Hobart Backyard Farmer

Just another garden blog

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First Coffee Harvest

The pic speaks for itself…

Grow coffee in Tasmania



Spring Has Most Definitely Sprung

I should start by informing you that I am not the backyard farmer, I am writing as ‘a guest’.  After listening to the Backyard Farmer stating his before mentioned laziness at blogging, I went about taking some photos of our backyard welcoming in Spring.  Mostly with the intention of encouraging a blog post, I was however promptly reminded that this blog is in fact Hobart Backyard Farmer….not Farmers.  After some nagging/encouragement, I have been invited to add this Spring post.  To be truthful, I just think blossom popping up to signal in a new season is so magical & we have been blessed with some perfect sunny days, I just felt the need to share it.  That said, this is primarily a post about what is happening in the garden at the moment. Aside from some pretty blossom, there is much to do!

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Fruit trees are blossoming & we are enjoying the last of the Winter tamarillos, their tough skin allows them to hang around & enjoy the sun without being bothered by birds.   I know they have been blogged about before & they are a favourite in this home, quick growing & yummy.

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Garlic,  so we have no hassles from vampires this summer.

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Raspberries…..everyones favourite, most don’t even make it inside the house.

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Rhubarb, recently blogged & now being consumed, this literally comes from nowhere & before you know it, ready to harvest.

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Most importantly bees!  A welcome sight in the Spring garden, we have many herbs & flowers scattered about the garden to attract these little fellas & the garden is happily buzzing.

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Last of the Winter vegies to be taken out, ready for new crops & planning.

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We are pretty excited to see the greengage & goldengage flowering at the same time.  We invested in both, out of a love of good old greengages, as we were advised they need each other for good pollination.   Fair enough, but last year they blossomed at different times.  Maybe the recent extra warm days following an especially cool Winter have encouraged a well timed joint effort this year…..I really wouldn’t know, it’s all trial & error, but looks promising.

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The humble Marigold (calendula officinalis).  We have this randomly around the vegie garden, considered helpful to repel garden pests, plus its bright yellow & orange flowers attract some wanted garden visitors.

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A pretty bonus from having pea straw garden beds.

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Last but not least the strawberry patch.  Truly.  Hoping it’s not too late to rescue this season?  This has suffered from our not wanting to garden when it was still cold (slackness).  It is a classic example of how having a food garden is hard work & there is always something to do.  To anyone contemplating having a go, just do it!  Give it a try, whether it be big or small, it is so worth it, the taste is so much better.   Absolutely no waste, pick what you need, couldn’t be fresher & if there is any surplus, you will not be short of happy receivers.  Rewarding in many ways, Hobart Backyard Farmer has achieved so much in a suburban backyard in a few years,  his efforts are much appreciated.  Happy gardening 🙂

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Grow Sub Tropical in Tasmania – Coffee

This time it is coffee. I have had this plant for maybe 3 years. Last year it flowered for the 1st time, delicate white flowers with a pleasant aroma which I cannot recall. It began to set green oval fruit, which have stayed that way over winter, and, only in the last week or so, have begun to flush red.

I grow it indoors by a window, year round. While flowering, I placed it outside during the day to assist in pollination, but, to be honest, I don’t know how it is pollinated, but, being outside is sure to help with insect or wind pollination. Maybe I should just google it. I would like to try growing coffee in the glass house, but have yet been able to successfully strike a cutting to be my guinea pig…maybe this year will be my year.

I am also not sure if it will flower again this year, but, even if it does, at the current rate of production, I might be able to experience a cup of coffee from my own tree in, I don’t know… 8-10 years? Just doing my bit for the slow food movement.

If you are interested, here are another couple of posts where I have experimented with growing sub tropical foods in Tassie:

http://www.hobartbackyardfarmer.net/tropical_fruit_experiments/

http://www.hobartbackyardfarmer.net/tropical-tasmania-melons/

http://www.hobartbackyardfarmer.net/mid-winter-tropical-fruit/

http://www.hobartbackyardfarmer.net/ginger-in-tasmania/

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Rhubarb

I tried to think of a creative title for this post, but, rhubarb doesn’t give me much to work with. In a moment of desperation, I googled “jokes involving rhubarb”… if feeling really awkward is your thing, you could try doing it, as, I can assure you after 2 minutes or so of research, there are not even any funny rhubarb jokes. There are jokes involving rhubarb, but, no funny ones, and, I actually suspect that most were originally potato or cabbage jokes that have been reworked for rhubarb.

Why am I putting myself through this unpleasantness? Well, I harvested the 1st rhubarb of the season, and took a picture as proof.

Unfortunately, it may well be the last rhubarb of the season. I say this because I am yet to learn the secret of getting a continual harvest from rhubarb throughout the season. It seem that I will get a mass of growth in early spring, I harvest maybe 60-70% of it, leaving some leaves for energy, and I might even throw some ferts on it and mulch, but, it never seems to do much for the rest of the season…If anyone knows the secret, I would love to know.

Grow Rhubarb in Tasmania

You Say Potato

You all know I am a lazy blogger, but I have a confession to make… I am a lazy gardener, but this year, I have been way too lazy and I fear that my spring crops will pay the price with smaller yields. I am busy trying to get things tidied up and prepared for the summer crops… I am cutting it very fine though, but I think I should just be able to scrape things in and get a back on track with a good summer crop.

