Sunday, 7 January 2018

Mid-summer update

It's well and truly summer with consecutive days nearing 40 C. Thankfully the irrigation system makes things a lot easier but the heat still takes its toll on the garden. The saucers are helping a lot this year, allowing me to more evenly water each pot so that rather than just having the excess water run out the bottom, it pools there and gets soaked back up into dryer areas. As a result I am only needing to water once in the morning, not like last year where I watered again mid morning and mid afternoon. I think tree root invasion in the beds is minimal too judging by their lower water requirements this season.

One of the challenges in Canberra is the very short period of ideal growing temperatures between too cold and too hot. If plants make it through to autumn you often get a new round of blooming, but then it's a rush to get things ripe before the frost and cold weather arrive.

Here's how the garden is looking mid summer. Grass is taking a pounding and I'm always wondering whether it's worth keeping over just paving the area or covering it with woodchips. It does look nice in autumn and spring though. My long term idea of moving the main bed to the lawn area and putting a mini deck where the main bed is now is still a good one, I might need to look at paying a landscaper to do it. It would give extra container space in the growing season and a place to have an outdoor lunch at other times.

Mignonette lettuce isn't doing too badly under this shade cloth, only producing enough for sandwiches though, no salads. My attempts to germinate lettuce have failed with daily temperatures 30 C and over, I might try indoor or I might just go buy a punnet.

These are Dragon's Tongue beans, meant to be bush variety but seem quite keen on climbing so I put in some bamboo stakes to keep it from climbing the fence trellis as I will need to move this when our complex is painted in a month, along with everything against the walls. It's not going to be fun!

Swiss chard and crookneck squash. I don't seem to have much luck with squash past the first few fruit. I think without regular flowering the bees start to neglect it and then you don't get proper pollination, so you really need to dedicate an area with several plants.

Jalapeno with the first ones starting to ripen.

Yellow beans are doing well this year although I need to be picking them more.

My only sweet dumpling squash. A few more seemed to get pollinated but then fell off. This one is at least 2-3 times the size the fruit is meant to be. Not sure what happened.

Yellow gross lisse, probably the best producing tomato by weight this year (apart from the blueberry). Plant very healthy and no signs of blossom end rot.

I finally repotted the oreganos and rosemary plants, hopefully they'll come back nicely.

Eggplants have taken a long time due to shading but are starting to look much better and I should have fruit soon. The field poppies have been tied together to keep them spilling over the whole bed. Their blooms only last the morning so there were none to see when I was taking photos, bees love them though.

Bullshorn capsicum. There's a tiny bit of sun scald which is unfortunate but I don't think it's avoidable unless I try to rotate each pot to have leaves shielding the fruit. 

Principe borghese finally ripening.  At least two weeks behind last year but it's not unusual with my seed starting issues and the mild, overcast spring. On the plus side, no sign of disease.

Kiwano spreading. Probably won't flower until late summer.

Mints and chives. Chives keep getting attacked by black onion aphids which don't seem to have any predators, so all I can do is hose them off.

I should cut back the mints and dry them, will probably do that this week.

More beans and cucumbers.

Shallots ready to be harvested. Two troughs still with nothing in them (had planted with lettuce, but too hot to germinate). Under the shade cloth are some buk choy seedings.

Winter seedlings off to an early start, under shade cloth. I have two types of cauliflower, broccoli, Chinese and regular cabbages (latter seemed to damp off so I am trying again) and kale. Also started some beetroot.

Tigerella. Lots of fruit very low down, hoping it continues to grow but it might be too hot right now for blossoms.

Shisito and marconi. All bed capsicums are looking a little stunted so I am giving them liquid fertiliser at least once a week. The shisitos on the balcony are looking much better despite getting less sun and being in small pots.

Bullshorn and anaheim. The anaheim plant is smaller and lighter green than the balcony one, but already has several large, ripe fruit set, whereas the one on the balcony aborted all its lower fruit.

Despite not looking that great the lebanese cucumbers have given me lots of cucumbers so far. Spider mites have been kept under control by the tiny black ladybirds, I am just hoping that they haven't done such a good job they don't have enough food to continue breeding and overwinter in the garden. 

Pink flowered strawberries. I plan to propagate the runners to the upstairs troughs. Look forward to tasting them, as I've learned with the Red Gauntlet, no point in having lots of strawberries if they are flavourless.

A real disappointment, generic supermarket "truss" tomato. Produced only a small number of trusses of small fruit. Flavour wise, nothing to write home about either.

New season raspberry canes very tall and healthy. I am hoping for a tiny crop off them in autumn. I can remove the old canes any time now as they are all spent. Very happy with the production this year, despite the cheeky Silvereyes getting inside the net. Will refine the net next season.

The Red Gauntlet at the bottom continue to disappoint even given the plants their full potential. Just a very bland variety that are probably best had with chocolate or made into jam. I will most likely be pulling them out and replacing with another variety.

Blueberry. A bit of sun scald on the leaf tips but no sign of rust. Will get a light prune before winter.

Potatoes, waiting for them to die back completely before harvesting. Will need to harvest them before the painting either way because I need the space.

Determinate Florida F1 tomatoes. I've removed most of the diseased foliage so just waiting on remaining fruit to ripen. Suited well to these small pots, but again, taste is a little bland. A good salad tomato I suppose.

