Episode 5

 

It's the beginning of February, when huge cucurbit leaves flap in the breeze and tomatoes trickle in....

Well as I said in the episode....it is HOT!  As you'd expect in high summer of course! While the cicadas sing all day long, the garden bakes and we simply swelter.  

I find our summers both debilitating and exhilarating....perhaps not quite in equal measure! There's such energy in the atmosphere as the heat slowly builds during the course of each day and occasionally, the sense of anticipation as cloud builds towards a hopeful thunderstorm and then, only if we're lucky, the enormous sense of relief.  The scent of rain on the horizon is always a thrill, though only one has spilled in the last weeks.  It was a beauty too, delivering over two inches of rain!  It cleared the air, momentarily....and then the heat rolled back in to fill the vacuum it left in its wake. 

 


Will it or won't it?  That's always the question....


So although we're 'back at work', the summer atmosphere is at its peak; and the garden cycle keeps rolling along.  

At this time of the season, the plants are living off the resources we poured so much energy into in the previous months. Their roots are well established now in our good compost, and protected from the baking sun by their layer of mulch. 

Climbers scramble up the rods and structures we laboured over in the spring, for support, and although the garden requires daily tending (watering of course, that goes without saying!) a bit of tying up and removal of a yellowing leaf here and there, really there's much less work now, because the plants are established, growing through their summer phase, and productive. 

 


A favourite sunflower amongst the fennel seed....

 

Every season begins with some kind of plan in my mind's eye, of a combination of plants that I delight in seeing together.  Sometimes they're new combinations and other times, I just long to see a repeat performance of something that's brought me huge joy before.  It can be very simple, like this Prado Red Sunflower, surrounded by a sea of fennel heads at all their different stages.  This is a colour and texture combination that simply gives me a little thrill....it's wild, but somehow majestic at the same time.  While I'm always pretty confident a fennel stalk will reach peak maturity in this spot, I can't guarantee the sunflower will. So I sow their seed on a wing and a prayer each year and cross my fingers; and I love when it does happen!

 


Zinnias spilling all about....

 

Then in the next bed, coral Zinnias pick up on the theme....a few shades lighter than the sunflower. I've become mildly obsessed with these ones, but they're not all the same!  I've tagged one that has the showiest flower, in the hope of saving its seed for next year! 

 


Speckles of red and yellow amongst the foliage...


The top image, like this one, is of the wigwam in the front left corner of the fruiting veg bed. Although almost swamped by fennel in the surrounding companion beds, this is a combination I repeat each season: a Scarlet runner bean, a cucumber and a tomato.  The only difference this year is the colour and shape of the 'apple' rather than 'long green' cucumber (that you can clearly see in the image at the top of the page)! 

The Wild Sweetie tomato is still quite short (so invisible in the images) but it's strong now, and has begun producing trusses of sweet, berry-sized fruit. I'll revisit this image for you in coming episodes, so you can watch its progress through the season.

 


Tomato box frames in the early morning...

 

The slow growing tomatoes on the 'box' frames are finally getting a move on (remember it was my own fault for being so impatient and planting them out too early, straight from their punnets rather than potting on first into tubes?).  We've eaten the first two Purple Russian tomatoes but the Black Krims are the ones I was impatient with, so they're still lagging behind.

 


The good news is, I'm adding more net bags each day.....

 

To be honest, this whole 'net bag' concept is a new one here.  I never used to have the need....sure I'd lose a tomato here and there to bird attack and had the odd fruit fly sting, but these days, if I didn't net them, I doubt we'd be eating any tomatoes at all.  

And so, a bit like all the wire cylinders I showed you several episodes back, I've come to view the bags through a new 'lens', as it were. They amuse me, and as I'm inclined to put a positive spin on anything if I can.....tutus they are and the more the merrier....I'll end up with a whole chorus line of them yet! 

 


Ridged beauty....

 

Where there are beauties like this to protect, I just can't leave it to chance.  

