Q: Have you heard of the garlic diet? A: You don’t lose much weight, but from a distance your friends think you look thinner!

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Garlic sown around five weeks ago

The word “garlic”comes from old Middle English. It is made from two words gar, (spear) and leek. It’s origin is fairly uncertain but is believed to be from Southern Siberia, Central Asia and N.E Iran perhaps. Historically, it is first mentioned around 2000 B.C.

It is known that the pyramid builders, in ancient Egypt, ate garlic. The Israelites rubbed in on their bodies before making their escape from Egypt. The Romans took it in the belief it gave them strength in battle. It was the herb of Mars, the Roman god of war.

It has been prescribed medicinally since before biblical times. Some of those old remedies would not be recommended these days. It is the main ingredient of Four Thieves Vinegar, a cure-all remedy sold in France since the early 18th century. Legend claims that four convicts buried plague victims in Marseilles and protected themselves by drinking a concoction of crushed garlic and wine vinegar.

Garlic is also used for dried flower and wreath arrangements and who hasn’t been delighted to see a braided garlic collection hanging from a kitchen wall.

However, garlic’s main use these days is as an ingredient in all sorts of culinary delights. Indeed some dishes would be pretty plain without the addition of this pungent herb. Many people enjoy a young garlic on its own, smothered in olive oil and baked in an oven.

The easiest way of growing garlic is simply to plant the individual cloves two finger knuckles deep into rich, slightly dry soil about 6 inches apart. Many books suggest sowing in the early spring for an autumn (fall) harvest but here in the subtropics I have found they are best sown in late autumn or early winter for a spring harvest.

I always save a bulb, or two, from my own harvest for sowing next year – that way I know they are safely, organically grown and without disease. One strange thing I’ve noticed is that some small cloves grow up the inside of the garlic stems. This never happened when I grew them in the cooler climate of Victoria. Is this common?

Of course the absolute best thing about always having garlic around is that I really cannot remember the last time I saw a vampire!

9d95ac8417a70b5fd3ec412fe4e5a2cb[1] Happy gardening, TUG

 

 

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“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Or in our case, eaten!

Access to fresh dragon fruit is one of the benefits of living in the subtropics. These hardy cactus plants, originating from Central and northern South America, are easy to grow in our climate and easy to maintain too.

All they require is fairly rich and well drained soil. Planted next to some sort of vertical structure, they grow straight up for a while and are then trained to grown horizontally.

Not particularly fast growing, their produce is well worth waiting for. At first the plant seems to just stretch its arms and grow and grow with no other visible signs and then suddenly a flower grows and blooms in a single night. By mid morning the bloom will have fallen off and you are left with a small lump, which over time expands in size and colour to something resembling an imagined dragons egg – hence its name.

There are usually only two or three varieties grown here in Australia, the white fleshed, red skinned as shown below, is the most common.

A neighbour gave me two cuttings, one of which she thinks might be a yellow fleshed one but as that hasn’t fruited this year, we’ll have towait and see.

The hardest thing with growing dragon fruit is in knowing when the time is right to pick.

A squeeze test worked for me and the eaten result was just fine. Cut in half and then scooped out, served with icecream or just as is, the taste is hard to describe but is similar in texture to kiwi fruit

Happy gardening.

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Dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus )
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Ready to eat!

Irrigation – Part 1

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My son-in-law kindly gave me some 1/2″ irrigation hose, and some fittings too, that he no longer required, preferring instead a bigger gauge hose for his acreage.

I fitted a double spout fitting to one of the outside taps and attached an irrigation hose to the righthand side one. I buried the hose underground until it reached the nearest garden bed and thereafter just laid the hose above ground in and around the plants.

Over time, and as the material becomes available, I’m covering the hose with a mulch. Using a combination of spaghetti line, droppers and sprayers, I’m now watering two separate beds using this method. In the space between the beds I have, once again buried the hose. The ditches dug to accomplish this task will soon grow over with grass and the casual observer should not notice the difference.

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I’m using old palm trunks as a small retaining wall to keep the mulck in place and to help define the beds from the grass. These need a bit of tidying up but I quite like the rustic look of them.

The lefthand spout (in the first photo) will be used to fix up irrigation for our loggery and the food garden but first I have to re-organise the latter. That may take a while as I wait for the tomatoes, carrots and garlic to reach harvesting time.

When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.”
Horace Walpole

Happy gardening

The Neglected Garden – Part Two

I intended my next post to be about a new irrigation system I’m putting in but after reading a blog from The Teaching Garden about fairy gardens, I thought I’d just add some of my own thoughts.

For centuries European gardeners and farmers left a portion of their garden or meadow to grow wild. Left untended, these little patches of earth rapidly became home for wild and native flowers, herbs  and grasses, etc. This natural habitat also became home for all manner of wee beasties too.

Early gardeners and farmers believed these areas were also home to fairies and that by offering them a place to live, these fairies would look after the crops –  bestowing good natured  natured magic spells.  Crops that grew near the untilled plots did indeed appear to benefit from these potent spells. Crops were noticed to be growing stronger, more vigorously and less known to disease.

Modern produce growers know now that these wild patches harboured insect and reptile predators that ate the nasty creatures that can attack our plants. By offering these predators a safe haven, we are also protecting our crops.

In my neglected garden, it may not have looked pretty or neat but I noticed that my crops grew very well. The tomatoes, carrots, zucchinis (courgettes) and kohl rabi have grown splendidly. I’ve harvested most of the above crops but I can show, below, some tomatoes which are just now coming to maturity – some cherry tomatoes and some larger members of the family called Daydream.

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So maybe, we should think about leaving small pockets of our garden to au natural and offer the wild things a place to live.

