Sunday, August 14, 2016

Growing tomatoes in the tropics

Warning- a rambly gardening post!

I grew up in England and moved to Australia in my mid-twenties, and even 25 years later I'm still getting used to topsy-turvy seasons and the challenges of gardening in the tropics.... So even though it's mid-winter, here in the tropics this is the best time of year to grow the kind of veggies you'd grow in an English summer.

I was late getting my tomatoes in this year - I usually plant them around Easter or May Day at the latest - but this year I was wondering whether it's worth the effort, I didn't get many tomatoes last year. It turned out to be a good thing I waited as May was very hot and humid. I think I ended up planting at the end of May, our cool weather kicked in in July, at long last. For a while the tomato plants were flowering but then the flowers were dropping off, then suddenly a whole lot of them set fruit, which was very exciting!! I'm not sure if that was to do with the cooler weather, or because I was off work for a couple of weeks and gave them extra water if they looked droopy in the day. So now the first one is starting to ripen - these are 'patio tomatoes' so the plants don't get too big and the fruit is bigger than a cherry tomato, but smaller than a regular salad tomato! I got them as seedlings from my local hardware store.

I've also had an experiment with growing from seed. I bought some locally grown cherry tomatoes from the markets and we didn't eat them all, a couple started to go squishy in the fridge so I put them outside in the warm, still in the plastic bag. I left them for about a week until they were completely mushy, then I planted the lot (even the skins) in a pot. Heaps of seedlings sprouted, and I've transplanted 4 into a bigger pot. I knew it was possible because a friend grew a tomato plant by accident out of her compost bucket... Here's her beautiful photo on flickr. I'll be interested to see how they go, as the weather will start to get hotter and more humid next month. I've heard of people managing to grow tomatoes in the build up, so I'm hoping this is one of those varieties...

My mint plant is still surviving, it struggles through the wet season and comes good in the cooler months.

I haven't had much luck growing flowers over the years, so I'm trying begonias as they are a tropical/subtropical plant, the thick fleshy leaves made me think they might cope with the heat. I'm hoping to take some cuttings from these once they get established.

I hope you're having a great weekend maybe spending some time in the garden too!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

ICAD = awesome !!

Today is the last day of the index card a day challenge. I'm thrilled to have got all the way to the end. I just uploaded 2 weeks worth of cards to flickr, and hope to upload the final 5 tomorrow.

The joy of the challenge was that it wasn't about the results, but about making a little bit of time to be creative, to play everyday, some days I wasn't inspired and did a bit of a doodle, but that became the stepping stone to the next card, and the opportunity to create again.

In the batch that I just uploaded there's a group that are based on a memory or from the imagination, that seem to hang together. Here are some of them. Here's hoping I can keep the momentum going tomorrow and the next day...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

ICAD = Unexpected

I'm still keeping on with the index card a day challenge (ICAD), and I've just uploaded all my cards up to day 35 on my flickr stream.

After I took the gardening books back to the library I've had to look for inspiration in other places... Most unexpected was a series working from photos of artists, some from books and some searched up online. First was Picasso

some of Matisse

and Chagall.

Also this one, which I love, that's loosely based on the Matisse painting 'The Conversation'.

I wrote something in my journal about these -

I don't know what to think of them except fandom! But it's lovely to have this arena to do them in where it doesn't have to be for a reason, it doesn't have to be so they'll turn into cards or linocuts or work for an exhibition - they are just for their own sake, for the value of putting paint on paper and seeing what happens, and in this case to spend a moment thinking about artists I love...

It's not too late to join in with the ICAD challenge, it carries on 'til the end of July, you can find out all about it on the daisy yellow blog.

Friday, June 24, 2016

ICAD = daily art making

I'm glad to say I have jumped onto the index card a day challenge. It runs right through June and July and you can find out all about it at the daisy yellow blog. I've been uploading all my ICADs to my flickr stream, so you can see them all there. Here are a few selected ones. 

This was my first, a warm up card I made in May, and a reminder to me to enjoy the process and not to make it a chore - which is how my art making has felt this year.

Tammy (daisy yellow) provides daily prompts and weekly themes which you can use or ignore. 

This one was for the pyramid prompt. Most of the time so far I've been working with gouache. I have a pile of gardening books out of the library at the moment and kept thinking I should do some drawings from those - so this is the perfect opportunity. I have a bunch of index cards done now based on those books ...and probably still more to go on this theme. 

What's working for me is that the commitment is small - a little gouache sketch can be finished in 5 minutes, but it makes me feel like I'm making a tiny bit of progress each day. Because it's a small commitment it means there's less pressure on the result, yesterday I did two attempts at the same image and don't like either of them, but who cares it was 10 minutes wasted (or not, maybe something learned, maybe in a few weeks I'll look back and see something of value in them). Today is a new day and a new card. 

