Welcome to TheBloomingTales

Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. Please feel free to make comments at the bottom of each post and tick the reactions boxes. If you have any gardening questions or want advice just post a comment (choose anonymous from the drop down) and I'll write about it. Regards JP.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm Partial to Naked Ladies

I discovered the Auckland Botanical Gardens at the beginning of the year when completing an assignment for a horticulture certificate I have been working. What an amazing place to discover new plants and get some ideas for you own garden.  It was there that I saw her.

Erect, void of a cloak, showing off her beautiful blooms stood the first naked lady I had ever seen in a public place.  I held my breath and could not break my constant stare.  It was like one of those moments when you know you have been gazing at something that you knew you shouldn’t.  I took out my camera and took some shots so I could continue my admiration in the privacy of my own home.  At the time I didn’t have a clue what the plant was, I just knew that what I saw was truly enchanting. 

At the beginning of winter this year I returned to the gardens to try and find the flower again and hopefully someone who could identify it for me.  I couldn’t believe it!  She was gone, my first true flower love had vanished without a trace, and in it’s place grew a bush of strap-like leaves.  I found a lone gardener tending to the perennial plants in the garden and poured out my heart to him, describing her distinguishing features.
“Ahhhh yes, Amaryllis Belladonna”, he began.  “She is still there, but will not be as noticeable, she covers up during winter, you will have to come back in summer once her cloak of leaves have died away and from her bulbs spring forth her impressive blooms”, said the knowledgeable gardener  (I’m taking poetic licence here).  Relieved yet left with a sense of longing I thanked him and turned to walk away. 
“Excuse me sir”, he called out.  “You may like to remember her for her common name”, he suggested.  “OK”, I replied.  “I’ll just get out a pen”.
“Oh, no… you wont forget it”, he was sure.  “Naked ladies”, he smirked.   
So, with baited breath I will await the summer, when again I will see her in all her glory, Amaryllis Belladonna.  My naked lady.

If you have any photos of Amaryllis Belladonna growing in your garden I would love to post them.  Please feel free to send them to thebloomingtales@xtra.co.nz with your tale of naked ladies.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cabbage! That's what's Growing.

Cabbage!  Boring?  Mmmm, maybe.  But it’s the only thing that has actually grown and ready for picking in my winter garden this week.  But boy is it packed full of all the good things my body needs.  Really high in vitamin K and C, great source of fibre (you may hear that coming from my bedroom later tonight), manganese, folate, vitamin B6, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, protein, are you still reading?  Get my drift?   

I was inspired by a tweet (on twitter this week) when someone posted a picture of this fantastic looking cabbage grown in the Wairarapa, New Zealand, circa 1890s (http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=3190).  Ok, so my little one is nothing in comparison and I am suffering from size envy, but I’m still going to make really good coleslaw from it, even though it won’t be able to feed the whole town (and when I say “I”, I mean my lovely wife).  This is how she made it:

 STEP1  Finely slice cabbage (about 3 cups)

STEP2  Finely chop small onion (raw, don’t cook)

 STEP3  Grate two medium sized carrots

STEP4   Grate 1 cup of Edam cheese

STEP5  The dressing.  Combine in a bowl: ¾ cup natural yoghurt, 1 finely chopped gherkin, squeeze of lemon juice, 1/4tsp mustard powder, season with salt and pepper, parsley and thyme (these were growing in the garden so chuck in anything you have growing). 

STEP6  Mix the dressing through the chopped up vege and cheese and you are ready for dinner. 

I put a call out there on facebook for some cabbage recipes.  This is one I got from my friend Dave Dougherty. I’m a vegetarian so can’t vouch for the taste, but it does sound good for those carnivores out there.

Slice cabbage into roasting dish, sprinkle with finely diced bacon, sprinkle with celery seeds, salt and pepper, place a couple of knobs of butter over surface, cover with tinfoil, bake in oven for 10-15 minues, remove pan, remove tinfoil, toss everything together before immediately serving ...

