Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Seed Tape

On Saturday 27th Jan. Cosmic Gardener's Moon Planting chart read:
BEST TIME. Beetroot, carrots, kohl-rabi, parsnip, radish, swedes, turnip,
marrow, squash, zucchini ( last chance) potatoes.

I have been using the temperate chart during summer but will soon move to the cold climate chart for winter. Our climate can't be classified as temperate with our -8 degree frosts here.

I thought I'd have a go at making Seed tape at home. Have seen the idea before and it looks so easy I thought I'd give it a go for the seeds I needed to plant.
Carrots are always a pain to thin out and are difficult to get to germinate in the heat.

I decided to try the idea using 1 inch strips of newspaper.

I used a cooked cornflour glue - 2 tablespoons of cornflour mixed with a little cold water then added 1 cup of boiling water and whisked to a glug.

This I placed in a sandwich bag
and snipped a corner off to allow drops of glue at each seed site.

Remember to measure as the seed packet instructs for spacing.

Carefully place one (large seeds) or two seeds on each drop of glue

I halved the spacing to allow extra in case of poor germination.
Carrots often take extra time to germinate in our heat so the more the merrier.

The seeds I planted today were:
Carrot - Manchester Table from Eden seeds
Turnip - Golden from Phoenix seeds
Beetroot - Cylindra from Eden seeds
Kohlrabi - Super Schmeltz from Phoenix seeds

As it was windy today I very carefully carried the dry strips out to the garden
and put them on the prepared ground.

They were lightly covered with soil and mulch and watered in.

A different method that looks interesting can be found here at:
Organic gardening

A Phota A Day - No. 30

Rhubarb Chard a colourful Silverbeet

Sunday, 28 January 2007

A Photo A Day - No. 28

Not long "hatched"
He's hanging out to dry his wings
The nymphs crawl out of the ponds under our verandah
Then they hang on the shadecloth to dry.
The wings are the same colour as the shade cloth and difficult to see!

Friday, 26 January 2007

Thursday, 25 January 2007

A Photo A Day - No. 25

Sorry I don't know the name of this cactus

It was given to me when a garden club friend moved
Just thought it might brighten up your day!!

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Garden Log 24 Jan 07

After last weeks rain the garden has really taken off!
The Brassica and Greens seedlings I potted on earlier this month are doing particularly well.

This is what I did:
Made up a ‘potting on’ mix adding Blood and Bone to my usual potting mix but using the sifted topsoil from the dog pen garden instead of the sandy loam I usually use.
Then I potted on the greens that were planted on the 26th Dec. These went into lolly boxes and cut down milk bottles in a Styrofoam box:
  • Cabbage - Savoy - 2
  • Brussels Sprouts - Fillbasket - 4
  • Kale - Toscano - 10
  • Collards - 1
  • Broccoli - Italian Curly - 1
  • Perpetual Spinach - 17
  • Rhubarb Chard From - 18
  • Five Colour Silverbeet Mix - 17
  • Organic Silverbeet - 10
  • Also potted up 5 pots of 5 Colour Silverbeet with 4 seedlings for the Garden Club trading table.
The Silverbeet and greens seedlings in reused lolly containers

The Brassicas in cutdown milk containers

Here is a rundown of our Garden Club meeting:

Thursday 18th Jan 2006 Garden Club 1.30pm
Everyone was happy that it was raining at long last.

There was an interesting discussion about our favourite garden products.
Mine was shadecloth and I told them all about our shade structures.
Others told of useful hoses and using gypsum (a product to help break up clay soil), Seasol (a seeweed liquid product) and Neutrog (organic fertilizers made in South Australia).
One member has recently covered her backyard with wood chips, while others spoke of their successes with compost and animal manures.
It was a very useful discussion.

I had taken the silverbeet pots, a couple of other pots and 4 dozen eggs for the trading table. These along with some other items brought by other members raised $24. (I know because I’m the treasurer!!)

Then our vegie gardening garden guru (Mr E) gave us a talk about his life on a sheep station in the outback in the 1950’s which was very interesting.

We are hoping to have a guest speaker next month who grows Potatoes very successfully. Can’t wait for that one - should get some hints.

The harvest basket I won first prize with in the
'Best Thing in your Garden' Competition.
For details click here

After the rain on Sunday 21st Jan (total of 93mm fell in 4 days) we ventured into the garden.
The Pussy Willow will have to come out!! It has shown definite signs of dieback with the drought and the gusts of wind today have split it so badly I doubt it can be saved.
This is a pity because it has been sheltering my potting bench for many years. I guess we will have to build another shade structure over this area now to shade the bench.

