The January garden

I can’t believe it but 2014 is already 1/12th over! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Where did January go I ask you? Likely up in steam given the hot weather from the other week and again heat is forecast here to usher in February. Still and all, I’m on the path of finding ways to minimise the heat and I plan to freeze some treats for us to enjoy when it heats up further tomorrow and then to a scorcher on Sunday. Thankfully Martin is home to take the older two kids to the swimming pool and help them cool down there.

Lynda, your weeds are doing well.

Lynda, your weeds are doing well. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of colour now.

I finally got around to a job that was absolutely critically overdue the other day. Our gardens, being new and built upon beds of carboniferous materials (straw, dead leaves, branches etc) are low in nitrogen. I had compensated for this when I built them by adding a lot of blood and bone but clearly, given the state of my stunted yacon, well insufficient amounts. On the weekend I finally got around to distributing 1/2 a bag around my pumpkins, tomatoes, the poor starving yacon and hence the zucchinis too, and the other beds out the front as well. I watered it all in Saturday evening but this evening was my first chance to check out what effect, if any, had occurred out there.

I also needed to check on the 2 zucchini that were out there, unsupervised. Zucchini are like children (well my children at least) in that if you leave them unsupervised they will get up to mischief. Well, they had indeed been up to mischief. I picked one of them and now need to figure out if I have enough eggs to disguise it as a slice. It may well need to be an awful lot of eggs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Calling all zucchinis. Mum’s not looking. Time to party!

And I will need to work out what to do with the next 3 days worth of zukes too.

After picking the monster

After picking the monster. Narf, that’s one of my yacon in the top left of the photo. Smaller than the zuke plants and they aren’t all that big either.

The yacon have put on an inch since the weekend too so clearly the lack of nitrogen for nitrogen loving plants was a spot on diagnosis. ๐Ÿ™‚

A quick glance at the strawberry patch and I realise that every cent I spent on strawberry pants was wasted. They all died. However, the strawberry plants I was given for free are thriving though and already multiplying themselves. The yield is small but the taste is divine and with a little love and care I expect the yield and the size will increase. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not all made it but enough have done so that I will see a carpet of dark green leaves in a year or 2.

Dessert. Stingy on size, extravagant on taste.

Dessert. Stingy on size, extravagant on taste.

The pumpkin patch is beginning to take off, little runners heading off left, right and centre. I can no longer tell which leaf belongs to which plant. Just as I had hoped.

Playing chicken with marauding pumpkin vines.

Playing chicken with marauding pumpkin vines.

And to my surprise I already have a pumpkin growing. I bought some Buttercup pumpkin seedlings from Bunnings (here,ย hereย andย hereย forย info on buttercup pumpkins) and I already have my first fruit growing. They are small pumpkins and will be a lovely novelty for the kids to help me hollow them out, stuff them with yum including the rest of the pumpkin flesh, sultanas, nuts and more and then roast them. Yum! ๐Ÿ˜€ According to wiki my most trusted of friends ๐Ÿ˜‰

Buttercup squashย is one of the most common varieties of thisย winter squash, with a turban shape (a flattish top and dark green skin), weighing three to five pounds [1.3kg-2.3kg] , and normally heavy with dense, yellow-orange flesh.

I only bought them as they were cute and small. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The bush itself seems more like a zucchini in its growth habit wich might be of interest to those who have limited space for growing pumpkins who do their best to squash (pun intended) all other life forms in the general vicinity. ๐Ÿ˜‰

With Allegra's petite hand for size reference.

With Allegra’s petite hand for size reference.

The potato hugel is doing well and indeed I went bandicooting for a friend to say thanks for some help he gave us so the less than impressive plants are due to me needing to haul them out altogether. The spuds are a bit wonky in shape but deliciously creamy white. ๐Ÿ™‚

No where's Wally here. Where's Allegra is lots more fun!

No “Where’s Wally” here. Where’s Allegra is lots more fun! Can you see her?

