Spring weeding among the pineapples

So, the thing about weeds is that they can be both good and bad at the same time…

During cold days at the end of winter, we rely on weeds such as soursobs to shelter our pineapples from frost damage, simply by smothering them. Although this blocks the light, it does allow the pineapples – normally grown in sub-tropical climes - to over-winter in a temperate climate. The pineapples themselves are ‘grown-on’ vegetatively from the green spiky tops cut off non-hybrid pineapples and just ‘planted’ in rich soil. The new pineapple grows on a spike sent up from the original one in the second year. (This one-year old pineapple can be seen next to another ‘find’ - a bitter ‘radicchio’ lettuce also capable of over-wintering here on the Adelaide plains)


DSCN0029 These same soursobs flower in early spring and so provide valuable early food for the bees, while protecting an otherwise bare soil surface from pounding rain.

Worms also do well under soursobs during winter, enjoying a symbiotic relationship with organisms such as fungi and mychorrhiza that feed on the roots of vascular plants.

As the weather warms up, weeds actually prevent early evaporation losses by shading the soil.

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On the downside, many plants – especially seedlings – don’t compete well against more vigorous weeds because shading weakens them, or forces them to grow long white stalks as they put all their energy into reaching up for the sunlight. (These long stalks are disastrous in lettuce and cabbage seedlings, for example, as the elongation never goes away, leaving the mature plant head lying somewhere nearby the root system on the ground instead of being held away from the soil on a short stem.)

So it’s up to the gardener to regress the balance between weeds and wanted plants by the reflective, if occasionally tedious, practice of ‘weeding’.

In among the weeds, one often finds things ‘forgotten’ since last year’s planting, such as this crop of garlic in the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos above.

Or how about these (newly-washed) sweet potatoes, growing successfully in well-composted friable clay soils? This despite all the textbooks will tell you about sweet potatoes growing only in sandy soils!


Dare I dream of spring?

It's been a long and cold winter. But finally - a very cheerful sight. The first flowering bulbs!The jonquils are flowering madly. They are always the first ones to come up. Soon we'll have a sea of daffodils, too.
My favourites are the snowdrops, though.

Eating and growing your own veggies

I find it extremely satisfying to grow our own vegetables. What joy to go out in the garden and harvest vegetables ready for the table or the pot.

The purple cauliflower is slowly getting ready. It's such a great winter vegetable!

There are always spring onions growing. I just cut them off at ground level and they re-grow. And I always let some go to seed so there are self-sown spring onions all year round.
The baby swedes and their tops are just gorgeous in a stir-fry or soup.

There is one chilli bush growing in a fairly protected spot and it even survives our cold winters. So once in a while I still get to harvest a chilli.

So, this is for tonight's tea. Sautéed vegetables served with quinoa maybe? Or any other suggestions? I could harvest a few carrots to give the dish more colour.

Eating baby swedes...

... and their tops. Yes, you can!I tend to sow my swedes pretty thickly in autumn. Then in the middle of winter it is time to thin them out. You want to give the rest of them enough room so that they can grow thick roots.

The beauty of these baby swedes is that you can eat everything. The tiny root and their tops. Wash thoroughly, chop roughly and sauté. (Great with pasta!) Or just throw them in your soup.
Then just before serving, beat some eggs, drop in, divide into bowls and top with parmesan, if so desired.
Ps.: This works equally well with turnips.

Home-made bacon

You won't believe how easy it is to make your own bacon!

Get yourself a piece of free-range (organic) pork belly.

You can use just plain salt, or add spices of your choice (pepper, chilli, rosemary, etc.). Or make a mixture of half salt, half sugar.
Rub your pork belly very well with your preferred salt (mixture).

Place in a glass or plastic container with a lid. Put in fridge. Leave for 24 hours.
After that you will see the salt is pretty much liquid.
Pour off, rinse and dry container and rub the pork belly well with salt again.

Continue to do so for 5-8 days. When it is firm to the touch, it is ready. Rinse off salt, dry and keep in a covered container in your fridge.
It may be a bit salty, but if you use it sparingly and together with free-range eggs or in some other cooking, it'll be fantastic! We will be experimenting with the salt/sugar mixture - this might make the bacon less salty.

Good luck!