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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Things I'm Still Learning About Seeds

I'm fairly new to this growing from seed business.

I wonder how long I can keep getting away with saying things like that? I kid myself that my novice status excuses and covers up my actual disorganisation and laziness. Truth is, I've been attempting to grow from seed for a couple of years now. But usually I end up with big gaps everywhere in my patches and go out and buy seedlings too. And I have way too many seeds some of which get wasted. I do love my little packets of seeds (which I've only recently started housing in sealed containers in the back of the fridge as instructed). I could happily while away many a minute with pen in hand circling interesting things to grow from a catalogue.

The thing is a germinating seed makes me very, very happy. It never ceases to make me smile when I see a little stalk poking its way up through the soil. But I'm still learning and playing around with what works for me. So I have a few questions for you.

To Soak or Not to Soak?
I've read that you ought to soak your seeds first. But I've never done it. I've also read that soaking the seed in diluted seaweed solution is a good trick. But I've never done that either. Who does and is it worth the effort?

When to Plant the Seeds?
Again this year, I've started my spring seeds off too late. I don't know how I managed it but I have. I am following some ripper local blogs and that, I've discovered, is a great way to keep you on track with your own planting but nevertheless, I'm behind. I think I need some diary system that'll tell me each year when to plant the seeds and pop them indoors or in the green house and then when to relocate them outside. Oh and I mustn't forget that annoying hardening off period you're supposed to do. I think my diary system needs to come with reminder alarms too.

Old Seeds & New Seeds & Why Are Some So Slow?
I had half a pack of tommy toe tomato seeds leftover from last year and they still haven't germinated. They're planted in the same container as some freshly bought yellow pear. The yellow pear is all up and has been for a week but not the tommy toe. I wonder if it's 'cos the seeds are older or if it's just the different variety? You could learn lots growing seeds and conducting little experiments. If I had more energy and my kids were less obsessed with soccer or minecraft maybe I'd do just that.

What to Grow them In?
(Jiffy pots. Image from here)
I'm also wondering about the best containers to grow your seeds in. When I started out, I purchased these little jiffy pots. But I've given up on them cos it seems a bit of a waste of money. Then I felt oh so pleased with myself rolling out these newspaper pots. But they're starting to fall apart. Mine seem to be a bit flimsy. I have collected a few plastic pots and things which work well. But I must admit I'm not diligent enough to wash them with soapy water between uses. I'm just spreading my diseases around I suppose. I had read that toilet rolls were a bit too firm and tricky for the roots to get through - the cardboard being a bit thick. But I decided to give them a go anyway. I hope they'll work.

Is it Worth Making Your Own Mix?
And then there's the seed raising mix. Does anyone out there make their own? I wonder if it'd work out cheaper to make your own? Maybe if you got stuff in bulk - but you need the space to store it. And let's not forget I am kinda lazy.

Where to Put Them?
I've got a bunch of seeds sprouting in my laundry but there's not much more room there for any more. And last year I bought a super dooper mini greenhouse which was very reasonably priced and just needs a couple of bricks to keep it from flying away in a storm. But where to place it? It's currently in a protected spot down the side of my house which gets morning sun. It can get warm and humid in there. I think I might be cooking the poor things. Are you supposed to open the greenhouse up during the daytime and just close it up at night?

How Hard is it To Save Seeds?
But what I really want to get my head around and my fingers organising is to save my own seed. I mean how hard can it be? But shamefully I haven't really managed it yet.  Only with sunflowers and that was so easy it surely doesn't count.

So many things still to learn. This gardening caper could be a full time job if you were to do it well. What works for you and what have you learnt along the way?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chook Chasey

My puppy is getting growled at a lot lately.

She is desperate for a fluffy playmate her own size and has decided that the chooks are just the thing. And she thinks her love for them is reciprocated. But it's not.

Nosireebob they do not like her.  When they see her, they go scuttling. And that is her cue to start chasing them up and down the chook run. I have been spending way too much time fortressing up their runs with rope and bricks and super dooper pet wire. But every so often Wokee finds her way in. And then she sets about tormenting the poor creatures. If it has been quiet inside for a while I get a sudden panic up and go in search.  Sure enough I'll find Wokee in the chook shed, cuddling a poor fluffy chook. She hasn't seemed to do much damage to them. Yet. Most of them squawk and flap their way to safety in their upstairs house but the tamest ones just squat down for her and subject themselves to the torture. Sometimes I'll find feathers in her mouth.

