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Regional advisors
Previous months in Perth, Western Australia
With Marion Macgregor

2000

February

Introduction:

My garden has always been a source of joy for me, so this year I have decided to extend my experience to the vegie garden, with somewhat mixed results. Still, despite the failures (the lettuce 'bolting' to seed, the broccolli seedlings not flowering etc) I have had some success with my tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, silverbeet, and various herbs - thyme, parsley, majoram, several types of mint, chives and others. As far as I'm concerned, it's all a learning experience and the sheer joy of eating your own produce, while knowing exactly how it was grown, makes it all worth it.

It's been a very strange summer in Perth, the usual hot weather, but also quite an unseasonal amount of rain. I think the rain has caused some of my tomatoes to split, however they have begun to settle down again. I have a small crop of cherry tomatoes which should ripen shortly, which will be lovely for salads especially. I am continuing to harvest my silverbeet, which has been growing for several months now. My sweetcorn is a little stunted in growth, however the ears which are developing seem to be doing ok. Have just sown more silverbeet, sweetcorn, radish, lettuce and oregano so I'll see how they grow from seed.

Another new foray is the fruit trees we have planted - plums, pears, apricot, lemon, lime and a blood orange. So far everything is growing well, however no fruit except the lemon (eureka) which has about twenty lemons in various stages of development. Really looking forward to getting some fruit in the next few years. Obviously to have fruit trees you have to be in it for the long haul.

And this month...

The tomatoes are still growing strong, so except for some restaking not a great deal is required there. The lettuce, silverbeet, radish, oregano and sweetcorn which I have recently sown are starting to appear, although at this point are only at cotyledon stage - should have more to tell you next month. My silverbeet was starting to yellow and look untidy, so I pulled off the worst leaves, gave a liquid fertilize and they seem to be responding well. Radish almost ready to be harvested and capsicum have produced a few fruits and are still producing. Thyme has started to flower so requires cutting back as does the marjoram. I have just potted up several baby rosemary plants which had self-sown from our parent plants. They'll be great for the flower garden. I am also planning to try some dwarf beans if I can just find the space.

Actually, at the moment I am preparing a small area which has previously only grown weeds (and plenty of them!) so that I do have more space for marrows and the like. I would imagine it will take me several weeks to get it to the stage where it is ready for planting though.

At the moment we are just trying to establish our fruit trees well, allowing them time to develop good root systems to help hold them up against the winter wind (we are close to the coast so often receive a battering during winter). The lemon has just received a small dressing of cow manure to help it as this is bearing fruit now.

March

It will continue to be a busy month for me, not so much with planting or harvesting, but heaps of preparation.

I am in the process of clearing two extra patches of garden to allow my vegie patch to grow. I have decided it will be necessary to gain this extra space in order to plan for sucessful crop rotation. I have to tell you, due to our laziness and impatience to get the rest of the yard looking okay, the two sections I have to clear are an absolute nightmare. They are covered in a native couch grass, with seemingly impossible powers of regeneration, so I am fighting a slow battle. Once all the grass has been pulled out, I am going to have to dig in heaps of compost and other organic matter, as the sandy soil we have doesn't hold water or nutrients very well. I'm hoping to have some vegies in by around mid April, so watch this space so to speak!

In my established vegie patch I've had a terrific tomato/cherry tomato harvest, but the plants are just about ready to go. I have some seedlings which I'll put in and see how they go. They silverbeet has been great and I am continueing to harvest leaves on a weekly basis. My first lot of corn did not fare so well, so those plants have come out, but the seed I have sown is doing well. My capsicum and chillies are covered in ants which I am finding difficult to control - any ideas would be appreciated. The radish and lettuce seeds I planted last month are coming through, however only about 30% of the lettuce germinated - I'm not sure why, and none of the silverbeet seeds germinated at all. I'd like to try some squash, dwarf beans and carrots (all from seed) this month, and I hope to pot up some of the runners from the strawberry plants in the next week or so. All the herbs are doing well, and apart from an attack from some citrus leaf miner (which I treated at dusk with white oil and only because all my citrus are small, establishing trees) the fruit trees are making good growth. The lemon is the only one fruiting, with heaps of babies in various stages of development. I'm waiting to see if it will drop some fruit on its own, otherwise I will thin the crop myself in a few weeks.

April

Here are my aims for April:

  • Finish clearing the 2 areas I would like to set aside for vege patches. Almost all the grass is out of 1 area, and the other is on it's way. I have also begun to save my lawn clippings which I intend to use as a mulch/compost.

  • Pull out all the tomato plants which are quite past their prime - the seedlings I have planted are growing ok at the moment.

  • Start 2 or 3 crops of peas('greenfeast') - to use as a green manure as well as harvesting.

  • Sow some dill, give the thyme and various mints a light trim.

  • Pot up a few more strawberry runners as soon as the first ones can be separated from the parent plant.

  • Give all the citrus a very light feed, and keep an eye on those leaf miners.

I'm also looking forward to harvesting some radish, corn and broccoli (finally!!) as well as the usual silverbeet and the last of the tomatoes. I may even be lucky enough to get one last capsicum from my sad looking little plant.

May

Despite many interuptions, my new vege patch is almost ready to go!  I have managed to get the soil built up quite nicely, and it has been sitting for over a week now so I feel confident it is almost ready for planting.  I just have to put in the reticulation, the path and get the fence up which I think I'll finish this weekend.  The area itself is quite large (compared to what I have at the moment anyway) so I think I'll be able to rotate about three types of crop just in there alone.  I intend to put up a wire fence for the time being which will be perfect for beans and peas.  Just for some colour I will also plant some sweet peas in between so it looks okay from the lawn side or the garden.  Here's a quick rundown of my other plans:

  • Last month I pulled up the worst looking of the tomatoes, however I left it for a while, and found that some of the plants reshot so I left them in to see what they would do.  I just gave them a light fertiliser and I already have some new babies and heaps of flowers on them so maybe it pays to hold on sometimes.  The seedlings I planted several weeks ago are not faring as well, but they are still alive so I'll give them some more fertiliser to boost them along.

  • The capsicum are fruiting again.  I have continued to give them regular weak liquid feeds.

  • The brocolli are forming great heads but the moths are attacking them so severely that I haven't been able to use tham except as a treat for the lovebirds.

  • Once again the corn failed - any tips would be appreciated.  Maybe I'm not fertilising enough, as the cobs are forming okay, they just fail to reach any substantial size.

  • The silverbeet is plodding along terrifically - just as well the birds like that too.

  • I am planning to try some more carrots and squash in the new vege patch so I'll let you know how they go.  I need to plant another crop of lettuce and radish too.

  • The strawberry plantlets are doing well, and are due to be separated from the parents.

  • All the citrus are doing well, and the lemon tree which is actually a mandarin has heaps of fruit which is nearly mature.  Goes to show you can't always believe the labels!

  • New to the garden is a boysenberry which we have planted along with some wire supports in a nice sunny position so I think that will do well.

  • The chives require chopping back and I hope to try some garlic this month.

I think that just about covers everything - should keep us busy enough.  Of course we also have all the ornamental garden to attend to this month - the agapanthus need dividing, all the standards need thinning, the annuals need replacing - so I suspect some of it will  have to wait until next month.  Oh well, that's the nature of gardening I suppose!

