End of February

Garden Update

The maize in the paddock next door is dry
The maize in the paddock next door is dry

It seems ages since I’ve posted anything.  February has been so busy and now that it’s almost over, I can’t think where the days went to.  The sun is rising noticeably later and setting noticeably earlier.  The temperature range is still in the high 20s to low 30s Celsius, but there is the ‘smell’ of Autumn in the air. It has been extremely humid, and almost unbearable for sleeping at night.  During the hottest parts of the day I still stay inside where it’s shady and much cooler.

The maize in the paddock next door has dried to a pale golden colour and rattles in the wind.  The days are loud with the clicking of cicadas, and the nights with the more musical chirping of black field crickets.

Much has been happening in the garden, including our banana flowering for the first time, tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes, and a very good crop of garlic.  It’s been extremely dry, and sadly, I fear that some of the newer small shrubs may have been lost – many are looking very dry and shriveled up and it’s just about impossible to water them as the earth has become so dry and hard.  Large cracks are spreading in some places, and there are many patches where the grass has completely dried off.  The pumpkins and squashes are dying back and we’ve given up on our zucchinis.  There have been just too many of them.

In the vegetable garden, our best crops at the moment are basil, peas, silver beet, the last tomatoes, beetroot and chilli peppers.  We have a new batch of scarlet runners that look pretty healthy and the passion fruit are dropping from the vine.  I am always amazed at how lushly basil grows, even when it’s so dry.

Banana ‘Mons Mari’

Banana with first sign of flower spike.
Banana with first sign of flower spike.

The most exciting development has been our banana ‘Mons Mari‘ flowering for the very first time.  I observed the very first spike of purple (which was the beginning of the flower stalk) on Monday 03 February.

This plant has been in our garden since April 2011 – I realise now that we didn’t plant it in a very good place – it’s exposed to the wind from the North and is also in very poor soil.

The flower stalk appears out of the centre once the plant is fully grown, hanging down as the flower develops.  The male flower develops at the end of the flower stalk creating a bell, with the female flowers spiralling around the stem.

The bananas just keep on forming!
The bananas just keep on forming!

Nevertheless, it has produced an amazing flower stalk of small bananas with more still forming.  We counted 170 the last time we checked – and remarkably this is only 3 weeks or so since the flower first appeared.

Tomatoes

A selection of tomatoes from the garden
A selection of tomatoes from the garden

We’ve had so many tomatoes that I couldn’t keep up with picking them.  The most successful have been the heirloom varieties, ‘Cherokee Purple‘, ‘Black Krim‘ and ‘Black from Tula‘, and the cherry tomato, ‘Suncherry’.

The latter have been dropping to the ground like berries and to be honest, we haven’t kept up with them.  I also grew ‘Bloody Butcher‘ and this was a very nice, smaller tomato, but nothing really beats the taste of the big beauties.  Some of the tomatoes were tunneled into by caterpillars, but not too badly.  And this year all have ripened, so I won’t be making any Green Tomato Chutney.

Left to Right: Spicy tomato sauces, Greek tomato paste, Tomato sauce
Left to Right: Spicy tomato sauce, Greek tomato paste, Tomato sauce

I’ve ended up turning just about all the excess tomatoes (and there have been kilos of them!) into tomato concentrate and tomato sauces.  I’m really pleased with a couple of recipes, so will post these in the near future.

This year is the first time I’ve tired making  tomato concentrate.  I tried two recipes – a plain one and a Greek version.  The taste of both, compared with the tomato paste you can purchase commercially, is far superior.  Sweet, tangy, fragrant and rich with the flavour of tomatoes that have been ripening in the sun.

Garlic

Garden bulbs hanging on the fence to ripen
Garden bulbs hanging on the fence to ripen

I’ve grown garlic for three years now at South Head and this is the best crop I’ve harvested.  There are more than 30 bulbs, a few of which I’ve left in the ground to mature a little longer.

I’ve read that garlic grows to its own conditions, which means that each year, if you use cloves from your own crop, the results will be better.  I love it that I can grow enough garlic to last an entire year.  We were literally turning the last of our 2013 garlic cloves into paste on the same day as we lifted the first bulb for 2014.

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