The previous few years I have dedicated new beds to potatoes which has allowed me to plant near the base and layer straw and soil on top as they grow. This technique resembles the “mounding” that “they” say one should do to maximise harvest, and allows me to get a good amount of organic material into the garden bed over the season, to improve the soil structure and quality. This year however, while looking around at my weed covered vegie beds, and cross referencing my calendar, I thought maybe I would not have the room or time to plant the spuds, but, I  was reminded by my pseudo-wife just how delicious home grown, new potatoes are, when the skin just flakes off and they melt in your mouth.  With this in mind, I started thinking of where in the garden I could slot the delicious tubers.

I saw a while ago, I think on Gardening Australia, a technique of growing potatoes in wire mesh “cages” for those with limited space. I remember thinking at the time, with my expansive allotment, that I do not need to worry about the trivial space saving tricks of those more space challenged than myself. Turns out that I am a bit space challenged, as, even as a grown man, I am not allowed to seize the lawn, which I despise mowing, and turn it over to the vegies, therefore, I have resorted to stealing ideas and pockets of space for the spuds.

The cages are pretty easy to build, 4 stakes forming a square in the ground and some hexagon wire mesh (chicken wire?) wrapped around. I then lined with paper. I then chucked some partially decomposed straw on the base, a spud or 2 on top of that, and a bit more straw. The theory is, I will keep adding straw as the potatoes grow, and come harvest time, will remove the wire and feast on my bountiful crop.

A disclaimer… This is the first year that I have tried both, growing in these cages, and growing purely in straw, and therefore, cannot vouch for its effectiveness. I will however, let you know the results. Below are some pics, obviously not of the same cage due to a variety of factors (yes, I forgot to take photos).

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Collector’s Corner

This weekend in Hobart, I felt like I had finally come out of the winter hibernation. The lawns received a well overdue mow, small jungles were brush cut and garden beds were weeded, all to the smells of the blossom and the sounds of birds (except during the hours of mowing and brush cutting). I think though, I may have preempted rising from the winter slumber (to be accurate, in my case, it is more of a deep laziness) as I find myself today, baled up inside with the heater on. I guess September is like this in Hobart, but, as Elvis says, the world turns, and it will only be a month or two until things start to be consistently warmer, the heater can stay off and I won’t have any excuses not to be working in the garden.

In the meantime, and, I know I keep posting orchids (with Spring, I will begin to start balancing this out more), I took some pics of my favourite nursery, Collector’s Corner on our recent trip to  Melbourne. I have mentioned Collector’s Corner in previous posts, for which I really should be receiving a commission so I thought I would put together some photos to show what I am raving about. I don’t think I have been there this time of year, as I have never seen so many Cymbidiums in flower at the nursery before.

So, bear with me, I am blaming my hibernation for all of the orchid posts…enjoy, and I will get back to the farming ASAP.

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Melbourne Orchid Spectacular

We made our way over to Melbourne the weekend before last as a special birthday treat from my lovely partner #hopingtogetlucky. The purpose of the trip was to visit the Melbourne Orchid Spectacular. It was great to see what orchid folk in Melbourne are growing, but I was envious of the sales tables, not being able to bring plants back in to Tasmania. That said, my wallet remained reasonably untouched, which would have been a different story otherwise. Some pics below of the displays and the sales tables.

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Why I Love Orchids

Check out this gorgeous specimen which I picked up the other day. Stunning large, burnt orange/coppery flowers. What is even more awesome, is it will continue to look like that for 1-3 months… That’s value for money.

On a side note, this might be a new record for posting speed…. if I keep this up and can manage to stop typing so much, you all might enjoy more frequent posting (I seem to be saying that a lot. I think I might have a problem)

Tasmanian Cymbidium Orchid

Not So Tropical in Tasmania

Today was a first for me, the first time that I have seen snow on the sunny side of the river in Hobart. Even cooler (mind the pun) was the small settling of snow in our yard. I have never seen even a flurry of snow on the eastern shore, in my 10 years of living here.

Needless to say, it was most exciting for my daughter, whom, in a moment of rage, was banned from going to the snow for the whole winter… although I did not follow through it. In fact, I failed to follow through even more so by picking her up after school and taking her to a location where I could throw snow at her.

It was hard for me to take pics which did not show how totally messy my backyard currently is (would you want to work in the snow), so, I have hopefully chosen a couple that will minimise the destruction of the facade that I present. Subsequent pics are taken at the Waterworks at the base of Mount Wellington, including the only ski run in Hobart (the dam wall at the Waterworks), and some pics at Ridgeway which is up a little from the Waterworks.

If you want to make my job easier, send in the pics from your snowy yard (I know you ran out to take them!) and I will post them on the site.

Hobart Snow Peas

Snow Peas (pun entirely intended)

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Orchid Porn

It has been a while, and it is getting hard on these wintery evenings after work, to bring myself to write new posts. I am coming back strong though, with this SEO rich post title. SEO being the Search Engine Optimisation, the art of ranking one’s pages with Google.

Now I just need to add the word “porn” a few more times in the post, alienate my female readers, and my mum (I don’t think even she reads the blog), disappoint my male readers and we should be well on the way to getting some good Google rankings.

What I really wanted to achieve with this post though..PORN, PORN, PORN, is to show of this gorgeous Cymbidium Orchid that has flowered, probably for the 1st time since I bought it in flower a few years ago. You probably will not recognise it as the same orchid that a bird rudely nested in earlier this season (see here), but, perhaps that is the secret, as I now have 5 spikes of these gorgeous green flowers, green being one of my favourite orchid flower colours.

