Monday, August 30, 2010


 Suyin was inspired by my comments regarding beetroot the other day.

Signs of Spring

Spring, it would seem, is upon us. The fig tree is about to explode into greenery and the very first fig for the season has appeared.

The first tiny figlet
The just-planted fruit trees are getting ready for some growth. I hope they'll be happy in their new homes with plenty of space to expand.

New leaf on the Dwarf Pink Lady

New flower (?) on the Dwarf Pink Lady
The potatoes, planted two weeks ago, have also emerged in their usual hairy green manner.

Yay for Spring

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gemüse-und Apfelbäumen

Today was another busy day in the Front Yard Farm, although with some trees planted and not a lot of vegetable action going on yet, it's looking embarrassingly ornamental at the moment. To address this sad deficiency, I went through my seed collection and picked out what's going in for spring. I won't spoil the surprise by revealing everything, but thus far I've planted:

Purple Podded Dutch Peas
These are a favourite, with pretty purple flowers followed by dark purple pods with normal-looking green peas inside (see title picture at the top right of the page).

Golden Podded Peas
I haven't grown these before but apparently you can eat them pod and all like snow peas when they're small. I usually grow peas over Winter, so hopefully these will mature before being fried by the Summer sun.

Frost Beans
I got these in a mixed bag of beans last year and they were so pretty I just have to grow them again.

Mixed Heirloom Radishes
I'll remember to pick these before they turn into scary monsters this time.

Golden Beetroot
I admit it, I used to hate beetroot. Even now there is a limit to how much I can eat before something inside me says "ENOUGH BEETROOT!". These little guys though, I could eat like lollies. They're sweet and golden and don't run, so you don't end up with your entire dish turning a deep purple. 

The peas and beans were planted beneath the trellis along the front of the house. The beetroot and radishes I've planted to act like a border alongside part of the path. Speaking of the path, it's now finished (YAY!) and I'm very pleased with the result. Not bad for a stack of old bricks and some bark. Oh, and a ton of back-breaking labour too.

And today we planted the apple trees!

Dwarf Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples planted!

You can also see I've been mulching. The shop was out of my usual sugar cane mulch last weekend, so I got pea straw instead. It's full of goodies that help feed the soil as it breaks down but it is a bit more stringy to deal with. My usual technique is to mulch everything, then clear away the spots where I want to plant things. Its easier doing this with the more finely chopped sugar cane so this will remain my default option in future.

Comment of the Day
Passer-by: "You know I had it in my mind that this garden was the work of a Chinese gardener."

Apparently it's "oriental looking".

So, we got a lot done, and after all that activity I needed a nap. Tomorrow I'll be planting some seeds in punnets.

Planting and Barking

The plants have been letting me know that Spring's almost upon us. The fig tree is about to explode into greenness and the dwarf Washington Navel Orange was starting to show signs of new growth. That meant but one thing: I had to get the trees planted tout suite!

So last weekend we got stuck in, and while Suyin was engaged in the therapeutic task of picking rocks out of the garden bed, I was digging holes for the citrus trees.

Here are some holes, and here are some trees. You can guess what comes next.

You may also have noticed in the above photo that the path is looking more path-like and less like a ditch. We decided to try some finely chopped pine bark as a fill but I was too chicken to buy more than one bag in case it looked bad. It didn't, so I've since bought some more to finish it off. Now, back to the citrus..

Final preparation before planting the lemon tree. Nice path, yes?
Still being paranoid about drainage after the untimely demise of the resident lychee tree from fungal root rot, I tested the holes by filling them with water and seeing how long it took for them to drain. The nursery we bought the trees from has a handy page on planting citrus where they suggest you should plant your tree elsewhere if it takes more than 30 minutes for the water to drain away. Mine took more like 5 minutes, so I was pretty comfortable with that.

Lime, lemon and orange trees ready for a good watering in.
After that it was pretty straightforward to plant the trees and water them in. With grafted trees you're always supposed to plant them with the graft above the ground, and in this case it was no problem as there was about 15cm to play with. Now it's just a matter of making sure they have enough water to get established (but not too much!) and looking out for any signs of distress or pestilence.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Girt by Dirt

Last weekend was a pretty productive one in the Front Yard Farm, although apart from the previously mentioned spuds, you'd be hard pressed to tell just by looking at it. I finally got the leftover bricks and rubble cleared away and the mounds of soil redistributed roughly to where it should be. The temporary brick recycling facility was decommissioned, and it's surrounding soil moved. It occurred to me that all the mortar that was pummeled to dust by the jackhammer as it was chipped off the old bricks would make the soil a bit too alkaline, since it contains lime. And of course I'd been doing this right where the citrus trees are going and they do not like alkaline soils. Fortunately, after several amusing hours separating out all the rocks, mortar and broken glass from the soil, it wasn't too much of a problem to redistribute it around the vegie beds. 

Starting to look like a proper garden again. A sort of dirt garden anyway..

