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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Look Up!


passionfruit vine
Yesterday I was showing my friend Ms. C. around the garden and we were admiring the veggies and so on and then I decided to take the washing off the line. And Ms. C. was playing with Wokee the dog and admiring the garden a bit more. And then she remarked on the lovely passionfruit flowers.

But I don't have a passionfruit vine.

So I cranked my neck in the direction she was pointing and oh-my-googly-eyes I do have a passionfruit vine! A whopping big super dooper passionfruit vine. With flowers.

And of course I let out a shriek and nearly turned a few handstands in glee.

For many years I had been attempting to grow passionfruit up my garden shed. But despite five separate plants, over the years I have only succeeded in growing a few pathetic looking things which have housed only one flower that never fruited. So this winter I bit the bullet and pulled the passionfruit vines out and planted asparagus instead in that patch. But somehow in my pulling I must have missed a bit of passionfruit vine. Or maybe it has sent out a runner. Or maybe it is a vine from many years before that I planted along that wall. It seems to be coming from under the BBQ. However it has happened, it is thriving without any intentional help from me and is now scrambling up all over the neighbour's brick wall. In fact it has almost reached their roof (and they have a two storey house).

Now I know you must think I am completely bonkers (especially after the vacuuming the garden post) - how on earth could I not have looked up and noticed that vine? I do hang clothes on the washing line quite often and that does involve looking up.  Well, in my defence I did notice the vine. But I thought it was the Happy Wanderer native creeper that has been plodding along up that wall. I even recall a few weeks back doing the dishes and Monkey Man coming inside and informing me that the passionfruit along that wall was going well. And I of course corrected him telling him that I had pulled out the passionfruit months ago and he was talking about the native creeper.

I think it may have been the preparation of that patch that went on before I planted the asparagus - lots of manure and compost. And perhaps passionfruit prefers the east facing brick wall rather than the north facing tin shed wall. But I will give Monkey Man some credit in the success. Apparently he has been doing a bit of twisting and training of that passionfruit vine. Monkey Man's favourite past time is twisting a bit of a vine up a wire. That and doing a bit of twig pruning. Whenever we are in a hurry to go somewhere Monkey Man gets sidetracked on the way out the front door by a bit of twig pruning or foot scraping of the path that the blackbirds have messed up or twisting a little vine around a wire. Goodness knows what effect he thinks he's having because our front garden is an absolute jungle and really requires a proper sweep of the path or a proper prune with proper pair of secateurs. But bless him Monkey Man has been working his magic on the passionfruit vine with his little twists.

passionfruit flower
There are quite a few flowers too - don't you think passionfruit flowers are the most beautiful flowers ever? So, I think after all these years we might finally get some passionfruit. Only trouble is I don't know how on earth we are going to reach the fruit. We will need a rather long ladder to get way up there. Or do passionfruit fall to the ground when they're ripe?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Vacuuming the Garden

Yep you read right. Vacuuming.

This morning I got the vacuum cleaner out and vacuumed my parsley and beans. 

Now before you go thinking I'm completely bonkers let me tell you I don't usually use the vacuum cleaner on the garden. In fact I don't even use the vacuum cleaner in the house as much as I should. But you see I have a problem with whitefly.

It started last year on my beans in the back corner. Over winter they all went quiet but with the warmer weather those teeny whiteflies are back in their swarms and taking over my veggie patches. If I run my hand over my parsley great swarms of them fly up to my face making me cough and splutter and get rather cranky. And apparently they're not harmless little pests - they're sucking the sap right out of my veggies and making them less vigorous. They can spread diseases from plant to plant. And they multiply like mad.

Oooh they're a problem.

So I turned to my favourite friend the google and discovered one of the remedies is to get out there early in the morning with one of those little vacuum cleaners and suck them up when they're all sleepy. So that's what I did. Except we don't have one of those little hand held vacuum cleaners only a normal one. And I didn't do it first thing in the morning because I have children to make lunches for and ensure they have clean underpants on and pets to feed and hair to wash... So it was morning, but not first thing. And those little whiteflies didn't look all that sleepy to me. I'm not sure how many I managed to suck up. And I'm not entirely sure this remedy will do any good at all. But I'm willing to give it a go for a week in the patch closest to my back door and the power outlet.
You can't see them but there are masses of nasty little white fly under those parsley leaves

I'm also going to get out the eco oil and and spray it on the underside of the leaves in that patch. It'll be my little experiment for the week to see if the numbers reduce there. And if I have success I'll be getting the extension cord out and vacuuming right up the back. Earlier in the morning - maybe before I've showered while still in my dressing gown. Gee I hope the neighbours don't wonder what I'm up to and peep through the fence.

