Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Pet Dragon for Christmas

My grandson has asked Santa for a pet dragon - not a toy one, a real live one. Santa may have trouble with that request. But then, I'm just as bad. I've asked Santa for a few extra hours in each day. It's no wonder the old man lives at the North Pole.

We have been very busy lately.
My daughter and her family are in the process of moving to Brisbane (from Cairns) so less trips to Cairns for us in the future but more grandma time. There's been a new school to find and a new house for them to live in. They are staying with us for a while until they can move into their new house so I have my family here for Christmas (Yay!)

Missy is feeling slightly over whelmed with two litte boys and a cocker spaniel sharing her house. It's definitely not as quiet as she's used to.

The garden is a bit neglected as well but it can look after itself for a while. Summer is peak growing season so the plants are growing like mad and so are the weeds.

Even where there are no flowers, the neos provide colour.

The caladiums  have all come up. They disappear during winter so I'm always relieved to see them again. The cannas and gingers are starting to come up as well. We had a very wet winter this year and they can rot in the ground if they are too wet while they're dormant so I'm glad to see they've made it through.

The shadecloth over the lettuce is doing its job well. We've had some extremely hot weather and so far, so good. John has been watering them every day.

The rockmelon are ripening.
They are 14 on the vines all together but I doubt they will all get to the edible stage.
The most important tree in the house at the moment.
It has some presents under it already but I can't wait to see what Santa brings.
I've never seen a real dragon.

Have a Happy Christmas everyone.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Summer-proofing salad vegetables

In our climate salad vegetables grow best in the cooler months, but Summer is when we eat the most salads. It's always been a challenge. Our temperatures are now in the mid 30s with even higher temperatures forecast later in the week. The tomatoes are stewing on the vine before they ripen. The lettuce are going to seed. Most years I give up when Summer begins, but I'm not ready to give up just yet. It seems silly to buy salad ingedients when there's an empty garden bed outside. This year I'm experimenting with a few ideas to summer-proof the veggie garden.

John has constructed a shade frame from bamboo and 50% shadecloth for the lettuce and beetroot. Hopefully it won't bolt to seed as quickly with some shade. Lettuce seed won't germinate when it's hot, so I bought seedlings - the open non-hearting variety. If it doesn't work I've wasted a couple of dollars and some time. If it works we have lettuce all Summer.
Beetroot grow well from seed. The new leaves are used in salads then the root is harvested - a double bonus crop. They would do OK in full sun but I had room left so I want to see how they go with some shade. We will also cover the soil around the seedlings with a thick layer of finely chopped sugarcane mulch to keep them as cool as possible.

Another experiment this year will be to try tomatoes in pots so I can move them and give them the best conditions possible - maybe even in the shadehouse when it gets too hot. I've grown herbs in pots for this reason for years but haven't tried tomatoes before.
The bed at the rear of this photo is shaded for most of the day. I grow mint and ginger there. It stays damp and much cooler than the rest of the beds.

We've planted cucumbers here (to grow up the trellis giving afternoon shade to the rest of the bed) and beans and a variety of Asian greens - Pak Choy, Bok Choy, Wombok and Mizuna. Again, these will be thickly mulched to keep the soil as cool as possible.

John has also put in a watering system to cut down on the time it takes to handwater each day. Our tanks are all full so we have plenty of water.

I've also planted seed in trays which will go in the shadehouse. They grow slower in there and will be used later to fill gaps as we harvest.
There are plenty of plants that do well in Summer without the extra fuss. Eggplant loves the heat, as do corn, capsicum and chillies. Carrots, rocket and shallots seem to grow anytime so I've planted a few more seeds to keep up the supply.

The rockmelon are powering ahead.

Both the capsicum and chilli plants are producing well at the moment although the capsicum aren't ready to pick yet.

The corn is growing well. Maybe if we're lucky there'll be corn by Christmas - maybe.

