Hobart Backyard Farmer

Just another garden blog

Hoop House

A hoop house is what I have been calling it although poly tunnel may be the more appropriate regional name for the structure which I have been working on for several weekends, now, finally finished except for the path down the middle.

After trying out a small poly tunnel over a single garden bed last summer, with good results but with access issues for weeding, I decided to build the Hilton of grow spaces for those plants which thrive on a little more comfort than Tassie typically delivers. Destined for the house will be Capsicums, Chillies, Eggplants, Melons, Tomatilloes, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Basil, and, down the track, strawberries, raised in PVC pipes. Now that I have listed them all, it sounds like it might be a tight squeeze, but I will give it a go and keep you posted on the progress. Below is some images representing the longer than anticipated build process.

Hobart hoop house poly tunnel 1

Hobart hoop house poly tunnel 2

Hobart hoop house poly tunnel 3

Quick Pic

The apples are coming along finely with the Cox’s Orange Pippins just about finished, we will be moving on to these Fuji and Golden Delicious Delicious apples. The espalier is pretty imperfect with a bit of summer growth and some gravity challenges due to fruit, and is pretty much impossible to take a good photo of, due to the green background. This aside, here is a pic taken a couple of weeks ago, just before the net went on.

Espalier apples in Tasmania

Back on Track

Finally, many months and several paths later, I have finished the path that began them all. Better late than never, they say.

Mountain Dragon

I once encountered one of these Mountain Dragons in the backyard when we 1st moved in 5 years ago. Found this little fella today, glad to see that they are still secretly calling our garden home.

Mountain Dragon Tasmania

Berry Christmas

Not a typo, just extremely punny. Just harvested these beauties from the yard…YUM!

Kiwi Pineapple Crush

No, not my latest fruit wine concoction… I’m as disappointed as you are. Instead, it is this pleasant little surprise that caught my eye this morning.

Epipyllum 'Kiwi Pineapple Crush'

Strawberry Fields Forever

A fitting post title being that I dreamt last night that I was casually sipping gin with Paul McCartney. You can have that insight in to my subconscious psyche for free, although, I will be honest, I will accept donations.

This is the 1st bowl of strawberries that we have been able to pick for the season, which have not been chewed on by every other creature in the garden, including the world’s sneakiest blue tongue.

The early summer harvests are starting to be harvested and dictate what is on our plates for dinner, and, I don’t mind at all. Tonight, Greek style zucchini fritters, broadbean pesto and green salad, all from the garden, padded out with some local bread and produce.

How To Prepare Globe Artichokes

How to prepare Globe Artichokes

Globe Artichokes are one of those vegetables that have a bit of an awe surrounding them. A seemingly exotic  addition to the kitchen garden, with a mysterious preparation,  you might be surprised that they are both easy to grow and cook, and well worth the trouble. Here is just one way to cook them, which takes 15-20 minutes and makes a great addition to a platter plate. I have read that the whole artichoke can be meticulously consumed, while discarding the tough, inedible bits as one goes. Although, it feels wasteful, I, and many others like to discard all but the tenderest parts, leaving the rest to go in to the garden as compost.

Artichokes will oxidise as they are being prepared. This does not bother me, it does not affect the taste and I do not take any measures to prevent it. Others use lemon juice during preparation and cooking to minimise browning, I have not described this in my tutorial.

The Mysteries of the Heart

  • Am I going to go all mills and boon on you now? No. What we are going to want to do though, is get the the heart of the Artichoke. To do this, pick some flowers from your garden, crack open a nice bottle of wine, and don’t worry, artichokes do not have eyes, so, they don’t care if you are not looking your best. They are however, quite fond of Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.
  • Alternatively, while you try to stop singing that song in your head, take the whole artichoke, and start pulling off the hard, dark green  “leaves”, layer by layer. You are eventually going to get to the tender light green/yellow heart of the Artichoke. You will know when you are there. If you have hit fluff, you are moving too quickly, and might have ruined your chances.

