Posts in Spring

Bad year for Cherry and Pear slugs

Wood ash for treating cherry and pear slug

Getting the wood ash ready to treat the cherry and pear slugs

Judging from the number of slugs on my cherry tree and from the number of visitors to my blog looking for answers this has been a bad year for cherry and pear slugs. For those who aren’t familiar with it, they are a small black slug between a few millimetres and 2 cm long that feed on the leaves of cherries and pears. If you have leaves on your tree that end up looking like lace, then you probably have cherry slugs.

If a post last year I talked about using wood ash as a dusting to controls the slugs.
You can use pyrethrum spray but that kills the good insects as well as the bad, so this year I took my own advice and went for the wood ash. Initially it looked good but the devils kept coming. I was almost going to give up and reach for the bottle (of spray that is, not alcohol!) but I persevered with the ash but it seems to have worked. continue reading..

Raspberry canes in full fruit

You would be forgiven for thinking that this blog is just about raspberries and chickens given the disproportionate number of posts on these topics. However those who grow their own raspberries will agree with me that given a small area of fertile soil you can get a wonderful crop of fruit that is streets ahead of anything you can buy in the shops. Below are some snaps of my current crop.

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Crop Rotation Plan – Summer 2011-12

Spring is well and truly here and summer is coming up fast.  If you have subscribed to my newsletter you will have received a copy of my crop rotation planner spreadsheet that I use to plan the crops I am going to plant in the coming season and how they will fit into a crop rotation system.  In this post I would like to share my plan for the coming summer.

My summer 2011-12 crop plan

My summer 2011-12 crop plan (click for full size)

As you can see I haven’t necessarily kept to a strict crop rotation program, but it is pretty good!

So if you would like to use a copy of my planner just sign up for my newsletter.  Thanks!

Redcurrant pruning success

In my previous post I described how I go about pruning my redcurrants to get the best crop possible. Well it looks like the work has paid off as the number of flowers on the redcurrant bushes is amazing and it looks like I am in for a bumper crop. Take a look at the photo to see what I mean.

Wonderfully abundant redcurrant flowers after this year's pruning.

Wonderfully abundant redcurrant flowers after this year's pruning.

The importance of beauty in the garden


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irisYou may be excused for thinking that, based on my post to date, gardens should be productive spaces, and that aesthetics have little impact on me.  This however is not the case.

It is true that I believe that gardens should be productive, and that a garden without some sort of fruit/vegetable production is a wasted opportunity.  However that is not the full story.  To me gardens are about beauty, and I believe a vegetable garden or a fruit tree is a beautiful thing.  Growing produce for your family, friends and self is also a beautiful thing.

I believe the vegetable garden should not just be a functional space, but also a place that is designed well, with hard landscaping that provides a framework for the vegetables etc to look their best.  Beauty is important.

Hence today I am sharing a picture of the irises in my garden that are currently in full bloom.  This marvellous pale blue welcomes visitors as they walk along the  deck to our front door.  Enjoy!

Raspberries in the garden

I have a belief/opinion/call it what you will, that everyone should grow raspberries in the garden.  Maybe not if you live in the tropics, but those in temperate climates should.  I have suggested this to friends, even offered to provide them with some canes for free, but no one as yet has taken me up on the offer.

It is true that raspberries have a bad wrap.  They are renowned for needing quite a bit of water (a bad thing in our water starved country), and for being invasive.  And both of these are true.  However the rewards are worth it.

You see, to my mind, soft fruits (raspberries included) are expensive in the supermarket, and the quality of the fruit is usually poor.  This is because soft fruit spoils quickly and bruises easily.  But this needn’t be a problem for you in your garden.  Picked and eaten quickly, raspberries are an absolute delight.

They need not take up a lot of space in the garden, however unless you can dedicate a specific bed to them they do need to be contained or they will invade.  I have them in their own bed, but other have suggested putting a barrier like a 40cm deep corrugated iron sunk into the garden bed.

Raspberries are also shallow rooted and therefore do not cope well with competition.  Hence you have to keep the weeds out.  However I mulch them yearly with a few inches of compost and mulch and usually find that stops most weeds.  Also once the raspberries are established they will tend to choke out any competition.  Mulching also helps with the water issue.

