Sunday, 16 December 2018

The amazing VX-1

A few months ago my eldest son was given a toy for his birthday.  It was one of those things where you look after a fake pet.  It was a version of what I think they used to call a Tamagotchi or something like that.  I don't see the point, but he seemed to enjoy it and the other kids all wanted one themselves.

My second son desperately wanted one, but didn't want to wait until his birthday.  He asked for one, and we told him to wait until his birthday, he didn't want to miss out on the fun so he made his own. 

He decided it needed a name, so he called it a "VX-1".

The amazing VX-1
VX1 ready to play
He got a small box, put a toy car in it, and shook is left and right, and up and down.  Hours of fun!

I am not sure what the rules are, but he got high scores often. 

I gave it a go, apparently I wasn't as good and I lost a life somehow?  I was told that my scores were pretty low.  It was really quite amusing playing with the VX-1 and being told I lost a life.

Apparently if you get over a certain score, or something, you get an upgrade.  To be honest, I was never sure if an upgrade was a good thing or a bad thing.  It didn't really matter, my scores were never high enough to earn an upgrade. 

An upgrade meant there were two toys to shake around in the box.  Again, I was never quite sure what the rules were.

VX-1 upgrade
VX-1 with various upgrades
Finally his birthday arrived and he got a real Tamagotchi thing.  He played with it a bit, but the novelty wore off pretty fast.  I assume it is still in his room somewhere but I haven't seen him use it in a long time. 

I am not sure if he had more fun with the tamagotchi, or his VX-1.  He certainly got more use out of the VX-1 and spent longer playing with it.

Sometimes my kids make me laugh.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Interesting strawberry leaves

I have been growing strawberries for years.  Normally the leaves all look much the same.  Sometimes they are larger or smaller, or more jagged or smoother, but really they all look much the same.  There are a few 'yellow leaf' forms, but to me they look like a sickly green.

Sometimes, my strawberries grow interesting leaves.  I have also been tinkering with breeding strawberries, sometimes a few interesting things come out of the crosses.  Crossing appears to introduce instability, which isn't always a bad thing.

I have had a few strawberry plants that sometimes throw up variegated leaves.  I had hoped this trait would continue and I would have a line of variegated plants, so far it is always restricted to a single leaf.  Hopefully in the future this variegation happens to a runner, then I may be able to grow variegated strawberry plants.

Variegated strawberry leaf
Variegated leaf
I have also had a few leaves with four or five leaflets instead of the usual three.  I really like this trait, but it does seem to be restricted to single leaves instead of entire plants.

Some plants tend to display this trait more often than others, it is more common in the wide crosses, but as yet I do not have any plants I consider to consistently grow four or five leaflets instead of the usual three.

Five leaflets instead of three.
If you have strawberries that grow interesting leaves and are willing to send me a plant or some seeds let me know.  I would be keen to grow them. 

Currenty strawberry seeds are still legal to import into Australia.  I know there is at least one variety of variegated strawberry around but don't know if it grows variegated from seed.

I do sell some strawberry plants through my for sale page.  Unfortunately at the moment I can't guarantee that any will ever grow interesting leaves like this.

Monday, 12 November 2018


For some reason it is difficult to find many named varieties of thyme in Australia.  For some reason it is almost impossible to find any comparisons of thyme varieties.  Plant nurseries write such lovely things about their plants, but an honest side by side comparison is practically unheard of.

Last year I wrote a post comparing some thyme varieties to highlight the differences between them.  To expand on that, below are comparative pictures of the growth after about 6 months.  The pictures were taken at the beginning of spring after the plants had survived winter.

I wish I had planted them further apart, but I needed the space so they are cramped together.  The small pots contain cuttings of each variety.  You can see how each of the varieties of thyme grew compared to the others.  They are probably each double that size now and have started to flower.

Four varieties of thyme growing side by side.  It is pretty obvious that Jekka's thyme is larger and stronger than the other varieties.  It goes outside of the picture to the left somewhat.
Left to right: Jekka's thyme, Tabor thyme, Variegated lemon thyme, Orange peel thyme

Friday, 9 November 2018

Grow more dandelions

I like dandelions (Taraxacum officinale).  They are a perennial edible plant that are easy to grow.  I allow them to flower and set seed in my yard and encourage them as best I can.

Dandelions have many uses.  People eat the nutritious leaves and roots, they are high in vitamins minerals and inulin, nice coffee substitute can be made from the roots, wine can apparently be made from the flowers, animals relish all parts, bees (both native bees and honey bees) and other pollinators just adore them, they have medical uses, and they can be useful in composts.  Dandelions flower for much of the year where I live now, which is great for bees and other pollinators.

If you look closely you may notice that every photo on this page of dandelion flowers has a honey bee somewhere in the picture.  Bees really seem to love dandelions.

