I think I’ll buy my veges, thanks

6 02 2012

Over the several decades I’ve lived on this earth, I’ve attempted to grow veges a number of times. But it’s always ended in disaster of some sort — too much or too little water, bugs that want to thwart my every attempt, a degree in chemistry required to get the soil balance right, the cost of the seedlings, fertilisers, insecticides (whether natural or not), etc. And the time to handwater the plants, stake/tie them up, pull off the dead leaves, talk to them nicely, etc. I’ve tried. I really have. But I’ve think I’ve given this vege growing lark my last effort.

I’m just not cut out to grow veges. Even the simple ones. Like tomatoes. Hell, tomato plants will sprout even where someone has thrown down the remnants of a half-eaten sandwich. But they won’t grow for me.

Last year — about August or September — I bought a punnet of eight little tomato seedlings for the princely sum of $3. I got home all excited. I made little removable collars for them from old plastic water bottles as the last lot of tomato seedlings I tried got eaten by slaters or something nibbling at the base thus causing them to fall over and snap off. Dead. Not this time. This time it would be different. This time, I’d protect my little tomato plants and watch over them and water them and talk to them. And I did.

The collars were very successful and soon I had nice thriving tomato plants. So thriving that they were lying prostrate on the ground. Off to the hardware store to get some stakes. Twenty, one-metre stakes should be enough for eight little plants, surely? I tied the tomatoes to the stakes very gently, but I used twist ties, so after I saw one tie had killed off a branch because the twist tie had cut into it, I took all the ties off and tore up scrap fabric into inch-wide strips. I gently re-tied the plants, and added more stakes as they were putting out all sorts of branches that needed supporting.

I applied Wettasoil to the soil to help retain water near the roots, and I watered them every second day (walking several times to and from the nearest tap with a watering can), and more often in hot weather. They were out of the wind in a sheltered area, but got full sun for quite a bit of the day. They were looking good!

Then one day I noticed that some of the under leaves were dying off. Oh no! I’d cut out something about troubleshooting tomato issues from the newspaper a while back, and was able to identify the problem. The solution was to apply some tomato dust (what is this stuff? pixie dust?) to the plants. I did that and they seemed to come good again and had some nice new green growth.

Still they kept growing and I eventually used up all my 20 stakes and more strips of fabric to tie them up. I even saw some flowers on them. So all was looking good. I can do this! I can grow tomatoes! Summer was coming and I was SO looking forward to rich, dense, sweet tomatoes from my own garden.

Summer came… summer came some more… and more… and nothing. No tomatoes. Just leaves. Lots of leaves and branches and some flowers, but no tomatoes. Then I spotted a tiny little green fruit! My first tomato!! Then I spotted another one — that’s two! After another week, I spotted a third. But that was it. No more. Three pathetic little green fruits from EIGHT plants!

Summer continued on and I continued watering my tomatoes every second day (or every day when it was very hot). And those three little tomatoes stayed green… and small. I had no idea when they were meant to fruit but I knew I’d planted them at least 4 months ago. Surely they should have fruited by now?

Then we had a really hot spell. And guess what? Those three little tomatoes went from green to a mottled orange and basically cooked inside their skins. They sure don’t look very edible. And they only got to about 4 cm (1.5 inches) diameter too, even though they are a full variety, not a cherry/grape tomato variety.

So, after spending money on Wettasoil, stakes and pixie dust, as well as the eight seedlings, and putting in effort to water them by hand, after five months I’m ‘rewarded’ with three inedible tomatoes. Three. From eight plants.

I can buy a kilo of tomatoes at the farmers market for around $6. Sure, they won’t taste as good as the ones you grow yourself, but in my case that’s a crock — ANYTHING would taste better than these pathetic tomatoes I’ve grown.

I give up.

The best tomato I could grow

The 'biggest and best' tomato I could grow (about 4 cm -- 1.5 inches -- in diameter)

Not often you see this in February

6 02 2012

February is the height of summer here in Western Australia. High temperatures; strong, dry easterly winds; extreme fire danger; total fire bans (including any hot work, BBQs etc.). Or, if you live further north, cyclones (destructive winds, flooding, etc.).

FESA is the agency that coordinates all the emergency responses and alerts the public to anything they need to be aware of. They have a web page where all the latest alerts are posted, and I have it bookmarked as it’s a site I check regularly. This web page is updated every 5 minutes, so if you are in danger, you have the latest information on which to act. Since November, there’s always been SOMETHING on the alerts page — I live in a big state, after all. (BTW, there’s an Android app and probably an iPhone/iPad app for FESA alerts so you can get the latest alerts on the go.)

But today — 6 February, slap bang in the middle of summer, fire season, and cyclone season — there was nothing!

It’s not often you see that!

Nothing to report

Wow! FESA has nothing to report! That's a relief.

Trees had a haircut today

6 02 2012

We have two very large and very old trees on our property. They are the only substantial trees that would’ve been left after the old farmland was converted into acre blocks. And the previous owners (and original builders) of our house preserved them. They are lovely.

But I’ve been a bit concerned about their safety. So it was time to get them assessed by an arborist to see if they needed ‘trimming’ for both safety and fire risk reasons. The tree guys came today and about three to four hours later they left after giving the two trees a BIG haircut!

I felt for the trees — this was probably the first time they’ve ever been assaulted like this — and I was also concerned for any birds that may have used these trees as nesting sites. Likewise any possums (we saw a Western Ringtail possum on the fence at the front of the house one night). But the peppermint tree had branches that were close to the house (a fire risk), other branches that were growing into each other, some that were overhanging the driveway, and several dead branches that have probably been there for years. The tuart tree had a huge branch overhanging the neighbour’s fence (I figured it was cheaper to get the trees lopped than to replace the fence!), another huge one overhanging the driveway, and several other branches that were particularly heavy or growing in such a way as to unbalance the tree after those big limbs were removed. And those big branches I was concerned about always moved a LOT when we have high winds.

Here’s the peppermint tree before they started and when they’d finished:

Peppermint tree before its trim

Peppermint tree before its trim

Peppermint tree after its trim

Peppermint tree after its trim


And the tuart tree:

Tuart tree before its trim

Tuart tree before its trim

Tuart tree after its trim

Tuart tree after its trim

The guys were very good — they were polite, they wore all the safety gear appropriate to the work they were doing, and a big one for me: they cleaned up after themselves! In addition to the big mulcher coming in to chomp up the branches, the guys raked and used the leaf blower to get the last of the twigs, small branches etc. You’d hardly know they’d been… except for the missing parts of the trees, of course.

If you’re in the Bunbury area of Western Australia, I can highly recommend Kings Tree Care.

Oh, I did see a lone monarch butterfly looking very lost near the peppermint tree, darting this way and that. I suspect it lost its home 😦 Hopefully, there were no birds that used the lopped branches as their permanent home.

One other thing… I asked about blowing the bark mulch onto the garden but the chief arborist told me it wasn’t advised as it would be too acidic and would kill the plants. It seems such mulch has to sit for 3 months to a year before you can put it on the garden. Which was a shame, as I would’ve liked to see the tree branches returned to the soil from which they’d sprung.