Friday, 28 November 2014

Vegetable Garden

This is what the garden looks like as of this morning. Its growing so fast now that the weather has warmed up.
We desperately need rain though, the plants have been kept alive by the rain water that's in storage tanks on the top block. Last year was so dry that we ran out of water and had to truck some in.

This photo below is a different angle of the garden beds, you can see the corn, tomatoes, carrots, beans, onions ad potatoes .... its tricky trying to get a photo of the entire garden because its spread out but you get the idea of the layout.
I picked my garlic last week and have 144 elephant garlic plants now drying on the veranda. I picked them early because the temperatures were dropping and we got a bit of rain, not much but enough to cause some of the white rot to occur. I didn't want to risk loosing all of my Elephant garlic to white rot so pulled it out on the weekend .

Have just started picking the peas and this is the first year of growing them in the strawberry patch which is separated from the main garden by wire mesh. Its completely enclosed to stop furry critters from eating the peas and strawberries.... don't know why I didn't think of growing them in there years ago.

Pumpkins have just started to run. I noticed they have both the male and female flowers now so won't be long before they are setting fruit. Very soon the entire yard will be filled with pumpkin vine.
Onions and carrots survived their time in the snow on the 14th of October this year and have really taken off now, growing nicely. I was surprised they survived.

Its all looking rather lush and delicious. That's what cow poop does for the ground. the worms love it and the plants grow real strong and disease resistant. Very happy with this years progress although can't really count on anything until harvest time ... We could get a massive hail storm and it all be wiped out in one afternoon.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Seed Saver or Plant Breeder

I'm not really sure about all this "must save own seeds" movement. Sure its fun to do now and then and a very noble idea to want to "Save the Planet" and stop "Big Pharm" from owning all the seeds but in reality, like a lot of things, there is so much more to it.

I have since discovered that some people are incredibly passionate about the subject, what seeds to save, what companies to trust, what conspiracy theories to up hold. And if you dare not save your own seeds you will be cast aside like a smelly sock to wander alone down life's garden path.

So what did I do when faced with this dilemma? Why gave in to societies pressure of course and began saving my own seeds .... I didn't want people to frown or look down upon me because I dared purchase seeds from a big seed company *Shock Horror!*... I didn't want to be viewed as a second rate gardener or as a person who didn't care about the planet ...

I wanted to be liked and accepted so I followed along and this is what I discovered ... that's its way more complicated than I first thought .... you see there are 2 ways to save (breed) seed  ... there are those of us who use the "Willy Nilly" method of saving seeds (umm that would be me) and then there are the ....... drum roll please ....* Plant Breeders * .....ta dah ..... I have nothing but admiration for experienced plant breeders who put their heart and soul into breeding quality plants, taking meticulous care to select characteristics that enhance rather than detract and I am happy to pay good money for well bred seeds.

I can fool myself and pretend to be a plant breeder but in reality the opposite is true. Knowing what qualities and characteristics to preserve through selective breeding requires skill which I don't possess although my seed saving efforts did produced some interesting *cough* specimens ....   
This is the end result of my onion experiment ....The original intention was to save the seeds from some of the brown onions  ... simple enough .... you'd think .... anyway someone forgot about the white onions lurking in a different part of the garden and umm ... well  .... not long after that things got a bit more complicated .... long story short I created a big " Brown White "onion  .... yup ....

I name him " Big Onion Guy Who Will Not Die"

It just kept growing and growing and refused to stop growing ... I even pushed over all the leaves to induce death but it sprung back up good as new ... talk about freaky in a fascinating sort of way .. what the heck had I created? .... maybe I should have been a bit more selective in what I was after when choosing the breeding stock of the original onions. Although to be fair the hybrid onions produced from this brown/white onion crossing had excellent keeping quality so 2 thumbs up for that.

anyhoo "Big Onion Guy" eventually annoyed the crappola out of me so I removed him, but not before I took a photo of course .....all the other onions had been removed from the bed months ago (some of the others were weird looking too but obviously not weird enough looking to warrant their photo being taken).... this is the result of willy nilly seed saving compared to selective breeding  .... can you imagine the size of the piece a steak you would need to put that sucker on?

The following information is from the "Seed Savers Hand Book" by Michel & Jude Fanton 1993

How to save onions seeds:
1) To ensure purity, only one type of onion should be allowed to flower in the second spring
2) Onion plants need to be within a radius of 400 metres of each other
3) a minimum of 20 onion plants must be saved to maintain diversity for the long term.
4) Onions are pollinated by insects
** Some plant breeders introduce pollinating insects into the cages in which onions are isolated**.
5) Choose well-formed and firm onions for seed purposes.
6) Seeds are ripe when the stalk changes colour to brownish. The seeds are black and the capsules begin to open and drop seeds if shaken.
7) Remove the heads and place into paper bags.
8) When dry shake the bag to remove the seeds.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Planting time - Finally!

Yup all plants are now in the ground. Whoohoo! .... Thank goodness as its always a challenge negotiating the weather conditions around here. Living in a cold climate makes for some interesting times .... lets see, 1 month ago the garden beds got covered in a heavy dumping of fluffy snow

and then last week I was waiting to plant fearing that we might get one last frost on Friday with our temperatures dropping to a low 5C which was 1 degree from being frost potential ... anything under 4C at this time of year can still cause light frost to occur so planting frost tender plants into the garden has to be carefully considered.

And of course just after I planted the seedlings we got a westerly come in and blew hot air straight from the desert all over us ... we had 2 days of 32C and then today dropped to 26C .... then tomorrow predicted to drop to 7C ... the plants around here have to be tough and be able to handle cold and heat ... its just the way it is.

I picked some of my garlic during this last couple of weeks as well and its now sitting out on the veranda drying. Originally planted 5 types (4 garlic and one lot of Elephant garlic). 2 of the varieties didn't like growing here and where more suited to warmer climate but the ones the I saved from previous years have become acclimatized and now reproduced beautifully
I've still got the Elephant garlic in the ground and just waiting for it to die off a bit more before I start to harvest. I personally prefer to grow the Elephant garlic as it doesn't have as many issues as the normal garlic does. It grows without too many problems plus it has a milder garlic flavor. Its related to garlic and belongs to the same family as garlic,onions and leeks.

This photo below shows the Elephant Garlic that is still in the ground and you can see its got a covering of dew on it. If the temperature had dropped one more degree that dew would have turned into frost. Garlic can handle the frost but pumpkins and beans etc can't.

This time of year is full of things that need to be done. The seedlings need to go into the ground, the baby chickens are all hatching and running around looking super cute. These little cutie-pies in the photo below are the latest additions. They don't actually belong to the hen, she just happened to be broody at the time so I shoved a few eggs under her. They are standard bred Rhode Island Reds where as she is a standard bred Light Sussex.

She is a great mother and this is her second lot of babies this season. Her other babies are now 13 weeks old and growing beautifully. This photo below shows 3 of the light Sussex Babies from the above hen plus 10 babies from the hatchery (5 Rhode Island Reds, 3 Sussex, 2 Barnevelder).

I know I've been a bit slack blogging at the moment but I've been busy. Plus have heaps of craft orders that need to be filled for Christmas. And to top it all off I entered into a garden competition (which ends mid December) plus started working on my own craft website. I'll give you the link but I haven't got much up at the moment only my downloadable knitting / crochet pattern files. I do plan to put up some toys & blankets etc this week when I get a spare moment. Plus we (my son & I) are still in the design stages of the site and making sure things work properly.

Woolly work space

This is a photo of my little work space where I make the different crochet & knitted toys. I find it incredibly relaxing and no two to...