Transformation

An old draft waiting to be finished and published…

Anzac Day was spent mainly in the garden

from thisFrom This ......to That...to That

 

Also here’s the pumpkin harvest

Pumpkin Harvest!

 

To be honest, not much has happened in the garden since, but we have plans for the weekend coming. Other parts of life have been dominating.

The Plan? A bit of tidying, checking on the winter veg (which seems to be coming along nicely) and maybe start on the pruning. The rabbits are on standby to help with fruit tree wood.

The last major planting before winter

There are broccolis and cauliflower and lettuces waiting in the greenhouse to be planted out on Anzac Day when the right part of the lunar cycle, a public holiday and space in the garden beds coincide. We spent some lovely time on Saturday playing with the compost bins – emptying mature compost out for use in the garden and refilling a couple of bins with a rich mixture of chook shed litter, shredded comfrey and horse manure.

Using some of the mature compost, I topped off the level of soil around the kiwifruit vines planted in the deck. The cats have been pulling out the mulch around the plants so that they can get down under the desk – adding the compost is a two-angled tactic. Trying to limit their access and therefore stop them pulling the soil from around the roots and also giving the vines a boost before winter.

Elsewhere in the garden we have been picking some beautiful apples, the remains of the tomato crop and feeding the dried out sweetcorn I forgot to pick soon enough to the chickens. The rabbits are gorging themselves on the sweetcorn stalks and some gone-to-seed broccoli plants from the in-laws.

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Mowing the lawns is like a 5 minute whirlwind tidying session inside the house and a quick vacuum, suddenly the garden with it’s tired summer crops looks more in order, and slightly under control. The tomato plants are hanging upside down from the garden arches allowing the last of the fruit a chance to ripen.

End of Year Planting

Planting 30/12/2011

 

an assortment of herbs, salad greens, beans and starting on the first of the winter veg.

None have come up yet – what do you mean its only been a couple of days?

 

those few days have been hot and sunny so we finally got around to putting the hand-me-down shadecloth from A&B up on top of the chicken shed for more shade. It had ripped through the middle. Also as we went to piece it together Robin remembered he’d taken a piece out of it. Ah well, it is probably a better shape a bit smaller anyhow.
Outdoor Sewing
I set up the sewing machine on the deck to give me space to work. A big needle and some topstitching thread worked well to make a new and improved shadecloth. We’ve attached it to the shed in a way that means it can be removed when the sun eases in a month or so.

 

In other news – we tidied up the expired snow peas from near the new peaches and nectarine down the side and gave the trees a light shaping prune. We also pruned gently the prune plum around the front which is having one, count it, one plum.

 

Very exciting – the almond has finally broken into leaf. Only several months after we were expecting it to. That means there was only one casualty from the mass fruit tree planting in winter – the Flemish Beauty pear which will need to be replaced next year.

Zucchini have started, as have the beans. The pumpkins are flowering – the one we planted near the straw shed is now climbing on it’s roof with a bit of encouragement. The corn is about 90cm tall and we are hopeful of a few good feeds from that. Yum.

We’re back … but rain stops play

Gee, I knew it had been a while since I’d updated CGF Blog. But not since October? Oops!

We have been busy in the garden, and with other projects too (sewing, supporting exam study, sorting through bookshelves and decluttering)

Let’s recap in reverse chronological order shall we?

Today:

a morning finding places to put the zucchini and pumpkins (me), and turning compost and clearing out the chicken shed (R). As part of the pumpkin quest I put two more out over the back fence, gave them heaps of compost and watered them in well. Not sure how appropriate it is given that it’s a nature strip zone, but we now have a sprinkler permanently set up over the fence in the hope of increasing the harvest by making it easier to water. The chickens did the hard work of spreading this batch of compost around the blackcurrants and blueberries.
Spreading compost - Chickens do it best
Rain stopped play shortly after lunch until I realised a couple of days of rain and showers was perfect for planting carrot seed as it needs to be kept moist to ensure germination. So on with a coat and hat and out in the rain to plant seeds. Interplanted with rocket seed as a quick germinator and easy salad greens before the carrots get too big to need the space.

