Tag Archives: Egyptian Walking Onions

Sun, Wind and Rain

November is here!

Rain is being blown across the paddocks, watering the maize.
Rain is being blown across the paddocks, watering the maize.

It was incredibly windy on Tuesday, with strong gusts blowing in from the west all day.  It was also very sunny.

Today, the wind is still howling and it’s bringing torrents of rain every 30 minutes or so.  It’s noticeably cooler, too.

Vegetables

Yesterday was a great day for the garden, despite the wind.  I’d decided to dedicate a decent amount of time to tidying up and sowing some more seeds, so started around 9.30 am.

The first thing I had to do was re-tie the young tomato plants to their stakes.  They are hardening up nicely and the first two I planted out are flowering, but some of the spindlier ones were definitely being battered by the wind.

The latest cleared vegetable bed... between the betroot and carrots I sowed edamame and more carrots.
New seeds have gone in between the beetroot and the carrots & peas.

I then set to work tidying up a patch of the garden that had some bolting lettuces.  After pulling them out and sifting through the soil, I sowed a second row of Edamame and a row of the heirloom carrot, ‘Touchon‘.  I was reassured to see that despite the dryness of the surface, there’s still evidence of moist soil about a trowel’s depth in.

On Sunday I had already sowed rows of organic Basil ‘Sweet Genovese’, Turnip ‘Golden Ball’ and Beetroot ‘Crosby’s Egyptian Flat’, so I’m feeling much better about the state of the vegetable garden.  I don’t think I’ll ever get on top of the required tasks, though.

The wonderful South Head growing conditions that produce so many vegetables, also produce weeds that grow with alarming vigour and scatter their seeds all year round.  And there is never a frost to kill anything off.

Spring Greens

Beetroot (foreground), kale and broad beans.
Beetroot (foreground), kale and broad beans.

The vegetables are providing us with choices each day – it’s a matter of juggling between them all and trying to work out what we particularly feel like eating for any given meal.

In the past week we’ve enjoyed Silverbeet, Asparagus, Kale, Lettuce (not just the green variety), Rocket, Broad Beans, Red Cabbage and Peas.

Asparagus
Asparagus

I couldn’t say which is my favourite, though I do love to have asparagus spikes every other day of the week at this time of year.

Fresh garden peas.
Fresh garden peas.

Close behind would be fresh peas, and tender young broad beans are wonderful, mashed up with butter and a little garlic.

And I found a really easy (and yummy) recipe for Red Cabbage – so we’ve cooked this up a couple of times.  I think this is on the menu for tonight, actually.   Sautéed Red Cabbage.

Other Vegetables

Florence Fennel

Florence Fennel (foreground) and Peas.
Florence Fennel (foreground) and Peas.

The Florence Fennel has been putting on a good deal of growth.  Fingers crossed they won’t bolt before forming their bulbs.  We’ve had good crops for several years now, and one that went straight to seed.

You can see dried Lilly Pilly leaves in all my photos.  They seem to fall at all times of the year and I’m always scraping them out of the garden in an attempt to keep it looking tidy.  But I guess I’ll never have a tidy garden as the slightest breeze sends them showering back down.

Runner Beans and Lettuces

Lettuces and Runner Beans.
Lettuces and Runner Beans.

The runner beans seem a bit slow.  Ben put in some ‘King of the Blues Runner’ in between the Scarlet Runners from last year.  Scarlet Runners are perennial, although most people tend to pull them out at the end of the season and put in new seeds the following year.

Growing in front of them are a few lettuces and some self-sown Viola Tricolor (Heart’s Ease).

Potatoes and Sweet Corn

I poked around beneath the soil by one of the early potatoes and was pleased to see at least one beautiful new potato.  It was quite a good size for an ‘early’ so I’m hopeful that we may have better luck this year with growing spuds.

Ben hasn’t been so lucky with his sweet corn, though.  He sowed a whole packet and only two sprouted.  It’s hard to know if it’s something in the soil, or our friendly blackbirds have been in and dug them out.  It’s disappointing and exasperating, but given that our back paddock has been sowed in a commercial crop of sweet corn and that we always get to help ourselves after the first picking, I’m philosophical about it.

