Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Distant Rumblings

Yesterday was No Water Monday, "Monday For the Murray" as they like to say. On current our water restrictions (soon to change again) we are allowed to use sprinklers (I don't use or have any, anyway) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays because we live in an even numbered house. Those that live in an odd numbered house can sprinkle on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and Monday is left for the Murray, the river we (and many others in SA) get our water from.
With extremely hot temperatures forecast for the rest of the week not watering yesterday was not a comfortable thought.
In the morning Thunder began rumbling in the distance.... then huge thunderstorm drops of rain began to fall!!! A very quick downfall but maybe more to come??

The birds were all happy that it topped up their bird bath but even though there was another storm overnight we barely recorded 1 mm... But they are forecasting more storms for Thursday this week albeit with 37C degree temps... Argh

Saturday, 25 November 2006

Garden Log 25 Nov 06

Moon Planting Greens Today

I have planted the following:
Watermelon Golden Midget direct sown in the Dog Pen Garden Bed
Cucumber Lebanese Mini into containers in poly box
Lettuce Rabbit Ear (from a seed saver in Melbourne)
Lettuce Goldrush Organic
Lettuce Red Velvet
Lettuce All Year
Lettuce Salad Mixed
Basil Purple
Basil Sweet
Fennel Florence Organic
Chamomile Annual
Parsley Curled
Coriander Mexican
Winter Savory
Toothache Plant (Spilanthes acmelia) from a seed saver
Nasturtium Ladybird
Native Everlasting Pink
Sunflower Prado Red
Sunflower Evening Sun
Fragrant Saltbush (Rhagodia parabolica)

Some White African Sorghum seeds arrived via a seed saver in Alice Springs through the Seed Savers Network last week.
I shall prepare a bed for them in the Workshop Garden so they will be there when the chooks go back in at the end of summer. This area also has sunflowers and purslane growing for the chooks as well as gramma, squash, potatoes, tomatoes and egg plants in different beds.

We were expecting a hot day today and we've got it. Predicted top of 36C slightly cooler tomorrow at 31C but right up to 38C (that's 100F) during this coming week not very good for planting young seedlings out without lots of shade protection.

Strawberry Shade Cover

I usually cover the strawberry patch with shadecloth each summer. As the Cherry Tree Net Frame is very secure and the strawberry patch is right next to the cherry tree I thought we could build another shade cover here.
We still had a 3 metre length of poly pipe left over to create another arch to which shadecloth is attached.

This time I decided to sew the ends of the shade cloth into a hem on my sewing machine using polyester thread and a tripple (stretch) stitch and thread the poly pipe through this hem.
This was fitted back on to the new arch and the other end of the shadecloth was trimmed to fit.

Then the shadecloth was taken off the arch and another smaller hem was sewn on the other end.
Back outside to the strawberry patch, the shadecloth was threaded onto the polypipe arch, reattached and the other ends were tied to the cherry tree net frame.

As you can see in the photo below the strawberries are flowering and fruiting well under their new shade structure!

Cherry Tree Net Frame

Updated to add: We now only use white netting over the arches to protect our fruit trees.

With quite a length of polypipe left over after building the shade structure we set about creating a frame for a net over our Stella Cherry tree.
Two years ago the entire crops disappeared over night to the blackbirds so last year we successfully netted the tree but it was difficult to get the net on and damaged the tree slightly.
This year The Frame was built. One piece of 2 inch poly pipe 4 metres long and another 4.5 metres to allow for crossover in the middle. I am sure that 11/4 inch pipe would have sufficed but we had 2 inch left so that is what we used.

Same principle as the shade structure except the two arches cross in the middle creating a sort of dome. The star pickets could not be put exactly square due to the pond being in the way but we were pleased with the result.

Attaching the netting was easier than last year but we will purchase more of the plastic black net before next year which should be even easier to attach as it is not as flimsy as the green one used this year and shouldn't required as much joining/sewing to get the full coverage needed.

All thats left to do now is to wait for the cherries to ripen (soon!) then we can take the netting off and the frame can stay there.

