Friday, 30 April 2010

Product Review - FISKARS

Autumn is a great time to get out in the garden and start to get some of the pruning started. We can work longer without collapsing in the heat! As long as the weather doesn't suddenly turn wet (ha! I wish) everything can be tidied up before the winter sets in and it's too cold to do much outside.

A while ago the Australian distributors of FISKARS garden tools asked me to review their new range of garden hand tools. These products appealed to me (and Doc, my arthritic pruning helper) as they have recently been endorsed by Arthritis Australia and Arthritis New Zealand.
The FISKARS products that have been accredited are –
- All three of FISKARS PowerGear™ Hand Pruners.
- Two of FISKARS PowerGear™ Loppers.
- One of FISKARS PowerGear™ Hedge Shears.

Facts on arthritis from Arthritis Australia:

- Nearly one in five Australians; 3.85 million are living with arthritis.
- 2.4 million or 62% of those with arthritis are of working age (15 - 64 years).
- You are more likely to get arthritis than heart disease, cancer, asthma, diabetes or mental illness.
- By 2050, 7 million Australians are likely to be living with arthritis, an increase of 83%.

So off to the Kitchen Garden to tidy up...first out of the box to try was the hand pruner/secateurs as I had some small pruning jobs to clear the way to the bigger stuff.

The first thing I noticed about these tools was the weight or lack of it. They are incredibly lightweight but have a quality that is easily felt. This makes long sessions of trimming back easy on the hand joints.

The second thing was the roll handle. I have tried using other secateurs with movable handles meant to ease the stress on the hand joints. These other products seemed to move too much! The handle of this tool moves just enough to do the job and it appears unlikely that they would become loose as other brands I have tried have done.

Next I moved up to the Loppers to attack the larger stems of the Perennial Sunflowers.
Again a very lightweight tool meant easier work.

The PowerGear™ really does make cutting through thicker stems easy. They sliced their way easily through the dried stems. They say "the PowerGear™ mechanism multiplies the cutting force of the lopper by nearly three times more than traditional single pivot loppers – less effort, more power. " We like the sound of that!

For the Rosemary Hedge I got to try out
their PowerGear™ Hedge Shears
and they did a brilliant job!

Again the weight and feel of the handles
was impressive and they cut along the full length of the blade.

...with a shock absorbing bumper for added comfort cool

These tools are being given a good workout during some of the jobs on that To Do List I have on the go at the moment! So far no swollen hands! That's great but it means I'm able to keep working longer outside and now my muscles are all aching! rolleyes smile

We will no doubt have more use for these products in the coming months as we get stuck into the winter pruning! wink

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Autumn To Do List

This and next month's To Do List
If I post this here I might have a better chance of getting something done! redfacerolleyesredface

Front Garden DONE
Empty the wheelbarrow full of potting mix (has been standing there way too long)
Mix it with some extra soaked coir, blood and bone and some water holding granules.
Use this mix to revitalise the soil around the birdbath out the front.
Plant up the Birdbath (See Here) - Seedlings of Seaside/Mexican Daisy Erigeron karvinskianus, Ageratum Ageratum mexicana and Sweet William Dianthus barbatus.
Watering system check and adjust as needed. See Here
Mulch with Sugarcane

Herb Spiral See Here DONE
Remove the NZ Spinach and Parsley (both dead)
Hoe soil and add blood and bone.
Re-plant area with Sages - Grandfather Sage Salvia apiana, Golden Sage Salvia officinalis variegata and Purple Salvia officinalis 'Purpurea', Pennyroyal Menta pulegium, Alpine Strawberries Fragaria vesca
Check, clear and adjust watering system to the spiral.
Mulch with Sugarcane

Bed 1 DONE
Remove Eggplants that are no longer flowering and I need the space for other things to grow.
Pull off mulch and gently hoe the soil removing any Slaters/Earwigs I find.

Fence Bed DONE
Pick Gourds and remove dead foliage from fence.
Remove Zinnias.
Pull back mulch and hoe soil remove bugs as above.

Dog Pen Garden started
Prune old growth from Thornless Blackberry and tie up new canes.
Prune edge bed and take cuttings from plants there.
Prune back the Sweet Potato that is threatening to take over the whole garden!!
General tidy up in area ready for work to begin on outdoor kitchen area.