What do you do with cabbage?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Marvellous Meyer Lemon Tree

I chose this weeks plant of the week for no other reason than to show off.  I’m proud you see.  My little baby Meyer lemon tree is now all grown up with it’s first little tiny lemon shaped gem growing on it’s stem.  To be really honest my Meyer has brought me nothing but heart ache over the past few years, so I think it’s best to start it’s story from the very beginning.  
I decided early one spring morning, after waking with a head cold, that I needed to grow a lemon tree that would allow me to make fresh, hot, vitamin C rich lemon drinks when ever I had a hint of a runny nose and not just when I had lemons in the fruit bowl.  So off to my local garden centre I drove with the last $20 in my wallet until payday.  I was greeted by a cheerful lady who helped me choose the perfect Meyer lemon tree that I could grow in a pot in my courtyard.  The tree cost $19.95 (NZD) and I blame it on the head cold that I bought a $130 pot on the credit card to grow it in.  I became obsessed at trying to work out how many lemons I could have bought for $150!!  That was only the beginning of my lemon tree woes.  

The tree grew OK to start with and it wasn’t too long before it started to bloom.  I heard on a radio gardening show that it was a good idea to pull all the flowers and fruit off lemon trees in it’s first year of life (something to do with promoting growth first).  So with a sigh I decided it would be worth it in the long run and picked the tree bare of it’s baby making properties.  It was only two weeks after this that everything went wrong.  The tree looked terrible.  Yellow leaves, limp looking limbs and strange holes and marks on the bark appearing up the trunk and stems.  Was it punishing me for being so mean?  I googled, searched through plant books, asked relatives, what could be wrong with my $150 miracle tree?  I tracked the culprit down!!  My first encounter with Oemona hirta (lemon tree borer).  I managed to insert a fine wire into the holes and pull out the tiny enemies.  I got three of the little suckers!  My next plan was to nurse my Meyer back to health.

I remembered my grandfather telling me as a 10 year old that urinating under the lemon tree is really good for promoting growth.  He sure did have the best lemon tree I had ever seen.  So would this be the medicine?!  I began a weekly schedule of visiting the tree late in the evening to offer a warm golden tonic for it’s drinking.  It’s hard to have perfect aim when you are trying to make sure the neighbours aren’t looking!!

A month into the regime all (and I mean every last one) of its leaves fell off.  Death by urination? What a way to go.  I gave up.  I have no idea if my urine just didn’t have the goods or wether I was neglecting the tree of other vital necessities of life.  Growing lemons just wasn’t for me.  So, I left the tree, devoid of all life and focused on growing beans instead.

I feed it fertiliser every few months and watered whenever I remembered and low and behold, it began to grow.  I tried not to look at it in fear of putting it off it’s growing.  It began to blossom profusely.  Until one cold spring afternoon it began to hail hard.  The 10 minutes of hail shredded the tree of all of its flowers and many of its leaves. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.   
Just under a year later, today in fact, it’s looking amazing.  I stopped counting at 600 blossoms and there is one solitary, beautiful, dark green lemon growing.  Is this the year that I will be able to start getting some of my $150 back?  I feel a cold coming on.

Friday, July 9, 2010

How to grow plants from seed: Part III Home made seed raising pots

In part I we looked at seeds, part II seed raising mix and now part III a short video on how to make your own jiffy pots for growing the seeds in.  These are great for raising all varieties of plants especially beans, broccoli, eggplant and the list goes on.  The great things about them is they are made from recycled material, they can be put straight into the earth once you transplant out into the garden as they break down (just loosen the bottom of the pot so the roots can continue to grow down easily), they are made by you, and they are freeeeeeee.  Give it a go this weekend.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Plant of the Week: Heliotropium "Cherry Pie"

