Category Archives: Gardening

Pesticide free tomatoes

To avoid using pesticides on our home grown tomatoes, Engogirl and I tie paper bags around them with twist ties when they are very small to stop the bugs getting at them. The paper bags are surprisingly robust and stand up to the rain without any problems. Sometimes we have to change the bags because the clumps of tomatoes get so big that they burst open the bags.


The bags shown in the photo above have already survived several downfalls of rain.

We found out about this through Engogirl’s uncle who has a green thumb and a healthy distrust of all pest control chemicals.

Home grown tomatoes taste so much better than commercially grown tomatoes. I can’t bring myself to buy tomatoes any more now that I grow my own. It really makes me angry when I see the nasty tomatoes that are on offer in the supermarkets. Apparently the supermarkets are the ones that are demanding that farmers grow varieties that have thicker skins allowing them to travel well and look good on arrival rather than taste good. 

Botany Bay weevil (Chrysolopus spectabilis)

I was out in the front garden pruning back my wattle trees (Acacia longifolia) when I came across this spectacular weevil. It was about 2.5cm (1″) in length.


 I identified it by going to the CSIRO website and according to the ABC website it was one of the first Australian insects to be described from material collected by Joseph Banks (the botanist who voyaged with James Cook on the Endeavour) back in 1770. 

Although this weevil is quite beautiful they are considered a pest in the home garden as the adults eat new acacia growth and the grubs eat the roots.

Callistemon sawfly (Lophyrotoma sp). Australia

Now is the time to have a look at your callistemons (bottlebrush) for sawfly infestation. 

While not a serious threat to larger more established trees these larvae can totally defoliate seedlings over a few days. The recommended way to deal with them is to hand (wearing sturdy gloves of course) pick  them off.  They can also be sprayed off with a hose but in these times of drought that would be unthinkable. The two photos below show two callistemons (one without infestation and one with) that were planted at the same time showing how sawflies can damage young shrubs.

Breakfast today. Set and setting

At breakfast this morning I found myself counting my blessings. So I took a picture of the moment. It’s hard not to feel so lucky when I’m faced with such a scene. This is the breakfast that I eat nearly every day in my back yard (weather permitting) as I ready myself for another peaceful day, working from home.


The only thing missing is my wife who is on her way to work in the city (as an engineer). Both my wife and I like to have our breakfast together in the backyard on her days off. On such mornings it is even more blissfull as we read the newspaper and do the crosswords together.

John Lennon once said “life is what happens to you when you are planning for the future”. I think that the Buddhists are onto something with the “be here now” thing.

What to do with your excess chillies

Each year I harvest far more chillies than I can use at one time. I have only two small chilli plants and each year I’m amazed at how productive they are. One of the problems that so many chillies pose, is that they are so hot that one only needs to use a few at a time and the majority will rot before you can put them to use. As a consequence, you don’t have any home grown chillies when you want to use them in the future.


I overcome this glut of chillies by pickling them. Pickling is extremely easy.

The first thing to do is get some jars, of a suitable size (I like using the smaller, wide mouthed salsa jars), wash them and then heat them up (with the lids, detached from the jars) in an oven for about half an hour at about 120 degrees C (about 250 degrees F).

After washing and rinsing the chillies, slice them (discarding the stems), complete with the seeds. A note of caution here, if you have sensitive skin wear rubber gloves. Needless to say, keep you hands away from any mucosal membranes afterwards, or you’re going to be in for a character building experience.

Pour enough apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar that you have on hand) to cover the sliced chillies into a pot. Then add olive oil equal to about 20% of the volume of the vinegar, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the vinegar and oil is at a rolling boil, carefully add the chillies. Boil the chillies in the mixture for about a minute or two.

As a variation to this recipe, you can slice up some garlic and add it to the chillies at this point.

Take the jars out of the oven and put them in a dry sink. While constantly stirring the pot contents, ladle the chillies and vineger mixture into the warm jars, leaving about 1.5cm (about half an inch) space to the top of the jar. When you have no more chillies left, top up the jars with the remaining oil and vinegar mix, making sure that you completely cover the chillies and then take the warm lids out of the oven and screw them onto the jars.

The remaining oil and vinegar mixture can be kept as a condiment chilli oil. When the jars have cooled down to room temperature wash the jars in soapy water, to removed any residual chilli oil.


Store the chillies in a cool dark place. I’ve used chillies preserved like this, one and a half years after I’ve pickled them, with no ill effects. Always store the opened jars in the refrigerator after use. When the pickled chillies have been refrigerated, the oil solidifies, but don’t let that worry you as it doesn’t affect the flavour.

I use my pickled chillies in cooking and I’ve noticed that the oil and vinegar take up a lot of the chillies “heat” so keep that in mind when you cook. Just add more of the oil and the “heat” goes way up.

Ficifolia in blossom

This is a photograph of the Corymbia ficifolia (Red Flowering Gum) that is blossoming in my back yard at the moment.


Usually the ficifolia blossoms in January but it seems to be confused lately because it blossomed in December and then it blossomed again in March and is still in blossom

This tree is good bird attracter as each flower has an abundance of nectar. The ficifolia has so much nectar in it’s blossoms that I can see puddles of nectar that have dripped onto my patio in the morning with all the ants having a feed on it.

Quite often the wattle birds (Anthochaera carnunculata) come within 2 metres of me, to feed on them in the morning while I’m reading the newspaper and having my coffee.