Apparently lacewings and ladybirds and birds are natural predators. So I'm encouraging those in my own way - whenever I see a ladybird I get all excited and say "oh goodoo a ladybird. Come on eat up little ladybird". 

The whiteflies are also attracted to the colour yellow so hanging sticky yellow traps above your plants might work - but I don't think that'd have much impact when they're in great swarms like I have. Neem oil also apparently works at the nymph stage.

Anyone else tried the vacuum cleaner trick or have other ideas? What's worked for you?


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mr. P. & Tomatoes & Peppers

Peppers
Well, we managed to carry out my neighbour Mr P.'s instructions more or less to his satisfaction by the end of the week.

It took Monkey Man many days to get around to taking out the kids' slide. But now that he has, I have more veggie space. Yippee! Is it wrong for me to get excited when the kids grow up and relinquish more of the garden space for me?

The state of my garden must have been worrying Mr. P. because following my last post he visited and told me that an idea had come to him in his sleep. My soil was not up to scratch. He informed me that I needed to organise Romeo. (Romeo is Mr.P.'s nickname for Monkey Man - who is still a playboy in Mr. P.s eyes despite being married to me for 10 years.) Anyway, I needed to organise Monkey Man to dig up the soil on his vacant goat block and to wheel at least 6 barrow loads full of it to deposit on my tomato patch. And this needed to happen on Sunday morning. Now Monkey Man is a musician and he has gigs on Saturday nights and he doesn't get to bed til 4am on a Sunday morning. So it goes without saying that Monkey Man was mighty unimpressed with Mr.P.'s instructions. Come Sunday morning I let him sleep for a few hours and started the digging myself with a little help from Eldest Monkey Boy. And I received a compliment (I think it was a compliment) from Mr. P. that I "should have been born a boy".

Anyway, by lunchtime Monkey Man had woken bleary eyed, eaten his muesli and came to help. By the end of the day, the kids' slide had been removed and the tomato patch soil level had risen. And on Monday night Mr. P. came over with a bunch of tomato and pepper seedlings and planted them all over the place for me.

I learnt a few more things from Mr. P. about tomatoes. Firstly, because we had too many seedlings and some of them were looking wilty, Mr. P. suggested we plant two in the one spot and and then pull one out later - keeping the "master". Mr. P. also first plants his tomato seedlings in little trenches. This is so the water can get to them at the beginning. As they grow, and to help them get stronger, he gradually pushes the soil up around them until they are on little hills and the trenches are either side for the water.
tomato seedlings (only the master will be kept) in a trench
hilled up tomato seedlings with mulch
Mr. P. and I also discovered that my veggie patches are extremely dry. And that I don't know how to water. I thought I'd been giving everything a good drink but when I was done Mr. P. pushed aside the dirt (something I never do) and everything was bone dry! My watering was barely penetrating the surface. Mr. P. gave me remedial lessons in watering which involved holding the hose right to the ground where the seedling is planted and virtually drowning the thing.

So, now I have a load of tomato seedlings planted much more closely than I would have thought right. And they have damp soil. And I have masses of peppers. I don't know what sort of peppers they are because Mr. P. wasn't sure himself - except to say that they would be beautiful. I sure hope they turn into red capsicum or chilli plants 'cos I am not at all fond of any other peppers.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Return of Mr. P.

Mr. P. paid a visit to my back garden last night. You may recall Mr. P. from previous posts. He's our Italian neighbour. The one who owns the goats that broke in and feasted on my veggie patch last year. Mr. P. has a massive, rambling garden with loads of veggies and feral cats and a few broken down cars. He also used to have chickens and too many roosters until someone got fed up with their racket and dobbed him in to the council. So he ate them. Mr. P. likes to have a good old chinwag about what's wrong with the world and how the council rates are too high. He harbours a fondness for Berlusconi. Mr. P. has some kooky ideas.

Mr. P. and his family have become family to us. We exchange gifts at Christmas and get invites to their children's weddings and grandchildren's birthdays. But he doesn't often visit our backyard - maybe once or twice a year. So last night, just as I was putting the monkeys to bed, Mr. P. knocked on the door in search of a wheelbarrow. But he got distracted by my veggies.

First he clicked his tongue at the seedlings I'm attempting on the outdoor table.

"These no good!" 
Unsatisfactory seedlings
Mr. P. informed me that he had loads and loads of much better tomato seedlings that were very big. And that he would bring them over in a minute. Then, as he made his way down the back, he saw my artichoke bush.