Cymbidium Orchid Hobart 1

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Interestingly, I had a couple of chaps have a chuckle at me upon telling them that after snapping a spike while trying to train it, that I wrapped some tape around it and hoped for the best. My thoughts behind this were that the snap was such that the weight of the spike pulling down pretty much caused both sides of the the break to sit flush, and the fact that the cut flowers of cymbidiums can last for many weeks. These two points made me think that it might be possible for the spike to heal itself. I have the evidence that over a month since the break, the spike has continued to mature and in now flowering… so, the last laugh goes to me. Keep this in mind if you suffer the same fate some day.

Next in the orchid porn roundup is a little something from the Orchidarium (I am SEO’ing for that word also). I described in a previous post how many are beginning to spike, in fact, most of the tank, including species other than the Phalaenopsis. Here are some pics of the 1st one to flower. The pics are a little dark, as I have taken them at night without the flash. If I get the opportunity, I will replace with some brighter pics. Anyway, a lovely little mini Phalaenopsis by the name of Nankings Beau “M” according to the label. I must say, I am impressed with the results of growing under artificial light.

Phalaenopsis Nankings Beau

Next, a couple of orchids that I have flowered over the last few months. The 1st is a Coelogyne ovalis which I was proud to earn “Best Culture” with at the Autumn Orchid Show, with healthy looking bulbs given as a reason for the decision. I personally suspect that being one of the younger members of the club, they are trying to encourage me to stick around by rewarding me with favourable judging. An interesting personal fact is that this orchid was the 1st orchid that I ever flowered myself.

Coelogyne Ovalis 1

Coelogyne Ovalis 2

The next is another Coelogyne with a similar but larger flower to the ovalis. If my memory serves me right, it is Coelogyne Falcata. This is the 1st year that this one has flowered for me.

Coelogyne Falcata

I think that is enough orchid porn for one self indulgent post. I will try to keep up on the posts a bit more. Thanks for reading, and, don’t forget leave your comments and subscribe to receive email notifications for new posts.

Ginger in Tasmania

Those of you who have read previous posts, specifically this one, will know that I have been experimenting with growing ginger in cold ol’ Hobart. I have been watching the plant slowly die off, which I am led to believe occurs with ginger in cooler climates, marking harvest time. This of course has prompted me to eagerly get some content for a new blog post.

Pictured are the results of my 1st ginger harvest, not huge, but, still kind of exciting for a 1st try.

And… you are asking yourself, how does freshly harvested Hobart ginger taste??

Terrible!!

I am not sure if I have harvested too late or too early, or, if ginger needs to be dried and cured in order to bring out its flavour and sweetness? I will do some googling, but, would welcome your input. The brief search I did on it uncovered another grower who experienced the same issue. I will update you when I find out more, and let you know if my ginger ever does sweeten up.

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Solstice

It is now officially mid-winter, with today being the winter solstice, marking the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. Also marking the mid-winter in Hobart is the mid-winter festival of Dark Mofo.

Dark Mofo is an annual event held in Hobart, specifically for the discerning bearded male who prefers to indulge in old arts of pork pulling and consuming alcohol brewed in very small batches.

More on Dark Mofo later,  what I really want to talk about is garlic. If you haven’t already planted yours, get planting, I have identified in the past, noticeably smaller bulbs on plants that have been planted even just a couple of weeks after the solstice.

What I prefer to plant is the already sprouted cloves from the previous years crop, these should already be sprouting, if they are not, or if you do not have enough, then, rubbing your finger over the pointy top of the clove may allow you to feel a bump where the shoot is forming. I prefer to plant with skin on, I don’t know if it makes a difference at all, but, it feels like there would be less chance of attack on the cloves from mold or fungus etc. I plant the clove leaving the very top of the clove and the shoot exposed. I normally lime then soil a touch as I hear they appreciate it. Planted like this, all you really need to do between now and harvest is weed a few times, and maybe water a touch when  it warms up a bit.

If you don’t have a crop from last year to replant, head to your local green grocer or, I guess now days, the other dwelling place of the bearded male, the farmer’s market. If the garlic is untreated local garlic, you should be able to find bulbs with cloves sprouting to pop in the ground.

Pest wise, I have never had any. I did though, find weird aphid things on some of my shooting cloves. These do not seem have had any effect on the cloves and were perhaps trying unsuccessfully to feed on the new shoots. I do not imagine that they will be an issue on the growing plant.

I must admit, my technique goes against advice that I have read, recommending not to plant already sprouted cloves. The advice that I give has worked great for me and provided predictably large plump cloves each year.

How to grow garlic 1

The sprouting cloves

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Weird aphid things

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Angelic destination, no filter applied, but yes.. we do need a new fence

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A very bright planted clove

Better head

If you have been following the comments on an earlier post regarding getting a good head on broccoli, you would have seen the tip that one of the readers, “Juz” had suggested, which was to tie the leaves of broccoli or cauliflower over the head while it is growing.

I am giving this a go myself, but here is a pic that Juz sent in of the a broccoli he grew using this method. He may be on to something here.

I was going to make fun of the size of his carrot, until he pointed out that his 4 year old son practically grew it, so you know… we ain’t going there. Juz is very proud of his son getting into gardening, and shared with me that the round carrots pictured are a good crop to get the kids interested.

