Yes, we have wildlife challenges in the inner-city

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This used to be a head of broccoli
This used to be a head of broccoli

The photos above and below show what were heads of broccoli, almost ready for harvest.

Until the possum decided to have a midnight snack. They were consumed in a single night, so there wasn’t much we could do. (Add to that the ongoing challenges from rats, which will give most things a nibble.)

So yes, even in the inner-city, we have wildlife challenges when growing vegetables…

Another former head of broccoli
Another former head of broccoli

Our winter harvest of broccoli and cauliflower

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Plenty of broccoli and cauliflower
Plenty of broccoli and cauliflower

Our main winter crop most years is broccoli and cauliflower, and it’s in full swing right now.

The main head has been cut off the broccoli plants, and we’re steadily harvesting the side-shoots. The cauliflower is also a sight to behold.

It’s great to eat seasonally 🙂

Turning broccoli and weeds into compost

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The newly created compost heap, alongside the weed tea

With the winter growing season drawing to a close, it’s time to clear the garden beds to make space for spring planting. So out come the huge broccoli plants that have kept us so well feed over the last few months.

With our two compost bins and one worm farm already full to the rim, a new plan was required if all this green material wasn’t to go to waste.

So I decided to construct a hot compost heap, consisting of layers of green and brown material, at least one cubic metre in volume. In went the old plants from the garden beds, and all the weeds from out the back. The brown material is mulch donated by the local tree trimmers and a pile of old leaves.

Hopefully if I turn it a few times, I should have a big pile of rich compost in time to top up our raised garden beds.

And in the same vein, beside the new compost heap is the council green bin containing our weed tea. With an unlimited supply of weeds, they get drowned in water and anaerobically “brewed” for at least a month. The result is a liquid that smells really nasty, but when diluted keeps the fruit trees extremely happy.

Nothing goes to waste!

Purple sprouting broccoli

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The first of our purple sprouting broccoli

This is what I love about growing heirloom vegetables: the surprise at creating something so unusual. This is one of four varieties of broccoli that we’re growing this year, all delicious so far!

Autumn seedlings are in the ground

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Purple sprouting broccoli seedling

We’ve had more luck with our seed raising this year, and last week I transplanted a whole pile of seedlings out into the garden. The beds are looking pretty bare at the moment, but we have a huge crop ahead of us:

  • Carrots
  • Silverbeets
  • Turnips
  • Snow peas
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Peas
  • Leeks
  • Beetroots
  • Spring onions
    • green
    • red
  • Kale
    • green
    • tuscan black
    • red russian
  • Broccoli
    • purple sprouting
    • di cicco
    • romanesco
    • chinese (broccolini)
  • Cabbages
    • mini
    • chinese
    • red
    • sugarloaf

That should keep us going for a while! This time around, I’ve avoided mass planting, and have instead mixed everything together (except the root vegetables). Hopefully I’ve got the spacing right, but only time will tell…

Broccolini going to seed

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Broccoli in flower is an impressive sight
Broccoli in flower is an impressive sight

While we were away on holiday, the biggest of our broccolini plants bolted to seed. As you can see above, it’s quite a sight! This seemed like an ideal opportunity to practice our seed saving for the first time.

Important tip:

Reading up the Seed Savers Handbook, I discovered that broccoli is self-sterile. That is, you need bees to spread pollen between more than one plant for seeds to form. You then let the seeds form on the plant, cut the whole lot out, and let it dry inside.

In this case, my timing was a bit out. One plant was flowering profusely, while the others were still catching up. I’ve stopped harvesting the rest of the broccolini, and hopefully this will get enough plants flowering at the same time to generate some seeds. I’ll report back.

No shortage of flowers (and bees)
No shortage of flowers (and bees)

Last orders from our winter vege garden

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The last haul of broccoli from the garden
The last haul of broccoli from the garden

We recently went away for a two week break to Western Australia. Just as we left, the weather was warming up and the garden was delivering its last harvest.

Luckily we lined up our next door neighbours to harvest the garden as well as look after the cat. When we got back, they told us that they had so many sugar snap peas, snow peas and broccoli that their family of four couldn’t get through it all!

Even after that, we still had a huge haul of brocolli, as shown above, plus pak choi, and peas.

But it’s now time to wind up the winter growing season, with spring on our doorstep. We need the space, so I pulled out the sugar snap peas this morning, and the old chinese cabbage. The pak choi will be next to go, along with the snow peas and carrots.

Onto the next round of growing (and eating!).