2015/16 SUMMER – DECEMBER TO FEBRUARY

This is a continuous summer diary which has been added to as the season progressed.

22.12.15

Hot and basically dry with some overcast days but enough showers to keep the rain water tank ticking over for watering.

Some plants are enjoying this weather, some aren’t. The cucumbers (Lebanese) and snake beans do not like it oddly enough. After cropping a few good cucumber fruit, perhaps 10, the plants have succumbed and have been cut back. Perhaps they will regrow. More likely I will replenish the bed and start again with some new seedlings from the markets.

Land Cress growing in the middle of the bed. Surprisingly heat tolerant.

04.01.16 Replanted 29.12.15 with these Mini White cuc found in the giant box of seed and due to expire this year.

13.02.16 Five weeks later I have some good growth with flowers. Also some pest activity with aphid and fungus. Not a good year for me with cuc.

22.12.15 Some of the snake bean crop. The red come from Pat Pierce’s seed. The speckled comes from lord knows where. A throwback perhaps.

And the green, planted from saved seed. I’ve seen a mouse getting around in my beds. It’s tucking into the beans during the night and eating the seed out of the pod.

This is the other side of the snake bean frame. Not so happy in the current conditions.

NOTE 29.12.15: This side of the frame cut back and replanted with Joseph’s snake bean seed.

Let’s get the painful stuff out of the way first :/

The bumper crop of Lychee fruit I thought I was going to be eating are dying off. Probably not enough water.

On the other hand the reliable old custard apple is producing lots of little fruit.

Dense plantings are doing best in this weather, providing shade for their own roots. Self sown Florence Fennel is going to seed among some Kale and Canadian Wild Lettuce (A Choy). The Fennel flowers are attracting lots of different insects.

The Nopales and ginger are growing in separate pots. Poor old Nopales has become root bound in it’s pot and needs to be started again which is tricky as the base pad (the oldest one) has produced some impressive spines.

The Burgundy Okra are growing quite slowly but producing a few useful fruit.

22.12.15 Rob’s green Okra are hitting their stride though. They are getting more sun than the red.

04.01.16 They are getting woody and unusable more quickly than usual. Hit hard by leaf eating insects.

22.12.15 The Brown Turkey figs are thriving with potential here for some good eating. The fig beetle is trying to mate and lay it’s eggs. With a flick of my fingers I practice coitus interruptis daily with these wee nuisances in the hope of slowing them down.

29.12.15 To my surprise one of the figs was ripe. Delicious.

22.12.15 The Bitter Melon plant, though now many months old, is still producing these useful fruit for me. I’ve replanted seed and will remove the old plant when it shows signs of slowing down.

04.01.16 One of the BM fruit ripened and about to burst. Not edible at this stage it’s good for seed.

The yellow fleshed pawpaws have all ripened bar a few small ones and been eaten at work by our respite members.

The oblong fruit from this self sown plant is still reaching it’s potential. Hoping for some red fleshed fruit.

NOTE: Turned out to be a sweet red pawpaw!

22.12.15 Corn and zucchini are loving the conditions….

04.01.16 The corn (second crop) is starting to flower even though some are still very short – 25cm. These seedlings were a bit tall and possibly root bound in their little pots when I bought them. Should have chosen the smaller ones.

NOTE: While I did get quite a few reasonable edible cobs from this stunted planting I’ve taken extra care with the third planting done yesterday 31.01.16 – minerals sprinkled around (granite and basalt) and MycoApply sprinkled under each seedling on planting. These seedlings have come from a different supplier also.

20.02.16 Third and last corn crop of the season – planted out as described above. Doing much better than the previous crop. Seedlings growing in a bit of shade from the Bitter Melon on the right not showing as much height.

Ants are loving the zucc flowers. Zucchini get both male and female flower like pumpkin (thank you Elaine) so assistance with pollination is unlikely unless the ants like long walks.

NOTE: The yellow zucchini seem more keen to produce fruit. All the green – planted in the raised beds – were duds and either died or were removed by me.

04.01.16 Little zucc fruit. One of my favourite snacks.

22.12.15 Carrots are doing well enough. Seed growing this season wasn’t very successful. Carrot seems to like to be grown from fresh seed and some of mine was a couple of years old. Then again, may have just been the bout of hot days straight after I planted them. Some seed came up then I resorted to bought carrot seedlings for the first time ever and they are growing really well. Should have thinned them out a bit more.

NOTE: Have been cropping some carrots but they haven’t done well this year. Stunted. But tasty. Will try again in winter.

