Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's for dinner?

Or should I say was, seeing as I just ate it!

Home made gnocchi using Veggiegobbler's recipe, with a simplified eggplant capponata made with my first harvested eggplant from diggers seeds, tomatoes, onions, garlic and olives. Totally simple and divinely satisfying!


Contrary to popular belief I still do have my summer crops growing in the patch and still have plenty of tomatoes, eggplants and capsicum. I can't wait to make this again with the next eggplant waiting to be harvested! Ive never grown the stripey ones before. They are very tasty!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Plant Profile - Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

As the weather cools down the colour of the Sedums heat up!
Sedums are a genus of deciduous and non deciduous ground cover and shrub formin succulent like plants that are very good at multiplying and adding colour to the garden as well as textural contrast.

They are very popular in the design world, especially as plant material for roof gardens as they are some of the toughest plants around.

The particular plant that I am featuring today is a favorite of mine, for the simple fact that it looks great through the growing season and amazes me that it changes colour gradually from spring to summer to autumn.

It can grow to 30-50cm tall x 40-50cm, with stems culminating in large papery umbels that change colour from white to light pink, salmon and dark red.

The pictures below were taken almost two weeks apart and look at the colour difference!


They will keep changing colour until winter, when I will have to cut them to the ground, awaiting spring to bring them back to life. All in all they are a pretty and VERY tough drought tolerant plant, ideal for perennial borders or a dry garden like mine that I wrote about here in the post Character Building.
The trick is however, to have something take its place in winter so that you don't have bare spots in the garden. I have some native grasses Poa ensiformis or Purple Sheathed Tussock grass on its way to taking over the spot, but above it I have a Mexican Sage (Salvia leuchantha) plant that looks great in winter and is slowly enveloping the whole garden bed with its reaching purple bracts.

So why not put a Sedum in this weekend, in a sunny spot with reasonable drainage and let it reward you with its pretty changing flowers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cleaning out the Patch

Autumn planting us underway and I haven't quite followed the plan to the letter, but hey, plans are made for the changing!

Almost all the summer crops are out except for the tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, eggplants and capsicums which are still kicking on and providing regular forage for my new feathered children.

Bounty from one of the cleared beds.
I harvested about 4kgs of beans when I pulled the plants out and they were podded and cooked fresh into a Greek bean stew. Rather tasty!

Allota beans!
I also harvested one of the biggest Aunt Ruby's Green tomatoes! Ollie was quite interested in it for some reason...
I thinned out the tomato patch to increase air circulation and to remove damage leaves affected with powdery mildew. Its been good having lots of space between the individual plants although now that its so open the fruit is getting sunburned so I've thrown a length of shade cloth over.


Also, the English Lavender hedge is in, underplanting the two fruit trees I have so far for espaliering. I'm still to make the frame for the trees, but we will build one into the fence that will eventually go around the patch. The tall stake in the foreground is the location of the next fruit tree - yet to be purchased!


All in all, a busy time for the garden!

By the way, the next two days will be the time to plant Sweet Peas! Its usually done on St Pats day, but the moon calender told me that its time now! Cant fight with the moon calender!

The girls are in!

Last weekend (Friday night) Joel and I madly finished off the coop for the girls with the hope of having it ready for their arrival on Staurday. We managed to convert the old aviary into their run and added a raised house / nesting box to maximise space.

Coop in the early stages, under construction!
I paved the area where the ladder is to stop undesirables (mainly Ollie) from burrowing their way in which also serves as a sheltered storage area for the feed bin and the hay bales.

I drove up to the chicken 'farm' at Macclesfield with my mum and we picked out our girls - after much umming and arhing and decided one of each colour would do! And here they are:

They are standard sized and are a few weeks off laying, but will hopefully get their feathers together and give us some eggs because I refuse to buy eggs anymore. Haha! It's alright my darlings, no pressure. Promise!

The lady on the left - her name is Julia (can anyone guess who she is named after? Hint: she is the top chicken) and she is a cross breed Sussex and possibly Barnevelder. The lady in the middle is an Australorp named Melanie and she has a dual identity. The name Melanie has its origins in the Greek word for melanin and seeing as she is black - well that's a no brainer, BUT, her nickname is Melli, which in Greek means honey, so really her name is Black Honey Chicken (Joel and I like honey chicken from the local Chinese takeaway). She likes looking out at the view and in particular likes her creek side property. Last, but not least is the lovely white Sussex. She is particularly round, cute and fluffy and is named Dumpling. There are no particular character traits with Dumpling, but its only been a few days, so we are still getting to know one another. 

