Well Hello Summer! – Day 20 NaBloPoMo

Today was quite spectacular – brilliant, sunny and really quite hot. Too nice to be stuck inside with assignments, so I spent the day working on getting the garden up to date because it looks like summer’s here!

It was too hot to work in the greenhouse today, so I set up a work area outside on top of the currently empty rabbit nursery hutch. With a cold bottle of water and a good audio book (Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C. S. Forester) I spent quite a lot of time getting seedlings into tubes.

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It was a lovely place to work but here in Tasmania the sun is deceptively intense. I’m quite fair skinned and burn easily so I usually wear long sleeved cotton shirts, long pants and a hat when I’m out in the yard. Silly me forgot to roll my sleeves down after I did the watering this morning and after 10 minutes sitting working, I could feel my forearms burning. It’s not too bad tonight after a shower and plenty of soothing skin cream but I really try and avoid getting too much sun.

I potted up a lot of seedlings today – especially eggplants and basil – into toilet roll tubes. It’s an effective means of recycling an otherwise useless product and because the cardboard tubes disintegrate, it pretty much eliminates transplant shock when the seedlings go out into a garden bed or into a larger pot. If you’re interested in reading more, I wrote about it here.

Later in the afternoon, I made a wonderful discovery. I was weeding the path in front of the main raspberry bed when a flash of colour caught my eye – raspberry season has officially  started!

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And they were delicious – worth getting a little bit of sunburn earlier in the day 😀

To finish, Bernard Black is very well settled in and getting very inquisitive about his surroundings – and eating lots!

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Tomorrow is submission day for final assignments and discussions about future units. In particular, what am I going to do for my final year project. I’ve got a few ideas but I really need to run it past some of my tutors.

Lots to think about!

Chilli Mania

I was chatting online this morning with some like minded souls, who are also in the midst of summer gardening. The subject of growing chilies in Tasmania came up and it made me realise what an addict I am. Where most of the people on the forum had a few chilies for various purposes, there was one fellow who had multiple plants – and me. I counted this morning when I watered the greenhouse. I have 15 different varieties this year, and most them multiple plants.

One part of the Chilli Collection

One part of the Chilli Collection

Chilies are so much more than just mouth burning, demonic plants for the insanely masochistic. There are many different notes that accompany the heat and will compliment different dishes in multiple ways. And there are many, many different varieties and levels of heat. I think it’s more a question of finding the flavours that suit you.

For my spice-loving household, I have everything from a ridiculously hot Rocoto or Tree Chili (C. pubesens aka. Manzano for the apple-shaped fruit) to a very mild, sweet form that is incredibly prolific and provides a lovely tangy note in salads.

Manzano or Rocoto Chilli

Manzano or Rocoto Chilli

At the moment, I’ve got Rocoto’s starting to size up while the plant is still producing beautiful purple flowers. This chilli really packed a punch in it’s first year. All the reading I’d done suggested it was a mid-heat fruit and being so thick and fleshy, I thought it’d be a good candidate for stuffing with cottage cheese and baking.

Well, I made it through half of mine before I couldn’t feel my tongue or lips anymore. It was more like a very nasty Habenero in terms of heat and had similar fruity overtones. Rocotos are still treasured but respectfully dried for winter curries now!

I’ve found over the years, the heat scale can be quite variable. It seems to depend so much on the growing season, which is relatively short here in Tasmania, how much water and sunlight the developing fruit gets and what the plant is fed. I grow all my chillies in the greenhouse at present and combined with the mega crop of basil I’ve got this summer, it’s getting pretty crowded in there! But the key feature seems to be speed. I’ve noticed over the years that really hot chillies are the ones that take longer to ripen, such as the Rocotos and Habeneros.

Whether I’m growing from seed or potting up purchased plants, I usually put some used coffee grounds and a little dolomite in my potting mix for chillies and enrich it with mushroom compost or worm castings. Like any greenhouse plant, the potting mix needs to be just right not too heavy – but not too sandy or pots will dry out quickly on even a relatively mild day. If planting out in garden beds, mulch is essential to keep the roots moist and keep them well watered.

I’m loathe to admit it, but I’ve been a bit slack this year – I still have four punnets to be pricked out into grow

The Punnets of Shame

The Punnets of Shame

tubes and two trays of grow tubes that have to put in pots!

