Tales From the Plant Front
It's been so long since I did updates on the garden, that I've ended up dividing the update into two sections. Last time I kept things poultry focused, so this time I'll focus on the plants, but as these things are all linked for me, I'm linking the previous update rather than repeating everything about the run rebuilds. If you missed it, then feel free to read, otherwise continue with the plants side of things.
The quail run has been the first to be renovated. We call it the quail run, but it's also where most of the fruit trees are. Stepping the run in from the fence means they get a little less space. The most affected by this has been the plum tree.
This isn't the full harvest, but it's most of it. On the plus side, the plums are bigger than usual with less competition happening.
We haven't had a big harvest from it this year, as I didn't give the bees an extra hand with pollinating and quite a few of the developing plums got knocked off while the renovation work was happening. I was also very aware that this tree is getting old and some major pruning is going to be needed, so anything was better than nothing from it. I've noticed over the past few years that some of the main branches were starting to rot on the top, then this year my husband noted that it looked like termites had gotten in on some action too.
Oddly, those blotchy yellowing leaves aren't coming from that termite ravaged branch, but rather a healthier looking one, so I'm still a bit puzzled as to what's causing it. The sorry looking branch actually had quite a few plums on its younger growth, although they haven't been the best of the crop. The likelihood is that this tree is on its way out. Last winter I took three cuttings from the new growth and two seem to have taken fairly well. I've still not decided where to plant them out and it will be a few years before they fruit, if all goes well, so I'll cut off the worst branches from this tree come autumn and see if we can get a few more years of production from it.
The mulberry in the same run is growing like crazy, so I want to trim it back to have room to move around it in the now smaller run. Next to that is the red apple tree which our last summer nearly killed off. We only had a little bit of growth near the bottom of the graft this year, so I've done as much as I can to try and help it recover. The soil is mainly clay and is on a bit of a slope, so water just runs off, making it hard to retain either moisture or nutrients. I decided to learn something from the cherry tree's success, which was planted in a bit of a dip allowing water and debris to gather at its base. I've dug out a bit of a basin around the apple tree and filled it with mulch, compost and manure. To start with every time I watered, often with compost tea, it would just fill up and sit for ages before gradually soaking in. It's now soaking in much better and the quail are having a field day digging around in the mulch there, hopefully mixing things in a bit more. Stuff does get scattered about a bit, but never all of it and it's an opportunity to keep adding to it.
Something I moved out of the quail run was the Strawberries. They were just getting to awkward to care for in the space there and most of them were dying due to neglect. I had a cage over them to stop the quails eating the plants, but it was hard to lift that in order to weed or harvest while trying to keep the quails out. I moved them all out into the main garden, keeping the cage over to stop the wild birds eating the fruit, if or when I get some. It's been much easier to care for them this way, but not all survived the transplanting.
I am also a little concerned that one plant, which originally seemed to be thriving, is now dying and when I dug up a volunteer potato plant a few metres away in the same bed, I discovered that the dreaded root knot was still hanging around, when I'd thought I cleared it.
Near to this potato plant was a tomato which had died off, so I pulled that up for inspection, yet despite it having a root that was reaching towards the potato, it looked clear of the nematode, which is surprising considering the level of infestation that is obvious in the potatoes. I'm grateful that they don't travel far fast, but considering most of this bed was infested a few years ago, I can rule out it being the cause of the Strawberry plant's slow demise.
We finally got an identity for the chilli pepper plants. One is a mild chilli, which we like for slicing and sprinkling on foods for extra flavour. This is apparently Scotch Bonnet. Sadly, I've not found any seeds in it, except for one near the top of one, which I accidentally cut in half when removing the stem. I'm hoping some of the later chilli peppers will have some, because I'd like to grow them again next year.
The other turned out to be Trinidad Scorpion and it is on the hot end of the spectrum. You really don't want to mix these guys up! I tried a couple of little slices on my pizza, the first one was thin and I only had half of it in each mouthful, which was spicy, but bearable. The second, thicker slice I got in one mouthful and ended up with tears streaming down my face!
Trinidad Scorpion on the left, Scotch Bonnet on the right. The are actual more similar in colour than appears here, as the photos were taken on different days and in different light.
The tomatoes are surviving and producing something. I know they are heavy feeders, but I haven't really been attending to their needs that well, so a few have died off after giving us just a couple of tomatoes. I've been saving some old passata bottles in case we had a huge harvest, but I may have been over optimistic. The birds have been pecking at a few as well.
I've peeled and frozen some of them anyway, in case some keep producing and I end up doing a bottle or two. No harm in keeping a bit of that optimism.
The coriander never did get harvested and prepared for freezing, so it went to seed and I collected some of that. The rabbits also rather enjoyed crunching on the excess seeds, which gave a nice fragrance off as they ate. Some of the seeds had those holes in them again, where their little fly parasites have hatched out.
More and more I keep thinking about having something going indoors for things like coriander and lettuce.
Something that is growing very well is the goosefoot, aka lamb's quarter. One of the runs has a veritable little forest of it growing. We don't eat anywhere near that much of it, but the rabbits and chickens eat it as well, so I can't complain. The powdery mildew isn't affecting it either, so I'll take what I can get.
The snake beans are also doing well, at least those that survived to adulthood.
Now if I can just get someone else doing the housework and the cooking, I can go live in the garden and get it producing better.