Monday, January 31, 2005


The Belladonnas are out on the long driveway of a house just out of town – but I am wondering if this is really early – I thought they were later. There is no sign of mine yet – those ones are out in a dry paddock, so maybe they come up early if they are stressed????

Belladonnas for inextricably linked to Easter for me, although I know that is a floating date, depending on the date of the full moon – but it is never this early. The year of the Ash Wednesday fires I spent Easter in Cockatoo with a work crew, just helping people to clean up their blocks. And everywhere, everything was black, except for the pink of Belladonnas in bare ground. Somewhere I have photographs of them all around the burnt out remains of a motor bike. Not that it was possible to take many photographs - I can still remember the utter disgust the people there had with the streams of people just driving through the town for a look. Someone put up signs at either end of the town saying “Rubberneckers are Lower than Looters”. So Belladonnas always remind me of that time, and the pink in the black.

A nicer memory I have of them is in a nearby area, where all that is left of the town is a couple of houses, a hall, tiny empty post office and a little white Uniting (formerly Presbyterian) Church with blue trimmings. There is no garden to it except the thick line of Belladonnas along the fence, which come up this time of year. Might just have to go that way tomorrow with the camera.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Here come the Bulbs

The rain the other night was wonderful, I did hear it was 19mm – I didn’t measure it. So almost 80 points. I still think in points.

And today I notice the Grape Hyacinths are poking their shoots up. Although there is something else poking through before them – I think the orange Tritonia, which unfortunately are in almost feral proportions. And I don’t like them – not so much orange in a garden. Must try to knock them back a bit this year.

And on a sort of good news – my double Soapwort is flowering. The single soapwort is a bit like orange Tritonia – taking over. Have even tried Roundup on it in spots (yes, gentle reader, I use Roundup as a last resort, in a very specific way). And I thought I might have lost the double Soapwort, which is a much darker pink, and not nearly as vigorous. But it is still there. And I am glad.

Weather and spiders

The weather here has been alternating very hot days and sharp summer thunderstorms. A few fires around.

And the huntsmen spiders are coming into the house. One last night and two the night before. I thought when I had really noticed Huntsmen Peak Time (HPT) that it was March. But I wonder if it is more a factor of the weather???? Nice little spurt of rain and they get adventurous????

If it is, I am beginning to think it is a good feature of drought!

Definitely more ants in the house in drier times - looking for water as well as food.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Memo for Me

Memo to Me - must move those beautiful but dratted Tiger Lillies to the back of that bed. Every time I brush past them I am getting copious quantities of dark brown pollen on my clothes.

Thunder and Lightening of summer storm everywhere, and the lawn has definitely stopped growing. I never water the lawn in summer - it is just former cow paddock, and just comes back green and gets mown again when it rains.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Australia Day Sauce Census

Every Australia Day I find myself somewhere eating barbecued sausages with tomato sauce. And talking to someone about when the tomatoes will start to ripen.

This year was no different, except I think the tomatoes have ripened earlier. My impression is that the first tommies I got were on the earliest plants I put in, but there are/were not many of them.

But the very interesting thing is that my Romas are now producing copious ripe tomatoes - this week I will be able to start freezing them. I don't think I have had them that early before - last year's sauce was made on the 23rd of March!

And these Romas are in a semi-shaded bed, but at least this year I got them semi-pruned and properly staked. But they are still out-doing the Grosse Lisse, that are in the best and sunniest bed, and are not even producing ripe fruit yet.

But, when they do, there will be heaps!!!!! Along with the Romas, they were planted quite a few weeks after those first early ones from the shops - and they are going to be worth the wait.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Senses in the Garden

For a while I have been taking an interest in Sensory Gardens, and Dementia Gardens, so while I was watering last night I was really exercising my mind as to what senses were engaged in my garden.

SENSE OF SMELL is the most obvious. I had been creating mulch with general cuttings, and mulched a heap of lemon verbena and chocolate mint. And I was watering the basil. All beautiful.

HEARING the crickets were quite noisy last night.

SIGHT it was getting dark, but for several days I had been really enjoying seeing the white of the cabbage butterflies (yes, I know they are a pest) on the purple and green of lavender as they were feasting on the nectar.

TASTE - I have been nibbling on the mustard greens and French beans as I watered.

TOUCH This one had me for a while. I enjoy the feel of water as it comes out the hose, but my overwhelming touch sensation last night was not a good one. It is NOT nice to keep walking into the webs for the Orb spiders at face level in the dark!!!! Yuck.

Guess nothing is perfect!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Of Roses, Mulch, Birds and Tulip Trees

This is the current view out from my front door. This bed is usually bulbs, so is brilliant in spring, an very dry otherwise. In my current mulch shortage and weed excess I have laid newspaper with lawn clippings on top (except where nerines are still growing, and I usually water it by slipping the hose under the newspaper - watering on top would just wet the newspaper.

