Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hey laaaa, Hey laaaa, the bees are back!

They've been gone for  such a long time now...hey la, hey la
But now they're back everythin will be fine... hey la  .. hey laa
yeah - they'll  be  a-pollinating
yeah - my efforts much abatin

So after a small appearance last week, there are bees a plenty all over the pumpkin patch.
I'll have barrow loads of jap pumpkins in the months to come aswell as butternuts and ironbark pumpkins for winter eating. The watermelons are sort of getting swamped by the pumpkins although we have got a few. There are a few Israeli rock melons on the go after a stuttering start. This is because rabbits are partial to rockmelon vines but not it seems to other crawling cucurbits.

One strange happening in the garden in our Lanes Navel orange has decided to have another go at flowering and its lovely to have the smell of Orange blosson in the morning.  I think it was the heavy rain and total soil saturation that gave it a shock and probably a boost of nutrients. Meanwhile another orange is dropping its fruit because it may not be geting quite enough water.

My stubborn Olive tree has now been in the ground about 5 years and has still not shown any sign of fruiting. Maybe i need to strees it more? It is a Manzallo and we got it as a wedding gift.

Transplanted lots of purple cherokee tomatoes to larger pots.

My jujube seed have germinated and are looking good - below

curry plants are doing well - below

Jambolans have germinated. - no photo - kind of boring ayway

Grasshopper news
I'm in the process of getting hold of an organic grasshopper control. It's called GREENGUARD and it is a fungus developed by the csiro. It was originally discoverd by a farmer wo picked up  fungus coverd dead grasshopper. This was many years ago and after a lot of development and testing  it is finally available to the average Jo Blogg. I've made some enquiries with Elders who are aparrently one of the distributers. It only effects grasshpper and the fungus burrows into the cuticle of the insect, invading its whole body. Exciting Huh?

Planted some Red Nigeian eggplant seedlings amongst the gourds and other things
The Mozambique maize is growing well. planted at the beginning of January

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I saw a Bee!

Not so unusual because they are coming into the garden to get water but not lingering. However the other day while i was racing around pollinating pumpkins i saw a Bee covered in pumpkin pollen and lingering, looking for the next flowers, which made me think my work at pollinating pumpkins was coming to an end. In previous years we went from getting a few zucchinis to getting several bags full due to the bees doing the work for us.

The Jap pumpkins are doing  well compared to other varieties - if only they stored. We have also planted ironbark and butternut squash. We shall wait and see what the bees do and what the cooler weather does later in the year.

Plant your Tomatos now!

Purple Cherokee Tomatos

We have  a long warm season in Alice Springs which allows you to plant a couple of crops of summer vegetables. The touchy tomatoes have two quite specific planting times. The first is in July or August so your tomatoes will flower and set fruit before the consistently hot weather sets in . very hot weather prevents the pollen from tomato flowers from working and they don't set fruit.

The second planting time is January so plants grow all their leafy bits and only start to flower say in march and april - may when it is cooler. We have a tomato that is something like purple cherokee which likes to fruit into the cooler weather. we have much less fruit splitting and rotting - the fruit are particularly thin skinned so this is definately not a variety that will make the supermarkets. The taste of them usually causes the eater to moan. It fruits well into winter if you protect it from frost. Ours wons first prize at the show a couple of years ago which is held in July.

However planting In january is a challenge due to the heat and pests. we plant ours in the hot house and  raise them plants in 4 - 6 inch pots until their roots are showing well through the bottom of the pot. Thus when they are planted out they don't need daily watering.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Herbaceous things

I have tried many herbs in the garden over the years so i thought i'd go through a bit of herb history.

Starting with herbs i have had for years

The sage bush just gets bigger each year - going on 6 years old now. It grows in a position that gets sun in winter and dappled shade in summer

Slowly spreads along the ground and takes root at the nodes. This is one we've had for 6 years as well.


This one is hard to kill . there was one in the native garden around the front which never got much water and has only recently died through continued neglect.


we have had to plant a new plant a couple of times. they seem to last 2 -3 years.

Not that i know how to use this herb, but we grow it and it has lovely flowers that last in a vase for ages. It has been here for 6 years.

Tarragon went fantastic for quite a few years then seeemd to dissappear. i'm not sure why but possibly it was due to peppermint invading the bed it was in. peppermint may be a very hardy competitor or produce some allelopathic substance that can damage other plants.

Well very easy to grow. it eventually escaped the pot and now it spreadys happily between garden beds. i don't mind it too much becaus ethe rabbits love it, so its extra greenpick for them.

never really did well for me but i know other people in alice who have grown it. Maybe it doesn't like a basic soil.


i planted tansy originally as a plant that would flower and provide food to garden predators etc. As it turns out it doesn't really flower when it is most needed anyway. i find that vegetables let go to seed are the biggest feast for garden predators. Tansy does grow fine though and rabbits like a bit evry so often.

Garlic Chives
grows excellently and self seeds

planted at the right time you can grow top quality garlic in Alice Springs with big healty cloves. you also have to know when to turn the water off so they dry out - therwise your crop could all go rotten.

