Saturday, 28 May 2011

More veggie space!!!!!

I'm so excited! We finally got rid of the rubbish and cleaned up the area next to our large water tank that I had been eyeing off to use as more garden space. There are agapantha plants that still need to be removed, but this is a small job as they have only been there for eighteen months. Once it is all clear I will be adding a lot of compost that is ready from my compost bin, and I will buy in manure to add as well.
The area has 6-7 hours of sunlight in summer and less in winter, so I will choose my veggies well that will grow here. The first plantings to go in will be cabbages, and Asian greens. Can't wait to get stuck into it tomorrow. Oh by the way, no I haven't killed off my front grass yet- it's a big decision after all.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Crime against rocket

OK, so I have a confession to make....usually I have an endless supply of rocket in my garden for picking, however I have only just repurchased some seeds, so there is nothing in my garden at present. Yesterday when I discovered I needed some for my pumpkin, goat's cheese and rocket pizza I had to resort to purchasing some from the shop. It's not even organic!
Anyway, I'm glad that's off my chest, and below is the recipe for my Pumpkin, goat's cheese and rocket pizza. It's very yum!

Easy pizza dough:
2 cups of plain flour
8 grams of dry yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup of warm water
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add oil and water. Mix together to
form a soft dough. Turn out onto a dry floured surface and knead dough. Return to mixing bowl and cover with cling wrap. Leave for an hour or two in a warm position until dough has risen. Dough should be double in size. Then punch the dough down and gently knead it for a further one minute. Roll the dough out to desired thickness on a pizza tray.
Make sure you use a glass or ceramic bowl as cling wrap will be firm.
Then for the topping grill some thin pieces of pumpkin that have been tossed lightly in olive oil and sea salt. On your pizza base drizzle a little olive oil fist, then place your grilled pumpkin on next. Thinly sliced red onion can also be add at this time. Unfortunately my kids
don't like it so I leave it off. The cook pizza in very hot oven until cooked to your liking. After pizza is cooked add crumbled goat's cheese on top and a big topping of rocket before serving. You can further drizzle olive oil over the top before serving if you please. Enjoy!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Big weekend in the patch

I know I already have written about my strawberry patch, but Sunday was such a mildly warm day in Melbourne that I decided to get stuck into my berry patch at long last. It's so hard to make the effort of venturing into the garden when our days turn cooler, so there was no excuse for any further delays.
All the runners from the strawberries were removed and any plants that had taken root in my gravel path were also potted up. I decided to use seed raising mix in my pots for the strawberries as I had plenty of it, and because it is so free draining it was perfect for the job.
All in all I removed a total of over 100 strawberry plants! Sensational for one season. The raspberry canes were also cleaned up by tying any loose canes to the wires that run across the garden bed. Hopefully summer this year will bring us bowls full of organic berries. Yum!

Friday, 20 May 2011

So many things to do with Tomatoes

Tomatoes, there is so so much you can do with them. Last season I planted 5 bushes, all romas, and harvested about 25-30kilos. We ate fresh tomatoes,tomatoes with pesto ( basil from the garden of course), tomatoes with bocconcini, roasted tomatoes, yummy oven dried tomatoes, made jar upon jar of tomato sauce, and finally made 12 jars of tomato relish. Yum! I feel lucky just writing them all down. What a great value plant.

At the end of the season as Melbourne slipped into cooler weather my tomatoes did stop ripening. So around the end of March I picked the remaining fruit, even the green ones and brought them inside. Some of the tomatoes have turned red and yellow (I planted one yellow pear), and others have failed to ripen.

My mum's Tomato relish recipe:

3kg tomatoes
1kg brown onions
Brown vinegar
1kg sugar
4 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons mustard
Salt and pepper

Slice tomatoes (can be skinned before use, but not necessary) and onions, cover with water overnight.
Drain well. Just cover then with the vinegar. Add sugar and cook on medium heat on stove for about one hour. Thicken with flour, add remaining ingredients. Cook for about 30 minutes until there is a good consistency.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

To stay or go?

OK all you garden buffS, I need opinions. I have a dilemma. Here in Melbourne we have had approximately 10 years of tough gardening conditions. Our summers have been somewhat hot and dry in the past, and keeping our gardens alive, let alone green and thriving, has certainly been a challenge.
My front garden is looking extremely lush at present, however because we have had so much rain the weeds are going crazy and the lawn keeps growing and growing. I want my garden to be somewhat a little more 'low maintenance', and at present I still need to mow the lawn at least once a week, twice if the sun comes out and makes it grow even quicker. My priority is to keep the veggies going, and I really would like to put more bulbs and flowers into the front garden area for colour.

