Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chili and Big Brother Broccoli

These chili plants are at least 15 months old and have survived through one winter season without any tender loving care. It is fruiting many chilies now and we can started freezing some. We are harvesting chili alternate days. These chili plant like the mild weather we are having now here in Adelaide. At my parents house, chili is always available at home because my father (Orang negeri) have to have some spicy food on the table. My mother have been controlling my father meal portion by not cooking spicy dish. Poor papa, no fun at the table and less appetite. 

I wanted to make spicy green mango salad tonight and there were no chili in the kitchen, with the help of the front door light I can see some red ones. This is a very quick dish to prepare 2 green mango thinly slice, mashed shrimp paste (belacan), pounded roasted peanut and chili (depend on you hotness tolerance), a bit of salt, squeeze one or two lime/lemon for juice and mix well. Join in Wendy's Garden to Table Challenge.

Who took good care and made sure that these chili plants survive the winter? This good buddy became a wind break, shelther chili from the cold and strong wind. It blanketed and warm these chili plants through winter. Brocolli was like a brother to chili as it grows taller than chili, it help shelther the fragile chili against the cold wind. It is difficult to see chili plants on the left and right side of the photo as the angle taken is not good. Some self-sowed blooming zinnias growing happily in between broccoli plants in winter, did it help attract predators? Did white English Daisy bloom help to confuse butterfly to lay eggs on the leaves? did this relationship began in this 1 X 1 permetre square patch? Perhaps you can spotted some self-sowed zinnia in last fall here in the picture. Red onion interplanted in the middle with 4 broccoli plants, help to reduce pest attack. Can't see the chili plant because it is supposed to be growing at the left and right sides of these 4 broccoli plants. At this stage, broccoli closely resemble Chinese Broccoli (kailan) and taste similar too because the cook harvested broccoli instead of kailan without the gardener noticing the mistake until a few days later.
Cauliflower and broccoli growing together with calendulas (Pot Marigold) which is an edible flower and make a nice border. Broccoli plants were taller than Rayyan who were 11 months old at that time.
What to do when you have excess seedlings of Chinese Broccoli? Inter-plant Chinese Broccoli with garlic to mask scent and reduce pest attack. Yes, it is very hard to produce a perfect-looking kailan. Chinese Broccoli grow fast which in 2 months it will be ready to be harvested and with it shallow and small root it won't bother the slow-growing garlic. Save space in the garden too.
When growing many variety of vegetable in a patch, I see many kind of relationship form in our garden. Broccoli giving shelther naturally to our chilis and calendula brighten the patch with special network in the soil. I am planning to grow purple sprouting broccoli side by side capsicum plants this fall and scoop some self-sowed coriander seedlings to transplant it around broccoli for safe measure. Hopefully when these corinder bolt it will help to nurse back the capsicum plant if it needs help.
Another 2 days it will be the end of "Companion Planting Week" in my blog. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and advice on companion planting. Hope more will share and give some ideas with Companion Planting.
What is "Companion Week" and Seed Give-Away visit this post for more information.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Leek Lucky Mate

My Leek confession:
1) I can't remember my first taste of leek but it must be in Japan when I buy ready-made set for nabe ryouri, ignorant that the cut veggies in the pack is leek. I must have eaten leek many times in Japan when I dine outside with friends but not paying attention on what I am eating.  My first taste of leek will be when I am already adult which is just a few years ago;-).
2) Leek is a new vocabulary to me. I know what leek is when we bought our first leek seeds through catalog last year because we wanted a new variety in the garden growing well in cool season.
3) My cousin Lenay has never known Leek until we grow them in the garden and had her first taste of leek from our home-grown.
4) I have never bought any leek since I married my husband.
Leek is very easy to grow and almost pest free. Don't need much water. Grow in full sun. Great as companion to other vegetables. Not sure about peas and beans though, I have never tried growing them together because so many companion planting referance said that allium family and beans don't like each other.

Leek grows well with pansy or viola in the garden. This combination make the garden look more ornamental. I really like growing leek in the front yard because combination of leek with any vegetables makes the garden more pretty.Pansy help cover the leek stem like blanching. At the back of leek are carrots and onion grown from sets.

