Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Trumpet cases

My daughter has been selected to play with her school band in the big city next month. I’m so proud of her, all those time spent learning the trumpet has finally paid off and she loves it. I need to get proper trumpet cases for all three of her trumpets that she’ll be taking with her. Normal suitcases just don’t cut it so an investment in good quality trumpet cases is a good investment.


Ever since they came into cultivation thousands of years ago, strawberries have been in demand as an all-year-round available fruit because of their luscious flavour, as well as having high nutritional value. They are delicious eaten directly from the plant.

Strawberries are grown from the sub Polar Regions to the tropics, and belong to the Rosaceae family, which also includes roses, plums, apricots and apples. Although all the flowers are similar the fruit of the strawberry is quite different. The main difference is that the seeds are on the outside of the fruit, rather than being encased in flesh in the middle of the fruit. When it is the middle of winter in the south of Australia, it is harvest time in the north in Queensland.

Large sized strawberries are renowned for having no flavour. These varieties have now been replaced with new cultivars that have all the desirable qualities that are demanded of a strawberry - large fruit that is full of flavour are the two most important qualities that home gardeners and commercial growers are looking for. As well they want cultivars where the fruit is abundant and easy to find on the plant. Strawberry ‘Redlands Joy’ has red flesh all the way through to the middle, and is beautiful and sweet to taste. For those who live on the north coast the varieties ‘Kabarla’ and ‘Adina’ will grow well, while in the Sydney region ‘Sweetheart’, ‘Selekta’ and ‘Torrey’ are best. ‘Kunowase’ and ‘Cambridge Rival’ are two good cultivars that grow well in Victoria and Tasmania. ‘Alinta’ is an excellent, highly recommended variety for southern gardens.

To grow strawberries well soil preparation is essential. This requires copious amounts of a good organic fertiliser that has high levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash dug in well. Plant the runners into raised beds 30 cm apart. As soon as the plants start to flower, spray them with high potash liquid fertiliser, which will help the fruit to develop a beautiful sweet flavour. By March in the following year these plants will have developed new runners. In warmer climates like Queensland the plants should be treated as an annual, as the plants get tired more quickly. The old plants should be taken out and new runners replanted.


Following my excellent organization of the club’s anniversary I was asked to organize another event; my child’s school sports day! I need to source some trophies for the winners and I know just the place to get them at fantastic prices. I’m getting really good at this; maybe I should start a business organizing events for people. I’ll probably go broke doing that so I’ll stick to my day job.

Milk Fungicide

Some organic gardeners have been using milk as a fungal control for decades, but it has only been in recent years that it has been looked at seriously as an effective and safe control of powdery mildew on some garden plants.

University of Adelaide research is exploring its potency. Grape vines have been the main crop that Peter Crisp used as part of his trials during a three-year research project, but he has also used milk spray on roses, zucchinis and tomatoes where it has been very successful in combating powdery mildew. A dilution anywhere between 1:5 and 1:10 milk to water is adequate, but if it is much stronger than that it can cause problems like sooty mould. Low fat milk is less effective than full cream milk, but the difference is not really significant. There are various compounds that are active in milk including the fats. The natural antibiotics present in milk, as well as the production of other agents during exposure to sunlight both act to reduce fungal infection.

For it to work effectively it must be used regularly at seven to 10 days intervals, or every fortnight if it is hot. The most important thing is to get a good even coverage over all of the leaves. One of the great advantages of milk fungicide is that you don’t need any protective gear for spraying.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ski pants

We’re going to Aspen next week and I’m not even ready yet. So much to do with so little time. I have to get ski pants, boots, parkas and ski masks. What else? Oh yes, gloves and ski equipments too. And book the tickets also or we’re not going anywhere! Should have been more organised but with heavy workload I just didn’t have much time to organise my ski vacation this year.


There are several cultivars of Celery Apium graveolens var. dulce, which are very similar. The only thing that will influence your choice is the planting season; so get advice from a local seed retailer.

Close relatives, Celeriac Apium graveolens var. rapaceum is grown for its celery-flavoured root, while Florence Fennel Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum is grown for its aniseed-flavoured bulb.

Common fennel has a similar growth habit to celery. The stems are buried deep within the above ground parts of the plant, being hidden by the fleshy leaf petioles upon which the feathery foliage is borne.

Celery has a very shallow root system, and needs frequent watering because the roots are concentrated in the top few centimetres of soil and so they will dry out quickly.

What we commonly call the stem of the celery plant, the part that we eat, is actually the petiole from which the leaves grow. If you pull celery apart, it can be observed that the stem is in the centre of the plant near the roots at the base of the plant. It will continue to grow to form a stem and flowers, which will set seed. It is too tough to eat at this stage.

It is possible to grow celery in almost any soil type, but it prefers friable loamy soil. It will grow in sand but much more nutrition and water will be required. Celery prefers to grow in the mid seasons of spring and autumn. It does not like the hot temperatures of summer or the very cold ones of winter. During the summer during its most rapid growing time, it takes about 10 to 12 weeks to reach maturity, and during the winter it takes about 18 weeks to reach maturity from transplanting into the field. It needs two or three applications of nitrogen and potassium during the life of the crop. Celery puts on 70% of its growth in the last 30% of its life.

Planting celery in blocks of plants encourages the stems to grow longer, fleshier and slightly lighter making them less bitter. If you are selecting celery in the supermarket, the bunch should be a good bright, glossy green and should be very turgid. The stems should be very firm in your hand, which will ensure that it will be crisp and have the best flavour.

Plus size maternity clothes

This morning my wife dragged me out to the mall even before the shops were open. She had to get some plus size maternity clothes for her cousin who’s pregnant again at a later age. It was totally unexpected but the whole family is happy with the good news. Looks like we’re having an extra present under the Christmas tree this year.

Asian Vegetables

Over the last two decades our strong and growing connection with Asia has had a large influence on the food we eat today. A huge variety of Asian vegetables are available in the marketplace and are helping us to expand our culinary exploits. Their distinctive flavours combine well more traditional Australian foods. Many of the plants originate from tropical parts of Asia, particularly China where they have been cultivated and used for centuries.

Many of these plants have strong and distinctive flavours and are often quick growing, tender and have a variety of parts of the plant that can be used. Like many ingredients in Asian cuisine, nothing is wasted. Many of the plants have parts (leaves, flower heads) that can be periodically plucked without disturbing the whole plant. Some of these varieties are ready to harvest in as little as six weeks from sowing and many can be cut and a used throughout the growing season

Some varieties of Asian herbs and vegetables are becoming available in punnets, but they are very easy to grow from seed. Most varieties don’t like to be transplanted so it is a good idea to sow that seed directly. They need to be grown in areas of at least six hours of direct sunlight. In cooler areas most varieties can be planted in autumn or spring once any risk of frost has disappeared. In tropical areas Asian vegetables are a winter crop, so the seed is sown in autumn. When thinning out the seedlings don't throw them away as they are great used in soups and stir-frys. Coriander it is best grown in the shade as it goes to seed more quickly in full sun.