Monday Harvest (and brief Summer Review) – 17th March 2013

Apologies for my silence over the past few weeks.  Part of my excuse is that I have had a lot of other things going on.  All positive, albeit time consuming.  The other part of my excuse (actually reason is probably the better word) is that I have kind of given up on my garden for this season and abandoned it to the chooks.  The result of this is some very shredded looking kale and silver beet (where there is anything left of them at all), straw everywhere and something of an obstacle course of chook poo running between the back door and the few remaining veg that the chooks don’t like.

I think my inertia is a combination of it being a difficult year – a cool Spring followed by really hot temperature spikes in Summer with hardly any rainfall – and the fact that I feel sorry for the chooks, let them out of their pen and during their period of release they always manage to destroy the one plant that has survived the climatic extremes.  So now they are free to destroy everything although  I do plan to deal with some of the mess today and reclaim the garden from the feathered horrors.

Golden Nugget pumpkinsThere are some plants that the chooks don’t seem to like (or perhaps that should read – ‘have yet to recognise as food’) and these have made up the majority of my harvests for the last few weeks.

I grew two varieties of pumpkin this year.  Golden Nuggets and Ebisu.  I managed to harvest one Ebisu and two Golden Nuggets before the birds and rats discovered they could penetrate the tough skins.  I planted my pumpkins in the back corner of the garden and I think I would have got a far better crop if I’d given them a bit more attention.  They ran out of both food and water on more than one occasion and eventually the plants succumbed to powdery mildew so all in all I was pretty happy with a few fruit.

In my initial (optimistic) attempts to protect parts of the garden from the chooks I fenced off the cucumbers.  And they really appreciated it:

Cucumbers

This year I grew Lemon Cucumbers, Catalina Pickling, Summer Dance, Lebanese, and another one from a mix which produced big fat prickly fruits. All did quite well and if my fencing hadn’t collapsed I would probably still be getting decent crops…

While I’m on the subject of cucumbers I had a request from a reader for Richmond Green Apple Cucumber seeds.  If you have some spare or know where to get them from then I would love to know.

Buried beneath the peppers in the basket below you will see some cumquats.  My mum is turning them into marmalade and I’ve been pleased with my trees first crops.

Otherwise the basket is filled with chillies (and the odd capsicum).  Most of these are from pot grown plants which I overwintered.  This years plants are doing OK but have yet to produce much in the way of ripe fruit.   I have planted this years in my garden beds and most have a decent amount of fruit developing despite the chooks digging around their roots.  The varieties below from overwintered plants are: Padron, Joe’s Long Cayenne, Hungarian Yellow Wax, a couple of round varieties – one hot, one not, and an orange capsicum (from a mix).

Mix of Chillies

Otherwise I am harvesting parsley, mint, curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves and not much else.  Sadly none of my eggplant have set fruit this year - I’d be interested to know if that had happened to any other Melbournians?

As always head over to Daphne’s and check out what others have been growing in their gardens.

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28 Responses to Monday Harvest (and brief Summer Review) – 17th March 2013

  1. Jessica says:

    I live near Chadstone and although some crops have struggled (tomatoes, beans) my eggplants have done pretty well. My lebanese eggplant has produced probably about 12 fruits, and the listada di gandia plants are producing now. I have harvested a couple and it looks like I will get at least 5 more. It does seem to be a little random with which things do well! Your cucumbers and chillies look amazing! Hope you don’t get too disheartened about the garden despite the damage now caused by the chooks. I really enjoy reading your posts – yours was actually the first blog I found and the one that got me really excited about gardening. Here’s hoping the new season brings renewed passion! Jess

    • Liz says:

      Thanks Jess. I will try and keep posting, I enjoy writing the blog but finding the time is really difficult at the moment.

  2. Adrian says:

    First year gardening in Melbourne and it sounds like i have faired better than you did, no chooks in my yard though.
    Had climbing beans that were doing well until the heat, almost died and then recovered. They are producing more than we can eat now.
    Tomatoes did ok, not brilliant but was happy enough with what they produced.
    Cucumbers produced a few, not heaps. They weren’t in a great spot and i think they didn’t receive enough light.
    Chilli’s still haven’t rippened but the plants are covered in fruit.
    The pumpkin are quite small and i’m not sure if they are even getting any bigger. The plant is across half the yard and i have to keep trimming it so it doesn’t cover everything.
    I bought one Diggers eggplant from the green shed. It struggled through summer and i’d almost given up on it but it did finally set some fruit. It now has about 5 on it and they should be ready to harvest soon. It is a Listada Di Gandia plant which produces small gorgeous white and purple eggplant. Fingers crossed they taste as good as they look.

