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Regional advisors
Previous months in Brisbane, Queensland
With Gavin & Paula Atkinson

2000

January

Stress on the vegetables is pretty good for this time of the year. That's because we're currently having the coolest summer since about 1962. A few of the tomatoes are getting some worms in them.

Sowing this month: climbing beans, pop corn, watermelon, capsicum, eggplant.

Harvesting this month: beans, carrots, shallots, spring onions, beetroot, sweetcorn, celery, tomatoes, capsicum.

February

As we move into the last month of summer it's time to reflect on how are garden is going. The summer, with the exception of a few 38 degree C days has been pretty refined. Humidity is hardly a problem. The only problem we're having is fruit fly (I think). We keep finding little white grubs inside our soft skinned vegetables and fruit eg tomatoes, capsicums (bell pepper) and also to a lesser extent in our raspberries. It just goes to show that next season we'll have to take some preventative organic measures, like fruit fly traps and bagging, to better protect our crop.

We've got no major sowing plans for February. This month we expect to be harvesting beans, carrots, shallots, spring onions, sweetcorn, celery, tomatoes, capsicum.

March

Time seems to be going by so quickly lately. Probably had something to do with February being such a short month... even with the extra one day in 400 years!

Both Paula and I recently had a cold which put a dent on things in February. I hate having a cold in summer... except it doesn't really feel like summer here. The days are a constant 27 degrees celsius, overcast and not a drop of rain (although every day the weather bureau stupidly predicts showers for some strange reason).

And now that it's officially autumn (fall) nothings has changed.

I've ripped up a few vegies which have gone past their prime (lettuces, corn, etc). The tomatoes are still pretty sluggish. Lots of little grasshoppers everywhere (have to go around and pull their heads off). The carrots we keep harvesting are great - lovely size, colour and taste - our best carrots yet I'd say! The beans are going well too.

I've set some goals for March (let's see if I can make them!):

  • Clean up our raised garden beds and rip out the grass that's managed to creep in;

  • Sow a few lettuce seeds - we'll chill them in the fridge and sow them. By the time they're maturing the weather should be right and hopefully they won't bolt;

  • Transplant some tomato, rockmelon and watermelon seedlings that sprouted in our compost in our ornamental garden;

  • Mail order some more seeds, a Chilean Guava plant and a few organic pest control devices;

  • Prepare for some major changes in the garden for April as part of our crop rotation;

  • And add a few more pages to the site. The plan is to add an extra vegetable profile, the first fruit profile, a new feature article and prod my web hosting friend of mine to get the chat facility up and running! I'm also hoping to improve the linking into some of our partner's web sites.

April

Well another month escapes us. It doesn't seem long ago that I promised to myself to add more pages to the site. 30 days later I only got one new page up. Work (as always) gets in the way again.

It kept me out of the garden a fair bit, but luckily last weekend I got out and started weeding our raised vegetable beds and fruit garden terraces.

I also went crazy ripping up the old and rather past their prime celery. The fennel also got pulled up. Our Blue Lake climbing beans also met their maker, but I've sown some more seeds to keep us in beans.

The weather for March was wonderful. Warm but not humid. And as we technically hit mid autumn (fall) - it couldn't be could it? - we've gone nuts sowing seed here there and everywhere. I've sown seed for Rouge D'Hiver and green mignonette lettuces, Long white streaked eggplants, capsicums, Gross Lisse and beefsteak tomatoes, and also some dill and gourmet basil. We'll just have to wait and see to before we know what germinates and what doesn't.

Plans for April? Hopefully nurture these little seedlings. I think I'll also severely trim or pull up the old tomatoes. It'll also soon be time to start thinking (and maybe doing) something about starting a crop of green manure. This will boost the nitrogen levels naturally in the soil by growing legumes in the old corn/melon/cucumber bed. April will also be the month we harvest all our carrots and spring onions - and then resow.

And if I'm lucky I'll actually get around to adding more pages to the site.

I've copped a few emails from online gardeners complaining about our lack of a chat facility. I know, I know. I keep "chatting" to my friend who helps run the server we're on. The software isn't cheap and this site hasn't yet reached a stage where it pays for itself. So, you'll have to be patient. We'll get there someday. Maybe not soon, but sometime.

May

April has come and gone. It never did turn out the way I planned. I came down with a nasty virus in mid April which took me out of the garden for the rest of the month. The up side to this was it gave me time to write a couple of feature articles and also a profile on strawberries.

I did get the time to plant some potatoes and rip up half of the old tomatoes and in early May the rest will go. I also moved some of the strawberry runners as they'd been invading the tomato bed.

May though is the month for my crop rotation. The temperatures are dropping and winter is just around the corner. The legumes and brassicas will move into the old tomato/capsicum bed. The rambling but unproductive watermelon vine will get ripped out and a crop of winter green manure will be sown in its place. And it's also time to start sowing carrots, parsnips, onions and garlic into the old bean bed. The seasons change and everything moves around.

On the web site in May we're planning a feature article on composting. Our fruit profile poll is going strong and will determine what the next fruit profiles on the site will be. Things keep getting added and hopefully our site is getting closer to showing how easy it is to organically grow your own produce.

June

We went crazy in the garden back in May. Ripped up the old remnants of the bean raised bed and the old corn/watermelon bed. In their places went row upon row of carrot seed, garlic and some catch-up crops like lettuce and silverbeet (chard) seedlings we'd grown from seed. I also sowed some onion seed into little containers. The idea is we'll transplant them as we harvest the lettuce, silverbeet and pak choy (sowed that too).

We pumped some wonderful home grown compost into these beds (great timing as we'd just written a composting feature for the site). Obviously our compost bin doesn't generate enough heat to kill all seeds. We say this as we got literally hundreds of little lettuce seedlings growing in both beds. They'd come from some old lettuce that had bolted which we'd composted. Anyway, we had the heart breaking job of thinning out the vast majority of them. Still we left about 20 seedlings which should fill in some gaps.

In the old watermelon bed we sowed some green manure. This is just seeds of lupins, woolly pod vetch and barley. It'll hopefully pump some nitrogen into the soil and will get dug into the soil in a few months to improve it'd organic nature. We couldn't believe it'd grow so quickly! May had been pretty warm up to the last few days. Day temps were hanging around 24C (75F) and around 15C (59F) at night. Temps in Brisbane (as has the whole Australian east coast) feel dramatically in late May-early June. Winter is here!

Luckily before temps started falling we were lucky enough to sneak in some climbing bean seeds which are growing pretty strong. We're still harvesting carrots, spring onions (which just keep getting bigger and bigger) and the odd capsicum (bell pepper). We've got basil coming out of our ears so we might make some pesto in the next couple of days. Our raspberries started making more fruits (which is very surprising) and we've noticed that our strawberries have also started flowering again (very odd).

June will be a quieter month in the garden. Depending on how some broccoli seed went, we might transplant them to where our scraggly capsicum and tomatoes are. Not much else happens around this time of year.

This month there'll be some big changes on our site. In June you'll see our search service go live. This will search through our whole site to make it even easier to find the organic gardening information you're after. I've also given up on my ISP friend finding an easy and cheap Chat software solution. So we'll be using Egroups to set up a chat facility, discussion centre and maybe even newsletters. I'm also planning to write a little about raspberries and blueberries this month. But that's enough from me, you should be inspired enough now (hopefully) to get out into the fresh air!

