What do you think about – Pyrethrum? (And a bit about black aphids)

I have an ongoing problem with black aphids in my garden.  They lay waste to my spring onions, garlic chives, normal chives, garlic (when I grow it) and pretty much anything else I plant in the allium family.

Black aphids thrive in moist conditions and particularly enjoy weaker plants.  Because my garden gets less than full sun I think my plants are particular susceptible.

Here are some attacking a baby garlic chive plant:

DSC_0049 (848x1280)I have tried squishing them.  I have tried spraying them off with the hose (a technique I find effective with normal aphids).  I have tried chilli and garlic sprays.  No success.  The only thing I can find that gets rid of them is pyrethrum.

Hence the question – should I use it?  I know it’s generally considered a ‘safe’ pesticide, but not necessarily by everyone.  I also know it can kill beneficial insects if they come into contact with it.

So should I use it?  Do you use an insecticide?  Or another method for containing the bugs?

Posted in Pests and Diseases | Tagged | 12 Comments

This year’s tomatoes

It feels like we are having a pretty mild summer this year, according to The Age newspaper the second coolest in the past decade, although still above the long term average.  What we have definitely been spared so far this year are the extended really hot periods.  Last year we had spells when the temperature was over 40 for 4 days running whereas this year I can only remember a solitary day when the temperature hit 40.

Of course a hot February may change all this but so far its all been very civilised and it isn’t just the residents who are happy – the tomato plants also seem very grateful for it.  They seem healthier than in previous years and they have set a good amount of fruit.

Black Cherry plantThis is a Black Cherry, the most vigorous of the varieties I am growing this year.

Other than Black Cherry I am also intentionally growing Tigerella and Grosse Lisse.  I wanted to limit my tomato plants this year because I haven’t had huge amounts of success with them in the past few years.

But this year is different (maybe because of the weather) so I am glad that as well as the intentional plantings I have a few volunteers around the garden.

Of the volunteer plants I think I’ve identified two as Broad Ripple Currant and Principe Borghese but the other’s are unfamiliar so far.

Fruit has yet to ripen on a couple of the volunteer plants so may things may be clearer when it does.  Which leaves one with ripe fruit remaining unknown.  It appeared in the chook area and is bearing slightly stunted (but then I haven’t fertilised it or anything) orange coloured fruit.  There are 3 in the basket below, the small orange ones that aren’t the larger Tigerella or the smaller yellow Broad Ripple Currant (or the clearly purple Black Cherry):

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This lot vanished approximately 3 minutes after this shot was taken.  I think Black Cherry remains my favourite, although I am partial to the (more than) occasional Tigerella.  Now I am looking forward to the Grosse Lisse, a week, perhaps two and I reckon its fruit will be ripe.

YAY for mild weather and ripe tomatoes!

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Monday Harvest – January 19th 2015

We were away last week, playing in Phillip Island’s surf.  I love boogie boarding and spent an enjoyable week in the waves (mostly in a wet suit as it hasn’t been particular warm here for the past week or so).  Happily the garden thrived in my absence and has started producing new crops.

I arrived back to find a couple of oversized cucumbers (all Lebanese as that’s what I planted this year) and a couple of proper sized ones.

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There were also the first of this season’s tomatoes.  I’m not entirely sure what this variety is as its a volunteer but it bears a remarkable similarity to a variety called Principe Borghese that my parents grow so maybe….

There was also an abundance of beans:

Gourmet delight beans

I picked all the Gourmet Delight that were ready but decided to leave the climbers to develop into drying beans.  It will be interesting to see which ones work best.

For more harvests head across to Daphne’s Dandelions where you should find delights from around the world.

Posted in Summer Harvesting | Tagged | 9 Comments

Beans, Beans, Beans, Beans, everybody loves Beans

The Goodies were big in Australia, much bigger than they were in their native Britain (or so I am reliably (?) informed by my Pommie partner.  Of course the Goodies sang about string not beans but the sentiment is the same.  Everybody loves beans, everybody needs beans  – and apologies to Graham, Tim & Bill, but I disagree, people love them more than string.  Everyone in my household does, and that is a rare enough thing, and thus noteworthy.

As a result of this love for beans I am growing heaps of them.  (I say love but the truth is that my 5 year tolerates them, but frankly in a 5 year old’s vegetable world that means love doesn’t it?)  Fortunately they are easy and grow well in Melbourne.  An almost trouble free crop?

