SWEET BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)

While I’ve had Sweet Basil growing on and off many times in the last 35 years, I’ve always used all the leaves in cooking before it flowers.

My 2 current plants were decimated by caterpillars this past summer and I was all set to throw them in the rubbish bin, but decided to cut all the damaged leaves off (about 97% of the plants) and amazingly, they have recovered and I now have 2 flower heads.

This is the first time in my life, I’ve actually seen Basil flowers outside one of my Herb books.

SWEET BASIL (note: the white smears behind the flower are bird poop on the corrugated wall – I should have moved around a bit to avoid capturing the white smear behind the white flower)

I think I’ve mentioned in a prior post that my balcony garden seems to have a sort of micro-climate (despite the frequent strong, or gale-force, winds that race down my steep short road).

I’ve grown many plants that haven’t survived in other balcony gardens in previous apartments.

BUT……………this past summer has been the worst ever for pests.  It seems as though the bugs and caterpillars like the micro-climate too 😀  This is the first time I’ve ever had dozens of Harlequin Bugs on my herbs and flowers.

Normally it’s the Caterpillars that leave their mark.

For a good example, count how many ‘pillars I picked off plants (in my first balcony garden when I lived near the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne).

This was just one morning’s 20 minute search.

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CAPSICUM (CAPSICUM ANNUUM HYBRID)

If you’ve been following my nature blog for a while, you will know that I planted a red Capsicum (Capsicum annuum hybrid) for the first time in my west-facing balcony garden.

My younger brother had warned me they were a slow grower, but I persevered and waited and waited…………………and waited.

My idea was to have sufficient green salad and herb leaves (as shown on the right), or green leafy vegetables, to pick during the summer so I didn’t have to shop so often.  All other vegetables keep well enough in the fridge when properly stored so it doesn’t matter if I miss a weekly shopping expedition.    I did well with the Asian greens during Winter in my previous balcony garden (below) too.

Asian greens which lasted months on my previous apartment balcony as I only picked the outer leaves for dinner each night.

In fact I did extremely well with my garden, located to the north-east of Melbourne, which had no direct sun but plenty of light (below).

My second Capsicum crop here in the western suburbs started with 11 thumb-sized fruit only a few weeks ago and being the end of Summer, I wondered if they would grow at all.  I didn’t know they would produce more than one crop in the Summer, having never grown this vegetable before.  Two fell on the ground attached to a large branch, which I presumed the possums had jumped on and broken during the night.  That left only 6 fruit, from thumb-size to about 3″.

(Don’t know what happened to the missing 3).

I was surprised to see one turning partially purple earlier in the week and very quickly jumping to the red stage yesterday.

I lifted the leaves up with my left hand intending to make a one-handed shot with my right and was dismayed to see my Capsicum had ‘company‘ yesterday.

Hope they don’t eat it.  They can have the leaves.  I’m happy to share them.

(I’ve even had Harlequin Bugs in my lounge room and the little blighters have proved hard to catch and despatch outdoors, but somehow, I still can’t bear to kill them as they’re so attractive).

Only baby spinach, 1 Tuscan Kale and 2 kinds of parsley (English curly and Italian flat-leaf) are left now (besides the regular Rosemary, lemon Thyme, sweet Basil, Marigold herbs and other flowers).

The Sugar snap Peas only yielded one pea pod, LOL, with the Harlequin Bugs sucking the sap out of all the leaves of the 10 seedlings climbing up the bamboo frames.  Those plants got pulled out a week ago.

One pea pod doth not a meal make.

I have several empty pots now.

The Sage was completely decimated by bugs and I pruned it down to 1″ stubble.  Bitter sage leaves are supposed to be bug-resistant and was even recommended for growing as a deterrent.  It’s now got about 50-60 new baby leaves on it.  But Sage always dies back in Winter, so that will probably only last a couple of months.

I pulled the Bok Choy and baby Broccoli out as they were half-eaten (by the ‘pillars), and the meals I did have from them, were fairly bitter.

One Kale leaf and several baby spinach leaves are perfect for the occasional vegetable omelette in the meantime.

Next Spring I might invest in a covered raised garden kit for my low-growing veggies or invest in more blue butterfly scarecrows.

Or, maybe just have flowers 😀  (says she who just despatched another Harlequin bug crawling across her Canon Printer).  I think the bugs get in via one of the large Rosemary branches which is lying next to my open lounge louvred windows, although I do have the sliding door fully open on sunny days.


I’ve even found the odd Cabbage Moth caterpillar crawling across the carpet 😮

Between you and me, I’m getting tired of hand watering every night.  Especially as the time I usually water around 6.30-7.00pm (about 4-6 trips with the large watering jug from the kitchen sink tap) is the golden hour and might be better spent down the local river doing some photography.

After my initial enthusiasm with long hours of afternoon sun from the west, I’m gradually finding the temperatures too hot and the pests overwhelming.

I normally water my garden at the end of the day so it has the cooler night time to soak in to the soil.  In our hot Australian summer, watering in the morning or midday has the potential to burn the roots of plants.

