Saturday, December 31, 2011

First Week of the New Year and Summer Work-list

We have not had proper rain for more than a week since before Christmas Day.  Weather has been sunny especially these few days. 

1 January 2012 - Max 38 deg. Sunny and still.
2 January 2012 - Max 40 deg. Scorching heat, sunny and breezy-windy.
3 January 2012 - Max 35 deg. Cool morning, sunny and still day.
4 January 2012 - Max 24 deg. Sudden downpour early morning that lasted for less than 15 mins :(.
5 January 2012 - Max 23 deg. Sunny and cool.

This is our hottest start of the year in many years.  We will be expecting a very hot summer this year.

Work done -

Raking up olive and peach leaves.
Watering garden.
Catching white cabbage butterflies.
Caterpillar check on pak choy.
Stink bugs removal from tomato silvery fir.
Pruning vietnamese mint as they wilt easily in the hot weather.
Staking flowering and seeding coriander plants.
Pruning wisteria.
Pruning tomato plants.
Staking eggplants that are growing taller.
Moving black pots of ginger and thai basil into shade.

Harvesting -strawberries, sweet corns, tomato silver fir, stringless pioneer beans, water spinach/kang kong, pak choy, plums, peaches, white currants, green chilli fire,

Collecting - pak choy seeds, rocket seeds, coriander seeds.

Progress update - Sunflowers blooming, grapes still growing, Big Fig fruiting, Figgy's figs getting bigger, watermelon flowering, cucumber burpless' leading vine is 50cm tall and flowering, water chestnuts sending up new plants, more ginger shoots emerging from pots, pomegranates about pingpong ball size, lawn's greening and seeding and needs mowing.

The two pots of ginger are growing well.  Two new shoots are emerging.
One pot of lemongrass which I propagated. Hopefully with such a large tub of good potting mix, these stems will grow larger than those in the ground.

The second pot of lemongrass.
Galangal ginger still looking bad but I know they are alive.  I also notice a new shoot emerging.

Sunflower pollenless from Diggers' Club has bloomed. I did not expect these plants to be very big but they turned out to be very tall, about  1.2 metres.

I am not sure what it means to be pollenless as I do see bees visiting the sunflowers.

Our last yellow peach of the season is OURS! After sharing with beetles and possums, we had only about 10 to eat.

Everyday strawberries! 

Heaps of tomato silver fir and some sweet corns.

Took a picture of a crimson rosella (wildlife) in Emerald during our Friday outing to the Dandenongs.
I came upon this awesome tree (a type of conifer I think) and my son climbed it. I grew up climbing trees (not this big) and I think it is a wonderful experience. This amazing tree gives my boy much pleasure, he started at one end and went around the whole tree walking on its branches. In fact, soon after, two other older boys came and joined him. I love this picture but wish I had a better camera, which hubby wanted to buy me but I refused the offer.
I harvested lots of thai basil for a spicy chicken dish...My husband and son's favourite.

It's Not a Mum and Babe, It's Mr & Mrs Possum.

Two nights ago, I heard noise on the roof again. I could not remember some parts of what happened but I somehow ended in the back garden.  I waited quietly and patiently.  Within minutes, I heard a slight scratching sound and the possum (wildlife) was walking on the fence behind the grevillea and pomegranate trees. I had switched off all sensor lights and my torch so I had to depend on my hearing and night vision. Then I heard a slight rustle and light crunching sounds. I felt safe to turn on my torch and was shocked to see the possum feeding on the seeds and grains out of the bird feeding dish I placed under the grevillea tree. Suddenly there was a noise (can't remember now) on the front garden and this possum stood up, pricked up its ears and listened.  I noted that it has an amazing sense of hearing.  When it felt all was safe, he continued to feed on the bird seeds. Now that I know that it feeds on seeds and grains, I have to keep the tray each evening to cut this food suppy.
The possum down on the ground feeding on bird seeds.
I took some pictures but they are not very clear as it was dark.  I quickly went to my son's bedroom and got him out of bed, sleepy and have a look at the possum. The possum found a clear space on the wooden fence and scrambled up onto the shed.  My boy had a look at it on the shed before it proceeded to my adjacent neighbour's fence. I put my son back to bed. Upon returning to the back garden, the possum has gone so I just kept standing near my back door and quietly waited.