What’s in the garden at the moment?

Tomato plants are doing well – nice sturdy plants and gaining height. Some small green ones on the plants. More to be planted out. Especially on the side fence behind the chook shed. I *did* plant some there and have had to replace several already as the chickens dug them up. And my best anti-chicken measure? Which also does double duty as a heat bank? Two bricks, one either side of the stem with a gap just large enough for the stem. Even the big chickens can’t move the bricks!

We put in a bed on the uphill side of the chook shed as it became apparent the path would be quite wide and a potential maintenance issue.We put the portable pen there with some broody chooks in it. The sunlight and lack of a nice dark nesting box helps them stop being broody. They got a pile of horse manure and grass clippings to mix into the soil. After about a week they had done a lovely job of garden bed prep. In there are 4 tomatos, basil, and a cucumber (Shh, don’t tell Robin about the cucumber)

Our horse manure mountain has proved a wonderful resource. Bags are emptied into the compost and spread on garden beds.

The semi circular bed in front of the chook shed has been doing well for a first year bed. The plants are all thriving, but I do notice the difference between the section that has roof overhang – quite a bit drier, so that needs a bit of extra care.

Current harvests:

Snow peas, lettuce, purple cauliflower, herbs

Back in late October we harvested the first of the pink eye potatoes from the Poly Bed – the carpet underlay and chook shed litter has rotted down beautifully to make a rich compost. The potatoes are buttery and luscious.It will be fabulous to plant into for autumn/ winter crops.
First Pink eyes of the season

The kiwi fruit vine now has a steel reinforcing mesh trellis. The mesh is set out from the wall so the plant won’t cook in the heat of summer sun. We finished putting it up last weekend and the vine is already twirling around the mesh, growing visibly each day.

Trellis up now for Kiwi Fruit Vines

 

Curcubits and #Tub10

Strange progress this weekend, at this time of year everything has started leaping out of the ground, overwintered vegies and herbs have gone to seed, there’s a reliable 6 eggs a day from the chickens and seedlings are getting visibly bigger by the day.

Yet, when I look out the window it doesn’t feel like there’s much that *has* to be done right now… when I stop being delusional, I know in ten days time when I want to plant out many of my seedlings I will need some clear space in the garden beds so #Tub10 is declared – a large plastic tub of ‘no longer wanted’ plants will be cleared each day for 10 days. Things like coriander, carrots, rocket, beetroot, chervil are all going to seed.

First Day #Tub10 Carrot going to seed

They look so pretty and they have prevented other more troublesome volunteers from taking root. Not to mention the gazillion parsnips that resulted from my reckless shaking of seed heads. Who says parsnip seeds are poor germinators? Many of the parsnips I weeded out yesterday were eating size. And the little ones were eaten enthusiastically by the rabbits, our ‘Weed Processing Units”.

WPUs

I’ve finished off the new bed out the front of the chook shed, and planted their climbing bean & cucumber sunshine screen at the bottom of the trellis. A golden zucchini and white button squash accompany some mixed lettuce at ground level. I am hoping the afternoon sun will treat the plants well, and the laserlite behind the cucumber will give an extra boost of heat and protection. And a great big fence of chicken wire at the front to protect them from marauding chickens.
Shade bed for the chookshed

As a reward for being the first pumpkin seeds to germinate, the Whangaparoa Crown pumpkin has been planted in a compost circle and will be encouraged to climb up onto to the roof of the straw shed. Hopefully baking in the sun will encourage many pumpkins! The remaining assorted pumpkin, zucchini, squash and cucumber seedlings got potted on, and spaces mentally allocated. The surplus may be palmed off onto unsuspecting visitors :-)