June

I have had a huge month with the vege patch, and I think it will continue into June. Finally, the garden is up and running, and I must say I am very happy with how it has turned out. I'm not sure the situation of the vege patch is ideal sun wise, but I guess time will tell. We've built up the soil with lots of cow and a little bit of chook poo, some lawn clippings and a small amount of compost. I allowed this to settle for a few weeks before I planted, and so far everything seems be tracking along ok. I've put a gate up to keep the dogs and kids out (yay!!) which has given it a really cute country feel. Our backyard is fairly small, so it was important for both of us to have a vege patch that was aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. With this in mind I have planted heaps of different herbs, and some other interesting plants as well as flowers that assist with companion planting.

When it came to choosing seedlings for the garden it was actually really difficult, because the books were telling me that now was not a suitable time to plant some things, and then I'd find a punnet of the same in the local nursery. I decided that if they were selling them it was not unreasonable to assume that they should still do well despite what the books say so I decided to give it a go. I tell you this so that when you see my list of plantings, you don't wonder if I've lost my marbles. (There is a method in my madness!!) Just remember - I am only learning!

I mentioned I have planted heaps of seedlings and some herbs, but I have also sown countless seeds, some of which have already begun to germinate, however I will detail that list next month as there is just too much to list now. The seedlings are as follows:

  • Broccoli 'green duke'

  • Cabbage 'sugar bowl'

  • Cauliflower 'early three month'

  • Pak choi

  • Chinese cabbage

  • Snow peas 'honeypod'

  • Onions 'brown globe' and 'S.A. white globe'

  • Beetroot 'best bet'

  • Tomato 'early peel'

  • Rainbow chard

  • Leek 'sleek leek'

  • Capsicum 'yolo wonder'

I have planted the beetroot and onions together, and sown some marigolds and basil with the tomatoes to test the companion planting theory. In any case it looks more exciting than row upon row of veges! I'll let you know how it goes.

In addition, I have been harvesting silverbeet 'fordhook giant' and broccoli and the old tomatoes and capsicum are almost ready for harvest again. Once I harvest those, I will pull them out and maybe sow a green crop as that small area has been worked very hard. In the rest of the garden, the chives and mint have been chopped back, the basil and oregano pinched out and the thyme lightly trimmed. The kumquat that was supposed to be a lemon, which we thought was a mandarin(long story!) has begun ripening (any ideas on what to do with them would be appreciated) and the lillypilly has been cut back after it stopped fruiting.

I have also been planting plenty of colour for the rest of the garden (pansy and petunia etc), and I will start pruning some things back in the next few weeks. I will leave the roses until late July however, as living on the coast we are susceptible to the odd late frost which does not do the new growth any good.

July

Most of my time last month has been spent on weed maintenance and pest control.  If I can impart any advice, it is NEVER ignore the old gardeners rule that goes something like 'one weed now saves seven more later' (or something like that anyway - you get the picture!).  We left what is now our vege patch for so long that the weeds are worse than, well, weeds!  Everywhere I look they are coming up, and it seems the only way to eradicate them at this stage is to hand weed.  I'm sure I don't need to tell you how much enjoyment I get out of that!!  The other fun job I have had for virtually the entire month has been locating and subsequently squashing the cabbage moth caterpillars which have decided to migrate from the whole of Australia to my garden!  The problem is of course that they are so well camouflaged, that often the damage is done by the time you notice them.  I have found it is necessary to be vigilant, and check their favourite hiding places (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc) every day.  If anyone has a method of eradication that works other than picking them off by hand, I'd love to hear about it.

Also important this month has been keeping up the regular liquid fertilizer.  I usually use the runoff from my worm farm (diluted to a weak mix - better to fertilize more often with weaker feeds than make the solution too strong), but this month I have also added a liquid seaweed feed.  It seems to have worked really well, so I think I'll continue to use that every third fortnight or so.  The rest of the time I use a liquid seaweed mix, which the plants also seem to love.

I told you I'd let you know about the seeds I planted in May, so I'll give you a list of what has been successful.  I think most things eventually germinated, although at this time of year you do have to be a little more patient, particularly with some things.

  • Carrot - 'Chantenay'  I have put these in spaces in my path as they are supposed to be perfect for small spaces.

  • Radish - 'Scarlet globe'  These are also between my stepping stones.

  • Swede - 'Best of all'

  • Sweet majoram - 'Origanum majorana'

  • Florence fennel - 'Foeniculum dulce'

  • Chopsuey greens - 'Shungiku"

  • Beans - dwarf

  • Peas - 'Greenfeast'

All of these seeds were sewn directly into the garden bed, mostly because it was recommended to on the seed pack.  They have all had about a 70% germination rate or more.

  • Phacelia - 'Tansy leaf'  This is apparently very good for aphid control.  I'll let you know if it works as well as it's supposed to...

  • Oregano

  • Borage 

  • Lettuce - 'green miqnotte

  • Parsley curled

  • Squash - 'Green button'

  • Dill

I have sewn these in seed raising trays and have transplanted everything into the garden already.  I did notice that although the seeds in the coldframe germinated okay, they did seem to take a bit longer to grow to a stage when they could be transplanted.  The only seed which failed to germinate for me at all was the parsley - I'm not really sure why.  Anyway I thought I'd give it another try shortly, and if that fails, I'll wait until slightly warmer weather. 

I don't think I told you about my first attempt at potatoes, which thus far seem to to be progressing quite well.  It's a bit frustrating though when every other day I have to go out and heap more soil on top of the new growth which is coming through. Maybe I'll try them in a tub or something next time.  The tomato seedlings I planted in May are flowering already, so I have been picking them off as they form because I think it's probably a little too chilly for fruit to form at the moment.  They should be strong healthy plants come spring though, so I expect some great fruit then.  I am harvesting the swiss chard and pak choi on a regular basis, which is really yummy with the last of the brocolli (from my first sewing) and just a teeny bit of oyster sauce tossed through it.  I've even managed to convince Brad that it tastes good!  (The typical anti-vege man!)

I've trimmed back some of the herbs - particularly the mint and verbena which was looking a little on the sick side.  I have to get some pelletted chook poo and compost and fertilize all the citrus trees before the end of the month.  Well, I guess that's pretty much everthing for this month. I intend to have a bit of a rest for July, and enjoy the garden for a while from inside.

Happy July gardening!

August

Greetings from the very wet West! The past month has been one of the wettest Julys in several years - great for our hot, dry state, but otherwise notmuch fun, unless of course you have webbed feet or gills! Anyway all the rain has been fantastic for the vege patch (not to mention the ever present weeds) and I'm pleased to say bar one or two exceptions, everything is flourishing. I think the important thing for WA gardeners to remember is to keep the weak liquid feeds up as the rain has a tendancy to leach any nutrients from our very sandy soils.

The Chinese cabbage are the pride of my patch - they are growing very well and I think I could begin harvesting in the next two weeks or so. They have been very easy, low maintenance veges andI would recommendtrying them to anyone just starting out.My 'sugar bowl' cabbages are beginning to heart well now, and the broccoli 'green duke' is just setting the first few flower heads.The cabbage moth caterpillars have continued to feast on my broccoli, pak choi and (oddly enough!) cabbage despite my vigilance, although I have been able to limit the damage they can do. Horror of horrors I found a big, black,hairy caterpillar on ane of my cabbages today which I promptly got Brad to remove, so be on the lookout! Another thing to watch is aphids - I got back from a few days in Adelaide earlier this month to discover my pak choi infested with aphids. I use a mix of 1/2 cup of soap flakes (like lux) to about 10 litres of water which has been allowed to sit for about a day, and then spray it on. It helps to control the aphids without doing too much harm to their natural predators like ladybirds etc.

