Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Late Ginger

Ginger's always been a bit slower than the rest.
We called her Ginger because instead of running out the gate with the other ladies to explore the back yard she used to do little sideways dance - not quite a waltz, more a salsa.  It took her a lot longer than the rest to work out that the open gate was the path to freedom, but finally she got it.

She's running a bit late as well with her moulting.

but she's doing a good job of it.

Everyone else moulted in Autumn and have their feathers back to keep them warm for winter.
They've even started laying again.
Not Ginger.

I'm hoping it's just that she's a bit slow and there's not actually anything wrong with her
that's made her lose her feathers.

While the others have to check every wheelbarrow of compost before it leaves their area
(in case we're stealing valuable worms)

Ginger's wondering what all the fuss is about.

Gladys had to go get her and tell her to join in the fun.

Mmmm... I think she's a bit slow.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Missy's Special Day

"Every dog must have his (or her) day."
- Jonathan Swift

As we all know it’s my garden and my blog but I hardly ever get a mention, let alone have my say. Ros has taken over. I said she could type, but I never said she could take over completely. I have things to say – about things that interest me – places I’ve been, dogs I’ve met, books I’ve read maybe.

We’ve decided Monday will be my day. Ros thinks it should be called Dog Dribble Day. I'm not sure. If you can think of a better name let me know.

Of course Ros will still type. Why have a human and type yourself?

There are quite a few dogs in the Garden Blog World, so if any of you Horticultural Hounds can convince your people to type up a post for you occasionally I’d love to hear what you’re doing. We can have our own Plant-loving Pooch Posts…..

For my first post I'll tell you what makes an ideal day.

Playing with Purple Pig. - Currently my favourite toy.

I love loud squeaky toys - the louder the better – I shake them and chew them – anything to make them squeal. Somehow most seem to loose their sound after a couple of days, though. Not sure how.

Naps - lots of naps – on my bed, on the couch, on my cushions, in the sun, in the shade. Now that I think about .it…. I’ll sleep anywhere… An ideal day has about a dozen naps, maybe more.

Food! I use my power of hypnosis to make them give me food. – Look into my eyes... feed the dog...feed the dog..... I like bacon and chicken and sausage – all sorts of meat. Oh and cheese. I love Blue Vein especially but all cheese is good cheese. My favourite all time food is chorizo sausage. If you have some you could be my favourite human.

Patroling the garden. Someone has to keep an eye on things.

Time for another snooze before the boss get’s home.

I wait near the front gate so he knows where to find me.

When he gets home we might go for a walk. I love walks - or we’ll talk to the chooks. He brings them food. I check it out, but it’s fruit and vegie scraps - nothing dogs like. I’m a bit discriminating. There are things I won’t eat – like banana. I tried it once because the chooks seems to like it. Yuk! Spat it out.

Convince the boss to play for a while before dinner.

Did I mention I love food.

Then there’s just enough time for another nap before Ros gets home.

What makes your day ideal?

Monday, 20 June 2011

C is for Colour

In our Winter garden C definitely for COLOUR



For all year colour in the garden you can't beat these 3Cs.
Today I'm joining in Mosaic Monday at Mary's Little Red House. Check it out. Lots of mosaics - not just about gardens.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Battling Bugs in the Vegie Patch

You can go mad reading all the advice written on what to do or not to do about bugs in your garden, so just to add to it I thought I would share a few of my pest control hints for the vegie patch - probably more gardening philosophy - part science, part permaculture, part personal experience.

Accept that there will always be bugs. Having a few bugs on plants is much better than insecticides and poisons. In a healthy garden there will be lots of good bugs too and they will help keep the “bad” ones in check. When conditions are right for them, any bug will make the the most of it. They aren’t really bad. They just like to eat the same plants we do.

Encourage the good bugs. Planting your favourite insect attracters adds beauty to the vegetable garden area as well as attracting beneficial insects. I don’t  follow strict companion planting, rather I plant a few of my favourite little flowering plants – ones that will not compete too much with the productive plants. A number of flowering herbs are great for this purpose as well. (Pineapple sage and Thai basil are always in flower.) Oh, and if  there are spiders hanging around, be grateful. You know what they like to eat..

