Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hottest Week of the Century

Weather Forecast says this week could be Melbourne's hottest time of the century! Temperature is expected to be 41 degrees celsius today. I woke up really early despite late shopping the night before. Had to give the plants a good watering before the heat came. Yates Multi- Nutrient Plant Food was on sale and I bought a bottle for my garden babies. It is made up of Chicken Manure, Blood and Bone, Seaweed extract and Fish emulsion and providing Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorous for good plant health. I prepared 10L of it and fed all the plants before the sun came up fierce. Here's a picture of my first sunflower :
Here's the two gorgeous Mighty Red ripening daily :
The shallot in the pot has produced two clusters of flowers on tall stalks. Before the sac burst, it really looked like an alien waiting to erupt. Here's a close-up after the sac burst and I am anticipating the look of the opened flowers.
Surprisingly, found a caterpillar feeding on the potato leaves which I thought are poisonous.
The buk choy look so much better now since their growth is not hindered by tiny caterpillars feeding on them.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bay - A New Candidate in the Garden.

I caught this bug climbing up a wall in the house and wondered if it was a lady bug since it really does look like one except the strange brown-gold colour. I wrote to 'Ladybirds of Australia' and Adam told me that it is a leaf beetle of the family Chrysomelidae feeding on eucalyptus. is a good site to identify lady bugs in our gardens. This one is a good one which feeds on fungus. I found it on my vegetable patch! :) is another great site to learn about lady bugs - the good and the bad and the evil. And I thought all of them are good!
Harvested 11 pieces of my precious vietnamese/hot mint for a meat dish. Yum!
Very pleased to say that my lavender is a survivor in spite of being under the hands of an inexperienced non-green-fingered gardener like me! I think the pyrethrum I gave it could have really burnt the leaves. Could have been too generous and too near with the pyrethrum when I tried to deal with the pesky whiteflies attacking it. Brutally chopping much of it, though it was already summer, proved to be a good thing (kept my fingers 'crossed')(Refer 9 Jan 09 - Keeping Check). It survived and has been putting on green healthy leaves. I never gave up on you. Please dont give up on me. :)
Bought this bay from Flower Power...only $2. No harm trying to grow it. I have re-potting it inot a gigantic pot, being hopeful that it is going to grow into a potted tree for my new house! In cheap potting mix + blood and bone + seasol + dried danelion leaves (at base). It was shaded by a large box for a few days before being fully exposed to the summer sun.
A few of the Mighty Red tomatoes are turning orange. It is really exciting to see that and I hope possums would not ruin my joy by stealing them in the night. Look at the shine! No pesticides or chemical sprays on the skin!
My largest Sun King Sunflower is due to open its flower soon, revealing its yellow petals today. Interesting to find out that they will face the rising Eastern sun each day.
Mixed basil germinating well in the pot. It will interesting to find out what sort of basils I have got and how they finally look like.
The two groups of capsicums are doing fine. This clump has been thinned out severely. The other clump has been attacked by grasshoppers or some leaf-eating insects but are good still.
This Purple King bean plant of two is doing well. I think the other one is going to die, looking at the way it is developing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Two Baby Melons! Buk Choy Attack!