Whangaparoa Crown Pumpkin

On Friday I noticed someone (I have a prime suspect) had flapped into C6, the bed with brassica seedlings and trampled them. So I moved off the extra wire protection from the salad greens nearby. Only to find the prime suspect aka Gardening Turkey in there later decimating the salad greens while we ate our dinner on the deck. We need to look at higher wire around the garden beds, or perhaps as the first measure, more bamboo stakes to hold the wire more firmly in place. Gardening Turkey was just trying to live up to her name. And we’d grown her such a nice salad too.
Gardening Turkey

Subversion in the Suburbs

Two weekends ago I mulched the fruit trees we’ve planted on the back nature strip and felt kind of shifty while doing it. Last summer we planted a couple of pumpkins on the fence line and that didn’t feel too much like we were infringing on shared space. I figure we’ve stretched out the space we are responsible for, and I’m keeping an eye on when it needs whippersnippering a bit more carefully than I used to. And if people eat a couple of apricots, well and good.

Ages ago I spoke with the local council and they said as long as we didn’t put a new driveway across or block the view for traffic we were OK to use the space. Earlier in this year I dug through the council planning regulations and could not find any restrictions about planting – although I did find rules and regulations about not being allowed to remove trees from the nature strip.
So ours are there to stay now :-)
Magnolia
For about 2 -3 months we’ve had a pile of carpet underlay out there covered by a tarp too. And no-one’s complained about that either. Maybe they’re worried about upsetting the crazy people?!

When I walked home from work on a Thursday I noticed the same-same nature of the front gardens through Newtown/Mt Stuart. Some lawn, a feature tree or two, some with flowerbeds. I reflected that our front yard takes a similar amount of space, and will give us some tasty fruit too. Once the espaliered trees grow more, they will become more decorative. At the moment they are short twigs with sparse leaves. Progressively I’ve spread a bit more mulch out there and planted more strawberries. So our front yard is still quite ‘decorative’ but also hopefully productive. I was nearly out of suburban Mt Stuart  when I finally spotted a edible front yard – in amongst more traditional garden beds were two raised vegie garden beds, one full of garlic – cooks in that house for sure! The following week, I spotted another front yard vegie planting – broccoli that time.

The side path linking the front to the back now has a better turkey barricade – while I was inside one day, they’d dug about 10 of the strawberry plants up – some were even tossed down onto the path. Many rude words later, the barricade is better, and the strawberries replanted.

Scavenging and Seeds

Last weekend I drove around the corner into a neighbouring street and saw a skip full of bricks and other building detritus. Happy! We’d been dropping into the tip shop on a semi regular basis looking for bricks to continue our garden bed edging and not having any joy. As we were loading the trailer for the second time with an assortment of half and three-quarter bricks (very sensibly, the people who had been demolishing the walls had kept the good whole bricks to themselves) another neighbor wandered across the road enquiring if we wanted to buy some good, cleaned bricks. You betcha! Another trailer load of bricks. And some sheets of concrete reinforcing mesh to make trellis for the kiwi fruit. We’d been thinking we’d need to go look at mesh and then arrange it to be delivered. Instead, we picked it up and walked it home!

Skip Scavenging Success

Last weekend I also planted out carrot, radish and beetroot seeds. After a very wet Friday, the soil was ready on Saturday. I used the cornflour slurry that Steve Solomon recommends to spread the seed a bit thinner, and keep it damp to support germination.
Carrot Planting

Carrot Planting

Squeezy bottle full of seeds in a slurry

 

I also used some of the Renew fertiliser I picked up at the Farm Gate Market. It is made from wood pulp waste and poppy waste and composted. A local product that uses waste to create something valuable. The texture is great – light and spongy when wet and holds moisture well. On the to-do list is to go buy a trailer load.