This self sown pumpkin vine is going places. After climbing the Elderflower it’s taking control of the clothes line…which is ok for the time being as I usually use the porch line. I ate some of the excess male flowers last night in a “Thai” dish. I love Thai food but cook it abysmally.

31.01.16 Finally have a fruit forming! I was out one morning and saw a female flower closing up so I pollinated it.

20.02.16 – 11days later the fruit is starting to colour up. Hopefully will mature before the plant has to be cut back for the electrician.

27.02.16 The job has had to be postponed so the pumpkin, nicknamed Fred, is safe to finish growing.

22.02.15 This Sweet Capsicum also went into the dish. I’ve been growing mini caps using the seed from store bought fruit and they are proving quite productive and hardy.

NOTE: Fruit Fly just love these little fruit. Blasted things.

04.01.16 Mini caps grown from seed of previously eaten fruit. Every time I open one I bring the seed out and plant them.

2

2.12.15 The Walking Stick Collards are hanging in there. Not heat lovers but they are surviving, apart from a couple of plants I removed. You can see from the holes in the remaining leaves (I removed a lot of leaves affected by some very dedicated and hard to shift aphid) that they are popular food among the local insects. Still some for me in there.

29.12.15

Woke this morning to the glorious sight of dozens of dragon fruit flowers at dawn. What a beautiful thing they are.

Keeping a record of the growth of the fruit from day to day. Deadly dull stuff at the moment but hopefully will be more interesting when you can scroll through the pics at speed and see the growth.

Front porch near the flowering Lillypilly….

…and more out the back – many hanging over the neighbours side of the fence.

31.01.16

End result of this lot of DF flowers. I’ve been taking the fruit to work for morning tea as it ripens. Very interesting to see the reactions of our elderly clients who have mostly never seen or heard of this fruit before. They have nearly all been willing to try a spoonful, likening the flavour to Kiwifruit, and two have asked for cuttings.

NOTE: For maximum sweetness Pat Pierce (Rockhampton) recommends cropping five days after colouring up. Tarter if you pick immediately as I have been doing.

28.12.16

The Pomegranates on the seedling grown tree have been ripening fast. Picked some yesterday, careful with the thorns. Nice and sweet and juicy but not as much pulp laden seeds (or sarcotesta) as the store bought fruit. Fun fact: Native to Iran and India technically they are a berry.

The Wonderful fruit is still very green and much larger than the seed sown plant fruit.

27.02.16 The Wonderful fruit never did turn red but the insides are top notch pomegranate.

24.12.15 The original patch of Williamette raspberries have made a comeback thank goodness, after my failed attempt to move plants onto a nearby frame. Hardly game to touch them again. Grasshoppers are making a meal of the leaves but not affecting some decent fruit growth.

NOTE: Most of the fruit has withered in the current conditions and no doubt due to the grasshopper damage done to the leaves. Never mind, the patch survives for another day.

28.12.15 I have one yellow zucchini plant out the front. This incredible plant gives me a sweet fruit a day which is usually munched on raw. This one doubled it’s size in one day and ended up in dinner. Black Jack Zucchini planted out the back a few weeks back are developing flowers and fruit.

NOTE: The latter black zucc came to very little – producing few fruit and dying or being removed. Could be the location didn’t allow enough air flow. Could just be that the yellow is a better plant to grow.

24.12.15 The self sown brillantaisia guianensis out the front has bloomed and it’s really quite eye catching. A relative of the salvias per Christa. It can stay so long as it doesn’t try to take over the world and can prove it’s worth as bee attracting.

04.01.16 Michael H’s little Thai Ginger plant has filled the pot in no time at all. Must start using it.

NOTE: Almost impossible to get anything out of this pot! Michael tells me he hasn’t harvested any of his yet. Phil calls it a Lesser Galangal – as opposed to a Greater Galangal which is tall.

04.01.16 My first ever Turmeric plant. Finally managed to get one growing. Pot is possibly too small but it seems happy enough at the moment, no doubt tooted through the bottom of the pot into the soil.

04.01.16 Lagerstroemia or Crepe Myrtle. One of my favourite flowering plants. I had many different colours in a previous house but only this one here. The native bees will be all over it once they realise it is blooming.

If you have one, dead head the spent flowers as they start to form seed heads and it will re-bloom.

Also blooming purple Cats Whiskers Orthosiphon aristatus. Member of the mint family and easy to propagate from cutting.

