Sunday, 26 August 2018

Aji Amarillo

I like chillies.  I enjoy their capsaicin, but far more than that I love their taste.  There are literally thousands of different types of chillies and each of them tastes different.  Some are sweet, some bitter, some fruity, some citrusy, some savoury, some earthy, some dirty and I dislike them.

Unfortunately the markets only provide few varieties of chillies, so few that most of the foodies I know have no concept of the many thousands of varieties that are out there.  This means if I want to taste something remarkable I must grow it myself.

My vegetable garden is feeling small as there are so many amazing vegetables that I can't buy and have to grow myself.  I grow everything organically and I save seeds with my kids.

This year I grew very few chillies.  One that I grew this year was Aji Amarillo (Capsicum baccatum) which is a lovely chilli from Peru. 

Aji Amarillo e translates to "yellow chilli", aji means chilli, amarillo means yellow.  When dried it is known as Aji Mirasol (which I am told means "looking at the sun" but I don't really understand how).
Aji amarillo - many were longer than this

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Raised Vegetable Beds

What is more useful, this odd shaped piece of grass on a gentle slope which fits a guinea pig house nicely and takes time to mow every now and again?  Or a jungle of many different organically grown fresh herbs and vegetables?

The odd shaped piece of lawn before was not very useful
Raised vegetable beds, they look great plus they produce organic food

Friday, 17 August 2018

String of pearls - real and fake

I love string of pearls plants (Senecio rowleyanus), I think they look amazing.  I grow a few and find them delightful.  There are a few different types.

Unfortunately, ebay thieves sell fake seeds of string of pearl plants that do not exist.  They sell thousands of dollars worth of fake seeds and keep getting away with it.

First, let me show you what types of string of pearls plants exist, then let me show you some of the fake seeds that thieves are selling through ebay.  Hopefully I can prevent at least one person from being stolen from.

All of the following pictures were found on actual online ads.  They are not my pictures. 

String of pearls plants that DO exist
Healthy string of pearls comes in green.  There is a variegated form (green and white), there is a giant form (also green), and that is all.  String of pearls ONLY come in green.

As string of pearls can be grown from seed, there are likely some forms that are slightly more pointy, and others that are slightly more round, but they are all green (or green and white).

If string of pearls is about to die or has some nutrient deficiency it may turn black, not a glossy nice black, more of a sickly about to die kind of black.  Mine get a slight purple tinge over winter when struggling through the cold, but they still look decidedly green.
 String of pearls giant form next to normal one - not my photo

Sunday, 12 August 2018

How to prune raspberries

In order to correctly prune raspberries or blackberries or any of their many hybrids it is important to understand their basic growth habit as well as what you want to get from them. 

If you don’t understand their growth you will never get the full potential from them.  If you don’t know what you want from them you are wasting your time in pruning them at all.
Floricane blackberry will not fruit well if pruned like this

Established brambleberries grow from a crown, each year they put up new growth, this new growth is referred to as a primocane.  The primo part of this word means 'first' as they are first year growth.

After the growing season is over the primocane will sit over winter and not do a great deal that you can see, the following season this older growth is referred to as a floricane.  Floricanes were originally the only canes that flowered, but we have since bred some varieties that can flower on their primocanes.   Knowing about floricane and primocane is important so you can prune them properly.


Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Edible mushrooms for beginners

People often tell me how they tried to grow edible mushrooms from a kit and either failed or the yield was disappointingly low.  Other people tell me that growing edible mushrooms is extremely difficult and you have to do their expensive courses to be able to even have a chance to succeed.  Depending on the type of mushroom, and your climate, growing edible mushrooms can be pretty simple.

Some types of edible mushrooms are simple to grow, others are complex.  If you are a beginner I suggest starting with one of the simpler types.

I grew some oyster mushrooms on newspaper logs and some others just on damp cardboard.  I recorded the days from inoculation to harvest here and here.  It was remarkably simple and turned waste into food.  It was actually heaps of fun.  One thing I have noticed is that many beginners don't understand the words that people use when talking about mushrooms, so any advice they read tends not to make much sense.
Oyster Mushroom

Fungi are not plants and they are not animals, treating them like either may result in failure.  I have read many places say that fungi are plants without chlorophyll, this is incorrect.  Fungi are more similar to animals than they are to plants, even when growing them I think they tend to react more like animals.

When trying to understand the terms people use when describing fungi it is sometimes useful to compare them to plants or animals.  This is simply for comparison.  Like any analogy you reach a point where the comparison doesn't quite work.

In order to successfully cultivate edible mushrooms there are a few simple things and a few terms you need to understand.  Here are some useful terms that will enable you to understand what people are trying to explain. 

Friday, 3 August 2018

How to cold stratify seeds

Seeds from different species have different requirements before they will germinate, some are simple, others are rather complex.  All seeds need moisture to germinate.  All seeds have a preferred temperature range within which they will germinate, for some this temperature range is rather narrow while for others this range is very wide.

Some seeds require cold stratification in order to germinate, some will even need to be cold stratified several times.  Some need the seed coat damaged in some way, in nature this is usually achieved when it passes through the digestive system of an animal.  Some seeds need light in order to germinate, others need dark, and most don’t really care.  Some seeds, particularly tiny seeds such as orchids, require complex mycorrhizal interactions in order to germinate.  Some plants, particularly parasitic plants, need various chemical stimuli in order to germinate.

I have heard people say how they incorrectly cold stratify seeds and then have dreadful results, so thought I would write a post on how I cold stratify seeds.  This may not be the best method, but it has worked for me and has returned excellent results and allowed me to grow some things from seed that otherwise I wouldn't be able.

Strawberry and raspberry seeds germinate better after cold stratification