Archive for February, 2010

Chuckles’ friends & relations

February 27th, 2010

Chuckles

Chuckles

Chuckles dropped by this morning with a few friends and relations in tow.  We were being formally introduced -so to speak.  They were a very attractive lot.  You could certainly see the family likeness there.  She seemed so very proud of them all. 

Chuckles friends watching proceedings

Chuckles friends watching proceedings

She showed off in front of them by coming right up to the door as I walked out.  ‘She is so brave’, they all seemed to be thinking.  They waited patiently along on the side of the porch railing, being patient is something kookaburras do so very well.  They looked like they were lining up in a bank waiting for a teller.  Or perhaps standing in line for a hamburger, which was a little more appropriate for a kookaburra.

They were all very polite and just a little reserved.  Although they had quite a bit to say to each other.  I could not quite make out what they were saying, as I don’t talk kookaburra, but I think they were commenting upon my garden and how comfortable my porch railing was to sit upon.

Chuckles - with his friends

Chuckles - with his friends

I nodded to them and wished them good morning, then Chuckles & I went about our business & Chuckles baby came down a little closer, making the sort of noises a hungry baby kookaburra is inclined to make.  The others watched from a distance, very interested indeed.  After the show was over – so to speak, they flew off and I waved them good bye.

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February Recipe

February 25th, 2010

Lovely ripe tomatoes

Lovely ripe tomatoes

Fresh Tomato Soup

 

When my tomatoes are growing faster than I can use them in salads I make this soup.  It is nice hot or cold.

Fresh tomato soup - serve hot or cold

Fresh tomato soup - serve hot or cold

1 -1.5 Kgm ripe red tomatoes

2 teaspoons salt or to taste

1/4 cup of rice

Put the tomatoes into a large pan, chopping them into large chunks.  Cook on medium until the tomatoes are turning into mush.  You can add some garlic and or onions if you like.  Once the tomatoes are cooked a bit add in your rice and cook away some more – up to an hour.  The rice helps to thicken the soup.  Mash it down with a stick blender and you are done!

I like to serve my soup with some yoghurt and basil.  Yummm!  I don’t press my soup through a sive to remove the pips – but you can if you wish.

Enjoy!

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In amongst the weeds

February 23rd, 2010

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Yes, they are back!  Not that they ever seem to go away.  The thing is to get in down amongst them and hack away!  ‘A weed’ I say through clenched teeth,’is only a plant growing in the wrong place!’  I say this to myself as I scratch away at that rock hard clay soil, where my poor little plants are getting somewhat overgrown by lush, green weeds with roots that seem determined to stay put!  Waddles and Hazel are down in amongst them as well!  Although they mean well, they are no help at all!  Still, it is the only way with weeds.  You just have to keep on at them!

GardenFeb10 014I remember when I first began in my garden I had weeded very carefully, done a good job, or so I thought and a friend of mine came over to share a cuppa and after I showed her proudly around my little garden. ‘ I just finishedweeded here yesterday’ I modestly informed her. ‘ But you have forgot to weed that one out!’ she exclaimed.  ‘Oh, no, thats not a weed,’ I replied, ‘Its a pretty little ground cover that has lovely little blue flowers’  Hmmmm.

GardenFeb10 018The next few weeks I realised how very wrong I was, although it was certainly a ground cover – also a plant cover and in my lawn and over the top of the little plants I had planted.  Definately not a dear little thing at all!   Still, live and learn.

Today, being vastly more experienced, I can tell which are weeds and which are not.  I have even learned the names of quite a few, I am you might say on intimate terms with them all!  But, weeding is not all gloom and doom!  You can even begin to enjoy yourself!  You can get into an almost zen state!  Into the flow….  Waddles and Hazel, the ducks, find it most exciting, you just never know what might turn up, snails, slugs – they live in hope.  They try different weeds to see if they are tasty, onion weed is not too bad, but if you are duck you should not indulge in onion weed too much.

Don't worry I'll help!

Don't worry I'll help!