When my wife’s Aunt Lorena told me about a plant growing in her garden that smelt like cherry pie I was intrigued.  I was just starting out in flower gardening and she was encouraging me to take cuttings of plants from her garden to try and grow them in mine (for free).  As soon as I walked into the area of her garden with this “plant that smelt like Cherry Pie” the beautifully sweet, fruity smell of fresh from the oven home baking made home in my nostrils.  I took a cutting there and then and it has since become one of my favourite flowering shrubs in my garden.  This week’s plant of the week is Heliotropium ‘Cherry Pie’ from the Borage family, Boraginaceae.  
The plant has really attractive clusters of delicate violet-lavender coloured flowers that attract both bees and butterflies.  I have grown it in a pot near my front door fooling visitors that there is baking going on inside.  Heliotropium makes a great garden border and flowers mainly in summer however it is well into winter in my garden now and it is still flowering.  It does prefer a spot in your garden that has good sunlight for at least a few hours of the day and you need to keep watering it during the summer to encourage it to flower.  The dark green leaves are lanceolate in shape (shaped like a lance) and have a rough almost furry texture.  Being the great Greek scholar that I am (if you count 6th form classical studies) I can tell you that ‘Helio’ means The Sun and ‘trope’ means to turn.  The leaves (and some say the flowers) turn towards the sun throughout the day. 

You can propagate this perennial from seed, taking tip cuttings or small plants can be bought from garden centres.  
Have I mentioned that they smell amazing? Actually I’m off to the garden for another hit now.  Mmmmmm Cherry Pie!!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fruits of my labour: Rhubarb Jam

It was raining today, so what better thing to do than make jam.  I took a rhizome from a rhubarb plant growing at my parents place two years ago and did nothing but put it in the soil in my garden.  Within 6 months I had enough rhubarb to stew to have on my muesli for breakfast.  Now the plant provides continues crop.  Today I made some sweet rhubarb jam.  This is how I made it:

1.  Chopped up 1 kg of rhubarb cut straight out of the garden.

FREE from my garden

2.  Sliced up two Fuji apples.

27cents (NZD)

3.  Heated up a cup of water with 2 cups of sugar and added the rhubarb and apple.  Once the syrup and fruit start boiling turn down the heat.

85cents (NZD)

4.  Add finely grated lemon rind and juice.

FREE (off my friend lemon tree)

5.  Boil on low until it reduces and is nice and thick (keep stirring so it doesn't stick to the bottom and burn).

6.  Chop up 5 pieces of preserved ginger and stir into the jam about 2 minutes before the end off cooking.

75cents (NZD)

7.  Pour into sterilised jam jars.  Filled five of my small jars.


Total = $1.87 for five jars of yummy jam.

I had it on hot buttered toast with a cup of tea.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to grow plants from seed: Part II Seedraising Mix

So, in part I we looked at buying seeds and now you need something to grow them in.  Some vegetable and flower varieties do not do well when transplanted from a punnet (like carrots) and need to be sown straight into your garden bed.  But if you choose to start the seedling off in a greenhouse or on your kitchen table then this is where, in my opinion, you need to invest either your energy in making your own or your money in buying a really good quality seed raising medium.  It’s not a good idea to use potting mix as these contain fertilises that will kill your seedlings (burn) and are too coarse for the seeds to break through. Soil from your garden mixed with a little river sand and peat moss can be OK but may contain micro-organisms or diseases that are harmful to the seed/seedling.

To give your seeds the best start in life choose a good seed raising mix that has good drainage yet is able to retain moisture, has good aeration, has some kind of food (fertiliser), a nice light, fine texture, and be free of any pests, disease causing pathogens and of course weeds.

I have recently changed the mix I use and recommend Tui Seed Raising Mix.  I really do think it is well worth the money.  It contains a fungicide, gypsum (for healthy root development) a saturaid wetting agent (retains moisture) and they claim on the bag it is 100% free of weeds (enough of them in my garden as it is).  It is such a good looking mix that it looks like you could add an egg and a cup of milk and you’ll have yourself a chocolate cake (not suggesting you do!!).