All the peas and beans are going well, although with the exception of the snow peas they do seem to be fairly slow growing. The dwarf snow peas 'honeypod' on the other hand are growing very well - so much so that I had to put up a makeshift support for them, when according to the tag they would not require one. The rainbow chard is doing really well also, I have harvested quite a lot already. The potatoes 'wintergem' keep growing like wildfire - if leaf growth is anything to go by I should have a bumper crop!

The onions and beetroot seem to be ticking along ok - it's a little hard to tell without pulling one up to see and that sort of defeats the purpose doesn't it? The 'early peel' tomatoes, despite me continuing to pull off the flowers as soon as I see them, are fruiting already, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to ripen. I have harvested yet another capsicum from my original plants. They just seem to keep on keeping on!! One disappointment has been the radish seed I had sewn. They germinated and each plant had several leaves, then all of a sudden, within two days of each other, they all died. It's a mystery .............

My herbs are all growing strongly, with the exception of my basil which is no surprise, it really does prefer the warmer weather. I never managed to try another sewing of the parsley so I'll probably leave it for a few weeks now. My paprika is fruiting, I can't wait to harvest! I think I can get another flush of growth out of the chives if I chop them right back, so I'll do that in the next few days.

All the citrus are showing some good new growth and my blood orange is flowering really well. I just love the heady scent the blossom gives out - I could sit and inhale all day!! The standard lillypilly is bushing out really well since I trimmed it back quite a bit. Sometimes it's worth buying that bush that looks a little straggly, especially if it has been discounted, and just giving it a good going over with the secateurs. My peppino is fruiting also, although I think it will be a little while before they are ready. I actually have new addition to the fruit garden -a baby banana. At this stage it is still really small, although I have been assured it should fruit within two years or so. Can't wait.

Well I think that's about it for August. Of course I will continue with the pest control and weeding (oh, joy of joys!!) as well as doing the other fun job - that's right, the rose pruning. Every year I swear I am going to teach Brad, and every year he manages to get through it without chopping one single rose!! How does he do that??!!

September

Wow it's hard to believe that September is already here and Christmas is just around the corner. We've had a very busy month - just not in the vege garden. Brad and I have managed to paint another two rooms in the house - the nursery (not that we need it at the moment) and the study. I have also pruned the roses (I always do it late as we tend to be susceptable to the odd late frost) and planted about 250 lobelia and aster seedlings in the front garden. When they all start to flower it should look really nice. Then last weekend we managed to get away and explored the lovely Margret River wine region in the south west of WA. It is absolutely beautiful country, and the wines are magnificent. Needless to say we came home with a few bottles of assorted reds and white as well as some lovely white and pink port (YUM!) Anyhow as you can imagine all this activity elsewhere has meant I have spent little time in the vege patch.

The one thing I have been doing heaps of is still pulling those pesky cabbage moth caterpillars off the brocolli, cabbage and the odd cauliflower. The very cold nights seem to have made very little difference to these nasties! They are still definitely out in force. I've also noticed the aphids are out in large numbers so I think I'll be making up some more of the saop solution shortly. I'm also starting to get a little worried - there's been heaps of press about the locaust plague they're expecting to hit in the next few months, and I'm guessing that's not going to be too helpful to the old vegetable garden.

I have been able to harvest some Chinese cabbage - they've been absolutley sensational! The silverbeet keeps kicking along and I have had some pak choi although it has gone to seed fairly quickly, as has my second planting of brocolli. I'm not really sure why - perhaps something to do with some of the warmer days we have had recently. They snow peas 'honeypod' have been gorgeous (why would you buy from the shop?!) and I'm getting heaps of flowers on my regular peas 'greenfeast'. One thing which has not done so well has been my dwarf beans. I know they're dwarf, but less than 6 inches is ridiculous!! I really don't know what I have done wrong with them, especially considering the peas I interspersed them with have done so well.

My tomatoes are fruiting really well despite the cooler weather, and my paprika fruits are growing beautifully. Even the peppino is fruiting on a semi regular basis. The blood orange is blossoming plentifully, however I think I will only allow a few fruits to develop - I'm not really sure if it's mature enough to be setting fruit yet. I have noticed that it is heavily infested with scale again, and I don't know of anything except white oil which will help to keep it under control. Any ideas would be appreciated. The strawberries are flowering and just beginning to fruit (let's hope I can get them before the dog does -little horror manages to get a nice feast of succulent ripe strawberries every year - I just can't seem to pick them in time!), but none of the stone fruit or apples and pears seem to be doing anything much.

I guess I'll have to get out there this month, and plant some new seedlings, although I think I'll wait until a little closer to the end of the month - less chance of frost ruining anything I plant out that way. I'll probably give some corn another try as well as the usual summer favourites - lettuce, cucumbers etc. I'm hoping to have my first barrel of compost ready soon, so I'll be able to dig that in before planting anything new.

October

The past month has been hectic, although I have to confess I haven't spent much time in the garden either, except for the never-ending weeding. That, and of course my usual battle with the cabbage moths which I'm not winning. I've already had to fly the white flag and dispose of one of my cabbages, it was just infested with them, and I suspect I am not going to be able to stop at one. It got really bad after I had to spend a couple of nights in hospital with Bailey after he became ill, when as you can imagine the vege patch was the furthest thing from my mind. He's ok now, which is good because he turned 2 on Monday and I'd hate to think he was going to be sick for his birthday!

I've been picking heaps of snowpeas (which have been delicious) and my regular peas are almost ready to harvest. The Chinese cabbage have done really well, and so along with some pak choi I have allowed a couple to set seed for next year. I have harvested the broccolli seed and some spring onion seed as well in preparation for the next sowings. I think the beets are nearly ready for harvest, but to tell the truth I'm not really sure with any of the root veges when I should be harvesting. All my little swedes are doing well - they seemed to be very easy and trouble free to grow.

The cauliflowers are tracking along slowly - they have tiny little heads forming now. At this rate I should have some cute gourmet cauli to harvest by next month! The tomatoes I planted a few months ago are fruiting profusely, and they have yummy little egg shaped fruit, but I think the bushes are probably exhausting themselves, so I think I'll have to replace them soon.

The lime tree is flowering now for the first time, and has had heaps of foliage growth over the last month. I can't wait to pick my first lime! The cumquat is still fruiting, and I have made my first, (and only) batch of jam. Seriously it takes an age to seed them all, and I don't even like marmalade! If I can find anyone who likes it I suppose I'll make it again, simply because I can't bear to see anything go to waste (sigh!) None of the stone fruit has come into flower yet, so I'm starting to wonder what I've done wrong. I won't panic yet...

I would like to get a few new crops planted soon, on top of the lettuce I have just transplanted. I think I'll try some corn again, and I definitely intend to plant another few cherry tomato plants, as well as some more regular tomatoes. If I can find some room I would like to try some cucumber and zucchini, and just one or two eggplants.

That's all for now, take care and happy spring gardening.

November

Some of my Chinese cabbage went to seed so I have allowed a couple to set seed which I will attempt to collect for the next sowing and I have pulled the remainder out. I have harvested several cabbages and have a couple to go, and some of my cauliflower look just about ready too. I have found it really makes a difference blanching them - tying the leaves around the top of them once the heads start to form - they look much nicer, and seem to have a milder flavour as well, although that's probably just my imagination!!

