Monday, 30 March 2020

Staying home ...

We're living in very interesting times - and I've been revamping my garden as distraction from the ongoing world-wide chaos.

Of course, if anything grows/thrives as a result of these most recent efforts, it would be a marvelous bonus (and I'd be hugely chuffed)!

The first stage of my project was our back verandah.  It's used far less often over the hot summer months, so was looking neglected.  I re-potted various plants and have planted seeds for new herbs also.

Heavy rain in February restored green-ness to our yard and the back paddock.  Sadly the wet conditions provided excellent breeding conditions for mozzies and other bitey insects.  Fingers crossed their numbers dwindle as the weather cools.

My gardening efforts last year resulted in small amounts of home-grown produce.  It was a better yield than previously, so I am hopeful of even more success this year. 

I haven't ventured to Bunnings or any local nurseries to seek seedlings or plants.  I'm not sure whether those expeditions would be successful.  Instead I've decided to work with seeds already on-hand.  Erin grows some greens for lizard food and has contributed her seed packets also.  Between us we had quite a few leafy green varieties that are relatively quick growing, so those have been planted in the square beds. 

Some seeds have already passed their best-before date.  I've used them anyway, heartened by my kitchen bench sprouting experiments.  The alfalfa is sprouting nicely even though the seeds were to be used by 2015.  Mung beans of similar age have also done well. I'll try some other combinations while I'm waiting for the garden beds to start producing.

Last year I grew dwarf beans in the taller metal bed.  I might try those again - or some peas.  I'll do some more pondering before planting either.  (My right forearm is currently painful, so Nick has been treating the area with heat gel and massage.  Of course, I also need to pace myself more slowly to gain the most benefit from his assistance).

The large black pot has some tomato plants that still have a few flowers.  I'll leave them for now.  We might get a couple of extra tomatoes - if we're lucky!

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Bloomin' success!

It's a bit over a week since my last gardening update - and a lot has happened in that short space of time! I'm quite amazed by how quickly everything is coming along.  Of course, I'm also rather chuffed with so much success!

Lettuce seeds sprouted in just 4 days, not one or two weeks as noted on the packet. My cherry tomato plants and baby capsicum bush all have flowers.  I now have 14 bean seedlings, all growing wonderfully.

My peas and snowpeas are holding onto their intended sticks, their neighbours' sticks - and their neighbours!  It's really neat to watch them stretching out in search of support.

A few of the compost heap sunflowers have sprouted.  I'm not sure whether the pansies are doing anything at this stage.  I can see specks of green in sort-of the right area but they might just be grass!

I found the lid for the worm tower and have dropped a few vegie scraps down.  No worms yet but I remain hopeful.

There's more progress on the verandah. Yep, it's all happening!

My oregano is taking over it's terracotta pot.  I planted thyme seeds in the spare area and they sprouted several weeks ago but remain tiny.  I'm thinking they may need a pot of their own to really thrive.

Some bonus chilli seedlings are also in line for larger living quarters. The coriander seedlings are starting to develop their proper leaves- and the spring onions are looking good, too.

Happy to report that we're using some of our fresh herbs.  Erin's bearded dragon lizard has enjoyed a couple of basil leaves.  Good to have his vote of confidence!  Non-lizard family members have sampled the oregano and Italian parsley.  Even better, I trimmed the sage plant trying to encourage bushier growth.  Those cut leaves were so yum, crisp-fried in butter as a garnish on Saturday night's pasta!

Friday, 17 May 2019

And then there were two (or four)!

Yesterday, we bought a second Holman modular bed from Bunnings. Nick assembled it when we came home - after I cleared grass from the intended position. 

I already had a bag of garden soil as well as a generous half bag of mushroom compost leftover from the first bed(s), so we used those as filling.

Although I subscribe to (and read) Gardenate's email planting reminders for my climate zone I started my first garden bed in late April, so had missed opportunities to plant some vegetables I would regularly use. 

It occurred to me last night that those varieties may still be available as seedlings. Today was a local public holiday but our nearest Bunnings was open.  After careful consideration I chose a capsicum plant, some broccoli and zucchini seedlings and a pack of lettuce seeds.

I planted my new acquisitions into the second bed(s) this afternoon.  The soil was damp due to rain throughout the day.

When planting the seedlings, it became obvious I hadn't read the broccoli plant label properly.  From the picture, I thought they were broccolini seedlings - der!  Not to worry.  I found some broccoli seeds (a different variety) and have planted some of them as well. I'm a bit concerned about spacing for the zucchini but have planted them close to the side of the bed, hoping they'll spill over to the ground if necessary.

I really like how these beds look and enjoy seeing all the growing progress - up close or from our upstairs back verandah.  At this stage I'm not planning to buy any more beds though have thoughts of upcycling a couple of old pots with a can of spray paint.  They may become flower pots.  I did have some pansy seeds in my stash.  They were scattered just outside the first modular bed.  The site of the old "compost" heap has received some sunflower seeds.  I'm not sure either variety will sprout but they have a better chance in the ground than stored in a box! 

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Peas and beans!

It's about two weeks since my last gardening post - and I now have plant babies, which is quite exciting!  It has become part of my morning routine to go downstairs and check on my gardening beds, with cup of tea in hand.

I'm recording progress every so often on my spreadsheet.  Radishes were first to break through the soil in the modular garden beds, closely followed by peas and snow peas.  All 12 peas sprouted but only two of 10 snow peas have emerged.   (The snow pea seeds had a best before date of August 2017, so I wasn't sure how successful they'd be).