Poor old Pussy Willow

A Photo A Day - No. 24

Gum Tree Bark
Another gum tree photo!
In the weeks leading up to the rain last week,
the gum trees around here had been shedding their bark.
Seems they knew the rain was coming

and were preparing for the growth that will result.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Food Gardening for Beginners Part 5

Keeping Records

The key to successful gardening of any kind is good record keeping.

You may remember where you planted your tomatoes last year but will you remember that you decided to only grow a bush variety? When the seed catalogues arrive with 50 different and very appealing staking varieties that you just have to try. You will remember though as you begin all that hammering in of stakes and tying up each branch before the hot wind blows your crop all over the pathway.

However, if you had written down the problems you had last year and you went back and read that entry before the seed catalogue arrived maybe you would have thought twice about which type to grow.

How you keep your records will also develop over time.

Diary or Journal

A diary with ‘a day to a page’ is helpful even an old one. You may choose to use just an exercise or note book or a folder to keep your notes in.
There are programmes available for purchase which include record keeping on your computer.
Some people use spreadsheets and databases or even just writing the notes up in a word processor.
Just write them down somehow and do it regularly.

This free online garden journal to download as a pdf may not suit your needs but can give you some ideas of what sort of information to include in your own journal.
Or look at these pages for ideas of what sort of data to keep.
These versions are for printing out and using. I prefer to keep my records on the computer.

I just use a word processor document with a layout I have chosen to include temperature and any rain. These I obtain from the Bureau Of Meteorology site.
Climate charts for your region also available at the BOM site. By keeping your own rainfall records you can work out your yearly rainfall. A rain gauge is useful. This need not be an expensive one.

I also keep a daily record of eggs the chooks lay and make note of Moon Planting days because these things are important to ME. You may not even have chickens or choose not to plant by the moon.

In these notes I record all planting information including where the seed came from. The containers the seeds were planted in and where they were kept be it hot house, shade house or straight into the soil. I include germination rates and yes, failures as well.

That way I can determine the best sources for my seed purchases.

I have recently started keeping this blog in which I include many photos which make it fun to look back on to see changes.

Just keeping an organised photo record is great. Especially early photos to really see the changes all your work is achieving.

Digital cameras cannot be beaten for this as many photos can be taken and instantly viewed and more taken if they are not clear enough.

Day to Day and To Do Lists

Day to day notes of things to do can be kept on a calendar. There are software programmes such as appointment calendars or Personal Information Managers (PIMs) that can be set to open as the computer loads. These are great for keeping track of day to day and to do lists.

If you choose to plant ‘by the moon’, charts are helpful for this. There are several books, charts/calendars and on-line charts available and using these can help you plan your time in the garden.

Linda Woodrow calls this “Lunatic Gardening” in her Permaculture Home Garden Book. Maybe she’s got a point but I like it. It helps me plan my time in the garden.

The Cosmic Garden Blog has more Moon Planting information.

More information on this post too.

What records you choose to keep will be up to you and no doubt will change over time. However make sure they are clear and accessible because it may be a few months before you need them.

Early information

Keep copies of information gained during initial planning for future reference.

Keep copies of your hand drawn garden plans. You can create garden plans on your computer either using commercially available software or created in publishing type programmes:

Also any results of any tests that were carried out on your soil. Write down and keep results of any pH tests you do.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Just remember to keep as much or as little information as you’re comfortable with.

Follow the link back to Part one if you wish to review any information.

Or check out Part 6 Getting Your Seeds To Grow.

Food Gardening for Beginners Part 4

OK You Want Food Now!! Fast Food Growing

“All this time and energy spent improving my soil could have been spent growing my food!”

Maybe, but this could have been a disaster.

“The veggie plot down the end of the yard is difficult to visit on a regular basis let alone water, weed and fertilize.”

How about we start with a few pots or containers on the back veranda. Or out the front or side of the house if these are better positions. Just be sure they are convenient.

Into your pots/containers we are going to put a mixture of potting mix and compost. Do not use soil as it compacts in pots.

You can buy pre-made organic composts from garden supply stores or see if your council sells it from the tip.

You can buy or use large pots or other containers. Polystyrene boxes or even waxed vegetable boxes are useful for growing salad vegetables and herbs in to let you get used to the idea of eating out of your garden.

Also available are selected breeds of other vegetables suited to container growing.

