Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Birds Are Nesting.

Scarecrow's Log: 26:07:2009:

Noisy Miner on the clothesline.

Temperatures this week:
Lowest Min -3.3C
Lowest Max 12.2C
Highest Max 18C
8.5mm Rainfall


What's happening in the garden?

No planting or propagation happening in the garden this week...I have been busy collecting photos and specimens of plants for my course work!

In my spare time I'm busy taking that seed list and deciding which veg to plant where and when.

New in the Garden This week:

Doc let me buy a heated propagating tray that will not only help with seed germination but also the harder to take cuttings that would benefit from some 'bottom heat'.

This Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala was busy picking the fraying threads off my clothesline...it's nesting time around here and the birds are 'borrowing' the strangest things! At least this one didn't leave any little messages behind! wink


Weekly Harvest Tally:
Doesn't include Greens fed to the chooks on a daily basis or herbs picked for use in the kitchen for cooking or tea making.
Pumpkin Sampson***4000g Found under a bush while I was searching for eggs! eekloleek

Plus a yummy mix of greens for soups/stirfries/salads...Kale, Lettuce, Watercress, Parsley, Sea Parsley, Soup Celery, Beetroot, Turnip and Swede Greens.

Plus 26 Eggs from the girls. They had been hiding some under a bush! eekloleek

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Wicking Worm Bed Questions?

I've recently received some questions via emails and in person about the Wicking Worm Beds beds.

Will the beds become waterlogged in heavy rain?

Remember this diagram from this link on The Basics of Wicking Beds (click it to see it better)
In the left hand, bottom corner is a tag called "Gap for Overflow".

If the wicking beds are built with an adequate drain hole (Gap for Overflow) above the bottom "pool" area they should not fill above that level. The excess will "leak" away.
As the growing area is raised there should be no chance of flooding, it will drain naturally.

Make sure the "soil" you fill the bed with has lots of compost in it. The plants will use the water as in "normal" beds, these raised beds will have better drainage that "normal" ground level beds.

In my "in ground" beds this drain point is at ground level (but doesn't have to be) and I can see the water escaping from that point so I know when the beds are full. This is also where any excess rain will escape.
If this point is lower in the ground the theory is that excess water will drain into the surrounding soil. That is providing the surrounding ground is not already saturated.

The only time I have noticed a problem was in some of the older Wicking Boxes.
The holes in the side had become blocked and were not draining. During a reasonable downpour the worms were escaping everywhere! I fixed this by putting a short piece of poly hose in the hole to drain them.

These older boxes were made with vegetative matter in the base, this has now collapsed as it has broken down and this seems to have caused the blockage.

The new boxes I've made this year have a 15cm piece of 13mm poly hose inserted through the hole in the side. They seem to be draining successfully now.
I'm also using a mixture of small gravel and sand in the bottoms of the boxes and 'stacking' some gravel around the outlet holes for drainage and to help prevent them clogging.


While it is raining regularly, even a little, you should find less need to water (filling the bottom pool area should not take long at all). One of the best things about these beds is that they make full use of any rain that falls on them.
I have only this week needed watered the beds since May.


Another question was about the size of the beds.
Basically you want them wide enough to be comfortable for reaching into the middle. You can not walk on these beds. Apart from squashing the worms you will compact the soil and reverse all of the good work they do aerating the soil.

The length of the beds would depend on how level your site is. The bases of these beds must be perfectly level for the wicking process to be uniform throughout the bed.
If the water pools at one end that is lower, that end will be wet but the other areas will dry out too much. It would be better to build smaller beds and 'terrace' them down the slope.

I did not remove the curtain covers from the beds this winter. This seems to have given the plants shelter from the cold as growth in these covered beds has been more successful than in others I have left uncovered.

It really is important to start growing winter vegetables during summer though. Most of the seeds for these crops were sown in early January. They need to be well grown before May when our cold weather sets in and growth slows down.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Almond Blossom

Scarecrow's Log: 19:07:2009:

Temperatures this week:
Lowest Min 0.1C
Lowest Max 10C
Highest Max 16C
13.5mm Rainfall

What's happening in the garden?