Renew Fertiliser

Renew Fertliser

This weekend started with a soil blocking ‘workshop’ with Mum – to see if the soil blockers were comfortable for her to use (I didn’t want to be responsible for damaging a weaver’s hands), and to start her off without having to make a huge batch of the mix.
Soil blocking with Mum #1

Apparently they travelled well and made it home to their place in one piece.

Soil blocking with Mum #2

I continued on the theme with planting lots of seeds, and ‘potting on’ some of the tiny soil blocks into the larger ones. So easy to just pick up a little cube and drop it into the larger block.

Teeny Weeny soil block seedling

Transplanted mesclun seedlings

Also using a standard sized tray, it is possible to fit 180 tiny cubes! I’ve got quicker at picking up individual seeds and placing them in the little indentations too, meaning only one seed per block. Less work down the track, for only a little more care at the beginning seems like a good deal to me.

Planting 2 October

Despite adding some more shelf space in the greenhouse, i’m getting tight for space. So some seedlings, the sturdy cucumbers, beans and zucchinis etc as well as some delicate tomatoes have gone into some plastic storage tubs aka cold frames on top of the chickens’ sleeping area. The idea being during the day the sun will warm them up, and at night the chickens will provide some background heat from underneath.

Chicken heated seedling area

Robin started the new garden bed outside the chicken house. When we built the new shed we were concerned it might get rather hot in summer as it gets full sun through the day, much more than their old shed did and we don’t want roasted chook. So the roof trusses were extended over about 60 centimetres so we could attach trellis and grew climbing beans up to make a shade front wall for the chooks. And get more vertical growing space too. Today, Robin started by removing the clover we’d planted, and any grass, and moved it into the chook shed for them to pick over and scratch.

New garden bed

To get them scratching the exposed earth in the new bed I scattered some seed, and suddenly the soil was covered with the girls. With some more encouragement (seeds) in the evenings the girls should have the area prepped for planting by next weekend.

Hole in the deck

We have a lovely brick wall that faces north, yet is sheltered from the late afternoon hot summer sun and prevailing winds. It is on the back of the house bordering the deck. We’d talked about planting a kiwi fruit but finding the right solution took a bit of lateral thinking and a jigsaw. One option would have been to buy a really big pot, such as a half wine barrel and put that on the deck. The problem with that was the very real potential for it to dry out in the hot sun through summer and it would not be easy to repot when the potting mix got tired. And I don’t have a good history with large pots on the deck. So I cut a hole in the deck…

 

Kiwifruit Planting

Trying the space for size. Deciding how many boards I would need to cut. You need both a female and male plant if you want kiwifruit. The male plant is the larger one as it was a year older. This was the treasure I got with a Stoneman’s voucher I’d received as a goodbye. So I better not kill them!

Kiwifruit Planting

Dug out about 100 litres (measured in 20L buckets) of icky sticky yellow clay by lying on the deck digging blindly with a trowel after loosening what I could with a fork. I dropped the soil level directly under the hole by about 20 cms  giving a 40′ish cm height to the planting area. The rest of the hole was more like a flattish bowl. Deep enough to lie on the deck and put my head down the hole at any rate.

Icky sticky clay

Kiwifruit Planting

Milly checked under the deck and came out with spiderwebs on her.

I filled a rough circle about 3 feet in diameter under the deck with the contents of 2 compost bins, a bag of potting mix, some gypsum (clay treatment) and perlite (was hanging around from another project). As the soil settles a bit I will tuck more compost down the sides of the hole. We can water through the deck across the eventual root zone.

Kiwifruit Planting

Happy in their hole after  planting.

A week later and the leaves are really coming along and I need to investigate reinforcing mesh to attach to the brickwork as trellis. Apparently a good vine can produce up to 80 kilos of fruit. Mum remembers getting 200+ per year from their 2 female + 1 male vine in Melbourne years ago and giving them away to people in egg cartons. Strange furry eggs.

Kiwi fruit after one week in their deck hole.

Kiwi fruit after one week in their deck hole.

