Archive for the ‘veggie patch’ Category

An ode to Mizuna

September 21, 2013

I believe in good home grown nutrition… but I also believe that what you put on your plate should be as aesthetically pleasing as it is tasty. This is mainly what drove me to try Mizuna seeds back in June when I was shopping on diggers.com.au for my future salad crops.

I had always seen Mizuna in mesclun salad mixes at markets and on my plate in restaurants, but never thought about trying to grow it until this year. I wish I had started earlier! Its just about the perfect green vegetable – you can eat it fresh in salads, sauteed with chorizo & tossed though fresh linguine, added to spicy stir fries or blended into a tangy version of pesto. So much potential in one little plant! And of course, its soooo prettyyyy.

Adding to this is the fact its one of those “cut & come again” wonderplants that you can start harvesting 6 weeks from germination, and its pretty much earned a permanent spot on my salad bowl rotation in the garden.

Here was my Mizuna patch first thing this morning:

photo 1

I decided to pull out a couple of the green plants to make some room for the one lettuce and carrots that are sharing the space, and I couldn’t stop taking photos of it:

photo 2

 

These Mizuna plants, paired with some rocket, went spectacularly with some spinach & ricotta cannelloni. Yum!

photo 3

On garden protection

September 14, 2013

When I moved from Hobart to Melbourne last year, I knew I would have had to make a lot of adjustments to the way I was used to gardening further south. The climate, the soil, pests & diseases, and availability of products will all play a part in how my veggie gardening will evolve over the next few years.

The first thing I have had to get used to is my sandy beachside soil. While this was advantageous in how easy it is to dig in & work with, as the weather gets warmer I am noticing more & more how a warm breeze can dry out the top layer of soil very quickly. I have already dug in several bags of cow manure and compost, but last weekend I took the plunge and bought some fine pine bark mulch from my local hardware shop. I noticed the plants no longer get droopy when its warm & breezy, and they already seem to be loving the extra nutrients this will add to the soil structure.

For my veggie patch, I also bought some pea straw to add an extra layer of insulation against water loss. So all around my seedlings and full grown salad veggies I put a layer of pea straw down & then a layer of fine pine bark mulch. The veggies have loved it! The carrots are at least twice as bushy as when I showed them on the 31st, and the mizuna and rocket have stayed fresh & perky all week. The birds however have also been enjoying the pea straw.

Birds. I have never had to deal with birds my entire gardening life. I was quite taken aback by the determination of these birds to scratch through every ounce of pea straw to find the leftover pea seeds and bury my tiny lettuce & dill seedlings in the process. What to do?!?

As you might have seen from the photos, I already have chicken wire around the seedling beds to keep my cats from digging them up. But I didn’t have any spare mesh to put on the tops of the cages as well. So I went rummaging in my shed in desperation one afternoon and dug up my veggie nets I bought for an entirely different set of pests (insect pests such as fruit fly & cabbage moth) and hastily draped one over my mesh cages and secured it down with clothes pegs. Its not pretty – but it works!

Garden covers

These veggie nets only block out 15% of the sunlight and still let the water and air through so they’re pretty good in my opinion. And I am happy to report the birds have stayed well away from the pea straw since I put it up!

And even though the pea straw is now all mixed in with the mulch instead of them being two nice neat layers, the plants don’t seem to know the difference. All the lettuce seedlings (2 weeks old now) have their first set of true leaves. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about lettuce as this year – I want to spend the whole summer eating home grown salads!

Baby cos lettuce seedlings

The mizuna also have their true leaves now, and the dill and coriander are not far behind.

Here is the “mature” side of the veggie patch:

Garden sept 14

I have harvested 2 lots of rocket this week and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down yet, though just to be on the safe side I sowed another row of them this afternoon. If I can salvage some of the lettuce seedlings that are growing way too close together, I will fill out some of the gaps here with lettuce, because you can’t have too much lettuce.

I also sowed a row of beans today, a dwarf variety called Stringless Pioneer. I love beans, I hope they really do yield 500grams per plant, I’ll be in heaven even though I only have space for 1 row. I also want to sow some more carrots somewhere, as they take so long to mature I want to at least attempt to have a somewhat rotating carrot crop.