Just a note here:  Always wear gloves and a face mask when handling any seed raising mix (or potting mix) and follow the safety instructions on the bag.

My gardening goal for this year is to start making my own seed raising mix.  I’ve found a recipe that sounds good and wont break the bank. 

*  1/3 Coarse river sand (fine sand skins over making it very difficult for seeds to germinate through). For aeration, drainage and texture.
*  1/3 rich well composted compost. Body of mix.
*  1/3 worm castings from my worm farm. Food.

Part III of this series will examine containers for holding the seed raising mix.  Including a video of how to make your own seed raising pottles.

Friday, July 2, 2010

How to grow plants from seed: Part I

Over the next week I’m going to bring to you a series of tips and tricks I have learned over the years for successfully growing plants from seed.  My own experience of growing from seed has certainly had its ups and downs, but I would really encourage you to give it a go!!  Today and tomorrow I’m going to focus on the things you need to buy, borrow or steal before you actually put seed to soil.

Why grow seed when it’s so much easier to buy the plants from a shop? 
The reasons can vary.  Satisfaction, saving money, experimenting, supplying demand etc.  For me, growing plants from seed has really given me an appreciation of the life cycle of each plant I have chosen to grow. You get to see the special requirements for each seed/plant variety right from the beginning of it’s little life.  You certainly do save money in the long run, even if the original start up cost may be a little more.  When I first started I would always go for the cheapest of everything: seed, raising mix, trays etc and the results were not always the hundreds of A grade, luscious, healthy looking seedlings to fill my garden.  My number one tip would be to invest a little money in the beginning to save in the long run.  With a little planning, you can grow just the number of plants that will meet your needs.

What do I need to get started?

Let’s start with the seed:
-       Buy a good quality seed bought from a reputable company. This will mean that the seed is labelled correctly, packaged well for freshness and will come with growing information applicable to that particular variety. I really recommend Kings Seeds which are available online at kingsseeds.co.nz.  They have an amazing selection of vegetables, herbs and flowers with bonus offers when you spend over $40.  Their latest catalogue is out now and can be ordered through the website. 
-       If you buy from a shop make sure that the packets are not stored in the sun.  And look on the packet for when the expiry date is (seeds generally only have a short life span) and only buy the packets that are newer.  This will ensure you have enough time to actually use up the seed.  Older seed becomes less viable.  Don’t be shy; take the seeds from the back of the row.
-       Do some research about what plants you can grow at various times of the year. 
Barbara from Kings Seeds gives this advice to readers of TheBloomingTales:

“We find the greatest cause for germination failure comes down to planting at
the wrong time of the year. With our changing seasons this becomes very difficult but you have to read this year by year. For example, last year we had the coldest October in NZ since WWII, causing many germination failures but gardeners are quick to suggest that they
"always plant ...... at this time of the year".  In most seasons they would be absolutely right but they have to treat each season as they find it”.

So, let’s start from the beginning and decide what you want to grow.  Have a look at kingsseeds.co.nz for some inspiration, write a wish list and buy your seed.  Tomorrow we will look at storing your seed and buying or making your own seed raising mix.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Plant of the Week: Coreopsis grandflora

Over the next month or so I want to show you some flowers that you can start growing inside now (from seed) so that they will all be ready to plant out once spring hits.  I have chosen Coreopsis for plant of the week due to the fact that is a really easy flower to grow for the beginner gardener (from seed), they produce masses of flowers all through summer (good to cut for the vase and mass of colour in your garden) and are easy to look after (not a fussy plant, will grow well in almost all soil types and will forgive you if you forget to water it).   
The flowers look like daisies and are often bright yellow with the foliage being a dark green.  Coreopsis is often talked about with the common name Tickseed.  I would recommend the Coreopsis grandlflora and in particular ‘Early Sunrise’ as seen in the photo.  You can get seeds for this variety from Kings Seeds https://secure.zeald.com/kingseeds/results.html?q=Coreopsis.

