Sunday, August 29, 2010

Accidental Winter Vegetableness

When you think of Winter vegetables grown in temperate parts of Australia you think cabbage, broccoli, snowpeas and other hardy greens. These are the plants that survive these lower temperatures and indeed many of them thrive. You can't grow snowpeas in Summer here, and they barely last through Spring on my balcony, but in Winter they are happy (except the ones in this pot which STILL haven't produced any peas.) The last thing you think about in Winter are tomatoes or eggplants or anything else in that family. I mean the habanero chilli was so sad outside in the cold that I had to bring him inside (where he is happily flowering and fruiting after only a few weeks.) Tomatoes I tricked you all with in the last harvest post, so I can't grow them here in Winter but up North someone can. But eggplant, tomato's puffy cousin, surely that isn't a Winter veg. I wouldn't have though so either, until I left one in over Winter. Here he is in all his glory.

Quite a big plant, with a few flowers in his pot for company. No mulch because I am a bit slack, but a couple of poles for support (most of those poles in the picture are in other pots) We've had a pretty cold Winter, ok cold for Melbourne, not so cold by Northern Hemisphere standards. Highs of 10 or 11 degree celcius and lows bobbing around 3. He shouldn't have made it past June. But not only is he growing and green, he is producing fruit. Here is one that has formed, and another that is on the way.

How amazing is that! A summer plant producing in Winter. He is definitely stressed, with some leaves turning brown due to the cold and a mild/manic aphid infestation (you can see it in the top lefthand corner of the one with the little new fruit forming.) Fruit on a stressed plant is often less tasty but we will see. I won't be pulling him out any time soon and am wondering if he can go another season in the garden. Annuals into perennials thanks to the mild climate - who woulda though it!?!

Do you have any plants that defy natural conventions?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunnier Shades

It may still be cold and gloomy and wet but there are some sunny things going on in the garden. Finally another colour in the garden besides purple - we have yellow primroses. What I can't work out is why there are two yellow ones in the same plant (then again it is highly likely there might be two plants in one pot.)

Another yellow one hiding amongst the lettuce and purple primrose.

For a bit of pinky, orangey yellow the snapdragons are just stunning.

And for another hint of colour, the nectarine blossoms are coming.

It is always good to look on the sunnier side of life :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Winter Tomato Salad

So I hoaxed a few of you with my wonderful heirloom tomatoes in Midwinter Melbourne in my last harvest post. Wish I could admit to having grown them. That said I have grown tomatoes in Winter before, inside the windows of my apartment where it was an ersatz greenhouse. Unfortunately flies and tomato disease became a problem so I didn't pursue that option this year. Having tomato withdrawals, stirred by all the lovely tomato photos trickling down from the Northern Hemisphere, you can see why I was delighted when I saw these at the markets. $15 a kilo, but worth every cent! They were a tad expensive so I decided to savour them in several meals. The green zebra went into lovely sandwich, while a small part of the yellow and red went into this ...

tuna, tomato and avocado salad. Weirdly refreshing despite the cool day. I also used some in tonight's panko crumbed chicken wrap (again with avocado.) There is still a part of the purple one left! And just so we can all drool one more time, here is a photo repeat!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Harvest Monday Hidden Gems

It is Harvest Monday and just look at these wonderful tomatoes.

The purple cherokee is almost as big as my very large coffee cup.

The green zebra was so tangy and creamy. The other two I am yet to try.

Ok, Ok, Ok you got me, so I didn't grow these is some sort of apartment balcony garden green house, Alas the tomato disease issues have not ceased here. All I wanted to do was to be part of the tomato growing gang. I found these beauties at the Vic Markets organic stall and I couldn't resist. Whilt it is Winter down here, it is tomato season up in the northern parts of Australia, and looks like they are doing well!

Harvests here were a little more mundane, some snow peas and some broccoli, which went nicely with some soba noodles.

I will be planting the spring crops soon, so in a few months I will be harvest monday ready! I'll try some disease resistant tomatoes this time round and see if I can get a crop! If you want real tomatoes head on over to Daphne's Dandelions and I am sure many of the blogs on her harvest Monday roundup will include real heom grown tomatoes and more.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meet the Candidates: Elections in the Balcony Garden

Today in Australia many of us toddled off or will toddle off in these last couple of hours to the polling station to vote. So long as you are on the electoral roll here you need to vote. I like voting, I like my ability to freely and easily participate in some form of democracy. The problem with today's voting - the distinct lack if sausage sizzle stands and cake stalls at many polling booths. For shame Australia! Cheap sausages and democracy go hand in hand I say.

Anyway two wonderful friends of mine have been blogging about the leadup to the election, including a 'meet-the-candidates' section which helped outline the more obscure parties in the senate. If you are at all into politics, or just good writing pop on over to Carefully Scripted Remarks or The Adventures of Max U in Crazyland for a good political read.

But today on totally inept balcony garden I would like to introduce you to those greater candidates that have been elected to hold top position in the balcony garden - the fruit trees. Currently the balcony garden has six fruit trees, with a seventh position up for grabs. From the lemon to the lime, the apples to fig and not forgetting Mr Nectarine they all make up the balance of the balcony garden.