I don’t think we’ll bother to try to grow sweet corn again.  (We did have a really good crop the first year we were here.)

Onions

Egyptian Walking Onions
Egyptian Walking Onions

The Egyptian Walking Onions (also known as Tree Onions) are coming along well, forming the first little topsets at the end of their leaves.

I’ll be glad to have these as I’ve had bad luck with trying to grow regular onions.  The seeds have struck well enough, but have been dug up by birds before becoming properly established.

Silver Beet

This Silverbeet never stops growing.
This Silverbeet never stops growing.

Our Silverbeet is amazing.  These plants are a couple of years old, but don’t seem to want to go to seed.  They have actual trunks now – somewhat like pyramids, with the leaves forming in a circle around the upper edges.

A week or so ago I pulled off all the ratty leaves, thinking that we’d be pulling the plants out soon.  They responded by sending out new glossy leaves, immaculate.  We had to cook some up last night just to work our way through them.  The ribs are so wide and the leaves so large that we can’t eat both.

Strawberries and Bananas

The strawberries are safe from the blackbirds, now.
The strawberries, protected from the blackbirds.

The strawberries have been coming along well.  The problem with them (is there a common theme, here?) has been the blackbird hen.   And probably a few other birds as well.

Each morning I’d go down to the garden only to find sharp pecks in the strawberries – even before they’d ripened properly.  I’m sure the hens were happy, though, as I’d throw them all the half-pecked fruit which they’d eat avidly.

Ben’s built a clever frame with netting to keep the birds off, so the berries are having a chance to ripen and be eaten by humans, rather than birds.  We’ve probably picked around a kilogram so far.

Banana 'Mons Mari'.
Banana ‘Mons Mari’.

The bananas are also looking good.  They seem to be forming better than the ones from earlier in the year – perhaps due to the improved growing conditions.  It’s warm, and we’ve had a good deal of rain compared to a year ago.

Blackbirds and Feijoa Flowers

Blackbird hen, back on the nest.
Blackbird hen, back on the nest.

Speaking of the blackbird hen, she’s back on the nest again! This is the same nest she used to raise her last batch – built inside a small Sweet Bay tree situated within our fenced-off vegetable garden area.

I took the above photo yesterday and had to poke the camera in quite far as it was so windy that the branches were being rocked and shaken.

As you can see, she stares steadily out at you, but doesn’t budge.  Not that I’d want her to – and I tried to be as quick as I could as I’d hate to put her off her task.

Despite the damage the birds do to our garden we do love having them here.  They are so tame and so pretty.

We regularly see two or three young birds from her first brood.  They have grown from chubby little birds with short tail feathers and speckled breasts, to much sleeker specimens.  And where originally they weren’t very skilled at flying, they are now adept.

Feijoa flowers are irresistible to birds.
Feijoa flowers are irresistible to birds.

We don’t see the male (father) blackbird very often, but the hen and young ones are often in the Feijoa, eating the crimson flowers.  I was worried about this until I read that birds eating the petals help pollinate the flowers.  However, it seems to me that the birds not only eat the petals but destroy the whole flower.  Often the complete flower drops to the ground and the bird will fly down and finish it off there.  I guess time will tell.

Freshly-plucked Feijoa flower.
Freshly-plucked Feijoa flower.

The other thing I read with interest is that the fleshy petals of the Feijoa flower are edible and can be sprinkled in salads, etc.  I decided to check this out this morning (even though I didn’t want to remove a potential Feijoa) and can confirm that they have a pleasant taste.  They are more fleshy than they look, so have a bit of texture to them, and have a delicate sweet and spicy flavour.  No wonder the birds like them!

Neoregelia

Neoregelia
Neoregelia

Here’s another member of the Bromeliad family that is currently looking good in the garden.  I love the way water collects in the centre of the leaves.

Neoregelia are native to the South American rain forests.  I’m pretty sure that this particular specimen is Neoregelia ‘Everlasting’.

