October update

I was expecting to begin this post by saying we’d not had one drop of rainfall for the month…the first totally dry October since I began keeping records when we moved here 16 years ago, but lo and behold we had a thunderstorm on the last day of the month that delivered 14 mm. Melbourne’s average for October is 65 mm, so it was still well below that, but I got a useful 2000 litres in the big tank and all the swales filled so I was happy, even if it did wreck my plans to burn off. With tiny fruits swelling on all the trees, this is the time when moisture in the ground is really needed. Even better was yesterday’s fall—22 mm—a bit less than half November’s average. So things are a bit rosier on the rainfall front.

The dwarf Stella cherry is in its second year and is being well-watered and netted. There are many more fruits than last year. I counted at least thirty tucked in amongst the leaves. I want to get all of them! :

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My new thornless blackberries surprised me by producing pink flowers instead of the familiar white of the wild blackberries :

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I scored a useful compost bin from a friend and I’m going to use it for food scraps and the stuff from the composting toilet. I’m hoping the contents won’t dry out so much over the summer like they do just sitting in an open wire cage. I have 2 worm farms under the house, but I want to de-commission one and so I’ll have extra food scraps to deal with. This new bin has come at just the right time :

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I’ve had problems with introduced black rats eating tomato seedlings planted in wicking tubs and boxes near the house. Never before has anything ever touched a tomato seedling here, so I was gob-smacked, not to mention furious, to find just leafless sticks the day after I planted them. I’ve managed to get some planted in other spots well away from the house, but planting in Zone 1, near the house, is temporarily on hold. I’ve baited and 6 rats have gone to god so far and the scuffling noises in the ceiling have gone too.

I’ve established a bed of nettles under my plant benches (these are the stands that hold over 600 tubed plants). The nettles don’t invade the path beside the benches, because the soil is more compacted there and they get water and fertiliser runoff when I water the tubes. I just have to remember not to get too close in summer when I’m wearing shorts :

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A classic example of permaculture design where the outputs from one part of the system become the inputs for another part of the system.

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The foliage in the strawberry wicking buckets died right back over winter and I was afraid I’d lost them, but they’ve burst into new growth and flowers and fruits. I topped the buckets with chook poo compost which has obviously helped :

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I’ve written before about mini tomato cuttings using plants thinned from pots where I’ve sown 2 or 3 seeds. I snipped off a few seedlings at the base and stuck them in some water till I could get round to putting them in as cuttings. I was busy and they sat there for a couple of days. They couldn’t wait and started growing roots in the water :

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Tomatoes definitely have a will to live!

This beautiful ferny foliage belongs to the tomato variety Silvery Fir Tree :

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It’s a determinate variety, so doesn’t need staking, and is one of the earliest varieties to bear fruit. I’ve been growing it for about 4 years now. The fruits are large and slightly flattened and have a good flavour.

Looks like I might get a good crop of dill seed this year. I use a lot of it in pickling cucumbers and my local supermarket doesn’t carry it, so I like to have a crop of my own each year. This is in a wicking box :

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I’ve been eating asparagus almost every second day. The trouble with asparagus is that if you don’t check the bed every day they have an inordinate desire to reach the moon :

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The two small ones in front are about the size you’d get in a bunch at the supermarket. It’s not a lost cause, however. Snapping up from the bottom, to remove the woody bits, still leaves two-thirds of edible stem and I can chop up the woody bits in the Thermomix, blanch and freeze them for winter soups. Valuable fibre shouldn’t be discarded!

These 6 little seedlings are worth more than gold! :

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They’re blueberries. I’m indebted to rabidlittlehippy for showing how to propagate them from seed. She put the berries in the freezer….actually no, I think she used purchased frozen blueberries. Anyway, I put berries from my own plant in the freezer. I didn’t record how long they were in there, but I took them out in March (at the equinox actually), extracted the seeds from the fruits and sowed them. They took nearly 60 days to germinate and then sat there all winter doing nothing. They started to grow in early spring and I potted them up at the beginning of October. There were 8 but 2 died. In the environment where they grow naturally, they probably drop from the bushes in late summer or autumn, then sit on the (?frozen/snow-covered) ground  until spring and then germinate. Which makes me think they took so long to germinate for me because I should have had them in the freezer over winter and sown them in spring. So I’ll try that next time. It has been a real thrill to succeed in growing blueberries from seed as plants are expensive to buy. Thanks RLH!

And that, as far as I can remember, was October. Oh, but I forgot the Girls again. Two eggs a day (and sometimes three), from the four of them. Enough for me and some to share. Self-sufficiency is alive and well.