The pea seedlings are now almost a week old and are growing quite quickly.  I gave the back row some satay skewer supports this evening, to guide them toward the chain-mesh fence.  I'm hoping that plan works.  I was going to rig some heavy string-lines for the front row but Nick suggested longer sticks as an easier method.  Fingers crossed peas are easily trained!

Given so many of the snow peas didn't make it I was losing hope for my beans, which were planted a day earlier and had the same expected germination range.  Yep, call me impatient!  I slept in on Mothers Day and hadn't done my usual morning rounds. I was surprised when Erin commented about the bean plants.  Where there had been nothing the previous day, six tall seedlings had grown overnight.  It was quite amazing!

A few more beans have surfaced since then.  I planted two dwarf varieties - butter and brown beauties.

There isn't any advice on the packets about height or whether they'll need support, so I'll do some more research.  It may be that they don't require any assistance - and that's OK, less effort for me!

In other progress - as well as the radishes, a few other tiny seedlings are poking through in the modular beds. I planted coriander and spring onion seeds in pots on the verandah and they have also sprouted.  My tomato seedlings are growing nicely, too.  There are even a few buds on one plant.  How good is that?!

I'm trying to propagate some succulent leaves.  They are in the blue bowl, which sits on our kitchen bench so I remember to mist them every so often.  That project started on 6 May.  It seems it may be another few weeks before I see any signs of success.  I remain hopeful!

The white PVC pipe near the tomato pot is a worm tower. Nick made it for me last year after watching some YouTube clips.  The theory is that food scraps are dropped down the pipe, which is open at the bottom.  (There is a lid for the top of the pipe, which I haven't yet fitted).  Worms access food via holes in the pipe, below ground level. I'll have to mound some more soil around the base cos one of the access holes is exposed - and I wasn't able to set the pipe any deeper.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Mulling over mulberries!

One of the things I really enjoyed about our time in Victoria, was making jams and preserves from either our home-grown fruit, or foraged local treasure. 

We are not so lucky here in terms of an established orchard but next door's modest mulberry tree spreads over the fence to us.

Last year the birds beat us to the limited crop but Vaughan and I picked a small bowl of little berries on Tuesday afternoon.  Usually when I make jam, it's a bulk batch but I made just one jar today.  There wasn't quite two cups of mulberries, so I added an apple to aid the volume - and then cooked the mix in our microwave, rather than on the stovetop.  I'm super chuffed with the end result. It's so pretty!

If at first you don't succeed ...

Over the past few weeks I've watched a lot of YouTube, learning how to divide and re-pot various plants as part of my back verandah revamp.  We sit out there often, particularly during autumn and winter, so I wanted to reclaim the area (which had become a bit of a dumping ground).

More appropriate furniture was sourced via the FaceBook marketplace and my dried out herb garden re-instated. The rear deck is once again a very pleasant place to sit, watching our bird visitors and generally relaxing.

I had limited success with my vegie gardening efforts last year - and obviously didn't bother documenting those failures!  (Trust me, you didn't miss much)!

Our local library runs "learning for life" events though and the most recent one I attended was presented by a well respected gardener.

He stressed to us the importance of not giving up - so I'm trying again, now that the weather is less hot and my motivation is re-kindled.

Two varieties of beans were planted in the corrugated metal raised bed.  Cherry tomatoes are in the large, black plastic pot. 

Bunnings had a promotional sale on the modular garden bed, which seemed a good idea.  It's been placed over last year's longer bed, then filled with a mix of garden soil improver and mushroom compost.  I was sure I'd calculated the volume of the beds accurately but have enough soil and compost to do another one, perhaps down the track when I see some evidence of sprouting seeds.

I started a spreadsheet last year to record what had been planted, when and where.  I wanted to track germination times and harvesting notes.  I've noted my recent plantings and have fingers crossed for positive outcomes!

In just about every rental property we've lived in, we have inherited gardening challenges from the previous tenants.  "Compost" bins or heaps have regularly included large and small rubbish, plastics and other non-organic matter.  This house had a number of overgrown, old and deteriorated pots.  Erin re-potted some plants soon after our arrival.  More recently (after a lot of YouTube instruction) I've divided and re-potted a flowering snake plant, some aloe vera and an orange lily (perhaps clivia).  I'm hoping they all appreciate my efforts!

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Refurbished froggy!

I've been enjoying some creativity over the past few weeks.  As you can see, painting the gnome markers prompted a long overdue froggy makeover.

My large concrete frog was purchased from an op-shop when we lived in Victoria.  It may have cost $5.00.  I don't really remember. 

I had planned to paint it back then but Tea managed to break his foot during one of her romps - and so he languished in the garden till we moved.  I actually thought he had been culled before our move, so was surprised to see him in Queensland!

Nick fixed the broken foot and I started some cosmetic work.  The base coat was a good frog green - straight out of the tube.  It was a bit flat, so I dabbed other shades of green over it - there were two layers of those and then a dusting of gold as well.  I worked with cotton balls initially but they weren't ideal so I scrunched a piece of rag for the later coats. 

The tummy had a base coat of pale creamy yellow and then other similar shades dabbed over with cotton buds.  Lots of overlapping dots. It gives a variegated, mottled effect.  Again, several layers were involved.

At one stage he had a pinkish mouth but I wasn't overly happy with that, so changed to a creamy yellow - along the lines of a white-lipped tree frog! 

His right foot was a problem.  I tried several effects in an attempt to differentiate between it and the rest of his body.  Nothing worked though, so I gave up and made the foot sole a similar varied green.

A black permanent marker was handy for doing the eyes. Several coats of sealer were applied and he sat curing in the sunshine on the back table for a couple of days. He's now happily guarding the back door with his froggy family, which makes me smile as I walk up the stairs!