An immature Costoluto Genovese is going to take weeks and weeks to reach its full size and then ripen. Naked like this, it would be susceptible to all kinds of threat.  So it too, is now encased in net. 

 


In hope....

 

I mentioned during this episode that another method I use to try to deal with fruit fly (other than the lures that go out with the first blossom in an attempt to capture the male flies) is to add a good dollop of Eco Naturalure (and a bit of water) to these old glass 'wasp bottles'.  Then I hang them around the garden and replace the mix when I notice it's dried out. (Yes, there's a hole in the middle of the jar where the insects can fly in!).

Again, it's not foolproof, but at least it's something.  And, of course, don't allow any rotten fruit to hang around in your garden, which is likely to exacerbate the problem.

  


Corn flowers shimmer and shake in the breeze....


How delighted I am to see these strands of dainty magenta flower heads....

 


A tangle of threads...

 

And corresponding silks of newly set cobs of corn on the next batch of plants to mature! Not that I have a problem with the creamy yellow I mentioned; but having discovered this tantalising colour that adds another fleck of interest to the summer garden years ago, I'd be so disappointed not to see them here!

This is the seed variety I've always bought labelled as Golden Bantam....so I assume that's what it is! 

 


All coming together...

 

Look what's unfurled in the last day! The sunflower that I said was in bud next to the wigwam....in the same row as the corn...

 


Gorgeous, glossy fruit....

 

Handsome, healthy, beautiful aubergines are coming in at a steady rate. 

 


Hopefully long Purple King beans won't be far behind...

 

And at last, some pretty purple bean flowers are daring to emerge from the tunnel behind! 




Rambling on...


Apple cucumbers dangle at regular intervals from the shade canopy over the leafy green bed. They're coming in at a steady pace, to ensure there's always one for us to eat - how considerate! 

 


Morning sun strikes this corner first, so this is where I begin my daily watering routine...trying to keep ahead of its rays.....


The whole of the traditional side resembles a little village...

 


The guild side is shaded by the huge pepper tree for much of the morning, so I end my watering routine over here... 

 

While the guild side looks wild, romantic.....

 


The madness of fennel and corn, tansy and zucchini....

 

And free! 

 


Happy combination....

 

There are some delightful colour combinations over here....some surprises as a result of leaving last season's produce to linger longer.....like this yellow fennel flower that's toppled over into the frilly purple kale.... (which itself is attracting white fly: much better than having them on my tomatoes).

 


As luminous as the purply-pink over in the leafy green bed.....  

 

And some are intended, like this cool as a cucumber, lime green Zinnia.  It's the first of this colour to open this summer.

 


I've waited many years for this to occur....

 

Thanks to netting them, there actually are some apples on the arch this year!  Apples are said to be ready to pick when they fall off their branch at the lightest touch and to my delight, some are!  

This one's a Golden Delicious and as I wasn't expecting apples just yet, I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with them. I fancy using them for that delicious au Pair's Apple Cake (the recipe's in The House and Garden at Glenmore) or a Tart Tatin (which were both the reason for planting this variety in the first place). But the weather isn't right for eating either just now.  

If I really am going to have apples to harvest, I need to investigate storing them....that's another whole issue! So these may be heading to the cellar shelf (although I did cut the first one open and....ate it....couldn't resist!).  

 


Fennel....

 

The fennel, as you can see, has gone completely and utterly wild!  It dominates the entire garden, filling the air with the sweetest scent as it's flowers dry out, completing their cycle from seed to seed.

 


Summer colours on repeat....

 

Here you can clearly see the 'edible' stage that I so enjoy sprinkling into salads or over fish, chicken, baby new potatoes....the list goes on and on. These little 'buds' that (I know are seed, but you usually associate seed with something 'dry', while these are simply succulent) represent the in-between stage, from fresh-faced flower to fully blown seed, which you can see, on a different stalk, belonging to the same plant, behind. And here's a little 'video' I saved to insta stories, if you'd like to have a peak.