Sussing out the new digs and keeping an eye on Ollie!
I love visiting my girls in the morning, giving them veggie scraps and seeing how excited they get about red things, particularly watermelon, beetroots and strawberries. They weren't hand reared, so they are a bight flighty when I get into the run, but hopefully soon they will associate me with food and love me. I will also need to train them to be picked up because they don't really like that either.

There are still some things to do to fine tune the coop and nesting boxes, but I'm keen to see how things work or don't work and make changes where they are needed.
I have to secure the food and water though because they manage to knock that over... Note to self.

I'm so excited to have chickens at last! I can't wait to have them running around the garden, entertaining us with their antics! Hopefully we can sort out Ollie and teach him that they are off limits and are in fact not feathered rabbits!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Childhood Memories of a Garden

I'm a little sad at the moment, my tough old, ex copper Gran has moved to an aged care facility and thus her house has been sold.
I have strong connections to both my grandparents homes (both Mum and Dad's parents) as I spent a lot of time with them as a child. I especially have fond memories of spending time with my Grandpa (passed away long ago) in his 2 hot houses and 2 shade houses where he grew show winning Orchids, both native and fabulous exotics such as tropical Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum and Catlleyas. He even had a Paphiopedilum (Slipper Orchid) named after him! He also had a great vegetable garden and I remember getting into lots of trouble after cleaning out the bean patch! I used to love being there with him, identifying things and him showing me how to water properly and prune things...

The photo above shows one of the shade houses and also the fenced garden where he had his veggie garden. The fence was to keep out Straz, their eternally hungry sausage dog! I'm really happy that I managed to salvage his garden gate so that I can use it for my vegie garden and be reminded of him and our time together every time I'm picking some herbs or my beans!
There is also a great old lemon, blood plum and pomegranate tree all of which I will miss.
The sad thing is, is that the typical sized block is prime real estate for 3-4 townhouses and the block has been bought by a developer. These wonderful trees and little brick house will not be long for this world. At least I have the memories that will always be in my heart.


Goodbye Grandma and Grandpa's little house and garden full of happy times.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fowl Work

What does:

Scrap timber

+

Scrap corrugated iron

+


Hay, shade cloth and small wire baskets

+


Old broom handles and dowel

+


AND an old Aviary

= ?




CHICKENS!

Today is a public holiday in Victoria and I'm spending it building a chicken coop!
I cant wait to have fresh eggs, hear the lovely comforting clucky sound and have somewhere to put my cucumbers (I don't like cucumbers but for some reason I planted 6 and I cant give any more away!!) and vegie scraps!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Character Building

Since before Joel and I moved into  / bought our little cottage, I had been collecting plants from all over the place, knowing that 'some time soon' we would eventually have our own garden.
I ended up having to wait over a year between looking for a house and finally buying one and during that time the plants I had been collecting kept on piling up so to speak in a mish mash of exotic perennials, succulents, natives and indigenous plants. I didn't really have a vision of how I'd put the plants together, whether I'd group them botanical garden style into species, ecosystem / country of origin, but I knew that I liked them and somehow had to find a home for them.

When we found the cottage, I could see straight away that the plants I bought would fit perfectly all mashed together in a wild dry garden style with a palate of greys, olives, limey greens, purples, yellows and reds - perfect garden character to frame a little rammed earth cottage with a fair bit of wear and tear.

The garden originally had a lot of grass, pine trees, an old rose, a few irises and a lot of agapanthus - so essentially a clean slate.
In order to tackle it. I broke the garden up into areas - zones that I will progressively work on when we have the time and funds.

The area we first started was around the house, where I could plant my pride and joy - a beautiful 'Silver Princess' (Eucalyptus caesia - Small Mallee gum from WA with beautiful flowers, nuts and graceful habit. Perfect for a small garden) that was a gift from my boss when I bought the house. At the moment it is looking really great and I'm rather pleased. I featured the plants in the front garden area on my previous post 'Colours and textures in the garden'  (http://ballynoecottage.blogspot.com/2011/02/colours-and-textures-in-graden.html).
But I think its time to show you the whole thing! In the photo below, you can see the combination of colours and textures that are so important when creating interest in the garden. Its a very small garden bed of only a few square metres, but I have packed a lot in!

