Thursday, March 31, 2011

I get the carpark caper

Well that's a lucky thing. Through the pushes and pulls of life it turns out that I get to be in Adelaide this weekend. My bud Steve Goodman is working in Singapore this weekend which is also a great thing to do. I must say, though, that if I did it this time around it would have been an amazing string of coincidences - me in Singapore on a weekend that really soul-nourishing stuff (for me) was happening here in Adelaide. It happened a few times last year as well.

So the ABC at Collinswood turns its carpark over to a gardening show and plant sale twice a year. Crusty old fuddy duddies (like me) go out there, listen to the gardening talkback radio on their headphones and buy cheap plants. Boring for everyone else I know, but I like it. And my kids are slowly getting infected.

So Steve I know the pepper crab will be great and Singapore is amazing - my favourite other country - and I'm happy here this weekend as well. See you next week.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rain water on fruit trees

Last season's rain. Now is a great time to get sweet fresh rain water into the root zone. I'm using up 3000l of drinking water that will get replenished in a month.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cut your Basil back if you like

My friend Amber asked me what to do with Basil that looks long, leggy and flowery. I suppose like this:

Well, my answer - cut it as hard as you like, use the leaves, keep feeding it and keep it moist.

Also put it somewhere that it'll stay warm. You can keep Basil going as far as mid July, but the cold WILL finish it. It'll go woody and die. So keep it under plastic or against a warm (west facing) wall.

Magnolia "Little Gem"

Neat, and cute. Not a patch on those beautiful full size magnolias at Mt Vernon - George Washington's house I think in Virginia - where the flowers are the size of dinner plates.

But these are a nice little nod to it.

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Your Parsley seed gift

If I give you a little bag of parsley seed it's pretty easy to know what to do with it. Scratch some soils where you want it to be growing, sprinkle the seed. Maybe sprinkle some water on it, or not.

Sometime you'll get little seedlings like these. Just don't kill them. Sooner or later they'll come up to be a full plant. Us it as you need. They'll keep growing throughout summer 2011/2012, then 2012/13 they'll go to seed.

Then you can collect that seed and start all over again. Whatever happens with the weather, get this parsley in and you'll have parsley in your garden for the rest of your life, with almost no effort.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spray Black Spot while it's still just a black spot

With all this moisture around your roses need a friend. There's a whole autumn where the roses can bloom and put strength into their frame for next season, and you want to help them along.

I got black spot appearing this weekend. Left to it's own devices it will yellow up your leaves and the plant will lose them. It just makes life tough for the poor little things.

So get some triforine and spray with that. It's a reasonably benign chemical but it does stop black spot pretty quickly - most other fungicides don't.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pasta Alla Panna - Amazing use for overripe small end of season tomatoes

Lots of tomatoes at the end of the season. And basil is still going strong. What to do with those tiny tomatoes?

Use them in an "Alla Panna" Like this:

Fry about 300g of bacon, throw some chopped garlic in on top. I use heaps, and just dried stuff (actually pre-fried from a Chinese grocer) but chopped fresh would be good.

While the fry-up is still pretty uncooked throw in a heap of roughly chopped overripe tomatoes, they'll give off lots of water, as they do throw in a heap of chopped basil, back off the heat, stirring and let it reduce to a paste with meat chunks.

Get some pasta cooked. I use two full packs to give me plenty of leftovers. Keep the pasta on the undercooked side.

I've never had a problem from taking the pasta out early. Overcooked is very bad and happens too easily.

So once that's done take the heat right back, pour a heap of cream into it and let the colours all mix. You end up with a rustic, creamy, yummy sauce that you just can't stop eating.

My kids call it "yummy pasta" - I make it on Sunday night and the leftovers give afterschool and whenever snacks well into the next week.

Perhaps it might not be considered healthy with all that cream but I seriously can't work out what people think is healthy or not.

I do a version for my wife where I put the pasta in a bowl, put lots of olive oil then the mix. Tonight I put chopped roast capsicum in there too with fresh basil. I think that's probably a great deal more healthy.

But the secret ingredient - super ripe tomatoes and some fresh basil

The good news - the tomatoes freeze for this with no problem at all. Just chop them roughly, freeze and use them as above. You could get away with not even thawing them if you're clever.

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Dead tips on my Feijoa?

I'm hoping Malcolm Campbell can give me a hand with this. The new tips had died off. My guess it was a sap sucking bug.

With these fresh new tips coming I suspect the treatment might be Confidor, both sprayed and as a drench in the soil.

