Passing rain

parsley

The ants have started trekking through our house and the letterbox.

A small shower of rain passed through yesterday. One of only two rainfalls in the last two months. Mind the gap between the soil and the pots. The red dust storms with their iron rich topsoil from down south have kept us out of the garden. At least that’s our excuse, the weather has been very erratic lately.

I’m trying to appreciate the bindi patches and yellow dandelions. Thankfully it’s nearly the end of swooping season.

But sometimes you just need to get back out there. Yesterday between light showers and predicting the optimum wet clothes hanging on the washing line time, we did a few odd chores. We topped up another bed and pulled off all the old canes of the passionfruit vines.

Our grass is beyond yellow and now mostly dust sticks. Our legs grew itchy as we sorted out our baby cherry tomatoes into bags of unripe greens and healthy reds for chutney making.

Matt dug up the remaining potatoes and proudly filled another shoe box.

Only the parsley and silverbeet are thriving.

Prickly heat

ecidna

Confusion in the garden. All the broccoli bolted straight to flower. Things aren’t going to plan and it has been frustrating us.

The heat has been uncharacteristically prickly for winter, and we’re still hanging out for some rain.

Perhaps we’re being too hard on ourselves trying to work full time and become self-sufficient in only a year. We’ve made so much progress already and learnt how to grow a variety of different produce, such as: beans, cabbage, capsicum, choko, corn, eggplant, jam melon, kumquart, lemon, lettuce, passionfruit, pumpkin, rhubarb, rockmelon, shallots, squash, strawberries, tomato, and watermelon.

We sat down and discussed how we were going to get past our little hurdle (which at the moment seems monumental). It’s just a blip as we are nearing the pointy end of our self-sufficiency challenge.

Heatwave

beetroot

Everyone keeps commenting that we skipped spring and went straight to summer with 30 degree days and a heatwave in Brisbane. I’m hoping that all this hot air will be followed by some decent refreshing rain.

The ever faithful passionfruit and choko have stopped bearing.

We pulled out all the onions and shallots as they were covered in black bugs. The neighbours sprayed their weeds and grass (probably with Roundup) a few weeks ago, and ever since we’ve had a lack of ladybugs.

Buds and flowers are starting to appear. We have four ruby red flush roses and all the citrus are flowering. We also have some figs forming.

We harvested the remaining cabbages (5.3kg). They were starting to get ravaged, by what I though was hungry possums, but ended up being just a collection of caterpillars.

It was very exciting to finally pull up the first row of potatoes. They filled up a shoebox and weighed in at a healthy 4.5kg.

It turns out the unknown greeny-yellow citrus was a lime. So the other tree must be the mandarin.

Signs of spring

cabbage-large

Another quiet lazy weekend in the garden. We’ve had a couple of cabbage already, with Matt remarking that you can tell an organic one by all the live caterpillars tucked in the leaves.

Brisbane had it’s yearly Ekka without the usual strong westerly winds. Instead we had a flash of rain on our day off.

One of my red tulips has poked it’s head up. I was expecting the petals to come up closed and then open into their characteristic bowl shape when they have matured. One of the King Edward yellow daffodils is also flowering in the front yard.

We were chatting with our neighbour who unfortunately had their white picket fence spray painted with green graffiti tags. He commented that the days had started to warm up and remarked that we went straight from winter to summer in a week. The clover coming back was a sign of spring for him. Matt uses the leaves returning on the frangipani tree as his guide.

We have picked the unknown citrus that was green and is now going yellow. We’ve decided the only way to finally decide what it is, is to taste it. Will it be a lemon, lime or orange?

Tank off

tank-off

July was our worst month so far. We didn’t sow suitable Winter crops early enough. We really need to start seeing some action in the garden or we will fail miserably at our challenge and in as little as a few months it will then become an impossible feat.

As we sat on the grassy hill enjoying some sun and steak sandwiches, we discussed our progress in the garden.

I’m worried the potato crop has failed a second time. It looks like we have lost the first row. Matt declared that he has given up on them this year. He thinks we should have used more soil and compost for hilling them up, rather than nutrient poor sugar cane. He also thinks we have been watering them too much, whereas I think they might have not been watered enough.

Matt also thinks that our soil isn’t good enough yet, as we used compost from a landscaping supplier rather than use the full no-dig option. We agreed that the vegetable beds don’t get enough sun in Winter as they are shaded by the neighbours’ mango trees. And yet too much sun in Summer.

We were starting to consider that the unidentified citrus tree we have might be a lemon, as the fruit are starting to turn yellow. I looked through our plant label album and discovered it was actually a ‘washington navel orange.’ Matt nobly took the blame and said it was his fault for thinking it was a mandarin!

Our grass is starting to brown off and we haven’t had any decent rain in over five weeks. To make matters worse, I accidentally didn’t turn the tank tap off properly. (I have a habit of not putting lids on jars tightly either!) Our tank was half full, but now it is down to the bottom rung.