Soon after, I heard a sound of an animal jumping onto a tree.  Then I heard another sound.  It was like a baby bird chirping and I thought somehow the possum has gotten a baby bird near where the plum tree is. I do have two nymahs which have been frequently my roof and I am not sure if they are nesting.  So I decided to go to the front garden.

When I opened the gate of my front door, I saw the possum run from my peach tree to the olive tree. He went up the main trunk. I did not want to scare it away and stood afar. I also confirmed for the first time that there are two of them.  The other one was on my roof close to where the plum tree is.  The one on the olive tree then came down, went to the lawn and went for the peach tree. I saw how it got up the tree, it was easy anyway as the main branches are very close to ground. It went for the peaches. I did not stop it, I just watched. Then I approached it and it ran off to the olive tree again.  I saw that one peach has been picked and was tangling in the nets, so I decided to take it out.  I rolled it onto the lawn for the possum.  Well, he really came off the olive tree and started eating the peach.  I forgot that I had pyrethrum-sprayed the whole peach tree in the morning! It did not seem to mind. I pray he will not get poisoned. Gosh, this little fellow took like 45 minutes to eat one peach. In the dark, I could hear the other possum calling out to this dining one, and it sounded like a baby bird chirping. The dining one was so pre-occupied eating the peach it did not respond.
The low branches of my peach makes the plastic protection useless.
I stood in the dark watching the peach-eating possum. When the peach became smaller, it took the fruit up the olive tree and stayed on a branch to continue eating, and pooing at the same time. After finishing, he dropped the peach stone and remained on the tree.  I went to sit on my patio step as it was getting a bit cold for my feet. I was just wearing socks. When I came back to the tree, I watched the possum move on the branch and used the wire to get back onto my roof and ran off.

Less than 10 peaches this year for eating after peach curl, aphid attack, carpophilus beetles attack and possum  helping themselves.  However the main damage was done by the beetles.

The possum eating the peach given by me.
My camera flash was reflected by the silver foliage of the olive leaves and the picture came up very clear.
While the peach-eating possum stays on the ground, its partner was on the roof  looking at me.
In conclusion, the possum cannot get to my plum tree (which was it's first target of attack) now, so it gets to my olive tree via the wire and roof, and from there it gets down the tree to access my peach tree.  Next step of action - prune the olive tree and plastic-protect the trunk to cut off access. I also confirmed that they can walk very well on the thorny devils we have put up, so we are going to return them to the nursery!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cute Furry Possum Melts my Heart.

At about 230am last night, I heard noise on the roof so I decided to get onto the front of the house to have a check. When I shone my torch, I saw a bush tail possum (wildlife) scrambling across the lawn and up the fence behind the plum tree.  Immediately I got indoors and went to the back door. I shone my torch and found a pair of red eyes staring at me on the shed.  I turned off the torch and waited. It was dark and quiet. Then I heard a noise coming from the left.  Another possum is walking on the fence.  I shone my torch and it scrambled off.  That could be the mother? I turned off the torch and waited again. When I turned on the torch next, the possum was on the fence where my choko vine is. I was not scared this time (the first encounter was a bit scary as I did not know what to expect). The cat-sized furry creature looked at me and I at it. Almost immediately my heart melted.  It is so cute! I was actually talking to it in the middle of the morning!

It decided to get back onto the shed.  I could not see how it walked behind the grevillea and pomegranate trees as it was dark. I turned on my torch, went near the shed, stood on my garden chair and shone the torch at it. Oh it was on the shed's roof and it was very cute! Again, we looked at each other. It looks very docile and unfazed. Then it went onto my neighbour's fence.  I returned to my back door with light off.  A while later, I heard slight noise.  It came back to the fence where my choko vine is. Obviously, it has hoped to get some choko shoots. I shone the torch again. For the very first time, I saw how this agile creature walk on the fence. It can actually avoid jumping over the chicken wire mesh and my black netting by walking on the horizontal wooden bars supporting the fence which is on the same side of my neighbour's fence. 

I figure I can stop it from eating my plants completely by erecting a whole stretch of loose black netting.  It seems to walk on the thorny devils fine but I needed to have another good look to assess this.  Honestly, I am beginning to like this creature.  It obviously does not know those plants belong to me. It is just looking for a meal every night. It does not know that it is offending me by nibbling my plants.  It is just trying to survive. I reckon I can share some shoots every now and then.  Anyway, those stray shoots that go higher than the fence need to be pruned off.  So, why not let it do the pruning for me? At the same time, it can have a meal.  I just hope it will not come live in our roof!

