"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Veggie patch progress - in more ways than one...

It was frustrating trying to blog via my cell phone whilst we were at the farm.  The one entry I posted took me over an hour and four separate connections / attempts before my phone / laptop allowed it.  And as for commenting on those blogs that I follow - each comment was given two chances, if it failed, well, that was it.  But, rest assured, I did read your blogs :)

Also, taking loads and loads of photo's was fun - but now I have to sift through them and pick the ones I need, reduce them all in size, and then get them onto my blog.  Quite a task - so please bear with me as I collate and organize everything...
My shadecloth veggie patch - overflowing with
growth and produce :)
With that said, my mission today is to fill you in on more veggie patch news :)

I have so many tomatoes planted in the veggie patch - I was anticipating failures, but they have all survived to be viable plants, so I foresee plenty of preserving taking place in the months ahead.

And one of my nicest surprises was to finally see an heirloom tomato - my first ever.  They are amazing, and the plant is overflowing with fruit which will no doubt ripen in the next couple of weeks.  I do so hope that I am able to pick some, and that the locals don't discover my treasure trove before we return and clean it out before I have that opportunity.
My first heirloom tomato
(Here in Hout Bay I returned to find that only a couple of cocktail tomato plants are bearing fruit - the heirlooms didn't make it.  With our house having been built on a reclaimed sand dune, no matter how much compost I add to the soil, it sinks down deep below the surface level - similar to loosing your keys in the sand when you're out for a day on the beach.  How anyone thinks they can take back land from the sea is beyond me - it just doesn't work...  In a way, I am thrilled with this comparison, because previously I had thought I was at fault.  Now I have proof that it is the soil, location and climatic conditions which are determining the outcome.  We averaged 36oC temperatures daily on the farm - again, here in Hout Bay, we are achieving mid to late 20's - with plenty of cloud cover too - a very strange summer thus far.)

I have not been on the farm to pinch out the side shoots of my tomato plants, so they are all growing madly (and bearing loads of fruit) to the point of running along the ground.  Where they touch the soil, those side shoots are sending out their own roots - thereby creating another completely new plant.  My paths inside the veggie patch were completely blocked with growth.  I had to both stake the plants on bamboo poles, and also suspend twine down from the "roof beams" and tie tomato branches to that too, in order to be able to get inside.  Well, I didn't want to squash the plants LOL
Tomato plant rooting one of it's side shoots
Here in Cape Town I have been pinching off those side shoots, as always.  And the fruit production seems to be severely hampered.   Guess I now know better for next year... :)

My aubergine plants on the farm are also full of flowers - many more and much larger than those on the plants in my garden in Hout Bay.
I had a box of potatoes whose eye's were sprouting.  They had been hidden under the kitchen counter - patiently waiting until I had enough time to sort them out.  This was their time :)
I planted them in the tyres from a lot that RMan had scored at the auction he went to. The lower tyre was half filled with soil, the potatoes were planted (5 - 6 per tyre), and then the balance of the lower and the top tyre was filled with well composted soil. They have been well watered, twice, and the next bit of TLC they get will be when we return to the farm in 2 - 3 weeks time.  Mr H gave me this idea for growing potatoes on this posting of his - if it works for him, why shouldn't it work for me?  I won't be there to hill the potatoes anyway, so might as well give it a try.. :)

I also placed the tyres on Weedguard to prevent the veld grass growing up inside the tyres.
Some of the potato filled tyres
But, I also discovered a few rogue potatoes which had escaped my previous harvesting and which are growing inside the shadecloth veggie patch.  They are doing extremely well.  The flowers of these plants are blue...
... compared to potatoes which I planted in a berm outside the next veggie patch at the beginning of November 2011.  Those flowers are white.  I'm not too sure why there is a difference - guess I'll have to wait until harvest time to discover.  I'm not aware of having planted different types of potatoes.  But I'm not complaining - as long as they are growing I'm happy :)
But, you can see that the one's growing inside are doing exceptionally well when compared to the plants outside which were planted a whole month earlier!

Finally, I harvested 5 complete armfuls of spinach - 3 were given to neighbours, one we converted to creamed spinach for dinner and the last one I snipped just as we were leaving.  That one I am planning on using for dinner tonight :)
To give you an idea of how big the leaves are, Teach asked me to take this photo of one of the leaves she went home with...
I am so chuffed - thankfully things are going really well in that veggie patch :)

Oh, and for the best news of all, RMan is so blown away with the success of our vegetable patch that he is planning a second one :)  Yeehah!


tami said...

Interesting observations on your tomato plants. I need to remember to try and leave them alone this year and see if production is better because of it.

It's funny how having a "good" year fuels the fire to want to expand and do more. I know I'm feeling it as I've gotten better at gardening. You have to figure out what works. Once you do, "Go Baby Go!"

Humble wife said...

WOW! The leaf is huge! We grow our potatoes in tires. I start with one, and add as the plant grows. By time to harvest I end up with three or four tires. Our climate is very hot 115F* in yet we end up with 30 potatoes per tire group. I have read of folks that grow their potatoes in the heavy duty black garbage bags and slowly add dirt until the bag is full and then wait for harvest. Guess potatoes are willing to accommodate our quirky ways!

Love the sharing of what you are doing! It is great to see your successes!

* according to my conversion this temp is 46.1 C, but my conversion skills are rusty! :)

John said...

What kind of beans are you growing? The dwarf ones. Looks interesting. I planted potatoes boxes made from old lumber. Kept adding dirt as plants grew. Wasn't real successful and very labor intensive. The idea being to take off the bottom board and harvest plants. Replace dirt and boards. Next time take off the board above.
Your garden looks great. I can't wait.

