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

Sprouting seeds

The seeds I planted last weekend are starting to sprout, delicate tendrils of green pushing up through the seed raising mix and bending towards the sunlight coming through the laundry window. Miners lettuce, mesclun and spinach are all making an appearance. It doesn’t seem quite possible they they will survive, let along grown big enough to eat. These trays have been sharing a seed germinating heat pad on the laundry bench, just enough warmth to ward off the chill of the evening, and the nearly airtight room to moderate night time temperature fluctuations. During the day, the brick walls of the laundry gather heat from the sun, and just enough sunlight gets in through the small window. The seedling bend dramatically towards the sunlight, yearning to be outside.

Leaning towards the light

The contrast between these salad greens and the robust, brash bean seedlings is dramatic. On Sunday the bean seedling were just starting to reveal their first true leaves, by Monday evening the plants were double the height and had opened up fully in their chicken heated, portable hot boxes. I’ve had the min/max thermometer in the hot box with the beans and it has given about 12 more degrees through the day, but more importantly at this time of year, an extra 4 or 5 degrees at night. The chickens are extending my seed cosseting operations :-) With the extra warmth the zucchinis, cucumbers and pumpkins have all relented and sprouted too. these seedlings are all growing straight up – the tomato seedlings from the laundry have straightened out this week being surrounded by sunlight.

Chicken house storage tub greenhouse

During the week, when letting the chickens out, we have scattered some grain in the new bed outside their shed. This is to encourage them to loosen the soil surface, and pick out any stray weed seeds or bugs. Tomorrow my plan is to lightly fork the area, add some compost, put up wire trellis, and plant the bean seedlings. They’ll need a good wire fence to keep the chooks off too. This will provide the summer shade at the front of the chook shed. Space dependent, I might also put a climbing cucumber there too. Or a couple of zucchini plants. They will get good daylight there which should help prevent powdery mildew.

According to lunar planting, now is an optimum time for planting and sowing. Several days of gentle rain over the past few days should have favored germination of the carrot seeds I planted two weeks ago. I must go and have a chat to them and see what’s happening…

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.

Circle Planting Combos

The wind is tearing around the house today so posting about the garden rather than getting my hands dirty…

 

I've been working out what we will plant for the main summer vegie garden, and finally doing something I've been thinking about for a while  – plotting combinations of vegies that are reasonable companions, also allowing for a record so I can do some crop rotations into the future. I'm not going to call them guilds as that seems to imply a greater degree of combination, multiple families, and wisdom, ha!

A: Tomato, Basil, Parsley, Broccoli or Cabbage

B: Carrots, Spring Onions, Capsicum, Red Salad Onions

C: Salad Greens – Lettuce, Rocket, Spinach, Beetroot, Coriander, Dill

D: Bush Beans, Lettuce, Borage, Celery, Carrots

E: Corn, Spinach at edges to start with

F: Zucchini & Cucumber, Chamomile, something with flowers to attract bees

G: Climbing Beans or Peas, Cabbage, Leafy greens, Borage, Carrots

H: Potatoes

I: Pumpkin

I've separated out the climbing and bush beans so that it is easy to allocate to a space with trellis of some kind.

Lots of carrots to ensure supply through the seasons.

My goal is not to plant everything all at once as that would mean everything ripening at once also.

This plan will get tweaked further – I noticed this morning that the Lost Seed packets have good/bad companion information listed on them too, including many more herbs than I have listed.

The other thing I noticed this morning is that the only seed I now need to buy will likely be Corn, everything else seems covered.