Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday notepad

Of all the inclement weather we all have to put up with, wind is by far the most annoying thing. I love rain and have a calm, spongey tolerance for too many rainy days and rain itself. But wind? I hate it and we've got a stinker of a windy morning on our hands here. It seems a travesty to have a day like today – beautifully sunny, 22°C and perfect for gardening – and then ruin it with strong, gusty winds. Pots blow over, trees bend alarmingly and gardening suddenly feels dangerous. Something might land on me! And so I've abandoned work for a while and have headed indoors early to do a bit of catch-up blogging, after a quick lap of the place with camera in hand. The weather people say the strong winds will go away soon, and good riddance!

What an uncheery start to a blog! Sorry about that, so on with the show. The first of the orchids has popped open. Apart from knowing that this is a Cymbidium, we don't know its real name. We've just called it the 'Brown One' for years. Oddly enough, it isn't really brown. More muddy orange leanings with maroon tendencies. I now have several pots of these filled with flower spikes, and they'll brighten up our pergola area for a couple of months. They're amazingly long-lasting flowers. Later on, around September, the other orchids – Cymbidium 'Pale Pink One' – will put on their show.

There are several lovely things about having keen gardeners as neighbours. One is the pleasant company. Another is the outstandingly good care my garden gets when we go away on holidays (and that's invariably due to Katarina's saintly efforts, although the protocol is to ask Nick to look after the garden for me!). And the other benefit is the pleasant view and occasional colourful surprises that pop up next door. This is one of neighbour Nick's plants, popping its head up above the fence. Not sure what it is, and asking Nick never helps. His English isn't that flash and so he just smiles and says he doesn't know, but "it's very pretty." Agreed, Nick!

Some good news for my friend Michelle in hot and dusty outback Birdsville, for whom I am doing a spot of plant-minding. Your cumquats are ripening, Michelle! The whole potted tree is laden with fruit and the first ones are starting to turn yellow. I'll leave the fruit on until the tree is a picture of green leaves and gold cumquats, and when a rainy weekend is forecast, the next batch of cumquat marmalade will be made and shipped to Birdsville.

I'm preparing to do a blog soon about this year's slightly more organised and scientific attempt to grow garlic, but pictured here on the right is 'part B' of my garlic growing experiment. These newly planted cloves have spent four weeks in the crisper section of my fridge. To their left is a line of green-sprouted garlic cloves planted four weeks ago, without any refrigeration prior to planting. Of the six cloves in that row four have sprouted well, one has just barely done so and the last, not at all. However, I'll save the rest of the garlicky musings for another blog a few days from now.

The radicchio, which I've grown from seed, loves the cooler weather and is starting to form hearts.

Nearby, the English spinach also loves the cooler going in autumn and is starting to go well. This too is grown from seed bought by mail-order from an Australian guy who imports seed from Italian seed suppliers. So far the results have been very encouraging.

Next door to the radicchio and spinach, the baby shallots (scallions or green onions) are underway (also from seed). These are one of my favourite things to grow, because they're so useful in the kitchen and un-fussy in the garden. Once they're the right size you can harvest them one at a time, as needed, and leave the rest to keep on growing slowly. This little patch will, when mature, supply me with enough for more than a month (maybe two?) of casual harvesting.

It's my turn to cook dinner tonight and so I went for a walk to the butcher's shop thinking 'lamb' and so of course I came home with veal. And when you think of veal it's not all that hard to then add sage to the pan, and so as well as tossing sage into the dish I thought I'd toss it into my blog as well, as it's such a lovely looking herb.

If I'm adding a few herb snippets I might as well slip in some of this morning's thyme as well. Bound to find a use for it in the pot, as I have Kipfler potatoes, fresh garden peas, eschallots and carrots looking for that certain something to give them a lift. With home-made chicken stock and fresh thyme, we have lift-off!

Tonight's fresh peas come from my local greengrocer, Banana Joe's, but later this year I plan to be harvesting some peas of my own. Here's the first babies poking their optimistic little heads up into the fun part of their life – growing fast. However, there is one problem they, and much of my garden faces this winter, and it's this person, pictured below.

The olive tree. The previous owner planted it long ago, and he couldn't have picked a worse spot. It's in the north-western corner of the yard, and for the next few months it will block the low winter sun, making it hard for me to grow virtually everything I have planted in the last few weeks. Everything would get half-day sun at best. And so the local arborist paid a visit this windy morning, and next week his team will cut off around one-third of its growth, hopefully a bit more. This is not the first time the sunlight-blocking olive has been pruned and it won't be the last, either. But it's essential to the health of my garden as a whole.

Trees are wonderful, big, beautiful things but they are the enemy of a small garden if they are planted in the wrong spot. Almost everything I'd care to grow and eat needs full sun to grow healthily (and giving plants ideal growing conditions of sun, soil and water is what organic gardening is really all about). As well as that, about two-thirds of the flowers I want to grow need full sun, too. So the olive gets a visit from the tree surgeon whether it likes it or not.

This olive tree not only blocks the sunshine coming into my garden, it also makes things equally difficult for my neighbour, Nick, as it is in the north-eastern corner of his garden. The olive's shadow stops large sections of Nick's garden getting any morning sun. Nick has often asked me to cut down the olive tree entirely (sorry Nick, not on!) but at least he's always delighted to see the arborists up there lopping bits off it ("more, more" he cries). He'll get more sunshine, I'll get more sunshine, so will my peas, poppies, garlic and Asian greens, and we can get on with the very pleasant business of growing some winter crops here in sunny, but occasionally windy, Sydney.


charlotte said...

Can't wait to hear more of your garlicky musings - I am determined to grow some soon, as it's so ridiculously difficult to buy Australian garlic (mind you I have seen some recently in Woolworths, even). And I will shortly have a new small herb bed to replant, about a metre by 60cm - to replace my old one torn up by building work. Was always amazed at how much herby goodness could fit in a small sheltered space so hope the new bit is as productive. Love this blog, Jamie.

patientgardener said...

I hate the wind as well - it realy rattes my roof and I am convinced the tiles will come off. We have had a very blustery week here in the Midlands, UK as well thought definately not as warm as yours

Melinda said...

The garlic experiment sounds interesting. I will check back to see the full story. Love the colour of the orchid too.

Chookie said...

Just wondering if it is possible to move the olive -- that's a lot of expensive pruning for one badly-placed tree!

Jamie said...

Chookie, the olive is too big to move and in an awfully tight spot, unfortunately. We've have to knock down Pam's shed and neighbour Nick's shed to get out a decent root-ball.

Chandramouli S said...

It's always refreshing to visit your blog, Jamie. It's hot here and more than 30 deg. C at that! I wish it were 22 here too. [chuckle] Olive Tree? Wow! I heard it's difficult to grow one from seed and takes years of patience!
Lucky you! Of course it's sad that it's shadowing the sun in winter, but sometimes not everything goes right...