Waking up in Autumn

It happens every year, after a summer of tending plants through stinking hot days, you wake up one day and the overnight temperature has dropped and those tomato bushes are past their best. Well that’s where it starts.

About a week ago we did decide to pull out the spent tomato vines and in the time-honoured way it has led to job after job in the garden. Once the tomatoes had gone the rest of the bed needed to be cleared of weeds. Then it was clear that the whole bed needed re-aligning to rectify some long-forgotten design decision we made years ago.

Thankfully our garden beds are not permanent, so up came the concrete block edge. Three days in and all the strawberry and sorrel plants that lived in those concrete blocks were transferred temporarily into tubs so the blocks could be re-laid. In the interim one of the chooks offered ‘assistance’ by eating the one sorrel plant remaining in the main part of the garden down to it’s roots.

Then it was off to the tip to buy a trailer load of compost. I’ll skip over the hard work of shoveling soil etc, because I was lucky enough to avoid that task. I injured my shoulder some days earlier, (the other half did an excellent job of the task).

At last we reached the fun bit, planting out. This bed now has lettuce, spinach and kale planted in it. Today the strawberries have gone back in. The sorrel, having proved such a hit with the chickens, has now gone back into the main part of the bed. Around the edge I have transplanted an allium, possibly a variety of garlic chive, whose white flowers look quite decorative. Of course the finishing touch is miles of plastic mesh and spiky sticks and tubes, which we hope may forestall chicken attack. Although we doubt it will work. 😊

PS defences were broken through, but we are retaliating with bigger and better defences.

Hard yakka

First cob of corn for dinner

It was a perfect afternoon to get into the garden, sunny enough with a nice breeze. I was working in the front garden, planting out some daisy cuttings and pulling out a dead shrub.

The biggest issue was whether the bull ants (inch ants) were still nesting next to the dead shrub. And yes they are. However I did manage to dig out pretty much all the dead stuff before the ants came charging out. Having been bitten earlier in the week I was being quite careful.

I rounded out the afternoon by harvesting all the good sized Blue Lake climbing beans and picking our first cob of corn. We are now getting a steady feed from our tomatoes and fruit from our fig tree is making dessert choices easy.

Fig tart for dessert

Although we are not the only ones lining up for a feed. Our resident Grey Currawong loves our figs as much as we do.

Not bad for a bird with only one eye! We gave him/her this one.

Waking up from my summer torpor

The somewhat shorter and cooler days of Autumn have finally seeped into my brain. Time to stop lying around, avoiding the garden, it’s time to dig in the garden! The change is almost as obvious to me as the impact that those lengthening spring days have. First job, as always, is clearing away the last seasons crops.

At the outset, what's left of the last season's plantings
At the outset, what’s left of the last season’s plantings

There can be no hiding here. There is the only beetroot that survived when I forgot to water the beetroot seedlings on a particularly hot day. The Scarlet Emperor beans have reverted to their normal habit of not re-growing. A lanky stem of Calabrese cabbage is lurking with the odd tuft of leaves at the top. The corn was a success and as for the rest, the flat leafed parley has taken over in the absence of any other crops.

At least the soil is good and easy to turn over. All the spent crops and weeds, barring the parsley, are tossed to ‘the girls’. If you ever doubted the dinosaur origin of these animals just stop one day to watch them use those strong legs to tear into a potential food source!

The girls get stuck into the weeds
The girls get stuck into the weeds

While the girls were cleaning up the weeds I was leveling the garden bed and broadcasting carrot seeds all over. The only plants I left behind were the solo beetroot and the Calabrese cabbage which had several new shoots sprouting from its base. I’ll keep and eye on it and decide whether to keep it or remove it, depending on how those shoots grow.

Cleared and ready to go
Cleared and ready to go

Every year we collect seed from our carrot crop. Over the years the distinct yellow, red and white forms have interbred and produced a vaguely yellow, often white and white tinged with rose coloured roots. And for the record, we never sow our carrots in rows nor do we thin our carrots out. The only time we thin carrots is when we pull them out to eat, starting with baby carrots as long as a little finger. This way we enjoy a massive crop of carrots over several months. The carrots are quite content to keep themselves fresh and tasty in the ground without any help from us. It saves a lot of work!

