Friday, January 31, 2014

More on the Shadecloth

There is more going on with shadecloth and bird netting - especially given it is hotting up again.

You can see the first half of the story HERE.

The shade cloth on Beds 1 and 3 has been anchored, below. I just used heavy stakes on the ends, and a bit of string. When I want to take them off, I will just roll them around the stakes, ready to put back on. They hold up to the wind okay, but occasionally need repositioning. And for Bed 3, the stakes hit against the metal support in the breeze, but are on the wrong side of the house to keep us awake at night.

In Bed 2 (above), I have just thrown a sheet of shade cloth across the bed, held up by short stakes with big drawing pins in the top. Won't hold up to strong wind, but will do for the minute. Needs a couple of stakes a little bit longer in the centre to hold it up a bit. And maybe some upholstry pins.

Then, there is the teepee that can be seen in the background, to cover one tomato. This consists of long bamboo stakes from Bunings (quite cheap), just tied at the top, making sure the ends stick up a bit.

Then I just wrapped some old bird netting around it (twice, there were holes in it), pleating it a bit at the top and dropping it down on the exposed sticks. The lot was fastened with clothes pegs - they just come off and the netting slides up to pick the tommies. There is already a central stake in there to support the tommie, and the bamboo ties above that.

I then half-wrapped an odd piece of shade cloth around it, so that it gets morning sun but is protected from afternoon sun. Fastened with....... Clothes pegs again. This method is about to hit the pots.

And last one - I have shadecloth/sticks on top of these two shadehouses, but have now got some hessian (from Bunnings again - looking for some better stuff - the weave is too loose). I have a garbage bin of water by these, and just throw the hessian in for a couple of minutes, then throw it over the top. If I have time. if no time, I just hose it - which is not as good. I suppose you could even use old towels for this.

The evaporation of the water cools the top of the shadehouses down just that little bit. This is my main propagating area, although a lot of stuff has been moved into better shade in the garden. Again, I spray a little bit of water around there when it is hot, and the evaporation cools things down.

What I don't do is hose leaves in the middle of the day in hot sun. Only in shade. If I HAVE to water, to save something, I make sure I water the soil, not the leaves.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Drumroll - Tomato Anxiety


We have just taken the figures for the past eleven years, and calculated the average point where we have too many tomatoes to eat, and start to boil them down for the freezer.

Which turns out to be 30 January!!! So we are not late at all this year. I calculate we will be boiling down on the weekend 1st or 2nd March.

Over the eleven years, the earliest has been the 7th January, the latest 14th March.

But the Chillies/Peppers are very slow.

I know they have taken at least a month, sometimes more to germinate this year - and despite the best encouragement (read Maxicrop), they have sat just like this for almost a month.

They need to be just a little bit larger (apart from one), before I put them out to battle with the birds.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shade and Bird Netting Structures

We have been working on our bird netting cages for a while - we were quite determined the birds were not going to get half the tomatoes this year, but we rather disagreed on how to do it. I am the quick, pop-up type - he is an engineer.

So I started off in bed one, which is the largest bed, and quickly put in some Bunings stakes, lashed together, that covered three-quarters of the bed.

These are the lashings - in a cotton string (ie no acrylic), using the "wrap, wrap, wrap frap, frap, frap mantra of Scouting). The frapping turns tighten the lashing. Want to know more - Wikipedia gives you a start, with links to a square lashing, which is what this is.

One slight problem with this is that, when it rained, the string expanded and lashings became looser, and moved a bit. I have re-tied some of them once, before the netting went on, and cannot do it again. Next time baling twine?

Then, I tried some black bird netting on my structure, which was difficult to work with as I had ends of stakes pointing out everywhere.

In the meantime, the Engineer had built this structure from aluminium on Bed 3. It is so tall as he is 5'10" in the old language, and he wanted to be able to stand up inside.

THEN, the Heat Wave struck.

We had a small piece of shade cloth that went over the tommie stakes in Bed 3, and saved them, and made a quick run to Bunings where we bought shade cloth and just threw it, double, across my structure in Bed 1. 

Tommies saved!