  • Now, cut the stem off, right at the base, and then, cut the top off, just below the ridge the naturally runs through the centre of the heart.

  • Keeping the bit with the green tick, position it on its base, and cut it into quarters.
  • You are going to notice that it is all fluffy inside, at this point, you are going to want to run your knife along where the the fluff (or choke) meets the base of the artichoke, then, as you reach the yellow leaves, flick the knife up, to remove all the fluff. You will get the idea when you do it.

  • That is it with the dissecting. I personally chop them up a bit smaller, and my cooking times probably reflect that, so, let’s pretend that you have chopped yours up a bit smaller, for your 1st try.

Now the Cooking

  • Place your chopped up Artichoke in a bowl, with a couple of centimeters (an inch) of water, and place a plate on top of the bowl. I microwave everything on high, so, microwave on high for a few minutes, I do 3 minutes, but my microwave is not overly powerful. It is not a science, and they can probably not be particularly over or under done with 3-4 mins on high.
  • Strain the water. Your Artichokes can be eaten now as is, or added to another dish (we did pasta recently), or, you can read on for a great little recipe.

Grilled Artichokes

  • To your bowl of steamed/boiled Artichokes, and, note the precise measurements, add the following:
    • a good drizzle of olive oil
    • A few roughly chopped cloves of garlic
    • a good splash of Worcestershire sauce
    • a good sprinkling of smoked paprika
    • A sprinkling of chilli flakes
  • Stir it all through, pour it out on a pan. Place under the grill on medium to high, stirring the mixture around periodically, remove when you know… brownish.
  • Begin picking at your creation right away, serve what is remaining to friends and family.

100 Pins

Although I can assure you, I am a very manly (and obviously secure) man, I use Pinterest. Not that it gives me any sense of validation, but, I particularly like to pin stuff from Hobart Backyard Farmer and keep an eye on the repins (which is getting harder to do, Pinterest). Pinterest is actually is a good way to drive traffic to the blog.

Anyway, I am quietly a little bit chuffed at reaching 100 repins on a recent pin, so thought I would share it.

If you would like to see what this manly bloke is pinning, follow me at www.pinterest.com/hobartbackyardfarmer

Pinterest Hobart Backyard Farmer

Late Spring Orchid Update

Hobart’s heat wave has been broken with a suitable amount of rain. Expect your gardens and weeds to double in size this week. The opening Epiphyllum Cacti, and the now chilly weather have prompted this post. It stands to reason that can’t mention the Epiphyllum (or Orchid Cactus) without mentioning orchids. This time of year, Masdevallia and Sarcochilus rule the roost in Hobart. Here are some of the current contenders. The Hoya (Wax Flower) in the glass house is also putting on a great display, although, not an orchid, or even a cacti posing as one, it is worth admiring.

Pink Epiphyllum

Pink Epiphyllum

Pink Epiphyllum Orchid Closeup

Epiphyllum Cactus

Epiphyllum Cactus

Epiphyllum Cactus White

Epiphyllum Cactus

Sarcochilus Orchid

Sarcochilis Ruby Rose

Sarcochilis Ruby Rose

Sarchochilus Orchid

Sarchochilus Orchid

Masdevallia Partizan

Masdevallia Partizan

Masdevallia Machu Picchu Orchid

Masdevallia Machu Picchu

Phalaenopsis Brother Skinner

Phalaenopsis Brother Skinner

Cymbidium Sarah Jean 'Paradise'

Cymbidium Sarah Jean ‘Paradise’


Hoya – Wax Flowers

Hoya - Wax Flower

Hoya – Wax Flower

Paths Update

Slow and steady wins the race they say. The paths had to take a back seat to the flurry of Spring time maintenance, preparations and planting. As luck would have it, in the meantime I managed to get a load of, I would say heritage sandstone from a very generous family via Gumtree. A bit more work, but the results so far speak for themselves.

