Wednesday, 28 February 2007

A Photo A Day - No. 59

Comfrey Symphytum officinalis

Here is a plant you should all know!
It makes a very smelly brew that's

Good for the garden!
And the chooks love it in moderation.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Monday, 26 February 2007


Our cleanup plans for our open garden days coming up included re-surfacing the pathways of the Main Vegetable Garden.

The Local Open Garden Days are to be held over the Easter Weekend as part of our towns Art and Cultural Festival. Our Garden Club was asked to organise this part of the weekend so I put our garden on the list. It will make us have a good tidy up if nothing else!!

The pathways in the veg garden were getting a bit uneven and overgrown. Last week we had two small truckloads of crusher dust (a product left over from gravel crushing at the local quarry). We also had one truckload of topsoil delivered for topping up beds around the yard.

The over hanging Lavender and Rosemary bushes were trimmed back off the pathways, the Asparagus was trimmed and tied up and all hose pieces were moved to clear the way.

We have new neighbours across the road and they have given us their packing boxes so these were used as a base over the rough paths.

The crusher dust was barrelled on to this covering and spread to quite a thick layer. After raking and watering it will compact down to a very firm surface.

Most of the load is now down and the rest will be used in other areas around the yard.

The garden area looks much better now and the surface will be quite firm and safe for people to walk over.

Poor Hubby is worn out now but will recover for next weeks efforts...
When I think of something!!

A Photo A Day - No. 57

Kangaroo Apple Solanum aviculare

Although the fruits of this native plant are edible when fully ripe
all other parts a quite toxic.

But the chooks leave it alone and wait for the fruit to fall!

I don't eat the fruit but have heard it makes a tasty chutney.
Being related to tomatoes I guess that makes sense.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

A Photo A Day - No. 56

Coprosma repens NZ Mirror Bush
One of my chook fodder plants.
Unfortunately it is on this list of
environmental weeds in Australia.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Winter Garden Plan - Update

Just an update on my Winter Garden Plan:
Bed 2 now has 4 Brussels Sprouts, 2 Savoy Cabbage, 1 Curly Broccoli, 1 Toscano Kale with lots of Perpetual Spinach in between (didn't count them all) This bed has been covered over with Shade cloth since I planted on Tuesday but this morning was quite cloudy and showery so I took the shade cloth off but I will have to go out soon and put some bird netting over the frame it has to stop the black birds scratching up the seedlings.

Bed 7 now has Dwarf Earlicrop Peas and a mixture of Ruby Chard and plain Organic Silverbeet.

Bed 8 now has Bush Sugarsnap Pea with a mixture of 5 Colour and plain Organic Silverbeet.
(I know I mixed these two up!! LOL)

These 2 beds will have bird mesh put along the middle for the peas (on a weepy hose) and some in-line dripper hose (when it arrives) with their drippers spaced at 30cm.
As this bed still has low chook mesh around it from when it grew potatoes I will put bird netting over the top because the blackbirds are still getting to the beds and scratching up the mulch. They are only getting bugs at this stage but will steal the new pea shoots if I don't cover them. Right now they have bread crates over them.

I now need to pot on some Purple Peacock and Romanesco Broccoli, the Royal Mammoth Leeks and the Parsley and Mexican Coriander that have sprouted up.

The Garlic still hasn't arrived but I have had some special Gringo Garlic sent to me by a friend
(thanks mate!!) so I might try planting that soon!

Also have the Egyptian (Tree) Onions and Red Shallots to replant soon and some Russian Garlic.

I have found some self sprouted Baby Pear Tomatoes coming up in a pot under the pergola so I'll pot up some of those and when it gets cold I'll put them in the hot house like I did last year. The Long Range weather forecaster says we won't be getting those severe frosts like last year so I'm hoping he is right.

My seeds of Barley, Oats, Rye and Fenugreek from Eden Seed's Select Organic range have arrived for green manure. These will be mixed with some Clover, and Peas I have left over in my seed collection and I'll take some wheat from the chooks supply. This will go into Bed 10 and Broad Beans for green manure in Bed 3.