July

Being the middle on winter you'd think things would be pretty slow in our vegetable patch. But it's actually been a little busier than we'd have predicted.

The old tomato-acid lovers bed is looking the best it's looked in ages. With a bit of kelp and neem oil spray the tomatoes and capsicums are forming beautifully - of course with no fruit fly: not that you'd expect it at this time of year. The blue lake pole beans keep on climbing in this bed too. And we just planted some broccoli seedlings.

Our bed of green manure is growing strong and looks very lush.

The carrots are still tasting great and should keep on 'till early September when the corn goes in. And in the other root crop bed - best termed the baby root crops - the carrot, garlic, pak choy, silverbeet and the many lettuce seedlings are growing strongly. We've also just sown some parsnip seeds.

In the fruit garden our strawberries are flowering and setting heaps of fruit. The coffee tree is covered in dark red beans ready for harvesting. But the rest of the fruit garden is very quiet - although we can see the blueberries are starting to bud up.

July will be a steady as she goes type of month. Nothing major planned, nothing major expected. And spring is only a couple of months away.

August

July's been a wonderful growing month even though it's the middle of winter. In fact my vegie patch hasn't looked healthier!

We've had a typical Brisbane winter. Not only is it a nice day time temp, around 23 degrees C (about 73 F), and cool (but reasonable) nights, temps falling on average to about 8 C (46F), we get absolutely no rain. I haven't been watering too often either, but evethything's going fine. The traditional westerly winds of August should be arriving reasonably soon I would've thought. That dries a lot of plants out so I must remember to keep the water up to them. In fact the recent weather has been so lovely that the other day I was out painting the fence next to the garden. Had to get it ready for the passionfruit vine we bought two weeks ago. We also picked up two exotic fruit trees - the Ceylon Hill Gooseberry and White Sapote. CHG is meant to taste like a blueberry. We got the only type of white sapote that doesn't need a cross pollinator (Dade) which saves a bit of space. It's meant to taste somewhere between a custard apple and apricot (and was it peach? Can't remember). Anyway sounded like it was worth giving it a go.

Our first crop of green manure is ready to be dug in early this month. It grew so quickly - we couldn't believe it! The great part about it was some compost I'd previously dug in as sent up some tomato seedlings. So I'll put some plastic drink bottles cut in half over the top of the tomatoes to protect them as I dig in the green manure. Elsewhere in the garden our bean pole is starting to get beans. Our old tomatoes and capsicums are getting a second wind and the little broccoli seedlings are slowly growing. Of course we've still got fully grown carrots and lettuces coming out of our ears. Lots of activity in the root crop bed as carrot and parsnip seedlings get going, while the garlic is also pushing along. Our strawberries are still flowering, and are now forming fruit. The blueberries are also starting to flower. And the Meyer lemon which I moved to a sunnier location is about to flower, and better yet its leaves are starting to return to a normal green colour (instead of yellow).

We're going to do a little experiment with our raspberries. We've got 4 canes. I'm going to cut 2 canes to the ground and leave the other ones. Hopefully this will give us an idea on what method works best for our Heritage raspberries which we can implement next year. Lot's of fertilizing to do in the month ahead too as we start preparing for spring.

We're also looking into moving our site to another web host to improve service. That should happen in August too. The search and discussion area we set up isn't working as well as we'd like. Our new hosts have got some better solutions for us in these areas too.

September

Things have been busy so we haven't had the time to spend in the garden. During the weekend's Paula's been dragging me out to paint our fence and retaining wall. Good news is 90% of the fence has been prepared and had two coats of paint (so it's finished!!) - only one small section remaining. And our retaining wall has been prepared and had one coat. So hopefully soon I can return to my little vegie patch.

The weather for August here in Brisbane has been the usual - westerly winds that dries everything out - so constant watering is important (at least I haven't neglected this duty). Other than the winds the days and nights are pleasant. The winds should go in the next week or so if they follow their usual patterns. And then it's time for spring!! Or so I hope, otherwise I won't be a happy camper. Heard on the news the other day that the last eight months in Brisbane has been the driest on record since the 1920's. Crazy stuff.

I've already noticed some of our seedlings are growing stronger, and our lemon twig and mandarine tree are starting to blossum. I think our mandarine tree is getting big enough now (about 4 feet tall) to give it a go making fruit. Last year we pulled off the little baby mandarines to put the plant's energies into growing bigger. I'm hoping the development of fruit will pull down the branches a bit more and make the tree bushier.

Our avocado tree (which is very very mature - perhaps too mature) is flowering and I gave it recently some dolomite lime to help the flowering and setting process. Apparently at this time of the year they also need Boron - problem is I don't have a clue on how you do this organically! If anyone knows please tell me!

Our blueberries have some wonderful bell shaped flowers and look cute. They're also starting to get fresh growth which is good for next year's season. I've also spotted the start of two new raspberry canes - so I'll watch them patiently.

We also recently moved our lime so this month we'll watch to see how it recovers.

In the vegie patch itself the broccoli seedlings are getting bigger and our pole beans keep on pumping out little green nutrious packets. The old capsicum is still hanging in there and is ladened with fruit.

Our small tomato and capsicum seedlings are still that - small. Hopefully the warmer weather will bring them on. Same hope applies for the sweet corn, zucchini and cucumber seed I sowed the other week.

And we still have so many lettuces it's not funny. The silverbeet is growing well as are the carrot and parsnips, and the garlic and egyptian onions.

So that's our garden at the moment. Any plans? Nothing other than watering, fertilising, harvesting and hoping it continues to grow!

October

We went for a week's holiday in September, but when we got back to Brisbane and couldn't believe how much our garden had grown. The snow peas were busily thrusting away from the soil, the tomato seedlings had boomed, our little capsicum seedlings had got that little bit bigger. The rockmelon and watermelon seeds I'd sowed had germinated and already were growing their true leaves. And all the root crops were doing well. We pulled up three All Seasons carrots last night, although they were still baby size (we'd finished our supply of excess carrots from winter's harvest). Brisbane is still bone dry. We haven't had any real rain to speak of since the start of the year. Weather bureau predicts no substantial rain until December. Not happy.

In the fruit garden things have been really moving along too. Our blood orange started blossoming and has had a lot of leaf growth. Still not big enough though for it to bear fruit under its own weight. The blueberries are forming up reasonably well. And we harvest a good half dozen of strawberries every morning at the moment (which helps make breakfast interesting). We've been getting a few mummified strawberries though of late. I think this has to do with the fact that the berries are forming on "children" plants which grew as runners from "parent" plants. If you see any of these furry disgusting berries make sure you pull them off and put them in the bin. Otherwise the disease spreads to other fruit. And guess what, our ice cream bean (which no kidding has grown about a metre and a half in twelve months) looks like it's about to form flowers. Sweeet.

We did have some failures though this month (other than the mummified strawberries). Our climbing bean plants, while they're still pumping out pods, have now got some kind of disease. That usually happens to them after a while anyway. Should still have another good month or so from them before we pull them up. The other disappointment was our sweet corn. After sowing Snowgold seeds, which didn't germinate, we tried sowing Eight Cob F1, which only germinated once. So I tried again this morning. Must water them more regularly in this weather. Hopefully that'll fix the problem. Plus mulching. Must do that soon, especially as the weather heats up.

