Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose
Photo: Journey Worker Productions, CC SA 3.0 (C)

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Nice youtube on replacing shovel heads

Mine has rotted out after 6 years, so I have to replace the handle (or re-set the handle...)

Friday, 1 April 2016

Update - cucurbits!

I went to visit the family for the Easter break, and got some sun, and some very fine liturgy at the Parish of Saint Ninian and Chad, associated with the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, in Maylands, WA.

You can read about the Australian Ordinariate - the division of Roman Catholicism for ex-Anglicans running with Anglican patrimony and a version of their liturgy here:

Lovely ¨Who sitteth at the right hand of the Father¨ and ¨thou mayest...¨, ¨Thou Art...¨ etc. Marvellous. No guitars.

And jars of delicious old-style homemade jams and pickles for sale at the back of the church! Where else do you get that in the contemporary Church? Real Oxford-cut marmalade rather than marmalade-labelled orange-coloured sugary-water in the supermarkets...

And this was the beach on a late afternoon day...

And after grumbling about the failure of the cucurbits here, what was in the garden when I returned?

Nothing but this! -

An unidentified cucurbit -  approximately fist-sized, ...
with seeding fat hen on the right-middle side (the lighter plant, with mature fat hen leaves making a curious background pattern)

So I have had a modest success for the season.

My hand pollination skills are still worth something.


Sunday, 20 March 2016

Update - the garden over Summer

Some updates on how the garden has gone over summer.

In general it hasn´t been too good. I only got about 4 tomatoes, and those plants had wilt problems.

The beans have also been poor, and the three corn plants that grew have been mediocre for cobs.

The successes have been the fat hen, the amaranth, and in terms of plant the curcubits - but the problem with the last is that they have been stubborn against attempts to pollinate. So nothing even worthwhile there. A validation for the weed-eaters!

(A very large fat hen plant, going to seed!)

After informing neighbours I was going to move this fat hen and leave it to go to seed, 
someone came out and cut this fat hen to pieces. It was approx 6 feet tall, and similar diameter. 

The significant tomatoes for the season. Note wilt of the plant. 

Amaranth growing very well. 

This has been my discovery of the season: just how quickly amaranth will grow. The seed-flowers and leaves all go well in stews.

A mixed pot of amaranth, mostly fat hen, and a orange-fleshed sweet potato I replanted 

(the sw.potato has the squashed-heart shaped leaves at bottom centre of picture going through to the middle of the picture; the amaranth has the seed pods at the centre of the bottom-quarter of the picture; fat hen is the darker green plant many of which are around the sides and at the top of the picture). 

The sweet potato has bloomed quite nicely. No idea how it is going for tubers. I tried two pots of mostly high-density fat hen. If you are regularly picking it out, you can go for 1 square inch per plant until it is 7 inches high, then it puts growth into canopies, and grows extremely tall plants with poor leaves. But this is just too crowded for good leaves.

Best to thin and eat as you go, producing a space per plant of 2in². 2-4 pots would produce enough across the pots to allow continual harvesting across summer in useable batches. (I tend to need a fistfull for a curry or a stew at about once per week, plus the odd one-plant-as-greens on a meal). If you were only using it for one plant´s leaves to go with bangers and mash for one or two people, you could probably get by on only two pots; the rate of regrowth would work ok for that).

Also worth growing amid NZ spinach, which will creep down the sides of the pot, thus maximising green edible growth. If you use NZ spinach and fat hen interchangeably - which you can - then thats a bonus.

Fat hen is also a very good way to estimate nutrient deficiencies of soil - its leaves yellow or crimsonise or redden according to the deficiency. I havent figured out what colour indicates what, as adding scraps probably replaces many different nutrients).

Optimal height (for leaves for time/nutrient ratio) to harvest fat hen is about 1ft. After this it is more stem than leaf, and the plants leaves get old, and - due to its being inedible by caterpillars, esp. cabbage moths - it gets used by every insect and spider except cabbage moths in the garden as a hatchery  - they put eggs underside of the leaves. So checking the leaves becomes burdensome once the plant gets larger. (One just cuts the plant and examines it from the bottom of the stem up the leaves undersides, but it is a hassle to have to do it very assiduously for larger plants). 