04.01.16 Maranta, thanks to Janet’s original gift, has now established itself well. Edible tubers – usually harvested when the plant starts to die back winter/spring. I might try harvesting throughout the year now that I am more familiar with it’s growth habits.

04.01.16 Dwf banana growing very well 🙂 Thank you thank you.

02.01.16 Callistemon flower – my little camera doesn’t do it justice. Pale pink and beautiful.

07.01.16

Having an enforced week off due to shingles on my face. Pain free initially due to an early start on the anti virals but required to stay away from work so….thinking of it more as an unpaid holiday that I didn’t realise I was going to have. (31.01.16 – apart from the scar on my chin from a bacterial infection in one rash I have no visible sign left of the shingles rash but the whole right side of my face is always itchy, especially at night, and sometimes quite numb. 26.02.16 The itchy was ruining my nights sleep – now using a Homoeopathic remedy to give some relief).

Went into the hive this morning and harvested four combs. The last one was so heavy it fell off into the hive – always a tricky situation. Honey on everything – the knife, my clothes, my gloves. Five bees managed to get inside the suit with me somehow – removed the suit three times without being stung. I really must get a full suit when I can afford one.

Anyway, here’s the harvest so far minus one jar given to a friend who dropped around some Davidson Plums and beautiful big cucumber for me. Thanks Rob 🙂 There’s still more in the buckets but it takes time to dribble down to the bottom.

09.01.16

Soursop fruit. Relation of the custard apple but the fruit is zingy sweet/tart and a bit fibrous. Either a bat or a rat has decided this one is ripe enough to eat.

31.01.16

Garlic (on the left) bought from the Caboolture Mkts this morning as “locally grown”. Looks suspiciously like the Chinese one on the right but still has some roots attached – something not permitted with the imported stuff. So I/we have decided it may be locally or at least Australian grown after all.

30.01.16

Went along to one of Tim Auld’s top bar beekeeping workshops at Stockleigh today and it was really very good, thank you Tim. Lots of background information about beekeeping in general over the years and bees themselves with lots of practical hints on bee keeping.

The afternoon was spent robbing one of Tim’s top bar hive, learning to make candles and fix our comb guides with wax and string. Very good value for $85pp.

11.02.16 Bartered with Rob some of my honey for one of his home grown Aquaponics Jade Perch. 30cm long when harvested at about 1.5yrs old. Plump, meaty and with a good layer of fat. It was delicious stuffed with a lime and Davidson’s Plus fruit from Rob and cooked in a steamer pan with a mix of home grown and store bought veg.

01.02.16 Interesting new veg thanks to Vinay from work. Canavalia ensiformis or Jack Bean.

Not a lot of flavour on their own per se, they keep their colour and firmness chopped into a dish. They grow in summer, hardly any pest problems. Pretty useful in my book.

Six seed provided, three planted in my bed and the others given away to Elaine, Christa and Dianne.

11.02.16 One week after planting I have three seedlings, this being the best looking. One is slightly chewed but hanging in there.

13.02.16 I grow five or six different chillis – mainly because they’re pretty, perennial and easy to grow.

I use perhaps two a month in cooking and give a lot of them away. Some of the Indian ladies at work ask for them regularly. One eats them outright with her meal of curry and rice.

Note the insect home on the leaf curled up in the middle of the pic. A Leaf Cutter bee has already had at it and now someone else has curled it up for a cozy spot to live.

13.02.16 The trial crop of my treasured Walking Stick Collards have proven appealing to all sorts of pests and I am trying to let them sort it out for themselves as much as possible. When I remove all the leaves the stalk dies. I need natural predators to develop for what ails them (caterpillars, grasshoppers and aphid – no fungi problems).

I have high hopes that they will come into their own again in the cooler weather, providing me with a supply of tasty greens. The trial crop planted last cool season (maybe 9 or 10mths old now) is to see how long the plants will live and what sort of pest problems they will have. I have more seed to plant out if this lot prove to be spent.

20.02.16 Collard Greens – Now this is very interesting (at least to me with my CG experiment). Out checking the garden this morning after some fabulous rain last night and found this little Collard Green growing away to the side of the bigger ones. (It’s in the bottom of the pic against the garden edging).

Tried gently digging down to see it’s source and it seems to come as a shoot from the bigger live plant on the left – the very left one is dead and now removed.

If they shoot by themselves this is very good news! These can be also be propagated by cutting apparently. I tried one but the weather was too hot – more of a cool weather project.

