Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Crocus, purslane and tomatoes

Some of my tomatoes have been rather sculptural, like this Black Krim.

There has been no end of preserving activity as the summer bounty mounts up. Some of my tomatoes went into this oddity, Tomato Marmalade. It was excellent.

And there are tomatoes still on the vine.. playing wait and see with the early frosts.

Meanwhile, the autumn crocus is up and nearly over. Unlike cousin Shirley, who gave me these, I do not have thousands of them which would make an impressive display; but the few I have are lovely enough.

The purslane is growing leggy and starting to seed. I had thought it would flower and then seed, but I guess this is the purslane equivalent of a flower:

Each of what appear to be flower buds are actually seed pods, which open spontaneously and spill what looks like poppy seed. I've been trying to collect it which is a bit laborious but should be worth it as I'm guessing it grows easily and then propagates itself endlessly, since it was considered a weed (until its value as a source of omega 3 and other antioxidants came to light). Rather glad I planted it in a pot.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Potatoes and permaculture

Felt kind of smug seeing the output yesterday from my volunteer Norland potato - which yielded three or four jumbo spuds - and all of them, from first inspection, wireworm-free, which is most exciting, since this was the main place in my garden that seemed to have them. Also dug up a Yukon Gold that I'd already harvested from, so only little ones from there and could have been left a while longer if I'd looked carefully at the base. Oh well. I got an ice cream pail full anyway.

And the tomatoes continue to ripen; my big beauties have now been identified as Black Krim rather than the previously supposed Costoluto Fiorentino.

Even the slugs like them, alas, so some of the riper ones end up with little slug bites. But I'm going to be canning them over the next few weeks so hope to stay on top of them.

Someone from my neighbourhood gardening/food security group sent this great link to an Introduction to Permaculture, by its father, the Australian naturalist Bill Mollison. In his intro, written in 1981, he observes
The real systems that are beginning to fail are the soils, forests, the atmosphere, and nutrient cycles. It is we who are responsible for that. We haven’t evolved anywhere in the west (and I doubt very much elsewhere except in tribal areas) any sustainable systems in agriculture or forestry.
Too bad he's still right. Given the failure of will on the part of our governments, we can only make our own backyard food systems as sustainable as possible, buy only (as far as possible) from farmers who do likewise, and hope that a wave of consumer concern - voting with our minds and our wallets - brings positive change.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Grow, baby, grow

The September chill is in the air, and we've had a week of rain and now some sun, so those plants can put on a spurt before the frosts.

Gypsy peppers ripening in their pot:

Lots of scarlet runners still, and more flowers coming:

The German lunchboxes have been trailing some of the other varieties, but are looking healthy:

My pot of purslane:

I now have five baby eggplants growing for all they're worth:

Monday, 7 September 2009

Tomatoes love... wood ash and... er... human urine?

A Finnish study published this summer in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has tested a sustainable fertilizer of urine and wood ash on tomato crops and found high yields. This will not be news to Geoff Johnson, a local permaculturalist here in Victoria, who has long advocated the application of home-made nitrogen supplements (urine diluted 10:1) to crops and compost.

Tomatoes have been on my mind a lot lately; it is the season after all, and there's even a Slow Food tomato brunch event to celebrate them this weekend.

As for mine on the vine, they are ripening one by one. My big beefy guys are grown from seed I saved last year from a plant Tom gave me, which was a Costoluto Fiorentino, but it's looking a little dark now so we wondered if it might have crossed with something else? (Late-breaking news: it is quite likely a Black Krim) Delicious but misshapen. So big and heavy - some of them are just under a pound in weight - it's been hard to stake the plants adequately.

Also in the bowl is a San Marzano, from a plant Tom gave me; haven't got enough ripe yet to use but looking forward to tasting them.

These are the little guys, scarpariello, a small sweet roma from Italy.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Late summer in the garden

My miracle acorn squash looked so lovely

I had to pick it the other day. And botched the job! I broke its little handle off, which is a bad, bad thing to do - it won't keep if you do that. So I have another squash on my menu (and two more on the vine, phew!). It's a miracle squash because it grew from a seed from a particularly delicious one I had in my seasonal veg box last winter, from FoodRoots. I heard after I planted it that I wasn't supposed to do that because squashes are a bit promiscuous and will cross with anything; but then I read that it's ok for your current crop, but the next round of seeds won't grow true. And that the two I'd planted (acorn - Cucurbita pepo - and hubbard - Cucurbita maxima) were different varieties and should be safe from wilder crossings as long as nobody else in the area was growing them. Or something like that.

Nice flowers anyway, and the bees like them.

The popular wisdom is that you should only sow squash seeds that have been properly bred and saved. One reason is to prevent disease, and all my squashes (including the one legitimate number I got elsewhere) are mottled with evil powdery mildew.

My eggplants are taking their sweet time and I fear will not bear fruit of sufficient size by the time the frosts come. Still, three cheers for pretty flowers and this game attempt against the odds and limitations of light:

And as for my garden - testing ground for plagues and pestilence - all manner of wickedness in the stunted corn...

Ugly onions (could it be wireworm?)

And those poor chard plants. No sooner do we vanquish leafminers but we get these wicked things, some kind of aphid I suppose: