Redolent

That’s about the only way to describe the smell in my car this morning as I drove home from the nursery with bags of compost cow manure and potting mix.

Luckily I was able to temper the odours a bit by stopping at the local coffee shop to pick up a large bucket of coffee grounds. I even had time for a cup of hot chocolate and a quick sketch. The coffee grounds will be used as a barrier to dissuade the local snails and slugs from completely destroying the lettuce and kale seedlings.

Much more pleasant was the glorious scent of the broad bean flowers, next to where the lettuce were planted out. And yes I even managed to plant out all the new seedlings and pot up my new Bay tree.

Must be the scent of spring!

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Spring at last,

Today is warm and blustery, typical for spring in Canberra. Before the expected cold change hits this afternoon I took the opportunity to plant some cold tolerant seeds out. This included beetroot, lettuce, kailaan (a brassica) and snowball turnips.

I have tucked them away in a plastic bag, to make a mini-greenhouse for them.

A quick update on the chicken greens – as you can see below they are growing away nicely. Time to plant out some new trays.

And a final picture from my spring garden. Daffodils and jonquils against a backdrop of wattle.

Strange behaviour in the garden

Even as I’m sitting to write this post there’s a bump on the front window – it’s that Red Wattlebird again! For the past few days I’ve seen them scouring our windows and those of my neighbours, not for insects as I first thought, but spider’s webs. It’s nest building time! Try as I might I’ve not caught their activities with the camera as yet, but the Peewees (or mudlarks for those from further south and west from where I grew up) are another matter.

Checking out some nest building material
Checking out some nest building material

It took me a while to realise that they weren’t digging around our water chestnuts for insects or the corms. They wanted that muddy spent foliage for their nests. Peewees build the most beautiful mud nests, somewhat smaller than the large mud bowls built by Choughs. The Peewee’s mud bowl is built on a branch high enough and far out along the limb enough to make it hard for predators to get them. In the past I’ve seen these nest built out over creeks, or in the absence of a watercourse built over a busy road.

About to fly to the construction site
About to fly to the construction site

These birds are nesting in our neighbours tree, one of the few large trees still around us. I fear that the number of really tall and old trees that have been cut down in our area will be having a negative impact on the number of birds nesting in our suburbs. I’m pleased that in our own small way we are providing ‘garden services’ for those who are trying to raise their young.

PS Pardalote Palisades seems to be keeping the Currawongs and neighbourhood cats at bay. Fingers crossed.

 

All the signs …

Spring is nearly here, just under two weeks to go until the official start of the ‘growing’ season. The wattle is flowering, the chickens are laying more consistently (well at least two of them are), the days are getting longer and most incontrovertible of all, I have an overwhelming urge to go to the nursery and spend up big on any plant I see.

Newly bought seedlings and some early seed propagation in the polyhouse.
Newly bought seedlings and some early seed propagation in the polyhouse.

I’ve found it all so hard to resist. We gave in last week and bought a few punnets of plants, pak choy and lettuces, that will be able to survive in the current low temperatures and will survive the inevitable frosts. And yes, at the back, that is a tray of pea seeds that I planted in their traditional loo roll tubes, yesterday. By the time they are up they will be well able to cope with the outside temperatures. Parsley, at the front, was transplanted from tidying up in the front veggie garden. Most of these are destined for give-aways to friends and neighbours.

I am also trying to be a bit more logical in assessing what we have in the garden and what we need to source for the garden. A case in point are the strawberries. Our current crop are well past their use-by date as can be seen in the spotty, virus laden foliage. These have to be rooted out, quite literally and replaced.

Bad strawberry!
Bad strawberry!

I have some previous years runners in pots, but I still have to check whether they are clear of viruses. I did buy four new plants of the strawberry variety Hokowase, which originated in Japan and friend M says she will give me some of her runners. So once I wrestle with digging out the old plants, tossing them in the bin to avoid any further infection and replacing the soil in the brick niches I will be able to replant.

I’m working off, or perhaps working up, my spring gardening urges by reading gardening books and listening to gardening podcasts. Top of the reading list at the moment is A Year at Otter Farm, by Mark Diacono (Bloomsbury Press 2014).

A year at Otter farm, cover illustration by Andrew Lyons.
A year at Otter farm, cover illustration by Andrew Lyons.

Yes, I was sucked in by Andrew Lyons’ beautiful cover illustration, but equally so by the fact that Mark has a recipe for Jerusalem artichoke cake. Anyone who grows these yummy tubers will know that, like zucchinis, you can never have too many recipes for using them all up! This book ticks all my boxes. It’s seasonal, the recipes are sorted by main ingredient and the recipes are sensibly listed on the page where the vegetable is discussed. Such an obvious idea and yet I think this is the first time I’ve seen it in use. Mark is also growing some of the less common veggies and it’s great to get his growing tips and learn from his experience. While Mark is living in the UK it is easy enough to follow the seasons through the book by simply ignoring the month listed at the chapter heading.

I’m also going overseas for my favourite podcast over at You Grow Girl. Gayla Trail’s blog (Gayla is based in Toronto, Canada) was one of the first gardening blogs I found all those years ago. I must say that I had not been catching up with it recently so I was pleasantly surprised when I dropped by the other day to see that she is now podcasting. Her podcasts go under the title of What’cha Growin. I like what she is doing – I’ve listened to four podcats so far – Gayla has some really interesting guests. Some are experienced, others raw beginners from both rural and really urban gardens – have you ever had a gunshot victim laid in your garden while waiting for the ambulance? I’ve been really disciplined starting from her first podcast, but I’m building up to episode 7, when she interviews Alys Fowler, one of the UK’s leading veggie garden promoters.

Bring spring on, I’m ready!

 

 

 

Early one morning

Not much beats the enjoyment of taking a stroll around the garden early in the day. It was a bit foggy this morning and everything was fresh from a bit of overnight rain.

Looking down the garden to the last of the nectarine blossom and a rampant green manure patch. In the fore ground a corner of the new mosaic border for the strawberry patch.

Spring_garden

The chooks pottering around their pen.

Chooks

The first potatoes growing out of the potato stack.

Potatoes

The Japanese maple unfurling its new leaves against the grey sky.

Maple

Last years kale on their ‘walking stick’ legs, going to flower and soon to make way for new plants.

Kale

Encouragement for new veggie growers – pots of seeds being planted ready for the school fete.

Seedlings

 

Signs of Spring? #2

Here’s confirmation that spring is definitely on the way ..YES … the magpie has started attacking the postman again. Poor man, you can here the bird coming as he rides down the street.

Spring

This fits right in with the description from the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung and aboriginal communities of south-western Victoria (Gariwerd-Grampians) that this season is larneuk – the season of nesting birds and changeable weather.

In terms of D’harawal seasons (Sydney area) July and August is the season of Golden wattle blooms and Lyrebirds building their dancing mounds, while the days become longer and the cool south westerly blows.

More information of indigenous weather knowledge can be found at the Bureau of Meteorology website.

 

Signs of Spring?

I know its really cold in the mornings and friend M has just told me the water bottles in her greenhouse have frozen, but I think we are starting to see some early signs of spring stirring.

My sense of hope is being raised by observations our local birdlife. Mapies flying across our yard with bills full of nesting materials; aerial battles between groups of currawongs, including one Grey Currawong, for the nest space in our neighbours gum tree; and the swans with cygnets we saw near Lake Tuggeranong last Friday.

Swans

Ain’t nature grand!