Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hell's Vegie Patch

It's not often we get temperatures like those in the chart above in Melbourne, but when it does get in to the high 30's or low 40's (c) the vegies need a little help.

To avoid the kind of damage shown at left a shade cloth cloche is ideal.

My raised beds are rectangular and have wooden stumps at the corners and along the sides, the stumps not only hold up the sides of the bed, they allow me to fix things to the top.

Drilling down into the top of the stumps allows lengths of dowel to be inserted which are capped at the top end by a length of pine which stretches across the bed to the opposite stump/dowel structure.

recessions are drilled into the pine to allow them to sit securely on the dowel. Next I cut shade cloth to incorporate the length and width of the bed as well as side and end flaps to allow for the depth (which is equal to the length of the dowel).

To secure the shade cloth simply screw cup hooks into the top of the stumps, one for each side stump, and two, at 90 degrees to each other, for the end stumps, all hooking/opening out from the bed. You can also use this structure to support bird netting.

I also fix the filter/pressure regulator unit for my drip irrigation system to the top of one of the stumps for easy access.
**BTW remember that if your Veg. require pollination open up the shade cloth cloches in the mornings before the heat of the day to let the pollinators at them or you'll be doing a lot of tomato tickling **

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bean and Tomato Mites

So what turns beans and tomatoes from <==this to this==> ??

Well the answer is Mites. Mites love hot dry dusty weather, just the kind of environment you get in an Australian summer. There are different kinds and colours, brown russet mites, red spider mites etc. They attack the plants from the lower leaves and move up the plants leaving dead brown foliage.

A close inspection of the leaves (and I mean close, they are tiny) shows small critters often congregated around the veins of the leaves (red circle).

Occasionally you may see eggs and sometimes a fine cobweb like material is apparent (blue arrow).

The leaves become progressively pale and almost silvery (red arrow).

You will most commonly see them on the underside of the leaves (green circle).

The solution is to treat the leaves with a soap/oil spray made by adding 1/2 cup of liquid soap to 500ml of vegetable oil and then taking a tablespoon of this solution and diluting it with a litre of water, shake before use. This suffocates the mites. By the way always remember what Hector the safety cat says about keeping stored garden solutions out of reach of little 'uns and never keep them in a container they recognise as a food product ie a fruit juice bottle full of homemade chilli spray (mwahaha...)

Cheers Aldrum

Monday, January 19, 2009

Indian carrot fritters

This recipe was inspired by Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion, which has proved invaluable for when Aldrum presents me with a basket overflowing with the latest bumper crop and I'm left to find a use for it. And boy did we have a bumper crop of carrots.

I have found carrots somewhat boring in the past, until Stephanie kindly suggested Indian Carrot Fritters. As always, I use recipes as inspiration, so the recipe below is more of a guide than a strict set of instructions.

They make a nice addition to a platter of nibbles or as part of a main meal and can be adapted to suit whatever flavours you have on hand. Just last night I did a version replacing the Indian spices with feta, thyme and lemon zest and gave it a yoghurt and tahini dressing. You can basically use the batter as a base and add whatever grated vegies, spices or herbs you have at hand.

Indian Carrot Fritters

2 cups carrot, grated (2-3 large carrots or 5 small)
1 1/2 cups plain flower
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbs curry powder
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
3 spring onions, chopped
3 dried chillies, crushed (or more if you like the heat)
1 tsp ginger, finely grated
1/2 to 1 cup of beer (home brew in our case!)
1 egg
1 handful of coriander, roughly chopped (mint is good here too)
vegetable oil for frying
salt to taste

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (reserving some of the coriander for garnish). Add the egg and mix well. Add the beer until the mixture has the consistency of thick, lumpy pancake batter.

Heat a frying pan on med-high and add enough oil to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, drop dessert spoonfuls of the batter into the pan. Allow to cook for about 3-5 minutes before turning and repeat on the other side.

Sprinkle with the remaining coriander or mint leaves and a drizzle of lemon-tanged yoghurt.

Homegrown ingredients: carrots, garlic, spring onions, lemon, mint, egg, beer.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Backyard Basil & Tomato Pizza! (Gluten free)

O.K. so this is the easiest recipe you'll ever learn but once I've taught you it you'll look forward to it every year..

First you need one of these==>

<==Then get yourself one of these

Stick step 2 on top of step 1 and you get to eat one of these==>

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chicken feeder hat...

We found that our Chicken feeder was constantly being raided by pest birds such as Mynas, Pigeons, sparrows etc. and tried so many ways to discourage them, even resorting to catching them and giving them a ruddy good talking to, I maintain that this worked for brief periods of time. We also tried beaded curtains across the entrance to the chook house but it seemed as though the chickens took longer to learn they could get through it than the pest birds did. After watching some of the bolder birds I figured out that they either climbed the wire sides and fed over the edge of the feeder, or they flew onto it and ate whilst perched on the edge, whereas the chickens reached over the edge of the feeder with their necks. So voila! problem solved, a small roof for the feed has done the job! I used some packing materials from my work but an upturned cheap plastic salad bowl, or the like, with a hole cut in the bottom for the tower part of the feeder would work just as nicely. I had to lower it slowly so the chickens could get used to it but now they are fine and reward us each day for being such thoughtful owners.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tickling Tomatoes

What do you do when there ain't all that many pollinators around?
Well you try and rectify the situation by planting all those lovely plants that attract the pollinators, flowering species that are indigenous to the area is a good start, buying a beehive and a trainee queen is also a great move. If you don't have the room or knowledge or just want a tomato or two on your balcony then you may have to do some of the dirty work yourself. Every flower on a tomato, or eggplant, or pepper etc. is the precursor to a fruit and when the flower is pollinated the flower dies off and a fruit forms in its place (left pic of new Turkish orange eggplant fruit with dried up flower on end), quite simply the more flowers pollinated the more fruit you'll get. The pollinator, i.e. Mr Bee, transfers pollen from flower to flower thus pollinating the flower and allowing the fruit to form. So enough about the birds and the bees, ART or Assisted Reproductive Technology for plants involves a fine little paint brush (top right pic) and fine motor skills. All that needs to be done is a gentle brush of the stamen (bottom right pic) of each flower, moving from plant to plant, flower to flower doing Mr Bee's job for him. I find that making a soft buzzing noise as you do it helps also...

Cheers Aldrum