John's been really busy this week. He also built a trellis for passionfruit in front of the large tank - an edible screen eventually. I'm going to plant sunflowers along here as well. The sunflowers will grow quickly and look great in a few weeks. By the time the passionfruit are covering the trellis, the sunflowers will be finished.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

One thing leads to another

I wanted some fish for dinner but our local supermarket usually only has frozen imported seafood, so we decided to visit our favourite seafood shop about a half hour drive away. It's near where John used to work and he would often pick some up on the way home. Since he retired we've had no reason to head to that part of town but their fish is top quality and worth the drive.

As we got close I remembered there was also a great nursery nearby. They have one of the best ranges of tropical plants in Brisbane. Their plants were always healthy and reasonably priced, but I hadn't been there in a long time. While we're so close it was a shame not to see what they have.

So that was how it started.

We had planted agaves either side of our front entrance area some years ago. Because damp areas near the house can cause problems for the building and attract termites in our climate we chose the agaves because they survive with little water. They survived too well so that every year we needed to hack them back to keep the path to the front door. Every year they came back even thicker. A change was needed.

 The nursery had a good range of tropical plants but we were very good and didn't succumb to temptation ... until we saw their succulents - some quite advanced and their prices were still good. That's what we need for the front entrance - some succulents. (my new obsession)

We came home with a boot full - including Euphorbia lactea varigated, Euphorbia tirucalli (fire sticks), a couple of Aeonium atropureum (sunburst), two jade plants - Portulacaria afra, two flap jacks - Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, a sempervivum and some that weren't labeled so I may never know what they are. We have a dark red door so I chose some that have a reddish tinge to "match".

The beds were a tangle of agave roots and took quite a bit of digging to get them ready for the new plants. We wanted to re-use the marble chips as well so washed them gold panning style to separate the stones from the dirt.

What started as a quick drive to pick up some seafood turned into a few days of work. We were so exhausted we didn't feel like cooking the fish, so had leftover pasta warmed up instead.

The supervisor needed a comfy bed to keep an eye on us. From this spot she can see out onto the road to check whether any dogs or children on bikes are going past. Both need to be told who's boss occasionally.

 We added some decomposed granite to the soil for additional drainage, then the fun part - deciding placement of the plants and actually planting them.

 Next,  putting all the stones back again (being careful not to damage the plants)... and the clean-up.

The pavers still need a good clean, but we now have a new look entrance to the house
and hopefully now we will finally have the fish for dinner as well.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The great garlic harvest - NOT

Growing garlic is a real challenge for me. I don't have much success. The garden books say to plant it in Autumn (March/April) and harvest in September. Well, I forgot to plant in Autumn, then we had an incredibly wet early Winter so I didn't plant it until August. Some plants are forgiving and I've found in Queensland you can plant them "out of season" and still have success, but obviously garlic is not one of those plants.
They grew beautifully over Winter and into early Spring but as the weather warmed up they started to turn yellow. Then with the heavy rain last weekend they all died off and had to be harvested or they would have rotted in the ground.
The entire crop sits on a saucer. They need about 8 or 9 months to grow to a respectable size. Mine were only in the ground for 4 months. It doesn't help that the ladies had a scratch through the bed a couple of times. At least I learnt that chickens like garlic and that once it is dug up you can't just rebury the growing bulb. So I'll have to mark my calendar next year to plant garlic in March.

On a sweeter note. The garden is filled with the scent of frangipani.

 Now I could take the credit and tell you they are blooming so well because I remembered to give them a feed of potash. I do believe it makes a big difference - not only to the number of blooms but to the overall health of the tree if they receive a scattering of potash around their root zone as they come out of their dormancy.

But how can I explain this.

I took some cuttings a couple of months back and they've been lying on the ground waiting to be planted.

Monday, 19 November 2012

A wet and wild weekend

The weekend started quietly enough. We'd put the chicken tractor next to the ladies pen, partly for convenience in looking after them and partly in the hope that they would get used to each other and it would make introducing the chickens to the rest of the flock smoother when the time comes.

