Over Labour Weekend in October hubby and I planted our vegetable garden for the summer.
My first task was to weed the garlic growing in the smallest vegetable garden bed, and then also sow onions, carrots, beetroot, radish, sugarbeet and carrot seeds as well.
Hubby then dug over the two remaining large garden beds, and I added sheep pallet fertilizer for the soon to be growing plants.
For the next bed, which was already growing peas and potato plants by now, I added lettuce, rocket, black turtle beans, summer sprouting broccoli, and cabbage, that I had been growing in the glasshouse.
With the last large garden bed I planted maize, corn, and pumpkin plants in the top half. In the bottom half of the garden bed I sowed wheat and linen flax seeds, while hubby acted as a scarecrow to keep the birds off them, and then we double bird netted the seeds to protect them from the birds.
With most of the glasshouse now empty of plants, we emptied out the space, and hubby dug over the garden bed. After that there was just the task of fertilising the soil, and then planting cucumbers, basil, chillies, capsicum and many tomato plants. There was also the big task of setting up all the climbing frames for the growing plants.
It's been a few weeks now, and everything is growing nicely in the garden, despite low snow falling the week after we planted everything. I can't wait to feast on all our vegetables over the coming summer.
Have a wonderful day
My winter citrus gardening project is finally completed. A couple of weeks ago, I dragged the citrus trees out of the glasshouse, and gave them each a trip on the wheel barrow out onto the patio. The next task was digging three very big wholes into the ground to make space for the citrus trees.
The first tree to go in was the lime tree. It only took a couple of bangs on the outside of the pot, and it loosened up enough for hubby and I together to lift the heavy plant into place.
Then it was just a task of filling in the hole, sprinkling both citrus fertilizer and water retention crystals onto the soil, and then watering the lime tree in.
Next up on the list was to do the same to the lemon tree, which is now sitting quite happily underneath the kitchen window in the herb garden.
And last of all was the mandarin tree, which is now sitting in front of the newly painted white fence in the front garden. If you've noticed the three green pegs in the ground, they're soil water monitoring sensors, which I can keep an eye on to see how much water each plant is getting. The pegs are connected to our weather station system, and I can check them online whenever I want.
I've repurposed the now empty large pots, and they're now housing three of our tomato plants, a yellow Honey Bee plant, a Pomodoro plant, and a Juane Flamme plant.
And last of all the planter box has been painted a pretty shade of sage green, and it is now full of annual herb plants.
I'm really happy with how this garden project has turned out. Now all I need to do is paint our patio garden furniture sage green, and then the whole area is spruced up. Over the summer I need to come up with a plan to protect the citrus from frosts and snow over winter, but for now I can just enjoy the fruits of my labour.
Have a wonderful day
Earlier this year, in the middle of summer as I was harvesting some of my many lavender bushes, an idea popped into my head to one day extract my own essential oil from the flowers. I dreamed up so many ideas of what I could do with the resulting essential oil and hydrosol, that I knew it was something I wanted to do in the future.
I had done this many times before in the lab when I worked as a plant biochemist, but back then I had a lab full of equipment at my command, but now, not so much. I couldn't exactly call up a local lab supply place any longer, since I didn't belong to a scientific group where this was thought of as an appropriate use of said equipment. So I had to come up with better idea. I did come across alembic stills for sale in New Zealand, but the stills were very large, and there was no way I could fill up any one of their stills.
Then I came across a small pot still from Still Spirits called the Air Still. With a big base like a kettle, and an air cooled distiller on top, it was perfect for me in home use. It is typically made to make and distill alcoholic beverages like gin and rum, but the instructions also include a method to distill essential oils and hydrosols from plants. After waiting for a while, one was finally available for sale on special, and I ordered one for us. Unfortunately by this time it was the middle of winter, and there was nothing to distill yet.
When it arrived, I was quite happy with it. I did the first cleaning, and then did a trial run by making distilled water, which could potentially be helpful in a natural disaster when water is contaminated. Ever since then I've been waiting impatiently for some plant material to be ready.
