Hobart Backyard Farmer

Just another garden blog

Category: Vegie Patch

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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If You Can’t Beet Them

Wow, what a lazy blogger. It has been over a month  since i have last posted…ill have to try to do a few to make up for it!

Here is a token post with some freshly harvested yellow beetroot. I can’t recall the name of the variety, but if are not already aware, you should know that beetroots are available in an amazing range of colours, shapes and sizes. Beetroots are delicious, keep well in the ground and fridge and i’m led to believe that canning them is easy as…i might even give it a go if I can manage to motivate myself to do so.

Grow beetroots in hobart

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Big Ripe Melons in Tasmania

I note that I was able to lure you in again with my, perhaps only suggestive to me, post title.  The melons, almost as if a switch was flicked, are turning yellow and ripening almost literally overnight. Home grown melons in Tasmania, I am still impressed!

how to grow melons in Tasmania 1

how to grow melons in Tasmania 2

how to grow melons in Tasmania 3

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Straw Bale Potatoes

Due to the lack of watering and sheer laziness, I suspect my chicken wire potatoes experiment will be a failure (judging by the struggling, thirsty looking plants living in there). I have however inadvertently  performed another experiment with better than expected results. Before I lay claim to this technique, it is not new, and I have heard of people growing potatoes in this way, in fact, I regularly ride past a garden where a whole bunch of spuds are being grown using this method.

What I am talking about is growing potatoes in straw bales. I have read that all sorts of veggies can be grown in this way, and I have experimented with it myself  a while back, but, I believe that my bales were a bit too fresh. Last year though, during potato harvest, I discarded a few scrappy potatoes on top of a straw bale. I have noticed the plants growing vigorously over the past months, and recently dying back. The result, a nice amount of good sized dutch creams, and a harvest, unlike the normal back breaking and dirty affair, that was as easy as pulling straw apart.

I think next season, a change from this years efforts (or lack thereof), it will be straw bale potatoes all the way.

grow straw bale potatoes hobart 1

Grow Straw Bale Potatoes Hobart 2

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Green With Envy

After Juz (a reader) showed me up with his well formed broccoli earlier this year…I have been patiently working on getting revenge with an equally well formed green brassica, only this one is a cauliflower. No secret tricks with this one Juz, just mother nature doing her thing. BTW, I tried your trick on another Cauli but I think all I succeeded in doing was to create a great place for slugs to hang out!

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Last of the Pumpkins

As I prepare to plant this year’s pumpkins, I have just cut the sole surviver of last years harvest, a testament to the storing qualities of pumpkins. Dont forget to grow plenty this year and keep yourself in delicious pumpkins throughout the cooler months.

Pumpkin growing in Tasmania

 

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Leeks

As always..I planted this winter crop too late in autumn for it to be of any use in hearty winter soups. Now these little but lovely looking guys have to make way for the corn. I am sure though that we will find a use for them in the kitchen…maybe spinach pie 😊

Backyard leeks

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First Coffee Harvest

The pic speaks for itself…

Grow coffee in Tasmania

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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!

early spring in Hobart 1

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.

early spring in Hobart 2

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.

early spring in Hobart 4

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

early spring in Hobart 4

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 🙂

early spring 002

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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

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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).

Grow potatoes in limited space 1

Grow potatoes in limited space 2

Grow potatoes in limited space 3

Grow potatoes in limited space 4

Grow potatoes in limited space 5

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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

How to grow garlic 2

Weird aphid things

How to grow garlic 3

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

How to grow garlic 5

A very bright planted clove

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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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hydroponic vegetables 2

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hydroponic vegetables 1

hydroponic vegetables 10

Hydroponic Vegetables 11

Hydroponic Vegetables 12

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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

 

 

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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

 

 

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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

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Tomato Tongue Twister

As promised, I am using this post to let you in on a couple of my heirloom vegetables that I have been growing in recent years that believe to be superior in their characteristics. One is the impossible to pronounce (even if you sit down and actually try)  Wapsipinicon Peach Tomato, the other is a Zucchini  with an almost equally challenging name, Costata Romanesco.

What is an heirloom vegetable? As I can not bothered to take the trouble to paraphrase, I will do what all great minds do, and quote Wikipedia:

“An heirloom plant, heirloom variety, heritage fruit (Australia and New Zealand), or (especially in Ireland and the UK) heirloom vegetable is an old cultivar that is “still maintained by gardeners and farmers particularly in isolated or ethnic communities”.[1] These may have been commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but are not used in modern large-scale agriculture.”