Carrot and leek is a well known combination of companion planting.
This is an odd companion gardening , Europe and Asian fusion~chives, leeks and water spinach in the same pot. These allium help to reduce water spinach pest attack.
What is "Companion Week" and Seed Give-Away visit this post for more information.
Thank you for linking.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Solitary Sunflower

Sunflower makes the garden look so cheerful and inviting for pollinators or predators.

 However, behind that cheery smile on sunflower face, it is almost destine to live all alone without having other companion than its siblings. Plants that grows together with sunflower will have less yield for example sweet corn or the cucurbits (zucchini, melon, cucumber). Sunflower inhibits the growth of potatoes and ginger. Last spring, we planted rows of sunflower at the back of the fence. Lenay planted sprouted potatoes and gingers in between these sunflowers without my knowledge. When we were cleaning up the patch after sunflower has finished their life-cycle to prepare for fall plantings, found many ginger and potato sprouts that are just about to push their new stem out from the soil. Potatoes, ginger and sunflower don't get along together at all.
Since sunflower can grow so tall, I entertain the idea that climbing bean growing beside sunflower can take advantage of using sunflower as trellis. The direct-sowed climbing bean (snake bean) germination was not good and growth were stunted. I tried direct sowing both sunflower and edamame (soy bean) seeds on the same patch but only one bean seeds sprouted whereas sunflower had no such problem. I reckon after 2 trials of growing diffrent variety of bean on the same patch with sunflower, I won't grow them together again anymore. Sunflower is good green manure and compost material. Since we can't use sunflower while they were a living plant as a trellis, we used the stalk now for peas or snow peas trellis during the cool growing season.
I like to fully utilise the space that we have in the garden, can anyone share their success of growing any plants together with sunflower?

Thank you for linking.

Carrot and Cucurbit

We never grow enough carrots. Rayyan eat most of our carrot harvest. Making sure that we have some carrot for Rayyan every week, I have to try to sow carrot seeds every month. Growing carrot during summer here in Adelaide is a bit challenging as the temperature is high and good germination will be a problem. Furthermore, the harsh burning rays of Adelaide summer sun can burn the leaves to crisp. I found that 'New Red Kuroda' carrot variety can tolerate heat (good and fast germination) which is reliable for growing carrot in summer. Carrot takes a long time to grow and space is very precious in our garden so I have to think of  a way I can give some shade to protect carrot from getting itself cooked in the soil and of course space vacancy. While we tested growing cucumber in container, there were a lot of empty spaces so we decided to sow some carrot seeds and see whether carrot and cucumber can grow happily together or not. YES they do!
Cucumber yied were good and carrot size were not too bad either.
Carrot thinnings.
Rarely have the chance to take photo of our carrots because it goes directly to the cooking pot for Rayyan meal.

This is what happened to the carrots growing together with bitter gourd after several days of 40+ degree Celsius. Bitter gourd foliage gave some shade protection for the carrots. Imagine if carrot were totally at the mercy of the sun, surely they will die.
Carrot which we sowed in the middle of last summer, growing together with watermelon.

I think carrot might give some contribution to this companionship too, help break the soil for cucumber shallow root system? To an oberver like me, a win-win situation.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our Dense Kitchen Garden

I have to be more creative with the mix and match of vegetables and flowers in each patch in our garden this fall. Hopefully, looking at the variety of seedlings available in our hands that is currently growing well and healthy, I can make many happy groups and not bad companions in one of the patch. I would try my best to plant these seedlings in block, inter-planting, successional sowing and spreading the same variety of plant at different location. One of the combination of plants that seems to get along very well which I have planted last fall did seems to be working were my kitchen garden patch (very small area which is about 1.3 X 2 per-square metre).
Front view of the kitchen garden in early spring.
We trained nastartiums to climb trellis near the wall. Nastartium were choking the plants when we let it rambling at the ground. Self-sowed violas, celery and carrots (topweight) are growing in partial shade. Some polyanthus flowers which can tolerate shade. Leeks recently planted in spring as it was bare after we harvested that small area transplanted near over-wintered carrot. Bolting coriander/cilantro plant nursing capsicum back to health which survived winter but were infested with aphids because it was weak against the cold weather. We have self-sowed french marigold and aquilegia growing near the front door. All the winter brassicas have been harvested and while we wait for summer seedlings to grow like tomato, inter-planting with komatsuna.
Kitchen garden side view.
Can you see 2 tomato seedlings inter-planting with komatsuna?
A closer look.
Can you see at the front sunflower seedlings?

