Curry Leaf Trees in Winter

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I had friends over for dinner last night.  It was a last minute thing so fortunately they weren’t expecting much.  I burnt the beans and cauliflower, only just cooked the chicken and the sauce for the fish tasted bitter.  Not exactly ideal……

The first things were carelessness but I’m wondering if the last was the curry leaves in the curry sauce I made for the fish.

In Melbourne curry leaf trees look particularly sad at this time of year.  Being a tropical climate plant they simply don’t like Melbourne’s colder months and do everything they can to remind people of that.  Their leaves turn yellow and in the coldest climates fall off.

I’m wondering if they also turn bitter.

Of course the bitterness may have just as easily been the old (and starting to sprout) garlic or over cooked black mustard seeds so I probably shouldn’t really blame my poor sad curry tree.  Instead I should be doing my best to protect in and nurture it through to Spring when those beautifully fragrant leaves that should reappear sometime between September and November.

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Mulching for winter

2015-05-31 09.50.34 (848x1280)I had a chance to get out in the garden last weekend, and a fine time to garden it was too.  Saturday and Sunday morning were comparatively warm and sunny, and rain was forecast for Sunday afternoon and evening.

A perfect time to mulch.

I started by planting out a few more seedlings to add to the silver beet, lettuces and broccoli I’d planted about a month ago and the celery I started in summer.  The silver beet and lettuce’s growth rates have been excellent, the broccoli’s slowed considerably by chook attack (those birds are really starting to annoy me….. Who knew they liked broccoli leaves even more than silver beet?)

Once the seedlings were in and the sun had warmed the ground a little I started spreading mulch.

I mulch in winter for 3 reasons:

  1. To add organic matter to the soil.  Broken down mulch can improve soil structure and as a mine tends towards clay I find the texture mulch gives it really beneficial.
  2. To retain warmth.  This can be a little fraught as if you mulch at the wrong time in winter you can end up retaining cold rather than warmth.  As a result I try and mulch on a nice warm sunny day preferably after a comparatively mild night.  Night time temperatures often significantly impact on soil temperature and so this can be more important than day time temperatures.  I probably should have mulched a month or so ago but at least I managed to get round to it in Autumn (albeit on it’s last day).
  3. To retain moisture.  In theory we get most of our rain in winter in Melbourne.  In practice it is often dry and the shorter daylight hours mean that I frequently leave for work in the dark and arrive home in the dark leaving little time for comfortable watering.

This time I used sugar cane mulch.  As much as I like pea straw, and the little volunteer plants it produces, I find sugar cane mulch easier to spread.  As a result I use it quite a bit particularly when I am mulching around seedlings which can get swamped in the never ending strands of pea straw.

Rain did arrive on Sunday afternoon bedding my mulch down nicely, now I just hope the various birds that inhabit may garden leave it alone.

Posted in Winter Planting | 9 Comments

A garden & harvest update

I haven’t posted in a while, a case of work & study getting in the way of real life.   All this general busy-ness has meant I haven’t posted about all those exciting end of Summer, start of Autumn harvests.  It means I haven’t posted on the seed sowing and the planting out of winter veg.  And I haven’t posted on the general garden clean up.

And in all likelihood I never will.  The harvests have been eaten, the seeds sown, and the seedlings eaten by wayward chickens who apparently like brassica leaves.  Oh and the garden is once more back to its usual messy state.  Oh well……..What I do have though is harvests, and some nice varied ones at that.

I have pumpkins:

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given to me by my next neighbour neighbour as a seedling so I’m not sure what variety they are.  This one is one that didn’t develop properly as someone (my partner) stepped on the stem (grrrrrr) snapping it before it had finished growing.

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Most of my harvests at the moment are fruit.  Not just pumpkins but also chillies, citrus and most excitingly tamarillos:

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For those who aren’t familiar with them Tamarillos are sometimes called tree tomatoes.  The flavour is a little like a cross between tomato and passionfruit and to my palate is absolutely delicious.

DSC_0085 (847x1280)The lemon is a meyer – the first since I moved the tree from a pot to garden soil.  The other citrus are kaffir limes.  I use their zest in curries but it’s mainly the leaves I grow kaffir lime for.

Aside from fruit my main crops at the moment are herbs.  The basil is still producing nicely. There’s some in the basket but you can also see Thai Basil growing in the photo’s backdrop.

My parsley is doing well at the moment and if it wasn’t for the chooks the silver beet would be one of my best performing plants.

All in all not too shabby for a garden that is suffering from almost as much neglect as this blog.

