Tag Archives: Growing food

A (hopefully) dwarf fig tree

Finally got around to planting a fig tree that we’ve had in a pot for a while. Not entirely sure if it’s a dwarf or not, so it’s gone into a half wine barrel to see what happens. 🙂




Now that I’m working 3 days a week, it’s getting harder and harder to keep as close an eye on the garden as I have been. The downside is the weeds, the upside is finding little surprises in the foliage – a little heirloom aubergine secretly growing away. 🙂

Harvesting coriander seed

I love coriander when it goes to flower in the heat here. Not just for the beautiful flowers which attract beneficial insects into the veg beds, but because soon there follows an abundance of coriander seed. If you want to see the transition of this beautiful herb, there is a great blog post which shows the stages of coriander in photos.

This year I wanted to try harvesting it, so I tried two techniques.

Method 1: We picked a big chunk of the plant (yes this is only part of the plant – it was huge) with seeds that were still a little green, picked them off by hand, and put them on a tray on baking paper to dry for a few weeks.  Picking the seeds off was quite time laborious!

Method 1: Using the food net to catch the stray bits while we hand-picked some still-green seeds.

My daughter loved hand picking the seeds and was fastidious about making sure there were no extra bits, but if you don’t have a willing neat freak to help in this process, it could take you a very long time. A very very long time.

Method 2: I then netted up the plant to hang and dry, before removing the seeds by shaking and sort of roughing it up.

Method 2: hanging coriander. Almost expecting a giant butterfly to emerge from this cocoon!

The second method was much quicker, but messier and the seeds had lots of little leafy bits, so they needed picking through.

A very coriander Christmas!

We saved some for ourselves, but also packaged some up as a unique Christmas gift…

Christmas is all about spices – or at least – it should be!  Coriander is a beautiful ancient spice with an interesting history and mythology. Perhaps you haven’t you heard the story of the fourth wise man, who was actually a wise woman, and brought baby Jesus some coriander seeds? Ok, I made that up, but coriander is apparently mentioned in the Old Testament and far far back into the mists of time. So that means, well… it’s really very old.

We packaged our dried seeds up in an airtight container to keep them fresh.

A little spicy Christmas gift if coriander (and a bookmark)
A little spicy Christmas gift of coriander seeds(and a bookmark)

We gave one to my daughters first school teacher as a Christmas gift,  with a tag attached with three ideas for use:

  • use whole in curries, soups and broths
  • toast in a pan for a few minutes to release fragrance before adding to cooking
  • soak for 10 minutes, then grind with a mortar and pestle
  • plant in soil to grow your own coriander plant

There are plenty of other techniques for use too. Yes, I do have a jar of whole coriander seeds in my cupboard already, but these are organic, untreated and just feel better for the effort. I might have to grind up both and see which had the better aroma. Results of this experiment to follow!

A very coriander Christmas!
Wishing you a very coriander Christmas!

Sweet sweet sugar cane mulch

Local birds having been hanging out in my veg beds driving me nutty. They love pea-straw, for nesting and munching the peas before they sprout. Even good quality pea-straw has pea seeds. I wouldn’t mind but they scratch through to to bare earth and then weeds and kikuyu take hold. They can also damage anything freshly planted.

I wondered if it was worth trying sugar cane mulch and found a few stories of similar bird woe, including this blogger in Sydney
who had the same bird-loving pea-straw problem and had success with using sugar cane mulch! Sounded like it was worth a try!

I’ve mulched most of the bed this morning with organic sugar cane mulch and I’m hopeful that the pigeons and blackbirds will leave it alone.

I quite like sugar cane mulch. It smells sickly sweet, and tucks up the plants nicely. Compared to pea-straw (which I sometimes get by the bale) it’s quite fine so with our gusty breezes I’ll have to keep it damp and it’s also a bit more expensive than pea-straw.

I am so in love with my little food forest. It’s not perfect and lessons are being learned, which is what gardening is all about – growing yourself a bit too.

We’re getting radishes, snow-peas and the first wee green tomatoes, tiny lemons…it’s all happening!!!






















Spring sprint

Watching a young garden grow can be exciting, but I must admit that I am sending wishful vibes to the hardenbergia ‘happy wanderer’ suggesting it wander a bit quicker to cover up the colourbond fence. I’m really not a fan of the beige backdrop!