Butter-yellow tansy flowers...

 

If you have a keen eye, you'll already have noticed tansy flowers in some of the images above. The garden is filled with them at the moment, on their tall stems. I think tansy is a valuable plant in the kitchen garden, even if its habit is inclined to be a bit unwieldy.  You can tie it into a stake to stop it flopping all about, and I like the pungent smell it releases when you touch its foliage.




Tied to the pantry door...


Perhaps it's just a romantic notion that tansy keeps flies away, but who needs a good reason for an upturned bunch of flower stems?

I sometimes hang bunches of it at intervals over the long table where we eat lunches on event days (where there are conveniently placed timber poles supporting the roof!).




I'm so often asked what the bunch of flowers in this image are...!

 

And yes, tansy is the flower in this image that Luisa Brimble took of me that pops up from time to time! 

 


So now I have to crawl underneath but at least it might survive the heat....!

 

Down the back, my hastily erected shade canopy over the rhubarb is doing a fabulous job! 



Due for foliage reduction and tying-in...


And next door, the San Marzano tomatoes are doing fine!  Some of their first fruit are even ripening. Now that the plants have grown, this image should give you a better idea of how I keep the lower stems clear of foliage, so that any water that's likely to splash doesn't land on their leaves. 

It was from Linda Ross that I first learned about tomatoes having deep tap roots that search for water and surface roots that look for food.  This is the reason I plant tomatoes with sections of ag pipe, to try and establish those deep roots. The plants themselves are a long time in the ground, so putting in extra effort early on should bring rewards down the track.

By the time they get to this stage, I don't need to bend over so much - the tying-in becomes a 'standing-up' job - much easier!  If you want to check on the rate of growth, you could zip back to the episode 3 notes for a quick look! 



With all their beautiful markings....

 

While we're down the back, just look at the size of this pumpkin leaf! The vines are romping away down here, clambering the fences...now I'd just like them to set some fruit!

 


All but decimated....

 

But the carrot foliage, on the other hand, is a sad and sorry sight!  Oh dear.....just the day before it had been a mountain of lovely leaves! Perhaps the only positive, is that it will make 'thinning' them out a much easier task - I'll actually be able to see what I'm doing! I admit to being a bit lazy with that task during the festive week....



Heading for the oven....

 

But clearly they're growing underground! These were delicious baked in the oven, and I pulled the beetroot in the next row too, which I didn't really want to yet, but it was simply getting sun-baked! 



Mid-turn...

 

The compost has had one turn between podcast episodes and I'm very anxious to turn it again. We've incorporated almost a full bay of 'new' prunings, since the previous turn....a lot of perennial material from the Borders, that have been getting their summer chop.  But now, I'm calling an end to 'new' material and want to focus on getting this heap ready for the season ahead....heaven knows, it will be here soon enough, and this heap needs to be cooked! 

 


Pretty comfrey flower stalks...

 

You might recall I mentioned in the last episode that there was a lot of comfrey that needed cutting back and that I'd add it to the next turn, which you can see I did....layering it through the heap as each load came in.

 


A good haul....

 

It was one of those jobs I shouldn't have left 'til the last minute!  Because once Larry agrees that we're going to turn the compost, he likes to get on with it!  He views it as a 'turning' exercise, which is his (extremely important!) part in the process!  On this scale, I just couldn't do it without him in the tractor seat. 

But it's me who does all the loopy running around!  And this time I hadn't actually planned to do it that afternoon, but all of a sudden we realised it was the only likely chance we'd have for a few weeks...so it was all on for young and old....well, perhaps not so young...it was just the two of us, as usual these days!

 


Into the heap they go....a bonus....

 

I had to flush out the worm farm too, and later discovered these beauties as I strained the liquid into my watering can to water in at the early stage of the turn.  Meanwhile, Larry was revving up the engine, eager to get on!  

