Weather

Another day of icy Antarctic blasts after that tempting warm spell late last week. Today we had 37 mms of rain in the gauge so that at least is a positive. The long term forecast is for an El Nino this year so we can expect above average temperatures and a lot less rain. So any soil moisture we can get now, along with run-off into the dams is welcome. On the negative side – the strong winds have torn several holes in the polyhouse roof which will need fixing quite quickly.

Fixing a hole where the rain gets in ...
Fixing a hole where the rain gets in …

Luckily the only seedlings I have in there are tough old brassicas, Kailan (sometimes spelled kailaan), or Chinese Broccoli, which will be able to stand the cold for a while.

Small but tough Kailan seedlings
Small but tough Kailan seedlings

Walking around the garden after the rain I spot some self sown seedlings. Two brassicas, one Red Russian Kale and this Red Mustard – a favourite in salads.

Self sown Red Mustard
Self sown Red Mustard

Saving the best until last, another one of the hen’s started laying today. Which just puts the pressure on the last one to get a move on. Hooray fresh eggs again!

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Christmas collection

In the lead up to Christmas its all ‘go’ as we change over our crops. The tomatoes are in, the beans have replaced the peas and the carrots have been selectively weeded to remove those going to seed. We are working hard to get all the seedlings out of the polyhouse and into the garden beds.

We like to collect seed from our old crops as while we are pulling out the old plants. It is a gift that keeps on giving. After 5 years of veggie gardening the bulk of our regular crops are grown from seed that we or our other gardening friends have saved.

A range of our peas and some Bulbine Lily seeds, ready for the next season.
A range of our peas and some Bulbine Lily seeds, ready for the next season.

Stripping the seed from our Red Mustard plants (Brassica juncea) turned out to be an unexpected  pleasure. The seed pods are divided in two by a fine membrane. As you split the pods the outer parts fall away leaving the membrane attached to the stem.

A partially stripped stem of Red Mustard. The full pods are to the left and the membranes are to the right in the picture.
A partially stripped stem of Red Mustard. The full pods are to the left and the membranes are to the right in the picture.

Then I had one of those ‘duh!’ moments – I was stripping mustard seeds! Just how many mustard seeds do I need for replanting? A quick search of the interweb revealed that apart from eating the leaves, which is what we grow them for, this type of mustard can be used for making mustard oil and is also known as ‘brown’ mustard. Home made mustard anyone?

Bulk mustard seeds and some kale seeds, to be dryed for mustard seed.
Bulk mustard seeds and some kale seeds, to be dryed for mustard seed.

We figure we should get a small jar of seeds from this lot. At least enough for us to get a reasonable sample of mustard. We’ll let you know how it turns out.

A job done

It feels good to have worked in the garden today.

I started to clean up the ‘three sisters’ bed last week

Fisrt stage of the clean-up, cutting back the corn and beans
First stage of the clean-up, cutting back the corn and beans

and found some unexpected bounty among the spent plants.

A butternut pumpkin and some small cobs of blue popcorn
A butternut pumpkin and some small cobs of blue popcorn

I was going to leave what was left of the corn plants on the bed. This would have protected the scarlet runner bean plants from the frost. But then I decided it would be better for the soil if I planted another crop there instead.

So today I planted out some red mustard and komatsuna, a Japanese brassica. The bean plants are still there and we hope they will re-shoot in spring. Scarlet runner beans are also called seven year beans, a reference to their ability to grow for several seasons. So far we have only had one season from them, but this year …

A seedling red mustard
A seedling red mustard

The red colouring in this seedling will become more obvious in the mature plant. I welcome its colour in my garden. Apart from tasting very good the other reason I was keen to plant the red mustard is that as it grows it will release compounds that naturally suppress soil pests and pathogens. All the better for my garden bed ‘s next crop.

I also managed to plant out my last batch of pea seedlings. These plants are Massey Bush peas. They have been slow to germinate and I’ve had quite a few that haven’t shot at all. I think that the seed may have been a bit old. Before planting the seedlings I dug some blood and bone into the soil and found about 10 white curl grubs (larvae of Scarab beetles) which were greedily eaten by the chooks. Talk about natural pest control.

Having worked for several hours it felt good to go and relax in a hot bath.