Front garden bed with the Silver princess to the right.

The key plants in this garden are:
- Irises - they are tough and add a vertical element with their upright foliage and grey colour.
- Festuca glauca, Blue Grass - a tough little clumping grass that is great for borders and edging. Great to contrast with bright green plants.
- Myoporum parvifolium, Creeping Boobialla - A native ground cover that is bright green all year round and continuously flowers pretty little white. Great contrasting material as it has very fine foliage with great colour.
- Sedum 'Autumn Joy' - with its fleshy green leaves and pretty pink umbel flower heads its a great tough plant for a dry garden. It is deciduous however and dies back to the ground in winter but it multiplies and flowers all through summer and autumn.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
- Cotyledon orbiculata or 'Pigs Ears' is another FAB succulent that is used for contrast as its bright silver colour grabs the eye and adds a sense of punctuation.
- Limonium perezii, Sea Holly - another great tough plant with pretty purple umbell flowers that are everlasting. The foliage shape is also great as it is round and perfect for contrasting fine foliaged plants against.


Salvia 'Mexican Sage' and Euphorbia wilfenii hiding below.
- Salvia 'Mexican Sage' - Is a great plant for this time of year. Its a great filler with pretty, vibrant purple spike flowers. The foliage also is interesting as the leaves have a geometric quality to them which works well with rounder leaves for contrast.
- Euphorbia wulfenii, 'Wulfen Spurge' - Is a great dry garden plant that will flower in winter with big yellow pompom like flowers that extend above the foliage. I have it tucked under the Mexican sage, but when I chop it down in winter the Euphorbia will take its place! 

On the other side of this little garden bed, I am mirroring many of the plants in order to create a sense of balance. These garden beds are either side of the side path that takes you from the front to the back garden via the veggie garden.


Helichrysum petiolare - Fabulous grey plant as a feature in the garden!

This garden is very young - less than 2 months, but I am establishing the foundation plants ie. the ones that will provide structure and background contrast so that I can fill in the gaps with pretty things at the nursery that take my fancy.



The centre piece of this garden is a Crepe Myrtle with reddy pink flowers. I am CRAZY about crepe myrtles and think they are a great tree for small gardens as they have some striking feature ever season, be it flowers in summer, foliage colour in autumn, striking bark in winter and spring and are generally tough and good size. The tree will get to 6 or so metres and will give some shade to the veggie garden behind from the harsh summer afternoon sun. I have under planted with a mix of natives and exotics, similar to the other garden which you can see on the other side of the path.

I'd also like to draw attention to Joel's FANTASTIC gate! Isn't it great! With the help of my dad and his magical man shed, they were able to create a feature out of standard concrete reinforcing and steel that sits so well with the other elements of the garden. We will also build an arbour over it to match and I will plant a couple of old fashioned David Austin roses over it to complete the picture.

One day I'd like to have the garden open as part of the open garden scheme but that's a long way off. I have tackled about 15% of the garden as we have a reasonable large block, but we will will eventually plant out the native section where I will display my collection of wonderful natives - specialising in natives from western Australia and the mallee regions of the country. One day...

All in all its a bit wild looking but I think it suits the style of the house and ties in wonderfully with the fence and new gate that Joel is making.

I hope it gives you a better idea of the garden, and what I am on about! And remember its all about: foliage colour + foliage texture + contrast. Plants generally don't flower all year round and so the leaves are what you want to make the most of...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Autumn Plans

After seeing my bloging friends already underway with their autumn plantings I began feeling a little behind! My beds are still full of summer produce, albeit a little powdery, motley and squishy (thanks to the tomato caterpillars) and it’s going to be hard pulling it all out! But still, my mind is drifting to the cooler months and imaging all the yummy soups and stews I will want to make when its time to start using the wood fire to keep warm…
So, this weekend I went through one of my seed boxes with a combination of my newest seeds and my oldest (pre 2006!!) in preparation of the coming veggie garden apocalypse (slightly dramatic, but it feels that way!).