 As you can see, the grass needed mowing. That was going to be John's job on Saturday while I weeded the veggie patch and did the laundry. We'd planned quite a boring weekend actually but were looking forward to it.

 The ladies are definitely interested in the new girls. Sometimes I catch them checking each other out through the wire.

The galahs have got so used to having us around they took no notice of me while I was wandering around with the camera. I suppose breakfast is more important than me.

The "Lots-a-lemons" tree is living up to its name. Our large Meyer Lemon has finished fruiting but this one is just beginning.

Fruit are starting to form on the rockmelon vine already - Yes! I love rockmelon.

Last weekend we did no gardening at all. We went looking at other people's gardens on Saturday and to a party for John's Mum's birthday on the Sunday.

Still pretty sprightly for 90 don't you think

 We'd only just started working in the garden and I'd hung a couple of loads of washing on the line when the dark clouds rolled in. By 10 am the first of a series of thunderstorms hit. Missy was very brave. She barked at the thunder telling it to be quiet and stayed close to me in case I needed her.

In between the storms the sun would come back up and we worked in the garden. We got quite a lot done considering the weather - lots of weeding and planting out new plants. The mowing will have to wait for another day though.

I am strictly a weekend warrior in the garden. During the week by the time I get home from work there's no time left for gardening. There's always more to do than time to do it in so I hate wasting good gardening time.
 Sunday was similar weather - a series of thunderstorms with sunny patches in between. All up 95mm (a bit over 3 1/2 inches) of rain fell and some hail for good measure. There was no real damage though. A couple of shrubs had broken branches and I've turned them into cuttings. Our tanks were almost empty and now they're full and over-flowing.

Speaking of over-flowing - we had to empty water out of the pool.

It's Monday morning and I need to be heading off to work soon. Of course, there's not a cloud in the sky and it's perfect weather for gardening. Oh well, there's always next weekend.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Total Eclipse

My daughter took this photo in Cairns this morning from her backdoor


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mirisa Garden

It rained all day yesterday. The rain gauge shows we had 40 ml. and the garden loved it. It's the first real rain (except for an occasional light sprinkle) we've had here since July.  The frogs partied all night. You could hear the deep "croak croak croak" of the green frogs and the "needip needip pop pop" of the native frogs. It was music to our ears.
The rain didn't stop us visiting an open garden that I've been looking forward to for some time. Mirisa Garden is more an arboretum than a garden with over 360 species of trees that are currently or were once indigenous to South East Queensland. Philip, the owner and gardener, describes it as dry rainforest. It was far from dry when we visited yesterday - the rain was pouring down.

The rain would have stopped quite a few people from venturing out, but they are open again today so I hope they have more visitors. Philip took us and another couple on a tour of his 6 acre garden, explaining his propagation methods, growing secrets and the features of many of the trees, sharing some of the knowledge he had acquired over the past 20 years of growing these trees.
It was raining too much on our walk to take photos but I did snap a couple of the market area they (and some friends) had set up in a clearing. You have a glimpse of the trees in the background.
Of course, we came home with a few plants.

Canistrum Trianulare mounted on wood

I had a great conversation with the lady who was selling the bromeliads. She gave me lots of advice on the growing needs of various plants and methods of displaying them.
I think she recognised she had found a fellow enthusiast. I came home with an invitation to visit her garden and see her bromeliad collection.
We couldn't resist this planting of eight mini neoregelias.

Her main advice to get really vibrant colour with neoregelias is to give them morning sun - never full midday sun because that with burn or bleach them - never full shade or the colour will not develop - morning sun.

 I would love to see this lady's garden but I may have to leave my wallet at home. Can you ever have too many broms?

We didn't just buy bromeliads. We also bought another couple of trees for our rainforest area and an orchid and some native ginger

Oh - and we also came home with ....
some new family members

They had chickens and ducklings for sale.

Three new babies
They are quite shy and frightened at the moment so I'll introduce them properly once they've settled in.


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