Growing Veges is Not My Forte

I think the title of this post says it all. If you don’t believe the title, have a look at the pictures.

itty bitty veges

These vegetables are itty bitty.

Clearly, not my forte.

I’m very good at starting gardens. I’m just not so great at finishing them. Well, actually, the finishing isn’t really a problem either. I guess you could say it’s the middle bit – the maintenance – that defies my abilities.

I created my vege garden in the one spot available in my little yard that didn’t already have an established garden. I prepared it beautifully, planted seeds, added fertiliser and watered diligently.

garden - new

My freshly prepared garden, all ready for me to plant in.

I was very excited to find seedlings coming up.

butternut pumpkin seedling

Butternut pumpkin seedling.

I especially liked the pumpkin plants – they grew so fast! I’m very much an instant gratification kind of girl, so rapidly-growing plants really appeal to me.

young butternut pumpkin plants

Young butternut pumpkin plants.

The problem with gardens is you can’t just spend a few weeks taking care of them and then leave them. Which is inevitably what happens with me. It’s what happened this time. I watered and weeded very well until work went crazy and I started working stupid hours (like until 2am sometimes). Then sleep came ahead of weeding and watering, so the plants had to fend for themselves.

This happens to me every time I start a garden. Without fail. I knew this going in, so I purposely planted them in a place where they would get rain and sunshine so they could technically be a bit self-sufficient, and clearly the weeds had no problem growing, so they would be ok.

In fact, for a while, my veges were ok.

Then the pumpkin vines started to get white splotches on them (which one of my colleagues tells me was likely mould – apparently this is a common issue Queensland pumpkin-growers face). All the little pumpkins (except one) rotted. Something started eating the sweet potato leaves. The carrots and spring onions got lost amongst the weeds. The only thing that seemed to be hanging on was the nasturtiums.

Overgrown garden.

Overgrown garden, with the butternut pumpkin vines in the foreground, as they begin their descent into death...

I pretty much gave it up as a bad job.

But several months after planting, I came across the little notations I’d optimistically made in my diary: ‘Carrot Harvest!’ and things like that. So I thought it wouldn’t hurt to dig the little suckers up and see what was under the ground.

When I got down to the garden, I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all. The carrot tops were long and green and lovely. Pity about the carrots underneath.

stunted carrots

My stunted carrots - lovely long green tops, miniature roots.

Diva politely sat by the veges to give you a better idea of scale.

diva and veges

Diva showing the vegetables to scale.

Yes, the carrots are about 3cm (just over an inch) long.

Tiny carrots and pumpkin.

Tiny carrots and pumpkin.

The lone butternut pumpkin – looking gargantuan beside the carrots – was about 12cm (nearly 5 inches) long.


My tiny pumpkin.

I also planted about 20 spring onions. They all died, except for one that grew to about the size of a chive.

spring onion

No, it's not a chive. It's a spring onion. Yeah.

I didn’t pick it.

The sweet potatos are still going, but they are very chewed up. The nasturtiums are battling on (like Xena).

The thing about my gardening is that every time I do it, although I suck at it, I always suck a little bit less. I learn something every time. I will know, next time, to plant my pumpkins in a much airier place, so they don’t get too damp. I will know that green tops on the carrots doesn’t mean the roots are making much headway. I will know that spring onions hate me: they don’t grow in pots on the verandah for me, they don’t grow in the garden for me… but I am going to find a place where they do grow. Maybe in pots out in the open.

I’d be interested in anyone’s opinion on how to stop whatever it is eating my sweet potato vine. I think I can still salvage it. I saw a shiny, flea-sized bug on a leaf once, but otherwise I haven’t seen any bugs or caterpillars or anything on the leaves at all.

On the bright side, even though my vege gardening this time around was a fail, I still got to eat the pumpkin.

El pumpkino

Tasty little pumpkin.

Yankee Elv cut it open and it looked just like a normal butternut pumpkin, just tiny.

cut open pumpkin

The pumpkin looked normal inside, just miniscule.

So she made me butternut pumpkin chips. They were a delicious little snack!


Tiny little chips from a tiny little pumpkin. (Roasted and sprinkled with salt.)