Below is my emergency shade on Bed 1 there is Sweet Corn on the western side, where the cobs have been picked, but we left the plants in the help shade. That also helped.

Finally, we went back to Bunings and bought 10 metres of white 5mm aperture bird netting. This is it, below, just thrown over the structures before it was anchored down.

The Engineer has cut the ends off the stakes, which made life much easier. These stakes are like metal, white-coated curtain rods, so an angle-grinder was needed.

Anchoring (temporarily) is by wrapping the ends around stakes and holding them down with bricks.

Only one bird has got through so far.

There is another heat wave due next Tuesday. The shade cloth has now been split lengthwise, and we should be able to just temporarily throw it over both structures.

Our Little Helper

I am still trying to find time to write a post about our exploits erecting bird netting and shade structures - maybe later tonight. But cannot resist posting these pictures of Our Little Helper:

Oooh, this looks like fun.

 Are you SURE this is not a game, Master?

You are right Master, it is not a game. :(

Can I come out now? Please, I will be good.

(She wasn't!)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Tree Onions and Diary

 It is time to harvest the tree onions. The net tells me they are also known as Egyptian Walking Onions, but I have never heard them called that. They have their own website in the USA.

The actual onion is a small brown onion, with a thick stem in the middle. It will never take over from other onions, but will get you out of trouble if you only want a little bit.

I put a few in from the bulblets every three months or so and use the young ones as shallots - they ARE brilliant for that. With the tops just like chives. And just for the fun of growing them - kids love them, as they never fail and come up quite quickly.

I was originally told to grow them from bulblets one year, and offsets the next, to keep them viable. However I have been growing them just from bulblets now for about ten years, and they seem pretty good to me.

There are still a few growing in other spots in the garden that have not bulbed-up yet, but this is my main crop for the year.

Here comes the serious bit - I do have a few to share around, but you will need to e-mail me to check their availability and get my address, and then send me a prepaid 500gm plastic post bag (available from the post office, fits into an envelopes with a 60c stamp), with your name and address on the front. I will send back offsets and some tops, depending on what is left.

My e-mail is kapana[at]  This is the only way I will pass them on - no 500 gm pre-paid plastic bag, no onions.

Except I am looking for potato onions - will swop.


5 Jan - cold and wet, with high winds. Ate the very last frozen tommies from last year, and the first real apple cucumber. I am growing some cukes and some tomatoes in ornamental towers I had for Hoyas (above). They don't really work for the Hoyas quite as well as a tepee of three stakes. Long story.

6 Jan - wet, windy and sleety. Put in four Lebanese Zucchini (three in a bag, one in a pot), and ripped out the experimental out-of-season Broad Beans. Experiment failed.

Purchased three garbage bins for vat watering.The sight of drowned birds in the previous unlidded vats was heart-breaking. Beloved said it didn't matter too much, as they were Minahs. Imagine if they had been the New Holland Honeyeaters. It still hurt. And the lids will solve the problem of mozzies breeding in there. I do like the vats for watering - just grab a can out and apply water exactly where it is needed.

7 Jan - It is overcast, and I have run out of Zucchinis. :(

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Using Zucchini


It is that time of the year when I am getting desperate. And the zucchinis are only just starting. This post will continue to be updated as I get new ideas. 

Recipes welcome in the comments, or by a link to your blog in comments.

I have a bowl of chopped Zucchini marinating at all times in the fridge - they can be eaten any time as a salad, or some scooped out to cook.

Current marinade is lemon juice, olive oil sweet chilli sauce and seeded mustard. Will I add some garlic?

Fry marinated zucchini with with two beaten eggs with a small dash of milk. It was supposed to be an omelette, but fell apart. Nice. Could add bacon.

Gently sautee one chopped chicken breast, add marinated zucchini.When almost cooked, add half a cup of canned mushroom soup, made per directions. Gently simmer and serve. Maybe with rice? Maybe add sliced mushrooms?

In large fry pan, cook sliced bacon, then add sliced mushrooms and marinated zucchini. Gently cook. Current favourite. Garnish with chopped Italian parlsey.