A few week later, over-wintered celeries have bolted so I have replaced celeries with one zucchini plant. Sunflower seedlings has grown much taller. I found that growing sunflower and zucchini close together has less crop compare with zucchini plants which is not growing together with sunflower. However, sunflower did not effect on viola. The reason we planted sunflower in front of the kitchen window is to provide us some shade from the afternoon sun. Moreover it is not ideal to plant herbs here during summer, too hot for them. In winter this patch received very limited sun, only leaf vegetable can grow well here. This is the main thing I have to remember when I plan to grow things in this patch, Summer-too hot; winter-almost no sun.

Photo taken in middle of summer where the sunflower has already fully bloom, the plants flop toward the ground when it is too hot and gradually start to go upright again in the afternoon after drinking some water. Over-wintered capsicum producing. Cherry tomatoes did well last summer. Bean and jicama (legume) not fond of this soil here. Aquilegia spent-blooms were left dry and collect the seeds later which is giving us lots of babies at the moment. I am still not satisfied on how I use the space here, need to think of new plan next summer.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cauliflower Combo (Companion week)

Most book regarding companion planting has given suggestion to make companion planting work well is not to plant the same kind of plant in a straight row but to plant in blocks and inter-planting with other plants that give good support or compatible to grow with. Moreover, not to just focus on getting them on the same plot but grow them scatter on different place in the garden. In my first year of growing cauliflower , we grew them in 2 straight row with lack of knowledge about companion planting and it was time consuming to get rid of the eggs and caterpillars. Those cauliflower were not a beauty and the leaves were badly munched, sometime we were tempted to just give up on the cauliflowers. On top of that, some of the cauliflower plants were also badly infested with aphids which cause the plants growth to be stunted. We lost many cauliflower plant to these pests. So, on our second year we decided not to repeat the same mistake again and try to follow this simple basic rules:
1)Plant in blocks, not rows.
2)Inter-planting with other plants
3)Plant in different location in the patch. It does not matter even the patch does not look neat and organise as long we can avoid the pest (contain them in one place). Think of it as playing hide and won't be seek.
4)Succession sowing ( one of the last sowing, bye-bye butterfly mom too cold for you now, only worry about snail and slug).
Our second year of growing cauliflowers were a success, save so much time and money (don't even have to make organic spray that often). We harvested more than 50 cauliflowers which is more than double the amount of harvest in the first year from our small garden.
Here are some cauliflower combination inter-planting with other plants that we did last year. I was amazed in 1metre X 1 metre persquare plot there were so many variety of plants that we can inter-plant.
Peas growing vertically behind 3 cauliflower plants. Growing in-front of cauliflowers are leeks, carrots, corianders,lettuces and 2 poppy plants.

Peas growing vertically, 2 cauliflower plants were growing side by side with 3 celery plants, calendulas and phyrethrum plants. There are 3 sad-looking chili plants near the pathway which bravely withstand winter season which we treated as perennial instead of annual. Not a pretty sight in winter but many chilies for us now.
Coriander don't mind shade so a row of corianders at the back, 3 celery plants in the middle and poppy as a border on the front. Coriander grew taller and taller as they bolt, when they are flowering it will be most effective against pests like aphids and sap suckers.

We have fresh seeds of Zinnia (Lilliput Mix), Bitter Gourd, Leaf Amaranth (Chinese Spinach) and Portulaca (Moss Rose) that we will like to share with 3 blogs that has kindly share their experience in companion gardening by linking their post within this"Companion Week" , which will be chosen randomly.
Happy reading and hope you have a relaxing long Easter weekend!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Zinnia the Good Companion (Seed Give-AwaY)

It is the first day of "Companion Week". I hope everyone will be willing to share their good and error combination of plants from your experiences in companion planting. Once upon a time, there were no nets and pesticide for gardener to use against those pests that every gardener corner in this earth have to battle with. Even potagers that designed to look pretty ornamental also must lean heavily on companion gardening. Sometime it is not easy to fully give this important role to good companions, we gardener always worry whether they will have 100% success on looking after the plants that we want to grow in good health and perfect form. However, companion planting is not only about reducing destructive pests. It is also about attracting insects that act as predator and pollinators, nursing plant back to health, increased plant yields, triggers more nutrient and oil increase in certain plants and many more benefits. You are welcome to link more than one post from your old or recent post.