Dandelions have many uses, they grow reasonably fast, they are reasonably productive, they have no real problems with pests or diseases, and they can just grow in my lawn so do not use space that is needed for other vegetables.

I don’t see what is not to like and I like to encourage people to grow dandelions in the lawn.
Dandelion - you should grow more of them!
I have never understood why anyone would want to get rid of dandelions from the lawn or why dandelion poison exists.  The only problem I can think of is that they don’t survive if it is hot or dry.  That is no real reason to poison them though.

I have read permaculture sites and gardening books who claim that 'dandelions are a gift from nature that freely grow everywhere and thrive in damp as well as dry places'.  Even though I wish this were true, this is not the case.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Overwintering diploid potatoes

Last year I grew some diploid potatoes from true potato seed.  I really enjoyed it.  Every single plant produced different potatoes.  Each of them tasted far superior to anything you can get from the markets.  They were quite remarkable.

Unfortunately these diploid potatoes lack any real dormancy and start to grow not long after producing tubers, so it was unlikely that they would survive winter without help.

Being seed grown meant that each plant was unique, and I would love to keep the best new varieties alive.  Unfortunately I lack the time and space required to grow them via tissue culture, which means I had to think of a way to keep them alive through winter.

I attempted three methods of overwintering potatoes, putting them in the crisper of the fridge, leaving them in the garden, and putting them in a pot in a protected position.  Read more and I will explain what worked for me and what didn't.
Diploid potato grown from True Potato Seed

Thursday, 1 November 2018

mulberry tree time from planting cuttings to fruiting

Have you ever wondered how long it takes for a white mulberry to go from a small cutting until it is large enough to fruit?  I have grown cuttings a few times so thought I would share my experiences and hope that it helps someone.

I have looked on the internet and found a nursery overseas that claims they sell 2 year old plants that should fruit in 2 - 3 years.  That seems overly long to me.  Judging how quickly I get things to fruit from cuttings or seed grown and how much longer they claim it takes for 2 year old plants to fruit I would have doubts over the quality of their plants and/or the accuracy of their claims.

Large mulberry cuttings can fruit that same year, but what about small cuttings?  Obviously it varies from plant to plant, some will fruit much faster or slower than others.

Here are some photos of a cutting that I took of a cutting from a white mulberry that is meant to be white fruiting (most white mulberries are dark fruited).  The cutting was around 10cm long and far thinner than a pencil.

My little cutting went from this tiny cutting just sprouting roots September 2017:

to this small ~60cm tall tree just before going dormant:

to this little tree emerging from dormancy in October 2018:

Unless something goes wrong I should find out in a month or two if it is white fruited or dark fruited. 

Mulberry breaking dormancy - note the catkin emerging
Almost every node that is producing leaves is also producing catkins, each of which should turn into mulberries.

It appears that this will be a productive tree once I plant it in the soil.  I am hoping that it will be white fruited, but even if it is dark fruited I think it will still be well worth growing.


I am waiting until the fruit ripens before planting this tree in a larger pot or in the soil.  I would hate for transplant stress to cause it to abort its fruit and have to wait another year.

I am assuming that some varieties of white mulberry take longer than this to fruit.  I assume that some varieties will be more productive and others less productive than this one.  Regardless, it appears that this is a productive and reasonably fast growing variety.  Going from a cutting to a fruiting tree in a year is pretty impressive.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Skirret in Australia

Skirret (Sium Sisarum) is the ultimate perennial vegetable.  As far as I am concerned skirret is the perfect vegetable for organic gardeners, permaculture gardeners, people who are into increasing self-sufficiency, people who are increasing their food security, and people with fussy children.   That’s right, even fussy kids will eat skirret.

Skirret has a long history as a vegetable, it has been blessed with the highest recommendation and cursed with the lowest popularity of any of the root crops.  It grows wild across Asia, and has been well established across Europe.  Skirret may have made its first documented appearance in a 1322 list of seeds maintained by the gardener for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, which included a penny's worth of skirret in a 1321 to 1322 inventory.  We don't know how long it was used as a vegetable prior to this, it is believed that skirret grew along damp riversides and ditches and was easily harvested for free, so didn't need to be bought and sold.  It is likely that skirret was grown and eaten long before this but simply not recorded.

People keep telling me that there is no skirret in Australia, but I grow skirret, I sell skirret, and eat skirret.  I have given skirret to some people who now also sell it.  So skirret is slowly becoming less rare in Australia.  Hopefully one day I will see skirret for sale at a farmer's market.

I adore skirret, I have grown it for a number of years now, have written a few posts on it to try and show other people how to grow it.  Skirret is the most delicious roast vegetable ever.  I have never eaten anything that even comes close to how great skirret tastes.  I like the taste normally, but frosts make it far sweeter.  I want to encourage more people to grow this remarkable vegetable.
Skirret next to 30 cm ruler for scale

organic skirret plants Australia
Skirret next to 30 cm ruler for scale