In the Kitchen Garden See Here DONE
Berry Bed Remove errant Boysenberry that doesn't want to die!
Tidy Loganberry and Strawberries.
Remove shade cloth.
Remove Perennial Sunflowers, dig up some tubers (before they take over that section of garden)
Cut down Jerusalem Artichokes, Burdock and old Carrot stems.
Prune Rosemary hedge around the edge, Lemon Verbena and Lavender under the clothes line.
Check and adjust watering system.
Take down fence (part of) and gate for better access into Dog Pen now Luckydog has gone.

Back Pergola DONE
Fill large pots and plant with salad greens.
Move a couple of Wicking Boxes (carefully, they are very heavy) to area
to grow some salad greens.

Almond Area DONE
Replace tyres around Tangelo for winter sun trap.

Hot House Area
Clear bed to East of Hothouse and plant Bamboo (finally)
Make plastic tarps for covering windows of hot house on frosty nights.

Prepare indoor sprouts (for us) and write tutorial on the process. Started
Continue to prepare Seed/Plant inventory...

To see how the various Garden areas fit on our half acre block check out the newest Map of our place HERE

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Autumn Colour

Scarecrow's Garden Log: 24:04:2010:

On what is now becoming our once a year trip south to Adelaide we past the local power station. They are building more and more of these towers in the Mid North of SA. I could sit and watch these gentle giants for hours! cool

Temperatures this week:
Lowest Min 9.8C

Lowest Max 19C

Highest Max 29.2C

6 mm Rain

What's the weather been like in the garden?
Very warm for this time of the year. More thunderstorms on Tuesday cut roads to the south of us but only dropped 2mm on us! A change on Friday night brought more rain.

Alfalfa Medico sativa from Phoenix Seeds
Arnica Arnica chamissonis subsp. foliosa from Phoenix Seeds
Corn Salad Valerianella locusta from Phoenix Seeds
Garden Sorrel Rumex acetosa from Eden Seeds
Lettuce Red and Green Salad Bowl Mixed Lactuca sativa Mr Fothergill's (a freebie from a garden magazine)
Lettuce Gold Lactuca sativa rush from Home Saved Seeds
Miner's Lettuce Montia perfoliata from Phoenix Seeds
Red Clover Trifolium pratense from Phoenix Seeds
Rhubarb Rheum rhabarbarum from STH
Seakale Crambe maritima from Phoenix Seeds

Potted up some Comfrey root cuttings sent to me from a friend (STH). She also sent me a swag of seeds that will be fun to test out in spring!
Cuttings from a White Mexican Sage Salvia greggi 'White'

In the Garden This week:
While I was checking 'under the curtain' of Bed 4 I noticed some damage on a couple of seedlings. I thought this could be earwigs or slaters until I looked up.

I found some small grasshoppers and quickly dispatched those to the chooks, then I spotted this sap sucking vegetable bug.

But all is not lost on closer inspection I found some allies in the form of a couple of Ladybirds and a tiny Preying Mantis.

I also spotted a Robberfly who, although a good guy of the bug world (predator), is not fussy about just what or who he eats! eek He seemed to be leaving my two friends alone so he was left too.
Obviously there are gaps in the curtain to allow some good guys and bad in but at least it is keeping the moths/butterflies out!

Many of the seeds planted early in the week have germinated during the spell of warm weather we have had.

The Red Clover, Lettuces and Garden Sorrel.

The Alfalfa Medicago sativa was germinating within 24 hours!

I went on the lookout for some colour in my mid-Autumn garden this week and found Ivy Geraniums Pelargonium peltatum, Calendulas Calendula officinalis, Plumbago Plumbago auriculata and if that wasn't enough the Grapevine leaves are turning to show their autumn glory.

