The Gardens of Chiconia 30: Super Size!

It’s not the gardens I’m talking about, although at 3/4 acre (3,000m²) they’re large enough. 

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 5.24.06 pmNo, it’s the bugs.  I’ve complained before about monster grass-hoppers and Very Hungry Caterpillars. Lookee here. That’s a standard trowel… and that, my friends, is a Lawn Grub. The out-sized offspring of a beetle, whose natural habitat is, you guessed it, lawns. What two of them were doing in the bottom of my capsicum planter is anyone’s guess. I left them on the bird feeder for the magpies to enjoy…

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Malabar spinach

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Brazilian spinach

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Today’s planting.

More fun in the backyard today. I planted three varieties of tomato, four different herbs, English, Brazilian and Malabar spinach, bok choi, zucchini, two different kinds of capsicum, two different kinds of strawberry and a Norfolk Island black passionfruit vine on the side fence.

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11 years of faithful service, and now it’s time for a new handle!

There’s still space in the raised beds for a bit more, and I have some work to do preparing the potato bed, but it’s beginning to take shape. One tool I won’t be using is my poor border spade, which gave up the ghost today and will need a new handle before it can be used again.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 5.24.22 pmWe’ve given the starfruit a big boy’s haircut, and all the deadwood is now gone. The Husband offered himself up to the green ants, and went in with the chainsaw. Many bites later, the job is done, and the tree is now a third of its original size, but looks much happier. It’s had a top dressing of pelletised chicken manure and blood and bone around the new dripline, so hopefully that’ll give it a boost. My Garden Tea is still bubbling away and isn’t ready for dosing out yet. Take a look – that’s alpaca poo floating on the top, mixed with comfrey. I’ll post about Garden Tea when it’s ready to go.

Another trip to the dump got rid of the last trailer load of prunings. The jungle is now tamed, and ready for its chooky inhabitants. The Husband has been patiently chipping away at the rock hard ground where the base of the chook house will go, so fairly soon we’ll be able to put in the edging and get a load of crusher dust to lay.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 5.24.56 pm Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 5.25.08 pmI’ve been getting a couple of small limes a day from my little tree, so there has been a surge of Lime Zucchini cake eating. Using our own limes just gives us all the excuse we need to stuff our faces with what is now a firm family favourite.

And here is our reward for a day spent mostly doing yard work!

Tomorrow, I’m picking up my needle again.


Clearing the decks

Autumn is upon us at last.

For those in temperate climates, this isn’t necessarily a matter for celebration, but for people nearer the equator, it represents the start of more moderate weather, a time when the garden doesn’t grow quite as rampantly as in the hot, wet summer, and when stepping out of a cool shower doesn’t make you immediately break a sweat because the bathroom’s stinking hot. So of course, it’s the time of year when you start taking care of all the stuff that’s accumulated over the summer. Autumn-cleaning, as opposed to Spring-cleaning. And it’s time to use all the free dump vouchers Mackay city council has kindly given us.

For me, this means firstly making a start on clearing out the store room, getting rid of the hundreds of boxes and piles and piles of newspaper left over from our move in September last year. They’ve been sitting flattened and neatly stacked but severely In The Way, and now I can face work down in the somewhat less boiling hot and rather dark store room, they’ve gone to the paper and cardboard recycling facility at the dump, pronto. It’s an easy start. I also discovered three boxes of books I was sure had got lost in the move, and have unpacked about a million boxes of the Husband’s DVDs. OK, about 6… but it felt like more, particularly as I had to shelve them as well.

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My second load today, after the trailer full of newspaper and cardboard…

The next trailer load is to be prunings of Monstera and Elephant ear and old deadwood from tidying up around Frogtopia, ripping out the old spent snake bean vines and tomato plants, green palm fronds I’ve cut back and deadwood from my yellow double hibiscus.

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Trailer loads 3 and possibly 4. There’s quite a lot of it to be shifted.

Trailer No. 3 will be the contents of the palm frond dumping bay behind the shed. Until I got my new telescopic offset loppers, I had no way of dealing with the large, messy, very fibrous dead palm fronds that would fall in quantities from the numerous palm trees in the garden, and they went into a corrugated iron ‘box’ to contain the problem until I found a solution. The Husband was in favour of petrol and a match. Which is illegal here unless you get a permit, because of the fire risk. I want to get rid of the lot, and they’ll be going to the green waste facility, along with lots of dead branches and bits of dead wood stacked beside it.

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Somewhere, about 10ft back from this, is a big old ficus and a fence. I can’t install chickens till I find the fence and make sure it’s in one piece. I got just so far clearing it, realised a chainsaw was required, and gave up for the afternoon!

Trailer No. 4 is the ugly, nasty, pointless, spiky, rampant shrubs in the left hand front flower bed. Nothing a little chainsaw action can’t take care of… The long term plan there is that we get a little Dingo digger in to grub up the roots, dig us some post holes, excavate the footprint of the chook house slab, and time permitting, slice off the turf from the area where I’m planning the vegie beds. We’re getting impatient to make a start on the chook area, and it’s time to begin…

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The mandarin I rescued from the Burnie vine, with almost fully grown fruit. Can’t wait to taste those, if I can beat the rosellas to them!

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A seed pod developing on the poinciana. Curious that such a delicate flower can develop such a massive pod – that’s over a foot long!

Meanwhile, I can’t bear looking at that nasty lot any longer and once the Dingo’s done its work I can start planting shrubs and small trees out there. Finally, a permanent home for the frangipanis, the flame tree, the murraya, the cherry guava. And some-where to put the replacements for the plants I had to leave behind at the last Gardens of Chiconia.

All this hacking back and garden planning is extremely pleasurable, but I confess I’m a bit weary…

The Gardens of Chiconia 25: lovely spuds

The potato bags did not do well in the move. The plants died back en masse and they weren’t coming back.

So I dug out all the baby potatoes, and we’ll be having big potato feasts over the next few days. There are three varieties in the basket: a few Kipflers, quite a lot of Nicolas (the largest ones) and some Bintjes, which I love, but which are late season potatoes so are very small. I’m fantasising a fabulous potato salad here, with lovely mayo, hardboiled egg, diced ham and tomato. I’ve left one of the sacks alone, because in the top there’s a volunteer sweet potato vine making a bid for freedom, so I shall see if anything comes of that.

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Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 7.13.07 PMThe soil from the potato bags is still lovely stuff, so half of it was tipped straight into the raised bed near the patio. I’d watered the rubbish soil in there, covered it with soaked cardboard (yup, those packing boxes are now into their third life), and then the soil went on top. I’ve set up two bamboo teepees, and at the base of each I’ve planted tropical-friendly beans: long beans and snake beans. Cross your fingers!

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I’ve ventured into the big thicket at the end of the garden to tackle the mystery creeper. It was a monster. I have a pile two metres across and a metre high. It had almost totally strangled two perfectly good citrus trees, a rather pretty white gum and was checking out the monster ficus above it.  If Gardening Australia get back to me in a few days to say it’s something deeply rare and protected, I shall shrug indifferently. Something that aggressive has no place in a domestic setting.

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As I was clearing up at the end of a secateurs-heavy day, I heard a long chorus of honking, looked up and saw endless skeins of geese heading from the mangroves back inland to the golf course, where there’s a nice lake. They went out this morning in the same fashion. This evening, having some clue about what was going on, I sprinted for the house and my camera (ok, I hobbled fast…) and managed to capture the tail end of the flight. It was a lovely dusk, the moon almost full and a silvery light lying on everything.

Ok, off to finish making the sauce for my gnocci.  It’s smelling fab!