Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Tasmanian holiday - Part One

Well I have been neglecting the blog a little lately, mostly as I have been neglecting the garden and house!  I do have a few posts I need to complete regarding some renos we have had done, but mostly between copious amounts of work travel and then the slide into the busy season that is December and Christmas - nothing has been done.

And now we are on holidays!  Well actually the break is about to come to an end, and we will be heading back to real life (fingers crossed with some plants still alive, I'm hoping my improvised watering systems, coupled with sprinklers and a bit of normal Sydney rain will have kept everything going).  But I really wanted to share some of our holiday with you all.

This is our second trip to Tasmania, and we've enjoyed it as much as our last one.  This is not a sponsored post in any way - however if anyone would like me to visit again and blog about it I would be more than happy to!

We have spent some time in Hobart as the husband had a conference here.  Meandering around Salamanca markets has lead to far too many gift items to be lugged home in my already overflowing suitcase.  Two trips to MONA - one for the free opening night party and then one for the fancy conference dinner have both been fantastic.

The view back to Hobart from MONA

The Gilbert and George retrospective exhibition
I also got a bit of renovation inspiration while walking around the suburb of Battery Point.  So many houses are similar to our little cottage, they seem to have been built around a similar time period (probably mid to late 1800s) and although many are stone there are still plenty of weatherboard homes with gorgeous cottage gardens to aspire to.  I have taken some pictures of potential paint colours for our place, and I really loved the names on the glass panel over the door - also something I will be looking in to.

One of the pretty blue colours I am considering for our external paint job

One of my prospective colour schemes - already have the white fence - although our front door is white.  
I haven't seen the name on the top panel before and in Hobart I saw it often - I think this a great idea and I will be looking into it for our front door too - currently the panel is painted white but I need to get to it and see what is underneath!
Glistening water off Battery Point - I could get used to those kind of views.
Another shot off the pier and looking towards Sandy Bay
After Hobart we headed up the middle of the island to Launceston, and spent three lovely days.  Mostly it was about the wine tasting (I can't say no to a sparkling or pinot grigio) which has meant that our Christmas guests won't be short of something to drink - three cases are currently winging their way (ever so slowly - Australia Post isn't what it used to be) home to meet us when we get back.

The Bay of Fires vineyard - their sparkling has been winning awards left right and centre (and is very tasty!)
We couldn't go there without tasting some of the award winners with lunch.  
Also in Launceston we took a cruise up the Tamar and Esk rivers - very educational - I should have taken more pictures as the orchards, vineyards and farms along the riverbanks were all fantastic, along with the old farm houses.  

I really would recommend a trip to Tasmania if you've never been - there's something for everyone!

Monday, 30 November 2015

December Garden Share Collective - Growth (and neglect!)

Well my stats overview on my blog tells me my  last post was on the 1st of October.  Pretty slack really!  Life has been busy, lots of travel for work (I think about six out of the eight weeks or so since my last post I have been away).  But the wonderful thing is that the garden is now established enough that it keeps on keeping on despite my absence and my almost total neglect.

This is my lemon tree, and I'm not sure what is going on - I thought they weren't suppose to fruit in their first year.  Also it's not the season.  But here are my little funny green lemons.

This months Garden Share Collective (hosted by Krystie at A Fresh Legacy and Kate from Rosehips and Rhubarb has the theme of Growth.  Which really can be taken a few ways I think.

When I look at the last 18 months of living in our lovely Crooked Cottage I think what we have managed both inside and out can be considered growth - and definitely the garden shows that.  I have gone from a few dry beds overgrown with succulents to now an abundance of pots plus my overflowing beds.  I've learnt (by trial and error) which vegetables are fairly low maintenance (hello snow peas and lettuce, plus radishes and all my herbs) and which I probably won't be trying again, or if I do will need a new plan (I'm looking at you cabbage!  Closely followed by potatoes...)  So I am growing as a gardener as well.

Did I mention my neglect?!  My pots are all higgledy piggledy around the front yard, and I desperately need to weed and remove all those ones that have bolted to seed.  But for now it's just a bit mess, at least the sprinklers reach them all.

My rosemary is very vigorous, and the chilli plants have kept going for another year.

But just from a purely plant point of view - well with my DIY irrigation system on the timer and a few token efforts at pulling weeds, spring has meant my garden grows without me.  Which has lead to some nice surprises, like the gigantic cucumber I found hiding on the fence, and the very tasty " "Pink Pearl" cherry tomatoes which have appeared on my non staked plants.

The very large cucumber which I found hiding behind the chives - made a lot of salad.

Here's my pink pearl tomatoes - very tasty and so far they have avoided last years curse of fruit fly, even though I haven't been home much to pick them as soon as they turn orange.