My dwarf beans have been pathetic, a grand total of about one bean!! Just a shameful effort I'm afraid. The 'greenfeast' peas have been plentiful, although the plants themselves are not looking too good at the moment - looks like powdery mildew has got to them, so I guess I have to pull them out rather than dig them in, which is what I was planning to do. I harvested all my lovely potatoes - most of them were quite small, although delicious - so I think I'll need to manure more heavily, and dig the trench a little deeper next time to increase the size and quality of the harvest.

My tomatoes have been producing plentifully, although I think they are nearly exhausted, so I have planted some more. I also have some little pear tomato seed which I intend to plant tomorrow. They should be delicious. I have also decided to try some mild chillies, and some eggplant this year, so those seedlings are already in. The capsicums are doing very well, with several plants producing some lovely looking fruit which I will begin to harvest shortly. The peppino has also started producing - only problem is I'm not sure what to do with them.

I am going to have to resow some cucumbers and squash - the last lot of seedlings have disappeared (probably slugs or slaters) much to my disappointment. Never mind, a few casualties are to be expected I guess! I am going to have to resow some parsley as well - my last plant just curled up it's toes. The oregano is powering along, as are the chives, the borage is just starting to flower, and it looks absolutely gorgeous let me tell you. My basil is finally looking a bit more respectable and the garlic is sending up some new shoots. When should the paprika be harvested, does anyone know? Also what's the best way to use it?

I have had some lovely beets, and I have harvested the odd white onion. I think the brown ones are nearly ready to be pulled up as well, but I'm not really sure how is the best way to tell when they're ready. The shallots seem to be ticking along really well too, but to be honest I haven't really had the occasion to use them yet. I have harvested my last lot of spring onion seed ready for the next sowing.

We have a new addition to the garden - a mandarin which has been potted up so it can be moved around to get the best sun (and so I can enjoy the gorgeous fragrance of the flowers). All the rest of the fruit trees are very quiet at the moment, although I have spied the odd flower on the apricot so hopefully that will come into bloom shortly. I guess all I can do is just wait and hope they all burst into flower soon.

I think that's about it from the West Coast for now. Have a fantastic November (only 8 weeks until Christmas!!) and happy gardening.

2001

January

I have to tell you with everything that's been happening I have been guilty of neglecting all the gardens, even the vege patch, so now I have a bit of a job ahead of me to get things back up to speed again. I have just managed to pull out all the weeds and that horrible couchy-kikuyu stuff and I have ripped up the last of the brassicas which went to seed on me. Surprisingly, the tomatoes have continued to fruit well without any attention,as have the capsicums. I have some fruit on the mild chillies which I planted a while ago, and the eggplants which went in at the same time have grown a small amount although nothing of any significance.

I have harvested most of the onions (white and brown) I planted last year, and I have to say they were the easiest crop to grow. Some of them were a really good size, although I have learnt to space them out a little bit more to increase the yield. Almost as easy were the shallots I had in a pot. I bought them as seedlings about 3 months ago and I have to say I'm really pleased with how well they've done. I have heaps of bulbs, more than enough to eat, some to give away and some to replant. The carrots I planted ages ago are ready now, although I have learnt to be a lot more brutal when thinning them out - it really is worth it as you get much bigger, tastier carrots when they are thinned properly. I have had 3 little artichokes which I gave away as I had no idea what to do with them, so I guess I'll have to find out for the next crop.

I have plans to really get stuck into everything again now, and my latest barrel of compost is ready to be dug in now, so I guess that's my next task. It really does pay to compost and manure regularly and heavily in Perths' sandy soils, as it doesn't take long before any goodness leaches through the soil. I find the compost acts as a kind of mulch too, helping to hold in the water and keep the roots cool as well. Anyway, as soon as that is completed I can get to the fun part - the planting. I have picked up some zucchini, silverbeet and tomato seedlings which need to be planted asap, and I think I'll start some new seeds off - maybe some radish, carrots, lettuce and some chinese stirfry veges. I suspect that will keep me busy until next month, so until then happy gardening.

February

I've been really busy of late - firstly digging in the compost from my old tumbler (I really have to look into getting a new one) as well as a much needed boost of cow manure. I thought I may as well do it right because I had let so much go that I just went on a rampage and pulled everything out which looked even the tiniest bit tired. Truthfully I think the whole vege patch will thank me for it - everything has at least a fighting chance now. Despite pulling up what I thought was the last of the weeds and grass, I managed to find plenty more popping though the top of the soil so I have been trying to keep up with those nasties - sometimes it feels like I'm fighting a losing battle! I thought really carefully about what I was planting,and where this time as I noticed that some of the taller crops did shade some of the others last time - something I'd like to avoid where possible. Anyway we'll see how things work out this time.

I have planted several types of tomato seedlings, as the others were really past their use-by date. There's a good variety - Burke's Backyard; Beefsteak and cherry tomatoes. I have a feeling it's going to be an extended season this year in WA. I have also tried some more corn, this time in a true block formation to aid in pollinisation, so hopefully this will be my lucky crop. I also chucked in a few sick looking silverbeet, but whether they survive the heat forcast for the next few days (35 - 39 C) reamins to be seen. I'm trying two types of zuchinni 'golden rush' and 'blackjack' which seem to be going well. All the extra shallots have been replanted, and I have planted a punnet of combo lettuce. I noticed I have a couple of pak choi seedlings which have obviously self sewn, so there are the merits of not being too vigilant all the time I guess.

The eggplants have taken off really well, flowering prolifically and starting to fruit as well. They are a really pretty vegetable as well, I was thinking they would look just a lovely out the front in the ornamental garden beds. The peppino has been very busy pumping out heaps of fruit, so much so that I decided it was time to be brutal and chopped it back a little the other day. The basil and majoram also got a haircut. The carrots have been ticking along really well and it wasn't until the other day when I was able to compare a store bought one to mine that I realised just how much tastier they really are. There's motivation enough to continue on even though one does have failures at times. The capsicums and mild chillies are fruiting faster than we can give them away, but even those are so much jucier and tastier than the supermarket variety.

The lime, cumquat, lemon and mandarin have all had strong foliage growth which is good beacuse except for the cumquat they are all still a little immature to be thinking of bearing at this stage. The stone fruit trees have all been a disappointment this year - not sure if it's because they are so young or just require a bit more specialized attention. I'll have to look into that one I guess. The crab apple is looking absolutely gorgeous -full of flowers and a couple of fruit almost ready to pick. The lillypilly has had some great foliage growth as well, hopefully it'll set as much fruit as last year because I've been looking forward to trying my hand at some jam.

I have also sewn some more seed, carrots and radish directly in the final positions, and some chopsuey greens, dill, fennel, lettuce, silverbeet and squash so we'll see how they go with the heat too. I'll just keep the water up and hope for the best. At this time of the year I'm thankful we are on bore water for the garden, because otherwise the dry heat batters everything (including me!) and I feel sure nothing will make it through. This is the time when a good thick layer of mulch can mean the difference between life and death!

On that rather hot note, warm wishes to you all. Happy February gardening,
Marion.

March

Much to my dismay, of all the seeds I planted last month, only the squash have germinated. Very disappointing effort I'm afraid! On the bright side all of those little seedlings look extremely healthy now they've been planted out into the cow manure enriched soil. Unfortunately, I think it was just a little too hot for the two weeks or so after I planted the seeds, and I suspect they went the same way as some of the seedlings I planted at the same time. Several of the tomatoes haven't made it, one of the zucchini curled it's toes up, and a couple of the lettuce ended up cactus! Surprisingly, the silverbeet, which were looking a bit sick, managed to pull through as has almost everything else.