This is the second year that we grow zinnia (lilliput mix) in our garden arranging them with edible plants. In the first year,I did not realised how important zinnia roles in sustaining healthy plants in our garden. We grew more zinnia in the first year, I had less problem with aphids. I start to appreciate this plant in the second season we grew them because I started to wander why are my okras infested with aphids. Although, zinnia has not been categorised in edible flowers, it plays a major role in attracting bees and predators.
Zinnia also help provide some shades to edible plants during very hot summer so that fruits won't get scorch by the sun. Our zinnia took the heat that it look really bad with all those burned leaves but at least okras and aubergines were saved. Zinnia are hardy, they bounce back and give us more blooms. Visit FishTail Cottage for Cottage Flora Thursdays.

We found that zinnia grows really well with the solanum (nighshade) family such as eggplant, capsicum and chili. As many okra experience grower will know that okra is easily attack by aphids. You will watch many ants on okra plants too during aphid infestion. Last summer, okra plants which are grown with zinnia did not have any aphids problem at all. But other okra were infested with aphids and I have to gather ladybirds to nurse those plants back to health.
Thank you to this predator that act as aphid vacuum cleaner, many of our okra and capsicum plants were saved. I will certainly grow zinnia again for my favourite aphid vacuum cleaner. Zinnia does not need that much space to grow and thrive very well without any tender loving care. They grow fast and give you bloom before those nightshade plant does. Zinnia help to camaflouge our vegetable plant in the front yard. It takes us two summers to understand the relationship of our zinnia and okra. Next summer, we will definitely plant okra and zinnia together.
We are collectiog zinnia seeds and would like to share this seeds and other seeds that we have collected this month~Bitter Gourd, Leaf Amaranth (Chinese Spinach) and Portulaca (Moss Rose). For this Seed Give-Away, 3 blogs which have link with "Companion Week" will be chosen randomly.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pasar Tani di Kebun KMG

I cried a bucket of tears a few days ago but I got a basket full of harvest on Sunday. Our kebun (vegetable garden) gifted us with chilies, leeks, okras, white spine cucumbers, angled luffa, Purple King and snake beans. We also had a bowl of Da Cheong Chae babies that have already grown about 10cm tall from thinnings.
Any idea what dish did I decide to make with serai (lemon grass), daun kesum (laksa leaf/vietnamese mint and these ingredient? This is actually the first time, we tasted our home-grown Okra Burgundy. We have been freezing okra harvest since the first pod.
"Snapper masak Assam Pedas" which literally translate as Snapper cook in spicy sour soup? This is a very popular dish in south of Malaysia peninsular. It is sour due to one of the base ingredient which is tamarind juice. The most common type of fish that is used for this dish is actually sting-ray. I remember there was a time when we were travelling south and mom got hooked with this dish. Those eggplant were overcooked by me but they still taste good. Boosted my appetite, ate with very warm rice.
Stir-fried angled luffa with anchovies which Lenay cooked for dinner today as I stayed late at school. It was delicious so sweet and soft to eat.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Arigatou Around the World

I would like to thank everyone that I have met and become friends in the bloggingland Thank You very much for all the advice, support and encouraging words. It  made me very happy and got through my problems a lot easier. Although, I sometime cannot release all my stress with gardening because I am coop up in school, visiting other blogs help lessen the stress. I received many nice surprises this year in our mail box from around the world and like to say Thank You.
We will start with the closest place from our little garden.
Berry & Veggie Gnomes that have given me so many things for the garden (So hard to say no to them).
Many thanks for many beautiful flower seeds from Catmint.
Joyce author of My Little Potted Garden~ Thank you for your support letter and kind words when we were going through Rayyan surgery phase.
Autumn Belle~ I will try to be a better cook learning new recipe from your gift and study smarter with the lovely tag.
Kwee Peng ~ Thank you for a very early Birthday wish;-).
Starting from here, we will travel to countries that have first time visit our mail box and we were so excited.
At first I was shocked to see why are the stamps missing. Did not know that my husband was secretly collecting stamps.
I received an envelope from Mr. H & Mrs. H (author of Subsistence Pattern), who has been my inspiration on collecting our own home-saved seeds since we started gardening in Adelaide. So happy on receiving so many seeds that I can't wait to sow this month. I let the photo do the talking, see the yellow tape.

