Sunday, October 25, 2015

Vegetables and plans

There are long pauses between my posts, and I expect this to be the norm for this growing season. Because I'm always outside, inspecting the gardens, seeing what needs tending or requires a little extra water. Propagation and seed sowing is the order of business too.

I grabbed the camera this morning, to show some developments in our vegetable patch.

Choko - click to enlarge

In bed four, the choko is getting bigger. Not quite big enough to start climbing the trellis yet, but its doubled in size, in just a few short weeks. The little daisy is flowering as well. On the other side of the trellis, is the zucchini


I didn't think I was actually going to harvest any zucchini, at the rate the bush rats (I assume) were eating them. A fruit would be a day away from harvesting and overnight, they would disappear.

We did something to deter the bush rats recently, which I'll discuss soon, but I'm happy to report, we're eating zucchini from the garden now. We haven't done that since 2011. It was very yummy, fried with bacon.

Yacon (centre)

In bed three, I'm happy to report, my yacon is getting some size to it. My first attempt at growing yacon failed last year, as I wasn't properly attending the newly establishing plant. While yacon has a good reputation for being a tough plant, it needs to be established first. Which, I learned, the hard way.

This year, I might be able to try yacon for the first time.

In the same bed, but closer to the avocado tree, I have other goodies growing and doing surprisingly well.

Beetroot, silverbeet and sunflowers (background)

The silverbeet and beetroot are thriving in this bed, compared to the others I've planted in different beds. I now attribute this to less weed competition. Where their smaller counterparts are, they have to compete with weeds.

It was a good experiment to try, leaving the weeds in the bed (elsewhere) but gauging by the size difference, I may have to reconsider that strategy. Its not a matter of right or wrong, but what will give the outcome most required.

Hidden strawberries

Still in bed three, and I found a lovely surprise hiding underneath the avocado tree. I only get the strawberries when they are hidden under the folliage of other plants - where this one was. The native critters (aka: bush rats) like to eat these - along with the tomatoes. They cleaned out my first harvest of tomatoes, on one plant, but hopefully I'll be overrun with tomatoes soon.

Under the avocado tree

The ground cover of strawberries, pansies, warrigal greens and radishes, are all doing really well, under the canopy of the avocado tree. The canopy protects the ground covers from receiving all day sun, and the ground covers, stop the sun from reaching the soil when it does get under the tree. This is a beautiful, low maintenance, mess.

Notice how the avocado is self mulching with its own leaves too. Something I'm sure the strawberries will appreciate as they crop.

Avocado tree (foreground) bananas (background)

This is still bed three, but an angle where you can see our banana trees. There is some land disturbance we've begun in this area, to hopefully benefit the fruit trees, but also the vegetables. As it will (fingers crossed) put a dent in the bush rats dinning habits. I have noticed the zucchini aren't being harvested overnight any more.

Clearing space next to the beds

We are planning on building another retaining wall, to the left. To do this, we removed the compost bays, and all the overgrown grass and passionfruit vines, that trailed down the hill. This was the bush rats corridor to good living from our vegetable patch. Now its all out in the open, they have to run the gauntlet of aerial predators at night.

More on that wall project later, but its largely due to David's handiwork. He dismantled the compost bays, relocated them, along with the compost, as well as cutting back the jungle. There was some lovely soil underneath all that mess.

Purple king bean

Back to the vegetable beds however, and in bed 2 now, the purple king beans have scaled an impressive height in just a few short weeks. Once they breached the height of the trellis, they started to entwine through the avocado tree branches.

I'm loving seeing how the vegetables are interacting with the large avocado tree. They're like green magnets, attracted to each other.

Spaghetti squash

Strangely enough, even the spaghetti squash, has decided to make friends with the avocado tree. It's tendrils have sort the shade of the lower hanging leafs, while still allowing the sunlight to make the flowers bloom.

I have about 4 squash developing on 4 individual plants. Hopefully there will be more. I've recently planted some new seeds too, for when these plants have done their dash.

Silverbeet and weeds

There's some bad news happening in beds two and one, however. By the presence of large scats, its our kangaroo neighbours. I knew they visited this area, and occasionally nibbled a leaf or two, but now they're entering the beds and squashing plants - like the silverbeet above, so I've had to erect barriers.

Concrete rebar barricade

This one got knocked over, overnight too, squashing the pineapple (far right). While we have received the occasional rain shower, enough to grow grass elsewhere, our new growing area is proving too tempting.