Included in these are Poblano Ancho and Serrano chillies to go into pots and Red Habeneros, a stunning Royal Black and the last of my first (and favourite) Habenero that are finally big enough to go into grow tubes. (If you’re interested in making/recycling your own grow tubes, there’s a post about it here).

Some years ago on a whim, I bought a Habenero, who we named “Fabio” because he was the most beautiful chilli in the world. He survived as a house plant for several years and a couple of moves under quite atrocious conditions and gave us many beautiful, ridiculously hot chillies. In his last year, I managed to save quite a lot of seed – and this is the final batch.

I’m trying to be patient, waiting for Inferno, Ring of Fire and Hot Portugal seedlings to start flowering but it’s difficult! In the meantime, I’ve already been eating Jalapenos in salad, Cayenne and Thai chillies in curries and stir fries and I’ve started drying some in the dehydrator. The big winner so far is a heirloom Bulgarian form I picked up cheaply in spring. After being potted up, it hasn’t grow much but just keeps producing flowers and fruit non-stop! The fruit are quite long and go from dark green to a rich, carrot orange. The flavour is also rich and spicy, without being overbearingly hot.

And in the process of writing this blog, I’ve just bought some more unusual chilli seed for growing at the end of next winter. All in all, it’s chilli heaven here 😀

What’s your favourite chilli? Please leave a comment below.

Inferno budding up

Inferno budding up

Making Room – Day 22 NaBloPoMo 2015

Just a short post today, I’m tired tonight!

Because we have relatively mild summers here in Tasmania, I grow chillies and basil in pots in the greenhouse so I get the most out of them. When I first moved here six years ago, this was run down shed, full of weeds and cherry tree suckers and it took six months to get it into a workable state. All of the shelving is timber salvaged from the old shed.

I’ve been doing yet another clean out of the greenhouse the last couple of days, in an effort to make more room. It’s something I go through every spring as it tends to become a storage space in winter. But this year I’ve got more chilli plants already in pots – and a lot more on the way!

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So this is what it looks like after today. This is the front half, with a wonderful view to the outside and the main raspberry bed. Inside, there’s Sweet Basil in pots that I’ve already started cropping and two more punnets of Basil seedlings ready to be potted up. The area out of shot holds my eight very productive strawberry plants a storage shelf for plastic trays, tags and toilet roll grow tubes and further left is a bench where I can sit and work.

In this photo there’s also vegetables sizing up for planting out in the next few weeks, including zucchinis, beans, various salad vegetables and about 50 Asparagus seedlings.

At the far end on the top shelf is a tray with approximately eight different varieties of chillies that need to potting up – so many plants!

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Following around are mini cucumbers in a tub on the wood chip floor, Garlic Chives about to go out into the garden and my permanent chillies, a Rocoto (Capsicum pubescens), which has beautiful purple flowers and large, very hot fruit and a Scotch Bonnet (Capsicum chinense).  On the lower shelf are three pots of watercress, one of my favourite salad plants.

 

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The top shelf here is more chillies – did I mention my family love hot, spicy food? – Cayenne, Jalapeno, Habaneros and Thai and the last of the vegetables to be potted up. The lower shelf in this photo will eventually be filled with Mammoth, Lettuce Leaf and Thai Basil. Out of shot to the right is a shelf and small cupboard that might end up being more shelving for chillies!

So, that’s my greenhouse – probably my most productive space in the entire garden 🙂

What’s the most productive space in your garden? Do you have a greenhouse? Please leave a comment. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunny Saturday – Day 21 NaBloPoMo 2015

I had a really lovely day today. It wasn’t too hot, there was a gentle breeze through the yard and there was lots of gardening to do. Who am I kidding – there’s always lots of gardening to do! Admittedly, I didn’t do a scrap of uni work today but I had such a busy week, I felt I deserved a day off.

It’s wonderful to watch everything grow and change this time of year. In the space of a few short weeks, we’ve gone from buds to flowers to fruit forming on the cherry, apricot, plum and nectarine trees. The strawberries have been delicious and reasonably plentiful despite having only a handful of plants. But this morning we picked and ate the first raspberries of the season.

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It was quite a momentous occasion, I think it always is for people who grow their own fruit. When I was a child in South Australia (a far more Mediterranean climate than here in Tasmania), we would pick the first stone fruit – usually early apricots – and my mother would cut it into equal pieces for us all to share and she insisted we make a wish on the first of the harvest. It’s a ritual I’ve continued to this day with my family and whoever happens to be with us when it happens.