Other than that, I need to slash and dig in my last crops of green manure. Plus I need to build a proper trellis for the snow peas, rip out the old capsicum (which had grubs in all its fruit - reminder to self: spray neem oil and kelp on my crops!), get rid of some evasive grass... it never seems to end!

We've added a hints and tips section to the web site which is updated every couple of days. I've been drawing them from the site, particularly regional advisor's suggestions, and also tips from visitors to the site. Also we added an organic pest and disease control article too. Hope to do a further follow up to this one in the next couple of weeks.

November

Things have been so busy of late that we have hardly a chance to think about gardening. The best I've recently done was a quick sowing of some Gold Bantam sweet corn seeds. I must admit I'm getting a bit miffed about my corn this year. I've tried on two successive occasions to grow some super sweet corn and have only had one germination (which I've since ripped up to avoid cross pollination in varieties).

The rest of the garden is actually looking good as we've had some rain and the odd shower over the past fortnight or so. They're even predicting a possible storm this afternoon (Yeah!)

Our strawberries are starting to slow down their production runs. I've been happy with how they've gone this year - a good handful of fruits for breakfast each morning. Although we've probably lost about a third or so to disease or the little mini slugs we seem to have.

I ripped up the old beans during October and have planted some more. Our rogue Amish Paste tomato (and some other type of tomato) are growing well and I've been spraying their fruits (when I can remember) with a neem oil and kelp spray. Seems to be working well - hardly any tomato grubs yet. Our snow peas are now flowering and broccoli is slowly growing, although I feel by the time the edible flower stalk is ready it would've quickly bolted to seed because of the then summer weather.

In the actual tomato bed it's a bit of a ditto from above. Our little capsicum seedlings are growing very strongly. Tried sowing some eggplant seeds early in October but it looks like they haven't germinated yet.

I've already talked about our dud corn in the corn and other gross feeders bed. Our melon seedlings (which I sowed as seed mid-late September) are growing great. I might have to soon do the heart breaking duty of thinning them out. And because things have been so busy (and therefore neglected in the garden) I've only done a half hearted job of digging in our green manure.

In the root crop bed everything seems to be growing really well - carrots, onions, parsnips, garlic. Although I do need to rip out the lettuces which have bolted to seed. The silverbeet is also growing well in this bed.

In the fruit garden our ice cream bean tree is flowering for the first tree. I still find this plant most amusing. Also doing a flowering first is our lime. Our coffee plant is also flowering profusely. And the avocado tree is growing its leaves back. But the best news was after taking a chain saw to the avocado 18 months ago it now has about 100 mini avocados covering it. Super yeah!

December

Well, what's been happening our way?

Not too much. We haven't had much of an opportunity of late to spend in the garden. Most of our time seems to be pulling out crazy lettuces that are three feet tall and have bolted to seed.

We really need to get out and mulch the garden. I keep saying it, I keep putting it off. But we've really got to do it!

We've got a number of tomatoes and capsicums, but as usual, we're getting a few grubs. Had to get out the derris dust the other day. I'm still surprised that the snow peas are going well. Plus the beans have kicked into production. Still no sign of broccoli heads. Will have to watch that one!

We're getting a number of turkish melons forming, and our little zucchini and corn plants are growing strong. The carrots, parsnips, garlic and onions keep on going.

I've resowed some pumpkin seeds - let's hope 2nd time around works!

We're getting a number of raspberry canes coming up now, and our blueberry production line (which was very limited this year) has shut down. We're also getting a second burst of flowering with our citrus plants. Obviously the lack of water a couple of months back postponed a lot of the flowering. And we're over the moon with our avocado tree which is covered in close to 100 fruit around the size of 20 cent pieces. Very exciting!

The month ahead? Weeding (does it ever stop?), mulching (will I ever do it?) and watering (got to do this if I want a decent harvest!).

So it's a case of steady as she goes!

Hopefully I'll also get around to eventually finishing off my pests and diseases 202 article and put up the new messaging area.

2001

January

The weather here is hotting up. It's now a pretty warm regular 32 degrees C at the moment (90F). Just the type of weather for my 2 weeks away from work on holidays (although a few degrees lower might've been better).

I'm actually pretty happy with how the garden is holding up. All the root crops are grooving along, as are the strawberries, although their second wind seems to be waning. We're getting the odd raspberry too, but I expect things to get a lot better in a couple of months time as summer ends and autumn starts.

Tomatoes and capsicums are tracking ok too - which is odd for this time of the year. And as I haven't picked our beans for a while they're starting to get as long as some of my carrots! Positively serpentine at the moment!

Our melons aren't doing to well. They got powdery mildew about 6 weeks back. I regularly sprayed but didn't seem to catch it in time. Same problems for the zucchini, although it's standing up a bit better to the mildew. At least the corn is growing strong - knee high now, and with male and female flowers.

I keep having problems with a small little patch that I tried sowing melons in back in October, tried pumpkins in November and still no luck. So I've sowed melon seed again a few days ago. They're up now with their baby leaves. Let's see how it all works out.

Our little avocados keep getting bigger and bigger. We've lost probably about 20 to the winds, but there is still so much left it's not funny.

Well that's about it from me. I don't see much happening for me in the garden. There is lot's to do - weeds and grass to get out of the beds, but I had a little accident on New Years, so I'm now hobbling around on crutches - mostly bedridden. Hope your New Year celebrations were better!

February

Well after a couple of weeks of being on the mend I'm now almost 100% after my New Years altercations. Don't ask. Let me just tell you it involved a small amount of New Years Eve alcoholic beverages, a deceptively shaped street curb, a hospital and crutches. Good enough now though to get back out into the garden!

In the last week or so I've relished getting back into the garden, although I've had to generally only do things early in the morning, or late in the afternoon.

I laid out some compost under our lovely big avocado tree, pineapple, orange and mandarin. Then a nice thick layer of sugar cane mulch to prevent the compost being cooked and dried out. I'm starting to feel really positive again. I've been neglecting the garden of late. Just this morning I gave almost all the remaining fruit trees a liquid manure drink (as well as the corn). Then it was time to cook up another brew. Ditto the compost as I raided our ever-flattening heap to fill our rotating bin.

The avocados are now getting a reasonable size. Probably about half the size of a PC mouse. Other fruits are also forming, including 3 Indian guavas, and a good couple of dozen chocolate pudding fruits. At this time of the year I wished I was like every other man and his dog and had a mango tree in my backyard. Maybe in a few years time... or maybe not, seeing they get pretty big!

More fertilising planned ahead for Fun February.

We're also getting some baby citrus fruits on our mandarin, lime and cumquat. The strawberry run is practically over, as they now start putting their energy into making more runners. Except now I have to pull all of them up, otherwise the runners will invade my vegetable beds.

We started getting these weird blacky-brown bugs around our climbing beans during January. Couldn't really tell if they were getting up to no good, but seeing they didn't appear to be beneficials they got a dose of pyrethrum. Only seen a couple more since. I now sneak up to them with a pair of scissors. They now get to experience what it's like being in two parts.