May Update

Harvesting the maize
Harvesting the maize

I haven’t written for a while, but items of note include the harvesting of the maize in the paddock next door, way back at the beginning of April.  The big machines came powering through, collecting the complete plants, discarding the husks and stalks, and feeding out golden maize kernels into the waiting truck.

field

Left behind is a flattish, spiky field, stretching into the distance.  We’ve had no strong winds from the North or West since then, but when they do come, we’ll miss the shelter that the maize provided for the plants and shrubs we are trying to establish along the fence-line.

a typical crack opening in our lawn
a typical crack opening in our lawn

The months of March and April were incredibly dry, after almost no rain since January.  Patches of bare soil were beginning to crack all across the garden.

There wasn’t much happening in the vege garden – only silver beet, pumpkins, a few lettuces, some jalapeno and habanero chili peppers, basil, beetroot and carrots.  We had switched to lake water to conserve the water in our tanks and were using the latter for drinking, only.

Cherry Guava, Yellow Guava, Pear, Feijoa
Cherry Guava, Yellow Guava, Pear, Feijoa

Surprisingly, our Autumn fruit has been more productive than at the same time in 2013.  We ate the last of the pears, and the feijoa are still dropping, even a month later.  They are very sweet and juicy.  There are also red cherry guava and yellow guava – which attract the Kereru.  Our macadamia nuts are also on the point of being ready.

Red shavers taking a dust bath
Red shavers taking a dust bath (prior to Lottie’s departure)

The hens still spend a great deal of time bathing in the dust, or lying under the shade of the trees.  They continue to make huge basin-shaped hollows all through my gardens.  But they are very cute and I’m still intrigued to watch them taking their dust baths.

The above photo was taken of the edge of the lawn where it comes up to the flower garden below the Feijoa trees.  I use the word ‘garden’ very loosely, thanks to the hens and the lack of rain.

Fatima
Fatima

The Orpingtons don’t tend to take their baths in the same place or at the same time as the Red Shavers.  They’ll often wait until the older girls are finished, then hop in after them.

The good news is that the Orpingtons are now laying, but the bad news is that Lottie (one of our red shavers) has gone.  She had a bad habit of disappearing across the road to  – goodness knows where – on a daily basis, and one day she just didn’t come back.  I fear the worst – run over by a milk truck or caught by a hawk or dog, but perhaps she has merely found a better place to live.

Freshly laid eggs
Freshly laid eggs

As far as the eggs are concerned, the small eggs weigh about 50 grams, whereas the eggs from Lulu and Leila weigh around 75 grams.  I have been very disappointed that the White Orpingtons don’t lay pure white eggs – I was so sure that they would.

Pine Nut (family Pinaceae, genus Pinus)
Pine Nut (family Pinaceae, genus Pinus)

Our small Pine Nut tree is finally producing some cones.  We’ve had this small tree since we lived in Titirangi.  It was purchased in a pot for a Christmas Tree, and fared very badly under all the kauri trees due to the paucity of sunlight.  Pine Nuts take about 8 years to produce cones – which would be about right.   Apparently the cones take two full seasons to mature.  It’s very exciting!

Lake Rototoa, May 2014
Lake Rototoa, May 2014

There has been scattered rain in May, and the days tend to start out sunny, before fat cumulus clouds build up in the afternoon.  The temperature in May has ranged from around 13 C overnight, to low 20s during the day.

We have swum in the lake as recently as a week ago – which is quite unexpected for this time of year.

Garden Diary

My current daily garden tasks involve tidying up all the vegetable garden beds in preparation for planting garlic and sowing more seeds.  I’ve recently sown lettuces, leeks, spinach, carrots, beetroot, rocket, radishes, parsnips and celery.  I raised seedlings of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower and have since planted these out.  It was too hot and dry to sow the seeds directly during March / April.

I’ve also planted a dozen Egyptian Walking Onions.  I was delighted to see bulbs for sale recently as I used to grow them years ago in Dunedin.  Perhaps I’ll have more luck with these than I have with trying to grow regular onions from seed.