Our Potted Herb Garden, Spring 2010 Update

My spring update for our potted garden is a bit late, as summer feels like it’s already here! Here I like to keep a note of what the garden is doing, what’s flowering now and how it went over the winter. This information is specific to where we live, on the mid-east coast of Australia in Brisbane.

What didn’t last the winter? Well, we have decided that as a potted garden, we shall only grow that which wants to be grown and will not fuss over ‘sooky’ plants anymore! The rosella we picked up for $1 died after one crop, as good as it was, we got just one jar of jam out of it! We have also decided to give up on tomatoes. For all we have heard about how easy they are, we have not found that. It may well be they just need too much fertiliser to make the crop worthwhile. This is why we’ve decided to not bother with most fruit and vegetables, and to concentrate mostly on herbs. Herbs have given us the most success, are easier and cheaper to grow, are more suited to a potted garden and give us the most joy. Also, the cost of growing herbs is much better than buying them fresh from the shops, which can be expensive.

BASIL
I was expecting the sweet basil to die right back, but it now has some young shoots at the base, so after some pruning, it looks like we will get another season out of it. I have now three pots of all-year-round basil including 2 large bushes, which all seem happy and look to last. Although the eldest is showing signs of age with smaller leaves, I do still remove all the flowers to see what it will do, and these flowers are still very fragrant and are used in our cooking.

CHILLIES
Most chillies in our potted garden seem very happy, returning a good crop even in the smallest of pots. We use the red fruits in our cooking, well that is, David does! He makes a most excellent chilli jam with it. A few of the smaller seedlings did die over the winter, it may have been due to where we had them. I’ve moved them near the rosemary and lavender, as these are good companion plants because their scent confuses pests. The chillies like full sun and don’t like to sit in water. We are hoping to try capsicums this season, as they are related to chillies so we should (hopefully) have more success with those than with the tomatoes.

ROSEMARY
Our second rosemary plant had a case of white mould just like the 1st plant did last winter, so I treated it the same way by rubbing off as much white as I could and made sure it was getting full sun. It’s now looking happier, I’ve also staked it to stand more upright, and I’ve planted a 3rd shoot for hopefully another bush. Our eldest rosemary plant is looking much happier this year, I’ve been pruning it into shape nicely, and it’s giving us a good crop for kitchen herbs.

POTTED DWARF LIME TREE
The lime tree had some yellowing of leaves at the base which turned out to be a vitamin deficiency so we treated with extra fertiliser. Also, we were more vigilant with making sure excess water is tipped out of the base, as citrus hate to have their roots sitting in water. We did some minor top dressing this spring, gently removing as much soil from the top as we could and replacing with some fresh potting mix. The roots do look quite bound, so we will have to prune the root ball next winter, which I am very nervous about. When the tree was up against the fence a whole section of leaves went strangely missing. I guessed it was a rodent nibbling on it so moved it away from the fence and we haven’t noticed any more mysteriously missing leaves.  At the moment, the lime tree is flowering, and it also has some tiny fruits developing. To keep the tree happy during this fruiting we really need to maintain the fertiliser, and watch the water. We pull it under the cover when it rains so it doesn’t get too much, and pop it back out into the sun. This seems to keep him happy, at least for now. Last season we got just 3 fruit of it, we’re hoping we get a bit more this season.

CHIVES
The chives seeded late last summer, so I collected them and planted them out in early spring. One of the older pots also got pulled open and re-potted in spring. The chives do very well in the sun, those in smaller pots need more water. David really likes to trim a bit off for his cooking, they go especially well in his dumplings and dampers, and because we have a fair bit now, he can chop a bunch off without any worry.

ROCKET
Last summer we bought one punnet of rocket, which had 6 individual plants. These got planted, and provided us with a very modest crop in the summer. It was so very pleasant to have fresh salad leaves on our sandwiches, we only wished we had more. Thankfully they all seeded late in summer and into the winter, so I diligently collected the seeds. About 3 weeks ago we planted about half of our stash of seeds in a new, large rectangle planter box. We couldn’t believe our eyes when within 3 days the shoots started to appear! The weather had been humid, warm and wet. Now we are very hopeful to have a more substantial rocket crop for salads this summer!