I got around to pulling up the rag-tag elements of the snow peas, and have sowed fresh seed which is coming back up. We're harvesting very small quantities of broccoli in the sub tropical summer, before it can bolt to seed. Got to make sure not too many gardeners know I planted this so late, otherwise I'll be totally discredited!! Nah, might as well share it with the world!

I've just resown some climbing beans, and start getting serious about raising some seedlings. I reckon it's a good time of the year to get them started, provided they're in the shade during the heat of the day, otherwise they'll cook so quickly.

So what shall I turn my hand to for February? Well for starters - tomatoes. I've been having rotten luck on the tomato front for a while now. Time to turn that around! Ditto eggplants!

What else? Some more herbs couldn't go astray - time for some parsley, basil, and coriander. I think I'll sow a couple of more rows of sweetcorn as the current lot is fattening up, so we should try to keep ourselves in stock for future harvests. I think the current lot of corn should be ready around now.

We've also started harvesting carrots. They've done very well. Can't say the same for the garlic and onions in the same bed. Bulb formation has been pretty poor this year. What lessons are to be learnt here? Should try harvesting some parsnips soon for a roast or something. Could be fun.

March

Last weekend I went out into the garden and went crazy. I pulled up our old capsicum bush which has been with us for 18 months. I think we only ever got one red capsicum on it, the rest of the time the green fruits fell off prematurely, or had fruit fly grubs in them. I also pulled up the broccoli which had gone to flower (surprise surprise at this time of the year). I also ripped up the old climbing bean pyramid and started digging in the dirt to pull up the grass that had invaded the bed. I also attacked the strawberry runners that had started heading into the bed (instead of staying in the besser block border). The only vegies that stayed in the bed were some snow peas that were an inch tall.

I then sowed some drills of Cos lettuce, mustard, pak choy, tat soi, bok choy, mini cauliflower and mini cabbage. While it hasn't been hot, I've been watering them each morning to make sure the seeds don't dry out during germination.

Next on the list of beds which'll get some action is what should be the tomato bed. It currently doesn't have any tomatoes. It is absolutely over-run with strawberry plants. And a watermelon that grew out of no-where (this will stay though). I sowed some Black Russian, Grosse Lisse and Beefsteak seeds, and eggplant seeds a couple of weeks back. Plan to transfer them this weekend after I've cleaned up the bed. Hopefully I'll also clean up the grass and weeds that have started taking over the bed which is reserved for the strawberries.

I've also been harvesting lots of carrots of late. My garlic was an absolute dud this year (just like last year). I think this is because I planted the cloves too late (July). For 2001 I'll start earlier - April, so they grow into the cool winter soil. I have a stack of parsnips at the moment. Might have to make parsnip soup soon I reckon. Can't think of anything else to do with them other than roasting.

Also on the agenda is planting out some seed potatoes. Haven't had any fresh home grown potatoes for about 6 months now and I'm fanging for them. Another busy time needing to be set aside for gardening pleasures.

April

Things in the vegetable patch are in a state of flux. Some seeds have germinated (carrots) but a lot of my asian greens look like they've been chewed up way too early in their lives by small grasshoppers. Have to watch this further.

Some of our tomato seedlings are working out, others have been similarly chewed out. Getting some nice red capsicums now. Plus we've also got our biggest ever watermelon on the way. I keep giving it new nicknames every day, as I tend to forget the previous day's nickname. Today it's "Big Bertha".

The old root crop bed now only has some parsnips in it. Harvested all of our carrots and the other half of parsnips recently for a soup. Also through in a
butternut pumpkin, but kept the seeds.

The zucchini bushes are going well, and our experimental pumpkin sowing (from the soup pumpkin) have come up. Will they make it through to creating pumpkins? Who'll know... watch this space.

We've recently harvested our Indian guavas - although they were pretty badly effected by fruit fly. I need to look into some good organic measures to help control these guys as they're really getting my nerves.

We've also got a few acerola (barbados cherries) in the past week too.

And just the other day we harvested our first raspberry of the season. Mmmm... love those raspberries.

It's been quiet fun harvesting exotic fruit which we really don't know what it's going to taste like. The indian guavas tasted like a big passionfruit. And the
acerola had a very bitter-sweet taste, but had 3 big seeds in each cherry which you have to look out for.

I plan this month to sow some more asian greens, lettuce, and also pop in some garlic cloves later in April.

May

A couple of weeks ago I resowed some seeds in my brassica/asian greens/legume bed. Basically none of the tat soi germinated - but it has now! I also "filled in the gaps" amongst the pak choy and parsnips and put in extra half row of snow peas. The carrots and beetroot have generally germinated well and the mustard - which tastes and looks a lot like endive, perhaps a packing error? - is practically exploding in size. Actually one problem we've got is the mustard/endive overshadowing the beetroot seedlings. Last weekend I also planted some garlic cloves in the bed. The wong bok is going great, and probably will be totally harvested in May. I'll them aim to sow some onion seed in its place.

In the tomato and capsicum (bell pepper) bed everything is growing well, although the basil is now getting a little ratty. A little over a week ago we harvested "Big Bertha" our one and only watermelon. I'm still only half way through it but it's been great chomping into it each day. Our Jimmy Nardello capsicum have been fantastic. They look like long chillis (hot peppers) but taste sweet. Only problem
with them is the number of seeds - but then again they'll come in handy for seed saving.

The next bed along is also progressing well. We harvested a lovely juicy zucchini the other week, and after shoving cut male flowers into female flowers (felt a bit like a porn movie director) hopefully we'll have even more zucchinis in the coming weeks. Our pumpkin seeds we sowed for a bit of a laugh earlier in the month are coming along great, and are already forming flower buds.

I really cleared out the old root crop bed back in April. There is still a row and a half of parsnips (but for how much longer as I eye them off for soup?) and a big bunch of silverbeet. A couple of weeks ago I sowed some lettuce seed which I'd had in the fridge. The idea is to "trick" them into thinking that once planted (and no longer in the fridge) winter is over and it must be spring (although it's actually autumn), forcing them to germinate better. I'm also testing my hoodoo with spinach. In the past they've never grown bigger than baby seedling size. They're already reached that level so I'm hoping I might actually have some success this season!

In the fruit garden our raspberries are fruiting well, giving us some berries each morning for our breakfasts. Our acerola (Barbados cherry), which has one of the highest levels of Vitamen C recorded is pumping up their fruits. Should ripen in the next couple of weeks. The coffee cherries are still growing well, as are our chocolate pudding fruit. The mandarins are getting bigger and bigger, and a couple of them are already too big for the stems, so I'll need to give them some support in the coming week. Out in the native Australian part of the garden we're
also feasting on midjim berries - the native berry which originates on North Stradbroke Island only 30 kilometres from Brisbane.

June

As the temps continue to drop and we officially head into winter, I’m thinking about digging up the wong bok and endive/mustard I have growing, and sowing some onion seeds instead. Our tomatoes are growing real well and are starting to pump up. The zucchini keeps on going, although for how much longer I’m not too
sure. And the avocados are now falling on a regular basis from our tree. We’re fast reaching a stage where we give everyone we know and avocado and then give them another a week later, and so on. I don’t know what variety they are. The skin is yellowy-green, it has a massive seed with not a lot of flesh. And while the taste isn’t strong, it is the most buttery avocado we’ve ever tasted! Very nice indeed!