I collected various eggs from the F.H. leaves and put in jars and am awaiting to see what eggs go with what hatchings. I want to distinguish between spider´s eggs, earwigs, cockroaches, etc and bad plant-eating insects. I haven´t been successful with this. 

The container where all the scraps go. 

This container - a cut barrel - is quite the potato farm, as well as having a parsley plant there.

Tip - dont uproot your parsely as a weed, but let it grow as a ´mulch factory´. Cut it back every few weeks, and distribute the green growth as mulch all over the place.

Overview shot. Note flourishing cucurbit leaves

The curcubit seems to be a japanese pumpkin (?), but I havent got it to crop yet, despite hand pollinating it. Frustrating!

Another lesson - the cucurbit, the fat hen, the tomatoes, were all from pots that looked like also-rans at the mid season, but I let them go and they ended up producing crops. Let things go and see what flourishes. The fast-growing plant may not be the best performer over the long run.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

rethinking broad beans

A small broad bean harvest from the kitchen - enough to go in a bowl of soup.

A good article on broad beans -

I have been pondering broad beans because I left a few of them in the garden to hold down soil and see how they would go, expecting them to wither away. We have had an unseasonably mild summer start here, but strangely they have flourished - they have grown and podded well. (They are also completely effortless and need no looking after at all).

This success surprised me when I put it alongside the conventional idea that legumes and broad beans are a winter crop. But then rethinking my childhood, there were summer lupins everywhere, which are another Fabaceae.

Here's a page on lupins -

It turns out that Western Australia is pretty big in lupins -

and there is [was?] a lupin trial site not far from where I remembered seeing them riding to school in the 1980s. Apparently these were feral escapees from the programme.

So my speculation is - perhaps broad beans are not a 'winter crop' in any intrinsic sense, but only in the sense that there are better things to grow in summer, and the broad bean will recharge the soil in winter as a nitrogen-restorer. So is there is no intrinsic 'winter' quality to them, but only a (northern European) intelligent trade off that makes no sense/is worth rethinking in hoc loco?

Any thoughts?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

translucent mushroom!

I lost about 40% of the garden over the break, while I was away for 12 days. The heatwaves just killed much of the small pots. My plan was to do a comparison with November, but the seasonal difference makes that a bit pointless. So I am moving on from there, and just showing it how it is now.

The garden is slowly growing back though, which is quite pleasing.

Here is a strange translucent toadstool I found in the garden this morning, surrounded by very small daikons. I wonder if it isn't the fruiting body of grey-rot fungus that infects daikons, because the mulch is just a load of old daikon-straw I dumped on the ground (some of which you can make out - it looks like straw!). If anyone has any idea, let me know!

Here's another picture -

Here's a neglected pot of mustard (the yellow flowers in the black pot), a curcurbit of some kind (mid lower, large green leaves), some mallow (low left, smaller leaves), a degenerating daikon (top of red pot), and a tallish (2ft) fat hen (next to the red pot that is lying in the shelf.). In the background top you can see a rather successful tomato plant.

As for tomato plants, here is how they are going - pretty good!

The pot in the bottom left of the screen is a mixed pot of oddities. Most of it is fat hen. The plan is that it would be like the pot at the front right - a pot of fat hen that I slowly eat for greens. But a few other things have popped up - including the amaranth in the lowest part of the pot (note the different leaf shape from the fat hen) that I threw in seeds of and mulch of in mid dec. It has grown very quickly.

Here's a few of the things in there.
I do not know what this one is - I suppose we will see.

And this one is a sweet potato that I replanted to see whether it would grow and what its leaf looked like:

I will dig out the pictures of the others when they become clearer.

(I have lightly edited this post to correct the grammar since I wrote it this morning)