Dani said...

Tami - LOL, can't wait to expand - especially as the land is being so productive :)

Jennifer - I would've done progress topping up of sand if we were on the farm. But Mr H had such good results with no hilling, but plant at last a foot below ground, that I thought I'd try that method too :)

John - Yup - dwarf purple beans - easier to pick LOL

lou said...

I just love your shadecloth veggie patch.

1st Man said...

Ditto on the shadecloth patch it looks awesome! I bet you are so excited!!

Mrs. Mac said...

When's supper :)

Frogdancer said...

Well done. It's great when a project succeeds!

Linda said...

Wow you have put in a lot of work and it has really paid off. It all looks fantastic. Digger's Garden Club, which sell plants and seeds (many of them heritage), say that you get more tomatoes by leaving the side shoots. Interesting to hear you found the same thing. You'll have to trial the theory with two plants in the same environment!

Dani said...

Lou - Thank you - so do I :)

1st Man - Thanks - excitd doesn't even cover it LOL

Frogdancer - Thanks :)

Linda - You're right - when we're there more often / permanently I will do a comparison. :)

Dani said...

Mrs Mac - I received your comment via e-mail :

"When's supper"?

But it's not appearing on the blog. The reply to your question is : "What time can you get here?" :)

Mr. H. said...

Sounds like your garden is doing really good. We never prune our tomatoes either...heck, some years I'm so happy that are growing at all that the last thing on my mind is cutting them back.:) Nice greens....huge.

Dani said...

Mr H - Thanks :) You have been an immense source of inspiration for me.

Dani said...

Mrs Mac - When can you get here?

Just Me said...

My observations with tomatoes have been that suckering (removing the side branches) is a helpful practice only when it's needed to help prevent mold and wilt type viruses that do well in high humidity. This would include intensive plantings (less than a foot or 30cm apart) or small walled patios where the wind isn't able to aid evaporation. Tomatoes in the ground at least 18 inches (45 cm)apart or in 5-gallon (20 ltr) buckets produce better leaving all the side branches on. My theory is that it's because those side branches help with photosynthesis so they're feeding the plant and allowing it to produce more.

What kind of spinach is that? I've made it back here from today's post looking through the seed saving post and others hoping to find out what variety it is. Size-wise, it looks more like the chard I've grown than any spinach I've ever seen. I'd love to get spinach to grow like that!

Dani said...

Julianne - I purchased a tray of seedlings. I called the nursery I purchased it from - and you're correct. It IS swiss chard. Apparently we are sold this as spinach here. The seed company is Starke Ayres and the variety is called Starke Star. My apologies for any misleading that this post resulted in. And thanks - I learnt something today about the fresh produce which is available in this country as well.

But, now I HAVE to plant true spinach next year, and see if I can get the same result :) Stay tuned...

Just Me said...

Dani - No apologies needed. Thanks are to you for expanding my usage of swiss chard. Don't know why, but it had never occurred to me to use it for things other than a veggie, by itself. I never seemed to have enough spinach for creamed spinach, spinach dips, quiche, etc. Now I have to go compare nutrition info. I wonder if the chard has the high iron content that is attributed to spinach.

I hope you're not disappointed with the true spinach. I have friends who grew up with turnips and collards for cooked greens and they think cooked spinach is "slimy" because of its softer texture. If that's the case for you, keep the spinach for raw or wilted salads. Small spinach leaves are especially good when tossed into a mix of cooked bacon and onions (still hot, but after heat is turned off) and then given a splash of vinegar.

Dani said...

Julianne - I have baby spinach growing in my town garden, but neither it, nor the swiss chard, is anything like that which is growing on the farm.

And, yes, there is nothing nicer than baby spinach leaves in a spinach and crouton (and bacon for meat-eating RMan) salad with blue cheese dressing :)

Would be interesting to find out if the nutrition is the same. I know that when I have spinach planned as part of a meal I have to take my calcium supplement earlier in the day in order to achieve maximum absorption of the calcium. Please let me know :)

And, be warned - creamed spinach / swiss chard is completely addictive :) Especially with a poached or fried egg on top.

Dani said...

By the way, I'd love to know how life in Terlingua is treating you - please - won't you update your blog? :) (you don't have comment activated on your blog so I can post a comment there.)

Dani said...

By the way, I'd love to know how life in Terlingua is treating you - please - won't you update your blog? :) (you don't have comment activated on your blog so I can post a comment there.)

Just Me said...

Dani, keep eating the chard!!!! It's loaded with vitamin K for bone-building and enhancing calcium uptake. It does contain some oxalic acid - the component in spinach that interferes with calcium uptake, but it's FAR outweighed by the K. Only slightly less iron than spinach and both have lots of anti-oxidants. Couple of good websites I saw included this one for nutrition info and this one listing lots of different veggies that get called spinach, but aren't. (Warning, that second website has interesting information, but very annoying advertising. I found it best with my speakers turned off.)

I've told JW he can expect blog posts from me about once every three years. At least that is the trend to date. I get mentioned occassionally on JW's blog and you got a triple dose of me on David's blog recently - spaghetti, haircut, music video. What more do you want? :-)

Dani said...

Cool - Thanks for the links, Julianne.

Hmmm - c'mon - post more regularly? T'would be interesting to get another (and this time female) perspective of Terlingua, and I'd love to know what you're up to there :)

Yup - see you mentioned on JW's and saw you on David's t'other day :)