The raspberries are also getting to the end of their season, but from looking at the strawberries and their dainty white blooms this morning, we’ll have some other berries soon. The kumquats are starting to turn orange but I think the mandarins will need another month or so.

Happy gardening

Gavin

July

Well July’s wintry days are just around the corner. What am I saying? June’s wintry days are already here.

Mind you, Brisbane folk really can’t complain about winter too much. No frosts and overnight temps rarely below 5C, unless you live out in some of the western
suburbs or further afield near Ipswich, we get off pretty much scott free each winter (with the exception of August’s blustery westerly winds).

The only thing that gets me down is that it’s dark when I get up in the morning to go to work, and it’s dark in the afternoon/night when I get home from work. I always feel the most magical elements of the day - being able to enjoy just a few precious minutes in my garden during daylight - have been stolen from me. But I’ll admit, even though we don’t have really cold winter temps, it’s pretty cold to be pottering about that early in the morning anyway. But I better get used to it, as July usually starts bringing the first strawberries of our winter harvest. And there’s nothing better than a bowl of cereal in the morning, topped off with your own bumper crop of organically homegrown strawberries!

Our mandarins are pumping up and have started t get their first twinge of orange colouring. I expect to enjoy our first ever harvest of these guys at some stage in July. Although our cumquat tree is covered in little orange fruits. I think I’ll need to dig up an old marmalade recipe Betty sent me once.

We’ve still got avocados up to our eyeballs, although I expect things to drop off significantly in July as most of their fruits have already fallen to the ground and been harvested. I’m a little disappointed with our chocolate pudding fruit (black sapote). The fruits look like they’ve stopped growing. The other day when I was inspecting them it looked like ants had set up nests in the top of them. Some more research required here I think…

In the vegie patch proper, everything is steady as she goes. The first bed still has a number of asian vegetables (like pak choy and wong bok), garlic, carrots and snow peas. There’s also a rogue tomato bush, some sugar snap peas starting to grow (which will be interesting as traditionally I hate eating peas - Paula likes them, but I’m willing to give them a go to see if the fresh variety make any difference).
The onion seed I sowed the other week still hasn’t germinated, but that’s ok as it usually takes a little while to get started.

The tomato bed is suffering some losses as plants get the odd fungal disease as start to head down hill. After getting rid of a lot of old capsicum fruits, the plants are starting to rejuvenate and set fruit again. The basil continues to boom in this bed, and needs a lot of attention in trimming the flowers off to keep the taste sweet (and less aniseed in flavour).

The rambling old zucchini has seen much better days and will probably be put out to pasture at some stage later in July if it doesn’t make any more fruits. This’ll leave this bed pretty empty. But that’s ok, giving them a rest for a couple of months is good. Anyway, the tomato seeds I sowed for spring have germinated in their little seedling trays, and will find their home in this bed at some stage later on in August.

I’m really pleased with what was the old root crop bed, which is mostly filled with "filler-in" crops at the moment. Yes, there still is a row of parsnips (I wonder if their taste is starting to deteriorate? I haven’t eaten any of them for a couple of months now). And after weeding the bed and giving it a good mulch early in June, the silverbeet, now approaching two years of age in August, has got a second wind. I find it amazing that these guys still taste great. Finally the spinach and lettuce that I sowed a while back are starting to become reasonable size seedlings (about three inches in height). Sometime soon, I’ll have to bite the bullet and thin out the lettuce seedlings as they’re very tightly compacted at the moment.

I hope your garden is coming along as well as mine. Yes, there still is plenty of potential for work, but there’s also a lot of sitting back and waiting in anticipation of whatever will be the next harvest in the gardening circle of life.

On another front, work has started (slowly) on the redesign of the Vegetable Patch web site. I’m aiming to make it run a little faster, and hope to rewrite some of the feature articles and profiles. Nothing radical, just making things a little quicker to load, and easier to read. But I expect this will take a good 2 or 3 months to get around to completing.

August

Charlie the wonderdog stinks at the moment. Recently I went out and fertilised a lot of the vegie patch and some of the fruit trees. This involved creating a mulching layer of cow manure, which Charlie seems to enjoy playing in underneath the mandarin tree. So we get home from work and he smells like… well he just smells! Should wash him this weekend - hopefully by then the manure under the trees will stop smelling too.

I've recently managed planting out some spring onion and broccoli seedlings. I got impatient and couldn't be bothered trying to grow from seed after a few dud attempts with onion seeds. I need to work on building up a bit more gardening patience…

I also weeded the lettuce/spinach/silverbeet (chard) bed and then mulched it. I then turned my attention to the ornamental garden at the front. We have a
camellia which we planted in the wrong spot (not enough sun and tends to compete with grass), so I planned to dig it up and transplant it now that it's
winter. One problem, I forgot to check for wasps in the area I intended to move it to. So a word of warning always check for creepy crawlies in the garden!

In August, the westerly winds will probably start kicking in, so you'll need to remember to water the garden more often, otherwise everything will dry out. I also need to get into the fruit tree terraces, do a bit of weeding, a bit of fertilising and a bit of mulching in preparation for spring. If I'm really motivated I'll also head down to the local fruit tree nursery and pick up a macadamia nut tree to fill in a gap.

The avocados are now almost totally finished. Last time I checked I could count the number of remaining fruit on one hand. This'll need some major fertilising (and some slashing of the surrounding ferns) to prepare it for flowering (again) in the next month or two.

Things are growing well in the root crop/legume leftovers bed. Last weekend I checked on the carrots and garlic and they looked like they were coming along
well. The snow peas have a bit of a fungal disease but they seem to be weathering it. The sugar snap peas haven't flowered yet, but I expect it to happen this month.

In the tomato/capsicum bed we're still getting plenty of these guys - especially the yellow pear and broad ripple yellow currant cherry-size tomatoes. The basil bush is looking like it has had better days though!

The old zucchini/corn (from a long, long while back) bed, is getting prepared for spring's tomatoes etc. I ripped up the old zucchini vine the other day, and have a number of tomato seedlings that should be transferred from their little seedling trays in August.

And the lettuce/spinach/silverbeet bed is doing fantastic and will be pumping out lots of lovely greens in the month ahead. I think by September I'll be in a better position to plant some other crops (corn, melons, cucumbers, zucchini etc), but that's another month!

September

Well better late than never as they say in the classics. Our site has fallen into a little bit of disrepair in recent weeks as family events overtook day to day life.

All being well I should even be able to get back out there tomorrow! Which is good as it’s now September, and officially spring, and there is so much to do.

The vegie patch needs a good fertilising. I’ve got a bucket of liquid manure with its name on it! Then there’s the fruit orchard which is also crying for a bit of fertilising, and a good weeding and mulching. In fact the whole garden needs a mulch in preparation for summer to ensure it doesn’t'’ dry out too much.

Our blueberries are starting to form little fruit, and our orange, mandarin and lime are in various stages of bud bloom. The lime even has little mini-fruit on it! Speaking of citrus, we harvested our first couple of mandarins during the week, and I do not kid when I say they were heavenly! We’ve also got strawberries coming out of our ears! Yesterday I harvested almost 1 kilogram of fruit (about 2 pounds) and made up a scrumptious strawberry and orange jam…. and a jar of strawberry and orange toffee. It now sits in the fridge next to the failed cumquat marmalade, which is also like a toffee. I need to spend a little bit more attention on making sure I don’t do this again!

