Sunday, February 7, 2010

Making plans

The rain is doing its best imitation of Madam Lash at the moment, telling Sydney "take that, Sin City" with successive whippings of rain. And so poor innocent gardeners, who've done nothing to deserve this punishment (apart from praying for rain) are sitting with their wet, squishy noses pressed against the window pane, looking out at a super-soggy garden, doing the only thing they can do right now – dreaming up what to do next.

This is definitely one of those "click on the photo to make it readable" photos. This is how the garden looks today, after 78mm rain (three inches) yesterday, and 50mm (one inch) spread over the two days beforehand. That's enough, Madam Lash, I can't take any more! Anyway, what follows are my plans for autumn plantings – probably beginning in March at the earliest. Let's start with the foreground, left – "brodiaeas in here".

Until last Sunday night I'd never heard of brodiaeas, but now I own 50 of them. Aren't catalogues wonderful? After a recent posting here, blasting away at how much I dislike spring bulbs, I've gone ahead and ordered some spring bulbs. I just figured that I wanted to see something different next spring, and as soon as they finish flowering, I'm pulling them all up and, shock-horror, tossing them all away. Total cost is $12.50, roughly the price of an indifferent bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. But it wasn't me who picked the brodiaeas.

That was Pammy's job. Pammy is a wonderful shopper, and also a magician with restaurant menus, able to find something amazing on a menu which everyone else misses. I suspect this is because she reads menus from cover to cover, same too with catalogues. Anyway, I tossed her this catalogue with her brief to choose something interesting, and the next morning it was on the kitchen table, with helpful pink sticky note thingys indicating the brodiaeas. Blue flowers. I love blue flowers!

By the following Friday, the postman dropped off the package. Parcels in the mail, one of life's simple pleasures!

Little buttons they are. Currently they're staying in the crisper bin of my fridge until planting time, which won't be until April. I asked my resident horticultural expert, Geoffrey, for some tips, and as well as telling me to wait until Anzac Day (April 25) before planting he helpfully added that the growers incorrectly list brodiaeas as being from South Africa when in fact they actually come from Northern California. So thanks once again to Geoffrey for his growing tips and advice, which is invariably spot-on.

Once Pam had set me off with a blue theme, I wondered what else might I grow that's blue-flowered, down the other end of the garden. It has been about 15 years since I last grew the old-fashioned cottage plant, love-in-a-mist, so I ticked the box for one packet of love-in-a-mist seeds while browsing the online catalogue of another major seed supplier, Digger's. (This photo is pinched from Google Images, by the way).

In the spot where currently I have an Asian eggplant producing a crop, I've decided to grow a dwarf Tibouchina 'Groovy Baby' which is only 60cm tall and 80cm wide. I'll plant this dwarf shrub in April, once the eggplant has finished. This is more of a summer and autumn flowerer, so it'll keep my favourite blue-flowered thing going a couple of months after all the spring blues have gone up to heaven. If all goes well, this will become a permanent planting here, a summer patch of blue in a lovely, sunny spot.

Across the path from the love-in-a-mist, I'm going to grow another crop of broad beans, my favourite home-grown vegetable to eat. This is a photo of the previous crop, which was a tall-growing variety tied to a nice bamboo frame. This time round I've picked a dwarf plant which only grows 1m tall, but as I still have the bamboo poles in the shed, I'll make up some kind of support for the floppy old broad bean plants with them.

This is just the tiny photo pinched from the Diggers catalogue. It's what they solemnly promise their red spring onions will look like, and I liked that look so much I ticked the box for a packet of seeds of these, and they'll form a border around the broad beans.

Of course I am going to grow poppies again for Pammy, in the same spot where I grew them last year, and I hope they'll be every bit as lovely this time round, too.

I've run out of photos for the rest of my autumn planting plans. But on the left side, near the house, I am going to replace my rather dreary big potted bay tree with a far more exciting and interesting potted 'Black Genoa' fig. I'm really looking forward to having a fig in the garden again. When we moved here an old in-ground fig tree struggled along for the first 15 or so years, producing bumper crops every summer, then it just fell over in a storm one day, its branches full of rot. And so 'Son of Fig II – the Black Genoa' will be starring at this blog fairly soon.

And that lovely big grevillea on the left needs pruning soon. Big tip for anyone growing grevilleas: prune them often, do it twice a year, after each flush of flowers. Take off up to a third each time if you like, but that's not compulsory, although some kind of pruning is. Roses and grevilleas have a lot in common - pruning makes both of them flower much better. But grevilleas hardly need feeding. Just pruning.

On the right side of the pathway, I am going to grow a leafy patch of flavours, combining flat-leaf parsley, coriander (cilantro) and some celery leaf plants, which produce lots of celery-flavoured leaves for cooking. Celery is a notoriously tricky vegie to grow, but I do like the flavour of the leaves, etc in making all sorts of sauces, so I'll give the seeds of these leafy relatives of celery (which I bought recently in an Asian food store in Darwin) a try this autumn.

Finally, on the centre, right side of the pathway, yet another crop of mixed 'mesclun' salad greens, a crop which, along with herbs, is probably the most useful, practical crop I grow here.

One thing I can say in favour of extremely wet days is that they slow you down enough to help you do some planning. So Madam Lash's ministrations aren't all bad, but she can stop now.


Liss said...

I feel the pain, I feel the PAIN! Terrey Hills has had the most rain out of all of Sydney and as I was making shepherds' pie at 11pm last night (don't ask!) trudge up in the dark, rain adn MUD to pick some celery I thought I like rain, but THIS much rain? Nup. I wonder how the tomatoes are going to survive!?

Like you I have started planning our baby garden (seedlings) this week and I'm going crazy at the moment harvesting/cooking/preserving so I can make room to put all the lovely things I want to plant in the opera house garden.

Those red spring onions look FAB. I want to do garlic this autumn, what type/source do you suggest?

Jamie said...

I agree about those red spring onions. Wow!

As for the garlic, Diggers is pretty good, but their garlic isn't available until Early March.

The other hot (ie, trendy) source for garlic is the Patrice Newell stuff,

I bought my garlic last year from Garlic Farm Sales
But I thought they were a bit overpriced for what you got, and it grew fairly well, but not brilliantly.

I'm tempted to economise and just try some nice quality shop-bought garlic and plant that this time round.

Anyway, good luck with your crops, Liss!

Liss said...

Oh thank you SO much for the garlic tips *claps hands* I use so much garlic I might get some of both the diggers and patrice newel - I estimate I would cook with 40-45 bulbs a year. That might seem a bit much! :)

Melinda said...

I have been doing the same this weekend - been reading and enjoying Burke's 'Organic' book and dreaming about possibilities for the garden...Good job on the book, by the way.

Chookie said...

And I've been checking what seeds I need to buy for autumn (none needed, I have so many) and meditating about my tomato crop. Posting shortly.

patientgardener said...

I do love receiving parcels especially when they have plants etc in them said...

It is really good to to plan everything being doing things.