Bee keeping · Gardening

General Garden Happenings

It’s been a busy few weeks, and will be another few busy weeks ahead, so unfortunately I’ve had to clump together what should have been a few posts into a single one!

It’s continued to be nice and warm and sunny weather here for the most part, so the plants are looking really healthy.

I’ve lost count of how many passionfruit I have on the vine, and I continue to see bees enjoying the flowers on a daily basis. I imagine I’ll soon be able to pick some of the more mature fruit, as it’s been a while since I first saw a pollinated flower on the plant…looking forward to eating the fruit!!

IMG-4181    IMG-4357

Both of my tomato plants are also flourishing. The volunteer plant looks like it’s some type of grape tomato, and I have a large cluster of fruit on it, that just needs to ripen. The Burnley Bounty plants are also fruiting now, and some of the tomatoes are getting quite big!!

IMG-4349    IMG-4348

The ranunculus bulbs I planted a few weeks ago have germinated and are growing into nice little seedlings ( I think I can call them that?…). No sign of the anemones yet though.

IMG-4211

We got our first harvest of purple king beans and snow peas on the weekend past. They were nice to pick with my little one, and delicious to eat raw, too!

IMG-4410

We also planted the top of a pineapple, just to see what would happen! My dad has had success several times doing this, and they even have a bit of a pineapple patch at the front of their house! It does take up to two years if they decide to fruit though, so I know I’ll be in for a wait. I cut the top off a pineapple, then pulled off several rounds of the lower leaves, revealing some roots. Then I let this dry on the kitchen bench for a week or so, before planting into a pot.

IMG-4411

Finally, my aloe plant had babies! So I separated out the pups from the mother plant today, and will leave them under our patio for a couple of days before repotting them.

IMG-4421

Advertisements
Bee keeping · Gardening

Seed Saving, Bee Sightings & Garden Progress

Another skill I have been trying to add to my gardening repertoire is to seed save from my own produce. Most of the seeds available in Australia are imported, and late last year, there were some regulatory changes made by the Department of Agriculture & BICON. It appears that one of the changes was that there have been some mandatory systemic fungicide treatments to the seeds before they are imported. So it sounds like unless the seeds are treated before they are available for sale in Australia, they won’t be imported. It is assumed then that we’ll have less diversity of produce available to us here. I also feel sorry for all the people who have to handle the seed as part of their work. Whilst it is important to keep our country safe from more pests and diseases, there must be a safer way to do this. So apart from trying to gradually become a bit more self-sufficient (I’m no where near that at the moment!), this is a good reason to try and save a few seeds from my own garden.

Over last week, I harvested and dried out seeds from my (one and only!) butternut pumpkin, a Lebanese eggplant & some sweet basil. For the pumpkin and eggplant, I rinsed the pulpy seeds in a bowl of water, gently teasing the pulp off the seeds. Then I strained them in a sieve, and dried them on some paper towel on my kitchen bench for a few days. Once definitely dry, I bagged them in little ziploc bags and paper seed envelopes I got from my local Officeworks. For the basil, I cut of some very dry flowers (seed pods) from the plants outside, then crushed open the pods to reveal very tiny black seeds…the basil seed harvest was really quite tedious!! I packaged these the same way as I did the pumpkin and eggplant. I’m hoping to do a local seed/cutting/plant swap in the near future, so I’ll keep collecting seeds where I can for this purpose too.

IMG-4176

An exciting find in my garden over the weekend was seeing some of my native Hockingsi bees amongst my passionfruit vine! In the few months that I’ve had my own hive, I hadn’t seen them collecting pollen in my yard until now. Now that they’ve found the passionfruit flowers, more and more fruit is appearing each day, and the bees seem pretty happy too! I also saw a European honey bee burrowing into a flower or two, coming out covered in yellow pollen!! To attract them even more to the produce, I planted out a few borage herb seedlings in a large pot, and when these flower (beautiful blue flowers), they should really bring in the bees.

IMG-4173

My volunteer tomato plant has turned some of it’s flowers into fruit, yet to fully grow and ripen.

IMG-4174

Lastly, my new raised bed is still doing well, although a few of the broccoli and rainbow silverbeet seedlings seem to have died off from the heat. It’s Autumn here is Australia, and in Brisbane we are still yet to really have some cool weather! Yesterday it got up to 32 degrees (Celsius), and today it is supposed to reach 29 degrees! I even planted out a couple of sunflowers over the weekend 😀 My radishes are growing particularly well, and I might try and harvest a couple in the next week or so.

