Sunday, 30 August 2009

update on buds

The plum trees are covered in blossoms!  Last year they had maybe a dozen blossoms between the two trees, but look at this one this year!
And the bees have taken notice.  Apparently plum blossoms aren't that attractive to bees so sometimes people have trouble pollinating them.  But this afternoon there were at least four bees flying from blossom to blossom as if their lives depended on it.  Maybe this means I'll actually have plums this year ... and I'll be able to find out what kind they are.
Ah, the wonders of spring!

In the meantime, my little maple is powering along with lots of buds already this size.  Notice how intricate and defined this bud is?
Unfortunately the one that got hit by budworm isn't so lucky.  Notice the difference, how half the bud is stunted.  It probably won't develop fully even though I'm pretty sure I killed the worm.  I hate them, one little worm can really set back such a young and vulnerable tree.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

pricking out all of my marigold seedlings came up and meanwhile in some punnets two seedlings germinated.  So this weekend I decided to prick out the double-ups and pot them into the empty punnets.  This is the first time I've done this but I think it went well.  You wait until the seedling has its first set of "true" leaves (not the two leaves that come straight out of the seed), but don't wait much longer or else it'll have a lot more roots that you can potentially damage.  You use a pencil to gently loosen the soil under the seedling, waiting until you feel the roots release their hold on the soil.  If you tug, you'll likely break the new roots.  And as you can see here, they do have a decent set of roots on them even when they're this small.  No wonder they grow so slowly when they're this small, they're spending as much time building roots as building leaves.

NOTE: I later found out that you're not meant to hold them by the stem as I'm doing here.  You're meant to hold them by a leaf, preferably the seed leaf not the true leaf.  If you accidentally smoosh the stem, the whole seedling dies but if you accidentally smoosh a leaf it'll survive.

Once you've got one out, you just carefully place it in a hole dug into another punnet.  I watered both before and after with a diluted seasol solution.  Seasol is made from seaweed and it's not a fertilizer, rather it nourishes the roots and reduces shock.  I'm optimistic that all of my transplants should take just fine.

This is good practice as I'll soon have to do the same thing with my tomato seedlings.  They're in tiny punnets and next weekend I'll move the four that came up into their own four-inch punnets.  Oh and in the meantime, my lettuce-leaf basil came up exactly six days after sewing, just like the cinnamon basil.  But on the chili front, I still have only the one Serrano seedling.  Chilies just don't seem to like me one bit.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

a few spring snaps from here and there

Another sunny day meant a walk around the garden with the camera to see what was new.  First let's play spot-the-lemon.
Did you see both of them?  One right in the middle and other one right down the bottom near the mailbox, my first two lemons a year after moving here.  They're still a little green on the tips so I'm giving them a bit more time to ripen.  Meanwhile there are dozens of tiny green and black lemons forming for next year.  I don't know why they're so black (sorry about the blur!) but I know they're not dead yet because a few did die and they turn really black when they're dead.
Out the back, the Granex sweet onions are powering along.  I thought they were growing too slowly but I eventually found out that's just onions, onions are sloooooow.  Last week a friend from OzGrow garden forum stopped by; I'd sent him some Granex seeds when I got them last year.  He said his were tiny compared to mine, so I must be doing something right after all.  They got a top-up of composted cook poo today so I sure hope they're happy!
This is just a picture of the pretty spring stars that are in full bloom.  They didn't mind the move from my mother-in-law's garden one bit!
I bought some new flat-leaf parsley and some coriander from the lady who sells herbs at my work.  You can see the old parsley on the left, it's still growing strong but the pot is so small that it's really stunted in size.  This new pot had the tomatoes in it last year so it should be big enough.
And finally, some herbs I haven't shown you in a while.  The creeping rosemary and the sage have thrived in their spot, especially after a bit of compost.  The rosemary was creeping along so much I clipped quite a bit for some lamb last week.  It's a bit "leggy" because it doesn't get too much sun where it is, but otherwise both herbs are doing great.
Here's the blast from the past, what they looked like when I planted them last year.
And that's what's new.  Just keeping an eye on the seedlings upstairs and preparing the former goldfish pond for summer planting as I impatiently wait for spring.  Though it's still unseasonably warm, technically it is still winter.

speaking of sprouts

The seed sprouting upstairs has inspired me to take some snaps of all the sprouting that's going on around the garden.