For more harvests head over to Daphne’s Dandelions for the blog fest that is Harvest Mondays.

Posted in Autumn Harvesting | 11 Comments

Last nights dinner – A growers feast

A few weeks back I posted about Grow it Local and their local growers feast.  Well I got tickets.  A very big YAY!  And the feast was fab.  There were: great speakers like Costa from Gardening Australia.  Deano brought some fabulous Kombucha.  (It was my first time trying Kombucha and I have spent much of today googling it to work out exactly how its made).  The venue was fun, everything was beautifully presented and the food was great.

Check out the menu:

20150301_182050I can dutifully report that everything I tried was absolutely lovely.  Sadly though I didn’t get to try everything.

The tomatoes and figs had both pretty much gone in the seconds it took me to move from my seat to the buffet.

Is it wrong to hope the woman with the plate piled high with broken figs found a least one half caterpillar in it? (Actually it’s probably a very sad indictment that I can’t even enjoy a beautiful night, with beautiful food without a slight feeling of resentment….)

For me the highlights were; the Eggplant dip – beautifully smooth, slightly smoky and lovely and rich, and the Rhubarb & Berry tarts.  But really everything was lovely and to pick favourites is probably not being fair to the rest of the menu.

All that’s left now is to plot how to get tickets to next year’s event and to wonder; who ate my cucumbers, and what happened to my purple congo potatoes (probably not much as the more I eat them, the more I really don’t rate them at all….).

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Monday Harvest – 23rd Feb 2015

Warning: This post contains gratuitous images that may distress those whose tomato crop has failed.

Yay for a good tomato season is all I can say.  Few eaten by rodents, the plants fruiting well, or reasonably well, and loads of laden baskets:

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This basket is mainly Black Cherry with a few Broad Ripple Currant and a couple of Tigerella thrown in.  It also contains the first of my apple cucumber crop.

DSC_0195 (1280x849)Well I think they are apple cucumbers.  My next door neighbour had a couple of seedlings left in a ‘mixed cucumbers’ punnet so I stuck them in this is what they produced.  My kids are fans so I’m happy.

Personally I find them a little seedy and of this style I think I prefer the lemon ones (mainly for aesthetic reasons).

Best of all though I like the Lebanese cucumbers and my vines are doing really well at the moment giving 2-3 fruits each day.

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The tomatoes in this basket are mainly a unidentified self seeded one.  Not sure what the variety is but it makes a nice fresh tomato sauce for pasta.

And some more tomatoes below – this photo highlighting the Tigerellas:

Basket of tomatoes

But it isn’t all tomatoes, I also have other solanaceae family crops:

Purple Congo potatoesLike these Purple Congo potatoes.  Although they have novelty value, I’m not a big fan.  They taste OK but they are a pain to harvest – purple looks a lot like dirt – and they tend to resprout quickly meaning you often harvest sprouting potatoes, as you can see above.  At least they are purple inside as well as out, which is fun for the kids if nothing else….

DSC_0009 (1280x636)Jalapeno chillies, on the other hand, I love, and this is my first harvest for the season:

I used the chilli in some Vietnamese style noodle soup along with these aromatic herbs.  Thai Basil, Vietnamese mint and mint.

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Less exotic are my carrot crops.  DSC_0179 (848x1280)

They are growing in a fairly shaded area which means that their rate of growth is slow.  But it also means they aren’t getting the bitterness carrots sometimes get in hot weather.

An excellent size for snacking.

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Much like those tomatoes.  Interestingly the one on the left is a self seeded black cherry and the ones on the right are intentionally grown.   My parents had a black cherry self seed last year that also produced bigger, apricot sized fruit.  Co-incidence?

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More tomatoes just for the hell of it.

A figAnd finally I hear you say, something different, something new.  The first of the figs.  I photographed it, turned my head and the next thing I knew it was gone.  Into the mouth of an eight year old.  She said it was “yum”, and given I’ve gotten to eat a few since I would have to agree with her.

Before I leave you with more images of tomatoes I should really tell you what else I’ve been picking.  Lots of silver beet, basil, kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, thyme, parsley, mint, oregano and loads of beans.  Here is today’s bagful:

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And that’s about it except for tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes.

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DSC_0162 (1280x848)Sick of the sight of them?

Be grateful I limited it to 7 tomato shots, I have many, many more…… and then head over to Daphne’s for Harvest Monday.  You never know, someone might even be growing something else…….



Posted in Summer Harvesting | 10 Comments