Next door’s avocado is in full flower but ours isn’t. An off year? Or more likely I’ve neglected to fertilise it properly. Looks like another job for a chook manure and dolomite!

We’ve got yellow pear tomatoes everywhere at the moment which is fantastic as I love these sweet guys. But it’s the broad ripple yellow currant tomatoes that are the sweetest you’ve ever tasted, and they’re just coming into season now. The rest of the vegie patch is growing well - the carrots, garlic, beetroot, and spring onions are doing great in the root crop bed. As are our sugar snap peas which is the first time we’ve grown these guys, and they’re doing so well. Will I be converted to the darkside and actually eat peas with my dinner - stay tuned to find out!

Elsewhere in the garden, the capsicum keeps on going (and going and going), and we have so many rouge d’hiver cos-style lettuces at the moment! Still got lots of silverbeet (chard) and a little spinach (which needs fertilising to green-up). The broccoli seedlings are doing well too and keep getting bigger.

And if I’m really lucky I’ll do my best to sow some seeds of zucchini, cucumber or pumpkin - maybe even corn if I’m lucky! In fact being spring almost anything goes. So I better go and get my hands dirty - again.

October

In the past month I can see the wonders of spring. But I'm wondering more about how well it could really be if I actually spent the time and looked after the garden a little better. There's still so much weeding, mulching and fertilising that needs to be done at this time of the year. Hopefully this weekend will be a turning point. At least I hope so!

Our citrus trees (or twigs for the lemon) are all in flower and have the most beautiful fragrance. I've also noticed the Ice Cream Bean is about to start flowering this month. Wish the same could be said about the avocado which looks like it's taken a year off after going crazy the past 12 months. Some of our chocolate pudding fruits (black sapote) have ripened.

We mixed them in with icecream for a wonderful taste sensation. The blueberries have set and probably need a lot more water to plump up. And of course there is still so many strawberries at the moment it's not funny!

In the vegetable garden, some sections are coming to the end of their tether. The snow peas and sugar peas have both managed to get a bad case of powdery mildew and will get the pull this weekend. The pak choy I sowed only about a month back has already started to flower, so the next stir fry we make up, they'll get harvested. I sowed some carrot seed about a fortnight back. It always take a while to germinate, but I'm a little worried that perhaps the seed bed might have dried out. After all, we've hardly next to no rain for close to 6 months. It's great having sunny winter, and now spring days. But a little rain would go a long way for us gardeners! The rest of the root crop bed is doing well - carrots, garlic, spring onions and beetroot are all getting progressively bigger.

The old tomato bed (which still has a couple of plants as they're still fruiting) is also doing very well. The capsicums (bell peppers) are looking like they're getting a second wind. This is good as these guys seem to take so long to get around to fruiting. The broccoli in the bed is also doing well, but could do with a liquid manure fertilising - again this weekend beckons. And the lettuce seed I sowed three weeks back looks like it needs thinning.

The new tomato bed is doing very well. After initially a very slow start (must have been reading the "How to Behave Like a Capsicum" book) our Black Russian tomato seems to have got its act together. It's growing progressively bigger. And the Grosse Lisse tomato seedlings I bought from the shop are still all accounted for (nothing's munched them yet).

Still no sign of the basil and parsley which I sowed from seed, but this will take time. The Yellow Pear tomatoes in this bed are getting a little tired. Will keep an eye on them.

Finally the winter "fill-in" bed which until recently was reserved just for lettuce, spinach and silverbeet is coming along like a house on fire (and similarly would probably be coming along like a house on fire full of petrol tins if I got my act together and fertilised). I sowed a fortnight back some sweet corn seeds (which have germinated well) and also some other seeds. I love my watermelons, and have gone with Moon and Stars. I've also sowed some whacky asian Horned melon (which I don't have a clue whether it'll be worth growing or not) and some Black Jack zucchinis. The last couple of seasons I've let my zucchinis grow all over the place. This year I'm going back to my gardening roots and will be growing it vertically up a stake. Main reason for this (other than reducing the risk of powder mildew) is my soon to be lack of space in this bed!

The only other vegetable bit of luck is my compost heap which has sprung up about a dozen viable pumpkin vines. They're growing strongly and have already started flowering. Did the old porn star director trick the other morning (male flowers stuck into female flowers) so hopefully these'll turn into pumpkins.

So as you can see it's all very busy at the moment. And the amazing part is nature is doing most of this with very little help from me (apart from the watering)!

November

So what's been going on in the garden lately?

Our chocolate pudding fruit tree (black sapote) has started forming the next season's flowers. The other week we finished the last of its fruits. How would I describe the taste? It is chocolatey, but in a mild kind of way. And you have to mix it in with custard or ice cream. Too bland otherwise.

Our compost pumpkin vines keep growing and growing. I think the pumpkin it must have germinated from must have come from Sydney during Mardi Gras as all it every seems to do is produce male flowers. I think I've had 3 female flowers (out of about 30), and only one has fertilised - into a pretty impressive pumpkin I admit!

A few weeks ago I actually made it into the fruit terraces for about 3 hours. It was bliss. Ripping up the weeds, fertilising, mulching. Ahhhh.... it was great. Wish I could say I've been able to do more of this lately, but no such luck.

The citrus trees are pumping up their mini fruits. Still got a fair number of strawberries but I expect the harvests to slow considerably over November.

The root crop bed needs an overall - old pea trash and pak choy that has gone to bolt need to go. And the thirty lettuces or so that have also bolted to seed need to be ripped out.

The tomatoes, after a promising show a month ago, have started becoming stunted. Ahhh, is this the Grosse Lisse curse that I seem to have? The Black Russian isn't doing very well either.

Lots of coriander that has seeded needs to get the heave-ho.

The corn is slowly growing, as is the zuchinni and melon seeds I sowed. I think everything is going so badly due to the lack of rain.

Yes, we got one solid day of rain in mid October, but it's still not enough after months of nothing but sun. Will it rain this month? I really hope so.

Will I get in the garden to rip up all that rubbish and weeds - hoping, but not too confident!

December

So what’s happening in the garden at the moment? There is still the odd cos lettuce that hasn’t gone to seed, but I know by the end of the month I’m going to have to do that one thing all organic vegetable gardeners dread in the summer – having to actually pay for a very average lettuce at the shop.

I can’t believe that our strawberries are still going. They’re now onto their third wind – not enough to make jams, but it’s still strawberry time on the top of my breakfast cereal each morning. Our avocado is flowering still and has put on a lot of extra leaves. I don’t expect it to fruit the coming season. By fertilising it too late, the flowering hasn’t coincided with next door’s avocado. Them’s the breaks!

Our coffee plant has finished its flowering and is now putting its efforts into making tiny little coffee cherries. Our raspberry canes have started shooting lateral growths out, with a couple already producing flowers (a bit early I thought!) The acerola has been pumping out some great tasting fruit. This is its second year of producing and they taste sweeter and less tart than last season.

Out in the compost heap, there is no longer a compost heap. I’m not kidding the back of my backyard is all just pumpkin vine now. It just keeps growing and growing and growing. Got a few more pumpkins too for good measure.