I think that the quote reasonably defines the term. Other characteristics which may contribute to defining the term might be:

  • Open Polinated – Heirloom seeds are naturally pollinated without human intervention. One can save the seeds, which will typically produce fruit of the same characteristics
  • Predate a period in time – It seems that some consider age of the variety to be of importance,  pre-1950’s or pre-WW2 are a couple of examples that I have seen.

There is a number of arguments that people use to promote the benefits of heirloom vegetables. For me, I grow a mix of hybrid and heirloom crops (hybrid meaning that parents have been selectively cross pollinated in order to produce seed and subsequent fruit of a particular quality). I have found some great heirloom varieties, but also, quite enjoy the super sweet hybrid corns and have had better success with a hybrid pak choi variety over heirloom varieties that I have grown.

Now, there is something else to consider when thinking about heirloom vegetables, that consideration being, food crop diversity. This is not the segway into a hippy rant, as, since acknowledging in my early 20’s that I was never going to do anything to change the ways of the world…  I have become somewhat and perhaps sadly indifferent to sick sad world (Daria reference) around me. I did however read an article in a magazine not too long ago, the topic being, the massive decrease in food crop diversity.

I do not know where the original article is in order to quote, but the below link  has a great graphic derived from a 1983 study  illustrating the point. According to the study, which comprises of a comparison of seed variety availability in 1903 compared to 1983, 93% of the 1903 varieties had become extinct.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/07/food-ark/food-variety-graphic

I am not sure why this bothers me, but, it does.

Enough scare mongering and down to the business of profiling these two great heirlooms.

Wapsipinicon Peach Tomato

I find myself in a position that I have not previously been in… having to describe the characteristics of a tomato. There is a lot of pressure as I have built this tomato up so much, that, it may be hard for me to do it justice.

The 1st characteristic, and the one that caught my attention, is slightly furry skin on this tomato. Curiosity value only, but does add to the enigma of the “peach” tomato. Given the right conditions though, this yellow tomato will blush a peachy colour that does make it appear even more delicious. The low acidity and sweetness of the fruit make it almost more a table fruit than a tomato. I would describe the fruit as being  small to medium in size, with a medium yield. Since discovering, I ensure that I have a few of these plants in each year, and everyone who tries it is very pleased with it’s flavour. Not really sure what else to say about a tomato… so below, some pics 🙂

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And now the Zucchini…

Costata Romanesco Zucchini

An attractive, ribbed zucchini (I sound like I really “love” my zucchinis), Costata Romanesco really shines due to its firm, non-watery flesh. This makes it a versatile zucchini for cooking, lending itself particularly well to grilling, stir frying, frying, steaming as well as any other traditional cooking methods. I would describe the flesh as being sweetish, nutty, and, superior to other zucchini varieties I have tried. Additionally, they can be picked quite large and still retain a perfectly edible taste and texture.

If you have never grown zucchinis before, they (zucchinis in general) have a reputation and almost a disdain among gardeners as supplying far too much fruit for one’s liking. Do yourself, friends and family a favour though, and add this variety to your summer crops.

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But wait… there’s more…

For those of you in Australia that I can sucker in to add a comment to this post… I have (or will have if I can’t find them), 5 lots of 10 Wapsipinicon Peach seeds to give away. Be one of the first 5 people to add an extremely friendly,  positive and a maybe even a little sucky uppy (don’t mistake that for patronising though 😉 ) comment to this post score your sweet prize.

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Tomato Time

Although we have been getting a sporadic and  I guess sufficient supply of tomatoes for a couple of months, thanks to a few early fruits, it is only just now that they are really starting to ripen. I have not really had a good year with tomatoes this year, perhaps due to funny weather, or perhaps due to a little neglect. That said, some of the self seeded and later planted plants are yet to begin to ripen with haste, so, crop may end up being suitable.

If you have eaten home grown tomatoes, you would know that the stuff that they sell at the shops are tasteless, hard or mushy, pathetic excuses for food. If you have not tasted a home grown tomato.. do yourself a favour and do so, ASAP. Tomatoes are a staple backyard crop in many parts of Australia, and I guess across the world… maybe partly due to the inability to recreate that delicious flavour commercially.

I must admit, in relation to the hydroponic tomatoes, although, according to my partner, still better than store bought, they have failed the taste test. I intentionally planted the same variety in both the hydroponic system and in the ground. The taste test was of the small yellow variety as pictured, I think named “Golden Nugget”.

What is wrong with them?

