Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Asparagus galore

I recently had some areas tilled with a tractor complements a wonderful neighbour who is also into food gardening. The first tilled section is for a large planting of asparagus. The area is approximately 12m by 2.3m so there is plenty of room for a multitude of plants.

A few months back, I was very fortunate to have been given a couple of mature asparagus plants from a couple in a local food growing group. They also provided me with heaps of seeds. So I attempted to germinate 198 of them and got about 180 viable plants. Not a bad start.

I have slowly been planting them out into the newly tilled soil. Unfortunately the soil in this area is poor. It comprises of subsoil (deco and clay) from the previous owners earthworks. I incorporated gypsum along with basalt rock dust, dead grass, and manure. So there should be hope for the asparagus producing capabilities of this rejuvenated soil. Asparagus is extremely hardy, as long as it has good drainage, so I shouldn't be disappointed. I also raised the bed about 10 cm or so above the existing ground level which will help with drainage.

For those of you who have not tasted fresh off the plant asparagus spears, it is like an entirely different vegetable. Fresh asparagus is unbelievably sweet and tasty. This is a plant worth making space for in the home garden. Come on spring!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Frost damage

At little under two weeks ago we got hit with a frost. It was a medium severity frost impacting some of the plantings on the lower section of the property the most. This included four sections of sweet potato plants, watermelon plants, a Kent pumpkin plant, and butternut squash plants. I had expected the squash and watermelon to be spirits of plantings past; amazingly all seem to be recovering now.

Up at the top end of things (near the shed), three zucchini plants coped it along with some sweet yellow peppers. I am hoping that the youngest zucchini plant will be able to yield at least one fruit before the stem turns to mush. I will still be able to get some sweet yellow pepper plants growing as not all of them tangoed with Jack Frost. Other plants like the button squash, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, snow peas, silver beet, Hong Kong broccoli, bok choy, carrots, onions, leeks, and garlic all weathered the cold without any dramas.

The banana pit was probably the warmest spot of all. This is no doubt due to the water in the middle of the pit which I maintain for irrigation of the bananas. None of the sweet potato in this area has any visible signs of frost damage. Go micro climate.

So I will need to start being a bit more vigilant with the more sensitive plants when we get forecast temperatures in the mid single digits or lower. Its almost like gardening in Canada again. ;)

Friday, 19 June 2009

Getting tanked

In a previous blog entry, I made reference wanting to get additional water storage capacity. Well last week a new 5000 gallon Nylex tank was delivered. We had to hold off on the delivery by about one week as the recent rain had made the ground soft. Even with the delay the truck still caused significant impressions in the lawn.

As I do not like to waste anything, I moved all the good top soil from where the tank was to be located. The soil has been relocated throughout the food gardens. This included the creation of two new beds in the main vegetable garden section, bringing the total to 14 beds in the area.

I was also able to use the deco underneath the water tank, which had previously been mined from the banana pit. So nothing was wasted (as it should be). We have also been using rocks from the soil on the property around the water tanks to suppress weeds.

Until the dam is built, all water collected in the tanks will be utilised inside the shed as well as for irrigating the food gardens. Now that we are entering the dry period for the year it is vital to collect every bit of water. So now all that is needed, is to some rain to fill the new vessel.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Hickson Mandarins

June is an exciting time here. Not because I celebrate my birthday, rather it is when our Hickson mandarin's fruit is ready for picking.

Hickson mandarins are an Australian mandarin originating in Roma Queensland. They are believed to be a limb sport from an Ellendale mandarin tree owned by Mr. Hickson (hence the name). Hicksons are a medium to large-size mandarin and have an orange to slightly reddish colour with between 10 and 15 seeds per fruit. They have a high juice content and a great flavour. They are easy to peel and break into segments.

Another benefit with Hickson mandarins is that they have a very long post-harvest life. This is not a huge consideration for the home grower, unless of course you want to harvest your fruit before any Sulphur Crested Cockatoos start to sample your goods.

The fruit from our tree is quite large. The tree was planted in late 2007 and has been around for two fruiting seasons. In this its second year, it has produced around 50 fruits. We attempted to remove all fruit for the first year, however a few fruits managed to stay on much to our subsequent delight. However it is best to remove all fruit during the first year.

Last night at the Sub-tropical Fruit Club of Queensland bi-monthly meeting, we got to taste a number of different mandarins, including Fremont and Imperial, as well as Tangelo Minneola. I was able to bring home a number of samples to compare against the Hickson mandarin. In terms of sweetness, the Fremont comes out on top, just. The Hickson is a close second. The Hickson is also about as easy to peel as an Imperial, but without as much of the pithy white stuff. However in terms of size the Hickson is a clear winner (in the picture with the three segments, the top one is the Hickson, the middle is the Imperial, and the bottom one is the Fremont) . So overall, the Hickson is certainly a mandarin worth growing in your home garden.