So much happened in the garden in December it was necessary to break the blog / diary down into months.
Above - first day of 2013. We've had enough rain that the tank hasn't run dry, but not enough that I can rely on the rain to keep things consistently moist so have been watering mornings. Afternoons on occasion if I have really early work starts.
The plants really appreciate it. I've been rewarded this season with lots of self-sown salad and greens plants like red and green Amaranth, rocket, mustard greens and Egyptian spinach. Add this to the Aibika, sweet potato leaves, choko tips, pumpkin tips and I have a plentiful supply of home grown greens.
Below: Self sown salad and greens around the cool compost pile.
Continueing my love affair with eggplant. The Listada di Gandia has been cut right back (pic above, middle bed beside the tall Tamarillo) and I have hopes that it will grow back but suspect these two plants have run their course.
Have a store bought one struggling in the front yard which I will try to transplant into the back. Also some self sown L di G in a couple of places. The Flea Beetles have wrought havoc on every plant, young or old, this season.
Below: This is supposed to be Brazilian Orange :/ or so said the seed I was given by someone. Doesn't match up with the pics I see on the net, but is none the less delicious. Creamy flesh when roasted with a delicate flavour.
If anyone thinks they can identify which one it really is I would appreciate knowing.
The wounds on the fruit are bird caused. I suspect the Indian Mynah which roam around my yard quite a bit. Either that or crows.
Planted some leftover bits of seed for three different eggplants and this is the only one that came up. Early Purple I think.
Below: The Winter Melon are doing great! See blog for full story. This fruit is 9 days old!
Below: The Red Okra (seed originally from Elaine) grow well for me now.
Used to hate this fruit but will now use the young ones in stir fry and salad quite happily. Large ones here are a little big for eating (they get quite fibrous) so will continue to grow for seed.
Flowers and plant both very attractive to have in the garden.
Below: Cucumber haul for the last few days in the fridge. Prof. Mary Sheehan (white) and the others are Muncher and Spacemaster. I use the scruffy ones for juicing and the purty ones for eating and sharing :)
Below: The Carombola is dropping dozens of little fruit :( It's not cropped well for some time now after initially providing kgs of fruit each season. I've just given it a big drink of water in the hope that the remaining fruit doesn't fall.
The yellow/brown fruit are just burnt and desiccated from lying around in the sun for days.
There are still pockets of fruit left in the tree, but not many.
Peaceful cool, damp Sunday. Goodness it's delicious after years of turmoil :)
A little bit of rain coming and going this morning, just enough to wet my hair and T shirt but not do much for the plants. At least it's cool. The tank is down to 1000L (tap level) so I'm back to using town water. The beds are quite dry below the top layer - I spend a long time trying to wet them thoroughly.
Found a beautiful little Blue Banded Bee, newly hatched out, when I was trimming back the Salvia this morning. Five stripes - can't remember whether this meant male or female. It was sitting hanging on to a tendril with it's mandibles and it's wings looked like they were still plumping up. There's a fast moving black bee in the garden that I'm yet to see close up. Possibly a Leaf Cutter or Resin bee.
Let's get the bad out of the way first lol. The Persimmon has dropped it's second fruit during the heat. None for me this year unless I buy them!
Below: Sadly, the bagged pumpkin babies are all dying. They yellow and shrivel. Lack of water and too much heat?
Below - 16.01.13 finally have one good pumpkin growing. The small one ventually shrivelled and fell off.
The Wampi is producing a bit of fruit at a level where I can get at them. Have to be careful I don't eat too many as they are quite acidic (citrus relative).
Good old reliable Pawpaw is producing some nice fruit. I leave all yellowing leaves around the base for this tree. Returns nutrients to the soil and provides shade for the roots.
Still chipping Cadaghi seed from the entrance of the bee hive daily. Some days more than others. Not much this morning (below) but seed can clearly be seen in the Cerumen sitting on the brick. I don't see them do it, but the bees must be putting these there. The Cerumen might help to remove the sticky seed from their legs.
Below: Belatedly thought of using the new netting to shade the corn and bean seed struggling to come up in the heat. Think I've lost most of the seed.