As an aside, you always find unexpected stuff when digging in the garden, and the past few years have yielded some interesting finds, including:

- an assortment of gardening tools
- old coins I haven't yet cleaned up or identified
- a glass bottle stopper
- layers of plastic sheeting
- several ancient soft drink can ring pulls encased in cement
- a plastic army man
- a lump of coal

Anyway, my activities didn't go unnoticed by the neighbourhood, with quite a few people stopping for chat or commenting as they passed. I was digging out some nasty onion weed next to the chard when our Greek neighbour stopped by.

"This is very bad!" he said several times, pointing at where I was digging. I though he was criticising my chard.
"The chard?"
"No this!" (pointing at the weeds) "This weed! Very bad! You have one, you get ONE MILLION!!"

Ergh. Don't I know it...

Our Japanese next-door neighbour said the garden was beautiful as she was arriving home. A few minutes later her Indian husband said it looked very professional as he was rushing out. We live in a refreshingly multicultural area.

A passing jogger said "Keep up the good work". It is nice to receive a little random encouragement.

Another lady mentioned that there's a new community garden starting up just a few blocks away. I must remember to grow some extra seedlings to send their way in an attempt to get the whole neighbourhood growing weird purple vegetables..
An elderly Greek lady asked if she could have some chillies, so I gave her the last few half decent ones left. I warned her several times that they are REALLY hot ones. I do hope she understood.

Can't wait to plant stuff!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Having spent most of Saturday and an hour or so today moving rubble, redistributing soil and weeding, I finally got the chance today to PLANT SOMETHING! Spuds!

 This year's varieties are Royal Blue and King Edward. After a busy weekend I managed to get them in the ground just as it was getting dark.

Here are the seed potatoes snuggled up in their bed. They should do well in this spot if the amount of weeds that previously grew here is anything to go by. They're planted about 10cm deep and 30cm apart in trenches. A bag of cow manure was mixed in, followed by a sprinkling of blood & bone for good measure. As the plants come up I'll back fill the trenches to produce more tubers and make sure they're all covered up and don't go green.

Factoid of the day: Every part of the potato plant, except for non-green tubers, is toxic.

Hopefully, come November, there'll be more potatoes than I started with.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Path! A Path!

The path is finished, in so much as the brick border is done. The actual surface material has yet to be determined, right now it's hard (when dry) or sticky (when wet) clay. I'm thinking straw, sawdust, bark or gravel. Gravel is maybe a bit permanent and hard to get rid of for my liking, at least the others will rot down eventually on their own.

Also, being clay underneath means it doesn't drain very quickly. If it turns out to be a problem I can always dig a channel along its length and put some ag-pipe and gravel in it. We've had a few heavy showers lately and so far so good. At the moment it ends quite abruptly, which was done just to see what it looked like. I'll probably change that to make it blend slowly into the garden bed, maybe with a few stepping stones.

Now I have to find somewhere to stick the excess bricks and building rubble. Under the house maybe...

In other news our seed potatoes arrived yesterday! So exciting! This year we're planting King Edward and Royal Blue varieties. Yes, I know a parcel full of potatoes may not excite everyone but think of it this way:

1 potato + good growing conditions = 10 potatoes

That's a lot of yummy roast, boiled or mashed potatoes.

And chippies! Think of all the chippies...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Citric Assets

Cruising our nearest garden centre a few weekends ago, we came across a Eureka lemon grafted on dwarfing root stock. This was one of the trees I was after for the front yard orchard we have planned. The rootstock "Flying Dragon" is supposed to make the tree productive earlier and only grow to around 2m tall, the perfect size for the available space. We also picked up a half metre diameter pot, with a pretty black crackle glaze, on sale for $30. Bargain! They also had some similar orange and lime trees but I decided to hold off until checking whether they were suitable varieties for our area. Anyway, once home I checked out the supplier of the lemon tree and found they had Washington Navel oranges and Tahitian lime trees and their nursery was open to the public. So, the next weekend we headed up to Dural to check it out. The nursery bloke had to have a hunt around to find some, they didn't have too many citrus left this late in Winter, but managed to track down some decent specimens. He apologised that they were a bit daggy-looking, but what citrus aren't at this time of year? Actually, I think they look fine.

Orange, lemon and lime trees in their pretty colour-coded containers.

Citrus are a pretty safe option in our climate, enjoying a hot Summer and mild Winter. In our North-East facing garden with the brick house behind them they should power along. Our next purchase though is pretty high risk..


Crazy as it sounds, we're going to try and grow apples in a nearly coastal, not-very-cold-at-all climate. You see apples require a certain amount of chilling over Winter in order to fruit. Being only around 12km from the coast means we seldom get frosts, and being in a built-up area also does not help either. Knowing this I've selected varieties with about the lowest chilling requirement there is: Granny Smith and Pink Lady. Apples also need pollinating partners to fruit successfully, hence the pair of them. These are also grafted onto dwarfing root stock as we really don't need any 5m tall trees. If all else fails I'll dig them up again and give them to someone a little further inland. I'm still not sure whether to prune them into the traditional and pretty goblet shape, or to espallier them on some sort of wire or trellis to make them more productive.

So, our visit to the nursery was indeed fruitful. Sorry. The nursery guy told me they were "..selling a lot of fruit trees rather than boring ornamentals since the revolution started". Heh heh! There was also a really nice doggy there.