I've been concentrating on keeping everything tidy for the past month, so with that in mind I've been weeding like a woman possessed, and hacking back like a madman. Even the ornamental garden has not been safe and Brad has now gotten to the point that he's hidden the secateurs from me! Little does he know I have a pair hidden in a very safe place (ha ha ha!) The artichoke was the first to be chopped back to the new shoot it had developed, the elderberry has been diminished considerably (it had grown far too fast and big for the spot it was in, so I'm trying to think of where I can replant it) and the last crop of chopsuey greens has gone. Even the pansies and calendula I had put in for colour have had to go.

I have just planted some more sweetpeas for a bit of colour, along with some snow peas, apple cucumbers and my favourite of all time, rhubarb. Yummy in an apple pie! I harvested my first eggplant a few weeks ago - even the boys liked it in their lasagna. I think next time I will plant around six plants to ensure a decent harvest - the three I have just can't produce enough for my liking. The capsicums and mild chilli are going from strength to strength, and the leeks I planted ages ago have been lovely. The corn is starting to flower, although I have noticed the stalks are a wee bit small, so I guess I'll just try and give them a liquid feed booster on a more regular basis. The zucchinis are going great guns and if the prolific flowers and baby fruit they are setting already is any indicator, I think I'm going to have to become a much more creative cook than what I am (either that or get some more friends!)

The citrus trees have all come under attack from citrus leaf miner again, so just this afternoon I gave in and gave them all a spray with white oil to keep them under control. In fact they all look like they could do with a bit of a boost so this weekend I plan to give them a feed with some worm wee. The lillypilly is growing beautifully, and I have seen a few flowers on it so I am hoping for a decent crop this year. The crab apple is setting a nice amount of fruit, in fact I just picked the first fruit this afternoon. It seemed to have a little bit of damage from some sort of bug which left little brown marks on it, but once it was cut open it was fine. I guess they are really more of a cooking apple as it was slightly tart, but I must say I was quite impressed with myself for having grown it all on my own.

This month I have mostly more of the same planned, with the exception of sewing some herb seeds (it's high time I refreshed the chives - I think they are about to celebrate their first birthday!), and some potatoes, unless of course something weird and wonderful takes my fancy in the meantime.

Well, that's all I can think of, so it's goodbye for now from the West.

Happy gardening

Marion

April

April in WA is the ideal month to plant seedlings and sow seed. It is still quite warm, with the nights not too cool which allows for a good germination temperature. It can be a little dry still so it's important to keep the water up to everything in the garden, especially the more tender plants. I have heaps of seeds to try out so provided I can find space for them, I intend to have a bit of fun out in the garden this weekend. Some of the tried and true varieties are:

  • Carrots - Chantenay

  • Radish - Scarlet globe

  • Swede - Best of all

  • Squash - Green buttons

  • Silverbeet - Fordhook master

All of these are great for small spaces (I grow the carrots and radish in
between my stepping stones with great success) and despite the fact that my
last squash seedlings died after transplanting, they are all easy to grow. Some others I have tried in the past with mixed success, but am willing to give another go are:

  • Peas - Greenfeast

  • Chopsuey greens - Shungiku

  • Beans - dwarf

  • Sweet majoram

  • Phacelia - Tansy leaf (keeps away the aphids)

I have also recently planted some celery (stringless), chinese cabbage and brocolli (have to keep the new addition - 'Builder' rabbit happy!).

At the moment all these are doing well. Just a small word of advice for the unwary stay away from borage unless you intend pulling up millions of babies - looks lovely in flower, but is really just a nuisance.

The pak choi which had sewn itself is looking great with some ready for harvest. Finally I am having some success with corn too - goes to show what heaps of manure, mulch and water will do. My eggplants have been producing well, although I have one fruit which just does not seem to want to ripen - any ideas are welcome. The capsicums are going great guns as are the mild chillis, and the 'Sweetbite" cherry tomatoes are looking good, although I don't know if it's a little too late in the season to get the most out of them.

The citrus are all showing good growth, although the leaf miner is proving difficult to eradicate. The cumquat fruit don't seem to mind though. All the fruit trees have just had a good dressing of mixed poo and a mulch top up to help carry them into autumn.

Well that's all from me for now. Until next month happy gardening!

Marion

May

This month has been a fairly quiet one in the patch, mostly a matter of maintaining everything. Several of my cherry tomatoes required restaking - growing too tall, and a little too heavy for the stakes I was using for them. I have resorted to the tea tree stakes the market gardeners use, and they really are very good, as well as being economical. I have had mixed success with my corn this time around

I have harvested several ears but although they have been well developed they have still been relatively small. Actually I shouldn't complain because they have been the perfect size for Bailey to eat. The birds haven't complained either.

I've had some powdery mildew problems with the zuchinni, so I have removed the affected leaves and raised the plants off the ground by means of several bricks and some stakes. They seem to be doing ok for now, although I think I will have to start helping nature along a little as there is not exactly an overabundance of fruit forming. I have had enough of the various types of capsicum - I think I'll put in half the number of plants next year. It has been fun giving them all away though. I've had some more yummy eggplant, and tried out a fantastic new receipe which uses tomatoes and ricotta cheese - I'm happy to pass it on if anyone is interested. I have only got three plants which survived, I think next year I'll aim for about five or six. Quite a turnaround for someone who really didn't like it very much before she started to grow it!

I have sewn some more carrots, with another lot due to be sewn in about two
weeks time. The last bunch I harvested were delicious. Some kind of fungus
attacked my radish which was a little disappointing, so I think I might leave those now until later in the year. I have gone mad with onions - brown, white, red, spring and salad onions have all been planted over the last few weeks. I am still using some of my last harvest, and when I'm chopping them up I'm still amazed they have come from my garden. I have used several of the lettuce I planted a while ago, only a couple of the hearting variety left now.

I planted out some seed potatoes last week - no growth yet, but from memory they took a while to show any foliage last time, so I'm not too worried. I trenched a bit deeper than before now I know how tall the plants can grow, just to make the mounding a little easier to manage, when it comes time in a few months. I've just put in my first row of english spinach, so we'll see how that does in the next few weeks. If nothing else I'm sure the bird and (hopefully) the rabbit will like it.

I've chopped back the basil, chives and majorum again, but you'd never know.
They seem to be growing like weeds at the moment. It's funny actually, when I first started my vege patch, I tried to find punnets of herbs but no one seemed to sell them except as seed or semi mature plants at $3 - $4 each. Now they're everywhere which is great if you like to plant little hedges and borders like I have done. It looks very effective, and also means you never run out of your favourite herb!

All the fruit trees are ticking along ok, and the brand new strawberries I planted are growing strongly, which means we should get a decent harvest next season with any luck. On that note, I'll leave everyone to it.

Happy autumn gardening!

Marion

June

The vege patch has been kinda taking care of itself lately - we've had heaps of rain, and more recently very cold weather so it hasn't been the nicest prospect heading outside. From time to time I have poked my head over the fence, and have been presently surprised to see most plants ticking along quite well. The cherry tomatoes seem to keep on keeping on, and the eggplant, whilst nearing the end of their run are still producing. The celery I planted several weeks ago is growing well (although with no rabbit now to eat it all, I suspect much of it will go to waste - it's not my favourite!), and all the potatoes are showing good foliage growth. Much
to my annoyance the capsicums are still fruiting prolifically - I'm the kind of
person who can't abide waste, and I am loathe to pull a plant out that is still producing well, even if I am sick of the sight of it!

