Sunday, 29 January 2012

Happy Plants

When I lived at Trinity Beach, my evening walks were perfumed by the blooms from this common but wonderful plant.
I bought one for Missy's garden a few years back and now have a number of clumps. It is hardy, fast growing, attractive and grows readily from cuttings.
Although they flower each Summer in the tropics, ours (in S.E. Qld) had never flowered - until now. I was delighted when I walked outside a few days ago and smelt the familiar fragrance. Went looking and sure enough, my happy plants were flowering. What a bonus!

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' is an essential in any tropical garden.

The flowers only last a couple of days but up close are as beautiful as their perfume.

They grow as tall as a small tree in the garden so the dead blooms will have to fall naturally. I can't reach them.

Happy plants are a common indoor plant. I have one in my office at work which survives in air-con and flourescent lighting with a weekly water and an occasional wipe to remove the dust. It doesn't seem quite as happy as the ones in my garden though.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Goings on around the pond

There's been a lot going on around the pond lately - both in and out of the water.

John has made a bio-filter for the pond and redesigned the stream and waterfall (again). It works well, just needs to be finished off and "landscaped".

I don't know exactly what's in the filter or how he constructed it, but it works. The water is clear and healthy.

The local residents seem to be enjoying their upgraded living conditions.

This young fellow (hiding behind the pipe) has been calling potential mates night and day - not sure when he sleeps.
He makes a popping noise rather than a croak.

Results have been produced. A group of eggs have appeared in one of the pots. I hope the fish don't eat all the tadpoles when they hatch.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Garden Planning

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.

A. A. Milne

I would like to be an organised gardener with a “Monthly Garden Planner”, with straight rows of vegies planted at the correct time, fed and watered consistently and with neatly trimmed garden edges that always separate the neatly mown lawn from the well-tended garden, but I know I can’t do it..…and besides….. making exciting discoveries is much more fun.

There is a (sort of) plan in the vegie patch.  While we can grow vegies all year round here, most have a season they prefer - Winter is much milder so is the peak growing season.
We have 5 main beds. I rotate them around but this is basically what I try to do.
Bed 1  
Autumn/Winter - Zucchini, Squash and maybe some tomatoes
Spring/Summer - Melons – watermelon & rockmelon and also maybe sweet potato
Bed 2 (root vegies)
Autumn/Winter - Carrots, Beetroot , Radish, Onions, Garlic,
Spring/Summer - Carrots, Beetroot , Shallots, Radishes
Bed 3
Autumn/Winter - Tomatoes & Basil
Spring/Summer - Corn, Beans and/or Eggplant
Bed 4
Autumn/Winter - Snow peas, Lettuce, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower
Spring/Summer - Cucumbers, Asian greens, Silver beet, Lettuce
Bed 5
Autumn/Winter - Snap peas, Chives, Shallots, Spinach, Silver beet,
Spring/Summer - Beans, Cherry tomatoes, Capsicums, Eggplant
Herb Bed & Pots 
I prefer to grow various mints, coriander, basil, parsley, oregano, sage and rocket in the ground. The rest of the herbs are in pots. Also, the chillies are in pots.
There's also a strawberry bed (which I've pulled out at the moment) and a potato patch (which is demountable).

So that's the plan. But in reality, it never quite happens like that. There's always some mishap with getting the seedlings ready to plant out. There was the catastrophy of the greenhouse blowing over last Spring, but more often it's simply that I forget to water them for a couple of days and they die. Usually the garden ends up with "whatever seedlings suvived" and whatever happens to be on sale at the nursery to replace the dead ones rather than my original plan.

We had some rain last week with more forecast so I've planted my Summer crops again. I know mid-summer is a bit late, but this is Take-2.  I've sown some seed, but most of the garden is purchased seedlings from the big green shed.
In the top photo to the right is bed 1. The asparagus at the back is going well and even has some shoots that look good enough to eat. The sickly watermelon vine has a new lease on life since it's now being cared for. I planted rockmelon, a few capsicum plants and a row of parsley seed along the edge.  On the left the strawberry bed  has lettuce and some beetroot seed at this end.
The second photo bed 2 - rows of carrot, spring onion and radish seeds plus some chives & bed 3  (at the back) corn plus the eggplants.

Bed 4 has french beans and baby squash seedlings, a row of bok choy seeds sown and the remaining cucmber vine.
Bed 5 (at the back) I'm trying sunflower seeds and a few chilli plants.

Next weekend I'm hoping to replenish the herb garden and the pots.

I've also put some seeds in trays in the shadehouse. They would stew in the plastic greenhouse at this time of year. Besides - we now have a sprinkler system in there so I'm hoping they will survive and can be planted out as space permits.

Even though things didn't go to plan we should still have lots to harvest.

 Oh, and my exciting discovery!

We put a wire frame around the mandarine tree in the chook yard to stop the ladies digging at the roots and threw a nice deep blanket of compost around the roots as mulch. The self-seeded tomatoes are doing better than any I have every tried to grow in Summer.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A new start in the vegie garden

While we were away on our holiday, my son did a great job looking after the chooks and the fish and, of course, Missy. He also mowed the grass and watered the garden and kept an eye on things for us. It was good to get home and find everything doing so well. We owe him a big Thank You!

The vegie garden needed a good clean out though. The pumpkin vine had taken over a couple of the beds and weeds had grown and multiplied. The corn was finished. My son said none was wasted. He enjoyed every cob. The strawberries had shriveled up in the heat and were beyond saving. Even the cherry tomato vines looked too sick to be worth trying to save.

Pity I don't like pumpkin, but I'm sure we'll find someone to give them to.

The eggplants are still doing well and so are the chilli plants. They both thrive in hot conditions. Also the asparagus seemed quite happy and some of the Mediterranean herbs, like the oregano and rosemary were fine - but that was about it. The rest had to go.

The beds were emptied and each given load of compost . Some potash and some blood and bone were thrown on as well.

Once that was all dug through, I watered the beds with some seaweed solution and covered them with a deep blanket of sugar-cane trash as mulch.
By the way this was done in bursts - mainly in the morning before it got too hot. We've had temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius the last few days and the heat will continue for a while yet.
Without mulch, the ground would fry and any water would just evaporate.

Next step is the fun bit - replanting.
I'm thinking beetroot, capsicum, cucumber, corn, carrots, plus rosella seeds and maybe some more beans. I may also buy some seedlings to get things going again - maybe lettuce, maybe a melon of some sort. 
In Summer I can't get lettuce to grow from seed. I've even tried putting them in the fridge overnight to fool them into thinking it's Winter, so seedlings are the best (and only the loose leaf varieties). They go to seed very quickly so I only plant a small number at a time, give them plenty of nutrient and water and hope they will be edible before going to seed (it's a race)  - But if we don't get to eat them all the chooks will.

Summer is the most difficult time for the vegetable garden. There are quite a few things we just can't grow. Even though it's hot and dry at the moment, within a few weeks it's likely to be hot, wet and humid. I've learnt my lesson in past years and don't even try to plant squash, zucchini, etc at this time of year here. They always seem to get mildew and/or rot. Tomatoes (except for cherry tomatoes) won't fruit - or if they do, the bugs get them or they split. If you forget to water, even for a day or so, everything dies. Last year I gave up at this stage and just waited for the weather to get a bit cooler.

Maybe I'll wait a couple of weeks, see if we get some rain and then plant.


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