I really get a kick out of seeing the whole process from growing from seed to picking the flowers.  So Coreopsis seeds from Kings will be on my shopping list this year.

Last week’s plant of the week was Whau (Entelia arborescens), and I said I was on the hunt for some of the seedpods so I could try and grow them from seed.  Well, while walking around the Zoo with the kids yesterday I picked a dried seedpod off the ground under a Whau tree.   
Once I pulled the prickly pod apart I got over 30 seeds (along with a baby cockroach).  So tomorrow I’m going to plant 10 of the seeds.  So stay tuned for my success/failure rates.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fruits of my labour: Silverbeet into Sag aloo

This time of year you should find that Silverbeet is prolific in your garden. It can be one of those veges that you grow, but leave uneaten in your plot because you don’t know how to make the most of this highly nutritious vegetable. Well I’m a fan of it just steamed or maybe with some butter and seasoning. It’s also great chopped finely in an omlet, quiche or frittata. Tonight though I took some inspiration from Mr Rick Stein and adapted his ‘Potatoes and Spinach with Cumin and Mustard Seeds’ recipe (Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey p. 278) for my own Silver Beet usage needs.
 For this recipe you will need 4Tbsp mustard oil (I just used rice bran), 1 tsp black mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 25g crushed garlic, 30g peeled and grated ginger, 2 thinly sliced green cayenne chillies (because I’m serving to small children I left these out), ½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp kashmiri chilli powder, 700g peeled potatos cut into 2.5 cm pieces (didn’t measure every piece), 250g spinach (Silverbeet), ½ tsp Garam masala.

Heat the oil in pan, add the mustard seeds and cover with lid until the seeds stop popping, turn down the heat and add the cumin seeds, sizzle for a few seconds, add the garlic, ginger and chillies and fry for two minutes.  Stir in the turmeric and chilli powder, then the potatoes, 5 tablespoons of water and a teaspoon of salt.  Cover and cook.  Stir occasionally (add a little more water during cooking if needed, I didn’t).  Once the potatoes are tender, stir in the silverbeet and cook for a couple more minutes.  Sprinkle over the garam masala and eat!! 

As you can see I served with some steamed peas and a tasty piece of pan-fried salmon.

I would love to see the fruits of your labour and what you do with them, too.  Send me your photos.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Making Babies

As I’ve said in other posts, last season I grew lots of different annual flowering plants from seed to try to attract more bees and butterflies to my garden.  One way to keep annuals flowering prolifically during the season is to de-head (pull or cut) the flowers off the plants once they have died, to encourage new growth.  Near the end of the season I left a few of the heads on the plants in order to collect the dried seed for next season.  Well this was my intention.  I ended up pulling up the dead plants and instead of just throwing the dead flower heads in the garden bin I just chucked the heads on the bare ground (not knowing really what would happen, maybe feed a few birds).  After a walk around my garden this morning (after some rainfall and sun this week) I can see lots, well actually hundreds, of self sown seedlings popping up all around the garden.  There was no need to burry the seeds as most seeds can grow just sitting on the soil.   
Sure some of the seedlings are not where I want them to end up, and there are way too many.  But they are going to give a really natural look to my flower garden this coming summer season (if they survive the winter) without a lot of work (or money) at all.  My Asters, Zinnias and Echium have all self-seeded this way.  I’ve been out at Patamahoe today on a pruning tutorial, so stay tuned for a pruning post soon.