Between the blackbirds/grasshoppers and the heat I don't have anything left that was planted on those seed tapes but they did germinate so I will try it again but it's probably too late for carrots now. The ones in the ground from spring planting will have to do us.

I found 4 potatoes sprouting in the shed so I put these in Bed 3 as a trial late crop and they are growing quickly.

I'm about to plant out some strawberry runners in the Dog Pen Gardens into this Bed.

The late crop of Basil, Sweet and some Purple are growing really well under the back pergola and are enjoying the thundery showers of rain we have been getting this week.

A Photo A Day - No. 55

I know it's a weed
but it's a useful one.

Good for the compost and the chooks love it!

Friday, 23 February 2007

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Companion Planting - Red Kale

If you ever need an example of Companion Planting here it is.

One of my Gardening experiments this year has been my Bed 6 Polyculture Patch.

Bed 6 Early in the season

This morning while wandering around the Main Veg Patch I noticed something interesting in this bed .

Oh Dear!

This Red Kale Plant was looking rather worse for wear. On closer inspection I found the reason.


These plants are at the southern end of the bed planted along side some Kohlrabi (badly attacked by cabbage moths), Oregano, Sunflowers and self-sown NZ Spinach.

Cabbage Moth caterpillar on Kohlrabi

At the northern end of the same bed two more Red Kale plants are growing. All these Kale plants are from same batch of seed, planted at the same time. All these Kale plants have been on drippers and mulched quite heavily so basic growing conditions have been duplicated.

These are the plants at the Northern end of the bed.

You may not be able to pick out all of the companion plants here. There is Basil, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and also the Sunflowers and NZ Spinach. The kale plants here are small but on closer inspection I found neither aphids nor Cabbage Moth Catepillars.

Something is working here!

A Photo A Day - No. 53

Black Zucchini

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Tomato Seed Saving

One of the activities from the moon chart for this week included:
Check fermenting seeds, dry out if ready. For Tuesday 20th

This year my favourite Tomatoes have been the Black Cherry and a Dwarf Cherry Ida Gold that I acquired through Seeds Savers Network from a seed saver in the Adelaide Hills SA.
So the best of these were chosen for seed saving.
As these were grown in areas away from other tomatoes they should be true to type.

I chose the plants which grew well and showed good pest resistance and produced fruit that had the best flavour, colour, size and keeping qualities.

I then chose the biggest fruit from these plant and let them to over-ripen.

I cut the fruit in half around the middle.

Then I very carefully squeezed the seeds into a clean jar.

I covered these with clean water. I used rainwater as our tap water has too many chemicals added and these would have interfered with the beneficial mould/fungal growth.
The jar was loosely
covered with a small tea towel to still allow air in.

These were left at room temperature (low 20Cs, cool spot inside) for five to seven days and stirred daily until a mould/fungus grew on top.

This is good as it is this mould/fungus that breaks down the coating that covers the seed and stops them germinating. This mould/fungus also acts as an antibiotic which controls seed borne diseases.

After a week I added warm water to the jar and gently poured off the mould/fungus and any small seeds on top of the water. The good seed will sink to the bottom of the jar.

I continued to rinse with warm water until the seeds were clean.

These were poured through an old tea strainer and drained.

I then tipped them onto a piece of paper and left them to dry.
When they are thoroughly dry carefully fold the paper and place in a well labelled envelope and store in a vermin proof container in an area away from temperature extremes.

A more detailed explanation for saving seeds of many kinds can be found
at this link to the International Seed Saving Institute:

A Photo A Day - No. 51

Sweet Corn Balinese
This sweet corn loves our hot weather.

Other varieties wither on hot days.

Monday, 19 February 2007

A Photo A Day - No 50

Photo Number 50

A collection of all my photos till now.

All 49 of them!

This one making Number 50!!

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Food Gardening for Beginners Part 6

Now I’ve let all the basic information sink in for awhile it’s time to move on to some serious stuff.