IMG-4175

 

 

Gardening

Bulb Planting & Garden Progress

Another new gardening thing for me: planting flower bulbs! I have been actively trying to incorporate more flowers into my garden to attract beneficial insects for natural pest control & also pollination. So far that has mostly just included some marigolds and nasturtiums, which are both wonderful at helping to ‘distract’ grubs from getting at my more valuable produce, and attract bees.

IMG-4057

To add to these flowers, I planted several anemone poppy bulbs and ranunculus bulbs, which will hopefully be in colourful bloom come Spring time. Like preparing my peas and sweet peas, I soaked the bulbs overnight in water to soften the exterior, then planted them as per packet instructions the following morning.

IMG-4061

For those interested, the bulbs looked like this (before and after soaking):

IMG-4060
The claw-like bulb is the ranunculus, and the button looking one is the anemone bulb

With regards to other garden progress:

  • My volunteer tomato has flowers!! Not long to wait now before delicious fruit!IMG-4056
  • Strawberry plants have been going crazy in producing flowers and fruit. I grow these in a pot attached to our fence.IMG-4058
  • Peas (and sweet peas) have started climbing their framesIMG-4054
Gardening

New Raised Garden Bed!!!

It’s finally done!! To finish our long Easter weekend, we decided to dedicate Monday to building the bed. After getting all the materials, it probably took us a good hour and a half, to two hours. Choosing the timber took the most time, because we were going to go for a simple pine sleeper, however when we got home from the hardware store with our sleepers in tow, I saw that there was a sticker on the underside of the timber saying CCA (copper, chromium, arsenic)…quite alarming!! So I checked online what this really meant, and it didn’t sound too great. A lot of pines are treated this way to prevent termites and fungi/mould growth, but organic gardeners tend to avoid this particular treatment, with the concern that the arsenic could potentially leech into the soil over time. There seems to be little evidence to actually prove this (or if there is, the amount is apparently small enough that it is safe), however it does make water unsafe to drink, and wouldn’t be safe for children or pets to chew, if that’s a potential issue in the garden. Anyway, we ended up being able to refund our uncut pieces of treated pine, and the hardware was able to suggest another hardwood that was definitely safe to use in edible garden beds (and fortunately only about $20 more total that the treated pine).

Once all the materials were home, I softened the ground where we were going to put the bed, by watering it for a good 5-10 minutes. Then I used a garden fork to break up the soil, followed by my husband using a spade to take the top layer of grass and weeds off the ground. I then broke up the underlying soil again with the fork (turns out we have huge amounts of clay in our soil!!!).

IMG-4017

My husband did all the building of the actual frame – I just held pieces together while he drilled holes in the timber and then screwed them together. The two of us lifted the frame over to the ground that had been dug up, and then filled the frame with bags of soil. I used Osmocote Plus Organics Vegetable & Herb Mix – 50L each bag, and used 5 bags. These were about $19 a bag from our Bunnings. I think I will need to go get another bag or two today though, and the five bags didn’t quite fill the volume of the frame.

IMG-4019

IMG-4022

Once I get the frame filled to the level I would like, I will start planting out some of the seedlings that have been growing in the seed raising mix. Seen below is the current progress of the seedlings:

And here is a rough plan of how I would like the outlay of the garden (very optimistic with regards to area inside the bed, I know! I think I will probably not have as much space underneath the beetroot to grow much more):

IMG-4023

Bee keeping · Gardening

Volunteer Tomatoes, Native Bees & Seed Progress

It’s been 3 days since planting out all of my seeds, and thought that I would give some updates on how they’ve been going. So far, just about all of my radish seeds have germinated, which is great! I think generally the time between sowing and harvest is only about 30 days, which is super short, so I’ll really have to think about getting these into the ground soon. Nothing else seems to have germinated, except for one keen marigold seed!

IMG-3927

I thought I would show a few photos of my lovely tomato plants that are looking nice and healthy at the moment. Below is actually a volunteer tomato plant that popped up in my current raised bed about 2 months ago, and I thought that it wouldn’t do so well as it gets a fair bit of shade from my huge eggplant bush! But nonetheless, it has been doing great, and I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of fruit it will provide (my guess is some form of cherry tomato, but I won’t know until they appear, as I do use compost in my garden, and it really could be anything!!).