Poly Shade Structure

As part of our decision to have more shade in our garden we have found that using black poly pipe used for irrigation attached to steel star pickets can provide a sturdy frame for shade cloth (a knitted poly fabric product available in various sun filtering intensities) to be attached to.

We had been researching this building method for some time but finally decided to just go and buy 20 metres of 50mm poly pipe at the rural supply store in town. It cost $2.75 (AUD) per metre and thankfully was delivered to our place as it was quite difficult to coil it to a small enough size to fit in our van. So there we had it 20 metres and 10, 165cm star pickets to experiment with.

One area I felt needed shade was the Tank Beds in the Dog Pen Garden. These cut down old rainwater tanks that were too leaky to hold water are an excellent size for filling with soil and compost and growing salad greens and vegies at close proximity to our back door. This is in our zone one. The main problem was that they heated up too much in summer so shade of some description was needed. The perfect spot to try the poly shade structure.

The area measured 2.5 metres by 2 metres and I already had some spare lengths of shade cloth that would fit. We measured 2, 4 metre lengths and these were cut with a hacksaw and fitted easily over the star pickets after they have been firmly hammered into the ground.

The poly pipe doesn't have to go all the way to the ground as it fits quite firmly and there is no way it would ever blow off even in the strongest of winds. If necessary they could be bolted on or attached with wire.

Using 4 metre lengths of poly pipe over a span of 2.5 metres gave a height of 2.2 metres. This would vary with the height of the star pickets and length of poly pipe.

The shade cloth was attached using wire but a better way to attach it is to sew the ends of the shade cloth into a hem on a sewing machine using polyester thread and a triple (stretch) stitch and thread the poly pipe through this hem.

The other end of the shade cloth was trimmed to size standing on a ladder!

I have only used a single length of shade cloth at 180 cm wide here but if I required more shade I could replace this with 360 cm wide cloth or sew 2 lengths together.

The growth of salad greens in this area has improved greatly and I can now face the summer onslaught of heat knowing the plants will survive and I will be using a lot less water.

Monday, 20 November 2006

General Garden Layout

This image is a rough map of our garden. The whole block is 50m x 40m or 2000sq metres (roughly half an acre). We have 2 full town blocks plus a half one. The house is on the middle block which is higher than northern block this makes for a cold air pool in winter bad for frosts but good for chill factor in fruit trees.
Summer temps can reach 45°C for many days in Jan/Feb and severe frosts to -10°C during June and right through into October.
We have lived here since Dec 93
Our block is divided into zones with zone 1 being the closest to the house and moving to zone 4 which is visited least.
Zone 1 areas are visited on a daily basis (like the main chook house for egg collection) and it is in this zone that we grow salad greens and frequently (daily) picked vegetables and herbs. This is also the area where our dog spends most of her time and we often have BBQs in the warm evenings.
Pergola Pot Garden
Tank Bed Garden for salad greens
Pergola Garden Beds
Dog Pen Garden Beds

The next is zone 2 which is further from the back door. This zone includes the Almond Area Chook Run with shade and fruit trees (large Black Mulberry and Almond trees already here when we arrived, Tagasaste, local Acacias, many seedling Almond trees, last year Wormwood, Coprosma repens, Melaleuca, Saltbush (Rhagodia parabolica), Josephine pear, seedling Apricot and Cherry were planted and this year a Tangelo Minneola citrus and ruby saltbush have been planted here).
Almond Area Chook Run

The main Vegetable Garden on the Northern block contains main beds for less frequent picking of larger amounts for storage and preserving.
Main Vegetable Garden

The propagation and potting areas with shade and hot houses are in this zone as are the drive way beds of trees/shrubs for shelter, shade and wind protection to the main vegetable garden.

Propagation Area

Zone 3 Fruit Tree Area where chooks run under fruit trees for insect control this zone includes another chook run with shade and fodder trees/plants. The chooks in this zone are older and don't need daily visits as the fodder plants and their ranging help to feed them also they don't lay many eggs anymore!