Another version - dice a chicken breast, and throw in with the marinaded zucchini. Gently fry with bacon until chicken almost cooked. Throw in sliced mushrooms. Fry for a few minutes. Is beautiful at this stage, but brilliant if a cup of prepared mushroom soup is thrown in and simmered for a further five minutes. Quick, easy and brilliant.

Anyone else got any suggestions? I haven't started on slices or muffins yet.

Zucchini Cake / Muffins?

One neighbour makes a lovely Zucchini and walnut log - wonder if I can do this one as muffins?

The Sage Garden, Melbourne on facebook has a post currently near the top where a heap of recipes are shared. I like the idea of a zucchini and mushroom pizza

If you google "Zucchini Tuesday" there are heaps of blog posts out there for the past few years.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Garden Share Collective Report for January

It is that time of month again, when gardeners across the country, and across the world, report on their activities, as part of the Garden Share Collective. This is kindly hosted by Liz at Strayed from the Table.

Only a quick report for this month, as Christmas and a bad round of colds has slowed us down a bit. 

 Above is most of the veggie garden on 26 December - taken from the other end for a change. Then, below, to the right of this is the "extra", where I am playing with plants in compost bins/bags

The pumpkin is going gang-busters, and I think will take over the vacant space in the front - have moved tanks etc out of the way to make it possible. In the centre the zucchini is also going gang-busters. I need more zucchini recipes!

Hey, Lizzie, do we need a facebook group where we can post recipes for using seasonal excess???

The story of the shadehouse on the right, above, can be seen HERE - although it is now artistically wrapped in my favourite black-flowered hoya. What you can see on the bench is 21 pots of Hoya "Krimson Queen". It has a brilliant pink-variegated leaf, but have I got 21 friends to give them to???

The rest of the garden is spread across various pots at the other end of the garden - still with some empty pots waiting. We found a potato sprouting in the cupboard, so even it has gone into a pot (but cut in three first and surfaces allowed to dry before planting).

Happenings this month

All bar one lemon and all of the limes have dropped. But another flush is coming. Have lost track of how many that is this year.

The birds continue to make merry hell with the seedlings.

I continue to be concerned abut the tomatoes, especially the Grosse Lisse. A repeat of what I posted earlier this month: "Had pleasant lunch with a couple who garden-share with Italian neighbours, who grow all their tomatoes from seed. They are saying the same thing as us - the Grosse Lisse and Romas are not growing as well this year - especially the Grosse Lisse.  So since their plants definitely originated from a different source to ours, it has to be the season."

I keep getting worried about how slow the tomatoes are, but I just looked at my preserving diary (fancy name for an exercise book with notes), that I have kept for the past 14 years - I generally get to boil down the first lot for freezing in mid to late January, so there is a little bit of time yet. Even last year we only had yellow cherries on 31 December - exactly the same as this year.

Overall the month continues to be cold and damp, with only a couple of days of more than 30 degrees. However the figures are in, and this has been our hottest year on record. I THINK that has something to do with the amount of rain we have received here. Certainly it is a concern.

Planted - carrot seeds (Chantenay Red-cored). There is no appreciable difference between those that were soaked for 24 hours, and those that were not.


Lettuce - have learned they will not germinate if exposed to more than 30 degrees.

A giant sunflower - just for the fun of it. We used to grow them when I was a little tacker. I tried growing them in my last garden, but the parrots always decimated them.

Cucumbers (Lebanese and Apple - not a lot), a couple of cherry tomatoes. first feed of beans (French, some climbing), lots of Zucchini, Tree and Spring Onions, Carrots, Lettuce


Plant out (mainly in pots), the capsicums that are coming along slowly from seed.

And, as always - Weed, Water, Watch and Wait.

 LATE NOTE - I am changing from open vats for watering, after having three birds drown in one day, and one on another. I am moving to using garbage bins, where I will have a lid on them when they are not in use. And that should control the mozzies too.

And finish the first bird-proofing over the tomatoes.

There are a couple of other posts for the month over on the left-hand sidebar, but in particular I have plaited the garlic, and had a long and serious think about watering cans. (For those following the Great Garlic Plant-off - the garlic planted in March went much better than that planted on the shortest day of the year)

And, as always, Milly says "woof". The argument about who has first dibs on the potting bench continues.