As I mentioned last week, the tired old plum trees are making a comeback.  Here's how much we had to cut this one back last year because the top half had died off.
Not only is it now covered with blossom (much more in that pic which is from last year) but look at all the new sprouts coming from the branches!  It's trying so hard to live.
My designer twig is also powering along well with lots of new sprouts of both leaves and blossoms.
And here's my sad little maple tree, like the plum tree it's also trying so hard to live.  The tips of most branches are dead but there are still plenty of tiny buds farther down.
It gives me a lot of respect for the rejuvenating power of life.

more propagating I've had to modify the setup significantly so as not to cook the sprouts.  I've used a folded-up plastic crate.  What you see here is the base, and below it is a few layers of plastic lattice so the heat slowly seeps through the air and through the plastic to get to the tray.

Something must be working because 6 days after planting the tomatoes started to sprout and so did the cinnamon basil.  I still only have the one Serrano seedling, so I got impatient and planted more chili seeds.  In doing so I found at least one seed that had just started to germinate so perhaps they were just taking their time (like 6 weeks, seriously taking their time).  I've also got some lettuce-leaf basil that I put in just today.

It's all going along nicely now!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

advanced propagating tried growing tomatoes and chilies from seeds last year with disastrous results.  I didn't water them enough and overheated them.  But I'm determined to try again this year, using an even more complicated system (yeah I know, adding more complication probably isn't the right move but oh well).  What you see here is my little propagation corner in an upstairs window.  We have a plastic bin with a few seed trays in it - two types of chilies in the purple, two types of tomatoes in the black and some cinnamon basil in the red.  But this year I decided to get a heat pad to keep the soil warm, ideally at 20C.  Propagation trays are fairly expensive so instead I found a reptile head pad on eBay, the kind you put under a terrarium.  You can't see it in this photo because it's buried under four layers of bubble wrap, plus two rolls of newspaper to hold the tray above the heat.  Why?  Because it's a very good heat pad, so good it made the soil 32C!  I'm glad I tested it on a punnet with no seeds first, that would have cooked the seeds.  Even with this set-up it's still a bit to hot to I've unplugged it on nice days.

I'm really not sure it was a good idea in the end.  One of the chilies sprouted last week, before I got the heat pad, after 4 weeks germination - none of the other 5 chilies have though, no even after getting the heat pad.  The tomatoes and basil I just planted this weekend so here's hoping I don't mess this up for a second year in a row.

In other news global warming is ticking along nicely, we had a balmy 20C day here today.  My designer twig (the mandarin/tangelo tree) is putting out another flush of growth, and this time there are tiny flower buds forming!  We'll see if it's strong enough to actually grow fruit, it's less than a year old though so I'm not sure.  And my sad little Japanese maple may have survived last year's horrible ordeal, there are lots of tiny red buds and a few bunches of leaves just starting to peak through.  It really is feeling like spring!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

percy and the fig tree

I'd originally just intended to take a photo of the fig tree to show you how much of a hair cut it got a few weeks ago.  But as I went to take a photo, Percival went up to the tree to do a bit of exploring.
As you can see, there isn't much in the way of branches to climb, but what's there is big and stable.  But my cats are British shorthairs, they're not known for their agility.  Percival didnt' get much higher than this before he decided that climbing was all too hard.
So instead he set his sights on  the springy branches.  I took many, many action photos of him throwing his bulk in the air.
To his credit, he caught his "pray" almost every time, though I don't think he knew exactly what to do with it.
And finally, I just like this photo as a portrait.

buds winter is slowly fading.  It helps that June was a full degree warmer than normal.  My plum trees are just starting to burst into bud.  I've got two that I think are fruiting plums and three that I think are just ornamentals.  They didn't set any fruit at all last year but they were very neglected and stressed by the drought.  This year I've pruned them quite a bit, cutting out a lot of dead wood, and given them a bit of a feed.  So with luck this year I'll at least find out what kind of plum they are!  There are already a lot more blossom buds this year than last.  These are blossoms from the ornamental plum, aren't they gorgeous?  Reminds me of a Japanese painting.'ve also found a flower bud coming up from one of my three clivia.  I hope they all blossom this year, but I'm excited to see at least one is coming along!  With luck they'll live up to their reputation for being low-maitenance, un-fussy plants. finally, these aren't buds by any means, but I just love when the alyssum is at its peak and it's a thick carpet of snowy white.

woops there go the snow peas so the roi de carouby are officially farked.  We had another strong windstorm and it ripped them right out of the frame.