Flagstone Paths Hobart

Beat The Birds

Anyone who knows me knows that I love birds, mostly because they fly over your fence (an in joke from a public speaking course that I once did, needless to say, a piece of me died that night and never grew back). What I love more than birds is the literal fruits of my labour, which birds happen to also love, more than me. Being that we have clearly established that they have the superhuman, almost bird like ability to fly over fences, measures need to be taken.

Those who has seen a cherry orchard know that they are covered with nets. Birds love Cherries. The unseasonal November heat wave seems to have blushed the cherries early this year. I suspect, part of a bird’s success is they are happy to take a few bites out of a  partially ripe fruit, and leave the rest to rot. Being almost a real human being, I also succeed competing within the food chain, quite well in fact (I like to eat) therefore, this morning, instead of my morning cuppa, I was putting up the below primitive but timeless bird keeper outerer. Again, anyone who knows me would know that 4 x 4 metres of twisted net would normally be a trigger for a fit of rage. I can tell you that I calmly and skillfully got that net up in 25 mins, maybe I really am a backyard farmer?

Speaking of stuff, we have two lots of thornless blackberries on our humble suburban block, one covering a tree stump and the other, pictured below. Normally an afterthought, they typically produce a token amount of berries which need to be picked at the right time to ensure ripeness. I think age and care is a factor in their production as this year, they are laden with flowers and should produce plenty of fruit in February, after the bulk of the summer berries have already been enjoyed.

Lastly in a series of unrelated paragraphs, pictured below is another cute cacti which I picked up a couple of years ago. Love the little bright orange flowers which it produces each year.

Cherry Espellier netted

Thornless Blackberry

Thornless Blackberry

Cactus Flower Rebuia Species

Christmas in November

Or… so this guy thinks.

Hobart Christmas Beetle

Spikey Beauty

Having been a fan of cacti many years ago, my interest waned as I focussed on other persuits. Recently I started coming across images of cacti flowers on pinterest which caught my attention. With great diversity, ease of care, and flowers which challenge even orchids in beauty, it might be time to start adding a few more to my collection. I picked this little fella up from a hardware store a while back, and it has just rewarded me with this gorgeous flower.

I can’t claim credit for the flower in the second picture, as the plant was already in spike when I purchased it, but, I just had to share. The orchid is named Miltoniopsis Breathless ‘Beauty’. Miltoniopsis are commonly known as “the Pansy Orchid” for obvious reasons.


Missin’ Your Strawberry Kisses

Even to this day, recalling the song which inspired this post title still makes me want to regurgitate my very recent, and quite delicious meal. I’m not sure why I am going ahead with it.

Today I prepared my first batch of strawberry wine. The result of a new hobby born after being a teetotaller for 12 odd years. Drinking is a great hobby, but, the desire to be as close as possible to my food sources, and have a clear understanding of the ingredients (alcohol seems to be exempt from labeling requirements) has led me to the art of fruit winemaking.

What better way to preserve this year’s excess tamarillos, rhubarb and a lucky score of feijoas? Not to mention my plans for all the summer fruits that will be soon in season.

Tomorrow, while sheltering from the midday heat,  my 1st batch of mead will be prepared. Perhaps the oldest and simplest of alcoholic beverages, in its most basic form, can be created with just honey, water and yeast. Being a huge honey consumer, and having access to the great honey available in Tasmania, it seems like a no brainer.

The strawberry wine reminded me of our own strawberry patch, which seems to be gearing up for a bumper crop this year. The berry in the lead already showing signs of being tampered with by an unwelcome guest prompted the netting to be rolled out and installed.

Speaking of unwelcome guests, the close encounter with a white lipped snake in the yard just the other day was cause for concern. A beautiful creature, they are, like all of Tasmania’s snakes, venomous. For healthy human adults, the effect of the venom is supposedly not too bad, and with the snake being on the shy side, it is our secured on a lead but ever curious and somewhat wannabe hunter of a cat which is of most concern. With luck, the snake, despite being surrounded by its favourite food of skinks, will decide to move on.