Or try a Wicking Worm Box Garden

Later expand to trial a no-dig garden bed.

No Dig Gardens

Even investigate hydroponic systems if these appeal to you.

Backyard Hydroponics

As your soil builds in the garden you can use this time to assess your site and observe the nature of your piece of land.

Slowly start using small areas to grow more vegetables.

You can earmark sites for fruit trees/bushes.

Start building/planting those windbreaks and climbing trellises.

By the time you have all your ground ready for planting you will already be an expert compost maker and salad veg grower.

You will have researched all you need to know about growing the food you love to eat in your region.

Now you are a garden expert you will need to keep records of your achievements.

That's covered in this article here.

Food Gardening for Beginners Part 3

Know Your Soil. Improve your soil.

OK, now we’ve planned, designed and know what you want to grow.
Now we get down and dirty.

Soil types
You may have heard or read references to different soil types.
Basically there are three main types of soil. Sandy, clay and a mixture of these, loam.

Loam is the ideal – an open, friable (easily broken up in your hand), free draining, humus rich soil is just what plants need to live in.

Unfortunately not many soils in Australia fit this description. We tend to have either sandy soil where the water quickly drains straight through without time for the plants to take it up or heavy clay where the water refuses to drain no matter how long it sits there.

Know your soil

You can tell what type of soil you have got by performing a special test…dig a hole and then just look at the dirt that came out of it. Pick it up in your hands and feel it. You should be able to tell what type it is.

These sites have information about different "Home soil tests"

Working with clay soil

Soil type test

Clay soil test

You can also do more extensive testing such as pH, moisture content etc etc but we really don’t need to involve CSIRO in our backyard veggie patch.

A sense of humus

Once you have determined your soil type you now need to make it perfect to grow your plants. You do this by adding humus (partially decomposed organic matter; the organic component of soil). It is the nutrient base, the water storage part and the part that makes your soil into a living substance that plants need to survive. Without it your soil is dead and so will your plants be.

All soil types will benefit from the addition of humus.

There are many ways of adding humus to your soil and they all take time to develop.

Green manure is one of the best and cheapest methods. This involves sowing seeds of legumes such as beans, peas, clover and lupins, and cereals such as oats, wheat, barley and millet. You can add a general organic fertiliser at the same time to help growth.

These plants are grown to their flowering stage or until they are about 30 cm tall and then slashed and/or dug into your soil.

About time (thyme?)

It will take several months (depending on the time of year and where you live) to grow these and more time is needed to allow them to break down.
It will take several months (depending on the time of year and where you live) to grow these and more time is needed to allow them to break down.

No, that was not a typo. I just thought the point was so important that it should be repeated.

Remember in Food Gardening for Beginners Part 1 we said that people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan? Well, many people do not allow enough time for the green manure to be broken down completely. The soil then has to try to compete with trying to break down the green stuff and provide goodness to your plants at the same time.

That can be a struggle and guess who usually loses out…that’s right, your plants.

If your soil is at the extremes of soil type several sowings of green manure may be required before you can start that vegetable garden.

The wait will be worthwhile.


Whilst you are waiting for the green manure to break down it is the perfect time to start a compost system. Compost is broken down organic material that provides your soil with all the nutrients that the plant needs.

How to make Compost

Making your own Compost

Pt9 of this series Compost Making

Investigate the compost making method that suits your lifestyle and climate. Whether it is compost bays, barrels, tumblers, trenches or worm farms these too will take time to develop.

As your plants grow you will add mulch to conserve moisture and protect them from extremes in temperature. As the mulch breaks down it will continue to feed the soil and your plants so make sure it is a nutrient-rich mulch with manures or organic fertilisers to help it break down.

While you are waiting for all of the above to happen you can still grow stuff.

Check out ‘Fast Food Growing’ next.

Food Gardening for Beginners Part 2

Planning it out

Right. You’ve sorted out what you want to eat and whether or not you can do it. Before starting out you have to start planning.
Find out about any restrictions the local council may have regarding felling trees, building structures/fences, keeping animals, water usage and the like.

Observe the path that the sun makes over your property and how this changes through the year.

North facing areas are best for main vegetable gardens but some vegetables/fruit will grow in shade or part shade such as silverbeet, rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries and a variety of herbs such as mints, parsley and chives.

These can be planted in those shady areas like down the side of the house. Or maybe that site could be used for a nursery area.

