Archive for the ‘Hugelkultur’ Category

July update

August 10, 2015

Despite the cold and the rain, I managed to get a few jobs done last month. The first was to get the dwarf Stella cherry ready for the new season…..its second year of growth. I dug a small swale behind it so I could keep the water up to it in the summer :

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Then I installed a support for a net :

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I picked only about eight cherries last year and I’m hoping for a bigger crop this year.

I bought a dwarf Granny Smith apple and planted it on a hugelkulture mound. I’ll eventually put in a couple of posts and a wire framework and have a go at espalier :

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It will get more TLC here because I’ll be planting my zucchinis on the mound when the weather warms and there’s a sprinkler system from the tank in place. The original Granny Smith I planted is right down the back where I never seem to want to drag the hose and the apples are always small. It’s too big for a net, but I try and protect a few with bits of netting, otherwise I generally leave them to the birds.

I also bought 5 bare-rooted, thornless blackberry canes and planted them on a new hugelkulture mound I’d been building up for a few months, with raked leaves and sticks from the walking tracks in the bush :

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This mound is on contour and on the slope that leads to the first of the three pools on the property. Although I haven’t yet dug out a swale in front of the mound, water is already collecting there and running underneath the mound and into the pool.

I’d love to have nasturtiums growing everywhere, but the rabbits love them as well. The only place I can keep them is inside a wire circle. These are keeping a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple company :

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Fortunately, the rabbits don’t like Warrigal Greens, so they’re doing a great job as a ground cover in the food forest :

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These climbing peas have just started to flower :

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Attractive foliage of Jagallo Nero kale :

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And Red Russian kale :

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I’m not picking much from the garden at the moment….just some greens and a few yellow tamarillos. The red variety has produced very few fruits because of an aphid attack last spring when they were flowering and most of the flowers dropped off.

On the chook front…..two of the New Girls have started laying again and I’m getting about 8 eggs a week from them. For the first time since I started keeping chickens, I went through the winter without having to buy eggs. Good one Girls!

I gave the pepino in the wicking box on the deck a haircut :

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It will be interesting to see if it recovers.

The blueberry in a pot on the deck is flowering :

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In the bush, Victoria’s floral emblem, Pink Heath (Epacris impressa), is flowering :

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And a large patch of native Nodding Greenhood orchids :

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Meanwhile, I’m hoping for spring and some warmer weather.

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April update

May 12, 2015

Hard to believe it’s May already; I’m wondering where autumn went. We don’t seem to have had many of those lovely warm days I remember from past autumns.

The Sweet Wattle is flowering all through the bush, filling the air with a beautiful scent :

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I picked the first mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes of the season :

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The mushrooms actually came from the hugelkultur bed; it’s nice to think that as the underlying wood rots down, it’s providing me with some extra food.

The New Girls have continued to lay well, with at least a dozen eggs a week between them. I thought the they were going off the lay, preparing for their winter rest, when egg production dropped down a bit to 9 a week, but then this appeared, all 136 gm of it. Ouch! I bet that hurt! :

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This Japanese seedless mandarin is covered in fruits, the only problem being that they have almost no mandarin flavour and are as sour as lemons! :

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I’m thinking the only way to deal with them would be to preserve the segments in a sugar syrup, perhaps with some spices to make up for the absence of mandarin flavour. Ideas anyone?

The blueberry has donned it’s autumn foliage :

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The oca is growing well and the tubers will be harvested as soon as the foliage dies down in winter :

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The asparagus fern needs to be allowed to die back to return nutrients to the root system, then it can be cut back and the beds fertilised in readiness for the spring crop :

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This is an alpine strawberry in a wicking box. I sprinkled some corn salad seed around it. I think I overdid it a bit! :

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The pepino in the wicking box is still producing fruit :

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The wombok chinese cabbage in the wicking box is growing well, but not looking like producing the expected tight central cluster of leaves. I was hoping to make kimchi with it, but if it doesn’t do its thing the chooks are going to have a ball pulling these massive leaves to bits :

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December update

December 31, 2014

The season of plenty begins!