This morning, I pyrethrum sprayed  both my peach trees just to deter the carpophilus beetles from invading the remaining few peaches .  I had already removed as many fungus-infected peaches and trimmed off as many branches to open up the big peach tree.  I think we will have about 10 or less peaches to enjoy this summer.  I managed to harvest a few, not fully ripened but already slightly fungus-affected and they still taste wonderful to my hubby and son. I noticed that one peach is missing from the tree.  When I looked around, I saw a clean peach stone under the olive tree.  And then I saw a peach on the lower part of the tree with a chunk bitten off.  Then the pictures pieced together.  The possum must be going for my peaches last night when I came out to the front garden. Oh well, one or two peaches for it is fine I guess. I just have to make sure it does not come for my corn or tomatoes or watermelons or beans. Gosh, I think I need a big cage to do gardening now...cage all my plants....

The strawberries and their flowers have been safe so far after netting them.

The strawberries and their flowers have been safe so far after netting them.

First cucumber vine is flowering but waiting for the other younger vines to catch up.

Yippee....a big bunch of Chinese/garlic chives!

Chives with squid.

Yummy silvery fir tomatoes ripening every day.

This mixed Basil is grown between my two tomato silvery fir.

Harvested tomatoes, pak choy and mixed Basil.

I have grilled tomatoes with basil and cheese every day.  Super juicy and sweet!

Sweet corns almost ready. It has thick layers of protective leaves so I hope the possums will spare them for us.

Sydney Crimson rhubard's growing big and strong.  Need to find a recipe soon.

I am very excited to find a carolina black rose grapevine growing on the front. I had used my grape prunings as stakes for my snowpea plants and one of the stakes decided to grow into a new plant.  There were two areas of leaves but I removed the lower set as I plan to experiment with this vine and turn it into a tree.

Peach Tree is Sick...Beware, Disgusting Pictures Follow.

Weather this Christmas' week has been quite mild.  My area did not get much rain and we had mild sunny long days.  Some unfortunate folks in western Victoria had too much rain and there was damaging flash flooding and hail, so I will not complain on getting too little rain.  The sun was not really enough to get things growing.

Although we have put up the thorny devils to deter possums, two of my choko shoots still got eaten two nights ago. If the possum did not walk on the fence, it could have jumped to and fro our neighbour's gutter onto our fence and nibbled off the shoots.  Secretly I am happy it came back!!! I must be mad!!! It is really a love-hate relationship.  I want it to be able to find food and survive but I do not want it to stay on my property permanently or cause too much damage. I am even tempted to feed it. Somehow I am doing everything I can to stop it/them just because I want to outwit them! It's not fun losing to an animal :P.

Last night we slept at nearly midnight as we caught an afternoon nap as a family. When we were comfortably in bed, I heard some noise on the roof above me. My son and I went out to have a look but found nothing.  We looked at the stars and a spider on its web instead.  My son went back to bed and slept.  I went back to reading on my Ipad. And I heard another noise.  I rushed to my bedroom window and caught sight of a small possum wire-walking away from our house. It does not look like the bush tails which came a week ago.  It was a bit far for me to confirm what possum it was.  It could be a new possum as it was much gentler the way it came and went on our roof. The bush tails were really noisy and heavy-footed.

Possums aside, I now have to deal with brown rot and carpophilus/dried fruit beetle (pests) problem on our peach tree. Our peach tree has been really sick this year.  It had leaf curl followed by aphid attacks and now this.  I had to remove a lot of peaches, gummy branches and dead brown shoots. I have been reading up a lot on this beetle and I have to get rid of them once and for all.  I really have to step up with garden hygiene as well as pesticide/fertiliser applications for the peach tree so that I can get better results next year.

Gummy sap on the peach.
Carpophilus/dried fruit beetle on the peach.