Chooks run under Fruit Trees
Zone 3 Chook RunZone 4 front garden where natives and tough exotics for wind breaks bird, lizard and insect attraction minimal water use and attention here.
Front Garden
Spare Block Front
Other features include
  • solar lights also used in earwig traps
  • four small ponds
  • solar pond pump
  • birdbaths for bees/beneficial insects too

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Bed 3 Clever Clover

This bed in the vegetable garden hasn't produced very well in the last two seasons. In 2005 I planted Roma Tomatoes here but a forest of sunflowers sprouted and while I intended to only let the ones on the edge grow to help shelter the tomatoes I never got around to thinning out all the others. Hence the jungle! Last season I planted Rockmelons here but they never seemed to take off either so I thought this would be a good test site for a clever clover patch.

The clover was planted last autumn (April 4th) and left to grow. It grew slowly over winter as the weather as very dry but still grew to a good cover. It has now died down and the resulting mulch stays where it is to feed a crop of tomatoes. The photos were taken in May, Aug, Sept, Oct and Nov (now).

All that remains to do now is remove and pot up the cherry tree suckers growing there, then a light scuffle with a claw hoe, put in some drippers and plant out the seedling Red Cloud and Ida Gold Dwarf Tomatoes I have waiting.

Saturday, 11 November 2006

Garden Log

Yesterday (Friday 10 Nov) and this morning it was Moon Planting time for Root Crops and this includes trees and perennials. Last night after work I planted the Meyer Lemon and Valencia Seedless Orange trees I had mail ordered from Diggers Club earlier this year. I had prepared (dug over, cleared and watered) the sites beforehand so all I needed to do was dig a small hole and plant.

This morning Hubby helped me put up a fence in the Almond Area Chook Run for the other citrus tree. This time it was a Tangelo Minneola and this site had been prepared earlier also (except that the chooks kept filling in the holes I dug).

With the trees in place it was time to plant some Companion Plants for them. For each new tree I chose a Strawberry Guava (Psidium littorale var. longipes) (cuttings I had taken last year) as guavas are companion plants for citrus. Other plants where chosen that would grow quickly and provide shelter by next winter; White Lavender and Rosemary, Coprosma repens and Euryops pectinatus, some plants to attract beneficial insects; Queen Anne's Lace, Erigeron daisy, Clary Sage and Yarrow, and Feverfew and a Variegated Society Garlic for pest insect deterrents.
With the Tangelo in the Almond area I also planted Ruby Saltbush (Enchylaena tomentosa) as it's a chicken forage native plant with edible berries.

I still had some time left so I planted potatoes; 10 Brownell and 1 King Edward into the bed frame in the Workshop Garden Area and 4 Bismarks into an old dryer tub that is used as a pot in the Tank Bed Gardens.

Latest weather forecast has a 90% chance of 5-10mm of rain today and 50% chance of 1-5mm tomorrow. Yaaah! Hopefully that should water everything in nicely.

Five of the 12 "Egg Collective" chooks that helped un-dig my holes.

My Stella Cherries are nearly ready, good job we put the bird net on last weekend.

The Apricots on this seedling tree are ripening first this year.

Noticed the first Lebanese Cucumber on the vine this morning.

Comfrey is loving this weather it will really take off if we get some decent rain tonight.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

First Post

Welcome to Scarecrow's experimental Garden.
I grow mainly edible plants with some native Australian plants and unusual herbs for beneficial insect and bird attraction and also wind protection.
I try lots of different methods. Mainly single rotated beds with max of 2 or 3 types of vegetables in each,
usually companions.
With warmer/drier conditions becoming the norm here I have to develop new strategies to cope.

Things I do include
  • Mulch heavily and cover beds with shade cloth to lower evaporation levels.
  • Don't spray anything except liquid foliar feeds.
  • Plant edge beds of beneficial insect attracting herbs, plants etc.
  • Make compost and keep worms.
  • Incorporate chooks (chickens) in my garden.
  • Battle earwigs every spring.
  • Try to build soil health to keep everything healthy enough to survive our hot summers (and frosty winters).
  • Green manure beds in winter.
  • I Companion Plant and Plant by the Moon whenever possible.


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