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My little patch of sunshine. As if this state didn’t have enough sunshine at the moment. But mine are prettier than that stinking hot blazing ball in the sky anyway.

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They are all about 1.6m tall I reckon and this and another head are looking like they are heading to the final stages of ripeness.

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I love the fact that each sunflower flower is really made up of lots of little flowers inside the big one. I haven’t read this up but it looks like each seed needs fertilising and visiting by a bee. I have some looking like they are smiling as some of the seeds haven’t yet flowered and those around them have. Strange but beautiful flowers.

Next year I am thinking I might plant the hugels with sunflowers. Or maybe corn. Imagine walking between them and being simply shadowed out by tall golden heads all nodding down to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

"A plague on both your houses". I don't think Mercutio had in mind a plague of ladybugs somehow.

Excuse the X-rated ladybug photo

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“A plague on both your houses”. I don’t think Mercutio had in mind a plague of ladybugs somehow. I welcome them though and I have hundreds of them on my wonderfully healthy sunflowers.

In my most exciting news though, in my opinion, we have a frog in our pond. A friend was helping me to line the edges of the pond with some rocks he’d collected for me and as I adjusted an existing rock a small frog plopped into the pond and swam off, indignant no doubt at me disturbing its home. I looked closely at the time and have seen again this evening and we have tadpoles in there too!

Can you see the small grey black shape

Can you see the small grey black shape? Nope, neither can I. it is in there though.

Thirsty

No, not that small black shape. Scat Minnie!

And this rather random snail inched his way across the surface of the water... Upside down. Truly, it was like he was crawling along the layer of air where it meets the water. He must have arrived with the pond plants.

And this rather random snail inched his way across the surface of the water… Upside down. Truly, it was like he was crawling along the layer of air where it meets the water. He must have arrived with the pond plants.

I am absolutely stoked that even though my fish died I still have a thriving pond. Things must be doing well in there to have frogs and tadpoles. ๐Ÿ˜€

a new waterlily bloom about to flower more water primrose and I still have my water hawthorn flowering too. I definitely need more plats in there to prevent evaporation and to cover the water surface more though.

Two new waterlily blooms about to flower, more water primrose buds and I still have my water hawthorn flowering too (not in the photo). I definitely need more plants in there to prevent evaporation and to cover the water surface more. I love my little pond.

I must say I have been incredibly impressed with how well the hugels have performed too. The weather has been unkind to gardens with its relentless heat and lack of rainfall (although we were generously granted a misty damp sort of day yesterday, or was it the day before?) but truly, the hugels have outperformed my wildest expectations this year. Hugelkultur gardens are incredibly waterwise gardens but usually only after that first year. It takes time for the wood base to begin to rot down and to absorb all the rain water that falls over the winter season. Our beds are relatively new (mere months) and haven’t experienced all that much rain. I have 2 that are very dry and have suffered with the lack of rain and regular watering (whoops) but the last 3 have been incredible. I haven’t had to water them, nor the tomato bed nearly as much as I would have thought I’d need to. The plants are doing well too and although the nitrogen levels needed help I had already expected that as they can be low on nitrogen the first year or 2. Still, I am very impressed with how they’ve performed and would recommend them to anyone who is keen on a natural raised garden bed or someone with excess fallen trees needing using/removing or who has limited space in which to grow as hugels actually increase your garden space. If you build them quite high (they can be built up to 2 metres I believe) then you can turn a small space (the base of the hugel) into a space potentially up to 4 metres! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Some plants do better than others but on the whole, I think they are well worth the effort. ๐Ÿ˜€ Just don’t use freshly fallen poplar! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Stay cool my Australian hippies. Stay warm to those of you in the middle of winter and enjoy the weather all of you currently enjoying a pleasant forecast.

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20 thoughts on “The January garden

  1. Nothing to do with your post but congratulations on your choices. Oscar Wilde said that most people exist but very few live. You are the exception. Good luck.