Below: Winter Melon now 11days old. Other babies seem to be growing slower.
Below: Healthy self sown patch near the clotheslines. Another pumpkin? NOTE: Turns out it's a Winter Melon from potting mix I threw out when seeds didn't come up.
Hot and dry with bushfires all over - especially Tasmania, Victoria and NSW. Mum and Dad came very close to being evacuated at White Patch. Fires are still burning on the island.
I am going out each morning to keep the vege patches wet and productive and try to give major garden plants some water. Many of the Tamarillos are suffering badly in the heat. The ones in the front yard may even be dying - have dropped all their leaves. Great pity as they were covered with fruit, some of which is ripening.
The custard apple, soursop, ceylon hill gooseberry and carambola all have developing fruit and I'm giving them drinks every few days in a effort to stop them dropping these.
Out of the three cucs grown this season - Spacemaster, Muncher and Prof Mary Sheehan, the last is proving to be the most productive and long producing. A nice cuc - often with a hollow in the centre of the fruit. Goes a little golden when it's ripening. I've had almost nil problems with mould - could be due to the lack of rain, type of plant but I do think the addition of rock minerals has had a positive impact.
Below: This pic doesn't do my Amaranth forest justice! Some are taller than me. Nothing much affects these attractive and useful plants. I add a leaf to my sandwiches (the red look particularly nice) and add them to salads and casseroles. Now developing their flower heads which look a lot like Celosia.
Below: The Winter Melon is starting to develop it's white protective coating from the top down.
Below: One of about four other WM babies. They get little sticky, brown exudations on the skin. Not sure if this is something burrowing or normal.
I was walking around the garden with Ana and her little one Scarlett the other day and had a very exciting moment. My first ever!! Dragonfruit flowers and fruit developing. And I missed them! Never mind, some new buds are developing so I'll keep a careful eye on them for some night time viewing.
Below: 31.01.13 The same fruit 12 days later.
Below: 19.01.13 Second flower.
Below: 31.01.13 The same flower 12 days later developing fruit.
Below - My dear little Rattle Ants are paying a lot of attention to the developing flowers.
Below: 31.01.13 Same flowers 12 days later getting attention from another variety of ant.
Below - 2nd, 3rd and 4th (baby) Winter Melons. Some caterpillar damage but they were found before they chewed through the stems.
Below - 21.03.13 Excited about this Sweet Leaf or Bunchosia given to me by James. The tips are really nice.
Below - 21.01.13 Some more Cardoon flowers. The first lot still haven't turned into seed. Really hoping they do. Each flower has a little white Flower Spider hiding in and lots of ants visiting. The beetles like these as well.
Below - 21.01.13 Have tried regrowing beans and corn but the heat has been too much. The corn has a few growing but the beans are not doing well at all. I've planted Richard's sweet potato seedling in the middle - something useful.
The native bees are giving me lots to study at the moment. The Cadaghi seed phase seems to have stopped without the disaster of slump that I half expected. They still aren't foraging and bringing back pollen to the degree that they were previously but I did see one bring in small pollen sacs this morning. They're still milling around the entrance and flying short distances - the gray ones. NOTE: Soon after this the darker foragers came out, so I think the gray guards were just checking things out.
The last couple of days they have started bringing home some lavender to purple threads and are attempting to drag them through the top entrance (bottom was mainly used for Cadaghi - very specific) with their mandibles. I pinned one thread down with my fingernail and the bee turned around and tried to tug it free with it's mandibles. Have witnessed them this morning dragging them through the bottom entrance also. One came out with a thread again and either dropped it or threw it away.
Around 7 this morning I witnessed them forming a cloud of activity (we won't call it a swarm as that's what honey bees do when they vacate their hive for another destination - ASB don't do this) that extended for around 1.5m all around the hive. They were quite agitated, even aggressive. Paying a lot of attention to me sitting beside them, but not biting. This happened last night around 5pm also. Today this lasted about half an hour then they settled down to business as usual - bringing out larval cases, bringing back the odd pollen sac and bringing back some purple thread.
Andrew from ANBees has suggested it's something to do with palm flowers - they are blooming around us at the moment.