The basil and majoram are just now starting to show the first signs of the colder weather, so I have harvested some to use over winter in case it doesn't last too much longer. The parsley and chives show no sign of slowing down though, in fact I will need to give them another haircut (about their fourth.). There really is no need to replace them while they continue on like this because they taste as good now as they did when they were young. I lost a few onions from the last lot I planted, but I'm not too worried as the rest are showing really good growth. My silverbeet and spinach are slow, but I'm wondering if a little more sun wouldn't help. Once I pull out the eggplants it should make all the difference hopefully.

The broccoli are doing well, great foliage set down and will soon start to form some flowers I think, but the caulis have been plagued by aphids for some reason, even during all the rain. I'm not a great bug squasher, and spraying with lux mix hasn't been an option until the last few days, so they have stuck around for a bit and done some damage in the meantime, although it is repairable. The carrots are growing strongly although as usual, I have failed in my intentions to sow another row - but I tell myself the seeds would have been washed away if I had! (That's my story anyway ......) The zuchinni are developing ok, but I am having persistent problems with mildew so I'll just see how they go at this stage.

I would like to try some more root veges - parsnips, turnips etc but I'll need to sow them shortly. Also, I love pak choi in winter green vege mixes so I am going to plant some more as the self sown ones from last year have already been harvested. Luckily the chinese cabbage are growing beautifully so they can fill the gap for the time being. Only two of the snow peas I planted survived, and while these are producing well I think I will add to them to ensure a bountiful harvest over winter.

All the fruit trees are looking lovely - the cumquat has it's first flush of fruit which is almost ripe, and I have a lone flower on my lemon tree - yay! Still waiting for the lime and mandarin though. The lillypilly has set a couple of fruit, not any where near enough for a jam, but it's a start. I have harvested the last crab apple from the tree and it looks like a beauty! Funnily enough since repotting the strawberries and returning them to the Southern side of the house, they have been flowering and fruiting crazily. A little strange, but who am I to argue?! Obviously the soil was in desperate need of replacing. The banana is showing great foliage growth,
but I suspect it may a while before we will get any fruit - never mind, good things come to those who wait!

That's about it for my first winter diary. Wherever you are, enjoy the cooler (or warmer for our northern hemisphere neighbours) weather and take care.

Marion

July

I've hardly been able to step foot out in the garden recently, except to harvest something for dinner. I do know the zuchinni has to go as the mildew has just about done the plant in anyway. I think I'll get a couple of baby fruit but even if they're not ready it's well past ripe so to speak. One of the cherry tomatoes will be subject to the same fate, as will the eggplant which I still haven't got around to ripping out. Tomorrow is D day! I might even put myself out of my misery and turf
the capsicums as well - nothing like a good clean up.

I have purchased some snow pea seeds which I will plant tomorrow to supplement the 2 plants I already have in, and I want to sow some of the pak choi seed I bought a few weeks ago too. It's time to sprinkle a few spring onion seeds out as well - the last ones I harvested were difficult to find amongst all the old woody stems. Sunday is shaping up to be a rather busy day!

The potatoes are doing well I noticed, but they do require some mounding. I
did spray the brocolli and cauli with some lux spray for the aphids a few weeks back, and they have bounced back quite well. The artichoke has really taken off all of a sudden, so I am expecting to see a flower fairly soon. Everything else is looking quite good, which might say more about my gardening (and how mediocre it is) than I'd care to admit.

The cumquat has heaps of fruit ready for picking which is more than I can say for the rest of the citrus trees. The strawberries are going very well and through the window the other day I saw a teeny, tiny pear on one of the trees out the front! Yay! I'll keep you posted on how it goes. All the other deciduous fruit trees are having a good rest prior to the next flush of growth, which usually happens about September, just after I fertilize. I leave it quite late as being on the coast we are prone to a few late frosts which don't do much for the new growth. I don't prune the roses until early August for the same reason.

Well, I think that's pretty much it for me. Enjoy all the lovely rain and pray for those who need it. Until next month, take care.

Marion.

August

It's time to give everything a good boost as spring is just around the corner. The
fruit trees are looking like they really need a lift so in the next week or two I'm going to have to get to and do it. Even the strawberries have slowed right down, and I suspect a good feed would make a world of difference.

In fact, it has been quite cool over here, and as a result, everything has slowed its growth considerably. The last few cherry tomatoes are ripening as I write, as are the remaining capsicums.(I just couldn't bring myself to pull them out quite yet!)

The snow pea seeds I planted to supplement my remaining two plants have still not come through, but I'll give them a while longer before I lose all hope! Even the poor old zucchini died a fairly natural death, and sort of withered away to nothing before I gave up and finally pulled it out. The eggplant, on the other hand must have sent roots down to China and steadfastly refused to be yanked out, so much so that I had to go and get the spade and resort to digging them all out! The English spinach I had planted behind them does seem to be perking up quite nicely now that they are receiving a little more sun.

The pak choi seeds I planted a few weeks ago are coming through nicely, and
should be ready to be transplanted in another week or so. The celery I planted ages ago for the rabbit is growing very strongly and should keep her happy for some time yet. I decided to mound the potatoes and then surround them with hay, which I read somewhere helps to keep the potatoes clean, but at this stage I'm not sure it was such a great idea, as the plants seem to be struggling a bit. I'll leave them and see what happens - whichever way it goes I can just put it down to experience I guess.

One plant that is doing extremely well at the moment is the gooseberry that just grew after the last application of chook poo. It is overshadowing everything around it, and the fruit are falling off the damn thing because none of us are terribly keen on them. Apparently they do make a nice jam - I guess I'll have to look around for a recipe. Something else which has popped up recently are several lettuce which are growing in the most inopportune position at the moment. They are obviously from the plants I let go to seed so I could collect it for next year. I'm currently allowing the broccoli to do the same because it really hasn't been all that
fantastic this time around - maybe it was too warm while the flower heads were
forming. Very disappointing just the same. That's about all from me for now - time to go and get stuck into pruning those roses.

Until next month, happy gardening.

Marion

September

Fertilizing is the name of the game for me for the last few weeks of this month. I still haven't got around to doing the fruit trees so I may as well add them to the growing list of things to be done. I have got my first barrel of compost from my new tumbler to dig through (how exciting!!) and so I may as well do all the fertilizing at the same time. I have removed the leftovers of the capsicums and tomatoes, and am about to do the same with the broccoli and some of the old snow peas, so there will be heaps of space to replant once the soil has been worked.

The potatoes, which had been doing well until I had the brainwave of chucking hay over them, have gone kaput. So much for that idea! I'll throw some more in the ground this week and see what happens - I really do love home grown potatoes!! The snow pea seeds I planted a while ago have come through so hopefully I will get some fruit from them before it gets too hot. The spinach is growing lustily and is also very tasty. The very last of my pack choi is setting seed so I have to harvest that before I pull it out.

Speaking of seed, the lettuce I left earlier this year are popping up everywhere, in some of the oddest places - walkways etc - so I need to transplant them to more appropriate locations. Some of the carrots are ready for harvesting now, should be quite flavoursome and perfect for salads. All the onions I planted months ago are growing beautifully although they still have some time to go before they're ready for harvesting.

I've bought some new seedlings to plant in the next few days - spring onions and bell capsicums. A friend has kindly given me some extra watermelon and a couple of cucumber seedlings which I have to get into the ground, so I suppose I had better get all the preparation work finished soon. Hopefully I'll have some luck with them - I never have before and this time I intend to grow them over some support to keep them off the ground. (also requires less space).