An extremely gusty morning....50km/h. Weather forecast to rain but it does not look like it is. Anyway hoping that the winds will settle down as most of my plants are bowing under its power. I had to tie the potato plant in the vege patch to a new stake and attach more strings to a few of the tomato stems to stakes. I had added some blood and bone to feed the tomato bush and melons last evening and this morning discovered that one of the dogs had gone over the fence and dug around it. :( As I was replacing soil around the melons, I saw that two of them have produced a fruit each. It could be either rockmelon or honeydew. I am very pleasantly surprised. As I have stated in one previous entry, I am happy enough to see them germinate and flower as this is my first attempt growing melons. If I were able to harvest some fruits, that would be lovely. But just to reach this fruiting stage is a blessing. :) Thanks bees!!! Here are the pics :
The pak choy are not doing too well and I have been spotting holes in their leaves. I also fed them some blood and bone last evening by digging at the sides and burying thereafter. This morning, some strange-looking flies were on their leaves and soil. Are they the culprits? Or did the blood and bone attract them? Several sprays of pyrethrum preparation killed them. Well, I wish I need not use sprays. After 'consulting' my friend who gave me the pak choy seeds, I came back and opened up the centre of the vegetable. To my horror, she was right. There were two dead caterpillars (likely due to the spray) in the midst and one in the soil, still alive. They were very tiny light green caterpillars. I have never noticed them! They were the most probable culprits for the holes in the leaves. It is highly possible that the flies (which are not houseflies) have laid eggs on the pak choy or in the surrounding soil.
This pot below is always my pride and joy. The two vietnamese mints are producing so many new leaves. Looks like I have better do some vietnamese rolls soon. :) Not many things thrive in pots but I am left with not many choices since I am on a rented property and am going to move to a new home soon. The potatoes in the pots have paler leaves than the one in the soil. Eversince I potted the oregano from the ground, its leaves are also paler. Those grown in the ground almost 100% out-do those in pots such as the lemon balm. I have to accept this fact and was rather prepared mentally for this outcome. However, I would love to study the reasons for this. Why do plants do so much better in the ground than in pots? Are they so clever they know they have limited space even when they are still tiny? I guess it is very important to make thorough research on what do well in pots and what do well in soil. And also on how to improve pot soil so that my plants can do well equally in them. Looks like some homework for me to do.
This is a picture of my vege patch and potted plants. I think I have never taken a picture of the whole area :
Temperatures set to be a high of 34 deg celcius again. Rain or scorching heat? Strong winds whole day? At 5pm, the sky turned gloomy and looked like some storm is seriously coming. I used new and clear half-cut plastic bags to wrap up some of the larger tomato bunches since I have read that rains do cause them to crack. Tying an umbrella over the bush is out of the question as the wind is really powerful. Pails ready to collect some rain. Any?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another Hot & Scorching Summer Day.

Another scorching hot day! I had put up some form of defence system today for my plants - umbrellas! And lots of watering. Set up 3 umbrellas and amazingly, those plants under them are not scorched down. Those which did not have umbrellas certainly bore the grunt of the heat and sunshine. Fortunately, towards evening winds were strong and there were no casulty. Caught another grasshopper (pests)! Wonder what I can do to deal with them. They hop about and I had to be really quick in catching them. Spotted a yellow bug on the sunflower and it seems like a lady bug. My newly repotted rosemary is producing new soft growth, a good sign. I reckon I would have to change it to a larger pot soon as I read that their roots grow quite deep.
A picture of the remaining batch of greengages.
The tomato sucker which rooted standing in a jar of water for more than a week and planted into potting mix with blood and bone, seasol and crushed egg shells.
A new pot in my garden - cayenne pepper. A birthday pressie from Fina. What a pleasant surprise!!! :) I have tried unsuccessfully to grow chillies..twice the seedling stunted after being 1 inch tall. I have concluded that the problem must be the quality of the seeds.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Garden Detective Work - Bugs Galore!

A hot and scorching day. 38 degree celsius. Some of the melons lay looking really scorched at mid-day. I had to give them extra amount of watering. Early morning started with lots o dew and I selectively watered only the bay and tomato (transplanted from rooted sucker, see Tomatoes, Melons, Potatoes and Capsicum dated 15 Jan 09), since they were just planted and probably needed more moisture than the others. When evening came, the heat was gone and a cool change arrived with periodical breezes. It was a lovely evening so I decided to spend some time out doing closer examination of my garden babies. Good decision! I did not know that I could have found so many things out there. Some of the sunflower leaves look tattered like that. Wonder what caused this. A few leaves of my tomato bush look like that. Not necessarily caused by pests but I have to do further research on this.
  Ants going up and down the stems of the sunflower.

This caterpillar above! I noticed two tiny laksa/vietnamese mint leaves wrapped up in a strange way. I remember that happened to my spearmint before. Unfoiling revealed a tiny caterpillar! Gosh! Organic gardening indeed requires meticulous examination on a regular basis. Get them before they destroy my garden!
I spied a praying mantis (garden friends) on the sunflower leaves for the first time! A good bug though I dont quite that that evil look and how predatory it is.
A grasshopper (pests) amongst my tomato bush! A good find before it ruins the leaves! I did not have the slightest idea how to catch it. I just moved some leaves away and grabbed it at lightning speed. Not bad at all, my action was faster than that critter. A tiny spider has somehow found its way to my little tomato plant. Only two leaves but it has decided to build its home there. I thought I will just leave it there since it can probably take care of some pests for me.
Just to record, I have caught two other brown caterpillars recently - one on the sunflower and one on my tomato bush. It pays to be vigilant.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Melons, Tomatoes, Potatoes and Capsicum