Happy gardening

The neglected garden

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Oh, Oh! You turn your back for a couple of moments ………..

Actually, it’s been more than a couple of moments more like nearly a couple of months.

I’ve been pretty busy lately, decorating the inside of our house and replacing a rotting wooden wall on one side of the garage, and in my busyness, I forgot to do any maintenance within our food garden. I’d turn on the water sometimes and tie up the odd trailing tomato tendril, shake my head at the growing weeds and say to myself that I need to get on top of them and then just wander off and attend to some other jobs.

Then last week, I took stock of the whole garden and realised I’d created a lot of needless work for myself. So it was on with the sun hat grab my tools and just get on with it.

My usual habit, when weeding between the beds in the productive garden, is to walk around with my trusty hoe and adopt the old chop and drop method. Providing there are no seed heads present, the chopped plants provide a soft surface to walk on and a ready supply of mulch when the weeds have dried out a bit. However, this time the weeds were ready to spread their seeds and so I had to pretty much dig them all up by hand – well most of them anyway, It took me about three hours all told but spread over a few days to spare my old back. I’m not quite there but the below photos show much improvement and I’ll get the rest out during the rest of this week.

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Much of the exuberant weed growth has been of my own making. I’m not just talking about my avoidance of a necessary task but of my current watering practise within the food garden. I’ve been watering with an oscillating sprinkler and whilst this can be quite an efficient method for watering a big area quickly, it also waters areas that don’t require irrigation like my paths between the beds. Here is a photo of the sprinkler…

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I have a solution for this which I’ll write of in my next post.

May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends,
And many books, both true.”
Abraham Cowley

Happy gardening

 

As raindrops say, two’s company, three’s a cloud!

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Bundaberg Regional Council report the following in their official Welcome to Bundaberg brochure:

Located on the sub-tropical central coast of Queensland, the region’s position provides an enviable climate, one of the most equable in Australia.  Moderate summer days give way to balmy tropical evenings. Average summer temperatures range from 20°C to 29°C. Winter days are mild and dry, averaging 22°C , with fewer than 18 wet days in the rainy season. Rainfall is concentrated in the warmer months, when tropical thunderstorms will bring a cool change after a sultry day. The climatic conditions make it possible to enjoy the outdoors throughout the entire year from land sport, water sport, camping, hiking and so much more!

N.B. The italics and bold print is my enhancement. Our rainy season should be about over, however, nobody has told Old Mother Nature. So it is still raining, maybe not every day, but a lot more than the brochure would indicate, presently it would be raining every other day and has been for weeks.

Now don’t get me wrong, we need water, after all it’s an important ingredient of rum and our farmers and gardeners need it to grow our food but sometimes you can just get too ,much of a good thing. Parts of our state are still in drought whilst those of us living along the coastal fringe have had bucket loads. It doesn’t seem fair does it? But as Johnny Carson once said, “If, life was fair, Elvis would still be alive and all the imitators would be dead”.

For gardeners in my region we have two problems:

  1.  All this water does do the garden a heap of good but it also forces up the weeds.
  2. The grass keeps growing.

Let’s deal with the first one, we’ve had such an influx of unwanted plants that I’ve given up just chopping them out with my hoe. I can’t keep up with the extra work and have had to resort to applying weed killer (prudently) around the ornamental gardens and am seriously thinking of just mowing around beds within the food garden.

Secondly, not only does the grass grow tall but thickly too. Now, I don’t aspire to a European style garden lawn, here in subtropical Queensland, I do try to maintain a reasonably grassed area, which in my yard, at present, is pretty extensive. The problem is that domestic grass mowers are not really designed to work whilst the grass is wet.

I kept waiting for a dry spell, (wishful thinking!) and meantime the grass continued to do what grass does best and even threw up lots of seed heads too. When I finally gave up waiting, I just got stuck into the mowing anyway and,as I expected, my mower started chucking out clumps of tightly packed grass clippings all over the place.See the above picture of the finished result. I guess I’ll have to rake it all up manually as so much of it did a first class job of missing the attached catcher completely!

At least I can tell where I finished up because, as you’ve guessed, it suddenly poured down when I still had another third of the garden to go. Talking of which, that’s just what I’m going to do now.

The master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims the branches, plants the seeds, and pulls the weeds. If you merely stroll through the garden, you are but an acolyte. 
Vera Nazarian,

Happy gardening

Q:Why do Toadstools grow so close together? A: They don’t need Mushroom.

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So here I am just enjoying a quiet, early morning stroll around the garden. Cup of coffee in my hand, muttering to myself as I go: Hmm, the Dagon fruit needs tying back to a supporting post, those tomatoes are ready for picking, maybe if I pull the gone-to-seed lettuce I can make room for the capsicum seedlings or maybe leave the lettuce to self seed wherever it wants, or – WHAT THE?

Suddenly I discover something that is not meant to be there, or there or there! Overnight, or so it seems, my garden has been invaded by some foreign plant matter. Little splashes of iridescent colour have sprung up on my mulch and seem to be under several low hanging shrubs. Again I ask myself, WHAT THE?

The colours range from red, pink and orange, some are blue, some are green and even yellow. By now, I’ve rushed back to my deck, stowed my coffee cup and have grabbed my work gloves. If these things turn out to be some kind of exotic toadstool there is no way I’m touching them with my bare hands! Maybe I should wear a face mask as well? Don’t poisonous fungi give off nasty spores too?

As I bend down to get a closer look I notice that some are grouped together whilst others are by themselves. They are spherical in shape and appear to relect the early morning sunlight.

Next I’m throwing my gloved hands into the air in bemusement – of course, it’s Easter Sunday and these are Easter eggs!

Happy gardening, Happy Easter and Happy April Fools Day too.