I’ll end tonight’s post with another poppy photo, they are just so cheerful.

photo 1(2)

Another Garden Update

August 31, 2013

Well, its been exactly 8 weeks since these seeds were sown and I must admit I have harvested a bit too, last weekend! The mizuna and rocket have grown enough to harvest for one salad at a time, and are very nice indeed at this time of year, because as of tomorrow (!!!!) its going to be Spring! I don’t think I’ve been as excited about Spring as I am this year, mainly because I have my own garden again after 13 months of renting, and also this is the first garden I’ve ever had in sunny Melbourne. Speaking of sunny, we got up to around 23ยฐC today which was really so restorative after the mostly-rainy week we had, and a wonderful reminder that Spring is literally only one day away.

Anyway. So tomorrow I am planning to make a (healthy) lasagna and have a salad of rocket, mizuna, & radishes on the side. Check them out:

Rocket 2

The rocket is actually starting to look like rocket, with its characteristic lobed leaves. And here’s the mizuna:

Mizuna 2

The red mizuna doesn’t show very well against the dark soil but its definitely there… perhaps if I remember tomorrow I’ll take a photo of the salad on the plate!

The spinach will hopefully be ready for harvesting in the next few weeks too… or I might have to take some microgreens because I seem to have a problem with spacing:

Spinach 2

And the carrots, while still a couple of months away from harvesting, are getting bushy by the day:

Carrots 2

And just for something different, there is some fruit planted in my garden as well, these strawberries are planted along the front edge of where the veggies are growing:

Strawberry leaves

And remember the poppies & snapdragons I planted way back when? The poppies have been loving the rainy weather, and have just started blooming this week:

Poppy

I’m going to save the seeds from these yellow ones, I just love them!

Last weekend, I planted another round of seeds: Mizuna, chives, dill, coriander, mignonette lettuce, baby cos lettuce, and two rows of Italian “Lollo” lettuce which are an especially ruffled variety that comes in both red & green. To my surprise a lot of the lettuce seedlings have already sprouted. Lettuce seedlings really do start out as the tiniest seedlings ever, I can see why many gardenersย  prefer to buy them as seedlings. But I am yet to find a range of lettuce as good as on Diggers or Eden Seeds in any nursery or garden centre. Besides, you buy a packet of seeds for half the price of a punnet of seedlings, they keep for years, and you can grow between 200 & 350 lettuces from each packet! Now that’s what I call value. I’m sure these tiny seedlings will get bigger by next weekend, as its going to be a warm and sunny week if the weather report is not lying to me!

Lettuce seedlings

Yes I do have a problem with spacing. I might try (more experimenting!) to transplant some to elsewhere in the garden once they’ve got their first set of true leaves.

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the sun today, my two cats were also thawing out outside with me today. Here is my old lady cat Puss laying next to a pot of Liliums which have also shot up over the last week. Its all starting to happen! So exciting ๐Ÿ™‚

Puddy cat

Garden Update

August 3, 2013

Well, almost 5 weeks to the day have passed since I direct sowed a bunch of seeds in one of my new garden beds. I thought you’d like to see the progress of the seeds so far:

Clockwise from left: Arugula, Mizuna, Radishes, Spinach

Clockwise from left: Arugula, Mizuna, Radishes, Spinach

As well as the radishes & carrots (not pictured – they are still pretty small) in my tutorial, I also sowed spinach, arugula (rocket), mizuna, and basil. Everything has sprouted now except for the basil – I suspect the soil it possibly still too cold for the basil to germinate. Still learning new things even after 10 years of gardening!

So far I am most impressed with the rocket, I’ve never grown it before so I didn’t know what to expect. But the germination rate is quite high, the growth is lush and quick, I’ll be harvesting some for a salad or three within a few weeks!

Another new-to-me crop is mizuna, which is often found in mesclun mixes at greengrocers. I don’t want to spoil any future blog posts, but its one of the prettiest salad crops you can grow.

Radishes have been a mainstay of my Spring gardens over the years, there’s pretty much no other vegetable that gets me in the mood for fresh zesty salads grown at home that grows almost as quick as I can eat them. And the spinach, while I have grown it before, I haven’t ever grown it from seed, so that was another good learning experience. The seeds are large and gnarled-looking, and the seedlings can only be described as looking like oversized carrot seedlings – but thankfully with the emergence of their first true leaves I can see they are definitely not carrots after all. The spinach should grow rapidly if we have a moist spring.