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12 Responses to “October update”

  1. narf77 Says:

    Excellent share about the blueberries from RLH. Love the nettles under the tubestock and your garden seems to be going really well. We only just got rain in November after 2 months of dry. It was cool and dry in September but heated up in October and everything dried out alarmingly. The soil had summer cracks in it and the thick band of clay under the topsoil sucked all of the moisture down and locked it up. We have been using our grey water (for the first time this year) on our plants around the deck and Sanctuary got mulched early but the potted plants have been hit hard by the early start to the season. The only really happy things are the rats (ate my tomato seeds as well 😦 ) and the water wicked strawberry bed (that the rats predated all winter and ate green fruit from them as they kept flowering and fruiting all winter long!) I guess we have to adapt. I wish I could bait Sanctuary but Earl patrols and Sanctuary is adjacent to the dog compound. Earl would probably eat a sick rat and that would be the end of Earl :(.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      It must be so frustrating not to be able to bait and have to sit by while your strawberries are demolished. Today the Girls caught a rat that had entered their playground. There was a great commotion of clucking, flapping and squealing (from the poor rat), and I ran to look. He got really beaten up and died (probably from the shock, as he didn’t seem injured).

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      • narf77 Says:

        I am betting the hens pecked him a new one and he probably died of internal injuries! I might have to borrow your girls as Earl is on the blink 😉

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  2. Bek Says:

    Nice work on the blueberry front. I will have to check out RLH’s tips myself. I think I will try some strawberry wicking buckets myself this year too. My thornless blackberry (Waldo from memory) has pink flowers the same, and produced the most massive blackberries I’ve ever seen. Well worth domesticating this weed, although I don’t mind harvesting the wild version too. 🙂

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      The good thing about the strawberry wicking buckets is that the fruits hang over the sides and aren’t sitting on the ground to be munched by creepy-crawlies, although that makes them more visible to the feathered variety. The handles make it easy to pick them up and move them if need be and it’s easy to put them all together and throw a net over them.

      My blackberries weren’t named, but the tip of each plant has a nice bunch of developing fruits on it. Here’s hoping they’ll be big!

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  3. Chris Says:

    It all looks lovely and green after that bit of rain. Glad it found its way to your garden, and you didn’t have to worry about fruit drop. Your strawberries are bearing profusely as well. Not bad for container grown. Do you add anything but water (ie: liquid feeds)? I give my container grown plants (edible or not) a spray of seasol, every other week. My edibles get a small sprinkling of slow release fertiliser as well.

    I was really intrigued by your wire baskets to hold your tubestock containers. Did you make them yourself – if so, have you written a tutorial about it?

    I love how accessible everything is in your garden. 🙂

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      I top up the strawberry buckets with chook poo compost before the season begins and they get watered from a storage bin that has seaweed fertiliser added.

      I made the wire baskets from just ordinary welded wire; some of them have rusted out after 20 years or so, but they’ve been great. Each one holds 32 native tubes. They have other uses as well—when I direct sow seeds, I put the baskets over the top to stop the blackbirds interfering and 3 tied together in a triangle make a temporary rabbit guard for a plant. I haven’t written about how I make them; didn’t think anyone would be interested!

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      • Chris Says:

        Not interested, lol, small projects are what make garden blogging so interesting to read about. 😉

        I came across some old catering containers and some small plastic tubs for free, which is what I put my tubestock pots into, to keep them standing. But not everyone can get ahold of things so conveniently, which are just for the garden.

        I can’t use mine in the garden to protect newly planted seeds though.

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  4. fluencyofthought Says:

    Hey there! What a great blog! Stumbled across it while trying to find a way of joining electrical conduit to star droppers (you posted about that in Oct 2011!). One of our local possums has decided that sitting up in our almond tree and munching off the leaves AND developing nuts is THE funnest activity du jour (or du nuit!), so it’s tree protection time!

    Enjoying your documentation of all your experiments and processes – definitely bookmarking your blog!

    On tomatoes – as you’ve seen, they sprout roots up their stems. If you’re transplanting some bubby plants – or making cuttings from bigger plants – you can pluck off the lower few sets of leaves, soak them for a few days as you have done (you can even add some liquid fertiliser to give them a boost), and plant them up to where the second set of leaves would’ve been… they’ll sprout loads of roots, be sturdier & grow very strongly.

    Cheers! Hoo roo from Sunny Adelaide! 😀

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks for the great comments! Always nice to know someone is getting something useful out of what I write.

      Possums are a pain aren’t they? I’m lucky because I have lots of gum trees and they seem to prefer staying up in these where it’s safer rather than come to the ground to get my plants. But I do have rabbits….

      The tomatoes amazed me by growing roots in the water, but I should have known, seeing how easily roots sprout from the stems.

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