Then, when winter comes the newspaper gets thoroughly wet and breaks down more, the bulbs push through and any unsightly newspaper still in big gobs gets composted. And maybe I will have some spare mulch by then of a much better sort. But this works after a fashion, and I have got away with it in a few years.

The roses are thriving now they are mulched, although the ones on the shady side of the tree are finding it hard. A combination of previous dry (weed competition didn't help), shade and the birds decimating the ones nearest the bird feeder - doubt if one of my Mr Lincolns is worth persevering with.

The Tulip Tree (Liriodenron sp?) is about fifteen to eighteen years old now, and has been flowering beautifully for years.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Bluey's okay

I've been worried for a while, because I haven't seen Bluey around. S/he lives under the black plastic where I keep the bales of mulch, and is the Guardian of the Kitchen Garden. Even has Her/His own little peep holes into the house-leeks that edge one of the beds, a bit like a McDonalds Drive Through for Blue-Tongue Lizards. Just stick your head in, grab a couple of slaters, earwigs or slugs (or maybe even a nice, juicy snail), and keep on going with life.

I've always had to watch out when walking on that black plastic, that I didn't step on him/her (which is a scary thing for both of us when it happens). So I put little stepping stones everywhere on it.

And I hadn't seen Her/Him around for a while. So I was really glad to find Bluey in a corner of the Kitchen Garden again today.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Whats .......

What’s in Flower: I can take or leave normal light /blue or white agapanthus, but at the moment my dark blue is out. And so are my orange tiger lilies. Quite distant from each other. And normally I dislike orange in a garden, but looking at them, I reckon they need to be growing together, as that would be stunning.

What I’m Picking/Eating: Tomatoes (the Romas are just starting), French beans, lettuce, spring onions, potatoes and lots and lots of cucumbers. And that beautiful, ruffled, bright green garden mustard, in with the lettuce.

What I’m dividing up and looking for homes for: Heaps and heaps of that vigourous purple Iris.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Pickles and Sauce

Maureen C was asking if I use my excess cukes for pickles (as she was off making mango chutney).

Good Question!!!!

This is getting to one of my exciting times of the year. I used to make a fair bit of pickles, and one of them was based on the cukes, but we don't seem to eat as much of that now. And the pickles and chutneys I make are based more on tomatoes - green for pickles, ripe for chutneys. The other thing I tended to use a fair bit of in the pickles was beans, as I always had an excess. This year it is French beans.

But we don't seem to eat a lot any more - one year I made a sudden batch of twenty bottles for the CWA in a bushfire appeal, and they went off to help stock cupboards of farmers who had just been totally burnt out.

Right now it is approaching the Sacred Season of Sauce Making - almost 100% tomato sauce these days, as we never seem to use the plum sauce either.

Sauce making season is usually soon after Australia Day - I always seem to be at the Australia Day celebrations anxiously talking to other gardeners about when the tomato peak is going to hit - and from the dates on previous bottles (and reference to my Stillroom Journal, which I have been keeping for years longer than my Textile Visual Journal), I really start mid-February and often go well into March.

My system includes growing HEAPs of Tomatoes, and Grosse Lisse are still my favourite, although I do like Roma for ease of processing. Burnley Surecrop gets a look in as earliest for the table, and Apollo and KY1 occasionally get a run too.

Usually, as the excess hit, I just chop, boil down and put in the freezer in two cup portions, which later come out like that for cooking, but can make up quantities later in sauce.

Then, when the right day comes, and there are enough tommies, I start the first batch of sauce. And the next batch about a week later, and so on. I use a 6.8 litre pot, and usually make three to four batches at least.

Ezy Sauce???? You have got to be joking!!!! Real spices, and even fresh garden herbs in my Italian version (which really means grab a huge heap of my excess garlic, parley, etc and throw that in as well).

I'll dig the recipes for my basic tomato sauce out soon and post it - I have tried a few, and settled on one I like. Then I just "Italianize" it.

Last night, after a hot day, we had thunder, lightening and a down pour. Can't say how much rain (not heaps) as I didn't empty the rain gauge after the sprinkler was on. But the garden feels (and smells) wonderful this morning.

Rain-watching is also one of my favourite sports - whenever it is around I haunt the Bureau of Meterology Rain Radar online, to see where it is, and how heavy it is.


When I am talking about my four compost bins, I am really talking about a huge worm city. Years ago I got some tiger worms (plus maybe something red - anyway, a mix of compost worms). Traditionally, earthworms live in earth, and work all the way through big bins like mine, and tigers work only in the surface layer. Tigers cannot survive in the "earth", like a garden, and earth worms cannot survive in pure compost, as they need a certain amount of soil going through their guts. Interesting mixture.

