The big tomato

Our tomatoes have been the star of our summer garden. Of all the varieties we planted this year, the oxhearts have been outstanding. This afternoon we picked this wopper, weighing in at 485 grams or roughly 1 pound in the old money.

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Forward Planning

My friends have just moved to a new home which does not have much in the way of a garden, except for lawn, some undistinguished shrubs and a photinia hedge around the back yard (not my favourite plant). On the plus side this does mean that they are not too distressed at changing what is currently there to a new design that will include raised veggie beds, a pergola and a small orchard.

Planning

A design concept from the youngest member of the family.

Before they moved they did at least have sufficient time to transplant some of their prized asparagus plants to the new garden. The asparagus is already taking advantage of their warm northerly aspect and are pushing their spears up out of the ground. Envy, envy, envy. I don’t expect to see our asparagus for the better part of a month yet.

Back at Chez Fork we are also shifting and renewing garden beds. So what’s new? With the Palais des Poules in place we’ve lost several square metres where we used to grow vegs. Next to the chook pen TB has built a mound to grow pumpkins. The aim is to encourage the pumpkins to grow up a trellise (not yet in place) along the western end of the chook pen. Hopefully the chooks will get some shade and the pumpkins will be marginally more constrained than they are most years.

Pumpkin_mound

We have just taken a delivery from Eden Seeds including a new pumpkin for us Styrian Hull-less, the latter referring to its ability to grow good pepitas. We also have two varities of tomatoes to try Lecase di Apulia: a plum shaped red fruit to 50mm, Italian drying type, small bush plants. We like having lots of tomatoes for saucing and pulping. The second is Thai Pink Egg: jade-pink egg shaped fruit to 40mm use fresh and in salads, sweet firm flesh, incredibly prolific, resists cracking even in heavy rain areas.

Springseeds

After last summer’s drenching rains when we lost almost all of our Black Krims to splitting, a plant that resists cracking seems a good idea.

Finding room to grow potatoes is a perennial question for us. A crop large enough to provide a year long supply takse up a lot of space.  We’ve considered getting a plot at a community garden solely to grow potatoes. We already have one lot spuds growing in the giant purple pot, from which we got several kilos of spuds earlier this year.

Potato_stack

Growing up is definitely the way to go so TB made a cylinder out of large chicken wire, supported by several stakes. He then started layering it with compost, straw and some blood and bone, adding potatoes as he went. I’m told that there are three layers of potatoes in here already. Of course it will all settle down over time so more layers and more spuds will be added in the coming weeks. This must be a good idea as they showed how to make one on Gardening Australia last night!

 

 

Carrots in a clamp

We planted a crop of carrots in late January and have been steadily picking them through the winter months. This past weekend we’ve lifted what is left of the crop – a respectable 7 kilograms (minus all the leafy bits) – before they all start to go to seed. We will be turning the bed over to a crop of brassicas, kale and collard greens along with some dill.

Carrot_harvest

As you can see we grow a range of different coloured carrots – purple, yellow and white – and since we’ve been harvesting our home-grown seed over the past few seasons we now have quite a few colours in between.

We are taking several approaches to keeping our carrots in good enough condition to eat while our new crop matures. The bulk of the carrots are being stored in a ‘clamp’ of damp sand. We first saw this technique used on the The Victorian Kitchen Garden (an endlessly fascinating BBC TV series from the 1990’s that was re-released as a DVD in 2006). This technique was used to store all sorts of root crops such as parsnips and carrots, prior to the advent of refrigeration.

Carrotclamp2

It’s pretty straight forward. The cleaned carrots, with most of the green top removed, are placed in a suitable box on a layer of damp sand, (we used a 20kg bag of river sand from the garden centre) with more sand placed around and over them. The good thing is that the sand can be recycled for future use for storage or other projects

Carrotclamp1

It turns out that I needn’t have been so careful about placing the carrots, it would have been OK to have them much closer together. Anyway they are all packed away now and we will be storing them in the shade on the cool side of the house.

While the bigger carrots went into the clamp I was left to deal with a stack of what we jokingly refer to as our ‘gourmet micro-carrots’.

Baby_carrots

While they are fiddly to clean these little guys are just the perfect size for blanching for a few minutes in boiling water before I spread them on a tray to freeze.

Carrotfreeze

Once frozen they can be happily packed into bags for long term storage.

Of course we still needed to complete the cycle so before we packed it in for the day TB sowed our new carrot crop.

Carrotseed

He’s not planting a mix of sand and carrot seed here (as is frequently suggested to help the fine seed spread eavenly) – this is pure carrot seed. We’ll just stick to our standard approach of letting all the carrots sprout and thin by eating them from micro size and upwards.