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.

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

 

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.

 

 

Garden work this past weekend

Tasks complete

Compost played with – tick!

Old chook shed site:

- concrete bits and wire netting grubbed out – tick!

- area levelled – tick!

- new edge placement discussed – tick!

- mint plants saved and potted up – tick!

Sleeper moved from clothesline mound down to the…

New bed made behind new chookshed – tick!

Peas planted in new bed – tick!

Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop attended – tick!

Ivy removed from under Gala apple – tick!

End of Autumn in the Orchard

Harvest –

Enough for a few meals: carrots, beetroot, potatoes

A laundry tub full of apples

Cherry tomatoes nibbled in the garden

New term learnt on the weekend – “Urbanite”: not quite a type of rock, rather the name given to lumps of concrete.

Garden thoughts – Compost and Worm farms

We’ve been wondering if we’re adding enough compost to the vegie garden and there are circle beds where I think we would benefit from adding more organic matter – C6, C0, C7. Some others such as C4 really pumped out tomatoes this summer, and also now we are harvesting some great celery. C3 did really well too after a broad bean crop in spring and then carrots and beetroot in there now. Those two beds had generous compost additions and in C3 the beans must have added some good nitrogen. C6 is struggling – the apricot tree nearby benefits more than the vegies I think.

This year we have started getting serious about compost – our Christmas present to each other was a compost tumbler which brings our compost bin total to 3. The tumbler speeds up production, especially during summer. Clearing out the animal sheds and pens combined with some slashed comfrey and lawn clippings fills two bins easily. Being able to move the compost through the system quicker means we can get it into the garden and out of the bins before we need to fill them again. And the tumbler means less work with the garden fork.

The animals produce a lot of compost ingredients – pre-processed and rich in manure. Having rabbits again has been brilliant with clearing a bit of couch grass – they are the only way I know of reliably converting the roots to useful stuff with a 48 hour turnaround. The rabbits get excited when I walk towards their rabbit palace with an armful of greens.

After the Adult Ed permaculture course I moved our worm farm out of the afternoon sun and split off half to a second bin. The worms are happier and they are no longer in the way when I am potting up seedlings.

Sitting on the back steps today I realised I could make a stacking worm farm. Our first worm farm is a purchased one. It does a fine job, has an attached lid and a neat drainage outlet. But it has a limited capacity being stretched at the moment by all the preserving. The second is one old recycling bin sitting inside another. The top bin has a couple of holes in the bottom to allow for drainage into the bin below. We have another two of these bins circulating in the garden which I use for batches of seedlings and carting stuff about. Armed with a drill with a largeish bit, my plan is to make another two layers to the recycling bin worm farm allowing for easier separation of the active worms from the finished castings and improve drainage. If I wanted to get fancy I could add a tap to the side of the bottom bin for draining out the worm tea.

Over the past few months I have more regularly been feeding the worms and they are responding with enthusiasm, multiplying and processing more and more waste each week.

Hay shed

Hay shed which began life as a cubbyhouse

Another experiment we will try again is adding a shovelful of worms to a nearly ready compost pile to seed it with worms and give a final kick to the breakdown of materials.

Another Adult Ed workshop – this one with Paul Healy – has switched us from straw to hay. As all this material really gets used as animal bedding and feed, that reduces the weed seed potential. It is also cheaper (bonus). So this week the strawshed switched to being a hayshed. It did start life as a cubby house. I loaded 16 bales onto a borrowed trailer and would feel confident collecting a batch of that size again.