Thanks for the update and the pic Juz.

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Mid Winter Tropical Fruit

Admittedly, I am not 100% sure that these can be considered a tropical fruit, but they do have a tropical feel to them. I am talking about Tamarillos, a delicious fruit blending sweetness, bitterness and tartness into one unforgettable little package.

They ripen from gorgeous perfumed flowers, through to green, then purplish,  finally finishing on a classic red fruit. If left on the tree, later in the season, they seem to lose some of the bitterness, but personally, I much prefer them earlier in the season, with the full contrasting  palette of flavours. We have been picking these sporadically for maybe a month now, into mid winter. I expect to be intermittently harvesting for another 1-2 months.

From my experience, the trees bear fruit from the second season (from seedling), and seem to crop heavily from the third. I cannot complain about any pests to the fruit, which can be left to ripen on the tree for months unharmed, but I do believe I have given the odd spray of pyrethrum  to sort some aphids out on younger leaves… nothing major though.

Climate wise, Hobart can get pretty cold in the winter. Trees and fruit handle this well, but younger plants can suffer a bit from the frost, but tend to fight back with vigor come spring. One of the pics below shows the result of frost on our younger, smaller tree. I do not expect this to have any long term detrimental effect. The only heat related problem that I have seen was on a very young plant, on the hottest day on record for Hobart, a couple of years ago. Again, the plant bounced back. They do not seem to be overly thirsty, and I rarely find myself watering due to visible distress.

Propagation is easy from seed, which is plentiful in the fruit. A fast growing plant, you could likely expect a progression of seed to fruit in 2-3 years.

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Frost affected

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A ripe enough fruit

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Not quite at the peak of ripeness… the ripe one I picked was fed to my child while I was not looking 🙂

Email Alerts

Great news. I have finally found the time to test an email subscription plugin for the website. This means that you can subscribe to the site from the footer, or, on the right-side sidebar on a blog post. Enter your email address, confirm on the confirmation email, and you are right to go.

Below are some pics of where the subscription sections are located. Make it worth my while by subscribing… I look forward to seeing you on my list 🙂

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More Sea Sparkle

We went out again tonight, seeking the sea sparkle. This time we found some still areas which had the plankton, which allowed us to play with it. Lots of fun and amazing to look at!


 

Sea Sparkle

Just when you start to think that the world is a not quite as wondrous as  it once was in your youth, something comes along that gives you that sense of awe which seems to become less frequent with age.

This evening I witnessed a phenomenon that reminded me of the scene in “Life of Pi”, where he awakes to see the sea aglow with sea creatures. This is because I was lucky enough to also see the sea aglow, with “Sea Sparkle”… sounds magical, doesn’t it?

According to the article that alerted me to the current presence of the phenomenon, known as bioluminescence, it is caused by a species of phytoplankton known as noctiluca scintillans.

Of course, somehow, while setting up the good camera in the dark, I managed to change the function of one of the switches, meaning that I was unable to attempt to take any good pics. To be honest though, my night photography skills leave plenty to be desired.

Below are the pics that I managed to get with my trusty phone. I have linked the article referenced above, which has some much nicer pics. The article references locations where one might be able to view the sea sparkle. For those that do not wish to travel far (from Hobart), the photos below were taken at Howrah Beach. I imagine that some of the more remote places listed may provide a better show.

It seems silly to get excited about plankton, but, watching the waves light up as they crash to the shore really was one of those cool, special events that one remembers and regales their grand children with.

Lastly, to note, fun was also had, stomping on the wet sand as the waves retreated, causing light to sparkle around ones feet.

The article

Another link with great pics

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Hydroponics Face-Off – Part 2

I am finally starting to get back in the garden after a few weeks, to get to the weeds and dig over the beds. Although it is often perceived as a quiet time of the year for the garden, it is actually a pretty busy month with plenty that one can do in the garden. My main crops to plant for the month will be broad beans and peas/snow peas.

Don’t be put off by your childhood memories of broad beans (I don’t actually have any, but had been advised based on the memories of others), broad beans are a delicious, plentiful crop if not over cooked like many a vegetable back in the ol’ days.

Anyway, the point of the post is that I am now trialling some winter vegies in hydroponics setup. These are two types of cauliflower (a small white variety, and a green variety), as well as coriander. As per last experiment, I have planted the same seedlings in a soil bed, so…we will keep an eye on the two sets of plants and keep you posted on the progress.

Everything else in the hydroponic setup has been removed, only leaving the Chilli plants. They are sweet and crisp, but do lack the expected heat. I can say that I find getting the heat in chillies in Tasmania to be hit and miss. If anyone has the secret, I would love to hear it. I must admit, that I have not had that much luck growing chillies or capsaisins in the past… but do remember the 1st year that I was in Hobart, probably 10 years ago, growing the best chillies that I have ever grown. I guess I will just keep on trying.

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Magic Mushrooms

Now that I have the attention of my new target audience, Stoners, here is a quick little post with some mushroom pics taken on Mount Wellington over the weekend. The rain last week hopefully will result in many more mushrooms, and, some more pics for the blog (easy content that speaks for itself.) I am led to believe that Tasmania is considered a bit of a hot spot for fungi diversity, so, if you are a local, don’t forget to look down at this time of year.

Sounds like I am living the dream hey, leisurely walks on the mountain… the accompanying screaming 7 year old really made it a day to remember. It wasn’t all bad for her though..she did score herself a sweet leech for free.

