Saturday, 28 November 2015

Kangkung Adventures

So close to our kitchen door, so close to my Malaysian memories... Every time I exit our family room I am taken by the giggles as memories of an 'ill-fated' fishing expedition return. Memories of water hyacinth and kangkung!

The 4WD packed, we made straight for our favourite fishing pond, an abandoned tin mine, through Kuala Lumpur’s early morning traffic. With provisions for a long day, we were armed and dangerous. Watch out, toman. We are coming for you!

On arrival at 'our' pond we knew that we would have a struggle on our hands simply launching the tinny. However, we persevered using a wooden off-cut to push the boat through the massing water hyacinth and kangkung plants. How could one resist the attraction and challenge of rising toman fish in the nearby shallows? They would be 'ours'! So, against better judgement we launched our craft.

Alas nothing! Such a beautiful day for fishing but nothing. Regular rises of feeding fish, cooler than normal… nothing. I saw the sipping toman babies and foul-hooked a fingerling. Hours of casting to rises. Sore arms and shoulders. Nothing but a picnic on a boat!

Throughout the afternoon the breeze had parted the massed water hyacinth and opened up our favourite fishing spots but it also blew the weeds across the lake towards our point of embarkation and disembarkation. Still the staunch warriors that we are, we kept fishing, somewhat uncomprehending of our impending plight.

Finally at 5:30 we decided that we should head for shore because it might be a little difficult to guide the boat through the dense stands of hyacinth. It was so wide, perhaps 50 metres wide. Our first attempt to pierce through the angry weeds was fruitless. What would we do? It was impossible to motor or drag our craft through so much dense greenery. 

We sought a new point of disembarkation, just along the shore, where the massed weeds were just ten metres thick! Barging through the tangle of hyacinth and kangkung took some time. I hacked the kangkung with a knife while Ben propelled the boat forward with a paddle. Then we switched roles. Inch by tiring inch we attained the shore.

Once ashore my mate set foot for the car. I unpacked the boat and waited, taking photographs of the sun setting over the placid pond and of a goose. So appropriate!
Unbeknown to me, there was no direct passage to the car. Ben was forced to seek help from a local who dinked him on his motorbike… seven kilometres around the pond! 

When Ben returned with the 4WD it was darkWe loaded the car, then huffed and puffed the boat up the first bank, across a dusty expanse, then up a slippery second embankment. Finally, almost completely exhausted we were able to slide the boat up the back of the 4WD on to the roof racks... Worried women awaited us.

We have grown the green-stemmed variety of kangkung (water spinach) for the past three seasons. Not the easiest care of vegetables, it can be grown in garden beds. However, it demands plenty of water and nutrition: as I water my little potted plants, I water the kangkung. For us, it responds best in locations sheltered from full sun and strong, drying winds.

Without a doubt it is one of our favourites, a pleasant summer and autumn stir-fry treat, because it cannot be purchased in stores in our neighbourhood. The leaves and young green stems are the choice parts of the plant for cooking. The thicker, hollow stems require extra cooking time.  

Kangkung is a plant which keeps on giving. Harvesting the plant above ground level allows secondary shoots to develop from lower nodes. It cannot tolerate winter frosts, so must be replanted from seed early in spring. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

An Infrequent Visitor

This season we have prepared our front garden with many species of flowering plants with the prospect of attracting butterflies to our home. One or two species have begun to show.

Over the past two days we have been blessed with visits from a beautiful, white butterfly with black markings. On the underside of its wings are additional yellow markings. This butterfly would appear to be a Caper White (Belenois java), an infrequent visitor to Sydney.
A Caper White Butterfly drinking from our path after
we watered our vegetable garden

The Caper White is commonly found west of the Great Dividing Range where it feeds on capparis species bushes (Capers). So why is this showy creature present in our garden?

Over the past few days, Sydney has been subjected to intense heat (40C+) and westerly winds emanating from the hot deserts and inland areas of the country. These winds appear to have carried the Caper Whites well off course. In fact, while driving yesterday, we suspect that we saw a veritable cloud of Caper Whites flying north across the Greystanes area. This occasional phenomenon is recorded in other available websites. 