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I like to grow a mixture of dwarf and climbing beans, dwarf because they are productive and climbing because they look pretty while producing.  My personal view is that you actually get better yields per square metre from dwarf than climbing beans which is a bit counter intuitive given that you would think the use of vertical space would help but I’m not sure it does.  There are a couple of caveats I would put on that- it is probably variety dependant and it can be easier to succession plant climbing beans – the succession can be in the same space as the initial planting and grow up the first plants giving yields over a longer period.  Having said that many dwarf beans have built in succession crops – ie they have two flowering bursts but there tends to be a gap of a few weeks between the two.

This year my main dwarf beans are Gourmet Delight and Majestic Butter.  I have written on Majestic Butter , which is a yellow-coloured bean previously, but Gourmet Delight is new and I have to say it lives up to it’s name.  I have been absolutely delighted with yields and the flavour and texture is great.


I sowed seed in early September and the plants started cropping in very early December.  Melbourne had a warmish Spring but not ridiculously warm.  I got about 4 weeks worth of beans, the plants had a couple of weeks break. put on some new flowers and have just started to crop again.  I have 6 plants in an area that is about 3/4 of a square metre and gets about 5-6 hours of sun per day. Germination rate was close to 100%.  If you were growing just Gourmet Delight beans then a full square metre grown in full sun would probably be more than enough for most peoples needs provided you succession planted a bit to cover time when the plant’s production slowed.

My climbing beans are hard to identify.  Some are self sown from last years poorly cleaned up garden (and were from a mix Dad gave me), some are Kentucky Wonder (thanks Nina) and some are Lazy Housewife (thanks to a reader – maybe Yvonne?).  I’m also growing Purple King and Scarlett Runner but they are easy to tell apart.

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I’m hoping that Nina will read this and let me know what shape her Kentucky Wonder are.  Of the unidentified beans (all green) some are short and flattish and there are two others than are long, one flatish and long and other more rounded and long.  Naturally images of Kentucky Wonder and Lazy Housewife online show identical looking long rounded beans so I may not be able to differentiate but there is one image of a short flattish Kentucky Wonder so maybe…..

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All varieties seem to be doing well.  The self sown beans produced earlier than the ones I sowed, cropping about the same time as the dwarf beans.  The climbing beans I sowed (Kentucky Wonder and Lazy Housewife) started producing about 3 weeks after the dwarf ones, towards the end of December and are making up the majority of my current harvests.

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I am growing Purple King beans because I’ve heard they are good as dry beans.  Although I like them as a ‘green bean’ (they go green when cooked) I find that the green varieties generally have a slightly better texture – occasionally Purple King get a bit stringy.  The plants are pretty though.

Not as pretty as Scarlet Runner though:

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This particular plant was sown about 4 years ago.  They are herbaceous (ie they die away in winter and reappear in Spring) perennials when grown in Melbourne.  I will be interested to see how long they last.  This plant was looking pretty ropey after a couple of days close to 40 degrees C.

This is the first year that I have been able to harvest beans from the plant – it has grown them in the past but they have always been eaten before they reached anything bigger that a little finger.  This year though there are quite a few on it.  A sign that the rats have moved on????

Touch wood!

I would love to hear your thoughts on growing beans, varietal recommendations, experiences and so on.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

“Crowd-farming makes Master Chef look like a Bunnings BBQ”

“Crowd-farming makes Master Chef look like a Bunnings BBQ” says Grow it Local co-founder Jess Miller.

Normally I ignore press releases but this one caught my attention and I thought Melbournian readers would be interested in this event.

Grow it Local, which celebrates backyard, balcony, community and windowsill farming, are hosting ”Melbourne’s Biggest Local Grower’s Feast” as part of  Melbourne’s Sustainable Living Festival.

Feast table 2

The feast will be prepared by Vanessa Mateus from Pope Joan from ingredients grown in the patches of 50 lucky home growers.

To attend what you need to do is:

  1. Register your patch at: http://www.growitlocal.com.au/.
  2. Give it a quirky name and throughout the six-week campaign grow your ingredients to be a contender for one of 50 doubles passes to the Melbourne Local Growers Feast.
  3. Hope you are chosen.

500 free packets of seeds courtesy of Digger’s club are available at Farmer’s Markets this weekend to help you get started.

Hopefully I will be lucky enough to see you there.

Crowd at table

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