04 November 2011

Spring Update

Just as suddenly as it started, Busy Season is over. At least until harvest time. All the veggie beds that needed preparing are prepared, most of them already occupied by healthy young plants, and just a few gaps waiting for seed-tray occupants to demand their permanent home.
I have even managed to clear another bed that had become completely infested with Kikuyu. Half of it has been planted to Dragon's Lingerie Beans, and I'm still debating what to put in the other half... perhaps more Greek Big Beans, or maybe Tomatillo which are still looking for a home. Whatever I choose has to be able to cope with pretty poor soil.

Most plants are doing really well. Even the Japanese White Eggplant seed that I had written off as "too old, too nuked" has eventually germinated, and I have at least 8 little seedlings that seem quite healthy. We may yet see another one or two come up over the next day or so.

One of my recent projects was installing a Worm Farm1 outside the kitchen door, so I've been harvesting Worm Poo, and it certainly seems to give a bit of a boost to young transplants. My sister-in-law warned, though that she found the Vermicompost too strong, and has to dilute it. Forewarned by her, I made a bucket of worm-compost "tea" today, and fed it to a bunch of plants that are in less-than-ideal soils, or that are slow to get going. Since it is my first experience close-up with worm compost I've been cautious... it's only been applied to plants that are not critical, or that I have plenty of replacements for. I'll give things a couple of days, and if those plants all seem happy, I'll go ahead and feed many more with the worm-poo "tea".

Lots of Tomatoes. A couple of years ago, Val and Dan sent me a whole bunch of new-to-me Tomato varieties, but during the drought we've really had very limited success. Val has since passed away, so I'm especially happy to honour her memory with some successes! "Monk", in particular, is impressing me. It s Potato-leaved variety that shot up out of the seedling-mix, and has produced sturdy, quick-growing plants. At this stage they look a lot like the Brandywines, so I'm keen to see what sort of Tomatoes they produce. "Mandarina" is another of their varieties that shows every sign of being a good early, as does "Hikari" - one of the plants already showing a precocious flower, despite being only about 10cm tall. (The name intrigues me...)

Sadly I've also lost quite a few of the varieties they sent. After some discussion between Patrick and myself some time ago, I now consider it likely that the SA Post Office either irradiates all incoming post, or uses really high-dosage X-Ray machines. All in the name of combating Global Terrorism, I suppose. Never mind that most of our Cabinet ministers were at one time considered terrorists themselves. "On your side of the border you call them terrorists; on our side of the border we call them Freedom Fighters." The sad result is that seeds arrive here in a very poor state, and germination rates and seed vigour suffers very badly.

I suppose it's not too unreasonable, in some weird, twisted sense: importing seed into the country without a permit is, strictly speaking illegal. I apply the rule, "If the law holds common sense in contempt, then we, the 99%, are entitled to hold the law in contempt." So, if you have any good ideas on how to smuggle veggie seeds into the country without them getting toasted, please pass them along. If any of my readers happens to come to SA and is willing to bring some seed for me, please, please let me know. (I'm happy to buy the seed and arrange for it to be sent to you ahead of time.) I can reciprocate the favour with accommodation and homebrew. ;-)

(I know, I know... pictures only a gardener could love.)

[1] One of these fine days I must write up a post of How I Made A Worm Farm. I really now have no excuse since I acquired my wonderful little camera!


  1. hi mike,
    i get seed sent from overseas, and usually dont have any germination problems!? they are usually hidden somewhere deep in 5 or 10kg parcels, maybe that helps?
    i also get every now and then visitors from overseas and they are quite happy to bring some seed. what are you looking for specific? maybe i can arrange some for you!
    i've send you some grinding paprika, and some tomatoe seed sometime back, did you have any success with those?

  2. Hey Michael,

    Great to hear from you again! The chile you sent me (Tchanad if I remember correctly) never made it through the drought. Very sad, since I am still keen to have good grinding peppers. The Galapagos Orange tomatoes did fantastically. They thrive even under really short water supplies, and are one of my Champion Tomatoes. I love them! I only have about 5 plants growing this season, since I am so pushed for space in the garden, but I'm thinking of trying to cross them into a few other varieties.


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