Thursday, December 30, 2010

Florence Fennel - Fennel Bulb

My wife Izumi likes me to try all kinds of weird and wonderful things in the garden. She kept asking me to grow Fennel so I did. Our first crop of fennel grew fine but it wasn't the variety she wanted – she wanted the Bulb kind known as Florence Fennel. We needed to grow it from seed because the nurseries didn't sell seedlings of such an unusual plant. It's popular with the asians and is usually sold in Chinese vegetable shops. But it's quite expensive – that's why we tried growing our own.

So here it is:

Technically although it's often referred to as Fennel bulb it's not actually a bulb — it just looks like one, hence the name. The cats seems to love rubbing themselves against the foliage which smells sweet like aniseed.
We grew it over the winter months and harvested it in September.

Here's what Izumi did with it:

She sliced up a couple of oranges off the tree...
 Then mixed it in with the fennel (the bulb part) which was also sliced up...
 Then she added a few pitted olives...
I think she added some salt and pepper and some of Paul Newman's salad dressing and that's about it. It was very fresh and full of interesting flavours. It goes well with just about any kind of meat dish you can think of including fish, steak, sausages... whatever you like really.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My first attempt at Cabbage

I really enjoy trying to grow new things. This year I tried cabbage for the first time. I decided to get serious about feeding the soil and WOW what a difference it makes!
At the time I harvested this cabbage (November 28) the ones they were selling in the shops were only half the size and cost about $4. Based on that I reckoned this one was worth about 6 bucks. We cut it in half and gave half to a mate up the road who sometimes drops in with some fresh fish.
We got 2 or 3 meals out of that half cabbage, including a fresh coleslaw, a lamb neck stew (with cabbage of course – done in the pressure cooker), and something else which I can't remember now. Altogether we got 3 green gabbages and 2 purple ones, altogether valued at about $16-18 — not bad for a $3.50 punnet of seedlings.
However if I'm to be completely honest about it, it also took about $1 worth of fertiliser plus a half bag of compost which cost about $5/bag, then there's all the watering...
Still worth the effort I reckon. Very satisfying of course, plus we have the peace of mind knowing there were no sprays used.
I think I'll try that again...

Establishing the Top Garden

One of the bigger tasks I set for myself this growing season was to establish the Top Garden area properly. I knew it was going to take a lot of work because it was covered in scrub and other garden rubbish and that's just what was above the ground. Then came the really important part of establishing any new garden and that is: getting the soil right!
The top layer of soil was kind of loamy which is OK but not far below that was some serious clay and a few stubborn tree roots. I wanted to make sure my new gardens had a reasonable depth of soil as I intended to grow potatoes to begin with.
What it needed was organic matter so I got a mixed load of mushroom compost and organic compost. Having gotten rid of as much of the clay as possible I then mixed the remaining top soil with the compost. I made sure the garden would drain properly by sloping the solid clay underneath.
It was quite a workout which I had to do over a period of a couple of weeks just whenever I had the time. My aim was to have it ready for planting potatoes on Labour weekend (25 October) which I managed to accomplish.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Economy of Space

In the city garden there are many pressures on space. So the time comes when even the most precious of plants needs to be removed to make way for other things. For example, several years ago, a long time before I got around to putting the vegie garden in, I planted a shrub called "Pride of Madeira" . 

Every year around spring it would burst into beautiful purple blooms. As the years went by it got bigger and bigger and the display of colour became more and more spectacular as it grew in size. 
However my vision for the garden has changed since I first planted it and now it's turned out to be in the wrong place. As much as I would've loved to have kept it, considering the fact that it flowers for only about 2-3 weeks of the year and in view of the amount of space it takes up, I could no longer justify keeping it – in the afternoon it casts a big shadow over part of the garden.

So, out came the axe… and that was the end of it!

Thinking Laterally

How to turn the simplest job in the garden into a complicated one... 

Connecting 2 Hoses
Having added 2 new gardens at the far end of the property I came to realise that my hose wasn’t long enough to reach them and they were desperately in need of water. A simple enough problem to fix you might think... All I needed was a simple hose connector for joining 2 hoses together like the one pictured... 

As usual, despite the fact that I do keep all sorts of bits and pieces around the place I couldn’t find what I needed to do the job. It seemed rather a waste of time and effort (not to mention carbon credits) to go all the way to the shop to buy such a seemingly insignificant item. 
After turning the shed upside down looking for what I needed I discovered I had a number of other hose connecting paraphernalia including 2x 3-way hose connectors and at least a half dozen end bits – but what could I do with them? 
This is what I came up with...

As it turned out the whole exercise took about an hour which is longer than the time it would’ve taken to go to the shop and buy what I needed.
By the way, in case you’re wondering how I was able to take a photo of the connector I needed, I actually found one a couple of weeks later when looking for something else I needed! 

Don’t you hate it when that happens?