Herbivores aren't stupid. They would rather eat less, highly nutritional food, than eat more, with less nutrients. Even though there's food out there, it takes less energy to chew the foliage in our compact vegetable bed, than to visit the tufts of grass growing here and there.

While I don't mind them eating a little (they're more interested in the weeds than my vegetables) I can't have them squashing developing plants in the process. It only sets them back. So I have to make the decision I've been dreading. That is, fencing out the kangaroos from this area. Its not an easy location to fence, plus we have to build that retaining wall. But we need those nutrients for ourselves, to make up for the energy we're putting into the beds.

These are only small setbacks however. The real challenge, is summer! You never know what kind of conditions you're going to get. So while I think its great to get this far into our growing season, with minor issues, the future is yet to be decided.

To date though, we've eaten the very occasional strawberry, silverbeet, lots of zucchini and lovely herbs to add to our various egg dishes, complements of the chickens. So not bad.


  1. The delights of hidden strawberries! I love the feeling of instant happiness when you move away a leaf and bam...there it is in all its red loveliness.

    1. I know, its like a children's adventure for grown-ups, hunting around for strawberries. :)

  2. Your garden looks fantastic. It's such a treat for the eyes this time of year, since so much of mine is spent and in need of tidying up. You should have a great summer.

    1. I love to admire the Northern Hemisphere gardens, when mine dies back in the autumn too. Though I'm sure you're looking forward to the rest from the garden. It gets so hectic after the flurry of summer growth, doesn't it. :)

  3. It's looking great! I'll be interested in your rat solution. The bush rats have gone from here but I'm having trouble with introduced rats eating tomato plants. Never before has anything eaten tomato plants here. I can't plant any out until I've solved the problem. I've put bait down and have caught one, but there are obviously more.

    Ah, yes, summer! It's dry here. October in Melbourne is usually one of the wettest months....65 mm average. We've had none so far. Fruit is swelling on the trees and there's no moisture in the ground. Not looking forward to the next few months.

    My (small) choko died back over winter. Are they supposed to do that? There's new growth coming from the base now. When I planted it I was expecting it to take over the neighbourhood as everyone says they do, so I'm a bit disappointed.

    1. I feel your stress with fruit trees and no moisture in the ground. As that's when a tree will likely start to drop its fruit. I suspect that's why I don't get much fruit on our mature trees, due to heat stress. We always have a dry spell between winter rains and summer ones. A light shower is great during spring, but it can dry up in one hot day.

      Your choko is acting normally. It will be cut down to the ground with frosts, but should re-shoot again, with the warmer weather. If it was the first year of planting, it doesn't tend to take over, as its setting down its enormous tap root. Its the progressive years, where you'll see its explosive growth potential. If you don't harvest all your fruit either, and some fall to the ground, you'll get a secondary plant or more.

      I'd much rather have bush rats than the European ones. I've heard they keep the imported vermin away, because they're fiercely territorial. Our plan to deal with the bush rats (not explained in depth in my post) was to open up the surrounding areas which were overgrown. These overgrown areas protected the bush rats from their aerial predators. Since we've cleared it, we've had no nightly raids. The tomato plant I had in a separate area to the vegetable patch, however, had some overgrown areas nearby. Its those corridors of vegetation, which acts like a protective highway, to your plants.

      If you can plant your tomatoes in an exposed area, you may experience little to no damage. Though I've read the European rats have less fear and that's why they become somewhat of a menace. You need another carnivore on the job for you. We have a healthy population of hawks during the day time, and lot of owls during the night. We just have to give them, a clear view of their prey. ;)

  4. It seems like you just rehabbed these beds a few days ago! I am so happy that things are growing well for you. I read your blog in the early morning and all that good green food makes me want to have scrambled eggs with a salad for breakfast:)

    1. Haven't the months just flown by, so fast! I can't believe we're a month away from summer, and Christmas, already. If you do have those scrambled eggs, enjoy them. They sound yummy to me. :)

  5. That is how I feel. I can't beleive that we already had Halloween. Its been extremely warm for this time of year and some of my plants are still flowering such as the calendula. I noticed that some dandelions are emerging as well and I have to go take a look at one of my roses-it was blooming just a week ago. We are 20 degrees above average temps here and that is why I feel like the holidays are arriving to fast.


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