We’re back!

There was a short hiatus as we were gallivanting around Europe for three months. We left in early autumn and have returned in late winter.

Prior to leaving we planted garlic and broadbeans, which with the help of friends and the watering system, are growing strongly. Starting to clean up the spent summer crops yesterday I harvested these bean seeds. The strong, healthy seeds in the larger bowl will be used to grow next summers crop. The smaller seeds, some damaged by too much rain, will be used as part of a green manure crop.

In ground

The tomato harvest continues and this week we picked several of the Soldackis and prepared them for later use. I decided to roast the tomatoes with a bit of olive oil some salt and pepper. A slow cook resulted in two jars of pulp.

Two jars of roasted tomato pulp

To date we have collected nearly 200 saffron flowers or about a gram of the spice. This is our largest harvest to date and we’ve even had to find a larger jar to store the threads in! We still expect to be picking flowers for another week at least.

A picking of saffron, one of our better day”s harvest

Our chickens are, for the large part, taking it easy. Of the four of them only the smallest new chicken, called Little Frizz, is laying eggs. It seems amazing that this funny little animal is doing all the hard work. I do worry that her poor feather coverage will make winter very hard for her.

Little Frizz in the back garden

However it’s not all harvesting around here. Given that “April is for alliums”, as Tino was reminding us on Gardening Australia the other week, TB has been out planting onion seedlings and garlic bulbs. After a week the garlics are just starting to push through the soil and the onions are standing up.

A garlic shoot just peeping out of the ground

Changeover tactics

We are now hovering between the spring harvest and the summer plantings. TB has just harvested our garlic. There are not as many heads of garlic as last year – we did get a bit carried away there – but there is sufficient to get us through well into the new year.

Garlic harvest drying prior to storage.
Garlic harvest drying prior to storage.

Where the garlic was growing is where the first of our tomatoes will be planted. Although the gloss has worn off the annual Canberra tomato challenge with the news, reported in the pages of The Canberra Times, that one gardener in the suburb of Campbell, has already harvested his first bush-ripened tomato! Infamous!

We continue to harvest good quantities of peas and broadbeans. For once I’ve been picking pods of both plants frequently which has helped with maintaining the production of pods for as long a period as possible. What we are not going to eat straight away is blanched and frozen for future use. Of course our cat, not to mention one of our close friends, cannot see why we bother to eat them at all!

Can you believe that my owners actually eat these things!
Can you believe that my humans actually eat these things!

I am happy to say that my strawberries are already producing a steady amount of fruit. I enjoy being able to pick a juicy handful of strawberries to eat as I potter my way around the yard.

Getting Ready for Winter

Call that a beetroot!
Call that a beetroot!

Well we’re still waiting for the onset of the cold weather, but in the interim there’s been lots of preparation of new crops. Our broad beans, garlic and carrots have been planted and seeds of broccoli and turnips are sprouting in the polyhouse.

The carrot bed is prepared with very thorough weeding, on the left; and a covering of hessian to maintain an even moisture level, on the left.
The carrot bed is prepared with very thorough weeding, on the left; and a covering of hessian to maintain the even moisture level that is needed for the seeds to germinate.

We are leaving our pumpkins on the vines until the frosts start.

Butternut pumpkins waiting for harvest

There are still plenty of veggies to be harvested. A quick whip around the plants we were tidying up yielded this haul of zucchini’s, potatoes, eggplants and warrigal greens.

veggie harvest
What we found when cleaning out the last of the summer crops

Dinner that night was a cheesy vegetable bake, stuffed zucchini flowers and roasted potatoes.

Straight from the garden onto the plate.
Straight from the garden onto the plate.

Winter garden

 In the cold foggy light of a winter’s morning the back garden certainly seems rather forlorn and bedraggled.


The beds have been cleared and the pile of dirt in the background is where we have been harvesting our water chestnuts, a very unpleasant wet and cold task which has yet to be fully completed. A few fennel bulbs survive in the bed where the beans were growing in late summer. Our two best clumps of asparagus (foreground) have been cut back to stumps.


However just nearby is our herb bed (the semicircle in front) with some lettuces growing away and just behind that a sea of you garlic in protective milk carton collars. Behind the garlic are some rows of baby bok choy which came from our friend M. Further back is our still productive carrot bed. To the left again are some snow peas that are still producing the odd pod.


In front of the snow peas are some Mini White Turnips, which certainly don’t seem to mind the cold.

Out the front the legumes are leading the way.


The Purple Podded Peas I planted in the last days of April are now coming up well and hopefully will produce a great spring crop. The Welsh Bunching onions, behind them, are from last summer and are starting to run to flower. They are great in that rather than pulling them out completely, you can cut them off at the base and they will re-shoot.


The broad beans I planted at the same time as the peas are also up and growing, in front of them is very reluctant crop of mini cabbages which I don’t think will go anywhere. The red plants are chicory and more Mini White Turnips are planted next to them.

Enough computer work. I’m off to don some woolly socks and head out to deal with the remaining water chestnuts!

Moving right along!

With autumn moving swiftly to a close there is no time to be worrying about what has gone because what is happening now needs our attention. The winter crops we’ve been planting over the past few weeks are starting to make their appearance – purple-podded peas and broad beans are breaking through and the garlic that TB planted only last week has already leapt out of the ground.


We are still seeing plenty of cabbage white butterflies and I’ve even sprung them laying eggs on our new seedlings. So be vigilant because even those 2 & 3 mm caterpillars can demolish your young plants. Keep on squishing your butterfly eggs and young caterpillars now and your brassicas will come through with new undamaged leaves over the next few weeks, as the butterflies are be killed by the frosts.

Over the past week we have started the arduous, but ultimately rewarding task of preparing this years crop of persimmons for drying. If you want to understand why you can check out our efforts last year on this front. We were far too successful in converting our friends, not to mention the owner of the tree, to the joys of dried persimmons so that we are processing a much larger amount of fruit this year.


We’ve been working of our threading technique and have settled on using a needle to sew the thread through the stems to make hanging strings.


Next will come the peeling and drying!


How does your garlic grow

When we were at Lambrigg the weekend before last TB bought some packs of garlic from the Gundaroo Tiller – Allsun Farms stall , the Late Pink and the Hard-Stemmed Red, which he planted later the same day. Well blow me down if the Hard-Stemmed Reds aren’t already leaping out of the ground!

We got an even greater surprise when we were doing the standard garden tour for our friend’s Mum on Monday when we saw that our saffron was already flowering! Three flowers already open. We made a very bad decision and didn’t pick them on the spot. When I went to pick them this morning another garden gourmet had eaten the pistils of all three flowers. At least they didn’t get the two flowers about to open because I got them first.

By the way if you are still after saffron bulbs I actually spotted them at Bunnings Tuggeranong on the weekend, three bulbs for $10. Just remember to check that you buy Crocus sativa, (and if you don’t let on that I’ve been to the evil giant of hardware I won’t tell anyone where you got your saffron from.)