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silver falls hobart

No Gardening Today

I was at work anyway, and, with the shortening days, I do not really have much in the way of daylight when I get home. On days like today though, being out in the garden is the last thing on my mind.

I finally got the test server up and running last night, only to have it destroyed by a bizarre technical issue… if I get into it, this blog will become boring/er very quickly. Let’s just say that I have found another issue preventing me from going forward and getting the email subscriptions up and running. I will keep working on it diligently, and will hopefully get it up and running ASAP.

Why no gardening today in particular? Those in Hobart will know why, for the rest of you…

Mount Wellington Hobart

Orchid Terrarium

Otherwise known as an Orchidarium (but I think that name might be trademarked or something)

I have had this setup like this for about 10 months I guess. The basic setup is as follows:

  • Lighting:
    • Large CFL from hydroponics shop. These are like those energy saving bulbs that we are kind of forced to use now in Australia, only much larger, I think they are an 80 Watt bulb.
    • Lamp with a 40 Watt halogen bulb, mainly for heat purposes
  • Air movement
    • Old computer power supply and computer fan. The fan is dodgily mounted inside tank (orchidarium)
  • Old 2 foot aquarium/fish tank with sheet of glass for lid
  • metal mesh to raise pots from base of aquarium (these are raised at different heights to for 2 levels, using take away containers, and small plant pots
  • Sphagnum moss underneath mesh to catch excess water and provide humidity
  • Timer for:
    • lights
    • fan (15 mins every hour)

That is about it as far as components. The room that it is located in seems to keep a fairly consistent temperature throughout the day and night, which is why I chose it. It also happens to be a reasonably spare room which we have never quite cleared out after dumping all of our moving boxes in it 3 years ago.

I experimented with heating methods over winter, as, I think, the overnight temps in the tank were just a little too cold… the main issue being the dampness. Some of the plants are in moss, and, I feel compelled to keep it moist most of the time, also, being that the plants are grown under artificial light, they probably do not experience the same semi-dormancy that the their outside cousins experience in Hobart. I note that the orchids in the tank are still actively growing in the winter months.

The only real problems that I have experienced with fungus etc. has been a few patches of a brown type rot, isolated to individual plants over winter (hence my heating experiments). I tend to treat by cutting the infected leaf and sealing with sulpher powder, and moving the plant out of the orchidarium. This issue has been minimal, and has not occurred for 6 months or so. I think, purely due to being cold and damp in winter.

Of course, out of sight, out of mind, I will probably return to fussing over heating during the upcoming winter.

Growth on plants (which are mostly Phalaenopsis) has been great in the orchid terrarium, in fact, I do see die back of older leaves, which I expect is due to lack of fertilising. I am sure if I kept up on that, growth would be even better.

I have had the lighting on for 18 hours a day over summer, and, just recently, with the shortening of the days, dropped it back to 14-15.  This has coincided with a few spikes (flower stems) forming, I assume mostly due the the change in daylight hours, but perhaps partly due to a slightly lower temperature. As an indication though, I have previously only spiked a single spike in the Orchid terrarium.

I monitor the temp and humidity in the orchidarium. Current temps within the orchidarium range from 19-25 (Night and Day temps), and humidity between 65-70%. Humidity can get a fair bit higher at times, depending on watering etc.

What I do intend to do, on top of working out some sort of heating system, is try to automate it a bit more, or at the very least, simplify watering. The monitoring system that I have set up, has the ability to be configured to automate processes such as watering based on sensor feedback, eg. soil moisture meter. I am not quite at that stage yet, although, that is what I am slowly working towards overall in the  garden.

For now, I would like to get a bigger tank to house more orchids, and I could perhaps setup a similar system to the hydroponics setup, with water lines into the pots, and drill an outlet low on the side wall of the terrarium. This would allow me even to somewhat manually, water on demand, and even, easily fertilise on demand, using an aquarium powerhead/pump.

Anyway, enough rabbiting on, here are some pics and please feel free to ask any questions about the set up.

Orchidarium 1

018

Orchidarium 1

Orchidarium 4

Orchidarium 6

Orchid Terrarium 4

Orchidarium 7

Orchidarium 8

Orchidarium 9

And, the spikes…

Orchid Terrarium 1

Orchid Terrarium 2

Orchid Terrarium 3

How can I get good head?

… On my Broccoli? You really need to get your mind out of the gutter.

My Broccoli, although always great tasting and more than suitable for stir-fry, never seems to form a nice, firm head (there you go again). Any advice as to how to achieve this, please comment and share your secrets.

The other issue that I have during the cooler months with my brassicas, especially Broccoli, is Grey Aphids. These make eating the Broccoli borderline impossible at times as, no matter how well I wash them, I always seem to miss some. Any advice on eradicating this pest would also be much appreciated.

The other pest that is the bane of the brassica  grower is the caterpillar of the Cabbage White Butterfly. The butterfly lays little yellow eggs on the underside of your brassica leaves, which, can be manually wiped off, only to reappear soon afterwards. Left untreated, the caterpillars can likely destroy young seedlings, making less of an impact on older plants. The product that I have been recommended for control is Dipel. Dipel contains a bacteria which, when consumed, kills the caterpillars. I am led to believe that it has less environmental impact that other products used to control the larvae, and, I have used it myself, seemingly with good results, if I can remember to apply regularly as per packet instructions.

