Saint Ambrose

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

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.

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