The peach stone/shell all ruined.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 2011 - Summer Update

17 December -

-Removed more plum tree branches to stop possum invasion.
-Netted grapevine.
-Repotted comquat calamondin.
-Harvested more pioneer green beans, strawberries, tomatoes, thai basil.
-Cucumber, kang kang (water spinach) & eggplant sped up in growth.
-Chilli fire fruits growing fast and chilli padi plants growing young chillies.
-Figgy has 20 figs growing!
-Corn almost ready for harvest.

21 December -

- Harvesting plums, tomatoes, thai basil, kaffir lime, lemongrass, pioneer beans

22 December -

- Sprayed grape vine with sodium bicarbonate+soap+oil+water.
- Installed thorny devil possum spikes.
Three watermelon Candy Red looking strong and healthy so far.
Diggers' Sunflower pollenless plants are larger than I have expected.
Diggers' Tomato silvery fir are ripening.

Figgy out of my dining window with lots of figs (brown turkey).
Another shot of Figgy from my dining area.

Finally I see pomegranates. Out of at least 30 flowers, I see 3 fruits.
Kang Kong (water spinach)

Hubby found an Aussie website selling possum deterents called thorny devils. They are rubbery spiky products which we can screw onto the top of our fence. I went down to the stockist (Pinewood Nursery) and bought some home. On the left side of my back garden fence, we screwed in some L-shaped thorny devils.
On the right side of my back garden fence (next to the shed where the possums came from), we installed some thorny devils and nails.
This is a picture of how one type looks like. It fits nicely onto a fence with wooden capping.  So far for the last three nights, we have not had the pests (possum mum and baby) visit our garden and eat our things.  I was very relieved my plans had worked but I was at the same time feeling like a villain.  Honestly, I am one big animal lover. I love possums too.  Moreover the ones which visited are a mummy and a baby. One night they came and I saw them up on the plum tree out of my son's window. I actually went out in my bathrobe shooting a jet of water onto them with a strong nozzle.  The baby tried to jump from the plum tree onto our roof but fell to the ground and scrambled up the fence and escaped.  Sigh...I want them to survive and find food but I just cannot have them eating up my things. I do hope they can find other things in nature to eat other than my fruit and vegetable crops.  My son asked me to feed them but I cannot afford to do so. I will encourage them to be dependent on us and even attract them to live in our roof! There are just too many good reasons not to have them around our property. I already have a dog, several fishes and the pigeons to feed and they are very harmless, but possums are just a bit risky to invite.
Harvested another lot of beans and tomatoes. The tomatoes are really juicy.

A dish of beans and minced pork.
Finally I bought a cheap vase from IKEA to display my hydrangeas on the dining table.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Garden Gadgets, Possum Problem

12 December
- milk spray on grapevine
- bicarbonate spray on pak choy pods, destroy fungi-infected pak choy pods (hot water treatment)
- weeding around patch at front of house

14 December, cloudy with sunny breaks, 21 deg max
- watering the garden
- harvesting pioneer beans, tung O, strawberries, kao kee

15 December, sunny.
- milk spray grapevine, kao kee, hydrangeas
The naughty bush-tail possum nipped and ate the young shoots of my choko vine.

Here's another shoot eaten. On Monday night, my boy and I camped in our back garden and for the first time, I saw the 'burglar' jumping onto my plum tree and walking on our fence and on our shed.

I have been harvesting pioneer stringless beans for freezing as the quantity was not enough for cooking.

The bean plants, about 5 of them, are growing beans at different speeds.

My wisteria in the pot climbed up the beam in a clock-wise fashion. Not too sure if I would get any flowers.

A yummy bunch of Tung O (edible chrysantemum) for soup.

Beans and a fig (brown turkey).

Made a few cups of lemon balm tea this week. Refreshing!

A bunch of kao kee for soup too.

Steady supply of strawberries every day.

Here's a look at 3 of my wonderful gardening gadgets : Left to right - 1. Handsfree nozzle 2.Green Spray head. 3. Blue fireman nozzle. They are precious to me for watering my garden since I suffer from shoulder and neck problems, as they are handsfree and the sprays are adjustable.  Care to be taken when using them as if they are dropped, they can damage quite easily.

I bought this cheap spray unit from Bunnings for $7, the cheapest displayed. It actually works wonderfully. This morning I used it for the first time for milk-spraying my grape vine, kao kee and hydrangea. It really beats using 500ml spray bottles which really aggravates my shoulder/neck problem. It is also fantastic for large quantity of solutions.

"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