Ah well, lesson learned.  Only bush-size snow peas from now on.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

winter porch update thought I'd show you how my force plants are going this winter.  First, the snow peas have become a bit of a disaster.  I grew two climbing varieties and it turns out they want to climb waaay more than I have space for.  As you can see the roi de carouby outgrew its teepee, and the winter winds have not been kind to it.  Also, I grew them in a mix of soil and sand from the big pile of dirt I used to have in the driveway.  I didn't bother to add fertilizer of any kind because I was told that peas make their own nitrogen from the air which they then add to the soil to enrich is.  Turns out they still need more nitrogen than I was giving them, as you can see by how pale and yellow it became.  I have it a drink of Powerfeed and some fertilizer pellets and it shot out dozens of new green shoots, so at least I got that right. 

In the background you can see my punnets of marigolds (no sprouts yet) and some aloe vera plants I was recently given. the right side of the porch there's a lot going on.  On the right is the broccoli raab that's been fighting a horrific aphid infestation.  I finally got rid of the aphids but they're still looking thin and unhappy.  But behind them the spring onions are still going well.  Once they're full grown you just snip them at ground level and within a few weeks, with amazing speed, they've grown back!  But I've also got a fresh crop coming up, once they're full sized I'll pull up the old crop and start another round.

The golden-podded peas were on this side but they fared even worse than the roi de carouby and didn't taste nearly as good.  So I pulled them up and planted some seedlings of a snowpea called Oregon that's a "bush type" - hopefully that means they're short and busy enough to stay within the teepee and not get whiplash!  In the background you can see some more roi de carouby in the pot where I grew potatoes last year.  The soil in there is a lot richer, hence the dark green colour, and I'm hoping the larger teepee will hold them in place better.

I've also got my spinach coming along, though I've been surprised at how slowly it gets started.  Maybe I need to shoot it with some Powerfeed to get it going., my broccoli isn't on the porch but I wanted to show you the side shoots that grow once you eat the main head.  I've eaten all the heads now, I'm just waiting to eat a few more side shoots before I pull up the broccoli and fill in the bed with more compost and dirt.  The dirt settled quite a lot from the first time we filled it. 

I'm still toying with the idea of growing an avocado tree in that bed, but in the short-term I've decided to grow veggies in there this summer.  There's always time to plant something more permanent in later years.

more signs of spring first iris reticulata bloomed today!  How stunning is this tiny beauty?  It's only a few inches tall.  I just hope the rest of them come up soon, I'd rather see a little row of irises than have them come up one at a time.  I've got some species  tulips in the same bed but I actually have no idea if they bloom at the same time or if the tulips come up later than the irises.  I just hope they all settle in and start making babies, both the irises and tulips are meant to "naturalise" easily.  That means they spread by making more bulbs until they form big clusters of blossoms.  How wonderful would that be? aren't really spring flowers, I just wanted to show the progress of my geraniums.  They simply have not stopped flowering since they got their first flowers last spring.  And in the winter their lovely brown "horseshoe" leaf patterns are really showing off - they fade in the summer sun.  The alyssum is going nuts too, and supposedly they self-seed so with luck I won't ever have to plant more.  All in all I'm really happy with this bed, it's right at the front of the house, it's always flowering and it takes care of itself.

Finally, here's how far the geraniums have come in the last year.  I first planted them last winter and they were no bigger than a few tiny leaves.  This is what they looked like in March after the brutal summer heat.  The three on the left had to be replaced.
By May they looked like this:
And now they're in gorgeous full form!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

the big dry

Melbourne is now in its 13th year of drought.  In Oregon, a 'drought' was to have one summer without much rain, I had no idea what it was like to live somewhere droughts last for over a decade.  But Melbourne's drought has put our reservoirs at 27% and we've been under water restrictions for years.  No watering the lawn, no hosing the pavement, and you're only meant to water your garden twice a week before 9am.

The average rainfall for Melbourne is meant to be around 650mm (25 inches).  In contrast, Portland's annual rainfall is 950mm (37 inches).  But to give you an idea of how bad it's been, the first six months of this year Melbourne only got 150mm of rain.  6 inches.  That's it.  That's less than any other Australian capital city, including places like Perth and Adelaide that are traditionally more arid.  Oh and did I mention we're heading into an El Nino year?  For Australia that means more drought.  I'm just hoping we don't go to stage 4 restrictions this year, where you're not allowed to water your garden at all.

The government is building a big desalination plant, but it won't be online for another 2 years.  In the meantime, we watch the skies and hope for rain.