Bob L. is working on figuring it out. I'm buying one of Bob's boxes for splitting in the next week or so.
Below: the purple thread.
I've finally sat down and made a few Insect Hotels from PVC, bamboo, curled bark and straws for the smaller insects (thank you to Ian on ANBees for that idea).
I have heaps of Blue Banded Bees around but they really like the holes in the brickwork in the shady carport. Would be wonderful to see someone move in to one of my homes.
I also have the most beautiful wasps collecting caterpillar from the cucumber vine. They're quite long - about 4cm, have an orange dot on the top of their head and orange epaulettes on the shoulders, black in the middle and an orange striped abdomen. Too fast moving for me to photograph.
Here's a pic from the Vic. Museum which looks a lot like it:
Mud Wasp Abispa sp.
Below: Insect Hotels.
I have had a bee war today.
The bees were quite agitated around 5pm last night when I was sitting out there working, buzzing around me but not biting. This morning they had a lot of little gray bees poking their heads out for a look-see at dawn before the darker bees came out. None of the bees have done much foraging the last few days - little sign of pollen being brought back.
Around 7 to 7.30am they did a lot of "clouding" about 1.5m around the hive but then seemed to settle. At 3pm I was out gardening and finally noticed they were swarming all over the front of hive. On closer inspection I found many little dead and dying bodies around the hive. I had missed the war.
By 6.45 tonight things had calmed down. Lots of dead bees being dragged out of the hive and dumped. The intruders appear to be slightly smaller with a small pale mark on either side of their thorax. Bit hard to tell with the naked eye.
The hive appears to be letting the odd pollen carrying bee inside which at first made me think that the original bees won the war but now I doubt that as the victors are throwing out the gray juveniles.
Here's some pics:
10pm last night there were still a few bees milling around the outside of the hive. Normally everyone goes inside for the night.
5.30am much the same. A few milling bees.
6.15am more activity starting despite it being an overcast morning. Bodies are being dumped from the bottom entrance again. Bob has suggested putting down a white cloth which makes it much easier to see the bodies.
Many able bodied gray bees are being dumped - grays are immature so it makes me think the invaders have won and are dumping my babies. Will watch to see if they start dumping the larvae.
Getting quite wet out there. I was hunched on a hard rock with an umbrella and notebook. Even the dogs wouldn't stay with me lol.
1.00pm More carnage as the victors toss out more dead and dying bodies, many gray juveniles amongst them.
Below: Victors on the front of the box, vanquished tossed down on the cloth out of the entrance.
Below: Gray juveniles can be clearly seen amongst the dying.
Below: Close up of the victors. More Carbonaria's perhaps? Certainly not Hockingsi which are bigger.
Below: My vanquished Carbonarias.
The carnage goes on today despite it being rainy and blustery. The victors are continueing to throw out bodies - now getting down to pupae. They're also flying in a cloud around the box to about 1.5m in a very assertive fashion. Again, if I sit beside the hive they give me an intensive once over without biting.
I do notice a lot of them have this little white patch on either side of the thorax. Searches for pics of native bees in books and online show both the Tetragonula Carbonaria (mine) and Austroplebeia Australis has having similar markings. Found this just now on Native Bee Sanctuary:
This warm-loving species of stingless bee make an intricate, lacy curtain of cerumen each night as a barrier across their doorway…then they pack it away when they’re ready to face the day again! At the base of their thorax (between the head and the adbdomen) they have tiny cream coloured markings. They like to nest in hollow trees and fight off small hive beetle invaders by sticking them down with resin and biting them. It’s hard to tell them apart from T. carbonaria, without looking inside at the different nest shape they have, but they often build a a tunnel-like entrance into the hive, and the lacy night curtain is always a give away!
Haven't noticed any lacy curtain of cerumen.
Other ways to tell them apart when I finally get to split the hive and open it up:
Identification: When the hive is opened, Trigona (now Tetragonula) will crawl over the intruder, into eyes, ears, mouth etc. Austroplebeia do not show this behavior, and is one distinguishing behavioural difference.
Trigona (now Tetragonula) build a hexagonal brood cell, in a flat layer spiraling outwards (horizontally). Austroplebeia do not build in a discernable regular pattern.
