Finding my feet

I have been in Melbourne for two months now and am gradually getting to know my new environment. It has not been without challenges – the apartment for one. My landlady still hasn’t cleared out all her possessions from the bedrooms and so I am still sleeping in the living room. I have graduated from the floor to a proper bed though and have also bought a chest of drawers in which to accommodate some clothes. It is rather cramped but I liken it to living in a caravan.

The upside is that I have a small balcony and have acquired a table and two chairs, plus lots of garden pots and troughs. I have planted a few vegetables, herbs and flowers and that area is my little sanctuary for maintaining sanity. It is also my vantage point for checking out the world.

When I awake, (which is early courtesy of the Melbourne trams) I poke my head out of the balcony door to inspect the weather, and see what surprises the view might present me with. One morning, there was a passenger balloon in the sky and another morning the huge red lights that mark the entrance to Little Bourke St and Chinatown were a  flaming contrast to the dim morning light.

img_0622Ballo0n on the horizon

My garden is doing brilliantly – I love the fact that there are no slugs, snails or green caterpillars to contend with. The cumquat tree that I mentioned in my last post now is covered in flowers so I am hopeful that it might actually bear fruit. I learnt that a few years ago, a pigeon made a nest two years in a row in the base of a large pot plant. Sadly, the resident cat ate the babies that hatched but I am hoping that a pigeon might come back again and for the record, I do not have a cat living with me.

Some of the street art in the alley ways is interesting.  I try to remember to take my camera with me. It’s a journey of exploration.

Street  art in Liverpool St


I’ll post more street art as I find it.



Bloomin’ Marvellous

My stiff and aching body bears testament to my weekend in the garden.  Partly I have been cleaning and tidying, weeding, sweeping etc and partly planting some new vegies.  I should take some photos to show you all but right now I am too stuffed.

My garden is not really big, so there is not room for those lovely raised garden beds that are a good height for the back, seem to avoid some of the pests like snails, and provide an opportunity for creating a yummy soil mix.  There is a lot of shade as well, due to neighbouring trees and also an elevated fence that a neighbour has just erected.  I am having to be more creative therefore in where I plant things, and am also planting some vegies in the front garden where I am guaranteed of the morning and midday sun.

The snails are a bit of a problem, so I have planted most things inside toilet rolls, pushing the cardboard down into the soil so that the baby leaves can still see the sun but hopefully the snails and slugs are put off.  I put snail bait down as well though.  So far it has been a success, with only one toilet roll decimated by a snail with a poor sense of taste and the smarts to avoid the pellets.

I have been using large pots for the vegies – the carrots are in a trough.  The theory is that I can move them around so that I can find the spot with the right degree of sun.  Progressively, I am getting little racks on wheels so that I can just push the plants around, rather than lift them and cause grief to my back.  I am also going to get more hanging pots, but so far all I have with the vegies is an upside-down hanging tomato planter.  I have seen them for a couple of years in the hardware stores and have been intrigued by the concept.  The tomato plants are inserted roots first into the base of a hanging bag.  The plant(s) grow downwards – no staking required and easy to pick.  Water from the top of the bag.  There are slits in the side of the bag also into which you can insert herbs such as basil or chives, etc.  I haven’t done that yet.  I made sure to use a metal chain and metal hooks for suspending the bag as the whole thing should get fairly heavy as the plants grow.  On the recommendations of the bag supplier, I have planted two tomato plants in the bottom.  As it grows a bit, I will take a photo.

So I have the tomatoes, but also some broccoli where the head is just starting to form, some broad beans, green beans, butter beans, rhubarb, sweet corn, baby spinach, strawberries and Lebanese cucumber.  I have some eggplant seedlings still in an incubator box.  That incubator box has been a source of fascination as I have watched the seeds initially sprout and then grow mature leaves and get to a height at which it was appropriate to plant them out.  I will be so excited to actually harvest the vegies that I have grown in this fashion.  The baby spinach is doing well in a couple of terracotta strawberry planters, which are now on the wheeled trolleys.  I have tried strawberries in these in the past, but they seemed to dry out quickly and also the slugs got to them.  I am leaving the strawberries in pots, but I will transfer them to hanging pots around the perimeter of the deck, once I get all the right gear.

Nearly forgot – I have had some Pak Choy as well, but it went to flower very quickly.  Does not look at all like the picture on the label.  There are still some big leaves though that I will put in this week’s diet vegie soup.  The soup is made with a tinned tomato base and lots of low carb vegies (lots of green and white vegies, except potato) and a little chopped chicken or fish – good for taking to work for lunch.  To add some filler I put in a small amount of brown rice or quinoa.  In some ways, I don’t know why I am bothering with the ‘diet’ soup, as I am sitting here with a glass of red and rice cracker biscuits but I am telling myself that I deserve it.  I am also feeling virtuous as I resisted the urge to buy an ice cream this afternoon.

One could think that I get easily excited over tiny things but noting that I have fruit growing on my young apricot tree sent me into gibbering ecstasy.  I know that with the first fruit on young trees, you are supposed to pull the fruit off and let the tree devote its energy to growing (or something like that) but I simply couldn’t do it.  I thought that it was a minature tree, but looking at the growth I don’t think that it is.  I will just have to keep it contained via pruning.  After noting this little miracle, I checked out the dwarf nectarine and the peach and noted that they both have baby fruit as well.  I had better give them all some more fish emulsion.

Citrus is generally easy to grow, provided there is enough water.  I have a definite lime tree which is in its infancy and another tree which is supposed to be a lime, but looks to be a cross between a lemon and an orange.  It makes beautiful marmalade and is continually laden with fruit.  I sometimes leave containers of fruit on the letterbox for passers-by to take.  I also have two cumquat trees in pots.  I found them a month ago, put out on the footpath with the hard rubbish.  I raced up with my wheelbarrow and snaffled them both.  They each have both blossom and ripe fruit and seem to appreciate the water and fertiliser that I have heaped on both.  I am not sure what I will actually do with them.  I know that brandied cumquats is a traditional recipe though I have never tried it.  Probably makes an interesting marmalade as well.  Maybe sliced, dried and dipped in chocolate would be a tart and tasty treat.

The only established fruit tree that I have is an ancient and not-very-tasty apple.  It would be very old, probably planted around 100 years ago and is one of the two plants that I kept when I demolished the cottage that was originally on my allotment.  The apples are quite sour and not so good for eating.  I mostly use them for apple pies, but a wedding client had a look at the fruit one day and thought that it might be a very old type of cider apple. It certainly is not a variety that is commonly seen today.  Perhaps I will try to make some cider one year.  It is a large tree and has not been adequately pruned for a long time.  I did take the top off a few years ago, but it should have had more work this last winter.  It is in blossom at the moment, and as I was working this weekend, a snowfall of blossom was landing all around me.

The big challenge of the weekend was Ivy.  A neighbour at the back has a HUGE Ivy plant which is in the process of suffocating an old fig tree.  It must have launched a mass of seeds on the breeze, as I have had baby ivy plants coming up all over my back yard – through the lawn, coming up between the pavers and then in the garden beds.  Once it gets hold, it is difficult to control.  I have got most of it out but there is still one corner of the garden bed to tackle.  This is my tropical corner and there are lots of big-leafed ferny things in there, as well as palms and things like that and it will need another day to crawl around through that lot to eradicate it.  I also need to visit this neighbour and have a chat to him about ivy control.  There are a few of us that are being affected by the fallout.

I never feel like going back to work after spending a weekend like this.  It is just so much more satisfying.