While on the topic of brassicas… I have never really tried to grow much in the way of cabbages, due to perceived space requirements, and, actual space restrictions in our previous garden. After seeing my Father-in-Laws great results, I decided to give them a go. This is one head that I am proud to show off.

Hopefully, this post with all of its innuendo (which is all in your filthy mind) should do wonders for my search engine optimisation.

Below, some pics…

Broccoli 1

Broccoli 2

Hobart garden cabbage

Above, the Cabbage White Butterfly, courtesy of: http://crawford.tardigrade.net/bugs/BugofMonth01.html

 

 

Fartichokes

“Fartichokes, what is going on here? This isn’t the normal, high brow, sophisticated humour that we have come to expect from the Hobart Backyard Farmer”. The fact is, I just cannot speak about this recent harvest without going there. Those of you in the know (it is nothing to be proud of) will know that I am talking about Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus). I will leave it to your imagination as to how the tuber earned it’s name, but, let me just warn you that is is best eaten with your loved ones in the privacy of your own home, and, would not make a great 1st date meal.

O.K. Now that I have your attention, let me tell you that this is a tasty vegetable, related to the sun flower, which provides good sized crops, with little care. I have heard that it is weedy like a potato, with new plants sprouting from bits of left over tuber. I cannot recall when I planted mine (this is my 1st crop) but Peter Cundall’s Tasmanian planting guide says to plant in June.

I planted in a fairly shallow bed, about 1.5 x 1 metre (maybe not even that), and harvested a large plant pot full. I only watered when I saw noticeable drooping of leaves, which was probably only 3 or 4 times over summer. I imagine, if grown in a well cultivated and well watered bed, harvests would be much greater, only, you would have no friends.

Harvest is easy, just lift the plant up a bit with a spade, and then lift plant to expose the well formed tuberous base. Tubers detach easily, and soil is easily brushed away. I have stored these in the fridge, I reckon for months without any spoilage.

I usually roast, but, I am led to believe that Jerusalem Artichokes can be cooked in a variety of ways. How do you cook your Jerusalem Artichokes?

Jerusalem Artichokes 1

Jerusalem Artichokes 2

Jerusalem Artichokes 3

Jerusalem Artichokes 5

 

 

That Just Doesn’t Cut it

Yeah, yeah, I know… I leave you hanging for weeks without so much as a quick hello, and the best I can do is go on about my holiday and fruit! Yes, I do have some catching up to do.

I have a few posts planned, so stay tuned.

Autumn is a great time of year for gardening and exploring. I’ll show you what has been happening around the garden as the evenings become chilly and the leaves begin to yellow and fall, and, when we get some good rain, we will get walking and i’ll take some pics of the diverse mushrooms and fungi that make their home around Mt. Wellington.

I’m sure I have at least another rambling post based around our holiday, and, I have been getting deeper into the interesting and kooky world of fish keeping, so, you can look forward to more off-topic posts.

I will try to find some time to get my replica test website up. This will allow me to test changes to the website without destroying the live site. The 1st thing that I want to implement is an automated email when I post new posts. That way, you won’t have to check-in to see that I have been slack. Not that I expect to be, I hope to be able to post more often to keep things interesting around here, but, I think I have claimed this before?

Anyhow, stay tuned, and I will get things moving again.

Where The Hell Have I Been?

It is true, the website has been pretty static of late, my apologies. Where have I been, mostly, on holidays, yay!

We made our way to Queensland for a week. It was nice to take a break from Hobart’s temperamental Autumn weather, to the 28C  days, and 20ish nights of Southern Queensland. I think I could get used to that. I forget how good a break from the daily grind can be, and after a few days, I was even able to switch of from thinking about work, money and all of those annoying little things, and was able to take some time to just be…. how Zen of me 🙂

I didn’t forget you guys though, so I took some pics and have some things to share with you.

This post, i’ll let you in on a secret little place that we like to go to, located in between the Gold Coast and Byron bay, probably about 40  mins from either. The place that I am talking about is Tropical Fruit World. Sounds like an amazing wonderland, doesn’t it?

The shop at Tropical Fruit World is a must stop location for the fruit lover. They stock a range of delicious tropical fruit that at least, here in Tassie, one can never experience. On this stop, we picked up Custard Apples (our usual Queensland staple), Guava, Yellow Dragon Fruit, Avocado (another staple), Sapote, Star Fruit, Passionfruit, Mango, Paw Paw and a larger relative of the Custard Apple, the name of which I forgot. The shop also stocks tropical fruit plants which really, just serves to frustrate me 🙂

I do recommend the shop, but, as a disclaimer, we have never been on any of the tours etc. on offer and cannot vouch for them. I would suggest that you check out trip adviser or alike to get an idea as to whether that is something for you.

So that you know what you were missing, I’ll describe some of the more uncommon fruits that we picked up this time around.

Firstly, the Custard Apple. In my opinion, a good Custard Apple is hard to beat. The flesh is like its namesake, a custard texture, sweet, mellow and I dont know, fruity I guess. My pathetic vocabulary does not do it justice 🙂

The relative of the Custard Apple (the one cut open in the pics, which was actually the smallest one available) was as delicious as custard apple, and very similar, but perhaps with, a touch more fruity tang.

The Sapote (the coral? coloured fruit), not my favourite tropical fruit, has a taste and texture that is somewhat hard to describe. The texture I guess could be described like a hard Pear which has been stewed, therefore, still a little grainy and firm, without flowing juice. The taste, I don’t know… it reminds me maybe again of stewed Pear, and, reminds me a little of the fruit known as Medlar, which is an interesting fruit in its own right. (I know… worst description ever.)