Having sown the carrot seed we cover it with hessian to keep the seed moist while it germinates
Having sown the carrot seed we cover it with hessian to keep the seed moist while it germinates

The trickiest thing with carrots is to keep the soil moist while they germinate. Over the years we’ve settled on putting some hessian over the top and then making sure we keep the hessian watered until the seed shoots. Here we are a week later and already the seed is sprouting!

New carrot seeds sprouting

We’ll keep the seeds moist over the next few weeks, gently lifting the hessian so it continues to act as a sun shelter until the plants really start to take off.


Rain interrupted gardening

It seems quite a long time (well just over a week really), when I started working on preparing the backgarden for autumn planting.

I confronted the bed where the ‘changeling’ squash was expanding exponentially and decided that I’d had enough of this not-a-zucchini so it was getting ripped out. We actually have no idea what this plant actually is – we thought we had planted more ‘Wrinkled from Friuli’ (Zuchetta rugosa friulana) in this bed but the fruit that I displayed in my post on this topic, was definitely not what I thought I’d planted.


It gave me a really good feeling to rip out these plants, plus they were mouldy and in the way.


Underneath I found all sorts of things. There was a self-sown tomato (with ripe fruit even!) and several beetroot plants.

I decided that I’d put a late crop of beans in, on the assumption that I might still get a result out of them, or at the worst I could dig the plants in as green manure if the frosts came early.

Despite the 260mls of rain we got last week which flooded around the beds,


the beans seem quite happy and are growing away well.


I think it will be the corn bed next. At least we got all the cobs off before the rain started.

Looking back what’s been grown over the last 6 months

I’ve been reviewing the past six months of growing so I can consider what has happened and what has and hasn’t worked in the garden over that time.
There is no getting away from the impact of our weather in recent times. We’ve had a full-on El Nino in recent years which has seen consistently lower than average rainfall, coupled with high summer temperatures.On the ground this has meant that we almost had a growing season split in two. Plants that got an early start produced well up to early January when our really hot dry weather kicked in. At that point a fair amount of our veggies barring the tomatoes in general and some of the plants such as our Blue and Strawberry popcorns protected by the trees on the western side of our garden basically struggled and it was all we could do to keep things alive. Once the worst of the hot weather passed we had a second growth spurt which allowed many of our original plantings and those second crops we put in to deliver plentifully.

We tried out plenty of new plants this year and the ones which I’m planning on going back into the garden again next time around include:

* Blue Popcorn – short and sturdy plants, much less water demanding
than the Sweet Corn, and produced lots of cobs (small but good).
We are really enjoying our popcorn;
* Eggplant ‘Prosperosa’ – my Italian favourite, beautiful to look at
and a great producer with very white flesh;
* Table King Acorn pumpkin – compact, as promised and produced well.
I’ll be adding more plants of this next year to boost the pumpkin
* Warrigal Greens – still growing despite several frosts, just keeps
expanding, we’ve cut it back to ground several times and its still
over a metre in diameter, makes the best creamed spinach;
* Red Mustard Greens – (also good during winter) the peppery flavour
sparks up a salad and is also good on a sandwich
* Komatsu (Japanese Spinach) – survived the heat well and generally
outlasted the silver beets continuous good cropper.

I’m also saving the seed from my ‘Front Garden’ tomatoes. I’m not sure which variety they are, somewhere between a Roma and an Amish Paste and as they were self sewn in the compost I’ll never be sure of their parentage, but boy did they deliver in the second half of summer. Beautiful to look at and great to eat – these were the ones that I picked 6 kilos of fruit off just before the frosts hit.

Thankfully the Southern Oscillation Index has moved into positive territory in recent weeks and some of the forecasters are thinking we may get a La Nina this year – very roughly speaking more rain rather than less.This is one of the stories slated for Landline (12.00 noon ABC TV on Sunday) so I’ll be watching to see what the outlook over the next few months is.

I’ll leave you with a small puzzle – what made the trails on the wall of the polyhouse? The answer is in the second photo.