Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ulysses butterfly

As we were clearing up debris after the cyclone, my hubby called me over to see a Ulysses butterfly.  Now as you know they normally flutter about so quickly that it is very hard to capture good photos of them.  This one was showing some distress, flopping about, and other butterflies would flutter down to check on it.  I took the rare opportunity to capture some awesome photos.

I am so blessed to live here where these colorful butterflies flit around my garden regularly.
Recently my dear Mom passed away and I have noticed little things that give me comfort.  Butterflies live short lives and it is sad to see one die, but that is the nature of the world.  I don't know if the cyclone cut its life short, or if it had just reached its allotted time.
We need to catch our beauty where we can, and stop and live in the moment, and tell our loved ones we love them.
This quote from Ecclesiastes 3:1 sums it up for me.
                To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven

Monday, April 14, 2014

Life in the tropics

I know I often show you pretty colourful flowers, but there is another side to life in the tropics. Cyclones!  Technically cyclone season ends at the end of April, but lately we have become a bit complacent.  Cyclones have been forming anad wandering around the coral sea and then dispersing.
Last weekend it seemed as though Ita was going to be different.  She became a category 5 and there was talk that this was going to be the biggest cyclone or storm of the year.  We readied ourselves and buckled down.  I took this photo outside our front door just as the winds started.
Luckily it downgraded quickly and most of the damage was caused by flooding.  The most important thing to do at times like this is be prepared, sit tight, and wait for the all clear. We just got our phones back, but electricity is still out.  It will be a while until I am posting pretty flower photos again, but that is life in the tropics. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Garden Share Collective - wrapping up March

Time to link up with other gardeners around the world for the end of March Garden Share Collective.  All the best Liz for a safe and healthy delivery, next month we will have an extra little host.....  thanks for continuing to host this for us avid gardeners.
I am mainly harvesting herbs right now, and seem to have been able to maintain a few herbs throughout the year which is really nice.  Garlic chives are in flower, and look so pretty.

 Parsley, which I use a lot of, struggles through the wet season, but I had a couple of little pots make it through, so will continue to keep some in pots, and maybe the ones in the besa bricks will last through as well.  The main thing is to have good drainage. My little herb pots that I planted for my stepsons are filling in - the parsley seed is taking its time though as usual. The pots were atually started peeling around the top edge, so I scraped that off and painted a lip around the top.

The lettuces that I sowed as a quick in between crop are almost ready to start harvesting - I snip the outside leaves as they continue to grow.  Baby lettuces.
Joy of joys I also have an eggplant!  This plant has struggled in the other wicking bed, and suddenly without any warning started to produce this lovely dark orb of goodness.  I hope this is just the start of good things to come.  I have started some more eggplant seeds - am pretty sure this wicking bed can support two plants.  I know I can definitely gobble down what two plants produce.

I have been growing sprouts in my new multi-tier sprouter, and have really enjoyed that. I grew snow peas  as microgreens in the top, and they do so much better inside than they did outside, but still not the lush growth that others seem to manage..... Here the snow peas are in the lower layer, but I will add the spicy mix to our salad tonight and then the snow peas will move to the top to shoot up unrestricted.  First I grew the smaller sprouts for sandwiches, and then I grew some mung beans and lentils which were awesome in a  frittata.  While my garden struggles through the bugs and humidity I can still grow some lovely organic greens.... I got my sprouter from MrFothergills
 The snow peas out in the garden are certainly happy. Yum.

Last month on my to do list was my big shopping trip

Hanging strawberry pots - I bought these small pots that fit flush against the fence, and they are self watering (have a little reservoir of water at the bottom).  Once I started re-potting I realised that from 2 plants I now have five.... the dichondra looks pretty hanging down from the pots, but I hope their roots dont interfere with the strawberries, so far they seem happy.  I grew those from seeds, I am always impressed when a tiny seed produces something.

Soaker hose - gosh have you ever tried to remove an old soaker hose?  It went under plants with huge root systems, and there are areas where I didn't want to disturb the plants, so just cut it off and left it there... Where it crosses the path I have just wound it with electrical tape so that I am not watering the paths.  No need to try it out yet though as it never stops raining.   I am glad the drought stricken areas to the West of us are getting rain, the farmers are happy once again.
I used up lots of mulch, and planted out two herb pots, and got my veggie seeds in.