While weeding yesterday, I noticed that Yorik the Yabby has built his castle mud mound even higher and has added – always the DIY specialist – a leaf door on the top.  Quite beautiful, if you are a yabby but a little unfortunate looking from my angle as a gardener.  Being positioned, as it is, in the middle of a garden bed and looking like some kind of strange feature.  Still, live and let live.  Yorik does quite well really, his is the tallest clay feature and there are many yabbies living in my back garden, he seems to outwit all the kookaburras, including Chuckles.  Although, I see Chuckles parked up on my balcony just above Yoriks’ castle and watching very patiently…all things come to she who waits she seems to be saying to herself!  I try to keep out of things like that, but yabbies don’t help make a garden bed look better!  I try to resist the temptation to knock down the tower, I know he will only build it even higher the next night.

Oh, well,back to the weeding….back into the flow….Oh!  Girls, I’ve found a snail!

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Getting into the swim

February 19th, 2010

Did anyone say 'water'?

Did anyone say 'water'?

Ducks love water.  My ducks like nothing better than to play about in their little water pool, but when they first arrived in my garden as little tiny ducklings they had to wait for a bit until they got a little older for their first swim.  I remember it well!  Of course I took heaps of pictures of the great event and I thought I would share some with you today!  It was a lot of fun esp for Waddles and Hazel.  They splashed about and chased each other around and around.  Lots of fun and games.

 

Learning the duck paddle

Learning the duck paddle

 

 

 

They took to water like….ducks!    Yes, it is true to say that their favourite thing of all things is water, although a tasty snail is quite a treat also.  That first day was sunny and pretty, just made for messing about in the water.

 

drying off

drying off

 But they did look a little bedraggled after!   A great deal of time had to be spent drying off and preening.  Well, a girl must look her best.  And then, back into the water for some more fun!

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New Beginnings

February 17th, 2010

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I am absolutely amazed at the capacity for plants to regenerate from all sorts of bits and pieces – leaves, roots, stems and of course, seeds – aren’t plants clever?  Propagation by seed is one of the most popular ways of creating new plants and it is heaps of fun! 

GardenFeb10 017Another easy method to make new plants is division, this method is suitable for clumping perennials like clivias, agapanthus and bearded iris.  It is done when flowering is finished and the plant is entering a growth cycle.  Cut back the green leafy material above the ground and dig out the clump with a large fork.  Then, divide the clump into several pieces, using a sharp, strong knife.  Replant the clumps and water in. – Plants for free!!

GardenFeb10 024You can also take tip cuttings, this is the best method for a wide range of woody plants, including camelias, azaelias, fuchia etc.  Cuttings are ideally taken in mid to late summer, now in fact.  I use what I prune, pretty much whenever I prune and am in the mood to create.  Cuttings should be 10 to 15 cm long with three or four sets of ‘eyes’.  Remove half of the lower leaves and dip the end in a rooting hormone powder to assist the strike rate.  If you don’t have any rooting hormone powder you can try honey, it works well.  Make a little hole in your propagating mix with a chop stick, then pop in your cutting.  Water and make sure to keep it damp while your new little plants work away at making roots. 

The thing is to try it!  It is really magic, and if you have some children about try putting a little cutting of a fuchsia or pelargonium into a glass of water and watch the roots form over the next month.  Plants are clever creatures!

Happy gardening!

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February Plant

February 15th, 2010

Sweet-scented Gardenia

Sweet-scented Gardenia

Gardenia

The Gardenia must be my favourite plant in February!  When the gardenia begins to unfurl its perfect, thick white petals and send out its delicious sweet scent you know summer is here for sure!  One of the many joys of gardening is the scent that each season introduces.  The scent of the Gardenia is summer, and a hot summer is something that Gardenias love! 

Gardenia Jasminoides 'Florida'

Gardenia Jasminoides 'Florida'

As well as the warmth of summer days they need plenty of water and feeding.  But they reward you for all the work you put in with beautiful blooms which are pure white in full bloom, darkening to a creamy-yellow as they age.  I keep my Gardenia in a pot, on my balcony, so that on warm summer evenings it can send out its fragrance in waves of pure joy!  A lovely addition to a perfect cool summer evening!