The first tree to join the fray featured in my first blog post. Mr Lemon tree was a gift from Miss G, a lovely vaguely hippy friend from up the road. She had procured a better lemon tree for her own garden and this one was free to a good home. I have nurtured it through the years and it usually gives me a modest amount of fruit, never more than four lemons, never fewer than three. He is about to get a repot, so new soil and a much larger pot to grow into. I am hoping that hill help with the problems he suffers, like new growth being nibbled away and leaves occasionally dropping.

Lemon trees are integral to my lifestyle, I grew up with one in the garden and the sweet scent of the blossoms is heavenly all year round plus the few fruits it provides are tasty. Solid, sturdy and reliable, a lemon tree is something all politicians should aspire to emulate.

The next tree was also a gift, this time from my Birth mother (I am adopted) for my very belated 28th or early for my 29th birthday or as a ate Christmas pressie I can't remember. I'd never thought about getting a dwarf nectarine, it just simply wasn't on my radar of things I wanted. But this tree is great. Last year it only gave me three fruit, and I definitely need to hand pollinate but they were some of the tastiest nectarines I had ever eaten.

Nectarines are a bit like the senator you never expected to get a seat but does, and then they prove to be a real winner. I hope it fruits again this year, it is already budding though it doesn't have a lot of new growth. Perhaps a top up of good soil and some nutrients will help.

The balcony garden stayed a two fruit tree zone for a while, quite a while in fact. It was only when I realised the benefits of pots that only needed new soil every two years, as opposed to vegetable growing which meant refilling the pot twice or thrice a year, that made fruit trees more desirable. Armed with a voucher and drive I went in myself for fruit tree number there - the tahitian lime. He has been here a while and seems to have settled in well. He is showing good signs of new near-Spring growth including new leaves and even possibly some buds.

Probably too new to decide what kind of politician he would be, but judging by the dominant colour I'd put him in with the Greens!

Shortly after the lime tree joined the gang, was my 30th birthday, and with that passing into a new decade came a lovely present from Miss M - a fig tree. Ok I should really rephrase that, a fig twig, Mr Fig Twig to be exact. It is a black genoa fig, self pollinating which works well in a one fig environment. It will take a few years before he is of fruit baring size. I can't help but liken him to my favourite Australian Democrat of yesteryear - Natasha Stott Despoja. She was so full of hope and promise and ideas, but went in too hard too early and it just wasn't her time. I have heard vague rumours of a comeback. I, for one, think this would be a great thing as with maturity brings good things - like figs.

After the figs came what I term the 'accidental' purchase of not one, but two apple trees. As any good gardener knows you need two apple trees to cross pollinate to get fruit, and when two dwarf versions of my two favourites, golden delicious and granny smith, were avaible and they could cross pollinate I jumped. I had wanted a ballerina apple tree, but none were available that would cross pollinate with either of these. The bonus of a ballerina is its upright nature, and the lack of pruning needed. I am a terrible pruner, though as these were bare rooted trees I had to at least have a go.

As they've only been in for a couple of weeks it is far too early to suggest what kind of political style they'll have. As long as they don't form a coalition akin to the Nationals and the Liberal Party then we will be fine. Besides growing trees is far too green a policy for either of those parties, but it would be an interesting carbon offset.

So there are the six fruity candidates in my garden. And it would be a good balance if I left it as that, but there is, just a slight possibility, that the group of six could be joined by a seventh. There is a spare large pot just about to become vacant after the broccoli is pulled.

It could remain a vegetable only zone, or it could, just as easily, house a small fruit tree. The only problem is, what fruit tree would I choose? The major ones I would like are (in no special order)

  • Self pollinating dwarf cherry (alas these only come in black varieties and I do prefer yellow/white cherries but imagine the blossoms)
  • Persimmon (dwarf(ish) self pollinating varities are orderable, but the deep tap root would be quite a problem)
  • Blood Orange (my favourite citrus fruit and one I cannot get enough of)
  • A ballerina apple tree which can pollinate with one of the existing apple trees
  • A dwarf peach/nectarine
  • A white genoa fig
And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Do you have any other suggestions out there? What do you think makes a good potted tree?

Anyway voting in new plants in the balcony garden is a touch simpler than the election here in Australia today. The polls close in a few hours and I am off to an election party armed with green, red and blue macarons. It is no accident that most of the macarons are green. By tomorrow we may have a new Prime Minister (in which case if it is the horribly antiquated Mad Monk Mr Abbott I will be relocating to another country!) My hope of Greens in power is too far fetched for a voting public right now so I have my fingers crossed that the Labor Party retains power for another term. And for the record, the Lemon tree, when asked who he would vote for, refused to comment.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pivotal Issues

Hi to all the readers out there. Sorry for the limited posting lately and the lack of commenting on your blogs. I read them every day, and find them sustaining, but lack the energy (and sometimes the brain power) to contribute anything comment worthy. Be assured I am drooling over the pictures of your summer harvests, in particular the amazing tomatoes, I am sympathising with my fellow Winter gardeners as they deal with less than ideal conditions, I am just not being vocal about it.

