Sad corn diary

It would be fair to say that this year has seen our worst corn harvest since we started growing it.

A truly sorry result for the Painted Mountain Corn.

In the front garden we planted Painted Mountain corn, named for the almost unbelievably brilliant colours of it’s kernels.

The intense colour of Painted Mountain corn

Only one plant made it to knee height, the rest barely made it out of the ground. I recorded in the garden diary that in December the plants came under attack from snails. There is no doubt that the primary culprit was our run of 4 days over 40 degrees in January. No amount of water could make up for the shock and while we only had another one or two days around the 40° mark, January 2019 was recorded as being the hottest on record going back to 1910. Despite this pretty awful result I did harvest enough kernels to have another go next year.

Kernels for next year’s crop

Out in the back garden things were marginally better. At least our popping corn, Ontos Oval, did manage to get above the 1 metre high mark. However it suffered from irregular watering. We didn’t notice that our automatic watering system had stopped working due to a flat battery in the timing system.

You can see from the photos that the cobs of this variety are a bit oval-ish in shape.

The kernels themselves are pointed like teardrops. This is the first year that we have grown this variety. I haven’t tried popping these yet. I might just do a side by side test with our regular Strawberry Popping corn

Somewhat better, the Ontos Oval corn from the back garden
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Plant of the year!

This self-sown Lazy Housewife Bean plant, pretty much looked after itself over summer. It grew 230gms of dried beans (minus all the ones I ate fresh off the plant). If only all my plants performed so well.

230 grams of beans from only one plant!

At the end of summer it’s now time to pull this worker out. Thankyou bean plant.

All the pods on the plant before I harvested them.

Kale Renaissance?

At the end of summer, heading into Autumn the garden is looking pretty ratty. The kale plants are well and truly looking past their best. And yet there is some hope.

I was looking around for some greens for the chickens and was about to pull out this kale plant when I realised it had lots of new leaves sprouting at it’s base.

I took this as a positive sign and only clipped the top off the plant. The chooks are happy and I look forward to seeing if this plant will renew itself.

Oh Summer!

If you live in Australia then you will probably be experiencing the challenges that have come from our record high January temperatures.

Our corn has taken a beating. The plants got to knee high and started flowering! Some cobs are forming at the base of the plants.

Our Painted Mountain Corn, struggling in the very high January temperatures.

It’s pretty tragic, but if nothing else shows their determination for germination. I can’t imagine that the result will be much good.

On the other hand one of our annual crops, Kang Kong, (Ipomea aquatica), or water spinach, seems to be coping just fine. A native of tropical northern Australia and South East Asia, it’s a great addition to stir fries.

Our plant was grown from a stem of some kang kong we bought to eat. We grew in water and it took root extremely quickly.

Our Lang Kong took root after only two days!

There is an added bonus to this plant, it has beautiful simple white flowers.

Happy New Year to you all!

Well it’s happened. Christmas is over and we have plunged into the new year. Here are some pics of what is happening around Chez Fork.

Apricot Jam.

The apricots were netted just in time to save most of the crop from the cockatoos.

Not everything grows as expected.

Product versus pack shot.

Often the best results come without any effort. This is a self sown bean. The best in the garden!

Self sown bean taking over the tomato bed.

Last but not least.

The first egg of the new year!

Soil – grow your own!

I missed the United Nations World Soil Day, 5 December, this year, but by way of compensation I have found this post on making compost from earlier in the year, which never made it beyond draft stage. Don’t worry about the references to Autumn, compost making is a year round activity. Enjoy!

As autumn moves along we are clearing out the last of the summer veg and rejuvenating our soil before we plant new crops for winter. This means digging in some of the lovely compost we’ve been ‘growing’ over the last few months. OK, so we’ve just added the material to the bins and the worms, slaters, and other microorganisms are doing the hard yards at breaking the stuff down.

The  tomatoes have been cleared out and compost and dolomite lime added ready for new plants

The tomatoes have been cleared out and compost and dolomite lime added ready for new plants.

If you have space for a compost bin then setting one up is a no-brainer. It is an excellent way to reduce some of the costs involved with renewing your soil to ensure your plants get plenty of nutrients.
The golden ratio when it comes to making compost is 1 part of green waste to 3 parts of brown waste. In laymans’s terms the ‘green’ can include household veggie scraps (no meat), or green garden waste such as prunings or fresh grass clippings, tea leaves and coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen and they are not acidic after they have been brewed. While some tea bags are compostable many tea bags are now wholly or partly plastic, and you don’t want to include any of these in your compost. The ‘brown’ could include dry leaves, shredded or torn newspaper, shredded office paper, or used bedding from the chook pen. Our compost has a bit of all these.

A barrow load of goodness from our compost bins

A barrow load of goodness from our compost bins, which you can see in the background.

One of these bins is dedicated to the super-slow breaking down of leaves into leaf mould, the others are for compost in different stages of decomposition.

‘If I could say just one thing’ it would be to not make a compost pile or set up a compost system bigger than you can feed. If you live in a small household or only have a small garden you may not generate enough green waste to get your compost system working actively. If this is the case you have several options:

  1. set up a smaller system, eg by using and old plastic garbage bin with the bottom cut out, placed directly on the soil so the worms can get into it; or invest in a Bokashi system;
  2. dig small amounts of vegetable scraps into holes around your garden and let nature do the rest;
  3. find another source of green waste to add to your bin by collecting coffee grounds from a cafe or even leaving a small bin to collect compostable waste from where you work.

Having set up the bin you also need to feed and mix it up or ‘turn’ it regularly. Let’s face it the worms aren’t going to hang around if you don’t give them some new food every so often. Turning your compost bin allows the air to get into it, to ensures faster decomposition. It also reduces the risk of creating ugly smells.

If you have a compost bin it is just about impossible to turn the contents with a garden fork. If you have a heap or compartment system then a garden fork is fine. The best device I’ve found to ‘turn’ my compost is this strange piece of metal with a ‘screw’ on one end. By turning this tool into the compost you can easily mix the bin’s contents. To avoid giving yourself a hernia I suggest you make some shallow digs into the upper 15 cms before you drill further down. It’s really not too difficult.

My favourite compost turner!

Getting ready to turn the compost.

If you are checking the compost every week (you should be adding stuff to it regularly), then you should be able to head off potentially unpleasant compost situations. If your heap does go wet and nasty make sure you add lots of dry ‘brown’ material and mix it through thoroughly. Keep a close eye on it until the compost is evenly damp, rather than a foetid mess.

Before I forget, you can also re-cycle your spent potting mix through your system. The potting mix will get nutrients as your heap decomposes and the potting mix will add some structure to what’s in the bin.

Re-use and re-cycle also applies to old potting mix!

Re-use and re-cycle also applies to old potting mix!

So happy belated world soil day!