Sunday, 16 September 2012


I'm really excited to see the potatoes growing so quickly! All the pink fur's have popped up now and I'm soon going to need to get some more soil and straw to build up the height around the plant. The sapphires are still hiding under the soil, but they weren't shooting when I planted them so I suspect they'll take a bit longer.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Growing vegies from scraps

I've recently tried a few little experiments after I was inspired by this post from the lovely 17 apart. The idea is to regrow plants using kitchen scraps and I've had some mixed success. Leek and celery have been the easiest to grow and as you can see above I now have a couple of plants that have moved outside in pots. Given how time consuming these plants can be to grow, having a quick growing version that costs nothing is great!

Celery was surprisingly easy to grow using the base that would normally get thrown into the bin with the scraps. All I needed to do was sit it in a small dish of water, changing the water every few days.

 Just one day later there was already signs of growth. The yellow inner leaves began to turn green, the segments had separated and the centre was pushing up.

After a week the leaves were getting greener and bigger, and the outer stems were starting to dry up a little.

In two weeks the outer stalks were browning a bit but out of the centre, a new celery plant had grown.

Finally, after a month there was quite a substantial plant growing in the bowl. I broke of a few of the browner outer stalks before potting it in some seed raising mix (see the photo at the top of this post). It probably wont grow to be as big as it used to be, but will put out thin stalks that are great for adding flavour to a dish or for when you just need a little celery and don't want to buy a whole bunch.


Next up, the leek was also started by leaving the white end and roots in a small bowl of water. As you can see from the photo below, after a day the centre has already started pushing up.

A week later and the outer edges were starting to die off. I thought this was the end of the plant, that it was getting some kind of disease, but I left it and the plant is still going strong. The water should be changed every few days, and as the plat grows it is helpful to add some toothpicks for stability.

After three week, the leek had grown substantially and was ready to be taken out into a pot in the garden.

Spring Onions 
Spring onions are also a really easy 'scrap' to regrow. For years I have kept bunches of herbs and spring onions in jars to prolong their life, but had never thought of using the roots and white end to regrow. As I was paying more attention this time, I noticed over the week or so the spring onion below lived in this jar, the roots grew quite substantially.

As I used up spring onions in cooking, I simply kept the ends in a bowl of water. You might have noticed some in the photos of the celery growing experiment above. They grew really quickly as you can see in the photo below after only a few days. Unfortunately I dont have any photos of later on, when they were getting big, as at around the two or three week mark I forgot about them over a few hot days, letting the water evaporate and the onions dry out and die. I'm just waiting to buy another bunch of spring onions to start this experiment again.

The next experiment is a work in progress and is expected to take quite a bit of time! So far the seed has been sitting in water for almost a month with no sign of life, but I've read this is to be expected. I just need to be patient! It's had a few friends join it since this photo was taken, so I will have to update on how they are going later on.

Again it is the same idea... add a few toothpicks to hold it in place and leave in a water, adding fresh water every now and then. I don't expect to be eating homegrown avocado's any time soon, they take years to grow to a fruiting stage, but they do make an interesting tree.

Sweet potato
Finally, the sweet potato failure. Over the years I've had a number of sweet potato's sprout from the eyes and grow long slips in my cupboard. I was also inspired by 17 apart's amazing sweet potato tutorial. So, I thought this project would be easy. However - two months after starting this project, diligently changing the water and checking on them, I have admitted defeat. There is no sign of growth from these little guys - so they are off to the bin. I'll try this one again another time, probably the next time one tries to grow in the cupboard!

Garden update

Apologies... it has been a few weeks since I posted as life has gotten in the way of blogging. Exciting things have still been happening in the garden though, especially with the new seedlings and potatoes I planted (more on the potatoes later). There have been so many posts I have wanted to put up, but havent had the time to even think about downloading the photos from my camera!

The garden is looking fantastic at the moment with everything growing like crazy. Flowers are popping up everywhere, the lemon tree is covered in shoots and blossoms, the vegies are growing like crazy.

The seeds I planted a few weeks ago quickly pushed up into the world. First the rocket came up, then the beans raised their huge head. The two pictures below are after one week.

Here they are three weeks after planting. As you can see the beans have gone crazy, and there has been a lot of success with the tomatoes (top tight) and rocket (bottom right). The basil has been the slowest - I'm only seeing the first little shoot now - almost a month to the day after I planted them. I was quite unimpressed with the germination of the spinach and coriander. Of the 12 spinach seeds I planted (2 per tube), I only got 2 seedlings. And only four little coriander. There are still a couple of late beans coming up - so maybe there is hope for the rest.

