Sad corn diary

It would be fair to say that this year has seen our worst corn harvest since we started growing it.

A truly sorry result for the Painted Mountain Corn.

In the front garden we planted Painted Mountain corn, named for the almost unbelievably brilliant colours of it’s kernels.

The intense colour of Painted Mountain corn

Only one plant made it to knee height, the rest barely made it out of the ground. I recorded in the garden diary that in December the plants came under attack from snails. There is no doubt that the primary culprit was our run of 4 days over 40 degrees in January. No amount of water could make up for the shock and while we only had another one or two days around the 40° mark, January 2019 was recorded as being the hottest on record going back to 1910. Despite this pretty awful result I did harvest enough kernels to have another go next year.

Kernels for next year’s crop

Out in the back garden things were marginally better. At least our popping corn, Ontos Oval, did manage to get above the 1 metre high mark. However it suffered from irregular watering. We didn’t notice that our automatic watering system had stopped working due to a flat battery in the timing system.

You can see from the photos that the cobs of this variety are a bit oval-ish in shape.

The kernels themselves are pointed like teardrops. This is the first year that we have grown this variety. I haven’t tried popping these yet. I might just do a side by side test with our regular Strawberry Popping corn

Somewhat better, the Ontos Oval corn from the back garden

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.

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.

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.

Tomato harvest

Last week I picked 5 kilos of tomatoes for our freezer. (This is what I’m reduced to by the end of the season when bottling and chutney making has overwhelmed me). Its so simple, pick tomatoes, wash off the bugs and dirt then stick the tomatoes in bags in the freezer. Come winter you can throw a handful of frozen tomatoes into your stew or curry and away you go. Sorry, but no, you can’t defrost them to slice for your sandwiches.

The other important harvest which also happened at the same time was tomato seed collecting.

my toms

We had lots of tomatoes this year, but the one that I really wanted to save seed from is the small, darkish-looking tomato sitting just above and to the right of the Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes. This tomato appears to be a cross between a Black Russian tomato and an egg tomato. As often happens it was self sown, from seed in our compost. It’s small but boy does it have a great flavour.

My friend E also gave me a selection of her tomatoes to try.

E's tomatoes

I’ve chosen to save some seed from the Tigerella, which we haven’t grown before, and the Black Russian.

To save the seed I let the tomatoes go a bit rotten and then squeezed the seeds into some water to help float some of the pulp off.


Next I washed the seeds in a sieve, under running water to get rid of the remaining pulp.tomseed2

Finally I put the seeds onto plates to dry, making sure I kept track of each lot of seeds ready to be packed away for next season.


Put the dried seeds in envelopes for storage.

Just after I’d set them on paper toweling to dry, I heard a gardening commentator say  put the seeds on a plate to dry, no paper needed! This makes the seeds easy to pack away. Oh well live and learn!