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I have just discovered Ooooby. Ooooby stands for Out Of Our Own Back Yards and it is an on-line gardening club for people who enjoy growing their own food – like Facebook for gardeners. There are a number of different forums: poultry, tricks and tips, food growing questions, seasonal recipes . . . . .You can invite friends (like Facebook) and join local groups. The idea is to see who else is in your local area with the possibility of selling or bartering surplus garden produce.  I have joined my local group – there are 4 other members.  There is also a blog and members can post photos, videos etc.

I can see this becoming another must-visit site!

garden salad

garden salad

Kale forest

Kale forest

Lettuces were on special this week so I bought one and then went into the garden to see what I could find to add to it. In the end I only used 2 leaves of the bought lettuce. I have hundreds of self-sown kale, rainbow beet, perpetual spinach and mizuna plants so I was able to pick lots of baby leaves.

I also added some Italian parsley, a few remaining basil leaves, red pepper, a couple of celery stalks, some mustard lettuce, endive, corn salad and plantago. Plantago is a new vegetable to me. I found it in the King’s catalogue and thought it would be a good addition to winter salads. It seems to be very easy to grow. I sowed the seeds in punnets and seemed to get 100% germination in only 3 days. It is a quite attractive plant and although it doesn’t have much flavour it is nice and crunchy. So far the only drawback I have discovered is that rabbits love it!

Plantago

Plantago

With our salad we had Chicken Mole (with a reduced amount of chilli powder) and rice and an Irish Apple Tart (without the cream and savoury sugar) to finish. Delicious!

Things have been a bit quiet here because I was busy working on a Polytechnic assignment but that is done now so I thought I would share the photo of my galangal flower.

Galangal flower

I have never used galangal in my cooking  but I like South East Asian food so when I saw the  tubers advertised on TradeMe I decided to give it a go. I planted the tuber in a pot in a mixture of sand and potting mix and it duly grew. I also tried planting a ginger tuber I got from a fruit and vege shop but that didn’t do very well.

I certainly wasn’t expecting flowers. They are beautiful, orchid-like flowers with a delicious scent. It is worth growing for this alone but, when the leaves die down, I will dig up the tubers and give them a go. They are supposed to taste like ginger but more lemony. Perhaps I will try Tom Yum Goong. We had some delicious sour fish soups in Cambodia – this may be very similar.

009We have 5 apple trees that I planted when my sons were young and consuming mountains of fruit each week. Now that the trees are finally in full production we only have 2 sons at home and one of them doesn’t like fruit. The five varieties we have are Granny Smith, Braeburn, Splendour, Akane and Lobo. The Granny Smith tree always has a large crop but they are invariable inflicted with black spot. The Braeburn never crops well and the apples it does have are very small and manky. The Spendour produces well with not too many disease problems and the Akane and Lobo groan with healthy fruit.

Lobo is primarily a cooking apple and I have been using the windfalls for a while and have also made some Walter the Saint’s Speedy Cider. The first batch is maturing and there are more apples in the freezer for another batch. The possums have been eating their share too! I finally got a pole for my apple picker (The red wire thing in the picture) and decided it was time to strip the Lobo. After I had filled 3 crates, I had run out of crates but not apples. The picker was great. Usually I have to muck around finding somewhere level to put the ladder and then it needs to be moved whereas now I can pick them all standing on the ground. 

We have been eating the Akane for about 6 weeks and I took a bucketful to church last week for Harvest Festival. They are getting to be past their best now so I thought I would juice the rest, expecting there would only be a bucketful left. In the end I picked 3 bucketfuls. When I juiced the first bucket I was surprised to see that the juice was red.

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I poured the juice into small plastic bottles to freeze for future use. I think I will dry the rest of the Akane. The Lobo will be turned into apple puree, apple butter, cider vinegar and bottled apple.

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Baby seedlings of purslane, fennel, pak choi & mustard lettuce

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Potted seedling ready to plant

I like to grow my vegetable plants from seeds – it is cheaper and the range of varieties is much greater. Also, if you are organised, you can have plants ready when you want them rather than when the garden centre thinks you might. Unfortunately, since starting work a year ago, I haven’t been sowing seeds as diligently as in the past and have had to buy a lot more seedlings than in other years. I decided to turn over a new leaf this year and make more of an effort to keep up with the sowing and subsequent transplanting. In order to help me with this I have set up a spreadsheet with the months of the year across the top and the vegetable names down the side. I then put an ‘X’ in the appropriate squares to indicate the sowing times for various vegetables.

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Master sowing calendar

While I was compiling this table, I did a search to find the right sowing time for celeriac (something I have never grown successfully) and found a great New Zealand website with most of the information I needed. You can even sign up for email reminders of what to plant. Once I had my main spreadsheet, I copied the relevant information for each month to a separate spreadsheet and added rows for: variety, seed source, sowing date, germination date, time till germination, pricking out date, transplanting date and harvest start and finish dates. Hopefully this will be a useful resource in future years.

Sowing calendar for February

Sowing calendar for February

I read blogs, but do I want to write one? I guess time will tell. The main dilemma is what to blog about. I work part-time as a librarian and when I’m not working I enjoy cooking, gardening and acting (and reading of course!). I think my blog will probably be a mixture of these things.

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