PUMPKIN
With several small pots fallow due to the plants that didn’t last the winter, we popped some pumpkin, watermelon and capsicum seeds in to see what would happen. So far the only thing that has appeared is this gainly and enthusiastic young pumpkin! Like the rocket, this handsome specimen appeared within the week. We are thinking we might be game enough to just chuck him in the ground, middle of the courtyard. What else can we do with a pumpkin? He needs to grow across the ground, doesn’t he?

MINT
The mints spent the winter out in the garden sun, but when the heat returned we popped them back in the shade. Since being moved to their summer spots, the mint has perked up, as has the lemon balm and peppermint. We just have to keep the water up on these and they will be happy there.

PARSLEY
I thought the parsley would flower and die off, but it hasn’t. It’s just bubbling along not doing much at all. I still have 3 pots of that and it doesn’t seem to have changed.

OREGANO AND MARJORAM
I pruned these when they got too big for the small pots I have them in, and they look quite attractive. I wash and dry, then de-stem the cuttings for our kitchen. They prefer sun, so I put one of the oregano plants in a pot we had hanging on our fence, but it was too dry, the pot didn’t hold enough moisture and the plant died. These might prefer sun, but they also need regular water, especially if they are in small pots that dry out. I’ve since started again with that pot, emptying it and lining it with a plastic bag. Then I chucked in some cuttings of the hardy cosmetic succulents that have ended up here from David’s mother’s garden. They can try their luck in that pot as nothing else likes to grow there!

LAVENDER
I’m at a bit of a loss as to how harshly to prune my lavender bush. I pruned it too hard last summer and didn’t get much flowering, so left it and now it’s been flowering fairly steadily for several months. But it’s getting quite big and hanging down below the pot and leaning over in what appears to be a very uncomfortable position! I’m waiting for it to stop flowering so I can prune it back. None of the cuttings I’ve tried to plant have taken. That’s a shame as I’d prefer to have a backup plant or two, as I just love having lavender in my garden!

CHAMOMILE
This is one very lucky plant indeed. When we got it last summer, it was part of a punnet of 4 which included the peppermint which was what I really wanted, and the chamomile was looking very droopy and sad. I had a spare pot left over at the end so gave it a chance and popped it in that. It’s now a year old, and has been in a sorry state. It’s had a case of persistent white mealy bugs, well that’s what I think they are anyway. But it didn’t die and seemed stunted, it’s stems growing in twisted bunches curling back upon itself. David has been occasionally spraying it with confidor, and just recently it decided it should perk up, which was a surprise! And now at last, the plant is showing it’s first flowers on a long normal looking stem, after having a good old boohoo for 12 months! It’s lucky, because we had decided not to fuss over high-maintenance plants, so we shall see how this one goes. Maybe I will be able to make my own chamomile tea afterall!!

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Anzac Biscuits and Rosella Jam

Today is a very sacred day in Australia and New Zealand, which we call ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for “Australian New Zealand Army Corps”, and the annual holiday is to celebrate and remember all Anzac soldiers who have fought in any war.

There’s lots of ways to celebrate Anzac Day, in the least most get a day off work! Recently, there’s been a rise in those who attend the Dawn Service and Parades. The Dawn Service traditionally is a solemn military occasion where wreaths are layed at Anzacs memorials (there’s almost always one in major cities and towns) and the Last Post is played by a solo bugler. In the past, I’ve attended these as a member of a performing choir which sang spiritual songs. The Anzac Day Parade is often held in the streets of major cities and towns, where returned soldiers, their families and descendants march in a parade. These are usually held later in the morning, and are followed by drinks at the local RSL club.