I recently ordered some of this seasons seeds from Eden Seeds, being Broad beans, chick peas (never grown these before) and some snow peas. I’m looking forward to trying these guys out because they are really friendly, have a great catalogue selection and post very quickly, unlike Diggers, which I will never buy from again (due to poor service and lax delivery communication and posting time – taking 2 months and forgetting an order is not cool, neither is paying full price for a tree and receiving a 10cm tall sapling...).

Anyway, the plan is to progressively clear the beds as the summer harvest winds down and add some poo, compost etc and plant accordingly to the what will follow next spring / summer.   

I’ve prepared a quick diagram of the veggie garden to help give you better idea of what I’m going on about:



Bed 1 is almost ready to go with the corn having been removed and the beans and zucchinis on their way out. They will make way for 3 kinds of broad beans, all of varying harvest time so that I can maximize the fruiting period. I will also use these as a green manure crop by digging them in once they have finished next spring.

Bed 2, has some onions and leeks which I planted a while ago that will stay but the bed will otherwise be planted with chick peas, sugar snap and snow peas. (I like my peas). These too will be dug into the soil once they have finished.

As bed 1 and 2 break down, they will release significant amounts of nitrogen that they have fixed during the growing season (being legumes, that’s just what they do best). This will then make bed 1 and 2 optimal for spring and summers leafy green crops that need lots of nitrogen! Hello corn and lettuce!

Bed 3 will be the leafy green crop with lettuces, rocket, radicchio, kale and asian greens. I also need somewhere for my fennel (love fennel) so I’ll plant some there too. In the coming S/S/11/12 season I’ll be planting CARROTS! Because they don’t like nitrogen or lots of poo (which the lettuces will take up during winter).

Bed 4 is the bottom of the seed box bed and all my old seeds will be thrown in to make a complete green manure crop…

The reason I’m putting so much effort into the green manure crop is because the soil that I bought when I built the beds was pretty poor and nutrient deficient (read crappy bottom of the pile, pine bark mulch – not happy Jan). I had a pretty good season this year because my lovely Joel dug in heaps of roadside poo and mulched with pea straw. I also had donations of peletised manure from my wonderful mum which helped to get the tomatoes going.  

Im also planing an espalier fruit tree 'fence' along the front of the veggie garden which will be a lovely green screen to separeate the areas of garden that follow the path along the northern side of the house (more on that soon). 

All in all I’m pretty excited about this autumn / winter! The garden is coming along really well and I’m just loving getting out into it and great produce out of it!

I will also be posting soon about all the ornamental gardening that I have been doing. There is so much going on at the cottage!!




Saturday, March 5, 2011

Whats for dinner?

Beetroot fritters with a 'green' salad of Aunt Ruby's Green tomatoes, baby Lebanese and black zucchinis as well as basil!
Couldnt fit it all on my chair!


Steamed and grated beetroot (Bulls Blood) is mixed in with mashed canned chick peas (use re hydrated dry for a less sloppy mix), 1 egg, 1 tbsp tahini, 1 spring onion, various herbs (mint, parsley, oregano etc) S & P and 1 tsp ground cumin! Very easy, great colour and a great way to use the end of the beetroots. 

I love the green tomatoes! I will definitely grow them again. They are firm, tasty and don't goo in your sandwich at work. I hate gooey sandwiches!



Thursday, March 3, 2011

Back from the Wild

I've just returned from a rather wonderful camping holiday in south eastern NSW! I'm feeling wonderfully relaxed and invigorated and ready for the coming planting season!

There were plenty of long walks on the beach, swimming, snorkeling and fishing. As well as the wonderful time passing activity of shell collecting!


But my favorite thing I did was to explore the beautiful brackish creeks in my Kayak. The scenery was beautiful and there was a great diversity of vegetation to examine whilst going at a slow paddling pace.

Late summer is a quiet time for native plants in southern Australia but the beautiful Heaths (Epacris sp.) were at their best and added a flash of colour to the beautiful bush.

I came home to a cacophony of produce including RED TOMATOES and plenty of beans and cucumbers!

Success! Finally its tomato time!
There is plenty to do in the garden now and I'm going to have to pull up my socks and grab my seeds and get busy!! Oh how I love Autumn!
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