Thursday, April 29, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
When I started digging I came across lots and lots of my best farm workers, like this person, who was not at all thrilled to meet me. While I mulch most of my garden pretty well most of the time, there were a few patches which I had deliberately decided not to mulch over the last few months, and in those spots worm numbers were well down, compared to the mulched areas. If you want worms, mulch!
After all the weeding, which doesn't warrant a photo, and turning of the clods of soil with a fork, which I forgot to take a photo of, the next step was much more fun – turning the clods and clumps of soil into a fine tilth ready for planting. For this task I always rely on my trusty Japanese Niwashi, which I have blogged about before here. It's my favourite job too, because I get to sit down on the ground and contentedly plug away at the soil until it's right. Deep down, I love my drudgery. It's good quality thinking time.
Rake level, ready for planting. Doesn't that sound easy? Perhaps I should add that all the weeding, digging, tilling and raking took up the first three or so hours of that glorious, sunny but mild Monday.
My excellent gardening adviser Geoffrey told me to not plant my brodiaeas too early – wait until Anzac Day – and so they have been chilling out in the crisper section of my fridge for the last two months. Monday was planting day for these blue-flowered spring bulbs.
For the last two years I've grown poppies for Pammy, who just loves these blooms. The first year I grew them from seed, and the results were pretty good. In the second year I used seedlings, and the results were much better, with more stout stems. So it was seedlings for sure this year.
Instead of doing my usual 'grow from seed' method with shallots, I bought a punnet of seedlings, to save time, which is what punnets are very good for. However, I sowed seeds galore in several other spots, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes up.
This is a photo I pinched from Google Images of one of the seeds I sowed. Nigella, or love-in-a-mist. I grew this flower many years ago and really liked its old-fashioned charm, and so I thought I'd sow a packet of seeds this year. As well as the Nigella I sowed some seeds of mesclun mixed lettuce, coriander, spinach, calendulas, baby beetroot, curly parsley, Chinese buck choy and another Asian green called celery leaf plant, which is a celery relative with all that celery flavour, except that it's very leafy, and the stems are thin. Should be useful in cooking, and yes, it was an impulse buy at a seed stand.
A while back I had made a careful garden plan, and then on planting day I didn't follow it. I did what I usually do: I laid out all the punnets and seed packets where I planned to plant them, and then had a think. My other great garden adviser, Don, calls this method 'put and look'. As a garden design tool, it works. Once consultations with Pammy were done and we both agreed that this is what we wanted (after adjustments), away I went with the fun bit, planting.
Poppy seedlings in, 20cm apart. The black strip on the right is my special 50:50 mix of potting mix and home-made compost, into which I sow seeds. That strip is a parsley border in the making. I love parsley borders. The rear strip running at right angles is mesclun lettuce. The seemingly bare, unmulched bed behind is where the brodiaeas went in. The rest of the planting was not all that photogenic, just seed sowing direct to the ground, but it was good fun nevertheless and the next few weeks promise to be enthralling (if you're weird like me and love watching seeds come up).
And that was about it for the weekend. There are a few parts of the garden that remain happily productive. Another batch of lettuce is at picking size, the sage behind is having such a good autumn that it still thinks it's summer, and an early pot of coriander raised from seed saved from last year's crop is nicely leafy, ready to add its flavour to both cooked dishes and salads.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
So far I have lost 4 kilos. There’s still one more kilo to go before I hit my first target of a 5 kilo loss, and another 5 kilos more beyond that till I’m truly back in normal, healthy, 50-something male shape (and the weight I was pretty consistently from age 30 to 50).
And guess what, during my daily walkies I’ve been thinking a little on how diets succeed and fail, and I thought I’d share my few grams of understanding here today. So, here are my three golden rules of how to stay on your diet and reach your personal target.
1. Don’t listen to the advice of friends
This is a biggie. All diet advice from friends will be of the sort which preaches just a bit more fanaticism than you’re currently practising: ie, why giving up that yummy spoonful of sugar in your coffee/tea really adds up; why a particular cardboard-like crispbread is better than the nice-tasting one you’re eating right now; and why whatever exercise you’re doing is not quite gruelling enough to have any effect. When you listen to them, you hasten the day you give up your diet. They are devils trying to make you fail.
2. Don’t listen to the advice of health experts
This is an equivalent size biggie to number one. Health experts are usually thin and often young, and mistakenly believe it’s all their careful eating and exercising which makes them thin, when the simple fact is that being young, or thinness genes, or both, is mostly what keeps them thin. They also read too much. They will find your exercise regime worthy of a smirk, and nothing more. They will recommend even more bland, vile eating options than your friends can think up. They are devils trying to make you fail. All their advice is destined to hasten the end of your dieting efforts through the crushing boredom of bland food and exercise-related injury. Whatever you do, don’t pay them. It only encourages them.
3. Don’t eat or drink anything you hate
This might even be bigger than 1 and 2, which makes it VERY BIG. Never sigh that sigh of “oh well I guess I’d better eat/drink this bland tosh” during a diet. Take that thought as a warning sign that the end of your diet is nigh! Bland ‘diet’ food is just another devil trying to make you fail. Healthy food with good flavour is out there in abundance, and that’s your assignment: find a real variety of it, then eat and enjoy to your heart’s content.