The other very important thing this month is to ensure all the gardens are well mulched, as in WA we are once again facing water restrictions. Those on scheme water are only allowed to water twice a week on set days (except hand watering) and even those on bores can only water between 6pm and 9am (which is common sense really). This is the first year such a restriction has been placed on bore owners so it's clear how serious the water shortage situation has become. In any case it's necessary for us all to protect such an important resource and use it wisely whether the situation is critical or not.

On that note, I'd best get out there and get started. Until next month, happy gardening.

Marion

October

I have planted all my cucumber and watermelon seedlings and now all I have to do is put the supports in. Hopefully I'll have a little more luck than I have previously with these ones. The gooseberry, which arose from the ground of its own accord (I have a sneaking suspicion it must have been imported with some chook poo somewhere along the line), is growing beautifully, and fruiting its head off. Shame none of us are too on keen on them!! The rhubarb is also growing very well, although they are still young plants so at this stage I am resisting the urge to start making - my favourite - rhubarb and apple pies. Looks like I'll have some to look forward to soon though.

The experimental artichoke I planted last year is looking fantastic with a couple of juicy buds ready for harvest. I have to say, this has been a really easy plant to grow, although it does take up a bit of room. The English spinach is also growing like wildfire which comes in handy when I forget to get the 'Cinnamon' the rabbits favourite cauliflower leaves from the shop. (This is one vegetable I just don't seem to have any luck with.) The asparagus, which I should be able to start harvesting next spring, is driving me insane with its huge ferns, but I will persevere because I love it fresh. After waiting two years, it had better be worth the wait!

There are heaps of little seedling popping up everywhere at the moment, encouraged by the lovely warm weather we have been experiencing. There are some more and varied lettuce, some of last seasons cherry tomatoes and millions (it seems like) of pak choi. Sometimes it is worth letting one or two plants from each crop go to seed. I have just planted some new 'honeypod' peas and a yummy eggplant, which I suspect I will be adding to soon.

All the citrus are looking fantastic at the moment (event the mandarin which was looking rather sickly until I gave it a good feed and mulch) with heaps of gorgeous smelling flowers, which hopefully means I'm in for a bumper crop. The lime has certainly taken its time, however perhaps the extra time it has taken to mature has been for the best. The strawberries really need to be moved to a warmer location because no matter how hard they try at the moment they just don't seem to be able to fruit, although I am getting quite a few flowers. I also need to fertilize a little more regularly as strawberries like a constant supply of food and do very well when they receive it.

All the herbs have just had a quick trim to encourage some bushy new growth for spring and I am planning on sowing some basil seed shortly. Last years plants grew over a metre tall so I intend to be very selective as to where I plant the seedlings. I also want to sow some more radish and carrots, and add to the tomato plants which are already showing some strong growth.

Until next month, happy gardening,

Marion

November

I have been very busy in the garden in general, and also in the vegetable patch. I love this time of year when the days really start to warm up, and the nights are still cool because the garden just seems to thrive. The roses start filling out nicely and producing some of the most exquisite blooms full of fragrance, the Robina does the same and provides us with a magnificent display and the wisteria comes into bloom giving me the flowers I have waited all year for! As you can tell I am somewhat of a fragrance fiend - if it smells good, it's in! I think for me that's half the attraction with herbs - they really do have some fantastic scents as well as being
extremely useful for cooking.

I've had to brutal with the rosemary which I have had growing out the front, and almost as bad with the one in the vege garden. They were all just growing too tall - as high as the fence - as well as crowding some of the other plants out. I've chopped them right back so they will thicken up a little more and become more hedge like. The lavender out the front has escaped for the moment (it's still flowering it's head off, giving the garden heaps of gorgeous colour) but the ones in the vege garden have all had a haircut for the same reason as the rosemary. I've also had to clip the elderberry tree back a bit, and I'm very close to pulling the
pepino and gooseberry out because I really need the room for something we will use a bit more. The cucumbers and watermelon I planted out a few weeks ago are going great guns, and I have decided to add a couple of squash plants to the mix to see how they go. I've decided to allow a couple of plants to share thesame
supports (just 3 tea tree stakes in a tee pee shape with some chicken wire
wrapped around them) because of the limited space so I'll have to see how that goes. The other new crop for me is the butternut pumpkin which I have planted where the sweet peas are now giving their final show - hopefully the fence there will give them enough support.

I have pulled out all the English spinach and planted more eggplants and a few hot chillies (really just to harvest for sprays as they are not my favourite). There are heaps of tomato seedlings popping up everywhere, so I think I'll pick the best of the bunch and see what happens - last years plants produced well so I imagine this lot should do okay. The couple of plants which I had already planted are growing beautifully with a few early flowers so we should have some yummy fruit sooner rather than later. The celery is about ready to be harvested, in fact I have begun sneaking bits from one bunch for Cinnamon the rabbits' dinner whenever she needs a bit of variety. She seems to have given it the seal of approval - there's
never any left over when I check her house in the mornings.

I've also had some success with the artichoke this year harvesting three good sized buds so far (I don't know if I'll get any more). Problem is of course there's not much 'meat' on them so to speak, so if you want a decent harvest (rather than just experimenting like me) you will require several plants depending on how many in the family like them. The other disadvantage is the plants themselves are really quite large and so are not really suitable for anyone short on space. We've been going mad with the repeat harvest lettuce - we have been having salad almost every night. These amazing little things are terrific - just pull off the number of
leaves you need, or cut the entire 'head' off, and you'll soon have more growing to replace it. The leaves are so tasty, I don't know why anyone would bother with traditional hearting lettuce, particularly in a hot climate like WA where they seem to go to seed so easily.

The lime, lemon and mandarin tree are all in various stages of flower and fruit at the moment. In particular the lime is fruiting beautifully - it has been worth the wait. (This time last year I was sick with jealousy at the sight of my friends' tree which was covered in blooms while there was barely one to be found on my pride and joy!!) I'm still not entirely happy with the colour of the foliage on the mandarin (it is quite yellow), but I am working in it and it has improved somewhat. I think it really needed a good complete feed, and some additional water seems to have improved the overall health of the plant. All the strawberries are growing nicely and flowering, although not as well as I'd like.

We have a new addition to the garden - my very own coffee tree! I'm very excited, although I'm not quite sure what I'll do when I get some beans as neither Brad or I are huge coffee drinkers. Still it's the challenge of growing something different and unusual that's half the fun anyway. I only wish I had more room so I could really have some fun! Let's face it, that's what gardening is really all about!

Until next time, take care,

Marion

2002

July

My vege patch is looking rather sad at the moment as I'm afraid it's the first thing to be neglected when I get really busy. I have tried to keep on top of the weeds, but alas at this point they seem to be winning the battle. We've had a terrific start to winter here in Perth, with heaps of lovely rain, and as all gardeners know, with the rain come the weeds! Nasty little blighters they are too. Still rain is something we really need here in the West so I shouldn't complain. Aside from the weeds, there's not much else of note out in the vege garden at the moment - a few weeks ago I made the conscious decision not to plant very much to give the soil some time to rest. (Just my way of sneaking in a short rest for myself really, under a legitimate guise!) So resting it is! I have a barrel full of lovely compost waiting to be dug in and a bin full of material waiting to go into the barrel, which I hope to change over by next weekend.