Strawberry Farming Hobart

Strawberry farming Hobart

Hard to believe this cutie is a killer… I have, with my very own eyes, seen this cat take down a moth like an assassin

November Snow

Snow on the mountain in November, that would have to be pretty rare?

Mount wellington November Snow

Passing Seasons

It had been playing on my mind a bit lately that I do not feel as close to the Earth as I did in my younger, more idle and carefree days. Recently, as the the spring blossom makes way for the young fruit, while I scurry to plant seeds and prepare garden beds, I had the epiphany that I am actually closer to the earth than I ever have been.

As a gardener, the Earth, the Sun, and the seasons that they create as they do their cosmic dance in the vastness of the universe (to be fair, the earth seems to be doing most of the dancing) dictate when and how I work the garden and when I plant the crops. It dictates to a large extent, what my family eats and when we eat it.  I wouldn’t dream of buying a zucchini or a cucumber, especially out of season, and, don’t get me started on store tomatoes, although, it seems that eating tomatoes cannot be avoided for a whole 9 months.

Like the Earth’s movements, and its seasons, gardening is repetitive and slow. Being gardeners, we watch and work as the days grow longer and shorter, and we learn and get a little better with each full circle around the sun (I am pretty sure that is how it works… who would have thunk it?). Year by year, we add a little and get a little bit more productive in the yard. With the recent addition of several new fruit trees, mostly cider apples, the yard is starting to seem a little bit small, but, I am hopeful as we settle in further, we will find the balance between productivity and space.

I am sure, all you gardeners out there, whatever you grow, consciously or subconsciously are (happily) slaves to the seasons, waiting for the prime times to plant and  reap whatever rewards that you take from the Earth and its plants.

Anyway… all that was an elaborate and maybe, kinda over the top segway into the following pics, a selection of our fruit trees as they transition from spring into summer.

Apple Blossom Hobart Garden

Espellier Cherries Hobart Backyard Farmer

Apple Espellier

Grow Apricots Tasmania

Grow Cherries in Hobart

Heating Up

Maybe it is because southern Tasmania is starting to heat up, or maybe, because due to the increase in temperature, I am finding myself in the yard more, but, it seems the wildlife is starting to rouse. The Blue Tongue Skinks in particular seem to be taking over the yard, with several sightings of distinct lizards on a warm day, with two even spotted fighting, or mating… let’s face it, the two acts come hand in hand ;-). In our previous residence, there was a noticeable rise in the snail population when the Blue Tongue was no longer about, so, if you get these fellas in your yard, do your best to make them welcome.

2 Brown Tree frogs were spotted in the glasshouse, providing further motivation to create a frog pond to encourage further amphibious residents. Having spent my childhood seemingly endlessly searching for lizards and frogs, I am excited to be able to share my backyard with them and foster my daughter’s curiosity.

Some passing Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos stopped in to play on our big gum tree, the 1st time that I can recall them hanging out on there and, a testament to my photography skills.

Finally, this Katydid, whose chirps fill the air for many of the warmer months.

Blue Flag Iris

Not a vegetable, but a bit prettier, these Blue Flag Irises pop up and flower in spring, shortly after the daffodils have finished their narcissistic display. This one caught my eye, looking particularly perfect as I dug over a raised bed ready for the big Spring planting.

Blue Flag Iris growing in Hobart Backyard

Natural light

I love the play of light and shadow that occurs when the morning light streams through this aquarium. It makes the fish look great, the rainbow fish particularly enjoy looking their best for the ladies.

Aquascape in natural light

Mum and Dad Return

The spring equinox has just past, and I write this post while my daughter and I watch the lightening of the current storm from the comfort of our lounge room (well.. it is on in the background, while I write this post and she watches minecraft videos on youtube 🙂 ). While we sit in the comfort of our technology, I wonder what our little bird family is doing in the shade house, having once again moved in to their spring home to raise another year’s clutch of chicks. This year, a very metropolitan nest, by-passing the orchids, and opting for the modern comforts of a plastic plant pot.