See Parts 1-5 starting here:

Getting your seeds to grow.

Why do I grow from seed??

Going down to the local nursery to buy a punnet of seedlings is OK if you have a reliable one. When you get there you may only have a choice of one or two types of cabbage/lettuce/tomatoes. I like to grow unusual, colourful varieties.

I grow purple broccoli, orange, yellow, white and even purple carrots, red kale and lettuce, multi coloured silverbeet and golden turnips.

Maybe I’m just strange but I think they look beautiful in the garden and I know they taste great cooked up.

I like to know the source of my seeds. I choose to buy my seeds from sources close to home.

At least in a similar climatic region to ours.

Having said this I do buy summer growing vegies from Queensland but find the winter seeds sourced from the southern states of Australia best for our colder winters. I also prefer open pollinated varieties (non hybrid) so that if I choose to I can save seeds from the best growing varieties. It is my aim to save as many seeds as possible as this also helps develop local strains as better qualities are passed on through the generations.

Lastly but not leastly for me is it’s cheaper to grow from seed. One packet of up to 100 seeds or more can work out less than half the cost of one punnet of maybe 6-8 seedlings.

What do I need to grow food from seed?

Some food crops can be directly sown into your carefully prepared soil. Larger seeds like corn, beans, cucurbits (pumpkins, cucumbers, melons etc) (that don’t require early starts), and peas.

In warmer regions you may prefer to sow most vegetables directly but down here I prefer to nurture them first, so here I’ll discuss seed raising in containers for later planting out.

This will allow you to get a head start in early spring and hold back autumn plantings till the weather cools down. It also lets you plant larger, stronger seedlings that are usually better able to withstand pest attack.

Firstly you need the time to nurture your seeds and seedlings through their early life.

You also need to be aware of which plants to grow in each season. There are planting guides available to help with this and knowing your climate is also important. These were looked at in Pt One but I’ll put the links here too for you.

Eden Seeds Planting Chart

Gardenate Planting Calendar - Click on "Planting Now" pop your zone in (Aust, NZ or UK)

Australian Weather info

Then you need a suitable place for them to grow. This may need to be a hot house for growing early summer vegetables whilst it is still cold or a shade house for getting those winter vegetables off to an early start in the late summer heat.

Our Hot House is unheated but we have many plastic containers full of water inside it that absorb heat during the day and give it off at night. Ideally these should be black but my clear ones are free and have kept even the -7 degree frosts (last June) out. I have a max min thermometer in here just to make sure. One attached to a chook house on a North facing window (in Australia) would be ideal as the chicken’s body heat would keep it warm at night.

Alternatives to this would be a smaller cold frame made from old window panes or covered with plastic or a hot frame that has a heat source included. Electric models are available or heat pads that go beneath seed trays. In the past these frames would have fresh manure rotting beneath them to provide heat.

For another idea for starting seeds indoors see this post: Seed Starter Box

A simple Home made Hot house: Pot on Dudes


I buy very little in the way of equipment preferring to re-use items on hand.

Egg cartons make fine individual planting containers that can be planted with the seedlings to avoid root disturbance.

Margarine and ice cream containers with holes pierced in the base are great for starting small seeds off. For a How To on Home Made Punnets (please click the link).

Lolly containers (mine came from the high school canteen) are a perfect depth for potting on seedlings.

Cut down plastic milk or juice bottles (square 2 litres) will fit 12 snugly into a polystyrene (ex-veg) box. These boxes are best lined with shadecloth or newspaper to keep the soil in your seedling container. These allow you to plant your seedlings by carefully sliding them out thus again causing minimal root disturbance.

I also use toilet roll middles to grow larger seeds that don’t need to be potted on like peas and beans. When planted intact the cardboard doesn't take long to break down. Some people in wetter areas than mine may need to coat the cardboard with wax to stop it breaking down too quickly.

Of course reusing old pots and punnets is great too just make sure these are very clean to stop the spread of disease.