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 Chantenay Red-cored***251g
Kale Mixed leaves***150g
Mangelwurzel leaves***1005g These plants are quite prolific!
Parsnips Hollow Crown***125g

Apple- Golden Delicious***2197g

21 From the Farmyard Ferals
11 From the Barnevelders
4 From the Faverolles

To see how the various Garden areas fit on our half acre block check out the newest Map of our place HERE

Check out the Autumn/Winter planting plan for 2010 HERE

For links to the seed suppliers check out the My Seed Suppliers Tab at the top of the page.
I have been busy adding links to the Garden Links Tab.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Faverolles First Egg!

Scarecrow's Garden Log: 17:04:2010:

The smallest of the Faverolles
gave us their first egg this week!

Temperatures this week:
Lowest Min 2.5C
Lowest Max 19.7C
Highest Max 26.8C
No Recorded Rainfall

What's the weather been like in the garden?
The mornings are getting quite chilly. The lowest minimum temperature this week was 2.5C cold enough for a touch of ice on the car windows. I have moved any frost sensitive plants into shelter.

Any young plants that need extra warmth have been put into the hothouse.
That hothouse doesn't have heating in it but does have quite a few plastic containers (mostly 5 litres) filled with water. The water within them holds enough heat (thermal mass) overnight to keep the temperature above 0C most of the time. If a severe frost is forecast I use extra covers inside over the plants or put plastic tarps up over the windows.


Potting up/on:
Broccoli Romanesco and Nutri Bud
Celery Tendercrisp
Kale Lacinato
Parsley Italian and Curl Leaf
Spinach Bloomsdale Long Standing
Silverbeet Rainbow Mixed
Coriander slow bolt
Sage Common
Grandfather Sage Salvia apiana
Violets Blue and Pink

Arctotis Daisy Yellow

In the Garden This week:

In the Main Veg Garden I wasn't intending to cover Bed 1 but with the chilly nights and mornings I needed to protect the still fruiting Eggplants and Capsicums. I found an old row cover in the store shed. It doesn't quite fit over the hoops but it will be enough to protect the plants for a while longer.

The wonderful sunny autumn days have seen the summer flowers putting on a last show.

Pink Seashell Cosmos

Zinnia with Meadow Argus Butterfly
Junonia villida calybe

Bees are making the most of these late flowers too.

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.
Beet Greens***56g
Beetroot Heirloom Mixture***467g
Capsicum King of the North***98g
Kale Mixed leaves***141g
Mangelwurzel leaves***480g
Silverbeet Rainbow Mix***130g

Apple- Golden Delicious***3208g

22 From the Farmyard Ferals
11 From the Barnevelders
2 From the Faverolles mrgreenmrgreenmrgreen

To see how the various Garden areas fit on our half acre block check out the newest Map of our place HERE

Check out the Autumn/Winter planting plan for 2010 HERE

Friday, 16 April 2010

Brewing-up Worm Castings

Further to the Brewing of Plant Based Teas to use for feeding your garden I've come across the process of brewing compost to make a beneficial feeding brew for your soils and plants.
After reading information on a few sites my interest was stirred to find out more on the subject. A quick search on YouTube came up with this list and a heap of videos to view! See here.

So I set out to try it! I gathered up some equipment:

An air pump for use in an aquarium to bubble the water.

With tubing attached and air stones. I got mine at a local hardware store on special but they should be available at pet stores or department stores.

A 10 litre food grade plastic bucket, the air stones I had were able to move this volume of water well. A larger bucket might need something with more power to create a good rolling/'boiling' action to stir up the water.

Castings from the worm farm
Make sure you get all the worms out!

Good quality, well made compost or worm castings from the worm farm which are loaded with good microbugs for the soil. The suggested rate is about 1 litre of compost to an 18 litre bucket of water. My bucket was a 10 litre one so I used about half a litre of worm castings.

These were placed in a stocking
which was tied loosely to the handle of the bucket.
Just like a giant worm cast tea bag!

If using tap water you'll need to let it sit and bubble for about an hour before you add the compost or worm castings. This will release the chlorine from the water. I used rainwater so this step wasn't necessary.

At first I used a terracotta pot to hold down the airstones,
I now find this unnecessary.

With the worm casts added in their stocking
you can see the rolling 'boiling' action
achieved by the air stones.

I added unsulphured Molasses
(diluted in more rain water)
to feed the beneficial microbes.

This has an immediate reaction in the water
making it bubble even more (it almost fizzes!)