Apart from the basil, I’ve very pleased of the progress of my seedlings! Not in the picture are 3 rows of carrot seedlings, and a somewhat sparse crop of brown onion seedlings (well there are actually quite a few seedlings but the seed leaf is so fine they are quite hard for me to see!), and a few oak leaf lettuce seedlings that are not enjoying the cold weather so much, I will sow more when it starts to warm up.

I am so impatient for the warm weather to come! At the moment I will have to be content in watching these little seedlings grow.

Mini tutorial – Direct Sowing

June 30, 2013

Ever since I started gardening, I didn’t have any preconceptions on what was difficult or what was easy. I simply tried different techniques, kept notes as to what worked & what didn’t, and learned vegetable growing that way. When I chose what vegetables I wanted to grow, I bought seeds because they were cheaper, and because I could find varieties I couldn’t find at nurseries as seedlings. Once again, I tried out different techniques and with a help of a garden journal, eventually worked out the best sowing and harvesting times for my climate. But now I’m in a new climate which will hopefully work in my favour as the growing season should be longer, but Victoria comes with its own set of challenges – possums, fruit fly, foxes, rainbow lorikeets, fruitbats, all potentially crop-destroying pests that are uncommon or non-existent in Tasmania. So thus begins the experimentation again – and since I have this online garden journal, you can all learn along with me!

So, back to seeds. When I first started buying seeds, I admit I struggled to get them to germinate & get them to the seedling size that you see in nurseries. I tried several things – sowing them in punnets, sowing them in pots, regular potting mix, seedling mix, having them inside, having them outside etc etc etc…. After all that I ditched the punnets & potting mix altogether and realised I got much better results sowing them directly where they are going to grow. The larger the area of soil, the easier it is to control the moisture levels, and depending on the time of year, it can be easier to keep the seeds at a consistent temperature. Direct sowing has meant I could grow seeds that have a difficult reputation, like parsnips, cauliflower, & tomatoes.

So, the first step is to make a garden, which is what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. Find some men who will help you:

photo 2

Since I made my garden beds where there was previously lawn, after the men broke up the soil (thanks Dad & Adrian!) we sieved the soil so there was no grass roots, stones, or other things (we found glass, tent pegs, batteries & broken plates!) to get in the way of my crops. This process also aerates the soil making it the ideal environment for plant roots, earthworms, and good microbes.

Once you have removed all the bits, you have something like this:

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Take a plank of wood (you can see the one I use in the photos) and use it to make the final smoothing of the soil surface:

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Then, give the whole bed a good soaking of water. I know I have well draining soil at the moment, but I will have to build up the organic matter in the future for better water retention in the summer months.

Next, take some kind of thin pole or slat to make your trenches for your seeds. I have a bunch of old blind slats that are perfect for this purpose. Simply push the soil apart with the slat a few millimeters, the depth will depend on what you’re sowing, and your seed packet should have a guide for this. Additionally, the crops I sowed today only need about 20cm between the rows, but some veggies need a lot more – full sized cauliflowers for example will need about 60cm to themselves.

IMG_0958

Sowing in rows makes sense for several reasons – number one because its easiest to sprinkle seeds in a straight line, and another reason is when all the seeds sprout in a line, any sprouts that aren’t in line can be identified as weed seeds & are safe to pull out.

And now for the vital ingredient, the seeds! Today I sowed super-easy radishes:

Radish seeds copy

And easy but slower to mature carrots:

IMG_0960

The radishes are easy to sow, about 10cm apart. The carrots though, because the seeds are so fine, are hard to get even. Sow them a little thicker than you need & thin the crop in 6-8 weeks, leaving the strongest to grow on.

When they are all in the ground, pinch the soil with your fingers to close the trenches & give the whole lot a good watering.

Now that they are in, you need to protect the seeds from the cold/heat, weather, animals, snails, and most importantly from drying out. I use various methods for doing this, including old pieces of bubblewrap, hessian bags, clear plastic, and today I used rectangular clear plastic domes that are sold as “propagating domes” at hardware shops. 4 of these domes covered these seeds nicely, and I held them in place using thick wire bent into mini tent pegs.