IMG-3928

Along the same train of thought, below is a photo of my Burnley Bounty tomato plants, maybe 3 months old? These got a whole heap of rain in the last month, and started out looking great, then I think they got drowned a little bit! So my hopes weren’t high, but they are actually looking really healthy again now. I have these growing next to my trellis, so that I can tie them up against it as it grows and needs the additional support.

IMG-3929

Finally, I found a new species of native bee in my garden this morning! Very exciting! Three little ‘Fire Tailed Resin Bees’ have been flying around near my Hockingsi hive this morning (I think I have seen them around there a few weeks ago, but didn’t know what they were at the time), poking around in the crevices on the hive. Apparently they ‘borrow’ resin from the hive to use in their own nests. I do have a photo below, but they are a nuisance to actually capture well on film, as they are so busy with their nesting, that they are so quick!! They are solitary bees, so they don’t have a hive of their own, but rather find holes in woodwork, and make these into a nest for themselves. It’s really great to discover these awesome little creatures, and learn more about them, as I wouldn’t have even thought to consider them before I started up my veggie garden.

IMG-3930

Gardening

More seeds…plus a pumpkin!

Yesterday I was finally able to harvest my one and only butternut pumpkin! It’s a little small, but is a good colour, sounds hollow when rapped (developed seed cavity), and the stem has been drying up nicely. I left a good few inches of stem attached to the pumpkin when I harvested it, as I hear that this helps to ‘keep’ the pumpkin before you use it. Apparently it also helps develop flavour in the pumpkin…so we’ll see…

IMG-3877

I also was able to harvest a few of the eggplants to use in a vegetable lasagne last night…tasted great!

I also got a nice delivery from Boondie Seeds yesterday, with 12 sachets of seeds that I had ordered last week. I ended up soaking the heirloom peas overnight in water (as well as some more sweet peas), as I’ve been reading in The Little Veggie Patch Co’s book ‘Grow Food Anywhere’, this helps break down the tough coating on the seed, and can help germination.

IMG-3882

This morning I filled up the remaining plastic seed trays I have, as well as an old plastic mushroom tray & some toilet rolls. I have been reading that peas like growing long roots, and that recycling toilet rolls to use as seed containers for growing peas is a good way to use up rubbish that would otherwise need commercial recycling.

IMG-3885

I planted rainbow silverbeet (rainbow chard), heirloom peas, lemon cucumbers, oregano, snapdragons, french marigolds, borage, red onions, brocoletti, chioggia beetroot, easter egg radishes, & a few more sweet peas…quite a morning!

IMG-3884

I have decided on where to put my next raised bed now, but it will require moving our washing line to a different part of the fence, so may not happen for another week or two yet! I would like to draw up a design for where I am going to put the seedlings in the bed, and hopefully utilise crop rotation after this season.

Gardening

Seed Sowing, Seed Saving & Mid-Week Planting

I decided to try my hand at sowing seeds this week, rather than my usual option of buying started seedlings.

I got myself some seed raising soil, plastic seed trays, labels , and got started! I had a packet of sweet pea seeds that didn’t do so well going straight into the ground, so I filled four cells of one of the seed trays with the seed raising soil and planted the sweet peas…hoping that they will germinate this way!

IMG-3857

I also did happen to see some brussels sprouts seedlings at Bunnings, so bought a pack of these and planted a few of them in a pot (with very little spacing in between each plant…) and one in the raised bed where I could find a semi-sunny spot. I think I might need to get some fine netting to cover these though, as I’ve heard that young brassica plants are quite vulnerable to white cabbage butterflies laying their eggs on them.

IMG-3858

Another happening this week was trying some seed saving, which I have never done before…I really don’t know if I’ve done it correctly, but we’ll see come Spring when I try and plant a few of them! I had been drying out a cob of bi-coloured corn that my Dad had grown this past Summer, and today I pulled the kernels off the cob and stored them away in a ziploc bag with my other seeds. They came off the cob really quite easily, so I’m hoping that they were dry enough and ready to be stored.

IMG-3859

Finally, I was excited to see that so many of my passionfruit flowers had actually been pollinated! After a long week of rain, the passionfruit decided to burst open dozens of flowers, and I wasn’t too hopeful that they would actually develop into fruit, as the plant is still quite young. However, much to my surprise, most of the flowers have actually started developing teeny tiny passionfruit! It will be a long wait for these to ripen, but I’m very excited knowing that they are to come!

IMG-3851