There is something lacking in the complexity of the taste, I am not sure if I can narrow it down, but I can at least say that they seem to be lacking the acidity and bite of the soil grown plant, making them on the side of  blandish and, although not in texture, sort of watery. Although, not terrible to taste on their own, but in comparison, they are clearly inferior. I guess it might be something to do with the minerals available to the plant, something along those lines. Perhaps some of you may have some experience or ideas as to why this may be the case and how one might improve the flavour outcomes? For now… my dreams of full flavoured tomatoes through the winter months supplied by an indoor hydroponic system, are feeling a little distant.

Anyway, I picked a bowl of tomatoes today, some will hit the plate, the rest I will make into a few jars of relish for the perfect condiment.

For my next post, I will be talking about my favourite tomato variety, one that I believe, once you have tried, it will be hard to think of any other 🙂 I will be also letting you in on another great heirloom vegetable that should be in everybody’s kitchen garden.

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2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad (The 3 Sisters)

I once read of a companion planting (planting crops which benefit each other together) concept known as “the three sisters”. Apparently a Native American form of companion planting .

The concept is that Corn, Climbing Beans and Pumpkins/Squash are planted intermingled in the one bed. The beans climb up amongst the corn, and, the pumpkins trail along the ground. As well as being a great way to densely farm a bed, I am led to believe that the plants provide benefits for each other, but… I actually can not be bothered at the moment to fully research the benefits. What I can be bothered doing is providing a couple of pics of our current corn crop with the climbing beans growing amongst them. Should turn out being quite a productive and delicious little bed.

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No Dig Update

Have you been wondering how the no dig garden bed is going? Probably not, as I am not even sure that anyone reads this blog at the moment! Just in case you are, below are some updated pics. Please ignore the mess, the same laziness that leads to that also means that I cannot be bothered cropping the mess out 🙂

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Garlic is as good as 10 mums

Not sure if I am infringing on somebody’s copyright there… as I once saw a documentary of that name. I guess I agreed with the sentiment.

Firstly, I guess the obligatory Merry Christmas is in order, as it happens to be Christmas Day. I have been taking the opportunity to potter around the yard, mainly to keep myself awake after an early start (I have a six year old child).

Anyway, I have been trying to wait for a dry spell to harvest the garlic (I read once that it pays to do so), but, it is harvest time, so I went ahead and did it today anyway.

I find it garlic easy to grow in my cool, temperate region. The tradition dictates to plant on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day of the year. It can be planted earlier, but personally, I like to wait until the largest of last years cloves begin to shoot from the top (around the shortest day) and plant them then, in a limed, fertilised soil, with the little shoots poking above the ground. They require little care except for weeding, and, once dried and hung in a dry, airy space at roomish temperature, will store fine for 6 months until they begin to sprout (planting time)

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More Showing Off…

This time, it is snow peas…

Best served straight off the plants, and into ones mouth… the powdery mildew seems to have set in a little early this year. Normally I would try to fend it off with a milk spray, which is said to have good results, but… it only ever seems to prolong the inevitable.

This year… I have decided to pick the plants bare and remove to make way for more crops. Below is some of the harvest… looks like snow peas on the plate for a while.

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Here is the recipe for the milk spray

Mix milk with water at the ratio of 10-30% milk

Place into one of those spray bottles

I spray once mildew begins to come on (maybe that is too late?), spraying the contaminated areas and the rest of the foliage as a preventative. Articles tend to suggest to spray every 10 days or so.

 

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Lettuce Experiment – 2 Weeks On

I have mixed up some new nutrient solution, as the lettuce in the glass house had used almost half of the liquid, and, the lettuce that I have had outside, appears to have become watered down. While doing so, I also have increased the amount of fertiliser as per directions. Anyway… the results so far after approx 2 weeks (16th Nov). The 1st 2 pics are the lettuces in the ground, the subsequent pics are the hydro lettuces.

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I think the results speak for themselves… There is obviously factors which will be skewing results such as warmer temps in the glass house, watered down nutrient of the hydro bucket outside, and light, moisture etc considerations for those is soil…

I am very impressed with the growth in the hydro buckets so far, I look forward to posting the next update.

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The lettuce experiment (Deep water hydroponics)

I recently have a developed a new found interest in hydroponic gardening. Youtube is a great place for inspiration in the field…one poster that has some great videos is mhpgardener, a link to his channel can be found at the bottom of this post. I have taken the info from some of his videos, am trialling a small outdoor hydroponic setup based on the “dutch bucket” system, which will feature in a future post.

This post however is a about a small experiment  deep water hydroponics… although, i must admit that in this case, the water is not especially deep. the video that inspired this experiment was one of mhpgardener’s about deep water hydroponics, in which he trialled lettuce in an aerated (i guess an aquarium bubbler), vs non-aerated system (basically just a pool of water and nutrients). He reported equally good success with the non-aerated system, so, I thought I would give it a whirl.