After that the waiting game begins…. The radishes will only take about a week to sprout, the carrots can take up to 3 weeks. This is why a protective layer is so important, because any drying during this time will quickly kill any newly germinated seeds.

That’s all for now – the snapdragons are getting bigger, spring doesn’t seem so far away!

Seedlings

My First Rhubarb

October 23, 2011

A few months ago, in the depths of Tassie Winter, a friend from Ravelry (whom I had never met) gave me 3 Rhubarb crowns. For nothing! I adore gardeners (and knitters!). I promptly planted them in my free garden bed (the busy-ness of my last semester at uni made planting a Winter crop impossible), mulched deeply with composting leaves, and waited.

 

Fast forward to October. Spring is well underway, the daffodils have come & gone, the lawn needs mowing endlessly, and my Rhubarb – it has leaves!!

And leaf stalks. Bright juicy red leaf stalks. I started looking up recipes, and decided on Rhubarb Crumble, but all the recipes I found wanted 6 cups of Rhubarb to serve 8 people! Since its only me that will probably end up eating it, I didn’t want to get fat on 8 servings of Rhubarb Crumble. So I looked at a few different recipes, and added a couple of rosy Corella pears:

 

And added the chopped Rhubarb:

 

 

And then I loosely followed Elise’s recipe for Rhubarb Crumble.
Unfortunately I forgot to take any in-progress photos…. And then the finished product wasn’t awesome to look at, so I didn’t take any photos of that either. But! Look at my gorgeous Rhubarb! It is so red on the outside, but I was surprised to find it bright green on the inside! Its just like Christmas, and very photogenic:

 

I do however have some tips for my fellow bakers who decide they want to make some Rhubarb Crumble of your own:

1. Use a fairly deep baking dish

Use a baking dish deep enough to provide a pretty substantial layer of fruit, but additionally you really want to put lots of crumble on the top too!

2. Don’t dilute the Rhubarb

As much as I like pears, I really wished I had kept the Rhubarb unadulterated for this dish. I really craved that tart yet sweet Rhubarb flavour, but this also means I will need to wait even longer before I can harvest enough of my Rhubarb for a whole dish of crumble.

3. Don’t leave the house…

Yes, I admit it, I left my oven unattended. I had a craving for ice cream with my crumble, and had to go to the shops to buy some. Pair that with getting distracted at a new Japanese restaurant for a takeaway Bento box, and my crumble was in the oven for probably 10 minutes too long. It wasn’t burnt, and still tasted delicious, but the hardened syrup around the edges made the dish very difficult to clean!

4. Take a sniff

Another unexpected feature of Rhubarb was the smell! As I cut the fresh Rhubarb stalks the smell got stronger & stronger, and I couldn’t get enough of it! It smells a bit like custard and caramel, but not quite, a bit hard to describe. You’ll just have to cut up some Rhubarb and see for yourselves!

 

And there you have it. Stay tuned for my next Rhubarb adventure!

My Neglected Garden

October 25, 2010

Well, my busy uni schedule this year has taken its toll on my garden (and this blog…), but I took a stroll around the garden today and spotted a few lovelies in amongst the weeds.

I’m really pleased with this little climbing rose “Lorraine Lee”. Its only two years old & has reached the deck railing already! Its a few metres off the ground too. Its got a nice sprinkling of fragrant pink blooms this year, and its bringing some much needed colour to my bare deck at the moment:

These tiny little Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra) are slowly colonising my shady area next to my workshop. I love their ferny foliage and the way the blooms tremble in the breeze:

This Moss Rose always fascinates me! I love watching it come to life each Spring. The branches are extremely prickly, but the leaves are structurally interesting, and then the buds are covered in this “moss” which has a pine fragrance when you rub it. It only flowers once a year but the blooms are deep red and very fragrant which makes it worth it. Here’s a photo in the morning sun, showing the moss & prickles in great detail:

And lastly, my Raspberry patch is bigger then ever this year (don’t I say that every year??) and the blossoms are just starting to open this week:

Can’t wait to be picking bowlfuls of these! They always feature somewhere in my Christmas desserts. And just for interests sake, here’s an “aerial view” of the bed the raspberries live in. I don’t think I’m going to be able to plant anything else in this bed this year, though there is some strawberry plants hidden in there somewhere:

Look at all that lush growth! Ignore my other veggie bed, its full of weeds, spent broccoli plants and stray potatoes.

