First harvest – silverbeet salad

1 handful of silverbeet

1 handful of butter beans

several basil leaves

1 kafir lime leaf

Picked 10 minutes before dinner, sautéed with a chopped clove of garlic and a slug of olive oil. Serve immediately. I know where my dinner has been!

Fresh produce

First harvest – silverbeet salad

I wish for Summer Watermelons!

Today I planted the Sugarbaby watermelon seedlings  in a tub underneath sturdy trees that they can climb up – they do not naturally climb, so will require encouragement – and avoid spreading around the garden. The trees will shelter the plants from the rain, as I have a feeling that too much water will bloat the fruit and make it taste less.

The tub was layered with alternate layers of soil and compost to enrich the soil to grow tasty healthy fruit. Two seedlings, grown in the same pot, were planted together. To disentangle the roots of the two plants may weaken both, and it is better to see which plant grows strong, and then cut the other off at the stem with secateurs.

At the moment too much rain is not the issue, Brisbane has not received any significant rain for months. The 3,000 litre water tank in the garden hit empty today and I will start to siphon water from the kids’ bath to the garden to stay sustainable. The lack of rain means that mulching the garden properly is important.

Jobs – buy a bale of sugar cane mulch and spread on garden, and organise the siphoning.

For details on how to grow watermelon, and especially for reasons not to grow watermelons, see…..

http://www.tropicalpermaculture.com/growing-watermelons.html

Yummy strawberry jam

Here is the recipe for the jam I made recently. Strawberries were not from my garden, but in season and very tasty. The recipe can be altered to whip up smaller batches, which I did as an emergency when we finished the first lot.

P.s Apologies to the blogger whose recipe made it easy – I will improve at cross-referencing!!!

Strawberry Jam

8 cups strawberries

4 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

These quantities made 6 small jars of jam.

Method:

Hull the strawberries and wash. Chop to desired size – I like small chunks in my jam – and place in a wide, shallow pan. Add 1/4 cup of water and heat until fruit is soft.

Add sugar and lemon juice and stir. Keep stirring, more stirring!

The stirring takes longer that 15 minutes, this allows time to sterilize the already washed jars and lids in the oven for 6 minutes, just place them all on a tray. I find that a regular set of tongs is fine for handling the hot jars.

Test jam by blobbing a teaspoonful on a saucer that has been chilled in the freezer. When the jam cools to the desired consistency stop stirring and pour jam into the prepared jars. I use a small stain-less milk jug to do this, and it makes less mess than using a ladle.

Place full jars – with lids tight – into a pot of boiling water, boil for 15 minutes. Use tongs for this. Remove from the water. As the jars cool, they should pop, this shows that they are sealed. For the jars don’t pop, keep in the fridge until eaten.

Garden waste recycled as useful resources

Check out the bean stakes (see photo in previous post) – straight from another part of the garden, from a shade-loving plant that grows on a cane! I’d like to make my garden sustainable by keeping its footprint small: using material produced in my garden, and other recycled materials – see old chicken wire gate recycled as the support for the snow peas.

I have been experimenting with mulch, trying to use organic matter shed from other plants in the garden, as there is plenty, which I have to rake up each day – now I understand why it is preferred not to have trees surrounding the house, though I do believe that the benefits of shade over the house in summer and experiencing the wildlife, especially the amazing birdsong that we hear each day, does outweigh the annoying aspects of maintenance.

The best mulch so far is the shorn ‘hay’ from the native grasses. Cutting the grasses back at the end of winter allows them to shoot anew in spring. This should be a fairly sustainable method of mulching. Not sure about the nutrient value of these grasses going back to the soil.

Jobs – plant more native grasses to use as mulch.

I have held off mulching too much until the plants grow up a little. Small plants can get shaded and lost beneath mulch.

I am not super impressed with the soil that I bought for the garden. It is going to take a while to create a good growing environment with lots of nutrients and organic matter. I will improve the soil over time with additions of compost and manures.

My compost is much improved with adding comfrey. I have added several green leaves, chopped up, each week and it has reduced the vinegar fly maggots. I have sourced the comfrey from my local community garden.

Jobs – plant some comfrey and get a bag of horse manure.

Check out the Greenharvest website for more info about Comfrey.

http://greenharvest.com.au/Plants/Comfrey.html

‘Comfrey probably has the widest range of uses in a permaculture system of any plant.

The leaves are a useful addition to compost or used as mulch,as they contain silica, nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. Comfrey is lush and fast-growing in the right conditions and can provide abundant supplies of mulch. When planted in the orchard, it can be slashed to provide mulch under fruit trees. Comfrey leaves, measured as dry matter, are about 15 to 30% protein which is as high as most legumes. The leaves readily decompose when soaked in water to make a liquid manure.’

Check out my lil’ garden!

8 weeks later – almost ready to munch on!

TaDa! Instant garden! Well, it has taken 8 weeks for plants to grow from seed to this:

  • Butter beans and rattlesnake beans are flowering.
  •  Bok Choy is beginning to flower, not so great as this indicates that it may just bolt to seed, rather than getting lush, green and leafy – Note – better to plant the bok choy in autumn next year, as it is growing too fast now!
  • Garlic tops are looking fabulous, though it is hard to tell what is happening below the ground.
  • Silverbeet plants are growing well, as are the snow peas.
  • Several tomato plants are thriving, though it is interesting to note that the plants that were planted into a hole lined with home-made compost are bigger than the others.
  • Carrot seeds were sown directly into the garden 2 weeks ago and are popping up.
  • The mandarin tree, which had a heavy prune in August is shooting new greenery and has many flowers beginning to set. I have been feeding it up with compost and worm wee at this time to give the tree enough energy to produce fruit – I think the fruit will take at least 6 months to produce. I am very excited, as I have not had a mature, fruit bearing citrus to care for – though have planted many citrus trees that others are now hopefully enjoying.
  • Kafir lime, which was a housewarming gift is also going very well, and leaves are regularly and creatively featuring in the cooking.
  • Parsley that was also a beautiful gift,  along with a basil plant and coriander is thriving now it is planted in a garden bed. The original basil has been replaced with several new plants grown from seed, and I have just killed my second coriander – oops. Jobs – Scatter coriander seeds all around the garden to improve chances of survival – we eat lots of it!!


Already planning my first meal from the garden – a silverbeet and bean salad with basil- which will be only a couple of weeks away. Yippeee!

Planting!

Sprouted and ready to go!

After attending the Harvest Share, I figure that I should just get the garden planted and the weather is spring-like.

Still worried about the possums and the harlequin beetles and other unknown pests – I will deal with them if they become an issue!

I now have tumeric roots and ginger along with basil seedlings, procured at the Harvest Share, to add to the garden.

My garden planning is slowly shifting from a Melbourne climate zone perspective to the Brisbane zone – it certainly helps to see what other gardeners are growing!