  2. Wow, your garden is looking great ๐Ÿ™‚ I love your sunflowers, we were way late in planting very straggly seedlings so I am not too hopeful they will grow to the giant things they were last year. They are really interesting flowers aren’t they, sunshine in physical form ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have never grown buttercup pumpkins, we just grow the same old every year but these would be a good size to try for stuffing.

    I love frogs, how wonderful you now have a resident one.

    • The bits I snapped look great but the rest, meh not so much. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Still, we are getting there. Sunflowers truly are glorious but I didn’t think they transplanted well. I sowed mine direct back in October and had to cover them a few times to protect against frost but they made it. I will definitely plant more next year as they are spectacular.
      I’ve never grown buttercup pumpkins either but truly they look like a zucchini bush that has pumpkins and pumpkin leaves instead of zukes. And the fruit apparently ripen sooner too. ๐Ÿ™‚
      The frog is a migrant from the creek I suspect. ๐Ÿ™‚ Still, she (I guess) is more than welcome.

      • A friend of ours grows sunflowers from seed she saved 10 years ago and she starts them off for us. Last year they did well, this year hers are growing great and already flowering and we have only just put ours in – always such alot of other stuff to do! I doubt they will come to anything and I feel rather remorseful that we procrastinated with these.
        Next year I will try the buttercup, such a long wayto go for pumpkins yet and they get too expensive to want to buy at this time of the year.

        • How wonderful – landrace sunflower seeds. ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s hard to prioritise I find with what to plant and when. I love that the buttercup pumpkins are compact and I saw another female flower on another buttercup bush this morning too when the other pumpkins I planted from seed are not showing any sign yet of flowering.

  3. narf77 says:

    OY we still have a day ma’am! A LOT can happen in a day ;). I have the opposite…too much nitrogen (cheers spent horse poo) that is resulting in WAY too many shoots and not enough roots :(. My zucchini plants are threatening to take over Sidmouth and have so many fruits I am pretending that I can’t see them (and secretly thanking God that my yellow zucchini seem to be hell bent on rotting themselves into early graves as I have NO idea what I would do with a billion zucchini…) and although my yacon is tall (about 4 ft) and spreading and has enormous velvetty leaves, I am suspicious that the formation of rooty sweet potential might be being forgone for the production of green leafage. You might end up with better roots than I get. I just hope they form that rhizome needed to keep the plant going!

    I am going to get a packet of wild strawberry seed and grow my own. Apparently they are tough little buggers that will take just about anything you throw at them. I LOVE those pumpkins! I am going to grow large and most gorgeous turban pumpkins next year. We grew them at the polytechnic that I attended and I don’t think I have ever eaten better flavoured pumpkins so I will buy some seed and start me some of my own next season ๐Ÿ™‚

    The possums snapped off my biggest sunflower seed head. They might not bed able to invde Poland like they would love to BUT they can bounce around heavily overhead and snap anything that they can trampoline up and down on ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    I think the thermal mass in the hugels and the good drainage that results in retained moisture deep in the heat and encouraging roots to grow deeper to get their water gives you a better result in the heat of a hot summers day. I haven’t got hugels but I do have “heaps” and my heaps are doing amazingly well and retaining moisture better than the raised garden beds.

    I will be splitting our “kindling” into using it as makeshift swale material (no digging WOOT!) and making hugels. I am going to be brave and start making hugels outside the compound. I will plant them with things that the wallabies and possums don’t like (I have yet to find something that they don’t like but I am sure there is something out there ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Loved todays post. It was jam packed full of possibilities and fecundity (don’t you just LERVE that word? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Have a great day and remember “JANUARY ISN’T OVER YET!!!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • A lot DID happen. We started the day off with a fog. In mid summer! I mean, seriously! I love fog though and how it just envelops us in our own little world. It wasn’t foggy enough to cut us off from all the world but I always feel so secure in fog. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I too hope the yacon at least give me the rhizomes I need for next year if nothing else. I’d like 1 “ground apple” to try though at least. Not asking for too much there I hope. ๐Ÿ™‚ Now they have some nitrogen though they’ve gained an inch in 4 or 5 days so I have much hope. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I love the word fecund too and also how people look at you with a “say what?” look. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Linda says:

    Lovely tour around your garden – thank you. We were stoked to discover a second frog last night – and we don’t even have a pond, so love yours.