GardenFeb10 010Keeping my gardenia in a pot is also good for over wintering because I can keep it where the Old Man Frost cannot put his cold hands upon it.  Something that no self respecting Gardenia would enjoy!  No Gardenia will tolerate frost!  The Gardenias are native to Africa and Asia, and enjoy warm situations.  They do not care to get too cold.  This year my dear little gardenia decided to tease me a little, as they do, by covering itself with buds – how exciting, and then only opening one flower at a time.  The little tease!  Still, I do love the gardenia, well, I do this month!

Happy Gardening!

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Summer Skies

February 13th, 2010

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I decided last year that I have neither the time or the inclination to trot around holding the hands of those plants that look up at me and gasp, ‘Water, please!!!’ So, I have begun experimenting with more waterwise plants. As Australia continues to struggle with climate change, and I and other gardeners struggle with our water restrictions,  I am moving more to the Mediterranean plants along with our natives.  Mulching is now essential.  My exciting find this year has been the Cistus – the hardy rock roses, these come from the Mediterranean  and the Canary Islands.  They require very little water and their delicate crepey blooms flower for months.  They seem to manage over the winter with the frosts that my garden has, so have been a good choice. 

Rosemary loves summer skies

Rosemary loves summer skies

Clivias, of course, are a great  favourite and one of the most useful, easy-to-please plants, they don’t even mind dry shady spots.  So, good for them, must buy some more!!

Our old friend the Lavender – well, what can I say?  They just seem to thrive in the heat. But they do tend to get leggy and I find can sometimes mysteriously drop dead.  Always a sad thing,  maybe it is the frost.  But I will keep trying with them, just because I love them.  I think the Lavandula angustifolia, or English lavender is the toughest.  Maybe I should just stick to that one and give up on the other varieties.  I don’t know.  Maybe where I live it just gets too wet and frosty in the winter.

Pineapple sage

Pineapple sage

The spring flowering bulbs such as grape hyacinths, sparaxis, freesias etc. don’t even want any water over the summer because that is their dormant period – well, they make a perfect choice for the waterwise garden.   

The lawn will green again when the rain comes

The lawn will green again when the rain comes

Herbs too can be terrific as ground cover – rosemary, sage these do very well.  The hebe seems to stand absolutely anything too.  Experimenting can be fun.

Well, happy gardening!

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February Jobs

February 10th, 2010

 

GardenFeb2010 005There are many little tasks to keep us busy this month.  The Bearded Iris (Iris Germanica )  can be lifted and divided this month.  You need to lift the clump with a fork, and cut away the oldest parts.  The really fun bit is triming the leaves to an inverted V, approximately 6 centimetres at the outer leaves, very neat!  Replant your peices of rhizome on a slight ridge of soil leaving the tops exposed.

Keep tomatoes happy by eating their fruit

Keep tomatoes happy by eating their fruit

Another job for this month is to hoe around and under the lemon tree who could use a bit of feed this month, just to encourage it along. 

Semi-Hardwood cuttings of many plants can be taken this month too, on my list is of course my Fuchisias – all of whom very badly need to be cut back, and waste not want not!  It is how I got to have so many!  They are good for swapping with friends and other gardeners too.  To take semi-hardwood cuttings, cut off pieces of young but well-ripened (fairly hard) wood, about 20 centimetres long, preferably with a heel (this is the section that joins onto an older piece of wood).  Make sure that you dip the ends of the cuttings in hormone powder and trim the leaves.  Trimming the leaves helps the plant to save energy while it develops roots.  Thats why you cut back the leaves on the Iris too.  It gives the plant less to think about -less stress.  Yes, its true, plants feel stress too. 

Waddles & Hazel ready to help

Waddles & Hazel ready to help

But, why stop at fuchisias?  You can also take cuttings of azaleas, camellias, pelargoniums, lavenders, rosemary Cistus…. the list goes on.  Its fun and a very good way to increase your stock. 

Those naughty weeds are creeping back in..so they will need to be dealt with and the usual care, watering, feeding, eating of tomatoes  -all this must be kept up with.  Tomatoes might also enjoy a little more mulch and if some of the leaves are turning yellow it is best to pinch them off, it looks better and helps to let more light reach the fruits to ripen them.  So, much to be done, so little time.

