Thursday, November 11, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Shew what a busy few weeks. I thought I could avoid the December/January powdery mildew by planting the butternut out really early and harvesting by mid december, but lo and behold, the mildew came early this year. I've got my butternut growing up A- frame ladders and the lower leaves got hit. I've removed the affected leaves and did the milk/water (1/9) spraying and will do it a few times more. I've sprayed all my pumpkin, baby marrow and cucumbers as well, just to be on the safe side.

We harvested the first few peach off our tree yesterday and even though I've been spraying with Neem every 2nd day ('cos of the rain), a few still got stung. The birds have also been enjoying them (sigh).

This year I planted Marmande and Carbon tomatoes. I've been using the Florida weave staking method and must say that it's worked really well and requires minimal involvement once the initial setup is done. The Marmande are already about 1.5m high and looking strong.

I've pulled out most of the Romanesco brocolli plants as nothing seems to be happening- I suspect that it may be too hot for them. I've left two in, hoping they will go to seed.

What I've learnt from the last few weeks: When something in your life is not producing fruit or whatever it is producing, is not beneficial, pull it up and throw it away.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Using up the swiss chard

I managed to get some swiss chard into my family this week, with this easy recipe.
Braised half a sliced onion in a bit of oil, add some cumin/jeera and a bit of chilli or chilli powder. I add a quarter tsp chilli powder AND a whole chilli, so it's not too much for the kids but the hubby who likes things hot can munch on the chilli. If you have turmeric, add a quarter tsp.
Then add a clove or 2 of slice/chopped garlic. To this add a peeled and cubed potato, with a quarter cup water. Add your chopped swiss chard, toss a bit and cook for about 5minutes. Add about 3 tsp tomato paste to thicken the gravy - not necessary. Salt to taste.

I'd use about 6 cups chopped swiss chard to 1 medium potato.
We had it with roti - yum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Busy spring

Our property came with a peach, nectarine and lime tree. The quality of the fruit is amazing. I remember tasting the first peach off the tree last year, it was warm from the sun and perfectly ripe and juicy.

It gets a bit hectic in spring and early summer, as I need to spray the fruit trees quite regularly. I've been using 2 teaspoons neem oil diluted in a litre of water as a spray and it's worked really well. I have to spray weekly as well as after rain - which was quite often last year. The only fruit that got stung where the ones I couldn't reach with the stepladder (we've pruned the trees properly since then)

My biggest hassle was the sprayer - I tried a few different sprayers, as well as home made ones, but they were either inadequate or left me with cramped hands. So this is what hubby got me.

It works brilliantly. One lesson I've learnt the hard way - use the right tool for the job.

This spring has been really hot. I noticed that 2 of my swiss chard plants started bolting. Apparently they get bitter when they bolt. So, I've started to seriously harvest the Swiss chard - this is what I get every alternate day.
The plants where started almost a year ago. They've been excellent providers for the small space they occupy. I planted them in a protected spot in the veggie patch - so they were fine through the frosty nights. It was wonderful being able to get something out of the garden in the dead of winter. I can't feed Swiss chard to my family at the moment - the girls love it, but hubby has had too much :) So I chop it up fine, steam slightly and pop in the freezer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Avo tree & compost

Red billed wood hoopoe on my Avo tree.

It's a lovely, tall tree - there have been no fruit while we've been on the property (1.5 years). I was told to trim it down, but there are always birds at the top bits, so I'm not doing that. Two friends suggested knocking a nail in, which I have now done, as an experiment. We'll see what happens. After living in a townhouse complex for almost 8 years, I really appreciate the mature trees we have.

Hubby got me a copy of Steve Solomon's "Gardening when it counts" for my birthday. I'm reading the composting section for the 2nd time now - it's something I really want to get right. I seem to be doing quite a bit wrong though :( Two things that I need to fix in my existing heaps: 1) remove branches, bark etc and set them up in a pile of their own. 2) Add a thick layer of soil over the top of the piles, to trap the escaping ammonia.