While I have you captivated on a Saturday night, I should have mentioned this earlier, but the Hobart Orchid Show finishes its four days tomorrow. If this rain keeps up, then it will be a perfect day to visit 9-3 at the Hobart Town Hall, Macquarie Street.

Black Bird Nest in Plant Pot

Black Bird Nest in Plant Pot

Black Bird Nest in Plant Pot

New Path to Tread

The post title sounds intentionally more epic than what the post actually is… did I get your attention?

My previous path work has been on hold a for a while as I wait for the winter rain that finally came to clear, and while I keep up on the other jobs in the yard such as weeding, mulching and planting out new crops and trees. I recently also had the  good fortune to pickup some sandstone flagstones, which may well just find their way into the paths that have been in the making.

In the meantime, this little space has been waiting to be a path for quite a few years. As I worked my way up to it weeding, I decided that I might as well just do the job once and for all and never have to weed the space again.

Small Garden Path - Hobart Backyard Farmer

Landscaping Update

Although i’m sure that no-one other than myself and perhaps my mum actually care about the landscaping (don’t get the wrong idea, she doesn’t live with me and 10 cats), I promised updates and am a little proud of how things are coming along. After a great deal of digging, measuring, levelling, drilling and what not, all that is needed is weed mat, gravel and a little planting and mulching. Not too long before I can post the pics of the final result. Just stage one of what I am sure will be many 😉

Hobart Backyard Farmer Landscaping Update 4

Hobart Backyard Farmer Landscaping Update 2

Hobart Backyard Farmer Landscaping Update 2

Hobart Backyard Farmer Landscaping Update 1

Fishy Business

Fishy headline more like it. I don’t seem to be even trying any more.

Bad headlines aside, I have been trying my hand at a different kind of gardening over the last few years, and, after boring friends and family with happy snaps of my projects, it feels like time to take it to an ever so slightly larger audience. The mysterious gardening technique that I and my dodgy headline refer to is of the underwater kind, aquascaping if one were to use the popular term.

Although still ever pervasive in the fish keeping world, the days of sunken pirate ships, fluorescent skulls and fantastic multicoloured pebbles are behind many of us. Aquascaping, with its many styles and schools of thought are gaining popularity, with most practitioners attempting to recreate a slice of nature within the four glass walls of an aquarium.

The passion and knowledge of some of these guys is enviable. Many diffusing CO2 gas directly into the aquarium to provide the plants the vital gas lacking within those four glass walls. Their knowledge and understanding of the light spectrums artificially provided for their plants and their knowledge of the nutrients and micro-nutrients required for plant health far outweighs that of a common gardener such as myself.

Acknowledging my shortcomings, I too wished to create a piece of nature within a transparent box, with two of my efforts so far shown below. No C02, and light levels which might be considered low to medium . Low tech is how the people in the game would describe them due to the low light, lack of CO2 injection and lack of a strict nutrient dosing regime. Low tech seems to work OK for me at the moment, although, the next tank, maybe even one with CO2 injection, is always on the back of my mind.

Hobart Aquascaping 1

Always a work in progress, this 4 foot tank has had a bit of a trim back on the left hand side, leaving it looking a little unbalanced at the moment. The sand substrate, perfect for the “earth eater” on the left, who loves to grab it by the mouthful and sift through it for food. All of the plants in here would be loosely considered to be epiphytic, preferring to be attached to driftwood and rocks instead of being buried in the substrate.

Hobart Aquascaping 2

This 3 foot tank has what seems like an unorthodox, soil substrate, capped with sand, proving an ideal environment for the root zone of the plants. Kind of over-run by a couple of plant varieties, it was originally setup with caves in mind, with plenty of hidey holes for a few different species of fish that enjoy a break in the shadows.

Hard at Work

Because I don’t want to be hard at work brush cutting, and weeding, and also don’t want to be walking around in multiple feet of grass, I am putting in the hard work now of building paths and garden beds in parts of the backyard. As well as hopefully reducing some of my tedious workload, we should end up with more beds, an easier terrain to work on and, a nicer looking garden.

