Posts in Autumn

Time to start chitting those potatoes


My seed potatoes on the window sill chitting.

My seed potatoes on the window sill chitting.

Wintertime is coming to an end here in Melbourne and it is happening early. It’s just into the start of August here and already the blossom is swelling. According to my usual timeline I won’t be planting my potatoes till September, but given the warmth we’ve had I’m starting to chit mine a bit earlier. For those who aren’t familiar with this, chitting is the process of starting the potatoes off by exposing them to light. This causes shoots to form so by the time you should be planting them outside they already have a head start. You can see, I have mine on the window sill in an old egg box to keep them upright.

So how to you start yours off? Do you chit your potatoes or just pop them in the ground straight away? Let me know by posting a comment below.


How to grow saffron

Saffron isn’t a spice that we use a huge amount of but like most gardeners I like to experiment with growing as many different things as possible in my garden.  Saffron is quite easy to grow.  It is produced from the stamen of  Crocus Sativus.  The crocus are a group of small flowering bulbs.  Most types of crocus flower in the spring, but the saffron crocus flowers in the autumn, not long after the leaves are produced.  For me this year it was in April.

Saffron -  the red stamens of the saffron crocus growing in my garden.

Saffron - the red stamens of the saffron crocus growing in my garden.

Saffron is produced from the stamens which are the bright red strands hanging from the flowers in the picture.  To harvest you simply pluck the stamens out of the flower, preferably as soon as possible after the flower opens, but I have harvested a few days after opening and they seem to be fine.  However it can be a bit of a battle to get to them before the snails do.  After harvesting you just have to leave the stamens in a cool dry place, preferably out of the sun to dry for a few days.  Then you can store the saffron in a sealed jar or the like.  In the picture below you can see some fresh saffron laid on some paper towel to dry along side some that has been drying for a few days.


Growing saffron is really quite easy.  Try to choose a site that will get full sun and has very good drainage.  Like most bulbs, saffron crocus bulbs will rot if the drainage is poor.  If you have heavy clay soils consider growing the saffron in a raised bed, or at very least dig in some grit to open up the soil.  Remember that many bulbs are originally from mountainous areas with freely draining soils and lots of sunshine. continue reading..

Raspberry pruning – growing a good crop for next year

Another job to be doing at this time of the year is preparing your raspberries for the next year’s crop.  Summer fruiting raspberries bear fruit on the previous year’s growth, so to keep the bed clear and concentrate all their energy into the fruting canes, it is necessary to clear out all of the old canes at the end of the growing season.

This is also a good time to give the bed a good dose of fertiliser and a layer of mulch.  Raspberries are shallow rooted crops and need fertile soil to produce well and the area needs to be kept free of weeds.  It also helps to keep the moisture in to encourage plump fruit.



Last year's canes are brown in colour. This year's are pale green.

So start by working out which are the current season’s canes.  These are the ones you want to keep.  They will usually be pale green, as in the picture above.  Some varities have brown bases, but they will be green higher up the canes.  Older canes are brown all the way up.  Once you have worked out which is which, cut the old canes off at ground level. continue reading..

Care of your secateurs – sharpening

Autumn is upon us now and was early in coming this year. The temptation can be to think that following the hectic pace of summer in the garden, when it seems like everything is coming is coming at once, that autumn is a time to slow down. The reality is very different with a lot of work to be done clearing away the spent summer crops and preparing the ground for any winter plantings.

In addition for me the autumn has become a time to start pruning my fruit trees. Conventional wisdom has it that pruning should be done in the winter when the tree is dormant. However I have started to adopt autumn pruning as advocated by Peter Cundell from Gardening Australia. The theory is that by pruning in the autumn the tree has a chance to repair the cuts and is less likely to suffer from disease as a result. The logic seems sound to me.

However regardless of the time of year that you do your pruning you need to ensure your secateurs are sharp. Blunt secateurs cause rough cuts that are more likely to let in disease. I thought I would just talk you through my secateur care process.

As you can see from the first picture the edge on the blade is rather dull.


The dull edge of the secateurs prior to sharpening

continue reading..

Petty’s Orchard Open Day 2011

The Petty’s Orchard Open Day is happening again this year on Sunday 27th March.  The annual event is run by the Heritage Fruits Society, which is a group dedicated to preserving rare and heritage breeds of fruits trees, i.e. preserving our genetic heritage.

Unfortunately I don’t make it every year, but it is well worth the trip.  One of the major bonuses I found was that they have a tasting of most of the heritage varieties of apples available in Melbourne.  This is very helpful when it comes to deciding which varieties to have in your garden.  I don’t see much point in growing the apple varieties that are widely available in the shops.  By growing rare varieties you can have access to great tasting fruit that you would otherwise not get the chance to eat, and you are preserving the planet’s genetic heritage.  As I understand it, proceeds from the event go to the Society.

Petty’s Orchard is located in Templestowe, in the north east of Melbourne. More details about this excellent event can be found here: