Sunday, November 02, 2008

Crank it up

Garden bed with freshly laid compost

The summer heat is cranking up the pace of compost making in the tumbler and here's the result: a composted garden bed, ready and waiting for some cucumber seedlings. I wonder if the speed of this batch was also due partly to the addition to the compost of buckets of azolla from the bathtub pond, which is covered in it.

Because I had such success last year with the snake cucumbers (Cucumis melo var utilissimus), I've raised lots from seed this year and am planting them in the bed that had mainly tomatoes and beans in it last year.

Seedlings of snake (climbing) and spacemaster (Cucumis sativus, bush form) cucumbers

To spread the tumbler-compost love around, I bought a second-hand tumbler ($150 off eBay) and took it down to the Peninsula patch for my father to try his hand at it. It's a different model to mine, a little smaller but I think it will work, even with the less-frequent turning that it gets down there. The one thing that's missing from it is a central spindle to help aerate the compost.

Growing notes from the inner-city patch

Apart from the cucumbers, I've planted out the following seedlings, raised from seed:
  • beans (Frederico)
  • zucchini (Fordhook)
  • tomatoes (Tommy toes, Black russians, and Green zebras)
  • sunflowers
Bean (Frederico) seedlings on the balcony
Tomatoe seedlings protected from the marauding birds; Grape climbing in background

Coriander and lemon basil seedlings from the plant lady at Monash lunchtime market went in in September. By now the coriander is big enough to harvest so I've used it in a batch of chicken pho (rice noodle soup), along with vietnamese mint that's growing in the bathtub pond, some chillies frozen from last year's harvest, and chicken stock made by my partner.
Passionfruit vine in the inner-city patch
The passionfruit vines climbing on the side of the house are producing their gorgeous flowers. No fruit as yet though.
Passionfruit flower in inner-city patch
I failed to raise any eggplants from seed, despite two attempted sowings. I may resort to buying seedlings. Any tips appreciated on growing from seed would be appreciated.

Some volunteer jerusalem artichokes have sprouted in strange places in the garden, far from where they grew last year (in between pavers in the path), so I pulled them up and will give some to my uncle who wants to grow them. I'll plant a few in the garden, but not so many as last year - the harvest was overwhelming!

A 'strawberry grape' (
Vitis vinifera 'Fragola') given to me by a colleague in my Seed Savers Group, and planted in August is doing well against the pergola support, alongside my standard table grape (don't know the variety). The male kiwi fruit that looked all but dead over winter with some kind of fungal growth decimating its leaves, has bounced back. I hope to see it 'go feral' this summer, as kiwi fruit are apparently wont to do.

I've saved lots of parsley, rocket, dill and mustard seed. With the addition of mustard seed harvested from the peninsula patch, I should be able to make some homemade mustard this year.

The peninsula patch
On the peninsula patch, I've continued planting the Amaranth seed that I saved last year, in successive sowings. It takes a while to germinate, and I think I may have sown it too thickly, but it is competing OK with the red clover (Trifolium pratense) and woolly vetch in the same beds.

Under my father's orchard, a couple of the leguminous groundcovers I sowed earlier in the year are finally getting going: the red cover appears to be the most successful.
The borage is also going nuts and has self seeded all over the place - it is a bee magnet - you can hear the humming as you approach the orchard. I still want to try to get some pinto's peanut (Arachis pinto) going as ground cover, but that will have to wait until next year.

Soil testing drill on Peninsula property

The permaculture plan for the peninsula property involves a dam. In preparation for the dam build, I organised a soil test: a bloody great big drill mounted on a truck arrived at the property on a rainy October day. The drill went three metres down and encountered: red-brown silty clay (moisture content 26%), followed at 1.5 m by brown, mottled orange-yellow silty clay (moisture content 48%) and finally at 3m brown mottled orange/yellow silty clay with a moisture content of 55%. We got a report with a rating for the desirability of the soil for use in rolled-earth dam walls and lining: basically not great but probably doable with a good contractor who knows what they're doing.

In preparation for the plantings planned for the swale, I've attempted to grow some Tagasaste (
Chamaecytisus palmensis) from seed. The plan uses these and indigenous acacias as nurse trees for fruit trees to be planted along the swale. Strike rate wasn't high, but I've got seven growing well and will try some more.

Harvest news

Greens harvest from inner-city patch
In the inner-city patch, the greens harvest has included mizuna, rocket (most of which has now bolted), parsley, broccoli side shoots, and chard. We use any left-over greens, and broccoli and beetroot leaves, in the dog food mix we make up for our little jack-russell-daschund cross: kangaroo meat, magimixed greens, oil, salt and any leftover bread or rice or other carbs. Our dog tries to lick the greens off the meat, but the oil keeps them firmly stuck on - devlish.

Beetroot harvested from the inner-city patch

This year the some of the beetroot (white and red) haven't been such good eating: stringy and fibrous. Not sure why. I've also started to harvest the broad beans, but it's hard to get enough for supper when all I want to do is eat them raw straight off the plants!

Beetroot, mizuna and rocket salad

Beetroot and broadbean salad on labna (yoghurt cheese), with mint and parsley

The sourdough journey continues

I'm still baking at least once a week, using the same basic recipe that I posted here a while back. Most times I bake a wholemeal and rye sourdough, but I've also tried a wholemeal and white bread loaf (when I couldn't get any rye). The rise is much better than with wholemeal, but I prefer the taste and texture of the wholemeal. I've started donating my wholemeal sourdough starter to friends, one of whom tried it in a bread machine with good results.

Sourdough rye and white
With leftover dough, Veggieman and I made tortillas. Veggieman did some expert rolling and tortilla fashioning. A video demonstrating his fine technique is slated for the next post of Land for Veggies.
The inner city patch

That's it from me. Back to the books - soil microbes and fungi and their role in the carbon and nitrogen cycle. Just my cup of tea - or should that be worm wee?

Marie Antoinette

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