Bug-Free Brassicas

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I have occasionally managed to grow cabbages, broccoli and to a lesser extent, cauliflower but it is a constant battle to keep them bug-free.  I choose not to use pesticides, therefore, exclusion remains the best option.

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After much research, I finally bit the bullet a couple of days ago and ordered a quantity of Vege Net from eBay.  I was particularly pleased to discover that the seller was located in my home state.

The order was dispatched promptly and I received it within 2 days of placing my order.

Then it was time to wrestle with 120 sq metres of knitted polyethylene fabric.

My plan was to make a reasonably fitted cover to slip over the hoops we had positioned over the garden bed.

I cut a large rectangle which would cover the majority of the bed and 2 semicircular pieces for the ends.  Pins are useless on this type of fabric so I used some old pegs to hold the pieces in place while I stitched the seams using a regular sewing machine.

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Once this was done, it was simple matter of slipping the cover over the hoops.  Because this is a raised garden bed the extra fabric simply hangs down to completely enclose the desired area.

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View of the new seedlings safely undercover.

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I anchored one end with some rocks so that it will not blow off.

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I am considering adding some lead weights to the other edges or making a long elasticised tie to go right around the raised bed.

There is another cover to be made for a second garden bed which is not raised so I will just anchor that one with rocks all the way around.

The total amount of fabric I used to cover the 2 beds was about 24 sq metres or 20% of the total.  The remainder is back in the bag for use to cover fruit trees or other garden beds in the future.

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I spent $125 on the fabric (including postage) and believe that it has been money well-spent as it is an investment in our future food production.

I would definitely recommend this product if you are considering exclusion netting for any plants.  It is available in smaller quantities and you could also simply drape it over the area rather than making fitted covers.

Not Only Food

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The past couple of days have focused on food recipes but those are not the only recipes on the blog.

You may have seen a recent episode of ‘Gardening Australia’ which featured a recipe for making an exfoliating hand scrub/balm with lemon and rosemary.  I have lemons growing and access to a source of rosemary from a friend so it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Here are the details in case you missed them.

Lemon and Rosemary Hand Scrub

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Rind of 1 lemon
Sprigs of rosemary

The ingredients and utensils assembled.

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Finely chop the rosemary and lemon zest.

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Add the chopped ingredients to the sugar and combine.

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Add lemon juice and oil.  Mix thoroughly.

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Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator.

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This could make a great gift for a keen gardener.

This recipe is indexed on the tab ‘Recipes – Other’ along with other non-food recipes.

Site Preparation

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In my last post I mentioned that we had ordered a garden shed. We have been debating the need for a shed for a number of years and have finally bitten the bullet.

It will be a very simple 3m X 3m structure with double opening doors at the front. There are no windows, no side door and no power. It is really no more than an oversized lawn locker to store the mowers, mulcher, brushcutter and possibly wheelbarrow as well as some storage shelving for accessories and fuel.

This will create some real workspace in the area known as the workshop.

It will probably be 3-4 weeks before the shed is ready to be installed but there was a bit of site preparation to be done beforehand.

This is a view of the area where the shed is to be placed.  There is no ‘before’ photo but it had become somewhat overgrown so we cut back shrubs and some heliconias as well as moving some logs which had been dumped there.

The impending construction is certainly motivation to clear up the area surrounding the new shed.

We have quite a large stand of heliconias so we removed a few that were encroaching on the access to the would-be shed as well as using the opportunity to clean out some of the spent ones.  The edge of the clump is clearly visible on the left-hand side of the photo.

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The shed will be in the centre foreground of the photo.

Looking slightly to the right you can see the area where we have almost finished moving what was a huge pile of mulch.  We will be planting several shrubs once the mulch is cleared.

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The shed site is not the only one we are preparing.  Yesterday we moved all of the furniture from our verandah which extends around 2 sides of the house in preparation for the floor to be sanded and recoated.  The sanding was supposed to happen today but it rained overnight and some of the flooring was wet so the start has been delayed.