    • Liz says:

      Really pleased to hear about your successes Adrian. Funny that the one plant that didn’t produce heaps for you is the only one that really did well for me. What sort of pumpkin are you growing? It may be a smaller variety? I think you’ll enjoy eating Listada Di Gandia – very similar to most large eggplants.

  3. Bek says:

    Not bad given the poor season and chicken destruction. I’m pretty sure you can get Richmond Green Apple cucumbers from diggers, but this was a while ago.

  4. Alex says:

    I’m a fellow Melbournian and I’ve only managed to harvest one eggplant this summer. I’m am very new to gardening though and this was my first year trying eggplant so it may be my beginner mistakes holding me back rather than the horrible heat wave we had. The variety that I went with was Bonica and it still has some flowers so I’m holding out hope that I may get another one for seed saving purposes at least so I can try again. Have you noticed any varieties of eggplant that seem to do particularly well in our area?

    • Liz says:

      Bonica usually does well for me, but not this year. The slimmer Lebanese type varieties are usually pretty reliable and Listada de Gandia if you want a pretty stripy variety.

  5. Any nibbling this year?

  6. carmel says:

    Glad to see you posting again. I’m also in Melbourne and bought bonica seedlings at bulleen art and craft. 17 plants in one punnet! I planted five and have harvested 25 or so eggplants so far- a few more still growing. Trouble is they seem to have been mislabeled; they’re more like a Lebanese slim eggplant. Oh well, they’re still welcome.

    • Liz says:

      They weren’t ‘Diggers’ brand were they? I find their things are often mislabelled. I have to admit that each year I oscillate between preferring the large eggplants and the slim varieties.

  7. Nina says:

    Welcome back! You’ve been missed. We’ve discussed this before – chooks have a lot to answer for! My little dream of home-grown eggs won’t be repeated, anytime soon. My girls have gone totally feral and won’t go in their coop at all, not even to lay. I have to check under every bush and clump right throughout the garden. They sleep in the plum tree, even on stormy nights. Meh. They are happy, at least.

    I’m not Melbournian, but Victorian, with weather fairly similar (a bit cooler, if anything). I’ve got a couple of Blacknite eggplants ready to pick with lots of flowers still coming on (which probably won’t come to anything now). But the Lebanese eggplants have been prolific and I reckon I like them better, anyway. The skin on eggplant is the best bit and you get a lot more in comparison to the larger ones. I think I’ll stick with the Lebanese ones in the future, they have been early and constant.

  8. Mel says:

    Hi Liz, I’m another fellow Melbournian and have been happy with my eggplant crops this year. I planted two Bonicas which have given me about eight large fruit per plant and two Lebanese. I’ve lost count of how many Lebanese I’ve picked but there have been more than enough to keep me happy and the plants are still going strong.

    Do you give the flowers a helping hand with pollinating? When I first grew eggplants a few years back I had many flowers but none were setting fruit until I looked up the problem. Ever since then I have always taken a cotton tip out to the garden with me so I can help to move the pollen around. It’s worked for me!

  9. Thought it seemed quiet over there, especially for summer! We don’t keep chickens (yet) but do contend with garden pests, and try to plant defensively. It’s always surprising what seems to attract to them…

  10. Daphne says:

    Well it was a good harvest considering the chook damage. I so love cucumbers. I miss them a lot right now. I bought a batch for a party and oh they were good. But not as good as my own summer cukes.

  11. Jodie says:

    Welcome back Liz! Timely post given my blue lake climbing bean plant about to burst into flower has probably lost its life today thanks to my girls! (digging- not eating) The destruction doesn’t sound quite as bad yours although I think my Mama hen Boss has figured out a new skill of pulling the pegs off the fence to the veggie patch. I can also certainly relate to the trail of chook poo to the back door. Re. eggplants- I have had a rotten year- the Lebanese set plenty of fruit but they didn’t grown that big and then the plant wilted (nematodes? something else? the leaves seem a bit rusty) My little Diggers heritage variety I grew from my own seed seem to be doing better.