Remember you can subscribe to email updates of TheBloomingTales, just click on the link on the right hand side of the blog.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plant of the Week: Entelea arborescens

I have decided on something a little different for this week’s plant of the week.  It’s a plant that I remember seeing as a kid during bush walks and a lot recently in various places around Auckland (including a large specimen at the Auckland zoo).  To be honest I have always thought it was a weed, but I have recently learnt a little more about it and in fact it’s a New Zealand native tree with the common name "Whau". 
The cool thing about this native is that its timber is one of the lightest of all trees in the world, yes even lighter the Balsa and it’s density less than Cork.  It has really pretty white flowers in the spring, which stand out against it’s large bright green heart shaped leaves.  The flowers then turn into these fascinating brown spiky seedpods. With the fact that it is a fast growing (up to 6m) spreading tree I am going to attempt to grow some from seed this coming spring, so I’m off for a hunt this weekend for some of the seeds.  Might have to visit the zoo.  I’ll let you know how I go!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blooming Answers: Farewell sweet Capsicum

"My capsicum have all started to rot and wilt now but i enjoyed them while they lasted.  Do I just pull them out now and plant something else or will they grow again and should I just leave them"?

Thanks for your question…Unfortunately it is time for you to say goodbye to your capsicums.  So pull those plants out and plant something for the winter period.  Capsicum plants are grown as annuals in New Zealand.  An annual is a plant that germinates, grows, fruits and dies all in one season (as apposed to perennials which live for more than one year).  Capsicum plants are not very tolerant to frosts and I’m guessing it’s due to the fantastically warm weather we have had up to now that they have lasted so long.  Have you thought about saving some of the seeds for next year’s crops?  Just cut open one of the fruit and scoop out the seeds, dry them on a sheet of paper towel, and keep them in a dark dry place (envelope) until the end of Winter when you can start growing them inside for planting out after the last frosts (when it starts warming up a bit).  Hope this helps.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Public Enemy No's 1,2,3 and Four

As a novice gardener I have lost many crops from birds pulling them up while looking for food, strong wind breaking the stems of young seedlings, snails and slugs feasting on deliciously looking young shoots and white butterfly caterpillars hole punching the flawless leaves of my little babies (and let’s not even get into cats).  And each year I try to come up with a plan to beat these public enemies at their own game (and before I start, there will be references to death in this post).  My most recent experiment has been to cover young seedlings with 3litre juice bottles with the bottoms cut out and the lid taken off (free) and pushed into the ground.  I have also invested in a couple of wire mesh plastic covered tunnel houses for the seedlings, too ($9.95 each from Palmers).  
 I leave the seedlings covered for 10 – 14 days.  This gives the young plants enough time to establish their root systems, stems and leaves without being hammered by the wind, pulled up by birds and even stops slugs and snails from chomping the delicate growth shoots.  I do put a few slug and snail pellets at the two ends of the tunnels.  I have also tried putting crushed eggshells around my seedlings to stop snails with fairly good results.  The bottles and tunnels both act like mini greenhouses giving light, warmth and shelter to the seedlings.  I did a little experiment during the last couple of weeks.  I planted two identical sized seedlings next to each other, one with a bottle and one without.  Have a look at the growth rate difference (the one with the bottle is one the right).  I had to replant the one without the bottle due to a bird digging it up.  


Dave asked a question during the week (see has comment on the cauliflower post ) about his problem with caterpillars eating his crops and not wanting to use sprays.  I too have struggled with this problem.  A young seedling can be totally destroyed in only a matter of days by caterpillars. This year I have gone out to the garden every evening and rubbed off all of the eggs that were laid that day with my thumbs, this requires looking on the under side of each leaf.  This was really effective all though time consuming, some days were worse than others.  A great friend of mine called Alexi (an all round excellent gardener who lives in New Mexico) once told me a story of how he was taught to deal with caterpillars and their eggs.  He wrapped packaging tape, with the sticky side out, around his hand and dabbed all over each plant that were affected.  The caterpillars and eggs would stick to the tape.  There are also homemade chilli or garlic sprays that can be made and sprayed onto the leaves to stop chewing insects (just google this and you will find a recipe).  I have also tried planting other plants (like lavender) away from my veges to give the butterflies somewhere else to lay and feed.  Maybe other readers could make suggestions about methods they have tried.  Comment below (choose anonymous if not a member).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Plant of the Week: Lavandula