As they were getting so big, I planted out the beans with a pack of peas I picked up recently. The rest of the seedlings have moved outside to harden up a little and will be transplanted with their first real leaves start to grow. I think these zucchini (above) will go in next.

In other garden news, the kale is growing like crazy, even with the green smoothies I've been drinking.

I've also planted a number of other 'pre-started' tomato and capsicum seedlings for a bit of an early crop.

Finally, the nasturtium I planted down with the lemon tree is looking amazing and has just put on its first flower!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Garden supervisor

Every now and then I get a little visitor to my garden. Meggs, my neighbours cat, loves to stop by and supervise my work in exchange for a cuddle or two. Here he is, busy approving the soil depth for the potatoes I planted on the weekend.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Growing Potatoes in Sacks

It's potato time! Although I've never grown potatoes before, I been reading quite a bit about them and have decided that this year I'm going to give them a go. There seem to be a number of methods out there, but I've decided to grow them in hessian (burlap) sacks. The soil in my garden bed is poor and too hard and full of clay to allow the potatoes to grow. Even if they did I'd never be able to find them. Some people suggest stacks of tires, but I worry about the toxic chemical leaching into the soil. I've also read that the lip of the tires fill with water and don't allow good draining. Then there were pots, or containers, but it seemed too hard to get the soil high enough. So - the sack it is.

A few weeks ago I picked up 10 large hessian sacks. These were originally used to hold coffee beans and have come fron both Brazil and PNG. They are quite large (about 1m wide when flat) and will hold a lot of soil. I rolled down the top and layered the bottom with a few sheets of newspaper to keep too much of the soil escaping out the bottom while still allowing drainage. Then filled the sack up with a good quality potting mix.

I've got two varieties to try. A 'Pink Fir' which I got from Diggers a couple of weeks ago and which is a little like a Kipfler. The other variety was called a 'Sapphire' and is a bit larger and a beautiful blue in the centre.

I've planted two seed potatoes in each sack, hoping they aren't too crowded. Now I just have to wait for the shoots to pop up. The beauty of the sack method, is as the shoots grow you just need to add more soil and slowly roll up the sides of the sack. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll have a nice big crop ready to eat!

Quick and Easy Polenta Lasagna

For dinner last night I wanted something wholesome, full of vegetables and really really easy. The fridge was full of vegetable that needed eating so I decided to pull together a polenta lasagna. This recipe uses polenta instead of pasta sheets making it vegetarian, gluten free and if you omit the cheese on top (or use a vegan cheese) it can also be vegan. I don't have exact amounts as it all depends on what you have available.

Polenta layers
Mix about 100g quick cooking polenta (i use the 1 or 2 minute varieties when im in a rush and don't want to spend 25 mins stirring!) with approx 400ml water and cook according to directions on packet. The amount of water will depend on the brand and how precooked it is. When all the water is absorbed, poor into the bottom of a baking dish (or two) and smooth out with a spatula. You want to get it as thin as possible and want it no more that 1cm high. Put in fridge to cool while you chop the vegies. If you have more time you can make two batches, or use two baking dishes the same size and make both at once.

Chop vegies as thin as you can get them. I tried for around 1mm thick.
Prepare a tomato sauce however you like it (onion, garlic, herbs all optional). I had some leftover in the fridge, but if you're short on time you can also use bottled tomato puree.

Putting it all together
Once the vegies are chopped get the polenta out of the fridge and tip out onto a tray or baking paper, being careful not to break it. Using the same baking dish, layer the tomato sauce and vegetable. If you have enough for two layers of polenta add the first one in the middle of the layering process and add the other at the end. I only had enough for one polenta layer so I used this for the top.

Add a little more tomato sauce on the top polenta layer, add some grated cheese, and cook at about 180 degrees for around 45 mins to an hour. When done, a skewer should push through the vegetables easily.

 I made two and put one in the freezer for one of those nights I dont have time to cook.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

A plantable postcard

Last week while getting a coffee, I noticed an interesting free postcard in the Avant card display.

 I was initially attracted by the colours and thought it could be something to add to the collection of postcards brightening up my desk at work. When I picked it up though, I noticed it was made of recycled paper and full of tiny seeds.  Looking closely, they are apparently lemon scented bottlebrush (callistemon citrinus). I don't normally plant native shrubs in the garden mostly because there isn't the room. However, the front of the property has a number of natives and if this grows I can add it to them and hopefully attract more birds and bees.

Following the instructions on the card I soaked it for a few minutes to let the paper soften while I got a small pot ready.

The card fell apart as soon as I picked it up, so rather than trying to lay it flat I rubbed it into the potting mix and spread the seeds around.

Now I'll just have to wait and see if it grow!