With the stocking tea bag in place let it sit and brew (bubbling) for at least 24 hours. In cooler weather you may need to leave it longer in which case add more molasses to keep it active (foaming on the surface).

When it's ready (or you can't wait any longer) pour some of the mixture into a watering can and dilute if using on new seedlings. This can be applied to the soil or sprayed as a foliar feeding agent.

You will need to strain the mixture well
if using it as a foliar spray
so you don't clog up your spray unit!
I used that trusty stocking that had been well rinsed.

This stuff actually works!

This Strawberry Guava was looking rather ill earlier this year. I tried adding minerals and additives to the soil but things didn't improve.

After a sprayed application of this brew the plant has put on healthy new growth. Alas it is too late for any crop this year so I shall have to wait (making sure it gets a few extra doses of this brew) until next year for more of those yummy strawberry guavas.

One of the better video clips I found is this one from Howard Garrett - The Dirt Doctor

Read More:
What are the Benefits of Aerated Compost Teas vs. Classic Teas?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Taking Down the Shade Covers

Scarecrow's Garden Log: 10:04:2010:

The Beet Family on Bed 5:
Mangelwurzel, Silverbeet and Golden Beetroot

Temperatures this week:
Lowest Min 8.8C

Lowest Max 21.6C

Highest Max 29.6C

10mm Rain

What's the weather been like in the garden?
Rain!!! But it came with a thunderstorm on Monday night that left us with out power for 15 hours. It came back for 7 hours and then went off again for another 6 hours overnight! That storm brought us 10mm of rain. Yah!! mrgreen
More rain was forecasted during the week but we have only had drizzle again.

Onions Allium cepa
Stuttgart From The Lost Seed
Ailsa Craig from Eden Seeds
Creamgold Eden Seeds
Mini Purplette from Green Harvest
Red Onion from home saved seeds

Planting out:
Main Vegetable Garden Bed 1:

More Monaro Purple Garlic (a first for me in a wicking bed)
Ethiopian Cabbage x 2
Silverbeet Mixed Rainbow x 4
Spinach Bloomsdale Long Standing x 6
Celery Tendercrisp x 8
Old: Eggplants and Capsicums

Main Vegetable Garden Bed 4:

Nutri Bud Broccoli x 5
Mini Cauliflowers x 3
Parcel Apium graveolens var. Secalinum x 7
Coriander x 1
Old: Parsley x 4

Dog Pen Wicking Bed 1:

Cauliflower Mixed - Sicilian Violet, Self Blanche, Mini x 6
Celery Tendercrisp x 6
Old: Garden Sorrel x 2

NZ Spinach Tetragonia tetragonoides
Lemon Verbena Aloysia triphylla

In the Garden This Week:

Main Vegetable Garden view from East and West

Some of the shade cloth has been removed, but most of the beds are now covered with curtains. Australian Plague Locusts (Chortoicetes terminifera) are building up in numbers in the district but as yet are not present in the garden. The authorities are predicting a major outbreak in Spring. rolleyes
Smaller Wingless Grasshoppers (Phaulacridium vittatum) are at pest level though and the Cabbage White Butterflies (Pieris rapae) are still busy!

Some emergency shade cloth was put up when there was a warning off hail but the hail never arrived.

The Monaro Purple Garlic has been mulched.

I had to call on the ever helpful Doc to assist with the building of a Mini Greenhouse unit when the instructions looked a bit too blokey for me!

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- Hungarian Yellow Wax***33g
Mangelwurzel leaves***231g
Kale Mixed leaves***110g
Zucchini- Black***925g

Apple- Golden Delicious***3737g
Watermelon- Sugarbaby***3188g


Some of the Farmyard Ferals now come to the gate as I approach
but they run and hide when I open it!

20 from the Farmyard Ferals
13 from the Barnevelders

Most of the new chookies now 30 weeks old,
getting bigger
and beginning to lay (2 Barnevelders so far)

To see how the various Garden areas fit on our half acre block check out the newest Map of our place HERE

Check out the Autumn/Winter planting plan for 2010 HERE

For links to the seed suppliers check out the Seed Suppliers Tab at the top of the page.


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