This little garden helper is hanging onto my leftover from last years tomato plant - hopefully by next month my new tomato plants will have a few tomatoes on them....

To do for the next month

I hope this next month will contain lots of harvesting.  The best way to garden in the tropics is to grow intensively and harvest early, I just hope I haven't started my planting too early..

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Focusing on the little things bring deep happiness and contenment

When a plant is easy to grow and propagate, and never any trouble do you find that you also take it for granted?  Cordelines are like that with me,  I can  just cut the top off, stick the cut end into the ground and it will grow a new plant.  If I want a whole row of cordelines I place the stick horizonatally in the ground, cover with a bit of dirt and a new plant will pop up at every node. I add them here and there to break up the green.
  Now the cordelines are in flower, and over the weekend I took a step back and looked at these plants through new eyes.  Just look at a close up of these lovely flowers.....

I dont know why I have never really looked that hard at the cordeline flowers.  Maybe because they come at a time when the garden is growing so profusely and all the large tropical flowers are in bloom.  
Once I started really looking I noticed quite a few "hidden" beauties.
These chleredon (I thought that was what they are called, but cannot find it on the internet - I normally put the correct spelling on a tag too) are planted at the end of the path, that is quite dense with vegetation at the moment, so you have to go searching.  It is worth it though when you find these beauties.

 The firespike is forming hard lips which remind me of a clam....
 My favourite though has to be the ground orchid, and they are now front and center lining the path in the back - you dont have to go looking for them anymore.

The fact is that happiness does not come from the big events of life, but is made up of innumerable little things.
Wandering through my garden, camera in hand, and discovering hidden beauty - that gives me happiness, peace and deep down contentment.... how about you?


Friday, March 28, 2014

Curb appeal and path maintenance

  I have been cutting back overhanging branches and overgrown bushes and shrubs to allow light in.  I don't want to cut back branches of the lychee tree as I want to be able to harvest as many of those luscious fruit as possible come harvest time.  Removing the rhoeo was a good decision, as the pavers were lost under the vegetation.  They are still mildewed and I am working on getting them cleaned.  For now it has just been bleach and elbow grease, but I am wondering about one of the leave on products like wet and forget.  Does anyone have any advice about that?  A bit of sunlight would be good too....
 The grass does not do well without sunlight and we also try not to walk on it too much.  I weeded and mulched the bromeliads and found the best way to do this was to just pull everything up, remove the pups and plant them back in with some mulch.  Now it is easy to walk along the stones, giving the sodden grass a miss.  We have big brown patches forming - not sure what is happening, it has something to do with the wet I am sure - some sort of fungus?

Just across the path from the birdbath the red firespike has started to flower and the honey eaters and sunbirds love those.   There is an olive backed honeyeater on the side of the birdbath in the previous photo.  All my zoomed in shots came out very blurry - they move pretty fast.

Even though I cut back so much excess growth this path still looks as though it leads into a dark cave. 

The pavers out front look nice, although hubby questioned why the pavers lead right towards the side gate to the garden.... I originally wanted to follow the edge of the garden bed with this path.  I am in fact looking for a "welcome" paver that will fit in the stones leading to the front door.  That way visitors will have an option - front door or garden?  which would you choose? 

At any rate it looks more like an inviting entrance now I think.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Veggie garden extension reveal