Another blurry picture (I clearly haven't grown as a photographer) - this pot of spinach has been just growing and growing for months.

This years attempts at zucchinis have been far more productive and so far (touch wood) no powdery mildew in sight.

Some little critter has been attacking my eggplant - hopefully though a few holey leaves won't mean no produce.

Poor lettuces didn't survive our 40 plus degree day in Sydney - wilted and bolted 

Who knew this cucumber plant could be hiding that big brute of a fruit?

Furry caterpillar creature and another pest of the roach kind - perils of Sydney (don't look mum!)

So this month I will be harvesting tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers, a few straggling snow peas, spinach, kale, celery (another never ending producer), hopefully some capsicums and lots of herbs.   I will also be ending my garlic experiment  - I am not sure how that will turn out, I have a feeling they may not have grown as I would have hoped.  

If I get a chance I will be weeding weeding weeding, plus all my pots really do need some fertilising.

I am hoping to do a little planting, depending on the weather, and would like some more lettuces (I will need to try out succession planting so I have a continuous supply this summer), radishes, and probably some more chillis if I'm not too late.  

So happy gardening and happy Christmas - how the year has flown by!  

Thursday, 1 October 2015

October Garden Share Collective - spreading the seeds of a love for gardening

So another month has disappeared in what seems to be the blink of an eye.  And so it is time for another Garden Share Collective post.  This month the theme is Seeds.  

I have to admit, when I started to plan a garden, I bought lots of seeds.  How hard can it be right?  Sprinkle some seeds, bit of dirt, water, and hey presto, lots of plants.  Ok so it doesn't go like that.  I can grow seeds alright, but once I transplant them they seem to die a thousand deaths.  Too dry, too hot, too wet, too mouldy, too many slugs - the list goes on.  So I admit that I know cheat a little bit and now I mostly buy seedlings.

However I have had a bit of luck with seeds.  Radishes and coriander work well, plus I've had success with capsicums.  Cucumber and tomatoes haven't been so great.

On the non food front, I managed to grow lots and lots of flowers from bulbs this year (they're seeds right?)

One of the lovely hyacinths I grew earlier this year.
My pretty ranunculus - any excuse to put more pictures of these out!
Despite the fact that I am not great at growing from seed, I have still been collecting my seeds religiously.  Possibly a waste, but I have hundreds of seeds of basil, coriander, pak choi, broccolino, and chillis.  Plus of course capsicum.  I have one lettuce that went to seed but those little babies are so fine I am not sure I could catch them in anything.  And I'm thinking about trying to keep some of the snow pea and broad bean pods just in case I get better at this seed growing gig.

So this month I finally grew a cauliflower.  I was pretty proud of that!

My very first ever cauliflower - completed with moth eaten leaves and some friendly bugs!
The broad beans also bore fruit (or vegetables?) but I have decided they are a total waste of effort.  By the time you pod the beans, then repod again you end up with about a quarter of the plant to actually eat.
Broad beans

More broad beans
Snow peas kept on going, as did my asian greens and spinach.

Spinach, chives and land cress - which all went in to a very delicious scrambled egg breakfast!
The asian greens are growing well
The garlic looks like it might be ready sometime soon.

I made a rookie error when planting out cucumber and sugar snap pea seedlings with no protection fro the marauding slugs, so I had to do that all over again!

My land cress has gone crazy, and now that I don't have very many brassicas to protect from white cabbage moth I will be putting it into salads.

And it's getting hotter, so my tomato seedlings are growing well.  

Happy gardening to you all for spring!

Another shot of my cauli

Monday, 7 September 2015

Hidden delights of Rozelle - Callan Park Bush Track

Glimpses of the water from the bush track
So spring has sprung and everything looks brighter.  And as often happens when the sun comes out I get slightly more enthusiastic for health and fitness.  So I headed out on a morning walk.

Lots of people are probably familiar with the Bay Run which circles around Iron Cove Bay.  Living near Callan Park means I can cut through the park to meet up with the path, and take a lovely walk around the water.  It's very popular for cyclists, prams, and plenty of different levels of walking and running fitness.  

Callan Park itself is quite a hidden secret, and includes the gorgeous sandstone buildings of what was the Rozelle Hospital (or the Kirkbride Complex) which are now used by the Sydney College of the Arts.  But today I found a previously undiscovered (by me) path - the Callan Park bush track.

I also have recently been reading on the very excellent blog Garden Amateur about native Australian plants and the lack of knowledge in the general public (and certainly I fall into that category) about them.  So this seemed to be quite timely as well to see some of our natives in their (almost) natural setting.

