Return of the gardeners

It’s always with a degree of trepidation that I return to our garden after being away. While three weeks absence isn’t much, it did coincide with the first big flush of spring so the weeds are rampant and the vegetables are hard to find.

On a more positive note our two new chickens have started laying, so the daily egg count is growing nicely. A friend was looking after our tomato seedlings and they have flourished under their care.

I braved the front veggie patch this afternoon. Brave being the operative word. After half an hour of weeding I had scarcely managed to clear a metre of ground. What was more disappointing was that after that work it turned out that the purple podded peas were so spent that it actually wasn’t worth the effort to free them from the weeds.

Thankfully the shallots that I planted at either end of the bed are growing away reasonably well. I have now mulched them with sugar cane waste to see it I can slow down the ever ready weed population.

A further word on these beds that I planted out so hopefully a few months ago. You might remember that I tried out Tino Carnavale’s method of placing the seedlings near strings so the plants could readily climb to the top of their support. Sadly I have to report that for one of my beds this was almost a complete failure. Not Tino’s fault but my first qualification is don’t try this method where the plants will be effected by strong wind.

My purple Podded peas were growing away quite nicely when our spring gale force winds hit. The plants were clinging so tightly that almost all of one bed were immediately snapped off at the base. A second row of peas, planted in the shelter of the first row managed to survive somewhat better and they are starting to produce quite well. The bush peas planted nearby have just about disappeared under the weeds. However my Alderman climbing peas and my snow peas, planted in the more sheltered back garden, are podding quite well.

Probably best of all is that we are still harvesting some asparagus. Just enough to remind us what we missed out on during our holiday.

Autumn activities

We are still picking saffron flowers, over 230 so far, but now our thoughts are turning towards putting in our winter crops. Peas are the first to go in. Having successfully sown 4 varieties of seeds I’m now trying to get them all planted out into the garden.

It’s not just the digging and planting that is taking time, but I have also been wrapping copper tape around bits of pvc pipe to act as a barrier to all those snails and slugs trying to devastate my plants. My first planting was the Alderman climbing peas. I am growing them up some commercial mesh that I bought in Japan. 

Alderman pea seedlings in their snazzy copper collars

I also needed some new garden stakes, however because I always enjoy painting them interesting colours to make the garden just that bit more entertaining it took even longer to get them dry enough to use.

New garden stakes, painted and ready for action

Having gotten the stakes painted I used them in the front garden for my Purple Podded peas. I am putting in a different support here. Tying double pieces of string to the crossbeam and then securing the lower end to a stone or in this case a few small pieces of concrete. This way the growing plants can be slipped between the strings so the peas have an easy way to climb up. 

I ran out of pvc pipe to make protective collars so I have re-used some seedling pots, cutting the bottom out of them before adding the copper tape. In the background is the mulched area is where I have planted my bush peas. 

Since planting this lot I have also planted out some shallots at either end of the trellis. The shallots can be planted quite close together so it was a good use of the space left over from planting the peas.

And yes I still have to find a spot for my Snow peas!

Getting moving!

Mid-afternoon it hit me, OMG I haven’t planted any seeds for summer crops! I’d like to blame it on any manner of distractions, including re-planting the front garden (going pretty well), but I’ve clearly been drifting along these past few weeks.

Wahlenberia, aka 'Native' Bluebell, an established clump enjoying the new soil in the front garden
Wahlenberia, aka ‘Native’ Bluebell, an established clump enjoying the new soil in the front garden

Luckily we have boxes, I do mean it, of seeds so I pulled out some trays and pots and got stuck in. Peas and beans are at the top of the list. Purple Podded Peas, Snow Peas and Lazy Housewife Beansand some White Eggplants. All of theses seeds have come from our own plants so they are well adapted to our garden.

I also planted some Sweetcorn Honey Bicolour that was such a success last year but #### I just checked and confirmed my suspicion that this variety is a hybrid so the seeds will either be sterile or revert to one of the parent stock. So I’ll have to get out some other corns seeds instead. 

Plant labels from old plastic milk cartons
Plant labels from old plastic milk cartons

I made labels for the pots from an old milk container, but couldn’t get my pencil or marker to stay put. I ended up covering the end with masking tape and writing on that. As I worked I settled in to the rhythym of the afternoon, not too hot and a pleasant breeze. I could see House Sparrows moving around the old kale plants, a sure sign that the plants are failing and as they do so attracting insects to their decaying leaves. I also noticed that my Alpine Strawberry already had some fruit – which disappeared shortly after this photo was taken!

Alpine Strawberry with fruit.
Alpine Strawberry with fruit.

I checked out the regular strawberries and found my first ripe fruit of the season there as well. Time to feed the chooks their afternoon scratch and toss the chicks some green weeds to tear apart with their voracious little bills.

Time too to pick young broadbean pods and asparagus from the garden which are joining an eggplant for a Japanese inspired dinner this evening.

Dinner is on the way.
Dinner is on the way.

Happy spring seed raising to you.

Peas Please

With spring well underway all those peas I planted out several months ago are now starting to deliver. We had our first meal incorporating them last night – TB’s version of Mapo Tofu with some peas and asparagus for added flavour.

Massey bush peas, great for a small garden.
Massey bush peas, great for a small garden.

The first out of the pod are the Massey bush pea (above) which grow lots of pods on compact bushes. They are great for a small garden.

It will only be another day or two before we start harvesting our climbing peas. This year I have planted Alderman and Purple Podded Peas.

Alderman climbing peas.
Alderman climbing peas.

The Aldermans are galloping up the wire so quickly that we’ve had to tie a rather Heath Robinson arrangement of ex-curtain trim around the top of the stakes to try and provide some more support.

I’ve planted my favourite Purple Podded climbing peas in the front garden, where their striking two tone pink and purple flowers have already been mistaken for sweet-peas by a passing neighbour.

Purple Podded Peas, both the flowers and the pods make an attractive display.
Purple Podded Peas, both the flowers and the pods make an attractive display.

I do plant some peas just for the shear pleasure of their flowers. I love the many varieties of Australian native peas, such as this Mirbelia oxyloboides. I purchased this plant from a weekend market while I was on holidays in Bairnsdale several years ago – now I wish I’d bought more.

Mirbelia oxyloboides.

These plants bring to mind a scene I experienced in Namadgi National Park many years ago. Walking along the fire trails at Mt Ginini we could see the surrounding mountain slopes covered with thousands of flowering orange pea plants – quite amazing!

Small signs

As I look around the garden I’m starting to see small signs of movement towards spring. The first new shoots on the raspberry canes and my Purple-podded peas finally starting to twine up their supports.

Purple-podded Peas 28 July 2013
Purple-podded Peas 28 July 2013

We have also seen the first signs of pardalote’s checking out our newest compost pile for a nesting site. Oh well another year without being able to access the compost. We’ll just have to start a second heap as the pardalote’s are just too precious to evict.

A Pardalote's test hole for a nesting site
A Pardalote’s test hole for a nesting site

I’ve even indulged in that most arcane of gardening activities, pruning the dead leaves off my strawberry plants – it does help remove potential sources of viral infection. I even discovered that in spite of a week of below zero minimum temperatures some of my strawberry plants are trying to set fruit! A bit too early for success I suspect.

Strawberry plants getting a bit ahead of themselves in late July.
Strawberry plants getting a bit ahead of themselves in late July.