Take care of the soil. Better soil makes your vegetables less susceptible to insect pests and diseases. Happy plants don't get sick and don't attract as many pests. Preparing the soil well (digging in decomposed manure, compost plus some potash and blood and bone) gives your vegetable a good start in life.

Bugs love our Queensland Summers. In summer, I only grow vegetables that like heat. Most vegetables just don't like too much heat. Most varieties of tomato can't stand humidity. If it's too hot or too humid for them, plants stress and attract bugs, just like people seem to get the flu when they are stressed and run down. In our part of Queensland, from Easter onwards the weather is generally finer and milder, so that’s when I like to plant most vegetables.

Remember which plants do well for you (and when). Eggplants, capsicum and chillies love the heat. You won't find an eggplant troubled by bugs just because it gets hot. During our humid summer zucchinis and squash have problems with mildew and are just not worth the effort, but in our drier cooler winters they are usually trouble-free. Hearting lettuce varieties, like Iceberg, are a lost cause here even in winter. I don't bother with them and only grow the open leafed kind.

Mix it up. Don’t grow too much of anything. Large quantities of their favourite food seem to attract bugs. They set up home and breed. My beds may not look as neat as those with long straight symmetrical rows but I don’t think the plants can tell the difference. Planting herbs and flowers amongst the vegies, as well, seems to confuse the bugs so it’s hard for them to find a decent meal .
Besides - I’m only growing for my family’s needs so I don’t need more than a small amount of anything but I love having lots of variety.

Full sun is not always best. If you live in Queensland, forget what gardening books from southern states preach about full sun and growing requirements. In Summer once it gets hot make sure there will be something shading the more sensitive plants, especially from midday on. They can get scorched or even stew in the heat and bugs love steamed vegies.

Look after your friends. Birds, lizards frogs and spiders are great hunters. They need shelter and some water and they’ll feast on your bugs. Not only does mulch keep the moisture in the soil and stop weeds but it can also shelter ground dwelling friends (beetles, spiders, lizards) who will help look after your plants.

Give your vegetables a combination of good soil, regular moisture and conditions they need, and plant at the right time of year for your climate, and bugs will not be a major a problem. I never spray my vegies, not even with natural or organic bug sprays.

Be prepared to lose a few. Obviously my methods are not always successful. Sometimes the bugs win. If there are just a few holes in leaves, I live with it. If it’s more than that, I will try removing the effected parts first and/or removing the bugs but if it’s badly infested, rather than stress or spray I will remove the plant and feed it to the chooks. (Lose a battle to win the war)

So (for what it's worth) that's my philosophy for dealing with pests. I'm sure there are other methods that more serious vegie growers use. I would love to hear what works for you. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

What's in bloom for GBBD June

If I'm not mistaken, we are approaching our Winter Soltice. That means the days might start getting longer soon. We haven't really had any cold weather yet. July and August are our coldest months, but that usually means a few frosty mornings and lovely sunny days.
Around the garden quite a few plants continue to flower - nowhere near as many as during the warmer months, but some seem to flower for most of the year.
By recording each month's blooms, it will be great to look back and see what flowers each month of the year.
 The climbing begonia still puts on a show.
 The hibiscus near the pool seem to flower all year, while their showier cousins have a rest.
Golden candles
Tibouchina 'Alstonville'

I've been playing with the settings on my camera (actually reading the manual).

It's amazing what you can learn. Quite amazing!

Some of the bromeliads are blooming.
The poinsettia are in full bloom. They love Winter.
Quite a few cordylines flower at this time of year as well - not very impressine flowers I'm afraid.
It's their foliage colour during Winter that brightens the garden.

For many more wonderful blooms go to May Dreams Garden on the 15th of each month to join in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day around the globe.

Friday, 10 June 2011

SAD is BAD - no joke!

Our winter weather mostly is quite lovely with a chill in the air each morning and warm sunlight through the day, but the days much shorter than in Summer.

It’s dark when I get home from work so no more afternoons in the garden. With the sun rising later as well, I tend to sleep longer so all I have time for each morning is a coffee and shower then it’s in the car and off to work. I know I have little to complain about but I already wish Winter was over and it hardly even begun yet.