As most of you know I am a PhD student, and I've just entered my last year of study. With chapters due, papers to write for numerous conferences, teaching to supplement my meagre scholarship (and all the marking that entails) along with upkeep of the balcony garden and my own place I've found my blogging time and energy falling away. I will endeavour to keep writing and I have so many posts stored in my mind (along with 100 000 words of thesis!!!) There are apple trees to introduce, eggplants who survive Australian Winters to profile, my adventures in mulch land, a yellow primrose to laud over, and spring blossoms only minutes away. Rest assured I'll bring you all this and more, it just might not be every day or even every second day.

Thanks for all the comments on this blog and blog love and for letting me share all your gardening experiences. Garden blogging is such a rewarding experience (as is gardening itself.) I don't think I could write my thesis without having my time away gardening blogging.

So for today, as I hurriedly add the final touches to my methodology chapter, one of the most pivotal aspects of a thesis, I leave you with this picture, of something pivotal to a balcony vegetable garden - flowers! In this case it is the white cornflower, and I finally, with the help of a new camera, managed to snap a good one of it! Kalena Michele, these are what you should plant in Autumn!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rainy Garden Bloggers Blooms Day

It is another lovely rainy Winter day here in Melbourne, so here are some things that are blooming in the balcony, in all their wettest splendour. It is all primroses, pansies and puddles out there.

We need the rain, given the whole drought concept here in Southern Australia, but I do wish I could coordinate my fertilising/seasol days better. I thought today would be drier, oooops. For more on Garden Bloggers Blooms Day head on over to May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Budding Young Things

It has been no higher than 11 degrees out there today and raining all from dusk till dawn. It is Winter, true Melbourne Winter. However the balcony garden is certainly looking forward to Spring, with many of the flowers, citrus trees and even vegetables budding up. Sporadic sunny days certainly aid in this process, but I can't help but wonder if maybe they're a little bit sick of Winter too! The snapdragon is still getting ready to bloom, over a year after I planted it.

Another pink member of the family, the boronia is budding. It is so hard to see it in this photo, but trust me there are little floral buds nestled within the stick thin leaves. I had given this plant up for dead as most of the growth on the stems fell off but looks like I'll get another year of blooms on the new growth.

The red lantern is constantly budding, and flowering and generally awesome!

Another red tried and trusted bloomer is the geranium. It's been in the pot for years and it is still going strong.

A new purple pansy (a different purple from the ones I blogged about the other day) is budding up ready to add yet another shade of purple to the balcony.

Another purple budding plant is in the lettuce. A primrose with yet another purple flower.

The lemon and lime trees are budding up too, the lemon tree is particularly covered in floral buds while the new growth on the lime may well be more leaves, hard to tell at this stage.

Even the habanero is budding, IN WINTER! That is probably because I brought him inside and he is loving the warmer conditions.

What loively budding young things, giving hope for an end to Winter and promise that I might have some more beauties for garden bloggers blooms day at the end of the week!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Burning, Balcony Gardens and Bargains

As you all know by now I love to cook. Last night I had some of my rellies over for a feast of truffle mustard, mushroom and sweetcorn soup followed by beetroot risotto with pancetta and goats cheese and finished of with a dessert of sticky date pudding with homemade ice cream. The sticky date pudding was divine (and made by my good friend Mr M), as were all the other courses (tasty that is, made by my hand not his) except for the vanilla icecream which split so was an unmitigated disaster.

Today the cooking extravaganza continued and I hit up the stalls at the Vic markets. For under $20 I bought and made (using a few ingredients such as pasta, peas, cous cous and spices that I had already in the pantry, leftovers from last night's dessert and herbs and greens from the balcony garden):

Beef Goulasch with Israeli cous cous
A huge pot of vegetarian Bolognaise Sauce
2 Veggie lasagnes (one for a friend who just had a baby and one for me and my dinner guest)
1 Meat lasagne
1 large pot of Yellow curry, sweet potato and split pea soup (snacked on that this afternoon, it was divine)
Cookies and Cream icecream.

I also have more market shopping left over for a cauliflower and beetroot soup for later in the week. Blood orange macarons are the final bit on tomorrow's agenda.

One slight problem though, try not to get too close to the stove - things might (and did) get burned!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cornflowers and the last hurrah

The other day was garden bloggers death day, where people showcase what has gone awry in their garden and the plants that have ceased to exist. I've never joined in but it looks a fun one. I certainly had a candidate, one of the blue cornflowers was more brown than blue, in fact it was all brown at one point. I put it behind the BBQ where there is little light for a final farewell hoping to get rid of it at the nearest opportunity.

Well perserverence is one thing, but resurrection is a whole different ball game. Low and behold a few days later he had one last little growth with a defiant blue flower. Go you little blue cornflower.

Now I have had plants perk up before when I've moved them to a warmer/shadier spot, but they were never this far gone. Miracle ... or one last beautiful blast before death? (sad to say it was the latter.) Not to fear though because there are plenty of other cornflowers strewn throughout the balcony garden, in various shades; pink, blue, white and black/purple.