The Experiment

I purchased 4 lettuce seedlings of 2 varieties from a fellow at the local farmer’s market. I must give him a quick spruik, as he is producing a great product the he pops out of individual tubes and wraps up in newspaper, then sends you on your way. The root ball is barely disturbed, resulting in little shock during transplanting. Here is a link to his blog: http://hobartkitchengardens.blogspot.com.au/

Moving on, the experiment is not as elaborate as it sounds… in fact, you may even be disappointed with my lackluster scientific investigations.

Step 1

Lets get the easy stuff out of the way. I took 1 of each lettuce variety, and…planted them into the dirt.

Backyard Hydroponics experiment, lettuce seedlings

Step 2

This was as sophisticated as obtaining 2 small buckets with lids, and, cutting holes in the lids… i also cut along the lid so that i could split it it to slot the seedling in.

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Step 3

I prepared the hydroponic fertiliser. I won’t go in to the details of this…but here is a nice pic.

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Step 4

Seedling preparation…a sophisticated process of washing potting mix from the roots. It is actually kind of cool once complete, to see the essence of the plant, fresh and clean after a good wash.

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Step5

I placed the seedlings into the awesome lids with holes in them…placed the lid onto the buckets of fertiliser, and viola..

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 Step 6

Location, location, location…sounds fancy doesn’t it? I have placed one in the glass house, and one outside…currently under the eaves due to the quantity of rain that we have had lately. For future reference, this all took place on the 26th of October. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

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Quick, dirty and a little sneaky (No Dig Garden Bed)

Although I had mentioned to my better half that I intended to make a new garden bed to accommodate this years pumpkins, I don’t think she really pondered on  the statement all that much.

Truth is… I had kind of decided on a spot that I felt would lead her to protest, so, I timed its creation in such a way that she would find herself at work, leaving me free to steal a small section of lawn (dead lawn mind you) to meet my needs.

Our vegie patch is just a little smaller than I would like, to be able to get all of the crops that I would like, in, when I would like. Seasonal crops overlapping means that at times the winter/spring crops will run a bit past planting times for summer crops… resulting in a juggling act over winter/spring to leave enough beds for the summer season.

Summer is approaching, which means that I am preparing for, or only just starting to plant out the summer crops. Some tomatoes have just gone in yesterday, and… in a day or 2, the pumpkins will be transplanted into the ground. This brings us to the topic of this post… a no dig vegie bed… for this years pumpkins.

I have seen this done a few times on television, and, it follows the same principal that I am using to build up organic material in my raised beds. As the title suggests, the process was quick and dirty… about 45 minutes all up.. see the process below.

Step 1

Choose a location

Here is my location… a lovely piece of stolen lawn

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Step 2

Edging

I had a bunch of rocks that I picked up for free a while ago… this is what I used for my edging, but, you may choose wooden sleepers, bricks etc.  I don’t seem to have a photo of the rocks alone, but, I am sure you can imagine

Step 3

Newspaper

Lay down your old news papers, cardboard etc. over the bed area. This will help prevent grass/weeds etc from growing up through the bed, and, will in theory kill them.

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Step 4

Mulch layer

For this layer, I placed a good layer of old hay. I am led to believe that a mix of any organic material can be used, straw, dry grass clippings, leaves etc. If the final bed is to be deep enough to discourage rodents, I would think food scraps might even be used in this bottom layer

No-dig garden mulch

Step 5

Fertiliser Layer

On this layer, I spread a liberal amount of dried sheep manure and a sprinkling of pelletised sheep manure

Step 6

Soil

A layer of soil… enough to reasonably cover the mulch and fertiliser layer

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Step 7

Mulch Again

repeat step 4 (yes… I forgot to take a pic)

Step 8

Fertilise again

Repeat step 5

Step 9

Soil again

You have worked out the formula… repeat step 6

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Step 10

If you can be bothered… repeat

Repeat steps 4-6 as many times as you wish (within reason of course). I stopped here, as I run out of soil. I am thinking my bed is on the  shallow side.

Step 11

A good water

The picture explains it all

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Step 12

Have an argument with your wife

Of course she is temporarily upset about the new addition to the lawn. Before long… she won’t even remember that there was ever lawn in that spot.

Step 13

Plant

Pumpkins planted, water

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Step 14

Watch grow

I will keep you posted on the progress of the bed. I have a feeling that it is on the shallow side, but, hopefully roots will find their way down and help establish some nice plants

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