Pumpkin-picking Sunday

One of the simple pleasures of autumn is the bringing-in of the pumpkin crop.


The chooks are happy too – they get turned into this patch – closed to them since the crop was planted six months ago – to work their way through the old mulch in their search for insect snacks.


imageWithin half-an-hour, this healthy crop has been placed into cake-trays on a shelf in the workshop, with the smaller ones set aside for our four-month-old granddaughter, who is just discovering the taste of vegetables for the first time.

These butternut pumpkins are sweet-tasting, long-lasting and easily peeled.

imageThey are neither as decorative nor as large as many other varieties that I have grown in the past, but I have settled for what suits the kitchen.

They will last us until well into Spring, to that new season when fresh food is once again available.


The rains of autumn


The rains of autumn have come at last, bringing relief to a gardener weary of the chores of irrigation after eight dry months.

Winter crops are growing slowly on the seed tables and the chooks are taking care of the weeding. All gardening activities – including blogging – have been put on hold while I prepare for the final assault.

Fortunately for this ageing body, this last attempt requires me only to attempt intellectual heights, not physical ones. The same well-spring that drives this small garden has powered my life’s work in developing sensors and systems for improving the way we irrigate crops on a global scale.

IMG_20150519_081637_028So I’ve cobbled together a small budget to outfit my home workshop – right there in the middle of my garden – to make the final tweaks to a sensor design that began twenty-six years ago. Finally, the art of electronics and my own skill levels are good enough.

I’m going to “get the plants to do the talking”

That story has been told before (here).

Now I assemble my workshop from judiciously-chosen second-hand equipment available on eBay and Gumtree. Winter evenings will be spent down at my bench. Winter weekends will be devoted to getting those crops into the soil and sorting out weeds and soggy paths.

IMG_20150502_150442_453But it’s not all work. My granddaughter comes over and ‘plays’ in the newly-organized home-lab, making flashing lights and miniature weather stations from the junk that has been set aside after a long career building such things professionally.

Life seems good.

New rooster

Meet Colin!
The Berry Gnome has always wanted a rooster called Colin.
Now she has got one. :)

Purple mash

Well, why not? Purple potatoes are absolutely delicious. Roast or as mash. Depending on variety, obviously.

Today's purple feast - vegetarian shepherd's pie.
Delicious and just the ticket on a cold day.
Have you had purple potatoes before?

Autumn Chill

It’s autumn in southern Australia and plants are beginning to slow down as soil temperatures fall and daylight hours rapidly drop away. All this starts once Easter is over and the first rains bring the soil back to life; the autumn chill is coming.


Only a month ago I was protecting seedlings against too much sun and heat. Shade cloth over new seedlings produced the worst seed table I can recall in a very long time. One week they were thriving (photo on the right) and then – phlat!

The most likely problem is that the commercial ‘premium’ potting mix I used lacked sufficient nutrients to provide these seedlings with the energy they needed to cope with extremes of heat and shading, no matter how carefully I watered them. So what started out as excellent piece of planning – an early start to the autumn plantings – turned into a near-disaster, with many seedlings lost.

P1060864So the seed table was moved to a sunnier spot, new potting mix obtained from a more reputable supplier, and new seeds planted. All the usual winter stuff - red, brown and white onions, orange and purple carrots, kohl rabi, beetroot, parsley, tatsoi, whitlof, all sorts of flowers (for the Spring display), mitsuba, mitzuna, filderspitzkraut, chives, garlic chives, Black Spanish and Miyashiga White radishes, raddichio, endives, ‘Fat Hen’ salad greens, ‘Freckles’ cos lettuce and thyme.

P1060859More netting is dragged out of the shed to cover these seed trays before the blackbirds get in there and flick up the potting mix in their search for worms; the fragile seedlings are all too easily buried.

The ‘home paddock’ garden bed has been dormant all summer for lack of available water; this has been mulched and watered and the soil restarted to receive these autumn/winter crops and the remnants of the summer seedlings.

P1060844April brings the first serious rains we’ve had in over six months; weeds and remnant vegetable seeds spring up all though this soil. Direct-sown lettuce does particularly well, along with broccoli, cauliflower, ‘rapa’, silverbeet and corn salad (‘Feldsalat’ in German). It doesn’t look like much now, but it will all get sorted before the soil cools too far.

All this goes on while the last of the summer crops are harvested – pumpkins, zucchinis, basil, eggplants (aubergines), capsicums (peppers), beans, avocadoes, grapes and peaches. The citrus trees – mandarins, grapefruit, oranges and lemons – are already starting to show colour.

And the current soil temperature? Over in the production garden soil temperature is monitored automatically and continuously. I need only log onto the internet to see that the long slow slide into winter is upon us. So now it is a race to get those seed-table seedlings to a sufficient size to plant them out before cool soils stop them altogether.