And our growing peppermint plant was the first plant material ready to actually try the Air Still out on. I started by harvesting a big bunch of peppermint leaves from the edge of the plant. I washed them in water to clean them, patted them dry, and then cut them up into smaller sections to fit into the still. The total weight of the peppermint plants going into the still was 234 grams.
I popped them into the still pot, and then boiled up 3L of water in the kettle. Once I added the boiling water, I inserted the still head, and turned it on. It
was less than 10 minutes before the liquid began to come off the still as the water boiled, and there on top of the hydrosol was a fine layer of peppermint essential oil. I was so excited.
The peppermint and hydrosol came off at a decently fast rate, and it wasn't long before I had 0.6L of combined peppermint essential oil and hydrosol.
All that there was left to do was separate the hydrosol from the peppermint essential oil. I bought a chemistry separator funnel online, and was able to separate out the hydrosol on the bottom of the liquid, from the essential oil on the top.
In the end I got about 0.5 mL of peppermint essential oil, and 0.6L of peppermint hydrosol.
Considering that I only added 234 grams of plant material to the still, I thought that it was a pretty good harvest rate. It didn't take a lot of effort and time, and it's a fun project to do. I will definitely be repeating this method with my lavender and rose harvests in the future. I will be using the essential oils and hydrosols in my home, and my sister as also requested some for her to use at home as well.
Have you ever done something so completely geeky around the home, that it makes you really happy to see the results of your endeavors? I'd love to know...
Have a wonderful day
Recently I told you about my winter citrus garden project. At that time I had cleaned up all the areas the citrus plants are going to go into, and I had prepared the areas for painting. Over the last month I have painted the board white in front of where the lime tree will go.
I also spent time water blasting, prepping, and then painting the fence in front of the patio white as well, it looks quite good when it has plants like these daffodils in front of it. The other bonus of the fence now being white is that it's much easier to see when driving down the driveway, and it'll be far less likely for courier drivers to nearly hit it whenever they drop off courier packages because they failed to see it...
The other thing we did was to go to our local garden center and order a planter box for in front of the fence on the patio side. When the lemon tree goes into the herb garden on the left in the next couple of weeks, we lose much needed herb garden space, so this planter box will fill a much needed void. I plan to grow annual herbs in this box.
Until I get a chance to paint the planter box, Miss Luna cat from next door has taken to sitting inside it. It's less than a week now until Luna and her family move houses, and we won't get to see her anymore. I'm quite sad about this, she likes to follow me around in the garden, and has been a good kitty friend over the years.
Hopefully by the time you next see this project, it will be finished. The lemon, lime, and mandarin bushes will be in the ground, and the planter box will have been painted, filled with potting mix, and have herbs inside.
Have a wonderful day
During last year's growing season I had a Serrano chilli plant growing in our glasshouse, and over summer it gave me an abundant harvest of both green and red chillies. I picked so many chillies that I had no idea what to do with them all. I gave away as many as I could, and then with the rest I decided to dry them. We mainly use chillies as dried chilli powder in the kitchen throughout the year, so this method to prepare them was the best way to use all the left over chillies.
I waited until I had a big chlli harvest (some had already started drying out whole), and I cut off all the tops off before splitting them down the middle and removing the seeds (while wearing gloves). I then dried them in our dehydrator on trays at a temperature of 50˚C.
The smell was quite pungent, so initially the dehydrator was sitting outside under our veranda for the day, and then in the garage after that.
Once the chillies were dry, they were stored whole in a plastic container until it was time to grind them.
Last week, I finally got around to actually grinding them in our coffee and spice grinder. So as not to stink out the house with powdered chilli, I placed the grinder under the rangehood with it turned on.
It didn't take very long to turn the chilli into powder. It didn't make as much as I thought it would, so I think that this year I won't give as much away, so we'll have more chilli powder for ourselves.
And we've already used our new chilli powder in a meal, we made chilli con carne that very night. It wasn't too spicy, but it had a really great flavor that we liked. I'm definitely happy to make even more chilli powder this coming growing season.
Have a wonderful day