"Why you no eat?" he admonished.

But before I could stutter an excuse, he'd plonked his boot into the patch onto an emerging corn seedling and started pulling off the dead leaves of the bush. Evidently Mr. P. was having trouble seeing the little brick paths I'd made in the fading light 'cos he was ripping and tossing and stomping all over the place. He demanded rope and a stake and a hammer and started yanking out weeds and a few teeny carrots and attempted to straighten out the artichoke. It was too dark in the shed to find the rope so Mr. P. told me he would be back himself tomorrow to tie up the artichoke - because he didn't trust that I would do it.
bald artichoke bush
Next he started searching about for a place to plant his tomato seedlings.  He reckoned we could squish a few more plants in my tomato patch. But he was shocked when he started digging into the bed. It was too hard.

"You water this?" he questioned in amazement.
Tomato bed - clearly in need of more water and digging
Then he sent me back to the shed in search of a pick and informed me that you could dig down several feet into his veggie beds. I figured Mr. P. wasn't interested in my no-dig-garden explanation so I tentatively went to peer into the dark shed again.

When I came back empty handed Mr. P. was eyeing off another patch.

"What about here?"

Nope, that was where I'd planted my bean seeds a couple of days ago. Mr. P. asked what sort I had and told me that he would bring over some beautiful climbing butter bean seeds for me. He didn't seem too interested in accepting my offers of heritage lazy housewives or climbing purple beans. 

I suggested that maybe I could manage a new veggie patch in front of the potatoes where the kids' slide was. We are in the process of dismantling the kids' slide. Actually we've been in the process of dismantling the kids' slide for a few months now with not much progress. This seemed to appease Mr. P.  who put his hand on the frame of the slide and gave it a bit of a shake. He looked just about ready to shake it down then and there himself but I managed to persuade him to leave it to Monkey Man to dig out properly tomorrow. He instructed me to get Monkey Man to dig up the other tomato patch too (clearly I was not up to that job).
Climbing frame for the slide - ready to come down
Mr. P. decided that it was too late to get the wheelbarrow now. And Mrs. P. was shouting over the back fence for him to come home. He told me that he'd come back tomorrow and to make sure that everything was ready. He would bring tomatoes and chillis and maybe some peppers.

So I've spent a few moments this morning tending to the artichoke and watering the garden and pulling a few weeds. But Monkey Man is going to need a lot of persuading to dig that slide out when he finishes work today. And I suspect that Mr. P. will be most displeased with our efforts.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preparing for the Summer Stuff

Don't you think veggie gardens are cool the way they can transform the whole look of your garden with the seasons?

I just chopped out my broad bean plants. They didn't do as well as last year - I suspect I could have grown a few more if I'd left them longer. But I needed the space. Wow the corner near the chooks looks different since they've been chopped.  I also cleared out my brassicas plot where I'd left a few plants to save the seeds. But I didn't get 'round to drying and saving the seeds. Sigh.

Anyway, everything looks open and bare and now I don't need to duck and weave and push my way around the little veggie tracks. And I can see the chooks going about their business. And so can Wokee the fluffy canine which is keeping her amused and keeping the chooks flapping and squawking about.

I've wacked in a load of summer stuff.  I've got: beans, tomatoes, canteloupe, lettuce, spaghetti squash, cucumber and corn. And I'm hoping that when my garlic is out I'll have enough space for capsicum and eggplant and zucchini and more chilli. And probably other stuff that I've forgotten. Anyway, those seedlings are growing on my outdoor table. Slowly. I do hope I have some success this year with the capsicum and eggplant but I'm concerned my plants aren't advanced enough now. They really should be in the ground I reckon. I do dislike green capsicum and I know they need a long time in the sun to ripen up. Oh well, fingers crossed.

So now I need to cook up a storm with all these broad beans. I'm leaving them on the kitchen bench and every time I make myself a cup of tea I shell a few while I wait for the kettle to boil. Otherwise it seems like a very big job.

What have you all got growing for summer?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Before & After

My friend the lovely Smiley Nyree took me on an excursion the other day to a picket fence making factory in a neighbouring suburb. And we came back with a ute-load of sawdust. For free! I have been wondering for months and months what to do with those nasty weedy spots in my garden since embarking on the de-grassing project. I contemplated all different sorts of mulch and paving and hadn't gotten 'round to doing anything 'cos it all involved effort and money and research. But Smiley Nyree and local industry saved the day.

And now I feel like one of those recipients of Backyard Blitz or 30 Minute Makeover. But without all the crew and trucks and cameras and snotty hankies.







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