STOP!  I'm always saying, holding up my hand like a policeman halting traffic, for fear he'll run right over me!  But between his loads I need to prepare my next brew to water over, add one or other handful of blood and bone or chook pellets or cowpats, and water each in well before he's back with the next load; feed in the comfrey leaves....I have a whole stack of ingredients to incorporate between his loads, and to keep the water up....

While it could be a recipe for divorce, I just have to look at the funny side!  He's always so keen to get the whole job over and done with, which is why, if I have to tie him to a chair, he's going to attend the Biodynamic Workshop here on Saturday 30 March with Hamish Mackay and Charlie Arnott!  Then he can hear, straight from the horse's mouth, as it were, rather than from me, about why this precious black stuff that we make each season requires so much care

It might just encourage him to slow down the process and allow me more time between loads.  I sometimes wonder if a future headline will read "gardener run down during compost making"!!!! 

I'll upload the details to the booking page for the workshop just as soon as I've finalised them with the boys!



VIPassengers in the front seat.....

 

Off the parsnip seed went to Lizzie at Piccolo Farm. In return, I came back with some beautiful quail eggs for a lunch we had here the following day....thank you Lizzie! But just a couple of weeks on, I might have been able to take her.... 



Beautiful bunches...

 

Grapes!  They're arriving thick and fast now and they are delicious!  What a joy to know they haven't been sprayed with anything

 


Snap....

 

I can't tell you how relieved I am to have come up with the symbol for our Open Garden. I hope you like it!  Isn't it amazing to think those fresh faced fennel flowers are still to be found amongst the crowds you can see in the image above?  

Anyway, now that this podcast episode is up and running, I have my work cut out....to start making this year's Open Garden / Spring Garden Fair to celebrate 30 years here at Glenmore our best one yet!  

By then it will be three years since the last, and I have lots of ideas brewing!  Perhaps not quite like those in The Trouble with Angels, but enough to keep me on my toes! I'll be uploading details to the web page, throughout the year. Expect lunches in the Hayshed, tea and cakes in the Dairy....plant stalls on the croquet lawn etc; as of old....with new plans in the wings!



Published by Murdoch Books, 2016...

 

The last time we had an Open Garden was to celebrate the launch of The House and Garden at Glenmore...beautifully photographed by Daniel Shipp, as I mentioned during this episode.  Our shoot day lists may have been....shall I say...comprehensive?!! But working with Daniel was an absolute joy, as we ricocheted between sections of the garden across the seasons; the house, the dairy, the barn and hayshed, the kitchen garden, down the back, the paddocks, the produce and....the recipes!  All six seasons of them!  



Building, building...


Did this cloud front amount to anything? Sadly not this time......



Sealed tight against the sun....


And the window shutters are firmly closed to keep the heat at bay...


By the way, as well as dropping a slice of cucumber or two into your glass of water, I reckon there's nothing like home grown beetroot with philly cheese on a slice of bread or toast for lunch on a hot day! (Bake rhubarb in the oven and remove the skins, then keep in the fridge so it's chilled). It may sound a bit 'Nanna-ish' but give it a try! A twist or two of pepper, a smattering of fennel buds....a drizzle of olive oil...that makes it sound a bit more groovy!

'Til next time, keep cool if you can! 

 

Going, going......

lettuce, which is a great shame.  

Eating....

lettuce, coloured chard, zucchini, cucumber, aubergines, tomatoes, beetroot, corn, carrots, potatoes, grapes, rhubarb, strawberries, apples, figs, peaches, fennel buds, basil, sorrel, salad burnet, lovage, chives, French tarragon, parsley, land cress, surprise tiny rocket. We should be eating beans!

Sowing seed of....

brassicas (because I haven't had time to do it yet!) and to try an early sowing of fennel for bulbs as I suggested last time. Both of these into punnets. And more beans, direct into the ground!

Planting seedlings of...

it's really too hot to plant now.