Star Fruit (I’ll give you 3 guess which one it is in the pic) is a surprising fruit. To look at it with its interesting shape and waxy skin, one might think that it may be all looks with little substance. It is however, a sweet refreshing fruit with a crunchy but juicy enough texture.

The Guava. I can’t really bring myself to try to form the words and sentences required to, let’s face it… poorly and boringly describe it, so maybe… google it 🙂

The yellow Dragon Fruit (the yellow spiky one) was probably my best new find this trip. I spent many years wondering about the taste of regular old red Dragon Fruit, but the prices in southern Australia were such that I was never able to bring myself to purchase one to try. I finally got to try it a few years back, and, I must admit I was disappointed at the taste, which I found to be bland and watery.

I overheard the shop keeper describe the yellow Dragon Fruit as being totally different from the red, so, I had to give it a go. I was not disappointed. The flesh was firm, crunchy (from the seeds), refreshing and suitably sweet. I tool the liberty of collecting some seed, and painstakingly removing the surrounding pulp by soaking the seeds in water overnight, causing the pulp to swell, and then, probably looking like a hamster with a crack problem, rolling the seeds around my mouth, scraping the pulp off with my teeth.

The end result, a dozen or so seeds that I hope to grow. For those who don’t know, Dragon fruit is the fruit of a cactus. Although cacti are often slow growing from seed, years ago I learned the mysterious secrets of cacti grafting which greatly increases growth of cacti seedlings. I may share this information with you as the seeds grow…unfortunately, I will then have to kill you all 😉

Tropical Friut Hobart

Below: A Pawpaw, growing on the side of a street

Pawpaw - Hoabrt Backyard Farmer

Arachnophobes Beware

Not in my yard, but at Mount Field National Park. This spider (a species that I have never seen before) was hanging out with its babies on a web by the river. Would love to know the species if anyone wants to share.

Tasmanian Spider

Worm Composting

People are never asking me what I do to compost kitchen waste. We have always toyed with the idea of getting chickens, one of the great kitchen waste consumers, but, have yet to take the plunge. Hopefully this spring will be the time, and we can finally be self respecting gardeners.

So, what do we do with the kitchen scraps? We keep a 20 Litre bucket in the kitchen which we place all of our organic waste (vegie peelings, fruit pits, uneaten food (not meat, citrus or much dairy) and some paper products.) If I happen to be digging over a new bed, I will dig a big trench in the centre, and chuck the bucket of waste in, spread it out, and back fill. This benefits the soil by building up the organic material, and attracts earthworms to feed.

The major composting that we currently do though, is with worm farms, utilising composting worms. We have 2, multi-tier farms, which live in the shade of the fernery. I honestly can not believe how effective the worms are at consuming waste. We fill a 20 Litre bucket probably every 1.5 – 2 weeks with food scraps, and by the time that we empty into the worm farms, the previous bucket has been entirely consumed.

Do I use the castings and worm juice on the garden? Well, firstly, I am a lazy gardener. Why am I admitting this? Why am I building this anticipation unnecessarily? Basically, I found that A. I was producing more worm juice that I cared to water the garden with, B. I found that my lack of releasing the juice, would cause a build up in the farms which would go stanky, and cause worm drownings. Due to this, I just keep the taps open.

The castings? I have used these a couple of times, and, I long to be fully utilising the castings in the garden… my problem, removing the worms. On the odd occasion that I thought, “this is it, im going to get those castings”, I have begun the task, and very soon given up on the incredibly slow and unrewarding task. These multi-tier worm farms go on the theory that worms tend to migrate to the top tray where all of the fresh food is made available. In my experience, yes, the top tray is laden with worms, but, the under trays still contain far more worms than I wish to sort.

A solution? I have been pondering the possibility of taking 2 buckets which can slot into each other, the top one with holes drilled into the bottom. The bottom bucket would have the castings added, then, flooded with water. The theory being that the worms would migrate to the second bucket (i guess with a portion of casting, or bedding material) leaving the bottom bucket filled with wormless castings for the garden. Has anyone else got any secrets to separating the worms from the castings?

Anyway, I have been keeping the worms successfully for almost 3 years now, so, here is my advice:

  1. Worms will eat just about anything, food scraps, hair, tea bags, coffee grounds, cardboard, paper, and, I am told, vacuum cleaner dust.
  2. I have been told never to feed worms citrus, as it will kill them. I have done so in the past, and did not notice any impact on the population, I did however notice, long after feeding the citrus, that a strong citrus smell lingered in the trays.
  3. Feeding meat may attract flies etc. Although, I am told by a man that I once bought worms from, that they love fish. I prefer to bury my fish directly into the garden personally.
  4. All sorts of other bugs will move into the worm farm. I leave them be, they do not seem to harm the worms, and I assume, contribute to the composting.
  5. Keep the trays moist, but not wet. I have found that I have not really needed to add water (although I do when I rinse the bucket. I empty the bucket, chuck some dry leaves over the food, then pour the water, post rinse, over the top.
  6. That is pretty much it, if you are short on space and do not wish to see your food scraps going into the bin, I recommend worm farms as a low maintenance, feel good solution.

Below, some pics. For some reason, I was unable to achieve a blur-less pic of the worms, but, you get the gist.