These sunflowers are more than 1 metre tall now, towering over everything. Not sure if I should prune their leaves but anyhow I did, as their large leaves are preventing the melons and tomato bush from getting their share of sunshine.
Tendrils appearing. Providing a support could be good for such a small space but then again if they do fruit, the fruits are going to be heavy to support.
The melons are growing a little close to one another but I hope by feeding them well, they will do well. Lots of yellow flowers and some bees coming but not really sure if there would be fruits. But it is still a joy to have them grown successfully just from pulp! :)
This tomato seedling was actually a sucker broken off from the Mighty Red tomato bush, kept in water for a week or so and it produced a lot of roots. Last two days was horrendously hot so I patiently waited for today to plant it into the large pot I have prepared. In pot was cheap potting mix + seasol + worm tea + blood and bone + crushed egg shells.
Despite the cool weather, morning was a little warm for the well-watered seedling and it went limp. I misted the seedling several times.
When noon came, a sudden idea of shading it with an umbrella came and it worked great. I also nipped off part of the larger leaf to cut moisture loss. When I checked at 4pm, the stem was sturdy and firm, showing that it is doing well. Congratulations to a successful potting! Now I shall see how it will grow in this soil cocktail.
The clump of capsicum (forgotten the yellow or red) is growing good and I am waiting for them to grow bigger and a good weather to thin them out. Given them worm tea regularly.
One of the 11 or 12 clusters of tomatoes on the bush! 11x 4 is 44 tomatoes waiting to enlarge and ripen!!!
Another cluster!
A little potato plant emerging in the soil in vege patch and growing from the parent plant.
A little potato plant growing from the parent plant in the soil in the large pot of potting mix.
I have fixed up these water feeders or whatever they are called to help feed water to the roots of the plants.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Keeping Check.

Sam and I harvested some more of the greengages. They are quite fragile and since the tree is tall, some fell onto the ground and the impact caused broken skin. Given that to doggy which happily ate them up.
Thought this oregano is fighting space and nutrients with one of the melons close by, as the melon did not seem to be growing healthily and turning yellow, so I have dug the oregano up and potted it. It did amazingly well even in 37-39 deg celsius weather in the potting mix with seasol. I made sure drainage is good by placing the planter box on a sloped ground.
My two beautiful Laksa plants (vietnamese mint) are flourishing, growing taller and having more baby leaves. One thing for sure is to keep watering them :) least I am sure they thrive with lots of water!
Rosemary is truly strong, not even showing any fuzz after being repotted in new potting mix! And seems to be growing, having more stems appearing.
The two potato plants in the pot are growing stronger day by day, with new baby leaves growing on the stems, which is a good sign of health. Leaves are also firmer now.
Thyme continue to flourish in the pot. Hoping to see some flowering soon before I cut them back.
All the four Buk choy seeds germinated. I should have placed all four separately instead of pairing them up. :( good lesson learned.
Tip : If soil is dry, water before sowing. Use a watering can which allows gentle watering. Never sow and then water as the soil may form a crust over the seed and prevent entry of water to the seed or even prevent seedlings from breaking through to the light.
The bare lemon mint stem is doing so surprisingly well, growing baby leaves even in the seemingly dry soil.
I have pruned many leaves off the tomato plant and tied drooping branches to supports. Also pruned off some flowers so that the existing tomatoes would get most of the nutrients.
The mint cuttings have rooted well so I planted them into the potting mix yesterday evening, with mulching and kept them indoors overnight, with lots of watering and seasol. They have been taking it in and are out in the sun this afternoon when the sunshine is not so harsh.
Cut the lavendar back and hope that it will grow better from below. Also tested the drainage of the soil. Quite sure drainage is fine. Hoping that the leaves will revive and not continue to turn yellow brown. Not sure if the pyrethrum spray has caused the yellowing and browning of the leaves.
Both purple king have emerged! This morning this one could not be seen and in the afternoon, I was shocked to see that it has come out! Driven two supports into the ground.
This potato plant looked like it was going to die few days back but it survived!
"All that mankind needs for good health and healing is provided by God in nature...the challenge of Science is to find it." - Paracelcus, the father of Pharmcology, 1493 - 1541