This is the long side at the front of the house.

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The shorter end which looks out towards the vegetable garden.

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In other garden news, GMan planted clivias along the western edge of the driveway.  These were sourced from multiple plants we had in pots.  Most are orange but there are also some yellow ones.  My $20 investment in a single orange clivia which I bout almost 20 years ago has paid handsome dividends.  The yellow ones have also multiplied from a single plant which was a gift several years ago.

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I think the clivia plants will make a nice border to the edge of the driveway.  The area behind them is a work in progress.  The shrubs were planted in mid-December and are growing quite well.  You can see some of the piles of mulch which have been moved from the site near the shed.  We plan to lay some sheets of cardboard to suppress the weeds then cover them with the mulch.

Gifts From the Garden

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When you have a productive garden, there is frequently more available than you can reasonably use.  So, we are often giving away produce to family and friends.

It is not all a one-way street and we are grateful for goodies which are gifted to us in return.

My sister and brother-in-law recently gave us a large pumpkin and some chillies.  The pumpkin was put to good use and you can read about it in this earlier post.  I used the chillies to make a bottle of sweet chilli sauce.

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A few days ago we visited my brother at his newly-purchased inner suburban unit.  I hardly expected that we would come away with fresh produce when he had been there for barely 3 weeks.  However, I was surprised to find myself returning home with a container of macadamia nuts which we had collected from the back lawn of the unit block.  This bounty is falling from a tree overhanging from a neighbouring garden.

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Also, some friends gave us a quantity of rosemary.  We have planted some cuttings so that we can add this to our own garden and I stripped the leaves off the remainder and dried it in the dehydrator.  Once it was dried, I ground it and then mixed the ground rosemary with Himalayan salt and I now have a jar of rosemary salt which will be be perfect for seasoning.  I am looking forward to trying it on some oven-baked potato chips.

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I was watching Gardening Australia last night and saw a segment about making your own Lemon and Rosemary Hand Scrub.  I am going to get some more rosemary from my friend and try that one out.  The recipe and details will be a future blog post.

 

 

Cooking Day

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Today I cooked.  I was inspired by the large pumpkin I was given yesterday as well as the chickpeas I had cooked yesterday.

The first job was to pack up the baked beans I had cooked overnight in the slow-cooker.  I had some for breakfast as well as these 3 jars to go in the freezer and half a jar which are in the refrigerator to be used in the next few days.

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I then cut up the pumpkin.  The 2 trays of sliced pumpkin have been basted with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic syrup.  These will be used on pizzas. Some of the larger pieces will be cut up and added to the chickpea and vegetable curry while the remainder will be become pumpkin soup.  I pre-roast the pumpkin as it is easier than peeling it and I find that it also enhances the flavour.

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Meanwhile I moved onto the curry.  As well as the chickpeas and pumpkin this also had stalks of choy sum and half an eggplant diced.  I ended up with a total of 8 serves (4 meals for GMan and me).

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I had other plans for the choy sum leaves and the other half of the eggplant.  Using this recipe for Eggplant Lasagne Rolls as inspiration, I made a dish of lasagne using the finely shredded choy sum leaves mixed with half a tub of ricotta that I had in the refrigerator layered with the sliced eggplant and a rich, herbed tomato sauce.  This is ready to be baked for dinner tomorrow night.  I will add a mixture of flaxseed meal and parmesan cheese to the top when it is almost cooked.

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One pizza was for our lunch today which we enjoyed.  The other one is ready for the cheese to be added, cooked and eaten another day.

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All of these dishes were made using a combination of ingredients I had on hand in the pantry and refrigerator with produce I had been gifted and what was growing in the garden.  One of the most important aspects is to ensure that nothing goes to waste.

Finally, I made some more spreadable butter blend.

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Although the title of this blog post is ‘Cooking Day’, it occurred to me when you have access to fresh produce from the garden (either your own or kind friends) there is always something to do.

More about my other food adventures another day.

