without going to the trouble of removing them.



Beetroot, kohlrabi, radishes and onions which went into a roast dinner. Onions didn't get very big but were a good size for roasting and salads. These were a year old, the ones that didn't flower.





Carrots, new parsley, cucumbers, beans. In the whiskey barrels in the back there are sugar snap peas, zucchini (right) marketmore cucumber (left) and some romano beans.





Cucumbers growing well now, should get first flowers on the biggest one soon. Peas nearing the end, sprayed for powdery mildew a few times to keep them going but won't be long now. The really large snow pea there is the Yakumo giant, has similar flowers to the Dutch purple podded. I have been enjoying the podded peas fresh.



This is the fenugreek which has flowered. I think those long parts are seed pods forming.



Leeks, only a few hours of sun here but I'm hopeful I'll get something edible by end of season. Beans in the back.



Broad beans have done pretty well. I've topped them and am waiting for the remaining beans to mature.



Behind the beans, scarlet runners have re-shot, as well as some new ones I planted.


Chinese broccoli needs to be harvested. Pot beetroots are getting to be a decent size.



Rainbow chard, doing just fine with only a few hours sun.



I chopped and dropped the miner's lettuce, hoping it had a lot of viable seeds that will come up at some point. Two of the sorrel plants are bolting, I want to see what the flowers are like but I might pull them before the seeds mature.



Lettuce is starting to bolt so I will need to start some more soon. I'm waiting for the seeds to mature on the spring onions on the left.





Beets forming nicely, and shallots starting to mature.



Basil seedlings.






Two 40L potted tomatoes, growing vigorously. On the left Principe Borghese, on the right Moneymaker. The fruits are forming. I have been pollinating flowers with an electric toothbrush.



Corn is growing nicely, gourds in the middle. The transplanted corn is a bit behind but catching up.




Harvested the pak choy and the biggest beetroots from this bed. Planted some cucumber (double yield) and beans here too. I'm not sure if it's worth keeping the bolting spinach, does it need a "male" plant to pollinate it?

This bed is going to become a corn bed when the rest of this stuff is harvested.




Remainder of the potted peas - the purple podded ones have been removed as they were dying. I'm hopeful of getting another flush of snowpeas before the plants are done - might need to move it into a place where it gets a bit of shade.




Remaining seedlings. Those are sweet dumpling squash in the yellow ones.


Spinach in a tub. Gets morning sun only and doing well. There are also a number of volunteer strawberries in here, which I might need - more on that later.




Main bed. Eggplants taking their time, seemed to be picking up some fungal disease from the leaves so I've sprayed them and they'll hopefully pick up. They are well behind this time last year. Tomatoes growing more slowly than the potted ones, which probably had a higher dose of fertiliser. I don't mind if they grow slowly though, there are still many months left of the growing season.




Beautiful "Johnny Jump up" violas. I have had the seeds for some time but hadn't grown until this year, really glad I did.





Various tomato fruits. 




Capsicums are getting their first flower buds too.



I finally freed these pots harvesting the last of the kohlrabi, which didn't all get to a decent size but were ready to come out anyway. Now I have transplanted in a late started cubanelle (left, with some Thai basil) and on the right, a sweet banana and spare Jimmy Nardello. I was going to give these away but I figure I can just give away the excess fruit instead.



The sweet banana already had some decent flowers forming so not a moment too soon.



This shaded side bed is actually producing really well this season. I did amend it with coco-coir and fertiliser as well as do my best to sever the tree roots getting in. It contains rainbow chard, spinach, pak choy, curly kale and beetroots. Still, I might convert this to container space after this season.




Bed potatoes. They are flowering. I don't know if that's good or bad at this stage in the season. But they look otherwise healthy, if small.



The bagged potatoes with significantly more foliage, also flowering. I will add some support soon but at the moment they are holding up fine by themselves.

I think the west facing fence, especially nearer to the house, actually does better for sun/heat loving plants than the east facing one. Gets a similar number of hours of sun but at a higher intensity.





Blueberries and strawberries. A disappointing year from the blueberries, but that's largely due to stressing the plant last year by waiting too long to prune and then transplant it, and not noticing the rust earlier this season.

I'm getting lots of strawberries though, even if I've made it hard for myself to get at them.







So here's my lineup of potted plants. Back row is raspberry, meyer lemon, yellow pear tomato, black cherry tomato, black grape tomato, Taihitian lime. In the front are 6 Jimmy Nardello capsicums. I have planted some zinnias in the spaces between those pots but I think the slugs are going to get them.

Everything is growing really well. The tomatoes I am pruning to three stems each.




 The tomato fruit.





The raspberry fruit - should get a lot more than last year if the birds don't take them. We'll see if they are able to get at these up top with nothing much to land on (I don't think they try to land on the spiky vines themselves).


Cute volunteer marigold. Much smaller than the ones in the beds but lovely nonetheless.



Neighbour's asmine flowers.



Herb tower, which I have connected up to the irrigation system for when I got on holidays. As the sun gets higher and higher the lower pots start getting shaded by the ones above, but it can't be helped.



I think this is a lacewing larvae. Between the lacewings and the hoverflies, there are barley any aphids this year. I do have a bit of a thrip problem but they aren't causing much damage at this point.




Hoverflies enjoying the flowering parsley.




I came home yesterday to find pieces of my balcony strawberry plants strewn in the garden below. I am pretty sure it was a cockatoo who ripped out stems and leaves and the early fruit. Very disappointing as I had no such problems previously. There is a little bit of the crown left in the one that was completely pulled out, if I am really lucky it will re-shoot. Otherwise I'll have to replace it with a volunteer.

Not sure how I'll go about protecting these - putting a cage up here would look really ugly. I'll have to think about it.


Here are the chillis. This was taken just after midday, and you see the sun just creeping into shot. They get afternoon sun only but get it until quite late because they are high up and facing NNW, so I am confident it will be enough. I produced an overabundance of chills last year so I can probably do without as many this season.



Overwintered razzmatazz with new growth and new fruit.



Jalapeno and lemon aji.



Caysan, Jalapeno and an unknown small red variety saved from the coast.


The cockatoo also took off the largest stem from this plant, it will be a set back but it will recover.



So that's how my garden is doing in the last week of spring. Thanks for reading!