Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Garlic fail - part two..... the pre Christmas postscrip.

Last month I posted about my sad little garlic harvest...... I was little ashamed to mention the postscript to this story, thinking it was a reflection of my poor garlic husbandry skills.

A week or so after pulling the garlic I had it all on in a tray drying in my living area. I could small a strong garlic odour but wasn't too concerned as normally, when its not so damm cold and miserable I dry it outside in our covered BBQ area (which is on the south wall of the house) where I assumed the smell would dissipate. The smell went on for the rest of the busy week until I decided to sort and separate what was worth eating from the smaller cloves that I intended to put back for another year. Much to my dismay I found that half the heads felt empty inside. The cloves themselves had shriveled and gone almost butter-like in texture.  Most of what little I harvested was now apparently ruined. I assumed it was some kind of bulb rot and put most of the affected cloves into the worm farm.

Fast forward to pre Christmas preparations at the Gasworks Farmers Market collecting my free range ham from Bronwyn and Michael at Gypsy Pig. On my round of the market I purchased a bag of garlic and got chatting with the farmer about my garlic incident. He immediately diagnosed the cause.... I had sun burnt my garlic! After I pulled out the garlic it was a little damp so I left it on our outdoor table for a day before I brought it inside. Apparently 15 minutes in the sun is enough to do it- so a few hours and I had essentially cooked up my cloves. Who would have thought. Oh well lesson learnt. It won't happen again and I am feeling a little less insecure about my garlic growing skills- rather it was my garlic harvesting skills that were more of a problem!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The tomato project -part 1

My tomato patch at the community garden
It seems ages since I have had a decent crop of tomatoes. I have to swing my mind back 13 years to a rental share house on the other side town where it seemed like magically with little effort we just had buckets of them -quite literally. Here at my current home, the past few years have not been kind to my tomato growing efforts. Throw in climatic factors; too hot, too cold; not enough rain; too much rain (Melbourne's erratic weather),  lack of full sun and my experiments (pre-chook days) with perhaps a bit of an overdose on worm castings and worm wee that yielded huge green plants but little fruit,  its been a long time since my last bumper harvest. Last year for the first time I had a decent crop ready to ripen but that disappeared thanks to a boom in the population of the local rats.

This year,back in the depths of winter, I decided to get organised a set up a tomato growing strategy. It started with Bek's call out to help her clear out her seed collection. It was very exciting to receive in the old fashioned post a beautiful envelope containing neatly labelled plastic zip-lock bags with the following selection:

  • Ned Kelly
  • Big Beef
  • Champion
  • New Yorker
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • (and most intriguingly) Big White Pink Stripe (lets call that BWPS).

To that collection I added two kinds of cherry, Yellow pear and some Mini Roma. The cherry tomatoes included a small sweet tomato I took from the planter garden (variety unknown) and what I refer to as feral cherry- the cherry tomatoes that seem to crop up everywhere around the garden. Unfortunately due to an accident during seed sowing the Mini Roma got tipped into the BWPS so its going to be interesting to see what grows where.

My first step back in July was sowing a few of each into strawberry and tomato punnets. These act as perfect mini greenhouses out on the front porch in the northern winter sun. The punnets were lined up in a kitty litter tray so they could be bought inside and put in front of the heater at night. That technique seems to work and I got excellent germination. Once the plants had their first sets of decent leaves I planted them out into single tubes or two by two into small pots.

Having grown far too many seedlings for my own use (I have kept 2 of each of the standard varieties) I sold seedlings off for a gold coin donation at work and at a little stall I set up for an hour and a half as part of the Garage Sale Trail Day (basically this was an event encouraging everyone to have garage sales that offered me the chance to publicise my sale via a listing on the website). With very little effort, my combined sales of excess chilies, eggplants and capsicum came to $52 which has been donated to Oxfam to help fund local food growing programs in East Timor.

This year with my expansion out into a community garden, I have shifted the focus on my backyard beds leaving only cherry varieties in the backyard. There are numerous cherry plants filling out the various pots and tubs and a row of the 'feral' variety lined up on the back fence. Yellow pears and either mini roma or BWPS are out in the planter boxes and a full plot of standard tomatoes in the community garden plot. Not content with that I have planted out all my left over seedlings in the adjacent plot that seems to have been abandoned. I am hoping with any success the community garden will be so overrun with tomatoes that the crop from that bed can be distributed to one of the many community or refugee  groups that could use donations of fresh vegetables. Stay tuned to see how it all works out!