And so that’s what I’ve learned so far. Listen to no-one. Do your own thing. Go for quality and variety, not quantity. And never ever eat or drink something you don’t like. Works for me.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I had no idea how deep to plant the seeds, so I sowed six pots: two with seeds almost sitting on the soil surface, covered by a scant 1mm depth of potting mix, two with seeds about 6mm deep, and two with seeds about 12-15mm deep. It turns out the shallow option is the way to go. In this photo, the seed on the right has come to attention, pushed up by the teeniest, tinyest little white shoot underneath.
Since the first guy came up, two more have done the same, and they seem to be growing well so far. So that means one of the 6mm deep seeds has also made it to the surface.
Not that I'm blaming her, but it's all Pam's fault. She brought this seed pod home from one of her botanical illustrating courses and casually suggested I might have a go at growing them. The chances of me saying "oh no, I couldn't possibly do that" were zero, zilch, nil. Not a chance, baby. But I have shocked myself by actually getting the things to grow. Seed-raising is always such a fresh, new thrill, each and every time.
This is the bit where Sensible Geoffrey does have a point. That clump of spiky leaves (in a local park) is about 1.5m tall, and the flower stems often reach 3m tall, and the biggies go to 5m or more. And did I mention that with seed-raised plants you have to wait eight years for flowers? These plants won't be flowering for another month or three, as a huge flower head 30-40cm across, chockers with lilies and nectar, is yet to form atop the stalks.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
In a moment I'll show you the 'before' shot of the area we set up, but this is it before the gates opened. Haybale seats with cushion covers, huge potted fig trees laden with fruit, hundreds of French lavenders in bloom, olive trees, surprisingly realistic fake grass, even a chook shed with Silkie chooks in the corner. It looked really pretty, a credit to the design and construction team, especially Nic, the guy in charge of construction, and Don, who came up with the design concept.
Here and there were espaliered citrus trees. In this corner, a Eureka lemon, in another a wrinkly, thorny Thai makrut lime. There were huge galvanised iron tanks filled with soil and planted out with vegies, and other pots filled with water were planted with taro and water chestnuts. Everywhere you looked there was something interesting growing.
This is the 'before' shot. A week before the show, it was the warehouse parking lot, with an ugly electrical transformer down one end. The ground is lumpy, sort of slopes right to left. Seeing this grim looking starting point, the final result is even more admirable.
This is Bruce the Chook Expert, who followed us, and there's nothing Bruce doesn't know about chooks. Behind him in the purple shirt is Christine, the person who makes things happen. She's a producer, organiser, fixer of problems, can do woman extraordinaire. Needless to say she made sure Tracy and I stayed on schedule and turned a nervous first-timer's bout of Stage Fright into pretty good fun in the end.
The audiences weren't that big, less than 50 people each time, and they were lovely. All of them were into their herb, fruit and vegie growing and had good questions that lasted all the way to the end of our allotted time, God bless 'em.
On the right you can see those big galvanised steel vegie tanks I mentioned earlier. They looked really good overflowing with salad greens and herbs.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Pam discovered them (she has eagle eyes) and said they looked like three delicate little parachutes gliding down to land – and she's right.
Across the other side of the path several other kinds of mushies were popping up. In fact, no two fungi seemed to be alike – they're amazingly diverse. This blobby, bald-headed mushie came up around the sides of one of my favourite gnomes.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
This one belongs to my neighbour across the road and it's the typical size you see here, about 3-5 metres tall on average, but some species can grow a fair bit bigger, say 8-10 metres, in an ideal spot.
While jacarandas are a popular street tree in many cities and towns here in Australia and also overseas (eg, Pretoria in South Africa), tibouchinas are not used so often in this way, but about two suburbs away from me there is one street lined with tibouchinas, and this is how it looked this morning. It's no wonder Pammy likes these plants, but we just don't have space for even one extra 4 metre tall tree. And then I worked on an article in our magazine about the new dwarf tibouchinas, and when Pam saw little 'Groovy Baby', that was it. We were getting one.
This is such a new release that it's only coming out in limited numbers this autumn, and more are scheduled to be produced in time for next spring. In fact, none of our local nurseries had even heard of it, but I tracked down the supplier, spoke to the sales guy, gave his details to our local nursery, waited two weeks, paid $10.95 for it on Thursday, and I planted it today.
'Groovy Baby' promises to grow just 60cm (two feet) tall and 80cm wide, but I don't trust or believe plant labels, and so I am hoping it might even stretch to 80cm tall and 1m wide if I look after it very well. There are other dwarf tibouchinas around here in Australia, such as 'Jules' which reaches about 1 metre tall (but often exceeds that) and the new Jazzie and Carol Lyn, both of which are a bit larger than Jules (about 1.5 to 2m). All of them would be too big for the spot I have available.
Planting was easy, but I do have one or two little planting tips for shrubs which might be useful to someone about to plant a shrub or tree.
Having managed all that, I watered the plant in well with a watering can mixture of a seaweed solution (in this case, Seasol), then I mulched the whole area. I won't be feeding the plant at all until it shows some signs of growth. At that point I'll give it some slow-release fertiliser. It has a few flower buds on it, so we're hoping for a early splotch or two of purple from our little 'Groovy Baby'.
And right now, when I say 'little' I mean teeny weeny. When it grows up it's going to fill that space, and so my job will be to regularly trim back the ever-encroaching grevillea on the left, and the thyme motherlode that's just barely visible on the right, to give Groovy Baby the space to get going.