The Almond tree has burst into flower! eek

Propagation:
Seeds:
With the ground damp from rain I've been scattering seeds around the edge beds...Calendulas, Anise Hyssop, Italian Parsley, while Dandelion seed heads have been dispatched to the chicken runs where any new seedlings will be gobbled up before the have a chance to get very big! smile

The first of the newly planted peas are popping up...here the Dwarf Blue Bantam Peas in the wicking tub (C) are just popping up so too are the Angela's Blue Climbing Peas on the fenceline.

Potting up and Planting out:
Divided and put into a container, some newly sprouting Lemon Balm from the Tank Bed by the Main Veg Garden chookrun gate.

Planted the two Blackcurrant bushes in the Almond area.
See Here for info on
Planting Bare Rooted Fruit Trees and Plants

New in the Garden This week:
Apart from the first of the Almond Blossom...there are Cauliflowers and Broccoli ready for picking!

Violet Sicilian Cauliflower, Green Goliath Broccoli
and Mini Cauliflower ready to pick!

Weekly Harvest Tally:
Doesn't include Greens fed to the chooks on a daily basis or herbs picked for use in the kitchen for cooking or tea making.
Cauliflower Violet Sicilian***1040g

Plus a yummy mix of greens for soups/stirfries/salads...Kale, Lettuce, Watercress, Chives, Parsley, Sea Parsley, Soup Celery, Beetroot, Turnip and Swede Greens.

Plus 18 Eggs from the girls.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

A Chilly Week

Scarecrow's Log: 12:07:2009:

This little fellow decided it was too cold out in the garden
so he moved inside near the fire
...don't blame him really.

Temperatures this week:
Lowest Min -2.1C
Lowest Max 10C
Highest Max 15C
6mm Rainfall

What's happening in the garden?
We had a couple of frosty mornings this week...

I threw a row cover over the nasturtiums in the Kitchen Garden...

just as well look what happened to the one I didn't cover.

I also covered the newly planted daisy bushes

but the frost still got to them a little!

Propagation:
Seeds:
I've planted some seeds of Acacia dealbata that Tully (from ALS) sent to me.
This plant is on the Acacia Study Groups list of "Wattle we plant for Scavenging Chooks: Permaculture Poultry using Acacias" from their newsletter number 98 available here as a pdf
So they should be a great asset in the chicken forage areas.
Tully also sent me some seeds (and some others) of the Native Passionfruit Capparis spinosa var nummularia to try in spring...she often sends me bush tucker seeds from her area out in the desert in NT.
Thank you Tully! biggrin

Seeds of Red Clover Trifolium pratense, Lucerne Medicago sativa (summer and winter active), Clover Dalkeith Trifolium repens have been scattered over the chook run area of the fruit garden. These legume plants are for a cover crop, mulch and nitrogen fixing in the soil.
With rain predicted for this weekend I spent some time spreading seeds around the garden, mainly, Calendula Calendula officinalis and Alyssum Lobularia maritima.

Planting out: around the new plantings in the chicken run.
Garden Sorrel Rumex acetosa
Lotus ‘Sunrise’ Lotus pedunculatus

New in the Garden This week:
My seed order arrived for spring planting...already! eek

Weekly Harvest Tally:
Doesn't include Greens fed to the chooks on a daily basis or herbs picked for use in the kitchen for cooking or tea making.
Carrots Purple Dragon***125g
Jerusalem Artichoke***200g
Duck Potatoes***500g

Plus a yummy mix of greens for soups/stirfries/salads...Kale, Lettuce, Watercress, Chives, Parsley, Sea Parsley, Soup Celery, Beetroot, Turnip and Swede Greens.

Plus 18 Eggs from the girls.

Spring Seeds 09

The choice is made
Here is the list of seeds I've bought from Eden Seeds for spring planting.
I do have quite a stash of seeds from last year plus some friends have sent to try (Thank you Muzzy for some bean seeds) plus those I've saved but I'm trying to show restraint here! wink

Seed order 09:
Amaranth - Grain Amaranthus hypochondriacus
Amaranth - Leaf Amaranthus gongeticus
Beans - Climbing Blue Lake Phaseolus vulgaris
Beans - Soy Glycine max
Beans - Red Lima Climbing Phaseolus lunatus
Capsicum - Hungarian Yellow Wax Capsicum annuum
Carrot - Chantenay Red-cored Daucas carota
Cucumber - Green Gem Cucumis sativa
Cucumber - Marketmore Cucumis sativa
Eggplant - Casper Solanum melongena
Parsnip - Hollow Crown Pastinaca sativa
Pumpkin - Baby Blue Cucurbita maxima
Spinach - Ceylon Basella rubra
Tomato - Grosse Lisse Lycopersicon esculentum
Tomato - Silvery Fir Tree Lycopersicon esculentum
Watermelon - Sugarbaby Citrullus vulgaris
Zucchini - Golden Cucurbita pepo