I chose Lavender for the plant of the week for a number of reasons.  It smells great, looks attractive, attracts butterflies and bees to the garden, quick and easy to grow (not fussy at all), can be used in cooking, can be dried or pressed for medicinal purposes, you can put a few sprigs in pantyhose and leave it in your drawer to make your clothes smell fresh, and the list goes on.  A gardening friend of mine once said to me that a garden wasn’t really a garden unless it had lavender in it.  Mmmmm I thought, better go and get me some lavender.  It’s easy enough to go and buy it from the garden shop, but the other reason I wanted to write about it is because it can be so easily grown for free by you.  Yes, you!! Yes, free!!!  Just find a plant in your neighbourhood (as you go for your morning walk) and cut a 6cm piece of softwood with a flower bud on it.  Trim it up (to look like the photo), stick the bottom end in hormone gel if you have it (don’t worry if you don’t) and stick it in a small pot of potting mix.  Keep the mix damp but not soaking (or the cutting will rot). 
Only after a few weeks the cutting will start growing roots and after a couple of months you can plant it out into the garden.  I took (yes took, not stole) four different cuttings from four different varieties last year and all four are now growing and flowering really well (as you can see in the photos).  Two pieces of advice is to make sure you take the cutting from a healthy looking plant as you are making offspring from a parent plant.  Take from an ugly looking parent and you will get an ugly looking kid. And take the cutting from an upright section of the plant, not from the side (let’s not get into genetics here, just trust me).  You can grow lavender from cuttings all year round, although the best time is from late spring to autumn.  Even if you already have lavender growing in your garden give it a go and give it away.
Extra for Blooming geeks:  Lavender belongs to the Lamiaceae family – the mint family.   

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cauliflower Update: Aloo Gobi

Just updating the fruits of my labour for the week.  I made the Aloo Gobi as I said I would.  The verdict - 'Yum, yum, yum' in the words of my one year old daughter.  Great use of the second head of cauliflower I picked today.  I used this recipe: http://vegetarian.about.com/od/maindishentreerecipes/r/easygobialoo.htm Let me know what you do with cauliflower!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fruits of my labour: Cauliflower

I’ve got into the habit of late of planting just a couple of varieties of the identical plant at regular intervals, so that I don’t get lots of the same plant fruiting at the same time.  I don’t have a very big garden, but I have set aside room for growing 13 larger vege at a time, along side the plants that don’t take up so much room.
I really like the idea of sharing plants with friends.  If you can find a fellow keen gardener in your neighbourhood where you each buy a punnet (or better still grow from seed) of one variety of vege and swap a few plants with each other, then you can save a lot of money and wastage of your crops from being sick of eating the same vege every night. 
This weeks vege that was ready to pick: two good-sized heads of cauliflower that I planted out about 18 weeks ago.  Cauliflower takes longer to grow than other Brassica.   
They also grow with big leaves pointing towards the sky that makes it look like nothing but leaf is growing.  I have known people to pull them out because of this, but just a week before the cauliflower is ready to pick the leaves will open up displaying it’s head.  You don’t even have to grow the old school white cauliflower these days; there are also varieties that are green, orange and purple (I just replaced last weeks picking with the purple variety). I certainly couldn’t have it every night, but cauliflower is a really delicious vege.  My favourite way to cook it is to steam it until it’s cooked but still firm and cover with lots of creamy cheese sauce (dinner last Wednesday)!!   
This weekend I’m going to cook the Indian dish Aloo gobi which uses cauliflower and potato as its main ingredients.
All Brassica (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage etc) grow really well in the cold and there are special varieties that can be planted out all year round.

This weeks challenge:  Find someone this weekend who can be your ‘Vege buddy’, one buy a punnet of broccoli and one a punnet of cauliflower, and get swapping!!