The carrots are bolting to seed, although they haven’t gone "woody" – must still be young enough to taste good. The garlic, beetroot and spring onions keep on growing too.

We’ve been lucky enough to keep ourselves busy chomping on broccoli heads in the past few weeks, due to the overcast weather. I’m sure it won’t be too long before they start flowering though.

The tomato seedlings that survived last month are really powering on now. It’s amazing what a few good storms will do!

Our silverbeet is just as tasty as the day we started picking stalks from it two years ago. Amazing little plants! And our watermelon, horned asian melon and zucchini plants are slowly getting bigger. The sweet corn is up busy powering away – growing onward and upwards, with both male flowers and female tassels visible. Can’t wait for the cobs to start forming!

2002

July

I feel at times like I'm starting to get somewhere in the garden one weekend, only to find the next weekend is written off by social occassions, family visits and other obligations.

Fortunately I at last have a strawberry patch (Yeah!) Last weekend Paula and I took Sam to a local fruit nursery that I particularly like. I bought six pots of strawberries, which ended up giving me about nine crowns (a few pots had two plants luckily growing in them).

I selected the same variety we grew back at our old house. Redlands Crimson is a very local strawberry variety. It was developed about 30 minutes drive away in Redlands shire, on Moreton Bay. It produces a lovely sweet red berry and provides a good number of fruits on each plant. Plus it tends to keep fruiting and fruiting and fruiting. Last season we were up to our eyeballs in strawberries from July through to December. This year we don't expect things to be as productive with only nine plants, but after next seasons runners go out, I'm sure we'll have so many next year.

Our mushrooms under the house in the little kit we bought have really surprised us. Personally, I thought they were going to be duds. The box said that after 4 weeks or so you should see your first mushroom. I saw nothing. Then about a week later we've got 1-2 mushrooms a day that seem to expand in size right in front of you (minor exaggeration, but you get the idea!) After being a sceptic of these kits, I'm now a convert. If you've never tried growing mushrooms I'd recommend it wholeheartedly.

The potatoes have been the real duds. Mind you, what did I expect when I just threw some spuds under sugar cane mulch and manures! Especially as they had no eyes. I kind of did this as I couldn't get any seed potatoes anywhere locally. They may come good later in winter/early spring. Just have to wait and see.

No other news on the gardening front. We have grand plans to get the vegie patch and fruit tree orchard going soon (will have to be very soon, as in three weeks time we're heading to the Nambour Garden Expo where I'll probably spend hundreds of dollars stocking up on new fruit trees).

I love the Nambour Show. Particularly the Birdwood Nursery display. They're wholesalers and you can never buy from these guys except for the 3 days of the show. So you get to pick up excellent specimens at below retail prices. Should try to borrow my father's station wagon as we'll need the space!!

August

We're starting to feel like we're achieving things again in the garden (although slowly!) Last weekend I planted out the strawberry cherry guava, jaboticaba, acerola and passionfruit vine I bought a fortnight back. I'd previously dug in some aged cow manure and chook poo pellets, as well as some compost, blood and bone and potash. Have also put a layer of sugar cane mulch down to keep the weeds from appearing (that's the theory - which won't work, but at least it'll reduce the number of weeds and make it easier to pick them).

They've now part of my ever increasing fruit orchard - I'd planted a "Lemonade" lemon and a "Emperor"
mandarin recently too. Plus there's the nine strawberry plants in the backgarden which are flowering and setting fruit. Lovely!

We've also got into the ornamentals again too, planting out 4 camellias (11 more coming this weekend to form a hedge), 3 gardenias (still got 1 in a pot), 2 brunsfellsias a princess lilly and an azalea.

Have been busy throwing out old bark mulch (looked terrible!), pulling up weeds - especially the nut grass.... will it ever die? - and fertilising like crazy. And why? Well it's not too far away until spring will arrive! Sometime this August I also need to prune back heavily the snowflakes which have come to the end of their flowering season.

It's really feeling great to be getting out into the garden again!

September

It's all action stations in our garden at the moment. We initially planned to put the vegetable patch in this weekend, but with Father's Day on the way we've postponed proceedings 'till the week after. If anything this is better for us as I need a bit of planning time - like work out how in the world I'm going to do this! It's becoming a bigger than Ben Hur operation!

The plan is to get a rotary hoe to churn up the grass (and weeds) where the garden will go. Then we'll scrape this all up for composting, before we start digging a little deeper into the soil. Next on the plan is to start building raised beds with bricks. We're looking again at 4 beds to allow for crop rotation. We'll then get some organic soil delivered to fill in the beds, as well as mixing in my usual array of goodies - old manures, blood and bone, potash and anything else I can get my hands on! Then we'll look at putting down some gravel around the beds. Depending on how high we build the beds, we may or may not need a little "Charlie proof" fence.

So big times ahead in the garden for me!

Other goings on at the moment includes lots of fresh growth on our citrus plants - lemonade, mandarin and orange that we bought last week - as well as the "mystery" citrus that is at the back of our house that I hacked into during autumn. It's obviously got the fright of its life and is throwing out all sorts of lovely green growth and flower buds. What do we have on our hands? Will just have to wait and see! Need to be mindful of spraying a little bit of white oil around at the moment to ensure all that new growth
doesn't get attacked and deformed by aphids.

Our strawberry cherry guava looks like it's forming flower buds too. Talking of strawberries - the real things - are now fruiting. Not lots, maybe one berry every 4 days or so, but it's a start which will be built on in future seasons. The rogue tomatoes that grew out of the compost are growing like crazy and busy flowering. For that matter so are a few compost generated pumpkin vines. Our potatoes are also poking their little foliage through the sugar cane mulch. Everything looks so promising... and it's just turned spring!!

2003

January

After many months of perceived slackness in our regional advisor column, we've at last got some things to report!

We put in a new vegie patch and fruit tree orchard a couple of months ago, and I've got to say it's been great having a proper vegie patch again. We got in a rotary hoe and dug the grass out, then churned the soil with lots of manures, blood and bone, potash and some delivered organic soil. Then we made the beds using the principles of a no-dig garden, "reinforcing" (for lack of a better word) the sides of the beds with sugar cane mulch to reduce erosion. We've gone with a four bed rotation system, and have placed a little herb ring in the middle of the beds. For the paths between the beds, to avoid grass growing in we used river pebbles, which are great with the drainage and really make the garden look great. Aesthetically this is the best vegie patch I've ever made (and you'd hope they'd be looking better after making six of them now!). I even have plans to put a little sun dial in the middle of the herb ring. There are still some minor down sides to my garden design though. I've still had to keep our little low temporary fence to keep Charlie out of the garden.

When we were initially planning the garden I wanted to keep to my organic principles and wanted to avoid treated timber sleepers etc, and started looking at getting raised beds made from bricks/pavers etc. We couldn't believe the costs that were coming back - prices starting at $2500 and upwards - and that was for just the labour! So by going the no-dig path (with lots of digging from the rotary hoe) we kept the costs down for labour and materials to about $500. I decided to stop the grass from growing in to put untreated pine around the edge of the garden. I know full well that the termites will come along and eat it out, but at only about $14 for the timber, I can afford to replace it over and over again, and know that I won't have any arsenic treated timber leaching poisons into my organic garden.

