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)

Handmade hand soap

Last year I bought several bars of goats milk soap and noticed after a while it wasn’t having the same scratchy drying effect on my hands as normal soap. One of the blogs I read fairly regularly, Down to Earth, has included soap recipes from time to time. The soap was running out (we only use bar soap at the kitchen and bathroom sink) so I decided to make some. Just to see what it was like. No committment to make it ever again.

August 19th I made some soap using olive oil, coconut oil and caustic soda.

 One of the advantages from my perspective was that I could get all the ingredients from one of the larger local supermarkets. The instructions Rhonda provides are super useful and easy to follow. The only equipment I bought was a $10 stick mixer from Chickenfeed which survived the first batch. I’ll only use it for the soap so it is now stored in the laundry with other ingredients.

The caustic soda (lye) and water combo is very, very stinky – I mixed this on the deck and then moved back to the laundry once the fumes dissapated a bit. Mixing with the stick mixer took about 4 minutes to transform the warmed oils and the lye into a thick gloopy mix.

I used a shoebox lined wtih baking paper and some muffin trays as moulds to let it set. Being me, I managed to get some dirt on some bars when I went back to check it later in the day with muddy hands from the garden. After 24 hours I turned it out of the moulds and cut the large block up into soap sized pieces. I let it sit to cure for about 4 weeks and started using it. I used a sharp knife to tidy up the bars with speckles of garden dirt.

And it works!

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.