It’s only 13 degrees C (about 56F) at the moment and pelting down with rain, so looks like no hand watering needed tonight 🙂

Tomorrow it’s going to rain and cool temps also.

Was it only 3-4 days ago it was 29C (about 85F) 😕

THERE’S A CATERPILLAR IN MY GARDEN……….

Post started a couple of weeks ago……

There’s a caterpillar in my garden

and I don’t know what to do.

Should I find a toxic pesticide

or hit it with my shoe?

*

When I saw it on the baby leaf,

I tried hard to grab & ‘quash it.

But the pesky little bugger (note: I don’t normally swear online, only in my garden)

dropped down in to a narrow slit.

*

Now I can’t find any sign

but know it’s in there hiding.

Should I stick around, for a while,

or pretend I’m not really minding.

I know the Cabbage Moth Caterpillar

is on my Tuscan Kale

‘Cause there’s holes and nibbled leaves

and the stalk is deathly pale.

*

If I accidentally ate the slimy squashy thing,

I guess I’d really never know.

‘Cause I chew each mouthful many times

as my Mamma taught me so.

*

I stop and ponder a minute more

but realise nothing matters.

Except to get that pesky ‘pillar off

before it gets much fatter.

*

Maybe I’ll just leave it for a while

and photograph another pest that’s easier to see.

The Harlequin bug on my plastic pot

is running wild and free.

I’d use a Herbal pesticide (we pronounce the ‘H’ in Australia, so it’s ‘a’ not ‘an’)

but can’t remember how to make it.

Maybe it’s on my DVD or in my Gardening Book?

Detergent? Garlic? Chilli? Shake it?

*

There’s a caterpillar in my garden,

but maybe now its gone.

Should I go out and have another look,

or forget it ever was?

*

I really can’t bear the thought,

of my one and only plant

of Tuscan Kale (Brassica oleracea sp.)

dis..a..pearing off the planet.

Tuscan Kale (and friends) BC………….Before Caterpillar

The label says it’s SuperFood

which I need as much as he.

Assuming that the ‘pillar

is a boy (and not a she).

*

Decision made, I go back outdoors

into the hot and blazing sun.

Can’t find a thing on any leaf

so the ‘pillar’s  on the run.

*

I come back indoors and shut the roller blind,

pretending I really don’t give a damn.

Fresh herbs for lunch, but definitely not the Kale,

Lunch is only Tomato…..Parsley….. Eggs & Ham.

PS.  Ok, so there was no ham in my omelette, but nothing else rhymed 🙂 🙂 🙂

***************************

It’s now 2 weeks later

and I really needs some hints.

The ‘pillar holes are everywhere

especially Basil, Sage and Mint.

*

The Bok Choi has a different bug

that leaves creepy crawly lines.

I’ve forgotten what that pest is called

just know that pest is mine.

*

Today’s luncheon omelette was made with

eggs, onion, herbs and Kale.

But be assured the Kale was bought

at last week’s Queen Vic. Market sale.

*

My easy grow Snow Pea seedlings

are finally climbing up.

With fine green threads around the frames

that I’ve made from Bamboo ‘stucks’.

(I never said I could spell).

*

My Italian and English Parsley

are among the very hardy Herbs,

that are free from creepy crawly critters

and don’t require rhyming words.

*

I better upload this WordPress post

before it gets too long

And followers go to sleep,

or break out in raucous song.

*

Perhaps I’ll ask Mr Google

what to use on all those pests.

And finally stop this tedious post

and put the matter to rest.

*

PS I almost forget to mention

my second crop of fruit.

Green Capsicum babes are growing

from the end of green-leafed shoots.

PPS  The Broccoli Patio Baby Bunching

is growing soft leafy greens.

It produces small sweet tasting delicate heads,

of veg. I’ve actually never seen.

PPPS.  I forgot to mention the flowering

of the Rosemarinus officinalis plant.

At least that is free from pests –

‘Pillars, bugs, slugs, worms and ants.

THE END (phew!)

 

 

Hope that keeps you amused until the next WordPress Post.

 

THE ‘TO DO’ LIST

Somewhere in my ‘to do’ list was……. go to the hardware/gardening centre (to get more shade cloth, longer bamboo stakes, more mint & parsley plants ……and so on.

This errand has now gone to the top of THE ‘TO DO’ LIST.

I inspected the tomato plants just now.  It’s lovely and cool while my balcony remains in shadow each morning and my favourite time of day to check out the garden and refill the bird bath.  I have got two tomatoes with sunburn – the one and only ripe one and another one which is still green.

Many leaves have been eaten by caterpillars, (but not the fruit), and many branches now broken in the strong gusty winds and storms Melbourne’s had.  And I am writing to the author of one of my herbals to tell them Sage & Rosemary plants DO NOT deter Cabbage Moth Caterpillars 😀

The bundles of larger tomatoes seem to hang on the lowest flimsiest branches.  It was only 2 days ago that I had one blushing tomato (besides the burnt red one) and now……………I’ve got about 8.