Lucky! I did not know that my name automatically entered Laura's give-away and won. What a lovely give-away presents. Laura have a very big heart and always cheer people up with her wonderful e-mails.Those teddies was not originally in the give-away. But she included them for Rayyan and Ilhan.
Rayyan was so happy having a new friend for him to play.
I am happy that at this moment since Rayyan is born. He is in his very best form and health.
But, I guess I wear myself out...hit rock bottom.
 In this coming August, it will be 3 years since I started my studies for PhD in Science program as a full-time research student. I was in a very nervous state last Thursday because Rayyan had appoinment with his dietician. Hoping that Rayyan did not lose so much weight after the surgery and he don't need to put on nasalgastro tiub again. So happy that he actually put on weight and the dietician was happy with how things are going for him. Yeah!Bye-bye nasalgastro tiub. The realisation of that I have only a few months to complete my research and think about writing my thesis made me stress, hit me hard on Thursday morning. A friend encouragement to me, that I would never have imagine before that I managed to survive studying my PhD up till now after all sort of a problem that I have been through. I did think of giving it up after Rayyan was born but I do know that I will hate myself for giving up and will come a lot of IF thinking later. Meeting up with my supervisor also help to clear up my mind as well with all those doubts that I am having. I was kind of surprise that he actually thinks that I am on track in finishing up my PhD, on top of having problems and burden which is not usual for a full-time research student to manage.
I should feel encourage.
Have more confidant and faith on myself.
What am I thinking?After I gone through alternating spending time in school and hospital.
Take a deep breath, I can do it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kangkung (空心菜) @ Water Spinach

Kangkung is a perennial vine that belongs to the same group as morning glory so it is also known as water morning glory and same genus as sweet potato. As it is a semi-aquatic tropical plant, it thrives in very damp area like swamp or water-ways. In Malaysia, it is a very popular stir-fried with garlic, shallot, chilies and shrimp paste (belacan).
My memories of kangkung in my childhood was looking at my father favourite tortoise pet feeding on it. How nice to be young, I actually got time to gaze at how that tortoise eating it and how long does it take to finish it out of boredom. Hmm…in my teens, I always wonder why my mama keep the bottom stem root part and not throw it in the bin. Then saw her sticking the root in the soil. A few days later, some leaves appeared. She was growing kangkung this way. But I don’t spent too much in the garden, except reluctantly watering the plants like a shinkansen (bullet train). I wish that I-pod were invented that time so I don’t need to listen that the pots were not moist enough like my sisters. In college, I was surprised to find that kangkung were sold in Niigata (Japan) but only during summer. Niigata prefecture has the most ski resort places in Japan so several months of deep snow here. I was so excited about it I told my Japanese friend, they were shocked a young person like me like this veggie as not many Japanese people like it. No wonder it was cheap 100Japanese Yen a bunch. Lucky me, because I came to love this vegetables in my college years. Funny, when I tend to become home-sick, I appreciate this vegetable more. Maybe because of those memories.
Don’t they look like chicken feet?DSC09521
Different stages of kangkung seedlings growth.
Kangkung leaves ready to be harvested. No need to harvest the whole leaves. But just cut some leaves that need to be used in the kitchen. Can you see some kangkung hollow stem that have been cut.DSC08550
Kangkung grows well sharing container with leeks and chives.
When harvesting kangkung leaves make sure there are some leaves left at the bottom. It takes about 2~3 weeks for kangkung to grow and be ready for the next harvest (this will also depend on the environmental factor such as temperature at your place). I presume in tropical areas it will grow much faster. This is growing in Mediterranean climate.
Today harvest, after I have cleared up two containers that were growing kangkung and some leeks too from one of the container.
We have been enjoying fresh kangkung harvest for at least 5 months now. Only one pot left growing kangkung. I cried a bucket of tears today due to some stress reasons and release it on the kangkung. So the soil should be moist for them.