Hobart composting worm farm 1

Hobart composting worm farm 2

Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Free

If you now have a 90’s classic stuck in your head, then, congratulations, you passed the, “I was cool in the 90’s” test, and I have just revealed my approximate age.

This Peach tree was here when we arrived coming on 3 years ago, I would guess that it may have only been there for a year, planted as bare rooted stock. I must admit, I kind of ignored and neglected this particular tree, building beds around it and not being overly fussed as to whether fruited or not, in fact, it has generally suffered from curly leaf each season. This year, it has fruited for the 1st time, and, I am feeling a little guilty for the neglect, as it has provided us with ample amounts of gorgeous juicy fruit.

It is times like this that you realise why, before the times of mass food production and shipping that preserving, canning, jamming and alike ever gained popularity. One can only eat so many peaches at one time, therefore, we have been busy doing the lazy preserve… stewing and freezing. When joined by the seasons stewed Apricots, Tomato Sauces and miscellaneous  frozen vegies, meat and the odd tub of ice cream, the realisation has happened… we need a bigger freezer.

Anyhow, I really just wanted to take the opportunity to post about something other than orchids. Below, some pics after removing the netting, with, the last of the harvest.

Hobart Peach Tree 1

Hobart Peach Tree 2

Hobart Peach Tree 3

Hobart Peach Tree 4

Orchid Companions – Part 4

OK, let’s see if I can knock out a quick post?

Ferns

Of course, the humble fern should make an appearance in the series about orchid companions. Ferns are a great plant to stick in the darker areas such as under benches, where your orchids may not thrive. Under benches, they receive the water that flows through your orchid pots and through the wire top benches that you should be keeping your orchids on. In return, they help to keep the humidity up but capturing the water, and providing a consistently moist environment.

Probably my favourite species of ferns happen to be epiphytes (growing in tree hosts), perhaps I am just an Epiphytiac…yes, I probably just made up a word for the world’s creepiest psychological disorder. Under my benches I have a few Bird’s Nest Ferns, which, I am growing not really epyphitically, but in a loose, free draining mix. Thinking about it now, I should probably look at trying to get one up into a tree somehow. They do however seem to be happily growing in their current location. My pride Bird’s Nest is a large one in my fernery, which I salvaged (along with most of my others) from a fellow who was redesigning his front garden, a donation to Legacy sealing the deal.

My absolute favourite epiphytic ferns are the Stag Horns and Elk Horns. I think they make the place look truly rain foresty (another made up word?). Specimens can get huge, and look very impressive.

Ever debating and pondering which is which? The Elk Horns have many smaller bunching fronds, and a clumping type growth, where as, the Stag Horn has the larger, upwards growing fronds which seem to  encase the body of the plant. I am only lucky enough to own Elk Horns, a Stag Horn seeding that I once bought met its maker… hopefully one day I will score a specimen.

The Elk Horns and Stag Horns look great attached to trees (mimicking their natural growth habit), but, also look great hanging on the walls of your orchid house. Down under, I would suggest a southern,  north facing wall would be appropriate, so as to not cause too much shade for the orchids. That said, the northern wall of my shadehouse is against a tree lined fence, and is actually the darkest part of the house, this is where mine currently live.

Birds Nest Fern 1

Birds Nest Fern 2

Bird's Nest 4

Birds Nest Fern 5

Elk Horn 4

Elk Horn 1

So, did I succeed in my goal to create a quick post? I assume it probably took you a couple of minutes to read, if you even bothered? I think for me, it was probably 45-60 mins work. If I can get that down to a respectable time…maybe I will be able to succeed in posting more often!

Orchid Companions – Part 3

I have found myself, although tired, lying in bed, not being able to sleep. This has never really been something that I have had to deal with. In the past, on the rare occasions that I have confronted with this issue, I would become increasingly agitated and enraged at my plight. Nowadays, I figure I may as well get up and do something rather than lie awake doing nothing… this brings us to the next installment on orchid house companions.

I can see the eyes rolling already, with the internal dialogue along the lines of, “this is bullcrap, I come here on the false pretense of reading about the good life and providing one’s own food, instead, I just get all this rubbish about orchids”.  I promise you that I will get back to the vegies and alike… our peach tree is providing fruit for the 1st time, and tons of it, so I will post some pics. I am still yet to bore you about potatoes, and, with Autumn here, some new produce is being sown. Bad news is, I am in the process of setting up my 1st tropical fish tank, so, prepare yourself for many more off topic posts.

Hoyas

As I have rambled on so much above, and, it is getting late and I will probably be surly at work tomorrow due to my lack of sleep, I will make this a short one.

I don’t actually know that much about the Hoya family, so you may wish to do some further research. Commonly known as the Wax Flower, mostly seen growing as a vine, this plant makes a good companion in the orchid house. A tropical plant, I have a couple of varieties which seem to do OK in Hobart’s cooler climate when treated like an orchid (wet is summer, dry in winter) I am led to believe that they also do perfectly well as an indoor plant.

The one pictured, I have had for a couple of years, this year being the 1st time I have flowered it (In Autumn, I have also seen similar flowered in spring). I grow this one in a hanging pot to allow the foliage to hang down. My other Hoya, I had planned to treat the same, but have just now thought that it might look good climbing its way around the glass house, thanks for the great idea.

Hoya, grow hoya 1

Hoya, grow hoya 2

Hoya, grow hoya 3

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