The location is against the south side of the northern fence line, making it one of the shadier locations in the garden. A couple of camellias in the tiered beds against the fence should increase privacy a bit, as well as, make an attractive floral display at the right time of year. The raised red gum bed now has raspberry canes in it,  insurance against last years poor crops… I really do need to weed the existing bed.

This time of year, with the shorter days,  it is only really a few hours on a Saturday and Sunday that I get to hit the garden, with construction being the major focus. Here is the some of the work up to now, I will update regularly as work progresses.

Making Garden Paths 1.1

Making Garden Paths 1.2

Making Garden Paths 1.3

Making Garden Paths

Making Garden Paths 1.5

A little path to double as an edge for the garden bed on the right. Constructed from old bricks that I had dug out of the garden and stacked up the back. Almost just chucked them, but it it was worth the extra effort.

Making Garden Paths 1.6

Making Garden Path 1.7

I Don’t Always Grow Big Pumpkins

But when I do….

How to grow pumpkins in hobart

The vines producing the largest specimens seem to be self seeded (if only I could grow as good as nature), which probably grow as a result of burying veggie scraps in garden beds. Not always popping up where I want them, they are still always welcome, as they store and feed us right through winter.

My daughter though, who lists her favourite food as brussel sprouts, still manages to complain every time it is served, with the exception of soup.

In Ground Worm Farming

I definitely seem to have run out of the will/ability to come up with witty, and borderline inappropriate for my audience (beyond borderline, and, what audience?) titles for my posts. But, in all honesty, even I can’t work with ‘worms’ without going to places that only my family and friends would tolerate, and then, only just.

Based on the perceived difficulty of separating worms from the worm compost generated in my worm farms, and knowing that there was all that goodness just sitting there, not benefiting the garden, I got to thinking about a lazy man’s option…being a lazy man and all. I have been trialing two of these in ground worm farms for a while now, with the oldest one having been in production for about 5 months.

Pretty basic technology, I cut the bottom of an 18 litre, food grade bucket, buried it most of the way into existing garden beds. Added some food scraps and straw and added some composting worms from the existing worm farms. I did however come up with quite an advanced method to prevent rodents from entering the bucket. The intention was to pull the buckets up eventually, leaving behind a good dose of composted material, but I am thinking I should have drilled holes in the side of the bucket to allow nutrients to leach out during the composting process.

The results so far are inconclusive. There is certainly decomposition going down, but I am unsure how much the worms are contributing to the cause, with a bunch of other critters having been sighted in the buckets, and noticeable lack of worms in one of the buckets, the other, after digging around a bit, showing a few, fat adults. Maybe they moved out, but, why would they leave a home of food to face the big wide dirt world? They might also just be hanging in the depths where I can’t rifle through? (That is how I spend my days) Time will tell.

I think though, there will be benefits in the long term from adding well composted organic material  directly to garden beds in a sustained manner such as this. I do currently bury food scraps into newly dug over beds, but it is a generally once off for the season, before planting a crop. With this method added to that existing practice, it should result in being able to introduce more organic material into beds over the season, resulting in better, more nutrient rich soil. I will keep you updated.

In ground worm farming - Organic Gardening 1

In ground worm farming - Organic Gardening 2

Stew? That is what my phone suggested it might be…yum

That’s not a Selenicerus, this is a Selenicerus

To put a context around the post title, you might need to refer this earlier post within which I proudly doted over my first queen of the night flower (Selenicerus Grandiflora). I was able to drop into the Cairns Botanical Gardens a while back and came across this Selenicerus species on the way out. Makes mine seem a little… underwhelming. More pics from the trip to come.

Selenicerus 3

Selenicerus 4

Tomato Time

A noticablly late season, and unhealthy plants due to planting too close together, I wasn’t expecting a bumper crop. We are not doing too badly though.

Tomatoes in Tasmania

I’ve Made Some Corny Jokes In My Time

Budda boom

Grow corn in hobart

« Older posts

Enjoy Hobart Backyard Farmer? Please spread the word :)