I hope to be blogging much more this Summer, because I have absolutely no Summer School this year (first time since I started my degree!!) so should have a lot more free time for gardening and blogging ๐Ÿ˜€

Happy Spring!

Home grown broccoli

September 7, 2009

I took these photos a while ago but forgot to post them, that is until my Twitter friend Bianca reminded me! I sowed these broccoli plants in about March, they were in the ground by April & then I just kind of ignored them, that is until the last few weeks while they’ve been making broccolis! They have been fairly trouble-free, aside from picking off a few cabbage moth caterpillars when they were seedlings. Then it’s just a matter of waiting til they are big enough, then cut steam & enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

A garden update

June 29, 2009

Having issues with WordPress’s iPhone app at the moment, but I thought I would at least show you some photos from the garden today. The broccolis are getting bigger, the peas are still peaing, and the broadbeand are getting taller. I did some weeding and planting in the main flowerbeds today (plants I recieved from Diggers and Woodbridge Nursery), I’ll post some photos of those when they emerge from dormancy. And that’s all for today ๐Ÿ™‚

A Garden Update

May 16, 2009

It was so cold & blustery outside today, but I hadn’t visited the garden for a few days so I thought I had better pay it a visit. So this afternoon the sun was coming & going between the clouds, so this would be a good a time as any to go outside.

There few a few tomatoes hanging on the vines still, but I think I am going to have to pull them out soon. Once they are close to ripening the wet weather quickly rots them and I end up throwing them onto the compost. A not-so-wonderful end for the last veggie of Summer in the garden. So it’s time for the Winter veggies to have their turn in the (low gloomy Winter) limelight.

Broadbean shoot

I sowed these broadbeans about 3 weeks ago from memory, and they have just shown up in the last few days. I guess it’s the cold that has delayed their germination, but I seem to be getting very good germination rates so I don’t really mind. I would have planted them sooner but I had Golden Nugget pumpkins here that just refused to die back like they were supposed to, and I didn’t want to damage the pumpkins by pulling them out prematurely. I’ve never grown these before so I’m interested to see if I’m going to need to stake them or not.

Pea blossom

My plan for an Autumn crop of peas is coming along nicely, with the first flowers appearing this week. Here’s hoping I get some pollination & some yummy peas in the next few weeks!

Carrots freshly pulled

I had sown a small row of carrots before I planted the cabbage seedlings (in top left corner of the photo), and, being my usual impatient self, I just planted the cabbage seedlings on top because I didn’t want to have to wait for another area of the garden to free up. But it has worked out okay as an accidental catch crop, because now that the cabbage leaves have almost started to cover the space in between each plant, the carrots are just about ready. Well, for baby carrots anyway! I have a few in there still, so the next lot I pull will hopefully be a bit bigger. I have 2 rows that are 4 weeks old also, and my last sowing (2 rows each of St Valery and Mini Round) have sprouted this week. I am determined not to run out of carrots before Summer this time!

Parsnips & carrots

Out of sheer curiosity (and also because I am terribly impatient) I pulled two parnips as well. These were sown on the 28th of January, and I was very surprised at the time because they had all germinated after only 9 days. Covering them with plastic & onion bags really works, and have used it for my carrot seeds with great success too. So these ‘snips are about 3 months old now & still probably need another 3 months! They are cool though! I’m going to grate them up along with the carrots & make some veggie fritters. It will be my first time eating parsnips so I hope I like them!!

Parsnip leaves

Here’s a photo of the parsnip leaves, which was another thing that was a mystery to me when I first started growing them. They are a bit like flat leaved parsley, but several times larger, and the stem bases wrap around the newer middle leaves – you can see this a bit in the other photo. It’s kind of cool. Carrots do this too but because the stems are narrower it’s less noticeable.

Turnips

Also eagerly awaiting my first turnip!! This is the biggest one, I might roast it, or make some soup with the winter squashes I still have. Such excitement!

That’s it for now – I’ll see what the weather’s like tomorrow after work, I might pull out the tomato plants & spread out a load of manure & coffee grounds. Seems like a long time until its going to be Summer again!