12/14: hi hibiscus and silverbeet sentinels

hibiscusAs we slip slowly into Autumn, the hibiscus seems to be telling me it likes this tropical weather. I love my plants, and if they have been a gift, when I look at them I always think of the person who gave them to me, bringing extra pleasure.

I cleaned up the area on the other side of the rose arbour, and was struck by the symmetry of nature. These two silverbeet plants self-seeded, and coincidentally are growing in the same location on each side of the path – couldn’t have planned it better myself! They stand like little soldier sentinels.

silverbeet sentinels

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10/14: a surprise raised vegie patch

I love a good surprise, and this one was no exception. Wanting to get back into a good habit of composting, I took a container of vegetable scraps to put in the compost bin outside the laundry and wow, I was bowled over (only metaphorically, thank goodness). With no attention over the last month or so, while we were travelling, my compost bin suddenly became a raised vegie patch. I can see both pumpkin plants and tomatoes in there.

creative compost

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I compost somewhat haphazardly, which is why in a couple of months I will be attending a free composting workshop run by the local council, which will no doubt provide some fodder for another post.

18/52: pumpkin project bears fruit

Some time ago I did a little artificial insemination to ensure fertilisation of a female pumpkin flower. I am delighted to show you the fine result of my interference:

 lovely rogue pumpkin

Ta-daa!

Unfortunately, some of the pumpkin eggs I tried to fertilise just died off. I am calling them eggs as if they are not mated with a male, there will be no pumpkin.

It is now late autumn and as I was just about to harvest the one pumpkin from that massive vine, and pull out the rest of the plant, what did I spy? Amazingly, both a male and female flower sitting side by side, making googly eyes at each other. I introduced them, and before long they were coupling, with a little help from the Artificial Inseminator. It may well be too late in the season but it’s worth a try. Happy honeymoon!

female and male pumpkin flowers

8/52: light at the end of the pumpkin tunnel

A rogue pumpkin vine had sprung up in our garden, and I was delighted when a whole bunch of flowers blossomed. Ah-ha, that’s potentially a lot of pumpkins, I thought. However, after some research (what would I do without google?!), I discovered that all these flowers had little penises. Yes, they were male and I know you have to have a girl flower as well if you want any chance of a pumpkin. Going with the theory that many male flowers grow before it is time for the female to arrive, to encourage bees to make many return visits and get used to that address so that when she does come, there will be no shortage of pollinators willing to help.

more boys

   too many male pumpkin flowers

Waiting, waiting, waiting, to the point whereby I had nearly given up and then, voila! A little ball appeared, a miniature pumpkin! I carefully opened up the flower to discover the difference between the male and the female variety.

a female at last

inside of a female pumkin flower

Had this already been fertilised by one of the many males? The fact that there was a minute pumpkin there already probably means it had. However, I had waited so long I was not about to take any chances, so I did a little artificial insemination with a male flower just to be sure.

using a male flower for pollination

Looking forward to a nice batch of pumpkin soup in a matter of months; fingers crossed!

331/366: rogue plants strike again!

Recently I did some serial planting in front of the rosemary bush, in which I planted some leafy green variegated plants and rosemary cuttings.

Suddenly there are rogue plants amongst them. I won’t get too excited, because last time this happened nothing actually eventuated. However, there was that one time years ago when I was very successful with a rogue pumpkin vine. I’d love that experience to be repeated. One can only hope.

323/366: playing for high stakes

I was not playing for poker stakes, but tomato stakes. I decided to plant out all the tomatoes I had in pots in one section of the garden.

When I was at Bunnings I asked a man who had a big trolley of potting mix and other assorted gardening paraphernalia, which he would recommend for tomatoes.

Coincidentally, he just happened to be a horticulturist, so I was happy to take his advice and purchase the organic mix he recommended. He also suggested buying some Thrive for later fertilising, due to the correct balance of nutrients. I’m still learning about the ratios of nitrogen, potassium and the other thing.

The more you learn about any subject, the more you realise how little you actually know.

263/366: dangerous companion planting

It only occurred to me recently that perhaps you shouldn’t plant silverbeet and rhubarb in close proximity. For those who are familiar with both it is easy to tell the difference.

However, although the leaves look similar, those of the rhubarb are poisonous. Of course, the stalks are different colours, with silverbeet having white stalks and rhubarb with their almost burgundy stems.

But then I found this one, which looks like it could be a different variety of silverbeet. Was it a throwback when it self-seeded, or perhaps a different one was in the punnet of seedlings I bought a couple of generations ago? Unless it is a different variety of rhubarb? Or perhaps the love child of a wanton union between the rhubarb and the silverbeet?

250/366: gadget girl – wavy peeler

In 2008, on our trip to Thailand, we did a two-day class at Pum’s Cooking School.

We bought a great little wavy peeler there, which helps cut vegies decoratively.

It is very useful for shredding carrot for a soup or salad.

If you shred evenly down the entire circumference of the carrot, when you slice that carrot it has a beautiful edge like a flower, and presents well raw or cooked.

It works well with cucumber too.

As I was preparing the photos for this post, I was also getting breakfast ready, which made me wonder if it could work on bananas too. The shredded outer part could either just be eaten or used in a smoothie.

The good news is that you don’t have to travel overseas to get one, as they are readily available at Asian grocery stores right here in the Land of Oz.

201/366: new growth for supermarket spring onions

Once, years ago, in another galaxy far far away… No wait a minute, in another phase of my life, I was a Tupperware lady. In fact, I became a Tupperware manager and had a company car for two years. But that of course, is a different story.

I am introducing a new category to my blog, entitled GADGET GIRL, and from time to time I will tell you about different gadgets I use. At one stage I planned another blog covering gadgets, but realised I was spreading myself a little too thin, so why not incorporate some of them directly here? They certainly fit into the broad theme of “House and Garden”. Usually I edit my work a fair bit, although in today’s blog I am prattling on a bit, as I do from time to time, but it suits the name princessprattles.com.

At one of my demonstrations, I was showing the ladies at the party the fabulous  Fridge-Smart containers, which have little vents on them to control the amount of air particular vegetables require in the fridge.

For example, did you know that broccoli is a “heavy breather” so needs both vents open, while with celery both vents are closed. There is a magnet that tells you which is which.

Spring onions are obviously undecided, as they utilise one vent open, and one vent closed.
A lady pointed out that she doesn’t keep them in the fridge at all, but plants them in the garden, where they keep growing for ages.

I found out she was right, and have been doing that ever since, but this week my plans were foiled, as I bought a bunch from the supermarket, but some of the roots had been chopped off. Oops! Never mind, I managed to plant a few.

166/366: coriander quest conquered – the easy way

Months ago, against the advice of a random customer at Bunnings, I purchased and planted coriander seedlings. See 31/366: coriander quest for details. Cutting a short story shorter: they disappeared.

Now I have taken the easy way out. At the supermarket you can buy a bunch of cut coriander. Better still,  available now is basically a little pot of seedlings, which is the option I chose. Dividing them in half, I put some in the kitchen, which have long since gone, while the other section is thriving out in my herb garden.

In USA coriander is known as cilantro. Imagine on a cold winter’s night a red curry soup with various vegetables and noodles, coconut milk and coriander – delicious.