The grass in the front area of the garden was originally a tall fescue. It had no runners, so was relatively low maintenance. However over the years the birds have dropped grass seeds and now there is a variety of grasses mixed in together. One of these being couch grass, which sends off runners everywhere. This means that in my box hedges I have grass runners popping up everywhere. Painfully high maintenance!
So here's my dilemma. Do I get rid of the two small grass areas by simply mulching over the areas? Or do I persevere and keep the constant maintenance going?
I do love the look of these lawn areas when they are all nice and neat, but the maintenance is driving me crazy.
What do you think? Stay or go? I think next week is 'D' day as far as making a decision as to what to do.
I'll let you know the outcome.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Eight months on and still going strong- Capsicums

Last October I planted my capsicums, as I do every year. I was very pleased when they really took off and started to produce fruit around December last year. First we started to harvest the sweet yellow capsicums, a great size for a small salad. The green capsicums grew in abundance, however due to Melbourne's cool summer they didn't look as though they were going to ripen. It wasn't till early March that our capsicums started to turn colours. There were red ones first, then the large yellows and even the small sweet ones turned a beautiful orange. Yum!
The great thing about capsicums though is the long season. Mine have been in for over seven months now and I'm sure I could easily extend the season by covering them from the cold if I wanted to extend it through the winter. The bushes are still loaded. There are plenty of green capsicums and sweet yellow still on them. We probably won't protect them from the cold as there is always something new to plant and eat, and we still need the heat to ripen them and change their colours. They certainly are great value In the vegie garden.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Goodbye to our beloved zucchini....or not!

Early last spring we plant our zucchini plant. We love zucchini fritters in our house and knew we would be feasting on them all spring and summer. Our plant grew and grew and regularly produced beautiful green fruit ( yes botanically it is a fruit). We barbecued, grated, and baked our zucchinis, some of them we even left to grow quite large. 

Then come mid March our plant started to die. We excepted that it had served us well and planned it's replacement. How wrong we were! From the base of the plant another off shoot started to grow quite vigorously. Within three weeks we had more zucchinis to pick, how lucky we felt. The weather has now turned miserably 'melbourne' style, so I don't know how much more time we have together. Our large plant at school has given up and died this week, so I imagine the clock is ticking. 

We love our zucchinis and in our veggie garden it is a must to grow every year for us. Below is our favorite thing to do with them. Last week we harvested a 3 kilo zucchini from our school garden, the last to be produced. I made zucchini fritters with it, and was delighted with approximately 20 children gobbling down on them. Even those that exclaimed to me that they 'hated' zucchinis thought they were yum. 

Zucchini fritters:

Three medium zucchinis
A cup of grated tasty cheese
Pepper ( I tend to leave this out as most children don't like it)
One large egg ( sometimes I put two if the zucchinis are large)
Approx. half a cup of plain flour

Mix ingredients together and drop tablespoons into a frypan with a drizzle of olive oil to fry. Serve with sour cream.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The sweetness of Strawberries

Ever tasted a home grown strawberry? The taste is somewhat different to shop bought berries, there's a sweetness that can only come from home grown organic produce, and they're so easy to grow.
Every year I tried and tried with strawberries. The possums ate them, the snails got to them,not enough sun, too dry, the possums ate them again! Then I extended an area of my garden and put in lots and lots of manure and compost. Then we planted five strawberry plants. I didn't want to purchase too many as they may have been eaten once again. I waited, the beautiful Melbourne rains returned, and my strawberries grew! Once the berries appeared I netted the small area to keep the possums at bay. This was successful and we started feasting regularly on the sweetest of berries. They were beautiful! I kept the water up to them, but no extra feeding was given. The plants slowly started to send out their runners and the strawberries eventually covered an area 1 metre by 1.5 metres. Beautiful,free plants.

Now comes the work. Many of the runners have planted their own roots into the ground. Some can remain here, while others will need to be moved as they are occupying the soft gravel pathway. Also, many of the plants still have runners attached to them. As it is now late autumn I will either cut these off and pot them up for spring, or many I will be sending off to my daughter's school for the 'gardening club' to use in their gardens. There are raspberry canes for them as well.

Once spring arrives I will be fertilizing this patch again and keeping my fingers crossed for a season of beautiful,organic strawberry treats.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The greenest of greens

Beans and broccoli

How sad I am that my green climbing beans are coming to an end. At their peak I was harvesting two to three large handfuls every few days. They have filled two large climbing frames in my garden and kept my family well fed for weeks. They were originally planted out with seeds back in January. So the space in my garden has been occupied for quite some time. There are some flowers that still remain, but I can't warrant the space being taken up for much longer. So two more weeks and out they go! Peas and snow peas will take their place after some soil improvement.

More and more I have been looking into the use of heirloom seeds in my garden. I have now joined the Digger's Club and are finding them a great source of information.

One of the varieties that I decided to try this year was an old heirloom variety named Lazy Housewife Beans.Unfortunately they don't plant themselves and then walk in the door when they are ready to be eaten. They do however date back to 1802, and were the first fully stringless bean, thus making them less work and giving them their name. They have been fantastic with their production and I will plant them again next year.

I have also commenced my harvesting of broccoli. My first large head was picked last week, and this has given us two meals so far. I have only planted the sprouting variety this year as I am hoping to pick the side shoots for many months to come.

Now to hit the recipe books to see what else can be done with beans and broccoli!