Friday, November 23, 2012

Cutting Back Capsicums To Regrow

I trialed a wonderful piece of advice from the neighbour of my friend Ragen that I could cut back my capsicum plants at the end of the season to encourage it to regrow for the next season.

I had never heard that it could be done before, but both Ragen and I decided to give it a go a few months ago to see if it was possible. While Ragen's capsicum died completely, mine thrived! (Yes, she looked at both me and her capsicum plant in disgust!). No extra fertilization, just a good old prune and watering and it sprung back to life. And here are the results:

I hope to update you a little later with how the crop has performed on this bush. I have been assured that the crop will be just as tasty as last seasons.

Have I tried it on any more plants? You bet!
I am also trialing this same technique on one of my chili plants that went very spindly. It too is showing a good lot of new growth. Hoping it will branch as well as my capsicum plant did. This is the same chili plant that self seeded itself behind my compost bin earlier in the year, so I have high hopes for this little thriver.

chili pruned for regrowth
The good news from this trial is the reduction of purchasing new seedlings which will save money.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Top 10 Tips for Growing Sweet Corn

Every year my children ask me to grow sweet corn as they love to eat the cobs straight from the garden, freshly picked, perfect in their raw state. They also ask me to take photos of them EATING their cobs as well because they think it's an amazing treat. And they're right♥

Eating corn immediately at the time of picking is the most ideal time because as the minutes tick over the starches in the corn actually increase and loses their vitamin value. That is one very good reason why the corn cobs we buy at the fruit and veg store really do not have very much taste and have a pasty texture. When it comes to eating corn, freshly picked is always the best by far.

Our crop of sweet corn is growing rapidly this year. They are so easy to grow but they need a little attention to make sure that the corn cobs grow large and juicy. Here are a few of my top tips for amazing corn.

Top 10 Tips . . .

  1. Choose an open sunny position for planting, but is protected from wind. If wind does become a problem, stake them and use a ties to keep them upright.
  2. Corn requires a moderately heavy feeding, so build the soil up with lots of good organic matter and manure before planting. I also toss a handful of blood and bone and rake through.
  3. Corn requires moderate watering. Never let the soil dry out completely but needs to be in well drained soil. The trick to getting those cobs really juicy is all down to your success with the soil moisture level. Many gardeners choose to water using drip-line irrigation to ensure the moisture level is adequate. This is absolutely number one in getting great corn as they are shallow rooted!
  4. Plant your crop in a location that has previously grown high nitrogen plants such as beans, peas, cauliflower, cabbage or broccoli. Where ever you would plant cucumbers, melons or pumpkins is the same type of soil that corn would love.
  5. Give your corn crop an application of seaweed solution every couple of weeks.
  6. Pinch off the side stalks near the base to channel more growing energy into the main stalk. The side stalks may grow back after a time, but removing these side stalks will make a big difference to your crop's yield.
  7. Make use of the tall corn stalk by co-planting bean seeds around the base of each corn stalk once corn is more than 5 inches tall. By the time you have harvested your corn cobs, the beans will be well on their way to using the height of the stalk to climb and produce their crop next.
  8. Pollination is done by wind, so mild conditions are ideal. For this reason, multiple planting is needed to ensure a good cross pollination.
  9. If your crop fails to produce good ears of corn, it may be due to extreme weather conditions: too hot, too cold, too wet can all affect pollination. 
  10. Harvest only when the silks turn brown. To be doubly sure, you may also pierce the top kernels which will exude a milky or clear liquid which will indicate that they are ready for harvesting.

Corn Varieties

There are 3 main types of corn:

Standard (su types): Heirloom varieties, typical old fashion style. They need to be eaten at the time of harvest as they quickly become starchy.

Sugary-enhanced (se types): They have better keeping qualities as their sugar remains more stable after harvesting.

Supersweet (sh2 types): Very common variety that has a much higher sugar level than the others, and will remain sweet for up to 10 days after harvest.

Planting Time

Spring to early Summer is ideal as they require a soil temperature 16-24 C for optimum growth. Typically corn will produce only 3 ears/cobs of corn per plant.

Pinching Out Side Stalks

As I mentioned earlier, pinching off the side stalks near the base will channel more growing energy into the main stalk. The side stalks may grow back after a time, but removing these side stalks will make a big difference to your crop's yield. Don't be scared to pull. They snap off so easily. You will son see a marked difference in the size of the corn stalks if you choose to only pinch off from only a couple and leave the rest.

Sweet Corn Nutritional Facts

  • Sweetcorn is one of the few vegetables that is a good source of of the kind of slowly digested carbohydrate that gives you long-lasting energy.
  • Good source of dietary fiber.
  • Contains Vitamin C, Niacin, Folate and Potassium. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Solving Worm Farm Pest Problems

When you have a worm farm you know how much of a pest vinegar flies, ants and cockroaches can be. They will not harm your worms but they are unwelcome guests. So here's a few remedies.

Removing Vinegar Flies

Vinegar Flies are a good indication that your worm farm is too acidic. To fix, just sprinkle a little dolomite lime, garden lime or wood ash.

Removing Ants

If you have a Styrofoam box worm farm, simply elevate it off the ground on bricks inside a tray of water - you could use deep sided pot plant saucers for this.
If your worm farm has legs, do the same with a tray of water under the legs.
When ants become a persistent pest, put out small piles of cornmeal. Ants will eat it but they will not be able to digest it, so it kills them. Be patient as it will take around a week to work effectively. It will not harm your pets or children.

Removing Cockroaches

Keep the worm farm covered with newspaper or hessian blanket and keep the lid on.