An Ode To The Humble Plum

Well, it’s been another incredibly busy week! The weather – always a mixed blessing in Tasmania – has gone from the height of summer to feeling like an early autumn in a few short days. Mind you, I’m not complaining too much about the rain. Although I’m on the usual suburban mains system in the house, I only water the garden area from tanks and a small pump, with an extra line I put in to gravity feed down to the greenhouse. With a lot of mulch, it’s a pretty efficient system, but usually by mid-February, the levels are getting very low. This year, tanks are full again!

On the other hand, the accompanying wind has played havoc with some of the fruit trees, with lots one of my dwarf apples toppled in its tub Thursday. I’ve anchored it firmly back and staked it, so hopefully it will survive.

This week has also been full of plums, with most of the tree picked, dried and (for the first time) even sold and traded on. When I first came here eight years ago, there were some extremely neglected fruit trees that were mostly in a pretty woeful state. There was a lot of brush cutter damage to trunks, effectively ring barking some, brown rot in many and everything literally overrun with weeds. Some I couldn’t save but right down in the back corner, furthest from the house, was a very old plum tree, strangled by blackberries, English ivy and yet, in spite of everything, covered in small unripe fruit. The main trunk was split, it had been very poorly pruned, allowing some rot to set in but I realised it was a very old European prune plum and therefore, most definitely worth saving!

What it was – the jungle plum!

After several years of regular weeding, careful hand removal of blackberry suckers and some judicious pruning (initially with a chain saw) this tree has come back into its own. A couple of years ago we laid lots of cardboard, sand and finally pine bark to suppress weeds and it’s been a very successful makeover.

What it became – well cared for!

So much so, that I always have way too many plums for my household. They’re not the most wonderful plum to eat fresh, but I love making things with them. Some years I make a few jars of jam or sauce and one year I made a quite delicious perry from the yellow fleshed fruit – but always there’s lots of dried fruit – prunes to chop up for muesli, add to apple cobbler or even savoury dishes like Moroccan lamb stews. Best of all, as I walk past my pantry shelf on the way to the laundry and the back door, I pop a few in my pocket to have as a sweet snack on those cold winter mornings, a little memory of summer that was, and the promise of summer to come ❤


Garlic Harvest Blues – Day 18 NaBloPoMo 2017

One of the great things about keeping a blog is being able to compare harvests over time. And one crop that usually grows really well for me is garlic. We use it a lot so I grow plenty, and this year I thought with three beds, I might have enough to see our household through the year. And in the nearly eight years I’ve been living here I’ve only ever had a garlic crop fail twice, once about five years ago and this year.

My maincrop variety (like so many great gardening stories) started out with a few cloves someone gave me. I think it was a standard Tasmanian purple skin (but who knows?) and it keeps quite well for six or seven months. Over the years I’ve built up my stocks, only keeping the best and biggest cloves to replant the following autumn. And I carefully rotate beds, mulch them well and leave them to get on with it. Generally, there’s not a lot to do except weeding – they don’t like competition.

I carefully checked a couple that were starting to die back a few weeks ago, and was shocked to see as I eased the soil back that there was very little bulb development. Also, they were slow to get started and we had a lot of rain – so much that it looks like 30-40% rotted in the ground. I’ve heard from friends that I’m not the only one to have problems this year – but I don’t know if that makes me feel better or more concerned!

Harvesting garlic as I’ve said before, is something of an arcane art. Too early and the heads aren’t properly developed, but leave it too late and bulbs will split and don’t keep. After some very warm weather and a thunderstorm last week, I decided it was time to pull the worst affected bed.

It was pretty “meh” compared to previous harvests but I suppose is better than none at all.

Part of this year’s poor garlic harvest

The next bed doesn’t seem to be as bad, the plants seem stronger and stems thicker, but it’s dying back and will need to come out in the next week or so.

The final bed looks like this season’s winner, all named varieties I bought from a local specialist grower, specifically for their long keeping qualities – planted later and correspondingly will be harvested later. And they’re looking very good – thanks Letetia 🙂 I think I might be changing my maincrop variety next year!

It was warm out in the yard today, a really beautiful spring day, and while I took a break in the shade of the plum tree, I found some very well formed reminders that summer’s just around the corner ❤

Prune plums forming on the tree

Have a great Saturday everyone and see you tomorrow 🙂