So I have to admit that I have no idea what any of these plants are, but I wanted to share with you all some beautiful examples of the beauty which is hidden away and so close to the city!

The Bush track in Callan Park

The track is level and easy to walk
The steps run up to the road at one end of the track

Tiny purple flowers 


Mass of tiny white flowers

Don't know what this one is but I think I have a lot of these self seeding in my garden - but I pull them out before they flower!

Flowers are a bit blurry but these are yellow flat kind of flowers
Pink grevillea type plant, flowers about one inch wide.

Much as I do not want to give away the secrets of Callan Park and have it full (there was no one on the track today at all) I have to say it is worth a trip to visit this beautiful area so close to the centre of Sydney!

The blackbutt eucalyptus mentioned above

Friday, 4 September 2015

Garden Share Collective - Does Size Matter???

So I'm quite liking the idea of the themed posts for the Garden Share Collective.  And this first one is on size.  I think of it as that age old question - does size matter???

I tried to use a fancy program to draw a plan of my garden.  But it didn't work, so I have hand drawn it.

Because when it comes to size, my garden is on the "it's not the size it's what you do with it" side of the argument.   The majority of my garden is planted in the front of my house as this is both the largest area and the area that gets the most sunshine.  However, this is still a small courtyard.  The garden beds are basically one long bed running almost the length of the courtyard on the southern side of the courtyard, which is about 6m long and probably 70cm wide.  Then two beds at the front of the house, around 2m long each and also about 70 cm wide.  My neighbour is replacing the fence on the northern side and when this is complete I am considering digging in another bed, however it will not get very much sun so I'm not sure if I will be better off just using the fence as a vertical garden.

So I really won't be likely to become self sufficient growing here.  But I can still have great fun in the garden and provide at least some nice fresh additions to our meals.

The plan (please excuse the fairly slap dash manner) is here.
A pretty rough and ready drawing of our front yard.  Note the lovely feature of the bins, which have to be stored at the front of the garden as we have no side access to hide them out the back!!  Entire yard is 6m x 5 m and most of this is paved courtyard.

An older shot of the garden bed on the southern wall - it's now a lot more full and green!

The pak chois grow well

Hard to believe the whole garden started out looking like this 

Another shot of the main garden bed on the southern wall - this was during last summer and before I realised my tomatoes were being attacked by fruit fly.
 So because of my lack of garden beds I have to use a lot of containers.  Lots and lots of containers.  I am gradually filling up the courtyard with plants in pots.  My neighbours have taken to donating their unwanted pots to me (which I'm very happy to accept) so it probably won't be long and I won't be able to walk through the courtyard.

My dwarf lemon tree in one of my many brightly painted pots

Two lovely low line containers planted out with asian greens.
My kaffir lime also planted in a pot
My lovely pots of ranunculus with the never ending flowering snap dragon next to it.

I also struggle a bit with the sun.  The front faces east, and so the front yard gets morning sun.  The southern wall gets sun for most of the day, but the western side has the sun go off by late morning.  The back courtyard gets almost no sun due to buildings around it and a very large oak tree in our neighbours yard.

Even though I don't really have enough room to properly grow vegetables I am really enjoying learning about gardening and from my successes and failures.  I am quickly realising that given the space constraints I'm better off planting and growing those plants which are fairly high yield for small space.  Pumpkins are out!.  My snow peas have been brilliant and I have just planted out a crop of sugar snap peas to see how they go.  Mind you, there has been carnage as I didn't properly protect them from snails and slugs.

Prior to my snow pea harvest on Saturday - the wire trellis was being pulled off the wall!

My tomatoes yielded well in summer but the fruit fly ruined those.  Still, the capsicum plants are good for fruit and lettuce and rocket are always favourites and easy to grow.  

My capsicums went quite well so I will be planting some more this year.

I'm looking forward to harvesting my first garlic crop, and I'm hoping my square metre of precious sunny space will be worth giving up for 6 months for a good crop!  The broccolis and cauliflowers haven't really returned enough on my investment of space.
The garlic took up a fair amount of space but if I get 20 bulbs out it will be worth it.

Celery is going well in lots of different pots and my herbs are growing even out in the shade of my back garden.  

So this month I have started planning my spring garden, planting cucumbers (destroyed by slugs) sugar snap peas (also attacked) eggplant, zucchini, rocket, parsley, lettuce, tomatoes and asian greens.  Once I deal with the slimy critters (been out liberally applying table salt to them all tonight!) I will try again with some of my seedlings.  

I think as well I will try my hand at growing some carrots, and also some radishes and capsicums - all from seed - which will be next months GSC theme!  Happy gardening to all and look forward to seeing you next month.