So let me know, have you tried raspberries in your patch?  Post a comment below.

Broadbean glut

My broadbeans are in full flight now.  Actually, just as I am about to go on holidays for a few weeks.  Frustrating, but at least I have had a few meals from them before I go.  I am sure the neighbours will use the excess.

I thought I would be smart this year.  After speaking to a few people who have been gardening in the Melbourne area longer than me, I decided to plant my broadbeans early in the hope of getting a winter, or at least an early spring, crop.  Alas it was not to be and they have all come into crop at towards the end of the spring.

This may be due to the fact that we have had the coldest and wettest winter for many years.  And while that has done wonders for our dams and given the fruit trees a deep watering, it has buggered up much of my planting.

I also thought I would stagger the plantings to get a prolonged crop.  This too has proved to be pointless, as they have all come on together, leaving me with a big glut that I can’t use.  If only I had got the chooks (chickens to those not in Australia), I am sure they would have loved them.

Anyway, I like to eat my broadbeans before they get too big.  Usually when I talk about broadbeans, at this point people recount horror stories of childhood experiences where they were forced to eat big leathery overcooked beans.  I, however, was lucky in that respect.  We never had broadbeans at all as children.  But I suspect that this was because my mother had had the aforementioned horror stories herself and probably vowed never to cook them for herself.  I must ask her one-day if that is the case.

So the cooking moral of the story is pick the pods when they are small (but not too small or the beans are microscopic).  My guide would be no bigger than the diameter of your thumb, ideally more like middle finger size.  It does mean you’ll have to pod a lot more beans to get a meal.  But those beans you do get will be sugary sweet and very tender.  Just as nice as freshly picked peas.

I like to cook them in just a bit of butter (actually a lot of butter – I believe in giving the middle finger to the cholesterol police whenever possible) until they are just cooked.  Lovely!

So post me comment.  Did you have any broadbean horrors?  Or are you a lover of them?  Please let me know.

The rhubarb is sprouting.

My rhubarb has kicked in a full swing.  This is it’s second year in the garden, and after a good feed on manure and blood and bone in the autumn it is making the most of the start of spring.

Like most plants you aren’t supposed to pick much of the rhubarb in it’s first season.  Letting it develop and establish itself is a much better idea, and I am hoping it will lead to a much bigger crop this year.

Now I know rhubarb isn’t for everyone.  Like most vegetables it has those we appreciate and those who can’t stand it.  Personally I reckon it’s great.  My favourite is one from Jamie Oliver’s great cookbook “Jamie at Home”. It is for a rhubarb and apple crumble that has the added treat of a little orange and lemon to the rhubarb mix.  Lovely!

So post me a comment below.  Any tips of growing rhubarb?  Any great recipe tips?  Till next time, keep getting those fingers grubby.

The first pizza of the spring.

We had wonderful weather here this week.  Winter has been a long and cold one (by our standards), and spring is finally starting to show its colours.  It was a beautiful 21 degrees here today and we decided to get the wood fired oven going.

Wood fired oven in spring

The wood fired oven complete with roof.

It has been a long time since I have managed to get a post up onto this blog.

It has been a very busy winter, as well as wet and cold.  But since my last post I am beginning to master the art of cooking with the wood fired oven.  You’ll see by comparing my last picture with the one on this post, I have whitewashed the oven to seal it and built a roof over the top to keep the rain off.  This makes a big difference not having to cook with something made of wet mud.

The oven takes about an hour and a half to get hot enough to cook pizza well (350 to 400 degrees celcius), but I have to keep coals in the oven otherwise it cools down quickly.  To get the oven to hold the heat well it really needs warming up for about 2.5 to 3 hours.  If I get it to this stage it will stay warm for 12 hours and is useful for cooking in for about 4 to 5 hours.  This is when we cook our pizza for lunch, bread in the afternoon, and roast for dinner.  It really does make wonderful pizza and bread.  If you have the space I would recommend you make one.  If you do have one, let me know how you find it to cook with by posting a comment below.