Because we got the garden in so late in the season we've been truly blessed that summer so far this year has been so pleasant. No scorching excessively humid conditions yet (touch wood) and a couple of good storms too. Garden successes include the lettuce (managed to harvest half a dozen before they started bolting to seed), cucumbers coming out of my ears (so many that I had to dig up a pickling recipe) and the eggplants which has been my most successful crop in four or five years. We also did really well in the garden "add-ons" which technically aren't part of the big vegie patch, but we'd planted early on in other locations - broad ripple yellow currant and yellow pear tomatoes by the hundreds (if not thousands)! Lot's of pumpkins coming out of our ears and a good supply of harvested potatoes.

We've also got a few crops just around the corner that we're about to harvest including sweet corn, zucchinis and some asian vegies. Also growing well but a little while off harvesting are our capsicums, cabbages, climbing beans and Turkish leopard melon.

But with all this success there had to be some failures. The tomatoes we planted in the new vegie patch haven't taken off, and I don't hold high hopes for them. They all seemed to get some fungal disease on the leaves and have been battling hard. Fungal diseases have also hit the cucumbers and zucchinis but haven't stopped them from cropping. The big disappointment is the root crop bed. I sowed row after row of carrots, parsnips, spring onions, beetroot, etc etc, and we'd be lucky to have a dozen plants in total growing. There's a big bull ant's nest in the middle of the bed, so I'm assuming that the ants are tunneling along under the ground and "harvesting" my seeds before they could get started. Will need to look into some organic controls to get rid of them/move them on as Paula's not crazy about all the ants nests we've got in the back yard.

We also planted a few fruit trees and plants and the passionfruit vine, raspberry canes, miracle fruit, mango, avocado, washington navel orange and lychee are all growing well (as is our existing fruit trees we planted down the side of the house during winter - lemonade, mandarin, strawberry cherry guava, jaboticaba and acerola).

February

We’ve ripped up our old dying cucumber vines which got pretty badly effected by powdery mildew, and the old dead tomato seedlings that never really made it to first base. It’s been a great opportunity to start fresh as the coming months are still warm enough here to plant more “summer” vegetables.

So we’ve popped in some sweet corn. This has been sown in a block rather than rows to improve germination between plants (as they’re wind pollinated). Have also popped some new cucumber seeds into the ground, and they, like the corn germinated in just a week. The zucchini and tomato seed we sowed still hasn’t germinated. Hopefully with time they’ll poke their little green heads above the soil.

We also bought a comfrey plant, which we’ve been deficient in since we moved. Comfrey is just the best stuff to add to your compost, or your liquid manure (a bucket of water, aged manures and potash). The other great thing about comfrey is how easy it is to grow more plants. After we ripped off the leaves and
through them into the liquid manure, we pulled apart the roots and repotted them, so from the one original plant, we’ve now got six growing (well none have died yet!)

When it comes to harvest time, the eggplants, rockmelons, watermelons and zucchinis keep inflating in size. We’ve also got little capsicums and climbing beans growing. The green leafy vegetables like cabbage, wong bok and tat soi are all growing fantastically too.

The secret at the moment is keeping the water, and feeds of liquid manure up to them (and weeding, and mulching, and watching out for pests and diseases….) In fact it’s a busy time full-stop in the garden!

March

Out in the garden, February brought everything we could hope for.... rain! Our rain gauge that we got for Christmas was working over time. All the gardens around here are green and booming with activity.

The one down side to all this moisture is the fungal problems that eventuate. My roses are getting black spot bad. Plus I've noticed the zucchini stems are getting a bit worse for wear. We also lost a nice big juicy rockmelon thanks to rotting and fungal issues.

Otherwise the vegie patch is booming. My sweetcorn seem to grow an inch a day at the moment! Just the other day I harvested a lovely watermelon which was deliciously sweet.

Have taken advantage of the weather conditions and started my planting for autumn/winter. Sowed some drills of carrots, parsnips and spinach. Over summer I didn't have a great deal of success with the first of these, and historically spinach has always been a bit of a flop. But you can't stop trying!

Also ripped up the pitiful excuse of climbing beans and have resown. Likewise, I saved a stack of lettuce seed, gave the bushes a shake and turfed them. Already I've got little wee lettuces spurting up. Have also started a fresh crop of tat soi (great for stir fries).

Have tried my luck with some old tomato seed to see if it germinates. Not holding my breath as it was a good 4 or 5 years old, but I can't just throw it away, got to give it a chance to reproduce (even if it needs Viagra). I've also sowed some broccoli seed - something I've never done before as usually I'm too lazy and buy seedlings.

Hopefully this'll mean I've got lot's of activity to report come April. Otherwise, it's a good excuse to spend a few more hours hanging out in the vegie patch starting over again!

April

Just the other day I started weeding our front ornamental garden. After all the rain we've had the past couple of months, some weeds have started looking more like jungle vines. Managed to get about half of it done. This weekend beckons me to finish off the job, and then start tackling the vegie patch's weeds. It also looks like a good time to remulch to help reduce the number of weeds reappearing.

As the temperatures start cooling down, it's also opens the window of opportunity for when I can get out into the garden. Whilst last summer was very accommodating, it was still too warm and sticky to be out gardening. So now's a good time to play catch up.

And doesn't the vegie patch need it!

Normally each April is the time I start rotating my garden beds. I find this process works well in helping to reduce soil-borne diseases from building up, and also prevent the soil from being depleted of nutrients. By moving around the crops each season, it helps rest the soil too. I've already got plenty more info on the site about this one if you're interested.

The other month I sowed a whole heap of old seed in the hope that some would germinate. Not much did. I think the only happy campers I had were tat soi seeds. That and the thousands of lettuce seedlings that sprung up when I gave the long gone dead stalks a bit of a shake.

The other great growing success of the moment are my broad ripple yellow currant tomatoes, or better known as nuclear tomatoes. I call them nuclear tomatoes as I'm positive they'd survive a nuclear war. If you ever grow them they will be with you for life. Think I'm kidding? I bought and sowed the original seed many years ago. I then moved, didn't sow any seed, but took along compost/potted plants. The tomato seeds germinated and started all over again. This happened again through another move, so that now they've started up again down near the compost bin. I shouldn't compain - they're the sweetest and flavoursome cherry tomatoes I've ever had - plus being yellow they look cute and great in a salad.

The remainder of the garden keeps on growing - our little herb ring (parsley, thyme, coriander, garlic chives and oregano), sweet corn, zucchinis, cucumbers, sweet basil (coming out of our ears!), eggplant, pumpkins and cabbages.

Out in the fruit garden our raspberry canes are really taking off although they're only starting to form flower buds now - which is very odd. That should have been happening back in December. I think the stress of the drought, and then our recent rains have thrown the canes' reproductive cycle out the window. I shouldn't complain, as when the berries are ripening, fruit fly levels will be very low, so we should get lots and lots of yummy raspberries! The recent rains have also caused a fresh round of growth in our citrus (oranges, mandarin and lemonade), strawberry cherry guava, avocado and lychee. And of course our passionfruit vine has gone crazy and is full of fruit.

So overall, not a bad time of the year to be gardening in Queensland!

 

Last Updated 14 October, 2003

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