Annual herbs
Haven't had ant problems with growing annual herbs such as Basil, parsley, coriander, dill etc, as long as they are planted at the right time they do fine.
Annual herbs

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

And more rain

After the driest year on record the drought has finally broken - if we call them droughts in places that wander in and out of drought on a constant basis.

Most of the shubs in the surrounding hills had defoliated before the rain. In the raised humidiy before the rain the termites were busy  gathering up the last vestiges of dried grass.

 Perhaps they needed to stock their larder before the rain?

The rain was slow but constant followed by drissle or waves of heavier rain. over the days the showers gradually got heaver. The swale in our fron yard filled up 3 times over which has never happened before. it's only ever filled up once durng each rain period. Having lived in Darwin, i likened this rain to the monsoon - rain that came in waves - no thunder or lightening. all in all we had about 150mm in 4 days.

The hills around the town are saturated and are slowly leaking water into streams now that the rain has stopped. Already bird calls not heard for over a year are adding to our surrounds. Funghi are everywhere.

On the garden front.... the heavy raindrops demolished the leaves of the leafy greens, slaters decied to become mountaineers and climb the beanpoles - and eat anything that they could. The chickens moped, the rabbits stayed under their shelters and thr ground is still saturated.
The snake beans are going mad and the pigeon pea ditto. Tagasaste however doesn't like dampness as well as heat and many have died due to collar rot. I have one tall one which grew p over the winter and seems to be doing well.
The cape gooseberries i fear are succumbing to nematodes despite fairly ideal preparation

Planted seeds
curry plant
Syzigium cumini (Jambolan) we have one around the side of the house fruiting now and the seeds must be planted fresh, which is common for many rainforest trees.
chinese greens.

Jambolan above

Planted bush tobacco in any spare spaces - i have an idea that i might make a nicotine spray out of it and see how it works on grass hoppers - which are the next wave of pests to expect after this rain - oh and the caterpillars in many and varied variety.

i shall keep a close eye on the grape vines as they can easily be defoliated in a matter of days by big caterpillars.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

semi dried tomatoes

It has been great weather for drying tomatoes lately with a majority of days above 35 so we have been drying cherry tomatoes.

We just lay them on trays and usually one day is enough for cheeries. we dry them so there is still a little bit of moisture  in them. the key to making them extra yummy is once you bring them inside, soak them in red wine vinegar for one minute then jar them with olive oil. Best kept in the fridge to be on the safe side.We got the idea of soaking in red wine vinegar from Barabara Kingsolvers book "Animal Vegetable Miracle". A fabulous book about being a locavore for a year on a block of land in Kentucky - but dangerous because it will make you want to move to the country!

A garden letter from Yuendemu

Yuendemu is 500km north west of Alice Springs - deep in the Tanami desert.  Its a bit further north than Alice Springs  and has its own special gardening challenges so i though it would be good to inclue Trevors email outlining his latest garden trials and tribulations. I've ncluded my response to Trevor, followed by Trevors letter.

Hi Trevor, having you around for a cuppa and a chat was lovely and more than enough payment for our citrus. Look forward to the next one! I have been enjoying the Kefir and have been having it on my morning muesli - so thanks for that. I think it's a great supplement to my diet and immune system.

Frome  Jervois - I have just received 3 turkeys (which promptly flew out of the yard and into the neighbours yard) and dispatched one rabbit, a tray of tree lucerne seedlings and Cape gooseberry, old man saltbush seed and Acacia victoriae seed. We have a good little swap thing going - she's good at animal raising and I'm good at growing seedlings and plants. I'm going to get some ducklings and young chooks from her next year.

Good to hear about your garden successes. The carob is a pretty hardy tree - I'm thinking of planting a row of then down at the Steiner school.

We have been getting grapes from various sources - always yummy. We are harvesting snake beans now, tomatoes, carrots and pumpkins (jap)cucumbers and zucchini. Amaranth and pigeon pea growing well and being fed to the rabbits. I have a good crop of asparagus grown from seed coming along (do you have asparagus?) and I've extended the hothouse to have a hardening off area.

The lady i have been getting rabbits from is leaving town but luckily I have another fellow here who is starting off with a pair from Evon, so we shall be able to continue to exchange genetic material.

Love to see some photos of your work in the garden

Cheers for now,


Hi Chris,

Thanks for forwarding Michel's letter.

I must thank you for the lovely grapefruit and oranges. I enjoyed them
thoroughly. If you want to sell your produce I'm happy to buy.

Its been really hot here lately with the 40+ temperatures making it
tough for the plants. But I still managed to get a decent harvest of
grapes though the birds got about 1/3 of it - in spite of the bird
netting. The little buggers got in between the birdnet and shadecloth

I've been having a good time making compost with horse, cow and chicken
manure together with the kitchen waste from the Old People's Home next
door and straw dust from the chook house. I'll have to get some photos
and put them on facebook. I'm also making 'bokashi' with the excess vege
waste. I'm still working on getting the watering right and also the ph.

The leopard melon vines are flowering and setting fruit. I'm trying my best to go around pollenating the females but the thrill of the season has to be the three carob trees I transplanted from small pots. The new
growth is delightful to watch considering the plants sat in small pots for nearly two years quite neglected.

All my best wishes to you and your family for a lovely season.