Last night we got our first bit of rain for the season ... the girls where out dancing in it, they were so thrilled. My 2 little helpers often help in the garden - they happily take on any task and work really hard. Gardening with the girls is really special for me - I love that I can share something that I treasure with them.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Talk about cutting it thin

We eventually got the water timer working the night before we left for the coast. It took 2 visits to Builders Warehouse (for bits that my hubby had rendered unusable and extra sprinklers) and many many hours in the garden. It doesn't look great - black piping winding around the beds...but hey, at least it did the job.

We got back home during what felt like a heatwave and first chance I got, I popped out to the garden. The babymarrow and spinach where wilting, but they've since recovered nicely. Casualities where 1chilli plant and some bean seeds - I can confirm that overwatered bean seeds do indeed rot.... :)

So, apart from the bits of overwatering and underwatering, the timer and sprinklers where worth the effort, and their cost will eventually be offset by the savings in my veggie bill later in the season (that's what I keep telling myself). I hate wasting water, so I'll only use the timer when necessary. It makes more sense to inspect each bed and water where needed.

On a sad note, my gardener has gone and used up my wonderful horse manure on the lawn :( I only have a quarter bag left and am guarding it fiercely. My hubby already thinks I'm obsessed, because I was mourning all the kitchen peelings I had to throw away while on holiday. What's wrong with keeping them in the fridge to bring back home for the compost heap?

Have been terribly lax with posting pics, so I'll make an effort to get my camera hooked to my laptop sometime this week:)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Watering & Chilli seedlings

We'll be going away for a few days and I've been stressing about how to keep the veggie patch watered. The plants are so little, so their roots are not deep and we've been having really hot weather, with no rain in sight. I've tried the 2lt-bottles-with-a-pin-hole idea, but it's not going to be enough for the time we're away.

So, I bit the bullet and decided to coughed up the money for a timer - discovered a really nice one on special at Makro (bulk warehouse type store) – 33% off the normal price :) Now I have 2 days to figure out how to use it and to lay out the sprinklers etc - lucky we have all the other bits and bobs in the garden shed. As it will be a rush job, it’s not going to look pretty, but at least it will get the job done, and I won’t spend my holiday praying for rain over Gauteng :)

On another note, I came across "Chilli – Tobasco" seedlings which I couldn’t resist. Why couldn’t I resist this, you may ask? Because a few weeks ago, I found a recipe for tobasco sauce, one in which you ferment the sauce for a few months etc. Now, I know this is probably not the same chilli that’s used in the original recipe, but hey, if I’m going to try to make tobasco sauce, I might as well do it with a chilli called Tobasco :) Anyway, as would happen, I have now lost the above-mentioned recipe and will now have to trawl through 100’s of them on the internet.... Will post a link here when I do.

Edit: I just came across this at the site where I get some of my seeds from
So there's a chance that the chilli plants I have are the real tobasco - I'll compare them when I have the fruit....

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's September!

It's spring here in the southern hemisphere, which means lots of hard work for the people like me who leave things for the last minute :) My hubby has finally built my last 3 raised beds - but he assembled them completely out of the ground. Which means that I'll need to install them - lot's of digging.

I seem to have forgotten how to sow seeds, I'm not getting a very good success rate. Maybe it's the quality of the compost I'm using? I hate wasting seed - especially the heirloom ones that I bought, which work out to about a rand per seed!! I've even prayed over the little things :)

Had some poles delivered last week, will be setting them up for my tomatoes - am going to try the Florida Weave method of "staking" them. And my hubby's Aunt got me the most wonderful composted horse manure - I keep going out to admire the stuff - only another gardener can understand that :) I've already set out some manure tea to soak....

So my To-do list for this evening is:
Prep soil for Cukes, Marrows and butternut.
Plant out butternut that's ready (4)
Add some manure to pumpkin and marrow that's been planted out.
Spray Peach and nectarine with neem
Add mulch to rest to the planted beds
Test a soaker hose system for while we're away.
Trasplant tomatoes into bigger pots

And the rest of the week
Install the last 3 raised beds and kinda lasagne them
Dig in the tomato poles in 2 of the beds.

And while I'm doing all this, I'll be thanking the Lord for the gift of the garden and the space that allows me to grow pumpkins and have 3 compost piles. A gift that I know I don't deserve, given thru' grace and received with absolute gratitude...and willingness ;)