Things are happening though! I love that ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ factor of Spring when plants seem to be moseying along, and then suddenly, you turn your back for a second out there and a cheeky pumpkin has curled around your ankles while you paused for a moment.

Growth seems to have really taken off in the last week! There are even snow peas to munch! With the goodies come the baddies too – so much weeding to do…daily effort…the kikuyu is invading, the vacant block next door is donating weed seed heads over the fence on the gusty Spring winds but good will prevail!

Thanks to the huge numbers of bees, amazing numbers of pluots this year!


Raised beds packed with heirloom tomatoes, sage, nasturtiums, radishes…


Pumpkins, snow peas…






Pumpkins trailing under the young macadamia trees (experiment!):


The soul is in the soil

When I look back on 2012 I think I will remember this as my Year of Soil. It’s the first time I made a big effort to create good soil; because I needed to; to have any hope of growing food. It took me a few months of no-dig (lasagne layering) before Spring and it was worth it. Now, when I dig into the earth, instead of rock-hard compacted clay and stone or soggy clay mush – behold a lush loamy earth! I always feel good about making things, but I really do feel a huge sense of satisfaction when I dig into the earth and find worms, where no worms were before. This is my big lesson for 2012, the soil is the soul of the garden.

So, if you have been thinking about no-dig garden beds…wondering if they are worth doing…asking if it really is worth the effort, then I would say yes, particularly if your soil is poor for growing.


Is it a bowl of lettuce?

It might look like a bowl of lettuce, and yes, it is actually a bowl of lettuce. It’s also the first thing harvested from the new no-dig veg beds! So, it really is not just a bowl of lettuce. It’s a chalice filled with hope and the promise of abundance from nurtured earth. 🙂


No-dig beds – finished!

As a follow up to my no-dig gardening beds

Finished beds!

Kind husband brought in a trailer load of compost over the weekend for me. Today, after a few hours of shovelling it around a little bit more, then mega-mulching, I stood back with a HUGE feeling of achievement. :). Ready to plant!!!

Maybe from the photos, it doesn’t look like much but it has been layer upon layer, and then waiting for it to rot down, then more layering, then a bit of compost before the final layer of mulch. It’s a lot to fit in around everything else, but finally…it’s done and I feel great for completing it.

This effort is to combat our rock hard clay and lack of soil for planting into. I’m hoping it will be well worth the effort. I lost blueberries last year because they couldn’t cope with the hard clay.  I’m excited about under-planting the fruit trees and also about planting the kids veg bed out near the cubby house. I am so seriously excited!!!

Ready for under-planting the pluot and the macadamia trees

Now for the fun part – planting seeds!!! – which is the great bit as it will involve the kids a lot more. I’m pretty sure they were starting to get bored watching me make garden lasagne. I’m also raising some stuff from seeds in my little greenhouse, and I’ll probably  buy some seedlings in a few weeks time just to keep things ticking along at different speeds.

Some more photos:

Macamadia tree in foreground and recently planted Native Frangipani in the background
Along the length, my raised beds in the distance (deliberately left to go to seed at this point so the bees come in to pollinate the fruit blossom)
My wee greenhouse

I celebrated by finally relenting to letting my daughter pick the first orange from our tree. It was pretty small and gone in about two seconds between the three of us – soooo juicy!! The other one is on the tree for Daddy.

Action shot – the moment the first orange was picked
My two slices
Gone – had to stop him eating all the skin
The only thing that stops her talking for a second. 🙂

Veg patch – Spring is springing like a springy thingy

It’s early early Spring (I think) and so as I’m working the on the no-dig beds, I’m also trying to get some seeds planted.

My never-tiring helpers…
It never fails to fascinate me that 6 days after dropping a seed in some soil, new life unfurls and reaches for the sun. It is amazing.
The winter veg bed has gone crazy! It’s tempting to cut down the stuff that has bolted and flowered, but the bees love it so much, and I need bees to pollinate the newly emerging blossom on my fruit trees – so the veg patch, wild as it looks, stays at is for now – it plays an important role in providing flowers for bees at the moment.
First oranges from our dwarf tree. I can’t wait to taste them! We all get half each.
Technically, there are 5 in our family now, meet Jimmy.

I’m also trying to get some seeds planted and researching which native plants are hosts for butterflies in this area so that I can make our front garden even more butterfly friendly.