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.


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