I only had some short bamboo stakes left over from last Summer and they were totally useless in our recent storms and gale force winds.

It’s amazing how quickly Tomatoes ripen once the first fruit changes colour.

I’ve just put the last couple of metres of shade cloth I had over the tomato fruit as best I could (in preparation for this afternoon’s sun).  I stapled it in a ‘droopy sun hat’ shape, but I really need about 4 metres and some much taller bamboo stakes to create a little ‘house’ for the plants and fruit until they all ripen.

So my ‘to do’ list has been re-arranged.  I’ll have to go out today.

Being extremely fair, I’ve never liked the hot summers in Melbourne anyway, and after a very brief attempt to get a bit of colour on my arms & legs in my twenties, I gave up and accepted that I would have snowy white skin for the rest of my life.

Me aged about 2 (?) with my snowy fair hair.

Even aged 19-20, I wore mascara  every day to coat my white eyelashes and lashings of make-up to cover my deathly pale face, so you can well imagine how quickly I get sunburnt now I’m old(er).

You’ve only got to look at the first sunburn in the summer after I took up photography as a hobby to appreciate my reticence about going outdoors in the summer.

50+ sunblock doesn’t do much for me.  I even take it outdoors on a walk and re-apply it after a couple of hours.

So just when you fellow Melburnians are thinking what a lovely sunny day for a walk, I am double-checking the actual temperature and timing of the highest UV rays.

My theory is that there’s a hole in the ozone layer over Melbourne (and we have the worst number/cases of skin cancer in the world anyway).  That ‘hole’ allows the very worst intensity of the sun’s rays to hit my apartment in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

The Ozone hole used to be over my old apartment next to the Royal Botanic Gardens for some 20+  years but when I moved house, the HOLE decided to follow me 😀

Did I mention Spring and Autumn are my favourite times of the year 🙂

HAVE I GOT A ‘GREEN THUMB’ ?

Perhaps not, but  I have got some green tomatoes on the 3 “Patio” Tomato plants on my west-facing apartment balcony.

I couldn’t count them all, but I figure I’ve got somewhere between 50 -60 fruit at the moment.

I just hope they don’t all ripen at once !  😮

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……and it looks like I’ve got some baby Capsicums too.  I’ve never grown Capsicums (red peppers) before, so I’m not quite sure what their babies look like.

It’s been hot, humid and sticky in Melbourne in the last couple of weeks, with more than a few thunderstorms threatening (depending on what suburb you live in), although I did miss the flooded streets in Melbourne one day last week.

I’ve been mostly housebound (hence no new photos).

FROM THE ARCHIVES………………..A YOUTUBE

Many moons ago, when I was more au fait with my computer, had more ‘grey matter’ in my brain and had Picasa editing software installed, I made 4 YouTubes from a range of early photos.  I’d forgotten all about them until yesterday and thought to share one of them today.  Amateurish they might be, but I seem to remember they were great fun to play around with.  These were made when I had only one blog, Victoria A Photography (now deleted).

I split into 2 new blogs, A Black & White blog under my name Vicki A Alford – Photographer  (which I don’t use often) and this current Nature blog you’re now reading, Living with Nature.

Living with Nature could have been titled A walk with my camera as that is what it is.  Just images I make when out walking (for fresh air and exercise).  These days I never go to a particular place to photograph a sunset.  Any sunset shot is merely what I happen to see at the end of a walk, or from my apartment balcony.  There’s a professional photographer called Vicki Alford in Melbourne, so I inserted the first letter of my middle name to differentiate between the 2 of us.

Back in those days, I dabbled in Food Photography as well.

Food Photography became rather expensive as I had to keep buying so many different ingredients for recipes (to photograph).  There were many times when I ate the food/recipe before I’d decided on the final image to share, as it looked so yummy.  It not only looked yummy, it was delicious as I used to be a good cook.  This clip opens with the image which was a finalist in the Michaels Camera Store monthly contest – “Food” – a few years ago –  Caponata Siciliana – a sweet/sour Bruschetta dish of which I am extraordinarily fond.  I made about 50 images and then, dissatisfied with the results, ate the food.  The next day I went out and bought all the ingredients again, made many more images and ended up choosing the shot below.

Michaels Camera Store in Melbourne is my ‘go to’ shop for anything Photographic and the assistants have been more than generous with their time and advice.

In fact, I spent months trying out all the long telephoto lenses, (including the Canon L series expensive lenses I couldn’t possibly afford), before I chose the Sigma 150-500mm f5.0-6.3 lens for my bird photography.  Due to my poor memory, I used to visit the store regularly with queries, both technical and lens related.  No question was EVER too trivial or silly for these highly knowledgeable sales assistants – all of whom are very experienced photographers themselves.  I believe some of them are professional photographers who work in the store part-tome to supplement their income.

I visit less often now that I live further away from Melbourne’s city centre.

Hope you enjoy the variety of images in this clip……