  5. Jo says:

    Jessie, what a madly productive space you have made. Gorgeous! And I couldn’t find Allegra at all. Where is she? Have you found her yet?
    A BIG THANKYOU for the lovely home made produce bags. They are the perfect size, and I will think of you every time I use them ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Allegra is hiding behind the potatoes about half way down the row. If you click on the picture and zoom in it’s a bit easier. She’s grinning like the Cheshire cat!
      Glad you like the bags too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. foodnstuff says:

    Re the nitrogen issue, have you considered getting Martin to pee into a bucket and using that undiluted, on hugels in the making and diluted on those containing plants.

    I get the liquid from my composting toilet and put it on hugels-in-the making undiluted and dilute (about 1:10) it for all other crops. It really greens things up. (Don’t tell squeamish friends, though). Human pee is supposed to be sterile so there shouldn’t be any health issues, but I presume you always wash your veggies before use anyway.

    Or if there aren’t any privacy issues with neighbours, get M to pee directly onto new hugels. As well as nitrogen it’s also returning phosphorus to the soil. Win-win.

    • My hugels are in the front garden and despite us being in a very quiet street Martin will not be weeing on the front gardens. Jas however has no such problems and neither does Allegra I hate to say.
      I’ve read a bit about humanure or nightsoil and using urine on the gardens and I encourage Jas at least to pee on my citrus trees but I am cognisant of the social side of peeing on edible plants. Not sure I am quite there with that one yet. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s such a shame we are so squeamish about using pee though but that will have to change in the very near future. I’ve come across articles proclaiming the end of phosphorus in the near future and peak phosphorus too so we will have to stop wasting waste and soon.

      • foodnstuff says:

        I really meant peeing on hugels-in-the-making, i.e ones just being put together with no plants in them. I wouldn’t suggest undiluted wee on plants, it could burn them. That’s when I dilute it and add it with a watering can. You could probably water AROUND plants if you were dubious, but I just slosh in on. It gets washed off with the next watering or rain (remember that stuff ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and I always wash everything before it’s eaten.

        • Rain? What’s that stuff? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yeah, I wash the vegs too as there will be dust on there at the least. Wee is so under-utilised. I’m working on using ours in the garden. I’d love to have a composting toilet too but the commercial ones don’t appear to be approved for use in Victoria. Well, not the size a family of 5 needs anyway.

  7. Lynda says:

    Such a lot of comments Jess, and well deserved. I love your pond too and especially the flowers. Its all looking rather productive and will only continue to thrive with your knowledgable attention. My weeds and those intentionally planted tomatoes are starting to ripen and im loving all the fresh intense flavour. It almost makes you wince. I came home to find zukes that were several kilos each. Definately not planting so many next season. There might be a chocolate zucchini cake in the making today. Big Cleanup out the back today. Very much overgrown and the bloody grass is a foot high and with all the watering very lush. Anyway, so many posts to catch up on.

    • Lynda says:

      Forgot to say that i also like the word “fecundity”, it feels a little bit naughty saying it and we have to get our little thrills where we can.

    • Thanks Lynda. I’m not sure I am all that knowledgeable about the gardens and most of what I DO know is from reading, not practice.
      There is truly no greater taste of summer than an organically home grown, sun ripened tomato in my opinion, except maybe fresh organically home grown corn, picked mere minutes before eating. I think our taste buds are so accustomed to insipid supermarket veggies and fruit that REAL flavours are almost overwhelming. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Grate and freeze your zukes. They almost melt when thawed so they disappear and can be hidden in everything (but don’t tell my kids that ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) I have 3 zuke bushes in this year but I just gave away 3 zukes to a friend and if I can palm them off to friends and neighbours, 3 should keep us in sufficient glut I’d say. ๐Ÿ™‚

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