Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gardening by moonlight

No, not the kind where you refer to a chart to see what to plant when according to the phases of the moon, but the kind when it's already dark outside, and the Mosquitos are out in their hordes, but it's such a beautiful, balmy, sublime autumn night that you steal half an hour outside to do some planting (raspberries into styrofoam boxes, in this case).

The current moon phase, by the way, is a waxing crescent and supposedly a good time for planting and encourages leaf growth. I only learnt that five minutes ago...

More interesting to me is my SP's current complete fascination with the moon. She tells me she wants to sit on it; bless little toddlers! Always seeing our world in a different way.

Virtually free food?

Last time I told you about my butternut pumpkins (that's butternut squash too, for any overseas readers). Those were the pumpkins I planted myself in carefully prepared ground. But then, up the back are three GINORMOUS self sown pumpkins. They came out of the compost heap which I moved - and spilt - because it was in the way of the chicken coop which we were building (and still are, slow work in progress). I'm not sure what kind they are, I'd guess Jap or Queensland Blue since they're what we'd generally buy from the supermarket.

(Please ignore the weeds, they have gone mental and I'm telling myself I'll get on top of them once we move home...)

These three pumpkin plants are a demonstration that plants can - and will - adapt to the conditions they have. Self sown at almost exactly a meter apart, they have never had any water beyond the rain and yet never got wilty except on the very hottest of days. The butternuts, on the other hand, wilted at the first hint of heat and had to be watered almost daily through the summer. The butternuts got completely covered with downy mildew after some summer rain and the few nice warm days which followed... Not one spot of mildew appeared on my mystery pumpkins. Now, they're covered in male and female flowers, and although I was tempted to continue to leave them completely to their own devices I have been hand pollinating the baby fruits at every opportunity (many more fruits on each plant compared to the butternuts too which had about one each). Now I just have to wait and see if we get nice pumpkins from my irrigation-free plants or if they are completely inedible.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My first pumpkin.

Not bad, hey?! I'm quite chuffed with it! 777g.

To be truthful, last year I had a single butternut pumpkin, which was about the size of a tennis ball. I think I planted my pumpkin plants too late and was too ambitious, planting half a dozen different varieties which came to nothing.

This year I only planted butternuts, though I was thwarted in my attempts to plant them early by nefarious snails, who ate my home grown seedlings twice before I caved in and bought a punnet of them and ringed them with ghastly (but effective) snail bait.

The other day I picked this first pumpkin and tonight I made soup with it which tasted like perfectly normal pumpkin soup, so I guess I got something right?

There are eight more of these babies still waiting on their vines out in the veggie patch :-)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dumb gardening decisions

We all learn by making mistakes, when we do the wrong thing and think, 'oops, won't do that again!' But the problem with making gardening mistakes is that you might be stuck with them for a long time, perhaps forever.
So here's one of mine: thinking that since I've never managed to grow mint particularly well in a pot I'd put some in my boggy spot in the front garden. Even though I knew it could be (is) a weed. And what do you know? It's taken off. In the space of six months it's become quite enormous and is sending new shoots out and rapidly colonising the front garden at an alarming rate. I used to think you could never have enough mint in the garden, but I might have to eat my words (literally).
So, fess up, what are some mistakes you've made in your patch?

Friday, March 2, 2012

The K-Paw project.

For ages and ages I've been blathering on about wanting to plant a sea of kangaroo paws in my front garden. They really do look fabulous when they're planted en masse and are in flower. I did a bit of a search in this blog and found that I'd been talking about seas of kangaroo paws as early as January 2011, and moaning about the cost as the cheapest I'd found them at that point was $8 each. Since them I've found them for less (about $3 each in tubes), but even better -for me, not the general public- is that I could get them from work for even less than that. (I started work at the nursery in July.) Bonus!

I have to make a confession here: I had put myself on a plant-buying ban for February. I didn't succeed on buying no plants at all; what plant addict would? But until the other day all I'd caved in on was an Agonis 'After Dark,' three Nepeta 'Walker's Low' and two irresistibly cheap Philadelphus mexicanus (mock orange). Then, last Monday, I brought home two boxes of babies and three bigger pots.

I had bought 11 yellow- green kangaroo paws in tubes, 13 red kangaroo paws, five Patersonia occidentalis (purple flag iris), and my three larger plants were Anigozanthus 'yellow gem' (an old and proven cultivar and I chose bright yellow in the hope that they'll make my 'yellow-green' flowered plants look yellower than they'll really be). The Patersonia and the K-paws have similar requirements - full sun and fantastic drainage - so I'm hoping they'll grow well together. Basically, I didn't just break my plant ban, I blew it right out of the water.


Months ago, I planted half a dozen K paws in the western corner of the front garden, and they've done so well it gives me high hopes for the next batch (they've done so well, in fact, that I think I've planted them too close together!)

(Paws left, Lomadras right, persimmon in background and mad roses behind that)

On Tuesday I was able to plant them all. It was quite a job and took me all afternoon: laying them all out; digging the holes; adding the compost, manure, blood and bone, mycorrhizae tablets, dynamic lifter (k paws are quite heavy feeders so it's best to get them off to a good start).

By the time I'd finished my front garden looked like this:

And best of all? The next day it rained and rained and rained all day, which hasn't happened for months, so I couldn't have asked for better 'settling in' weather for my new babies.

(our state awash... unlike in other states, rain is rarely a problem in SA.)

The photo below is taken from our bedroom window (splattered with raindrops), the design idea was to be able to look down over my see of kangaroo paws which will sweep off out into the garden to the left, framed by the persimmon tree (the stick at the bottom towards the left) and my new crabapple (ltop left in photo, almost invisible) and the Lomandra border on the right.

In a couple of years I hope to have not just a garden with a glorious swathe of kangaroo paws, but to play host to dozens of native birds as well.