  12. I had been letting my chooks into my front garden to eat the grass there until my Silverbeet got large enough to harvest leaves for them. I bit the bullet a couple of years ago putting in permanent fencing and swing gates to effectively divide my garden into a house garden, vegie garden, and large chicken run garden. They also have an attached covered pen but of course they want to go everywhere! I was sick of my temporary fences falling over and seedlings being scratched out. We are all happy now. I am in Melbourne and have had some luck with Eggplants, growing the heirloom Listada Di Gandia (purple and white striped). Haven’t got to harvest them yet but getting close. They are sheltered by circling Cucumber plants and shaded partly by the chicken house from afternoon sun. The microclimate seems to be working very well. Many other vegies out in the open simply got fried!

    • Liz says:

      Your chook experience sounds remarkably similar to mine. Last weekend we went and got materials to fence off part of our space to become a large chicken run garden. Now we just need to find the time to put it up……. I’m glad to hear that it may lead to a happily ever after ending.

  13. Barbara Good says:

    I think abandoning the garden every now and again can be a good thing. At times I feel handcuffed to mine and not having a patch to tend to last winter was quite calming. I’ve also decided that veggies are hardier than one might think and can usually overcome some less than ideal conditions so if the watering gets to much or whatever I say give yourself a break. I bet the chooks have loved it…. though it does cement my decision not to get any, I have enough to battle with in the garden with the dog, the cat and the children. Love the little pumpkins and all the chillies. My eggplants have set fruit just in the last week or two but I’m not sure they’ll have enough sunshine and heat left to fully develop. The capsicums didn’t set any at all – I wonder if I can overwinter in Ballarat?

    • Liz says:

      My parents live in a climate very similar to Ballarat and they can only overwinter capsicums and chillies in the green house and even then only in mild years.

  14. Jessica says:

    Some lovely looking harvests despite the attack of the chickens! Question – when you overwinter your chillies and capsicums, do you bring them inside or leave them out? And do you only overwinter them in pots or have you had success with just leaving the plants in the ground outside until the next season? I really want to do this for mine but I’m not sure how they would go being left outside and I can’t really bring them in as I think my housemates get a bit sick of my gardening antics already without me covering the house in plants too! I do have a shed I could use though. I’d love your opinion if you don’t mind sharing your thoughts! Jess :)

    • Liz says:

      If your garden is frost free then I think they can be left out. Mine is frost free and I leave them out during Melbourne’s winter. I don’t think they would get enough light in the shed but then I find I am frequently wrong….. Some varieties over winter better than others and I think this will impact your likelihood of success more than whether they are in pots or in the ground. Having said that the advantage of pots is that you can move them to a more protected place (eg closer to the warmth of the house etc). There are certainly people on my street who leave their chillies in the ground and they regrow in Spring.

  15. mac says:

    I’m about half way abandoning my garden this year, we all need some time off every now and then.

  16. OneMileCreek says:

    You aren’t alone. I’m having the same issues but now with rain and humidity which is causing diseases. I thought I was doing the with thing, letting my new chooks out into the garden to free range. How wrong was I? Eggplant, broccoli seedlings, lettuce, spinach all gone. Well at least they are well fed. Just wish they would lay, still a few weeks off.

  17. Diana says:

    I grew many climbing vegetables now to avoid the chooks (Vertical gardening).
    Or plants that will have strong stem like okra, roselle, cili and eggplant.

  18. Dave's SFG says:

    I’m a little late seeing this. Glad to see you’re getting back to gardening, everyone needs a break now and then and you certainly deserve one.. To the chickens, I have one thing to say: chicken and dumplings. A pinch of thyme and sage from the garden. Mmmm. The real reason for replying is I am growing Richmond Green Apple this year. I got my seeds from Fedco in the US (http://www.fedcoseeds.com/) but I don’t know if they can ship to Australia. I would be willing to send some seeds to your friend. In addition, I am growing Crystal Apple, another, similar Australian/New Zealand cucumber (with white fruit rather than green).

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