Some flowers and herbs for the edgebeds:
Coreopsis - Sunburst Coreopsis grandiflora
Zinnia - Mixed colours Zinnia elegans
Caraway Carum cavi
Chicory - Coffee Stetorium intybus magdeburg
Evening Primrose Oenothera biennis
Valerian Valerian officinalis

And some different gourds for Doc:
Gourd - Dancing or Spinning Cucurbita pepo
Gourd - Speckled Swan Cucurbita pepo

Food Gardening For Beginners - Part 11

Planting Bare Rooted Fruit Trees

Site preparation:

Decide how far apart your trees will be planted. This will depend on how much room you have.
Trees can be planted as close as 1.5 metres or even multiple planted say 3 to a hole at only 30cm apart.
Pruning requirements will be different if planted closley.
Mine range from 2-3 metres apart.
The soil at the chosen site should be suitable for the type of trees chosen. Check for soil texture, drainage and a pH test would show up any acid and alkaline extremes.

This is the plan I made for the area with in the new chook run.
The large green dots are established fruit trees.
The large red dots are the sites for the new trees.
Please click on the photo see see it!

Trees chosen:
See description here.
Pink Lady Apple Malus domestica
Peach Elberta Prunus persica
Nectarine Goldmine Prunus persica

The area chosen for the planting was cleared of debris and weeds.

Planting sites were measured and marked for the bare rooted fruit trees,600mm diameter which was twice the width of the root ball.
Holes excavated to required depth, 300mm for bare rooted plants (as deep as the roots were in the ground originally)
If you notice the soil on the sides of the hole are shiny or 'glazed', which can happen in heavy soils, you will need to gouge or loosen the edges. This will allow the roots a rough surface to grow through to the surrounding soil. Failure to do this will result in the roots circling around as if they were in a container.

Plant preparation:



Bare rooted trees had roots soaked in a bucket of diluted Seaweed extract for 4-6 hours prior to planting to help lessen planting stress.
The root system of each plant was checked prior to soaking. Damaged and badly bent roots were trimmed off.

Planting:

Plants were placed into the planting holes and required depth checked, 300mm for bare rooted trees (to approx. 100mm below graft union).
The bottom of the planting hole was made into a small mound to allow the roots to be spread out over this ensuring soil contact was good and no air pockets appeared while back filling.
Roots that meet air pockets can be damaged or die.

The plants were placed in the centre of the holes.
The excavated soil was replaced into hole minus any rocks or tree roots and debris it contained.

When the required level was reach the soil was gently pushed down to tamper it down.
As the soil was reasonably moist this was all that was needed for the bare rooted trees, otherwise the soil may have needed to be lightly walked over to be tamped down properly.



The surrounding soil was pushed into a dish to allow water to collect around the plant. As these plants are growing in an arid area I made these quite large so the water will collect around the newly planted trees and have adequate time to soak in.
Later the trees each had two drip emitters placed about 30cm from the main trunk.
As the tree grows these will be moved out to the drip line each year.

After the plants were planted they were watered-in thoroughly to further eliminate any air pockets and settle the soil.
These bare rooted trees were watered using the bucket of water their roots had been soaking in with the added seaweed extract.
As we had recently had some rain this water soaked into the ground well, not requiring any wetting agents to be used these may be needed in very dry soil.

After planting:

Mulch was added to help suppress weeds, reduced soil temperature fluctuations, help retain soil moisture and add nutrients (depending on type used) after it breaks down.
The trees were mulched with shredded paper (until we can get straw for a more permanent mulch) with some of the lucerne prunings, from surrounding plants, added.
The trees were fed with a complete organic slow release fertiliser before the mulch was added as the paper contains little nutrient and may cause a nutrient loss as it breaks down.
Care was taken to keep the mulch away from the trunk and main stems of the plants to avoid chances of rotting the trunk.
Mulch was applied between 50 -150mm in depth.