27.02.16 Found another shoot! Excellent.

The pests are making a meal of all the CG plants BUT while standing there (I admit it, I was picking off Cabbage White caterpillars) I found a tiny fast moving leech-like predator on the moist leaf obviously enjoying a meal of aphid and a little parasitic wasp hunting for caterpillars. I just need to leave nature to it and she will create predators for my pests – like the ones below eating aphid.

13.02.16 Patience needed! The Dwf Pink Shatoot mulberry is working itself up to another bumper crop of sweet, sweet fruit. So glad I didn’t succeed in pulling this plant out by the roots during our earlier touchy relationship. The plant just needed some time to come into it’s own. With the help of a few threats.

27.02.16 Still waiting for the green fruit to ripen. Much slower than the Black.

07.02.16 Loving the Jaboticaba. Blog HERE. This is the best fruit tree in my book. These fruit are so sweet – delicious eaten chilled. The only “pest” I see on the fruit is a bit of Woolly Aphid which is easily wiped off.

The tree now repeat crops immediately after the last flush of fruit.

Okra has been hopeless this season. The fruit in the pic below were all woody and inedible. Composted. Rob isn’t having this problem – he brought me some good fruit from his garden.

Still waiting, waiting for the pineapple to ripen. Gotta be patient with pineapple from start to finish.Two years to grow a fruit.

NOTE: The pineapple ripened to a super sweet little fruit. Well worth the wait.

13.02.16 Both SNB hives are going great guns. Happy little darlings they are.

13.02.16 A drama is unfolding in the garden. Gecko’s have ruined two of my air con units. You can see one behind all the foliage. The electrician is coming in two weeks to replace the units so by then I will have to have all this planting cut back. The fig (White Adriatic) will mostly likely have to go, great pity. The Elderfower won’t mind being cut back. But the pumpkin vine needs a bit of time to ripen this fast growing fruit. My only one!

All the Dragon fruit and the dead stump it is growing on will also have to come out. Can’t expect the guys to work around a cactus.

13.02.16 One last bowl of Elderflower cordial from flowers on the bush I have had to cut back. Leftovers of the last batch in the bottle.

20.02.16 Nice surprise this morning to find these two gorgeous little eggplant fruit.

Along with this Black Beauty (seed grown) forming.

20.02.16 Weird shaped little watermelon on the Moon and Stars plant/s. I’ve had four fruit this season – best I’ve ever done. Nice eating too. Note the Tramp Snails out after the rain last night. I don’t find they do much damage – they seem to focus mainly on decomposing plant material so in fact help.

20.02.16 Next lot of DF ripening. Hanging off picking until Monday or Tuesday (5 days from colouring up) to increase sweetness per Pat Pierce suggestion, thanks Pat.

NOTE: Yeah, I would say the fruit were a little sweeter and a little less tart. I like them both ways.

20.02.16 I get a lot of Blue Banded Bees in my garden. Love them. After the rain last night there seem to be a lot conducting their buzz pollination work around the garden including this female (four bands – the boys have five) repeatedly working her magic on an eggplant flower. Note the ants on the back of the flower. Would love to know their purpose in the grand scheme of things.

Well here we are once more at the end of another hot season. I wouldn’t say it’s been a dreadful hot summer, just normal with some hot periods. I’ve had some good rain off and on – enough to keep the tank replenished for watering.

Not a good season for cucumber or beans but that usually means I’ll have a bumper crop next season.

Below some of the DF, eggplant and chilli along with a Salvia flower.

And a Bottle Gourd from Vinay. Very like Hairy or Winter Melon, but much smaller, in that it’s a mild flavoured marrow type veg that takes on the flavour of a dish it’s added to. Cook at work has taken the other half to use in the kitchen.

I did buy some red fleshed DF from the market the other weekend. I can’t tell much difference between the flavour of this and the white but some of my more discerning gardening mates reckon it’s superior in that it’s sweeter and juicier. I honestly find them much the same apart from the colour. Cook at work used one to make a very pretty topping for some cheesecake.

It has been a summer full of colour. Around the western suburbs of Brisbane where I work there has been trees constantly in bloom from the time the Jacarandas start – so beautiful.

Below a native Blue Ginger, Dichorisandra thyrsiflora. The Blue Banded’s love this flower when it comes out. Growing in the shade of the Carombola…which is dropping fruit from the heavens at the moment. Barely any of it edible due to going splat and Fruit Fly.

Well another summer season has come to an end. We’re all looking forward to Autumn and Winter, especially in the garden for what we can grow (broccoli, cauli, beans, peas, potatoes – goody goody).

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