What's exciting is that some of these little playful things are turning into 'real' work. I've been inspired to make four little gardening theme lino prints, just in the nick of time, to be included in the memory, dream, mythexhibition which opens today at Tactile Arts (photos of these to follow!)

Hopefully I haven't jinxed the whole process by writing about it! I'm excited to see what comes out in the next month or so..... 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Ebb and flow of art

I think I've mentioned a couple of posts ago, that I haven't been feeling like making art for the last few months. I'm still doing little stuff, making cards and jotting things in sketchbooks, but have no enthusiasm to get paint on big ideas!!

I'm trying not to stress out about it too much. I have a great quote in my journal for times like these.
I've quit and started again and again and I now know that starting is not better than quitting - it's just different. It's a circular dance of quitting and starting over and over again. - by Sark from her book Making your creative dreams real.
That's in my journal from 2009, so I know I've been here before!

The downside of this is that I'm part of a group show next month - Memory Dream Myth at Tactile arts, I have a handful of little paintings that I made at the beginning of the year, and they will have to do. Luckily there are 9 of us in the exhibition and everyone else is madly creating, so more wall space for them! I'm sure it'll be a lovely exhibition.

Here are a couple of journal pages on the memory theme that never made it out of the sketchbook!

Romford Rd mid 1980s. The day I bought my first Doc Martens and walked until I had blisters!

Gotts Park rose garden, part of the park we visited often as kids, now apparently neglected and possibly to become a community veggie garden if things I've read on the internet are correct.

Now it's the dry season I'm really happy to get outside as much as possible, walking at the beach and pottering in the garden - there are a lot of wet season weeds to deal with! I'm also thinking about taking part in the ICAD challenge (an index card a day challenge) which should be small enough to be doable, and no pressure to make capital A art, just to get back in the habit of doing a little something everyday. You can find out more about ICAD on the daisy yellow blog. So with any luck I'll be back with more of that soon!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Lazy composting

I love the idea of composting - of something for nothing - turning what I'd throw away into something my garden desperately needs. But my compost heap doesn't work that well, the problem is too many palm fronds, I don't have the time or energy to cut them up small so they go on the pile in big chunks and take a long time to break down. I thought about setting up a worm farm for my kitchen scraps but even that seemed too much effort.

I saw article in Pip (australian permaculture magazine) at the library, about worm farms. Their simplest suggestion was to create one directly in the soil using a poly pipe with holes drilled into it so the worms could get in and out.

I've adapted this idea using old plant pots with extra holes cut into the bottom half. I didn't buy in any worms, I figure there are worms in the garden and they'll find the kitchen scraps I'm adding to the pot. I've set up 3 of these around my garden and top them up with kitchen scraps most weekends, when I have time to cut things up into small bits and pick out the onion skins and citrus that worms don't like. The rest of the week I throw everything on my big heap as normal. It seems to be working well and breaks down quickly into the soil. We'll see if there's any improvement to the pineapples this year, last year they were tiny (not much bigger than an orange) that was one of the things that prompted me to try to do something, anything to improve my soil!

I got these two gardening books out of the library last week and have really enjoyed 'My tiny veg plot' by Lia Leendertz. It's more of an inspiring book than a how to book, with lovely photos. I was excited to discover there's a thing called a keyhole garden, a round raised bed with a section cut in to access a compost basket in the middle of the bed. Which is the same kind of idea as my inground compost pots.

The weather has cooled down at last and I've planted some tomato seedlings and a parsley plant. I've also been re-potting the things that survived the wet season, lemon grass, thai basil, sweet leaf and mint.

Now to sit down with a cuppa tea and start reading the Stephanie Alexander gardening book!

tomatoes just in, very late this year

pineapple and herb pots in the front yard, inground compost bottom left!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Unexpected break in transmission

Hi everyone, sorry for the unexpected break in my blogging. I'm doing a bit of reassessment about my artmaking, not that happy with a lot of the things I'm producing. So instead of boring you with that, here are some lino prints my daughter made in art class at school. Kudos to her teacher who got a bunch of 13 year olds to do 3 plate prints. These are at the 2 plate stage, I love that she really played around with colour combinations, hopefully I will get to see the final stage, and will share some photos here.

The weather has cooled down a little bit, tho we are having unseasonably late rain. I'm glad for any rain after such a poor wet season, but it's sad that it disrupted the seabreeze festival on Saturday. Well, it's just a quick post to let you know I'm still alive, and probably out in the garden instead of in the studio!
I hope you're having a lovely May!!