David loves to bake and makes a mean batch of Anzac biscuits, this year they turned out fantastically!  These were traditionally made by wives and mothers during WWI and sent to the front-line in food parcels. They are sweet, nutritious and filling. The recipe David likes to use calls for macademia nuts, a native Australian nut, but we didn’t have any so he used cashew nuts instead. The Anzac biscuits with macademia nuts recipe is from http://www.taste.com

Another thing we did for Anzac Day was to make up a batch of Rosella Jam. Now, I’m not sure if the hibiscus rosella bush we got from the local nursery is a native plant, it might be, or it might the introduced species. It’s in a pot, scrawny and about as tall as David. It was laden with fruit which we picked this morning, and made into jam. We used the Rosella Jam recipe from Eumundi Papers. Thankyou heaps to Wendy for the recipe on your blog, it turned out a treat! The red from the rosella fruit was very bright and beautiful looking, too.

Like the biscuits, the jam turned out deliciously, and we are very proud of our Anzac Day cooking adventures! At least David isn’t that keen on the Anzac Day sports match, watching it is apparently a very popular pastime for Anzac Day celebrations. It’s very common to hear boisterous males in neighbouring homes enthusiastically cheer for their team, whatever it is, playing whatever they are, just like we could hear today! Thank goodness for my non-sporty, clever husband! ❤ ❤ ❤

What Pink means to me

It wasn’t until after I left my first husband and found myself living in a strange city after living in a small town for 23 years, that I remembered when I was a little girl my favourite colours had been pink and silver.

Somehow I forgot this while growing up and studying at university, fervently avoiding anything pink, dressing all in brown, black and navy with stripes, never anything frilly, accompanied with gold jewellery. Because I had to take myself oh-so-seriously, I was terribly grown up and professional! Then I started to develop a fancy for strawberry flavoured milk of all things, how strange! I never drank that stuff before? I found myself referring to it as “Pink Milk” and felt a need for it every now and again. Then there were the pink milkshakes, and I started to remember as a young child my favourite flavoured ice-cream had not been chocolate at all, it had been strawberry. Ever so slowly pink started to creep into my wardrobe when before this shade had always been shunned. In my old life, the colour most represented in my closet was black. Now, thankfully I’ve been working hard to fix that, although I still do have far too many black shoes and jackets …

Pink for me means a return to ‘me’, remembering who I was and what I wanted when I was a little girl, when I was  not concerned with how other people saw me. It was my pure, untainted  self, free of expectations. Pink for me is more than just all things girly and pretty, its more than getting in touch with being female. Its about surviving the trauma of a broken marriage, grieving my hometown which I loved dearly but simply had to leave in the end, its about getting away from all the things I thought I was expected to be, a modern professional career ice-woman, and just starting to enjoy life for what it is.

Blessed Be All Things Pink! see more pink stuff on my blog >>> PINK
This is my first post for “Pink Saturday”! For details check out “How Sweet the Sound” at http://howsweetthesound.typepad.com/my_weblog/

Scented Rice Pack, Ribbon Gift Bag and Flowering Rosella

Today, I made up an organza bag to go with the hot rice pack I made last week. Well, I don’t think it’s proper organza, just a nice white sheer fabric I’ve had hanging around for ages. I finished it off with some of the new pretty deep pink ribbon I got from Lincraft the other week. My old machine did catch on the fine fabric, so I’ll probably have to get around to that service soon.

To make the scented rice pack, I used a cup of rice (I got 10kg when on special), and added a tablespoon of dried lavendar petals, some dried homegrown marjoram, basil flowers, and lemon myrtle along with a drop of rose fragrance oil. I used more of the soft red cotton material, although I know red is not the best colour for a relaxing eye pack, but it is nice and soft. And it smells simply divine, if I do say so myself! It would be handy as a relaxing eye pack, or you can heat up it up in the microwave for a minute on high to use as a soothing hot pack. Alternatively, you can put it in the freezer to use as a cool pack. These rice packs are very handy to have around!

Flowering at the moment is our new rosella plant which is really taking off in this humid weather. We can’t believe we picked this one up in the bargain bin at our local nursery for only $1! Its got a heap of fruit on it now, and also some optimistic white meally bugs. I sorted those bugs out, so hopefully we will have some fruit to try and make rosella jam in a month or so.