I just wish one of them would give her a good peck on the nose to teach her to keep her distance. But they are too friendly. Or stupid.

Anyway, it does serve me right because when I was longing for a dog I did consider the chooks. But secretly I was thinking that I would raise the perfect dog. One who not only did her business where I told her, but also never barked or dug up the garden or chewed the lounge suite.

Oh well. She is only a puppy. And I really need to do something to make the chooks happy again.

So unless anyone in blogworld has some fabulous tips to train dogs to ignore chooks I think I am going to have to take the drastic measure of running a fence down the middle of my backyard and splitting it in two. Unsurprisingly, Monkey Man is adamantly opposed to this proposal. But I think it could work. The half up close to the house is where we have our table and chairs and fruit trees and mostly ornamental plants. The back half houses the chooks and veggie patches. And it is from here that Wokee would be banned. Unless a human was about to supervise her. We have an ancient, peeling gate that I am imagining in the middle of the yard painted turquoise or purple.

But this is a job for which I will require Monkey Man's labour and skills. And I am yet to convince him. When we first started co-habitating he needed persuading to re-locate the stinky old kitchen compost bucket to the cupboard under the sink instead of on the bench for all to sniff. He sees the extra effort required to open a door as a big problem. Sigh.
Who me? What did you say I was doing?!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Enough to Put a Spring in my Step

Flowering bulbs.

Blossoming plum tree.
Blue skies.

Broody chook.

A sunny spot.

Germinating tomato seeds.

Asparagus.







Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Edible Spiral Garden

I finally got 'round to one of those jobs I've been wanting to do for ages.  Remember those bluestone rocks that were dug up outside our place? 

Well they'd been sitting in our front garden for months.  But on the weekend we got cracking into action and the whole family hauled the rocks to our backyard to make a spiral garden. What incited this sudden garden activity you may ask? No, it was not the result of the iron tablets I'd been consuming. Merely a prickly conscience a consequence of this blog.

The lovely Bek from Bek's Backyard offered me some strawberry plants. She didn't go home empty-handed mind you - I gave her a couple of comfrey plants for her kindness. And on Saturday arvo I discovered a lovely package of strawberry goodness freshly delivered to my front door. I was a wee bit embarrassed. Bek offered the plants way back when I posted about the bluestones. She suggested I make a garden with the stones and pop the strawberries there. But the bluestones have sat in my front garden ever since. I am way full of good ideas and good intentions that sometimes don't eventuate. And now I was sprung bad with my messy front garden (actually I take no responsibility for that - the front is Monkey Man's domain) looking even messier with a whopping big hole dug down down the side, half the fence missing (we have a plumbing problem) and that neglected pile of bluestones.

So I was spurred into action. Those strawberry plants would not survive long un-planted. And I didn't want the lovely Bek to think badly of me! So the whole family started lugging the rocks 'round the back. Surprisingly (given my last pocket money post), we didn't even need to bribe the Monkey Boys. They just uncomplainingly helped! Later that night I did see Littlest Monkey admiring his muscles in the mirror so I'm sure our comments about how fit and strong we were all getting had something to do with it.
And over the following couple of days I got muscle-sore puffing and pulling the rocks into the right spots and digging and hauling loads of dirt from various nooks and crannies in the garden. Then I dug through some bags of manure and 'cos I'm the impatient type and couldn't wait for my seeds to grow I went off shopping for some seedlings.

Now I had done some research into these permaculture herb spirals but in true veggiegobbler style I broke some of the rules. The traditionalists I'm told have a theory about the way the spiral ought to run according to which hemisphere you're in. But I wasn't about to go re-arranging things once I was happy with my setup. My spiral runs in a way that I thought would look good. Also I remembered that I was supposed to lay down wet newspaper under my first layer of rocks to stop the weeds. Naturally I remembered this after I'd hauled the first layer of massive rocks to position. And I wasn't about to re-haul them for the sake of a few weeds.

I did place my spiral garden close to the back door which I'm hoping will be handy. And by coincidence it runs right into my pond which apparently is a good thing. The pond mind you is looking dreadful but that's a whole other story. The idea is that these rocks will warm up in the sun and provide a lovely growing place for herbs. Also, you can access everything easily and grow a whole lot of different stuff in the same place - dry, drought loving plants up top and water loving boggier things down low.