There are many commercial seed raising mixtures on the market but I make my own up. Usually I use equal parts of cheap potting mix, sand or sandy loam, and a pre-soaked cocoa peat brick. The potting mix part may need to be sifted if it is too coarse.

Basically you need a free draining, moisture retentive mix with little nutrient in it to start seeds germinating.

Once they have commenced growing the smaller ones will need to be potted on.

Larger seeds can be started off in the bigger, single containers where they will remain till planting.

The ‘potting on’ mix needs to have some form of nutrient in it. I often add blood and bone and use seaweed extract and fish emulsion when soaking the cocoa brick.

Link to Potting Mix

Link to Growing-on Pots

This is their growing mix until they are planted so this is what goes into the once off containers from the start.

This mix should be moist when planting seeds.

Seeds should be planted according to the instructions on their packets but generally you should cover them with about twice their size worth of mix over the top. Smaller seeds should have this mix sieved or just cover with sand. Seed packets should give details of whether or not light is required for germination and also give some idea of how long the seed would normally take to emerge. Most vegetables will take from 3-10 days to germinate but some like Parsley can take up to 6 weeks.

Colin Campbell said in the Gardening Australia Fact sheet here:

“If a small amount of Epsom salts is added to water, when applied to the soil the magnesium in it will help the plant to activate the enzymes that breaks down the food supply in the seed. A light misting is adequate. Too much water will rot the seeds.“


I said that the seed raising mix should be moist when planting and it should be kept moist during germination.

Not wet and never let them dry out as they are too tiny to cope with too much time without water.

Watering the containers from beneath (by capillary action) can help in very dry conditions and misting is good for small seeds.

I have a pump action 2 litre sprayer from the cheap shops (instructions were foreign??) that I use for this purpose and often add weak seaweed solution and fish emulsion mixtures to the rainwater I use. I also use a 2l plastic milk container with a small hole in the lid to water larger seedlings.

I found I have greater success using rainwater to germinate seeds. I have connected a length of poly pipe hosing from the water tank to both the shade houses and the hot house, it works by gravity feed.

Have you ever noticed how many seedlings pop up in the garden after a decent rain?

If you have problems with seedlings rotting (dampening off) then watering with Chamomile tea may help.

According to Keith Smith in The Australian Organic Gardener’s Handbook:

“German Chamomile is a specific fungicide against dampening off.”

Hardening off

Once you have raised the seedlings to a reasonable size its time to move them out of their cosy (or cool) environment out into the big world. NOT straight into the soil. It may be too cold or too hot and even if it’s just right your seedlings aren’t ready to go just yet.

They need time to acclimatise to your garden. To be ‘hardened off’.

Again it will depend on the time of year where this is. Basically you need to prepare the seedlings for the extremes of temperature they will experience when planted. Slowly bring them out to the full sun over at least one week. If they are frost sensitive (it should have said this on the seed packet) make sure they will not be exposed to any sudden frost by covering them or putting them away at night. It is pointless starting your seeds early and putting in weeks of work watering and caring for them only to have them destroyed soon after planting by a snap frost.

Listen to the weather forecasts and neighbouring locals, sometimes their local knowledge is spot on.


Make sure that:

The garden bed is well prepared.

The soil is at the right temperature.

Aim to plant out your seedlings in the evening, on a cool cloudy day or even during rain to lessen the shock of transplanting. Soaking the seedling container in a diluted seaweed solution is wise as is watering in the seedlings with a weak seaweed solution. This also helps lessen transplant shock and stimulates the seedlings into growth.

Careful attention to watering is necessary during the first few days as is pest control. Your ‘babies’ are still new and evil slugs, snails and earwigs etc would love to feast on them.

In early spring we often cover young seedlings with cut down juice bottles at night during their early days in the garden. This not only keeps pests away but also warms them against mild frost attack.

We take these covers off each morning and replace them at night.

Row covers would be helpful for heat protection in summer.

Check out Part 7: Taking Cuttings - Not Just Food Plants


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