‘Potting-on’ tomato seedlings

Mother Nature is taking her own sweet time to finish ending the broad-bean crop in the garden bed in which I’m planning to raise this year’s tomatoes. I’m going to have to ‘pot them on’ to tide me over for another week or two until I can get in there and prepare their new home…


Because I save my own seed I can afford to plant more tomato seeds than will become tomato plants. This sounds wasteful but protects me against germination failures. So I select the strongest plants and move them along to larger pots.

This is a simple-enough process, though it’s hard to toss out young seedlings as ruthlessly as this job demands.


A clump of seedlings is broken out of the original seed tray and one or (at most) two are kept in the hand then moved to the larger pot where I’ve previously placed a small layer of potting mix. The thing is to leave the healthiest plants with the longest roots covered by the most soil; a job for a sharp eye. The roots are dangled over the bottom layer and one’s spare hand can be used to grab potting mix and pour it gently around the plant until the pot is full and the first small leaves are just covered.

Tamp down and move on, while keeping track of labels.


All dressed up...

...and nobody to scare.

Halloween isn't celebrated around here. So, I wonder why that little bug bothered?

Does anyone have an idea what bug that could be? It looks quite funky, doesn't it? :)

Honey ice-cream

First ice-cream of the season. Honey.

Only 3 ingredients. Cream, eggs, honey.

Just perfect for this warmer weather. :)

How to Save Onion Seed

P1060052It’s the middle of Spring and I should be furiously planting out seedlings, but with high temperatures and hot winds on this particular gardening Sunday, ‘transplant shock’ would be a death sentence to small plants under these conditions.

Fortunately there is another job where these same conditions demand action; collecting onion seed for the vegetable seed collection.

Onions (Allium cepa) are a hardy biennial from the southern parts of Russia and Iran. Biennials are plants that produce vegetative growth (and in this case, onions) during the first growing season, slow down through a period of cold weather, go to seed in the second growing season, and then die.

Spring onions (Allium fistulosum) originated in the Altiac Mountains east of Mongolia and were probably cultivated first in China and Japan, entering Europe from Russia with invaders in the Middle Ages. Spring onions are a perennial, meaning that they should last year after year, even if neglected somewhat. This is a useful skill in an edible garden, as they produce faithfully in a quiet corner.

P1060048So I have both types of onions – biennial and perennial – and both are going to seed in this second Spring after planting. They have shot up on leafless hollow stems, produced the pretty spherical mauve flowers typical of alliums, and the plant heads are now coming to seed at different rates. The heat is helping, but strong winds will knock them down and scatter the seed onto the soil, so I’m out there with the scissors cutting off the browned seed heads where the seed capsules have opened and the black seeds are visible.

P1060057One can go to some trouble here bagging and drying these seed heads in a warm dry shady place, but I find that just tapping the heads into a plastic tray produces adequate levels of seeds under these weather conditions. These will be left in open air in the shade for a few days to allow the small insects to escape and to dry the seed a little further before they go to the storage tins. The fine chaff is blown gently away.

Historical source: The Seed Savers Handbook

Home-made soil nutrition

Mid-Spring and two months since we’ve had rain on the Adelaide Plains…

P1060043About now I’d normally be starting to see the late winter crops drying out and I’d be struggling to start seedlings in drying soil.

But just for once I’ve got the ‘covers’ on the garden in time; a deep layer of barley straw – about 60 bales – covers all the working beds, paths and the orchard floor. Soil moisture levels are under control, needing only 10 tonne of water per week (10 000 litres) to hold steady.

P1060042But with watering and the seed table under control I’m forced to face a more insidious problem that’s been creeping up on me for some years now; the nutrition levels in these soils is starting to fall. This is particularly true along the edges of the garden bed (mesh) fences where I grow beans and cucumbers year after year.

Fortunately we’ve been saving kitchen scraps – imported nutrition – for a decade now in three Gedye bins that have been in constant rotation. Each bin takes at least a year to fill even though we throw in a bucketful of scraps each day and occasionally add green cuttings from the garden and a shovel or two of soil. Where does it all go?


So I choose the oldest bin and pull the tapered top off (the bottom is open). Compost worms everywhere! These worms - Tiger worms, Indian Blues and Red Wrigglers - are different from earthworms; they live on the surface and enjoy moist, cool, dark, oxygen-rich places with lots of food scraps to eat. This lot seem particularly fond of the cook’s lecture notes that she dumped in there; they are living between the sheets of these thick wads of old A4 paper and loving it.


This job stinks.

But I wouldn’t know – at sometime in the past I lost my sense of smell, so I’m the perfect guy for this work.

P1060035The top layer of the heap is set aside, the worms are moved to the two remaining working Gedye bins by the shovelful, the nutrition-rich worm castings at the bottom of the bin are loaded into the wheelbarrow and sieving begins.

Old cake trays make great coarse sieves for such compost, removing old bones, sticks, avocado pips and other bits of hard rubbish.

New bean trenches are hoed along the fence lines and ‘Lazy Wife’ bean seeds are dropped onto the trench floor with compost then straw mulch added on top; these large bean seeds will push through this as they germinate.

P1060037I add a brand-new drip line to totally saturate the root zone so that the beans can get out into the moist surrounding soil for extra nutrition. The cook helps out by planting the cucumber seedlings, adding compost and back-mulching as well.

And that’s that.

Except that – a day later – there’s still a funny smell lingering around wherever I am. Even I can occasionally detect it.

Luckily the cook is away at a seminar in the Barossa Valley or I’d be sleeping down the back-shed tonight…

Jostaberry flowers

Everything is going wild in the garden. Here are some flowers of the jostaberry.
The jostaberry is a cross between a blackcurrant and gooseberry. The berries are big and black,  with a lovely taste. The plant is really hardy and easy to grow. I am already looking forward to picking some berries in summer.