Kiwi fruit on muesli. Kiwi fruit for morning tea, Kiwi fruit sorbet. mmmm

 

Soil Blocking

Today really sold me on the soil blocker.

I’d spent some lovely time last night playing with my packets of seed. Selecting out which packets would be planted today. Writing up labels. Vowing not to buy any more packets of seed until winter crops need sowing.

This weekend's planting.

This weekend’s planting.

 

Compare these photos – all were from the previous seed sowing (24th July) and transplant (7th August) occasions. As part of tidying the greenhouse this weekend I wanted to plant some seedlings out and really was surprised by the difference from a single seed planting day. Finger included for scale.

Seeds were planted in clumps, then transplanted off into soil blocks (A). The rocket in the second photo here is from the same batch as photo D, the only difference was the transplant to a soil block. These got planted into the garden yesterday (17th September).

Transplanted into soil blocks   Transplanted into soil blocks

Others into the individual cells (B).

seedling thinned out, left in seedling cells

Some were planted direct (and thinly) into the individual cells (C).

Seed planted thinly

Also are some seedlings planted into toilet paper rolls and not transplanted (D). Worm farm is the destination for D.

Destined for nothing really

I couldn’t really believe the difference. All were in the greenhouse and got watered the same. On the same shelf so sunlight wasn’t a factor. Same seed raising mix for all.The individual cells even had a solid tray underneath so theoretically they should have been more consistent in moisture. The toilet paper rolls do dry out more quickly.

Needless to say all the seeds I sowed today were into soil blocks.

And planting out! with the soil blocks you just pick them up, place them in the hole or trench and backfill. No tapping out of pots, no turning upside down or teasing apart seedlings planted too close. No picking up pots from around the garden after I’ve forgotten to collect them all and they get blown around.

I’ve been gathering all the punnets and small square pots from around the garden and taking them in to Paulette of Provenance Growers at the Farmer’s Market as she reuses them. (I refer to  her as Wasabi girl as the first thing I bought from her was a wasabi plant, now I’m working my way through all the thymes she has. More keep appearing in her range though – happy sigh)

Trellising

Last weekend we put in the star pickets for the fruit trees in the driveway and front gardens, and this weekend finished the job. After memories of arguing with wire in past efforts I was surprised at how easy the job with the right materials, including tensioner doohickeys.

 

Setting up tensioner

Having squished 8 apple and pear trees across the front fence, they most definitely needed a decent espalier, and the side fence plantings also did.

 

We ran a string line through the middle of the star pickets to make sure that lines were straight and this is a trick we'd repeat again.

 

String line to check levels

On the inside of the front fence we have wooden posts so we just attached eyelets directly into them to run the wires through.
Wire tensioning
Bending over the trees to tie down to the wire was nerve wracking after my "attack" on the nashi pear left me ubercautious. But we were very pleased to be able to follow the guidance from Woodbridge Fruit Trees and we're looking forward to enjoying the  ground work we've down this winter for many years to come.

Apple tree tied down to trellis wire

In other work:

Happy Horse Manure

  • Turned compost bins (the one-week old mix of horse manure and chook shed clearings was steaming)
  • Weeded C6 and mulched with horse manure to add more organic matter in prep for summer vegies.
  • Cleared out the rabbit cage and now have a stash of lovely compost booster.
  • Admired the leaves emerging on the blueberries and the blossom on the apricots.

Blossom on the oldest Moorpark Apricot

We're debating what to do with the front of the deck.
front of the deck
We had been thinking of putting an aquaponics system there (fresh rainbow trout anyone?) and then thought in the shade near the side fence might be better, leaving the front of the deck for a combo winter cold frame/ extra summer outdoor rabbit run. We've now come full circle and it really is the best spot for the aquaponics. And through winter we can erect a greenhouse style shelter over the aquaponics growbeds to achieve the cold frame idea. But the rabbits enjoyed their time out this weekend so much I'm wondering about more space for them to run around without having to be with them all the time.