Keep in mind where your water source is, be it tap, tanks, grey or dam and allow for easy access. In most of Australia you will need to supplement the natural rainfall somehow. Research alternative watering systems to allow for drought with water restrictions.

In your planning also consider where you are able to store stuff - tools, compost, potting mix, manures, straw, mulching materials and any bulk items that you may acquire. Also consider access to these areas. Nothing worse than storing your straw bales behind the shed and not be able to get to them when you really need to.

Don’t forget vehicular access for your newly acquired fresh manure. You can have great fun emptying the trailer when it’s parked 200 metres away from your site.

Take note of prevailing winds and consider windbreaks - trees if room allows or open fencing/trellising with shade cloth over (not solid walls/fences – these create problems). Hot dry winds in summer may come from the opposite direction to icy cold winds in winter - both equally damaging.

Consider the convenience of a vegetable growing area outside the back door like the 'kitchen gardens' of days gone by. Do you really think you will want to walk right down the end of the backyard on a cold, windy, wet night just to get those lettuce leaves you remember growing there on the weekend?

Get a pencil, eraser and paper.

Actually draw a rough plan of your layout.

Next in part 3 we start getting our hands dirty.

Food Gardening for Beginners Part 1

This article is the first of many that I hope will guide you towards the goal of growing your own food.

Many people like the idea of growing their own food and whilst it is a great idea, if you do not plan properly you can waste a lot of time and resources and end up with little to show for it.

Allow yourself a year before you make a commitment. If you can’t wait that long, read the article on ‘Fast Food Growing’ which is coming up soon.

Remember, people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

Why do you want to grow food?

People grow their own food for a variety of reasons:
To save money
To grow quality, tasty food
To grow unusual varieties of fruit and vegetables
To avoid unwanted additives being consumed (many bought foods are treated with chemicals, even so-called ‘fresh food’)
To better utilize their property by growing food instead of wasting valuable resources on lawns and other ornamentals.

What to plant and how much

Start by planning to grow what you like to eat. Make a list if necessary and find out what grows in your region.

You can find out about what grows by acquiring local knowledge:
Visit local open gardens or community gardens.
Join local garden or permaculture groups. These groups often help determine how many plants to plant to get the food you want. When we first started years ago we planted a punnet of eggplants. Great, but nobody told us that each plant held 20 plus fruit. That’s a lot of ratatouille.
Check on line planting charts and seed catalogues for seasonal planting info.

Eden Seeds Planting guide

Gardenate Planting Calendar - Click on "Planting Now" pop your zone in (Aust, NZ or UK)

How much you grow will be determined by how much room you have.

Can you use fences or put up trellises for vertical growth.
You may choose to consider dwarf or espalier fruit trees (growing trees along fences).
You may consider multi graft trees (several varieties of tree on one plant eg three types of apples or four types of stone fruits on one tree)

Time management

How much time can you really devote to your garden?

Even ‘Fast Food Growing’ requires time and commitment to get the desired results.

Most vegetable gardens do best with regular attention. One hour per day is better than large blocks of time spent on weekends. Even just a slow walk around the garden each evening or morning can spot larger jobs for the weekends.

Do you intend to spend time travelling or holidaying and expect someone else to care for your garden? If you don't have very much time don't have a very big garden area.

Your physical state

Be realistic about what you can and can't physically do.
Do you have a partner or friends who can help out with any heavy work?
At the same time consider site layouts with any disability in mind. Raised beds and wheelchair access can be included in designs to enable all to participate.


Investigate the local climate.
Have you lived in the area long enough to know the local weather patterns? If not find some one who has. Research from the weather bureau for your state or region will provide charts and maps with lots of info.

Weather Bureau link

If frost is a problem find out the first and last frost dates for your area. Note frost free areas of your land and choose the best areas for your chosen plants. Some plants need winter chilling (such as apple and plum trees and raspberries to name a few) so frost isn't always a problem.

If frost cannot be avoided you may have to reconsider what you want to grow. Or get/make a hothouse.

When reading seed catalogues check their zones or regional guidelines for information.
These are just some of the things you will need to know before we can even get out in the garden.

Part 2 looks at planning.

A Photo A Day - No. 23

Dragon's Rest Habitat Garden

Our garden club visited this local attraction recently.
It's known as Dragon's Rest because ofthe local lizard a
Bearded Dragon
They have quite a few of these and other lizards living naturally in the gardens

The garden was, until recently, a commercial Organic Carrot Farm.

Since their 'retirement' they have developped it as a tourist attraction.

Do you like the 'Dragon' theme?


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