The Austroplebeia queen has a light brown appearance, in contrast to the dark brown Trigona queen.
Showers and gusty wind, but by 7am the victors, which have been identified by Bob L. as another group of Carbonaria, are throwing out more dead bodies. Adults locked in combat to the death, no babies. Perhaps the battle still rages deep inside the hive.
Tail end of the cylcone has brought strong winds and lots of rain. I could have filled my 5000lt tank 10 times over. Time for hot and spicey beef-cheek stew with some added Winter Melon and Aibika amongst more mundane veg.
I've ventured out to plant Lupin and Sub clover as most things have finished cropping and it is perfect seed germination weather.
The Cardoon seed heads were becoming soggy, the plant was dead, so I cut them off and brought them inside to dry off a bit. On pulling them apart I found very few viable looking seed....plus it was a lot like picking ticks out of dirty human hair. Pretty yuck but I have some seed for winter, I hope.
The two other Winter Melon fruit passed Joseph's "pick me" test as the little surface prickles were wiping off and the fruit becoming white all over.
I made a stirfry using part of the small one with a nice piece of fried Salmon last night. Put in too much oyster sauce once again. Also Kangkong of which I finally have lots!
Below: Winter melon stir fry
28.01.13 - The bees kept entirely to the hive during yesterdays gusty, rainy weather due to the cyclone up north. More bits of Qld flooded and people drowned trying to cross creeks etc. Pretty intense stuff.
This morning there was a complete lull in wind and rain for about an hour so the bees and I both came out!
The bees became very active - still removing the odd very-dead body (as opposed to the struggling live ones from the other day) but now flying off with dozens of pupal cases. It's much too soon for any Queen they may have installed to be laying let alone the eggs reaching hatching stage so I'm hoping that the invaders are accepting my larvae as their own. I did find one worker dumping an entire larva though.
The material they are dumping is amber coloured on the whole, like normal larval cases, but some of it is bright orange. I've asked Bob what he thinks that might be but I suspect Bob's internet is down still post storm as I haven't heard from him for a few days.
During the lull I've gone around with my hand saw and taken the top off one pawpaw and a couple of tamarillos that were pushed sideways by the heavy winds. The pawpaw will be fine but the tam's were already badly affected by the drought and may already be dead - this includes my original plant which would be three this year. Pretty much it's lifespan anyway.
Considering the flush of growth that will come in the next few weeks due to all the water (seeds are coming up everywhere! salvias are growing roots at leaf nodes all along the length of stems!) I have cut back bushy plants to allow for the new growth. All the different salvias mainly.
The cooler weather has given me back my apetite :) Fried eggs, toast and stew for a late brekkie.
Overcast with occasional showers this morning. The bees have returned to business as usual on the whole - bringing back pollen and removing larval cases.
There are still a few bees staggering around on the ground and rocks apparently unable to fly. When I put them on the hive box the victors pounce on them as soon as they become aware they are there and knock them off again. Very odd how the losers seem to have lost the power of flight.
The victors colour markings are much stronger than the originals. The majority of them are very dark/black in colour with a strong white marking of hairs to either side of the thorax.
I've cut back all the growth around the hive yesterday. It was getting leggy and messy with lots of dead flower heads. Shade cloth put up again to provide shade.
The hive is pungent smelling again today. Could smell it from metres away. Bees are bringing back some Cadaghi seed again.
I think myself that there is a link between the Cadaghi resin collection of the original bees and the takeover. I suspect the victors could have been drawn by the smell and wanted the booty for themselves.
Below: After the storms. I've been very lucky again.
Below: 31.01.13 Decided to cut it all back this morning. This will give the beds time to rest and recuperate before autumn planting.
Below: 28.01.13 Cut back pawpaw had quite a lean to it and was top heavy.
Below: 30.01.13 The wind and rain is knocking kgs of fruit out of the Carombola. It's so tender it bruises when it hits the ground and there is some fruit fly damage in some of them. The bulk have made juice.
31.01.13 Had to crop my one and only pumpkin as I got carried away trimming back the vine and it all died.