I'm not just growing herbs - naturally, the strawberries went in. Although I suspect the slugs and snails who'll no doubt live in the rocks will have a feast if I manage any of these. And I also popped in some veggies. From top to bottom I've got: olive herb (don't know much about this but it smelt good), oregano & thyme (these two like it drier I think), spring onions, chives, strawberries (they're up the back and just get morning sun which I think will work for them), perennial basil, perpetual spinach, lettuce mix and parsley.

Anyway, I'm mighty pleased with it. Thanks Bek.
Wokee likes the smell of the manure and those rocks provide a good launching pad to the adjacent chook run.
View from the back - strawberries and chives

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monkey Labour in the Garden

Finally the little monkeys have reached an age where they are of some use to me! Yep I've set them to work doing some of the jobs that I don't like much in the garden!

Our monkeys started earning pocket money when they began school. They had little jobs to complete which changed with the seasons and at the end of each week we'd hand over the gold coins. But the jobs haven't been too taxing and they haven't seemed to alleviate my workload. I mean how tricky is it to collect a couple of chook eggs each day? And some of their jobs required more supervision and clean up afterwards by me. Setting a little monkey free with a bucket and sloppy cloth to clean the staircase results in quite a bit of splashing about and cleaning up afterwards. Mind you, littlest monkey is still of an age where jobs are mostly fun. He takes a fair bit of pride in his housework. And they both seem quite proud of their pocket money stash which they spend a remarkable amount of time counting and re-counting.

Anyway, I think I'm finally starting to see rewards for all that childbirth pain. I'm gonna delegate some of those jobs that I never seem to get round to - like wiping down the kitchen cupboards and weeding the garden. Why I didn't think of gardening jobs before is beyond me. Now I'm seeing a huge potential for those little monkey fingers. Naturally, they'll need some educating about just what is a weed and what is a plant (even Monkey Man finds this one tricky) but I'm expecting miraculous garden transformations and weed free patches. Those fluffy chooks have been a bit of a disappointment in the weeding department. And especially now that three of them have squished into fuzzy, broody balls on top of each other in the nesting box there's even less weeding getting done.  Oh yeah, I am so gonna be using the monkeys to weed.

Now I'm rather proud of the little fridge chart that I concocted the other day. I'm quite handy with a glue gun. And I'm very happy doing a bit of cut and paste when it detains me from the rest of the household jobs. I choose a glue gun over a toilet brush any day. I can't claim this as an original idea (I discovered it on pinterest) but it sure is nifty. See the monkey boys have a whole bunch of little jobs to choose from. And these have been glued to magnets. They have a daily job which they stick with for a couple of months and a couple of weekly jobs. And just below these jobs on the fridge are their names with a spot to plop the "to do" and "done" jobs.

Oh yeah, I'm seeing it now. Human weed machines. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Muffin for a Blogoversary

Oops seems I forgot the blog's 2nd year blogoversary yesterday. Last year I celebrated with a candle unceremoniously jammed into a lemon. Seems the only thing I can manage with abundance in the garden at this time of year are lemons. Anyway, this year I've stepped it up a notch and made actual lemon muffins to celebrate. Apparently my antics have become bizarre enough not to elicit questions from Monkey Man anymore. Lighting sparklers in a muffin and taking photos only produced a bemused smile.

These muffins feature mooshy bananas, yoghurt and nuts too.  And they were very popular last week at our after school playdate.

Banana & Lemon Muffins

Ingredients
•  110g unsalted butter
•  1 cup brown sugar
•  2 eggs
•  2 mooshy bananas
•  2 tbs lemon juice
•  1 tsp vanilla essence
•  1/2 cup chopped nuts (eg pecans, walnuts)
•  2 cups plain flour
•  1 tsp baking powder
•  pinch salt
•  3/4 cup plain yoghurt (or milk)

Grease muffin pans & pre-heat the oven to 180ÂșC.  Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs. Stir in the banana, lemon juice, nuts and vanilla.  Sift in the flour, baking soda & salt together.  Stir in the wet mixture alternating with the yoghurt.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out dry.
(recipe inspired by Muffin Bible penguin books)

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