We'll see what Malcolm has to say.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Green Tomatoes up top?

Always seems to happen. End of the season your tomatoes are all sitting up the top of your plants like little green golf balls.

Well the advice I have is to strip all the lower leaves. Right back to a stem. Sure you get a top heavy plant, but the gardening gurus tell me that somehow the plant gets the idea, and puts all the energy into ripening your fruit. You might prick out any flower trusses too (although this year I'm playing devils advocate and letting the trusses go).

Fruit WILL after ripen, if you pick it at what viticulturists call "veraison" - I think. For tomatoes that's when the fruit goes from green to white. You'll get it if you look close enough. For about a day, a tomato looks not green, not orange, but something in between. Most obvious on the "bum side" of the fruit.

PULL YOUR PLANT OUT if the fruit has yellow streaks through it. It's over. If you have your fruit looking like this then nothing from that plant will be any good, and you might infect other plants. Be cruelly kind. All you could've done is do some better mite control earlier in the season - Sulphur, Natrasoap, Kelthane or keeping the humidity up around them.

Relax. Tomatoes are annuals. You simply lost a couple of weeks. With tomatoes nothing lasts forever.
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Kikuyu - sometimes invasive is good

Bare patches of lawn - sometimes I'm happy to see kikuyu doing this "running" thing. Getting a lawn to look OK is truly a labour of love.

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Tamarillo - tree tomato?

It's set a fair bit of fruit - I tasted one last year from somebody else. It was nice - halfway between a tomato and a passionfruit.  A nice tree.

A little garden mysetery for me.

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Can you sunburn agaves?

I took these out from under shadecloth last week and they grizzled a little from this week's sun. They'll be ok but it did surprise me a little.

I suppose the damage is done now I just need to help them out of it in the next few weeks while we've still got some. I'll give them a little nitrogen (dynamic lifter) for green and some potash to strengthen them.

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Free standing controlled climate

I used the 30 litre ex council recycle box which - happily - is black. Filled it with good quality soil, a couple of Burnley tomato plants, two strawberry runners and some basil. Water it, build a frame over it, plastic then against a warm wall.

Probably this weekend I'll move it to a west facing wall and put a heat pad under it. Warm soil and warm air - a neat little experiment.

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Get ahead of winter with $20 of plastic

I cleared a little spot a few weeks ago. I HATE buying tomatoes, so in winter I try to get something.

Easier said than done. Still I go with the right varieties - the Burnley variants are meant to be cold tolerant - and this year I've got my plastic up early.

This is a little raised bed and I've stuck some snapdragon baskets in there as well. Snapdragon last beautifully into winter if you can keep some heat on them. I love the snob value of possibly having explosive displays on hanging baskets in August.

The basil is from summer and I might be able to keep it alive - impossible without controlled climate. Finally I'll try to overwinter those Asian chillis for an early start next spring. I think the important thing - get the plastic up now and get your plants into the rhythm.

Those tomatoes have grown ten inches in the week they've been under plastic.

The only shortcoming here is that the bed is a little too "groundy". It's raised a little but come winter it'll be as cold as death. Few plants like that for their roots.

Next post.
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Get some water into the soil

Fair enough the trees aren't suffering but now is the time they are preparing for winter. They need a little help. Look at those stonefruit - they still have all those leaves available to convert sunlight into sugars that they'll store in their wood and roots. They need water to do that.

Water your fruit trees even though there's a prediction of rain. Any rain you get can serve to force the tapwater down into subsoil and keep the top sweet.

And speaking of the coming rain, get a little fruit tree fertiliser over their dripline. The next six weeks your deciduous trees should have the top foot of soil moist and full of nutrients. Evergreens won't mind it either. Your spring and summer should them be amazing.

And by the way
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Oil spray now for citrus leaf miner

Those silver squiggly tracks in generally new leaves? If you haven't got them yet then spray with pest oil 5ml per litre -certified organic I think. The protective coat stops the little moth laying it's eggs.

And helps with scale too. If you already have them - yuk. Few chemicals help - perhaps Confidor - so either rub them off manually or cut back and hope for new growth. Given that we have a few weeks of growing season yet I went for the second, but it's a little risky.
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A serious weekend on garden maintenance

One of the great things for me about gardening is that the signs are very clear. So the triggers I'm getting are:

Citrus leaf miner on my lime
Still some dryness under many if my fruit trees
Winter weeds starting to appear in the driveway
Fruit trees preparing for dormancy could use nutrition

And others that I'll note as I'm pottering today.

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