OK. I’m feeling sorry for myself. Can you hear the violins playing?

This happens every Winter. I get an overwhelming desire to hibernate until the longer days return or to retire and become a full-time gardener or to move back to North Queensland where the days stay long and warm all year round. Eventually I will retire and do exactly that - but not for a few years yet.

Today, a workmate who just happens to be a psychologist and therefore qualified to diagnose such things, told me it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. S.A.D. It is a recognised condition.

As seasons change, there is a shift in our 'biological internal clocks' or circadian rhythms, due partly to the changes in sunlight patterns. This can cause our biological clocks to be out of step with our daily schedules.

It is more common and more severe the further one lives from the Equator. I didn’t feel this way when I lived in North Queensland. I would be hopeless living in South Australia, North America or Europe.

The symptoms experienced are:
• extreme tiredness and lack of energy;
• the need for more sleep;
• difficulty waking up in the morning;
• increased appetite (particularly with a craving for carbohydrates);
• weight gain;
• loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed;
• difficulty concentrating;
• body aches, often with no apparent reason and
• irritability.

 That’s me. I have all of those at the moment. I feel that way every Winter. In Spring I will spontaneously recover. I’ve always thought I just hated Winter and was a giant wimp.

Of course I am a giant wimp because compared to much of the world, our Winters are mild and I have little to complain about. I simply miss spending time in the garden after work each day.

Although it is not fully understood why shorter days can cause depression, it is thought a disruption in the body's biological clock changes the amount of melatonin (a hormone that has a role in sleep patterns and mood) and the amount of serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) produced by the body.

Apparently an effective form of treatment for SAD is bright light therapy. This involves being exposed to a bright light from a specially designed light box. Often as little as 30 minutes a day will produce a marked improvement in mood and general well-being after a few days.

As well as the conventional treatments for depression such as antidepressant medicines or counselling, increased exercise and spending as much time as possible out of doors will help those with a mild attack of SAD.

Self-help for SAD
Increase sunlight exposure (gardening)
Exercise - preferably outdoors (gardening)
Attention to diet (eat produce from the garden)
Move to to the Tropics!

    Monday, 6 June 2011

    June in the vegie patch

    Quick update on the vegie garden...
     Hoping for tomatoes soon. All the plants have lots of small green ones so it will either be a bumper crop or a big disappointment.  I'll just have to wait and see.
    The grape and cherry plants are self-seeded so I expect them to be pretty tough .
     The beans and snowpeas have been providing us with enough for two or three meals a week. I don't have a lot of plants so I'm happy with that.
    The baby squash are powering along. We're picking up to a dozen a week. If they don't get picked in time though we have giant squash.
    Not happy with the zucchini though. The plants look fine but the zucchinis are rotting off after the flower dies. Not sure what to do about it. I might just rip them out and start again somewhere else.
     The broccoli is starting to form heads. A couple of weeks ago something was eating the leaves. I cut the effected ones off and fed them to the chooks and whatever was attacking seems to have moved on, so big relief. I don't care if they eat the leaves but I hate them eating the bit we like to eat.
    There's spring onions in the same bed getting quite big now. Maybe they are helping to repel the bugs.

     There's enough lettuce for us and the ladies and the cabbage/kale things are growing and looking healthy. So are the snap peas. They've started to flower so should be producing soon.

    Most of the herbs love this time of year - much more comfortable for them than Summer. The roemary is flowering so it must be happy.

    The lemons are about ready to pick. We will be giving away bucket loads.

    Elsewhere around the garden, John is giving the mock orange hedge a trim.

    and the ladies are just chilling out in Chookie World.

    Friday, 3 June 2011

    My new seed box

    I have kept my seeds in a cardboard box or plastic container for ages but I wanted somewhere neater to store them.
    I bought a wooden box, painted it green and drew pictures of my favourite vegies on it.
    (Actually the ones I thought I'd be able to draw and paint most easily)
    After it was painted I gave it a couple of coats of varnish to protect the paintwork then added the seeds.

    Hope they like their new home.


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