Winter Beds

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Although we live in a temperate sub-tropical zone, there are still distinct seasonal variations and we respond accordingly.

Two nights ago we experienced our first cold (for us) night when the temperature dropped to 6C (43F).

The prospect of this temperature was enough to convince me that the very lightweight summer doona would not be sufficient.  I retrieved the feather doona from the wardrobe in the spare room.  For me, it is not only about the physical warmth of the feather doona but the colours I use which reflect the cooler weather.

During the summer the bed is made up using light blue and white bed linen and I love the fresh, cool effect that this brings.

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Although the fabric is no heavier, the darker coloured linen makes the room feel cosier as the weather cools.  I changed the bed yesterday and substituted the winter bedding.

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My bed was not the only one that noticed the effects of the cold night.

The cucumbers were planted late in the summer but we had been fortunate to have a great harvest.  However, overnight the vine went from being lush and green to looking quite shrivelled in parts.  It does not like the cold nor the accompanying strong westerly winds.

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With the prospect of several subsequent cold nights, I decided to remove all of the mature cucumbers and clear out the vine.

The haul was surprisingly large.

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The vine and trellis are now removed so it is time to clear the weeds and prepare the bed for a cool season crop.

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What heralds the change of seasons at your place?

Some More Structures

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Following on from the completed compost bays, I thought I would share some of our other handiwork in the garden.  Unlike the compost bays, we needed to purchase the materials for our latest endeavours.

Growing food crops invariably invites other critters who also deem it to be food.  While I am reasonably happy to share, I am not keen on seeing the entire crop destroyed.

This year has seen the inclusion of an additional pest in our garden – the citrus fruit piercing moth.  From what I have read it would appear that this is as a direct result of the extended period of drought last year followed by good rain.

We have an orchard of numerous citrus trees which generally produce a bumper crop each year but 2020 is not shaping up so well.  We have lost the entire crop of Washington navel oranges as well as the majority of the grapefruit.  These are the earliest maturing of the citrus and we are less able to assess the losses on the two Valencia orange trees as well as the two mandarins.  Fortunately, the lemon and lime trees do not appear to have been attacked much at all.

In normal seasons the only real pest to the citrus trees seems to be the scrub turkeys helping themselves.  They particularly like the mandarins.

I had previously read about using poly pipe and star pickets to create a frame for netting to cover fruit trees, however, we had never implemented this method.  A few years ago we had simply tried draping the netting directly over the tree but while it was relatively effective the netting ended up with rips in it.

The arrival of the citrus fruit piercing moth spurred me into action and we bought the supplies to create the poly pipe frame for the mandarin tree.  We chose to do this one first as it seemed to have very little damage so far which is probably due to the fruit still being quite green.  Everything I have read plus my own observation indicates that the moth attacks ripening fruit.

We used an unused net which we had over the new poly pipe frame.

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The net barely reaches the ground and I am not sure how diligent the moths are when it comes to finding their way in.  I plan to extend the length a little by adding an extra piece of netting to the bottom edge.  This will be salvaged from the previously damaged net.

The next job is to monitor the tree by torchlight at night to check for any moths which are already inside the netting.

If the netting of the mandarin tree proves to be successful in eliminating the moth as well as the scrub turkeys we will consider doing at least some of the other citrus trees.

While we were buying the supplies we made sure we also bought enough to create poly pipe tunnels over at least a couple of the garden beds.  The critter I had in my sights this time was the white cabbage moth.  Unlike the citrus fruit piercing moth, there are many and varied home-remedies to deter these pests.  However, the best prevention is to eliminate them from the brassica garden entirely.

I am determined to grow a successful crop of cauliflower this year so I  used more of the poly pipe to create hoops over the bed.

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Using some of the damaged fruit tree netting I set about making a cover.

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I included shaped ends so that it fits neatly over the hoops.

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There are a few holes which need to be patched but I am confident that this will make a difference.

I regard the money spent on supplies to create these exclusion zones as a worthwhile investment as there are a few hundred dollars worth of produce at stake – and that is just in one season.