Happy gardening!

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Mulching around

February 8th, 2010

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I do believe that the very best mulch of all is lucerne, which I discovered a few years back while creating my ‘no dig’ vege garden.  Lucerne fixes essential nitrogen in the soil.  Now that I have ducks I have super enriched lucerne that the ducks prepare for me.  Super!  Of course, coming up very soon, in the Autumn there are the leaves and might I say raking them up is an Autumn Job that I love!  I do not own a leaf blower!  No, no no!  Apart from the exercise, raking them is just so much better, you can use them as they are; put them into plastic bags for later or add them to your compost.

Tomatoes in my vege plot

Tomatoes in my vege plot

But the autumn leaves are not around yet  we have to wait for them.  In garden centres there are heaps of different mulches you can use, rice husks are good and I have used the sugar cane stuff too.  But wandering about in Bunnings the other day I came across  an excellent coir mulch in a small, easy to carry to the car, easy to store little block.  It looks a bit like a brick.  I had to investigate!  When you want to use it you dunk it into a tub of water and leave it to do its stuff.  It increases at least five fold!  Super!  So you are left with a lovely mulch that is damp to pop over your garden bed.  This is wonderful in summer as you can use it on the days you water – pop a brick in to soak; go away to do your good soaking then top it off with some damp mulch.  What could be better? 

My ducks love to dig in mulch

My ducks love to dig in mulch

Last year we had a limb come down from a tall gum tree and when the lovely tree man came to fix it for me he asked if I would like it mulched.  Lovely!  Luckly, I had read that if you are using wood chips as mulch in the garden you should leave it sit for 6 to 8 weeks, because it took me that long, working every weekend to spread it all over my front garden beds.  I knew also that I would need to add in some fertiliser before putting on the mulch, as wood chips drain the soil of nitrogen while the wood chips break down.  So, I weeded, fed, watered and then spread the mulch.  It has been very effective at suppressing the weeds.  Wonderful! I think it true to say there is nothing like mulching around!

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The February Garden

February 6th, 2010

Only one more month of summer left, but the month of February is often the worst of the lot. My garden is already beginning to show the strain of summer heatwaves and the hottest month is yet to come.

Gardenia

Gardenia

Yet, taking a stroll around the garden this morning I am pleased at how it is looking. Not much in flower at present, although the Abelia has its pretty little white flowers and the gardenia is still blooming. The cistus, native to the south of France, Spain and Portugal has finished flowering and a week or so ago I gave it a bit of a trim back, and now I am happy to see it has put on a spurt of growth and is covered in healthy new foliage.
I have been experimenting over the lat few years, discarding and replanting and trying to collect plants that are suitable for this climate, and can take the heat. I think I can begin to see an improvement in the way my garden is coping. My watering methods have improved also. The roses are still blooming & I am still dead heading.

Tomatoes in full production

Tomatoes in full production

In the vege garden, or should I just call it a tomato patch now, I have stopped tying back and just keep picking and searching out recipies for tomatoes. Lunch now is pretty much the wonderful summer treat of fresh tomatoes and fresh basil on panne bread, lovely!!

Hazel & Waddles

Hazel & Waddles

The ducks have stopped laying just for the time being. But thats ok they will start back up again in a month or so. I have had to use snail bait on the basil, and I can’t put it in a margarine container – no I have to surround each basil plant or there is absolutely none left for me, basil that is not snail bait. The little fig tree I planted in winter is covered in leaves and seems to have settled in quite well, so that makes me happy.

The beautiful Hoya flower

The beautiful Hoya flower

My Hoya has gone crazy and desperately needs my help with direction, so thats a little job I need to attend to.  The wisteria that I planted just a few months ago has discovered a niffty pole to climb up and twist itself about, unfortunately, it is not the pole I wanted it to go up and I will need to redirect it to where I want it to be.  The fushias are all still flowering but they all need to be pruned back as they are getting a little leggy and while I am at I will strike a couple to give to friends.  And the lavender needs a trim back too.  So, looks like a busy month ahead.

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