One wonders what food plants these remarkable creatures can uncover in an urban garden such as mine under these conditions.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Out With the Old

Another step towards the completion of the landscaping of our property has been achieved with the erection of a new side fence. The old fence had served its purpose and had become a danger to our garden-loving grandchild.

The new 2.1 metre structure provides us with added privacy and security. Most importantly, it allows us to concentrate on the landscaping of this side, the access side of the home: the final plantings and landscaping need to be appealing and attractive.

As to be expected, some damage was suffered by our plants during the building process. However, with some judicious pruning, feeding and mulching our precious plants will recover. 

Time is a great healer for gardens.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Let Nature Take Its Course... Self-Seeding Vegetables
A bed of self-seeded choy sum

If you are prepared to allow your vegetable patch to take on a relatively untidy appearance for a short time, you should consider letting your best veggie specimens flower and then set their seed. Allowing vegetables to self-seed is allowing nature to take its course. 
The beautiful flowers of coriander

Some vegetables are ideally suited to this method of cultivation. Pictured right is a bed of self-seeded choy sum plants. Pick them when small and young: if allowed to 'mature' (or if they experience a degree of water stress), they can take on a slightly bitter taste. Then allow one or two of your best specimens to flower and run to seed. When mature the seed pods will brown, the precious seeds dropping into your garden. Make sure to collect some of the seeds for your seed bank for future use.

When the season and weather conditions are favourable, new plants will sprout and you will be rewarded with an abundance of baby choy sum plants. 

After two crops, 'rest' your garden bed by planting a rotational crop - peas and beans are the best. Fertilise and mulch well.

In the background of this photo you can see the white flowers of coriander. Coriander is a perfect subject for this method of cultivation, along with yao mak (little gem lettuce) and wo sun (celtuce). Try it also with kai laan, other Asian greens and even radishes and carrots.

An Unusual Find

I have chosen the title for this post guardedly. For me, this is something rather unusual, which had me seeking on-line help to uncover its identity. Having read various sources, however, I have now discovered that this is a common fungus of the east-coast of Australia. So what have I learned about this peculiarity of my front yard?

This is Aseroe rubra, more widely known as anemone stinkhorn or starfish fungus. Its basic structure you can see from the photograph... a red starfish shape with divided arms. However, the 'starfish' sits upon a white stalk, which apparently can grow up to 10 centimetres in height. The stinkhorn is completed by a layer of brown slime. It is from this feature which the fungus derives its common name: the slime emits a foul odour in order to attract flies which then spread its spores.

From the photograph you can see that Aseroe rubra is in a mulched section of my garden. This is one of its favoured habitats.

Personal discoveries like this are part of the fascination of gardening.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Mango Flowering... What a Difference a Year Makes
View 1... Maha Chanok seedling 2015

Flowering season for Sydney mangoes is coming to an end. Of interest to me was to study and compare the flowering of our Maha Chanok seedling tree - now in its fourth year - with photos taken this year and last.

View 2... Maha Chanok seedling 2015
The four photos displayed in this post were taken on the same day, November 3rd, in the respective years. Quite clearly, the Maha Chanok seedling has produced abundant flowers in 2015. However, the setting of juvenile fruit is sparser and less advanced. Keeping in mind that this tree produced its first three mangoes last March and April, it will be interesting to compare the quantity and timing of its bearing in 2015... First appearances would suggest not to set one's hopes too high! 

The final photo is representative of the flowering of our Nam Dok Mai seedling, also in its fourth year of growth. It has flowered densely and appears to be setting many more juvenile fruit than the Maha Chanok, although its flowering is lagging behind its counterpart. Last year's first crop split and dropped. Perhaps we will be rewarded with a small first crop this year.
View 1... Maha Chanok seedling 2014

View 2... Maha Chanok seedling 2014

Nam Dok Mai seedling 2015