Here is the big reveal of how the veggie garden edges have been extended.
 The end towards the wheelie bins (that is what we call our garbage bins here in Australia!) and tumbling composter had to allow easy access to the path and compost but still match the other side. Along the fence the ginger is doing great - I am not harvesting it all - will leave it to bandicoot as needed. I will be making another batch of pink pickled ginger soon which is awesome.  Then I have my little cassava tree and behind that was supposed to be the choko, but that rotted away.  I will grow choko eventually.....  a few little volunteer cherry tomatoes sprouted in front of the fence so I decided this is where the tomatoes will grow this year....  Bigger tomatoes in the wicking beds and pots. .  Soy beans and black beans were planted against the fence, but with all this rain nothing has come up.  There is a row of silverbeet in front of the tomatoes, along with some warringal greens.  A volunteer winged bean is climbing up the fence.
 I moved some marigolds into the besa bricks along that edge of the next bed, they are supposed to be good for the soil - keeping away nematodes, and of course attracting pollinators.   Once I had weeded that area I lay down some cardboard to hopefully keep more weeds from popping up again.  It doesn't take long with this wet weather for weeds to take root.  This area is nice and sunny, easy to reach and harvest, I popped in some capsicum behind the Barbados cherry with snow peas on the trellis.   I  then planted my new little perennial capsicum seedlings behind the cherry and rocket and lettuce in front.  There is a comfrey in the little corner, that will mine up nutrients and the leaves can be used as fertilizer.
 The weeds were dug into a ditch behind the middle trellis and covered with cardboard to help them compost down.    I don't like making weed tea, it stinks, attracts mosquitoes, and I always seem to get it all over myself trying to strain out the weeds.  I like to lay the weeds on the weed mat on the path and then turn it over every now and then to "bury" them under the weed mat. There have really just been too many weeds lately to do that, and I hate to just throw away all that lovely soil that is still attached to their roots, plus all the goodness contained in the weeds themselves.. what do you do with your weeds?
I have cucumbers right at the back, and in the space between the two trellises I have planted some snow peas on a frame, dill down the middle, and radishes and celery and bunching onions on the one side and bok choy on the other. Just after I planted the seeds we got days and days of pouring rain.  I was sure that the seeds would have got swamped, but they seem to have enjoyed the long drink and are popping up all over the place.  Clearly some of them got washed out of their neat little lines by the rain, but that's OK
  I haven't even tried my new soaker hose as it hasn't stopped raining....

The next bed is the perennial bed, which is doing fine - the asparagus got a fine layer of sugar cane mulch and then some more seaweed and then will just be left alone through the dry season. My little asparagus seedlings were planted into the "new area" behind the wicking beds.  The asparagus fronds tend to flop around all over onto the path, and so I thought of putting the trellis as a sort of side fence to control it.  It seems to be working fine for now.  Further back is the lemongrass which I keep cutting back too and using as mulch.  The peppercorn vine is going crazy, and I think these little areas on the nodes are where the peppercorns will appear

 The coffee bush had a trail of ants going up the stem so it got a good dousing of soapy oily water sprayed all over it. Since then it has a growth spurt with lots of new green leaves, which is a good sign.

 My capsicum bush was doing so well, but now I am not sure if it has wilt or what is going on with it.
   For now there are cut and come again lettuces growing in the wicking beds until the tomatoes are big enough to plant in there

I thought it might be good to draw a quick (untidy) diagram of my little garden so you can put it all into perspective 

The veggie bed is ready for the growing season, I am ready for the growing season, and it still continues to rain......

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A birthday present from MrFothergills!

A birthday present from MrFothergill!  Really you shouldn't have!  They didnt know it was to arrive just in time for my birthday, but I thought this gift of a sprouter, along with four packets of seeds was very timely - thank you!
 I have been persisting with the microgreens, and eventually e-mailed them and suggested trialling a sprouter as I have the feeling that will work better in my climate.
The microgreens have been very tasty, but dont grow very big, and the ones in water do attract  mosquitoes.  We had a prawn starter for my birthday dinner (the prawn shells are now buried in the veggie patch)  and I got the grand kids to help me pick some basil and watercress microgreens to sprinkle on the plates.  Greens! they ate them!  Now I wouldnt say it was a full serving of veggies, but the cuteness factor did play a part. For that reason alone it is worth trying sprouts and microgreens.
I put a Tablespoon of seed in each layer - trying fenugreek, and then tatsoi, mizuna and wombok (those came in the asian greens pack).  Once you add the water up past the little nozzle it automatically runs down through each layer - rather  clever!
I still had a few veggie seeds from the previous package MrFothergills sent me, and those were planted out in the garden over the weekend.  I planted a few soy beans as an experiment in the wet season and they actually did fine, so will see how they do now, our climate is a bit different and so sometimes it take a bit of experimenting to see when to grow crops.  I have never had much success with silverbeet before so am anxious to see what happens in this little corner of my garden.  I am planting quite close together as you see, not allowing space for weeds - beans behind, silverbeet in front and cherry tomatoes in  the middle.  All watered by my marvellous leak free soaker hose.

I am so grateful to have this chance to trial lots of different seeds and ways of growing veggies since this can be a very harsh climate.  I suspect this sprouter is going to be very useful to make sure that I can grow green produce year round.   My next crop will be snow peas which will grow in the top layer as microgreens.


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