"Blueberry" tomato with no sign of blue. Some of the larger fruit have BER as you can see, but it's only a small number of affected fruit. Still curious to see what they are like ripe. I am pretty sure they are not the the variety advertised.

Jimmy Nardello fruit. I always thought these were small compared to those I'd seen on YouTube so grew a single plant in a larger pot this year to see if they would get any bigger, but they don't seem any different. Perhaps I need to try different seeds. Still, these are only immature so we'll wait and see.

Second borghese also with ripening fruit. These are meant to be determine but I think you can stimulate new side shoots by pruning it back, so I might do that if they are not too diseased once all the fruit is ripe (probably wishful thinking).

Meyer lemon tree with some new blossoms.

Another bullshorn with a large capsicum on it (I think this was the first one to set, so it makes sense). Again a tiny bit of sun scald on some of the fruit which is a shame.

Zucchini (greenskin). I got four off it but none since. Have given it a heavy prune back and hoping for new flowers. I think squash ideally needs several compatible plants for pollination and more space.

Despite a promising start the button squash did has done even worse. Although it has had quite a few fruit, their pollination has not been consistent.

Corn, only one cob per plant sadly. Wondering if I should just save seed rather than eating it as corn seeds are relatively expensive.

This was meant to be a current sized tomato but as you can see, is a regular cherry size so probably a supermarket hybrid not true to type. Nevertheless they are very tasty and the plant is quite prolific so I can't really complain.

Two Hungarian wax with many buds forming. They're longer and hotter than the previous ones I've grown so a good variety to introduce to my collection. Bushy too, so will make good candidates to grow upstairs next year.

The two eggplant in the main bed, doing better despite being shaded (I cut the borage back a bit to give them a chance). I think I'll get the electric toothbrush to make sure they get pollinated because the blue bee hasn't been around as much during the heatwave. I think I'll try eggplant in pots next year and gross less borage. I am after all trying to get some produce for myself, not just feeding the bees.

Salvia has been cut back hoping for some new blooms on it.

San Marzano. Plant hasn't grown very big, but the fruit that did set is looking good. Haven't had nearly as many hornworm around this year despite not spraying BT.

Slow bolt coriander providing me plenty of seeds despite being too hot to plant them yet.

Morning sun pay choy experiment seems to be doing okay.

Despite the netting the white butterflies have gotten in and their caterpillars have absolutely shredded this kale. I've been too lazy to do anything about it but I'll have a look at spraying it with BT and re-doing the net sometime soon.

Small potted basil. Maybe I should plant it out in one of the beds.



Chocolate beauty. None of these are doing well so, like in the smaller beds, I am giving them regular applications of liquid fertiliser. I didn't add anything to the beds this year apart from a small application of blood and bone and I think this is the reason the growth is stunted. I don't actually think it's from tree root invasion. Next season I plan to use the Scotts pelleted fertiliser for the beds too, as I have such good results using it in the pots. I also have plenty of compost in the tumbler ready to go on.

North and east pot lineups. The addition of the giant Zinnias have really added some colour to the garden. Shame none of them were red or pink.

Cornflowers definitely a winner with the bees (and the annoying sugar ants). The rosellas have been eating the seed heads too, saving me having to dead head them. They bunch up nicely when supported by and tied to a stake.

Nasturtiums looking a bit ratty, should really cut them back. I will have plenty of seeds saved when they're done.

Borage. Great for bees but really out-compete slower growing plants for light, so need to be a bit more careful with where I let them grow. I'll get several hundred seedlings popping up next year.

Going to have lots of Champion radish seeds when I'm done.

The chilli pot lineup on the balcony.

It lives! This tiny almost forgotten Jalapeno was the runt that nobody wanted, spending spring and early summer in the greenhouse waiting to be given away or composted. Then one day I noticed it had put on a real growth spurt and even had blooms on it and I couldn't resist finding somewhere to plant it out. This small pot had the fenugreek in it, which had gone to seed. So I put the Jalapeno in it and it's loving it. It will most likely be the one I overwinter up here and plant out in a large pot next year.

Finally planted out my spare sage too in the pot that used to contain the chamomile. The chamomile has dropped about a million seeds around the place, I am hoping most of them germinate and then get killed off by the heat but I fear come the cooler weather in autumn, I am going to have them popping up everywhere.

Jalapeno, anaheim, shisito. 

Shisito, caysan, razzmatazz.

As I mentioned earlier, bigger, bushier plants and more fruit on the balcony shisito than the one downstairs despite afternoon-only sun and a small pot. Really looking forward to trying these.

The anaheim on the other hand, tall and healthy looking but all the lower pods fell off (still not 100% sure what causes this, whether it's too much water, too little water, lack of wind pollination or other factors) but finally we have some fruit set on newer growth. I'll probably need to tie these stems to the cane to keep them getting weighed down. If I grow these on the balcony again I'll try tip pruning the seedlings to see if I can get a stockier plant.

Balcony second year Jalapeno with first ripe fruit. Obviously not as prolific as the one downstairs in the larger pot, but still doing better than its first year.

Also nearly ripe fruit on the 3rd year razz.


Interestingly, this fruit on this second year caysan are looking normal, unlike the short, almost seedless pods I had last year. I wonder if drying out a few times last season put the plant into some kind of shock where it produced smaller fruit? Definitely a welcome surprise as these are one of my favourites to cook with, not ridiculously hot and a good fruity flavour.

Well that's all for now, see you next time.