This afternoon I started cleaning out the other side of the greenhouse in preparation of the main Basil and Chilli crops. Because the climate here in Hobart is on the cool side, I always grow these in plastic pots in the warmest spot I can find. So far I have all the common Sweet Basil (Ocimiun basilicum) potted up, about 40 plants this year. But there’s Thai, Mammoth and Lettuce Leaf (my favourite for pesto) plus more varieties of chillies ready to go now and nowhere to put them at the moment!

I’ll get it finished tomorrow. Meanwhile, tonight we had the first of the free range pork that arrived yesterday with a salad from the garden, featuring home made feta cheese I made about a month ago. It was a winner all round 😉

What are your favourite family rituals? Leave a comment below. 

Do Rabbits Dream of Long-Eared Sheep?

Late Afternoon From My Backdoor

Late Afternoon From My Backdoor

I try to structure my week into bits where I work and bits where I don’t do so much. It gives me time to breathe, think and enjoy. And it’s a really good thing for my creativity. It means that I don’t earn as much as I probably could, but the payoff to my health and wellbeing is incalculable.

Having said that, my “day off” is full of activity and little work-related tasks, sadly necessary to meet current deadlines. And of course, there’s the daily blog promise to uphold throughout November. Yes, this is another NaBloPoMo post!

At the moment, I’m in the middle of a preparatory course for going back to formal study. (This is bound to be the subject of a blog post later in NaBloPoMo!) So, this morning I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading for an assignment due at the end of this week. It’s fun, I’m learning about learning again and thinking about thinking! And it’s a lot more inspiring than I first thought it would be.

Next, is some time out in the secret garden. I live in a wonderful area, 25 minutes casual walk into the city of Hobart and yet I have an urban farm. You’d never think it from looking at the front of my place! I manage to grow most vegetable needs for this household and the excess gets spread out amongst family and friends. I also have the “timewasters” out there – my lovely hens, who are laying so many eggs at the moment, and my beautiful pet rabbits – the buck, Barabas Beefcake, and two does – Bella and Boudica. I eat meat and want to take some responsibility for at least part of my diet, so their offspring will be food for me and mine. But these three characters are absolutely pets!

Barabas Beefcake

Barabas Beefcake

At present, it’s mid-Spring in the southern hemisphere but the weather has been so very strange (we had snow on Mt Wellington a few weeks ago) right across Australia. So it’s only been the last few days that it’s finally felt like the busiest time of the gardening year!

Today, I’ve been weeding the rhubarb patch, getting ready to plant more corn seedlings, which also involves a lot of talking to the hens, feeding them weeds and collecting eggs. They live in a hutch built mostly out of scrap, so it’s not the prettiest structure but it’s safe and secure for my precious girls. We call it either “Frankenhutch” or “Cluckingham Palace” but it provides a one-stop shop for eggs and chicken poo enriched mulch for the vegetable garden. All chickens are quite silly things but I have one, Henrietta who is utterly mad. Everytime I look at her I can see the link back to the dinosaurs. Nevertheless, she eats out of my hand, loves cabbage and kale leaves, and is becoming quite tame.

Henrietta of the Mad Eyes

Henrietta of the Mad Eyes

Another of today’s jobs was potting up Basil (my favourite summer herb) in the greenhouse. When I first moved here a few years ago, the greenhouse was a badly neglected shed with a young cherry tree trying to grow inside it! Now, it’s clad in clear polycarbonate roofing plastic and is where I grow chillies, basil, tomatillos, cucumber and eggplant as well as raise my vegetable seeds.

The Start of the Basil Crop

The Start of the Basil Crop

At lunchtime, there was a coffe break with friends under the chesnut tree, which will be a mass of bees in a week or two when the flowers come. Here, rabbits were cosseted, fed little treats of chickory leaves and generally loved. In recent months, I’ve been putting a cane lounge out when the weather’s been good, and it’s become one of my favourite places to take a break, read a book, listen to music with the bunnies or just think about nothing at all.

Because we’ve had so much rain the last few months, there are more weeds than vegetables at present, but there’s still enough to provide me and mine with all our salad needs and green vegetables for steaming and stir frys. It’s wonderful, keeps me healthy and keeps me connected to the earth 😀

Bella & Boudica

Bella & Boudica