Pumpkin solution

finch

I was hoping to have a break from the gardening this weekend, but alas once I started I kept finding things that needed attention. The seedlings that I grew from seed in peat pots desperately needed to be planted out into soil. I love peat pots so much that I ordered some more. Actually they are called jiffy coco pellets and are made from renewable coconut husk. The only down side is that the pots can dry out easily and need watering every second day. I planted a number of tomato seedlings in empty spaces throughout the four vegetable beds. We have a feral tomato growing from compost up through the passion fruit vine, but the red cherry drops are flavourless.

I planted a red kuri pumpkin in a green square pot. I hope it will grow in a container, but I’m yet to work out a good position for it, because I know it will sprawl outward. I’m tempted to put it over the grape and choko vines, but Matt thought it would prefer the ground. While browsing through a The Diggers Club catalogue later, I pointed out the World’s largest pumpkin which can grow fruit to 227 kilograms. It’s a shame Matt doesn’t like pumpkin that much, because we would only need to grow one pumpkin and we would meet our goal weight for this year!

Matt thinks we have black aphids on our garlic and shallots. He also concluded that they are harmless because he can’t see any damage. I looked them up, and it’s best to let nature take their course as they’ll eventually be eaten by predators.

I pulled up a couple of potato plants left from our first attempts at growing them from the beginning of the year. I was surprised to collect three baby spuds, which Matt later roasted up. He ate them and said they were nothing exciting. I’m not sure whether he was just saying to make me feel better because there wasn’t enough for both of us. Our newer potato plants are starting to die back, but they haven’t flowered yet. We’re not sure if this is ok? We used sugar cane mulch to pile around the stems and encourage more growth but perhaps we should have used compost to provide more nutrients.

Double marl

kookaburra

One of our citrus trees is a bush lemon so I originally planted it in native soil mix. Its leaves turned pale yellow, so I fed it chicken manure. That made no difference. Sunday I decided I needed to totally repot the tree with organic soil and I hope that will give it the nutrients it needs.

The new lot of beans in the fourth bed are poking up their second leaves.

I’m a little concerned that the two mango trees from our neighbours are shading over our vegetable beds too much in winter.

I think I have been coming down with the flu (again) and forgot to put in my organic order. I’m surprised how much we missed it, and how easy home delivery makes the grocery shopping when you have a busy weekend. (I’m in love with organic prunes!)

After we came back from living in England, Matt attempts to go the whole year without a jumper or a jacket. Unfortunately, this year has been unusually cold and he has had to pull out the gray woolen one that he bought before we first met. I don’t mind the jumper, but he teams it with marl tracksuit pants. Double marl is a worse fashion sin than double denim!

Potted berries

Sunday was a productive afternoon in the garden. The mild weather was a pleasant change from the strong winds and cold evenings.

A large long box arrived from The Diggers Club a fortnight ago, so it was time to repot some of the miniature fruit trees into large plastic pots. We now have a babaco and berries – goose, marion, and two types of raspberry. I haven’t worked out a good home for the spiky berries, so they will temporarily live next to the other fruit trees. We also repotted three different guavas – pineapple, Chilean and yellow.

Our older native raspberry had three red fruit ready so it was time for the long awaited taste test. Matt thought it was pretty tasteless and I thought it was tart.

I finished off the forth bed with some seedlings of mini white cauliflower and baby broccoli. I  added some silverbeet and tomatoes in the bare patches. All four beds are now full and hopefully it won’t be long before they start producing more. It feels like cheating buying seedlings, but they save me a month of so of growing time.

The choko and passionfruit vines have slowed down and are dying back.

The peas are so delicious off the bush that there haven’t been enough to make it into a boiling pot of water for dinner.

Dark days

We had a busy weekend and didn’t get to do as much gardening as I would have liked. I think we have two limes on the way (we can’t remember which dwarf plant is the lime and which is the mandarin, but the fruit are definitely not flat like a mandarin!). Perhaps it’s really a Meyer lemon tree and we’ve been had in a little lime green lie?

We planted in some climbing telephone peas and blue lake beans in the fourth bed. The potatoes are looking a little haggard from the strong winds we have been having.

I’m starting to get worried about achieving our challenge total of 236kg of fruit and vegetables on one tank, for one couple in one year. In the last six months, we’ve only had 2 months above the needed 20kg.

The last vegetable bed was out of action for several months, as we put off digging up the pawpaw tree and to allow for the no-dig mixture to decompose down to soil.

We had one failed potato crop due to planting at the wrong time of the year. We had crop failures due to a lack of bees pollinating flowers, and squash bugs infestations. We also assumed that our fruit trees would bear in the first year, but found out later that they may not.

I’m going to admit it’s been harder then I thought it would be grow our own fruit and vegetables. There is so much to learn about growing edibles. I don’t feel like giving up, but I feel a bit like Edison.

“I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb.”
Thomas Edison

Grey clouds

The grey clouds this week reminded me of England. We had a good break from watering the garden. Southeast Queensland’s dams are now three-quarters full for the first time in seven years.

However, all of our eggplants split. The seedlings I prepared a little while ago are mostly all at the two leaf stage. Our native Finger Lime is flowering, and our dwarf avocado is budding. The beans are back!

We had our very first baby cabbage last night. A caterpillar had attacked the green outer leaves, so Matt decided it was time to ‘rescue’ it. It had a milder flavour to the usual ones.

We were busy doing non-gardening things this weekend.