Daffodil Day Addendum

You may remember that last week I posted about Daffodil Day. I was wondering where the flowers are grown – are they local? I sent off an email to the Queensland Cancer Council to find out, and received the following reply:

Dear my real name,

Thank you for your interest in Daffodil Day.

The fresh daffodils are grown in Melbourne and shipped to QLD for us to sell. If you could please let me know where you are located I will direct you to your nearest site.

If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact us on 1300 65 65 85.

Kind Regards,
name removed

name removed
job title removed

Cancer Council Queensland
T: (07) 3634 5235 F: (07) 3259 8524
553 Gregory Terrace, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006



So it sounds like the daffodils are grown as locally as they can be (it’s too hot in Queensland to grow them, as my co-workers pointed out). It also means they’re not grown in the flower industry’s equivalent of sweat shops, like the ones in South East Asia, South America and the US. Hopefully the chemicals used to grow them (I’m sure there are still some) are within safe(r) levels.

Dying daffodils - biodegradation is good!

Dying daffodils - biodegradation is good!

I think that’s the best we can hope for, regarding daffodils. At least they’re biodegradable, unlike the pins and bears and pens and other merchandise people were buying yesterday.



Meanwhile: Bug-free Gardening

What am I going to do about the bugs in my container garden?

They are these weird little flying critters that look a bit like fruit flies. I think they are the same ones that killed my herbs last time I tried to grow them. They hang around, looking innocuous and blending their little black bodies into the soil. Then they suck all the moisture out of the plants… like those creepy prehistoric bugs sucked the moisture out of people on The X Files! And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Or is there? Does anyone know how to get rid of these bugs? My basil is just a tiny bud, and my parsley and oregano aren’t even up yet!

Tiny baby basil.

Tiny baby basil.

And they’re lurking around my shallots (spring onions).

Little shallots, all in a row.

Little shallots, all in a row.

Strangely, they’re not bothering my onions and spinach.

No bugs by the spinach.

No bugs by the spinach.

Maybe it’s  because they’re out the back and the herbs and shallots are on the front verandah. The herbs were out the front last time too, but I made sure to scrub the pots and use different soil and I grew from seed rather than buy seedlings… and still there are the bugs!

I don’t really have room to plant companion plants (I already have nasturtiums, in a hanging basket), but I will find room if that’s the wayto fix it.

Nasturtium seedling.

Nasturtium seedling.

Anyone, ideas?



Meanwhile… Daffodil Day

Yankee Elv is sick at the moment. Yesterday when I stopped off at the shops to get her some icy poles and ginger ale, since she can’t keep anything else down, I saw some fresh daffodils for sale. I bought some to cheer her up, and she really liked them. They’re in a vase in our bedroom right now, so she can see and smell them (they have a really strong, lovely smell).

Daffodils for Yankee Elv

Daffodils for Yankee Elv

Daffodils aren’t usually just sitting around in the supermarket, it’s just that Daffodil Day is coming up next Friday, so merchandise is everywhere. I don’t like to buy random stuff that I probably won’t use again (like badges or teddy bears), even if it is for a good cause. I’d rather just donate. However, the flowers won’t hang around in landfill for all time and there was a very good reason for purchasing them – to make Yankee Elv feel better!

It did get me thinking, on the bus home though. Where are the daffodils grown? Are they grown sustainably? And, big picture – are cut flowers bad for the environment?

I know that the flower industry in the US and South East Asia is really bad – lots of chemicals that leach into the ground and affect the workers, illegal workers who are taken advantage of, sometimes slavery is involved… but I thought that it couldn’t be that bad in Australia. I can’t find much on the importation of flowers to Australia (although Australia does make up about 1% of the world market in the cut flower industry, mostly exporting Australian and South African natives). Apparently we do import roses (and snow peas) from Zimbabwe, which is pretty bad considering we’re thus giving tacit support to Mugabe’s reign. I think the for the most part, Australia must grow it’s own flowers – apparently about 90% of flowers grown here are sold on the domestic market. If we imported more, then I think there would be some record on the net.

However, to be sure, I’ve emailed the Queensland Cancer Council, asking where the fresh daffodils sold for Daffodil Day are grown. I’m definitely going to be interested in the answer…