There are a couple of weary looking tomatoes which have soldiered on into the cooler months and which I haven't had the heart to wrench out. I still have some very healthy eggplant which were very disappointing this year as I only harvested two single fruit from about eight plants. I even had to pull out all the silverbeet (which I grow almost continuously for the rabbit and birds) as it had developed mildew which I found very difficult to eradicate. For the first time I tried my hand at pumpkin and have harvested a couple smallish but very tasty butternuts. I have a self sewn celery from my last crop, and I have had some lettuce, pakchoi and even a chinese cabbage pop up over the recent months from previous crops which have been nice little surprises. One thing which is driving me insane in terms of self sewing is the gooseberry which was fun to begin with but is now just a menace! Every time I turn around I have another full size bush on my hands - a word of advice folks - these things grow and spread like wildfire! Be very, very sure you want them if you get a plant!!

The fruit trees are all doing well, the crab apple had a nice crop this year, as did the cumquat. I have even had a couple of lemons and joy of joys two small limes. What a delight! Getting them from your own backyard makes the wait worthwhile. One thing I would like to do this year is move the strawberries form the pot I have them in now to a section of the vege patch and see how they go there. I have never had what I would call a great harvest from the plants we have had so I may even try some new varieties.

Well, that is all from me for now.

Until next month, happy gardening.

Marion

August

I am ashamed to say that at the moment my vege patch looks terrible! There's some nasty weeds out there not to mention the very tired eggplants, capsicums and odd tomato plant. Next weekend is D day - time for it all to go! I haven't been entirely lazy though - I have found time to dig through the last lot of compost as well as laying down some straw which is a good mulch if you don't mind pulling out the little weeds which start growing as soon as it gets wet.

Despite the fact that I haven't spent a great deal of time out there of late, I have still been harvesting carrots and onions (goes to show even the worst gardener can have success with these veges!) as well as some of last years herbs - basil, oregano and thyme. I have even been fortunate enough to have the odd lettuce and pak choi pop up from last years plants which set seed. Sometimes it pays to be a little bit lazy after all!

All the fruit trees are growing beautifully, with a healthy crop of cumquats the latest harvest. I've also has several limes and even a couple of lemons from the variegated lemon. If you haven't fertilized your citrus yet, now is the time to give them all a good feed to maintain their health through the coming year.

Well that's all from me for now, until next month, happy gardening.

Marion Macgregor

September

Over the past few weeks I have been concentrating on putting heaps of organic matter back into the soil to assist it for the long dry summer which is ahead. I have dug through heaps of compost as well as some nice chook poo to help build up the nutrient content as well as giving the soil some substance. I've even been lucky enough to distribute some worm castings (haven't had any of those for ages) which I have used mainly throughout the tomato bed. As well as all these goodies, I have layed down a good layer of straw mulch to assist in keeping the soil a nice even temperature as well as to help avoid it drying out between waterings. There is still a huge campaign in WA to conserve water as a result of another winter of relatively poor rain.

I have pulled out a couple of lavender which had grown too big (even after a good hacking back!) as well as another dreaded gooseberry which had sprung up. Lots of weeds too! I've harvested some of the last few carrots left from the last sowing, and had to share some with Cinnamon the rabbit (the slaters
had decided to help themselves - at least she was grateful. Finished off the last butternut pumpkin too, just recently which was delicious.

I have transplanted a fine looking tomato which popped up in the ornamental garden - at this stage it is growing really nicely. Also moved some celery which have done the same thing - in fact they seem to have popped up everywhere! Wow - Cinnamon will be happy! I have planted the blackjack zucchini seedlings I bought and for the moment they seem to be doing well.

The herbs I planted a few weeks ago are growing very nicely - the oregano particularly. The sage I planted last season has over wintered well, as have the thymes and mint. The elderberry tree is getting quite tall now, but I have to keep trimming to keep it a manageable size otherwise I suspect my vege patch may well diminish in size quite dramatically! It definitely has a tendency to take over if left to it's own devices.

By the end of this month I hope to have some more tomatoes planted as well as some lettuce, pak choi, carrots, radish, silverbeet and maybe even some beans. Will keep you posted.

2003

January

We've recently sold our house and will be moving soon, so I have refrained from putting anything in which requires too much work.

Earlier in spring, I cleaned everything up, got ruthless and pulled up everything that wasn't producing as I felt it should be and dug in some compost and assorted poos. I let everything sit for a week or two and then planted some cherry tomatoes, capsicum, silver beet, broccoli, Asian veges and lettuce. Brad made a cute little herb square for me in the middle of the patch and I planted some Italian parsley, basil, sage, thyme, and put some mint to avoid it from taking over like it does when it is planted straight into the ground. I'm pleased to say that apart from one or two casualties, everything has grown really well. The tomatoes have produced prolifically and all the capsicum have recently begun to reward us with some yummy fruit.

The Asian veges were lovely, but I found they bolted to seed really quickly, as the lettuce would have I think if they had been the hearting variety. I choose not to grow these type specifically because they do tend to bolt as soon as we get any really warm weather. The silver beet always do beautifully (luckily for the rabbit!) and while I never seem to have much luck with broccoli I can tell you the leaves are the most superb looking broccoli leaves in town (again, the rabbit is grateful!) I thought I may get any opportunity to grow a small early crop, but alas it appears I will not get the opportunity this time. Still, at least I know I can grow great leaves!!

I have had several lemons and limes this year, which has been particularly satisfying in the case of the lime. I will be sad to see it go. Fortunately, the lemon is in a pot and so it will move with me. The mandarin didn't survive our mini heatwave in December however the other potted trees - the lillypilly, crab apple and bay tree - managed the heat quite well. Truthfully, the retic wasn't watering the mandarin properly and so in its weakened state it just wasn't able to tolerate the heat as it should have been. I suppose the lesson is to ensure everything is getting watered properly on a regular basis when you rely on retic.

For WA gardeners, now is the time to concentrate on keeping all the veggies healthy, adequately fertilized and well watered, and as free from weeds and pests as possible, as they will need strength and resilience to make it through the long, hot WA summer. Until next month, take care.

Kind regards
Marion.

February

It's beautiful in WA at the moment with heaps of summer sunshine, and as you would expect the vege garden is going great guns! The cherry tomatoes are ripening before my very eyes (thank goodness my girlfriend has a great chutney recipe!) on a daily basis, and I have had a couple of kilos of fruit already. They don't look like slowing down any time soon either - it's a shame I will have moved house and won't be able to enjoy them!

The capsicums are all fruiting beautifully as well, so we have had plenty of yummy red and green caps to have in our salads. The chillies haven't done as well to date as they have in previous years, but seem to be starting to catch up now. The couple I have harvested have been a gorgeous red colour, although I can't tell you how they taste as I don't eat much chilli and so I have passed them on to friends who do. So far no complaints anyway.

While the veges are all going strong, I'm afraid the weeds have been providing the usual amount of competition for this time of year, so I have been kept busy trying to ensure they don't get out of hand. No real bugs at this point - unusual really - I'm not sure why. A little bit of mildew on the pumpkin vines which sprung up out of nowhere, which if I had left unchecked would have produced enough for a small army, I'm sure, but I just removed the affected parts of the plant and so far, seem to have managed to keep it under control. There is about 4 or 5 butternut pumpkins just waiting to be harvested before I leave - perfect for pumpkin soup.

As you would expect the herbs have been growing like crazy, although I haven't been using them as much as I normally would. The basil seems to have set seed a little sooner than normal - I think I'll try perennial basil next time around. The thyme, chives and parsley just keep on keeping on - these herbs have to be just about foolproof - suitable for even the most novice of gardeners.

Well that's about all the news from the West for this month, until next time, take care and happy gardening!

 

 

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Last Updated 6 March, 2003

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