The bare rooted fruit trees were pruned back hard to compensate for the amount of root area that was severed when they were dug up (at the nursery). The branches were cut back to about half to one-third of their total length as suggested on the planting instructions that came with them.

These cuts were made to an outside facing bud and the cut was made 12mm above a bud to allow the bud to develop strongly. The cut was made on a 45 degree angle to allow water to flow away from the bud allowing the cut to heal.
Damaged stems were removed first, being careful not to damage the branch collar on the trunk.

The trees were fed with a commercial (Fecondo) complete organic slow release fertiliser containing: (according to the manufacturer's website)
finely crushed mineral rich rock composted with blood and bone, fish emulsion, humic and fulvic acids, natural hormones, vitamins, bio stimulants and a host of beneficial soil microbes”.

The Apple tree was staked for protection.
This area is a chicken run and while it doesn't contain any chickens at the moment in spring some new hens will move in for pest control under the fruit trees.
The other two fruit trees are in a bed that will be fenced off from the chickens but this one is in an area that will not be fenced.
As the Apple tree grows the protection will be removed to allow the chickens to scratch around the base of the tree for insect control.
Rocks will be added if they scratch the root area too much.


Now you've planted some fruit trees you may like to consider some companion plants for them...see this post.

Companion Planting For Fruit Trees

Monday, 6 July 2009

Winter Warm Spots

Scarecrow's Log: 5:07:2009:

The Black Ninja found a nice warm spot to snooze.
She will get a surprise when that tyre stack
gets turned into a birdbath later lol

Temperatures this week:
Lowest Min 5C
Lowest Max 11.2C
Highest Max 19C
7 mm Rain

What's happening in the garden?

I took up the hose that I put in the chook run last year
...the Black Ninja helped.

I'm a bit late with this but the Asparagus has been cut down and I've put a new dripper hose on the area. This replaces some weeping hose that was beginning to break down. The area will be mulched up with some of the nettles that are slowly taking over the garden this year with all the rain. Some of the bedding from the chook house will go on too.

Doc has been busily collecting trimmings for the Cob oven...well pruning the fruit trees actually...just a light prune this year to get them off the pathways but still allow plenty of leaf cover for shade during the hot summers.

I took the curtain cover off Bed 1 to let the sun (and the bees) in on Saturday morning but tucked it back on in the afternoon. The Broccoli is forming well and the Broad Beans are flowering.

I'm doing some selective weeding on the path edges around the wicking beds in the main veg garden. I love the colourful flowers but we need to keep the paths clear for easy access.

Propagation:
Seeds:
Pea Climbing Angela's Blue - Along the fence on the non-wicking bed
Pea Dwarf Blue Bantam - in Wicking Tub C. See layout here

Potting up and Planting out:
Potted up some gazania seedlings that had sprung up in a pathways. Lots of other things are sprouting too...I'll dig some more up next week. Tagasaste, Lettuces and lots of different Acacias too.

New in the Garden This week:



I harvested 570g of Capsicums that have been sheltering under a plastic cover during winter. Some had even ripened to red! The wind storm on Tuesday meant the end of that plastic but I've put up another (more secure) plastic shelter now that the wind has settled down.

I bought 2 Black Currant (Ribes nigrum) bushes, these will be planted in the developing fruit forest in the Almond Tree Area.
In this area I have already planted 1 Pear Josephine, 1 Tangelo Minneola, 1 home grafted Stella Cherry, 1 seedling Apricot, 1 Strawberry Guava. These new fruit bushes will form an understory with the guava (which I'm hoping to plant more of). This area is developing into quite a jungle with the canopy shelter from the original old Almond and Black Mulberry and the Tagastases and Acacias that have been planted in there.

Weekly Harvest Tally:
Doesn't include Greens fed to the chooks on a daily basis or herbs picked for use in the kitchen for cooking or tea making.
Capsicum King Of The North***570g
Carrots Atomic Red***356g
Peas Roi de Carouby Snow***22g
Lemons***7711g rescued after the storm

Plus a yummy mix of greens for soups/stirfries/salads...Kale, Lettuce, Watercress, Chives, Parsley, Sea Parsley, Soup Celery, Beetroot, Turnip and Swede Greens.

Plus 17 Eggs from the girls.

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