Anyway, I have one of those three-decker worm farms, into which the kitchen scraps go (apart from those my mother steals to put into her Gedye compost bin - we have hers and hers worms). Then, what I do is as each layer of compost (plus a fair few worms) is due to come out of the three-decker, I put that into the current tank I am filling. So I think that is the Tiger inoculation. And I throw in a bit of active stuff every now and then from the previous compost bin I was filling - so that is enough to inoculate the "being Filled" bin with earth worms. And there is enough soil on the roots of the weeds for them to be healthy. And the combination thrives, as long as I keep the bins moist. They are cool enough in the middle for them to escape the heat, and the stuff I put in isn't so green that it overheats. And they really reduce the compost down fast.

The other side advantages is that I took the duckie little tap thing out of the bottom of the three-decker, and fertiliser (that I dilute) continually drips out into a bucket (with half a brick in it so it doesn't blow away). Next to it is a large plastic rubbish bin filled with ewe-poo (also on a milk crate, with bucket and brick). I drilled a couple of holes in the side bottom of the bin, put the bucket under it, throw a bit of water in the top (or wait until it rains) and fertiliser drips out of the bottom of that, too, while the ewe-poo breaks down and is taken from the top for use.

Wonderful system, and I do use a bit of other stuff too - dynamic lifter and a tiny bit of artificial stuff, mainly for citrus. So I just run around with the watering can and my various witches brews, especially on the veggies, but on some of the roses as well. And they seem to love it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Spuds too

I make my compost in four large tubs made from galvanised iron tanks, and while I am waiting for the worm-assisted compost to mature, I plant spuds in them. Sometimes I get a good crop, sometimes not.

Basically, what I do is always have one tank I am using, one I am filling, and two "cooking" with spuds in them. As I take the top off one tank, I throw the plants and any small spuds into the tanks I am filling. No great science. And I have a few spuds that I allow to grow where-ever they come up in the kitchen garden too.

But this year I harvested the spuds so early (I wanted the compost), I thought I might try for a mid-season crop. Might get one in before the first frost - we have them pretty severely. So I stuck all the bushes and spuds in the next tank and topped it up, and am still waiting. And watering. Part of my problem, I think, is that they are "new" spuds, and not quite ready to shoot. But the first ones are starting to sneak through - I think.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Cucumbers are one of my favourite veggies – both to grow and to eat. I’ve never had much luck with Apple Cucumbers, nor Lebanese, so I usually put in a punnet of burpless cucumbers when they first come out, and pray for no frost. Last year they were spectacular, and I was giving them away everywhere. They got to about six foot high. This year they were bearing okay, but are struggling to reach four and a half feet high – maybe because I has a few sweet peas going up the same frame, and the competition was too much.

The cukes are trying to grow up the arch half way up this path

So, I thought I would see if I could put some more in. The aim was to get a late crop to take over when these finished – which I thought would be early. But there aren’t any out there in punnets, so I had to settle on seed. This morning the first little cotyledons (seed leaves) poked themselves up. Snail bait distributed – now to see if they make it to the fruiting stage.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

I needed to know this

My Mother is addicted to the Sunday Age crossword. Last week the one word we could not find was "One who could be said to make a plant prone"

So, the answer, this morning was "Pronator"

All a Google search brings up is medical terms! I am still trying to work out if it is a muscle in the foot (I think it is). In other words - one who walks on plants???? Sheesh!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Blogging in a Garden

In another life, I maintain a textiles blog, and thought I might have a try at one for my garden. That should explain the profile picture!

However ......

I am gardening in rural Victoria (some of you, known as "the locals") will know exactly where, as part of the function of this blog is to pass along those bits I have been trying to give away much easier

Memo to Locals: if anyone wants masses and masses of old fashionaed cream jonquils, now is the time to catch up with me, but it is dig your own. Those that I have dug are going to an old-folks home for fund raising. But I do have a whole large pot of suckers of the Apothercary's Rose that is looking for a home. Catch up with me.

I established my garden about 15 years ago, so the trees are coming into maturity, and most were chosen for autumn colours. They are my joy, as are my few surviving odd roses. And my kitchen garden - where just a few of my tomatoes are ripening at the moment. But years of doing other things means that the weeds have taken over, and I am only slowly getting them under control. Although each piece of a bed cleared is a joy.

Would love to know about other Gardeners who Blog, especially in similar climactic conditions - it is hot and dry here at the minute, and we are on permanent stage 1 water restrictions. So I am trying to get the mulch down. But whatever I buy (straw or peas) has seed in it. :( So today I actually hit some prunings with the lawn mower, and was delighted to see how quickly that mulched. Should have rememebred that was the way before mulchers took over the world. The cheapie I have here does the wood of small branches well, but hates leafy stuff.

What else? My galtonias are out, and look like wonderful, giant snowdrops. So the world cannot be all bad. The rose in the background is Dainty Maid - which I have carted around for years.