The first zucchini :

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It looks like a nice specimen of the Lebanese variety. Except that my notes record that I planted a black variety in that spot. Oh, well…

First of the Gold variety forming :

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There’s another fruit forming at the top right of the picture. The flower has just opened. I hand pollinate all my zucchinis and pumpkins with this :

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It’s not that I don’t trust the bees, but if I don’t see many around I just like to cover all the bases. It has a big round head of nice soft bristles—just right for picking up plenty of pollen. I’m sure everyone knows how to pollinate with a brush, but just in case, here are the two flowers of different sexes—male on the right and female on the left :

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The male’s whatsit, in the centre of the flower, is small and pointy; the female bits are bigger and sort of wrinkly, but in case you’re still not sure, the male flower is on the end of a longish stalk and the female has a baby zucchini-to-be at its base. You can’t miss it really.

Anyway, what I do is gently rub the brush over the male bit and check to see if the brush has picked up a liberal sprinkling of yellow powder. That’s the pollen. Then just brush it over the top of the female flower and you’re done. The female flower will close soon after and the baby zucchini (or pumpkin) will start to enlarge.

The most infuriating thing about zucchinis and pumpkins is that when there are female flowers open, there are often no males within cooee, and vice versa. It’s always a good idea to plant several plants close together, firstly, because it makes pollination by bees easy (if you’re lucky enough to have plenty of bees) and secondly, it means you’re not running hither and thither carrying a paintbrush full of pollen, like a demented artist looking for a blank canvas.

Here’s a lady pumpkin flower that unfortunately didn’t meet up with a mate. It won’t develop and the pumpkin-to-be is starting to wither away and become a pumpkin-that-will-never-be. Sad, really :

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Here’s one that had better luck :

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I hope it’s going to grow up into a nice big pumpkin. I have no idea what variety because it came up in the compost. More on that below.

 

The New Girls are settling in nicely being tolerated by the Old Girls and have taken over the pile of logs in the playground as a sunbathing spot :

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They had their first encounter with a fox early one morning (they were quite safe—their run is really secure, but they didn’t know that), and ended up on top of the coop, where they stayed for the next hour and a half (I left them up there to get over it in their own time; these things can’t be rushed). The only problem was after that, they decided all over again that they wanted to roost on top of the coop at night and I had to go through another week of shepherding them in before they consented to go in by themselves (and more important, STAY in once I’ve left). Talk about herding cats!

They’re extremely active and agile and into everything, quite a change from the two oldies. They like going into Molly & Cheeky’s coop and have completely trashed the bedding and nesting material, so that I can’t just clean the poop from under the perches, but have to clean and replace all the stuff, because the poop is all mixed up with it. Their own coop is pristine…they never go in their during the day.

If I thought they were intelligent beings, I’d say they’re doing it in retaliation for being chased by Molly & Cheeky, but that’s too much of a stretch. They’re just having fun, like all kids. Molly & Cheeky, being mature ladies, just sit side by side in the sun, looking like a couple of stately spanish galleons, obviously deprecating such childish behaviour. The newbies are almost 20 weeks old now, so I hope they grow up soon and start laying eggs. If we get temperatures in the 40’s in January though, it might stop laying in its tracks. That’s when the two oldies stopped laying last summer and they didn’t start again until spring.

 

This Cape Gooseberry came up by itself next to the Girl’s playground. It’s some years since I’ve grown them and I’d forgotten that the little fruits fall off the plant when ripe, with their papery outer coating intact. They’re quite safe from birds and it’s a simple matter to do the rounds every few days and pick up all the fruits :

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When I built the new chook run, I put a couple of large tubs on either side of the doorway :

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I filled them with compost and left them until I’d decided what to plant in them. In the meantime a couple of pumpkins germinated in one of the tubs. It wasn’t what I would have planted, as there’s not much room for them to run rampant as they usually do, but I let them grow on anyway.

They’ve turned out to be a couple of oddballs. They’re not running everywhere, but growing in a clump like a zucchini :

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They’ve flowered already and a couple of fruits are forming (I did my thing with the paintbrush) :

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There’s a robust central stem and the new flower buds are in a tight cluster. It certainly looks like a zucchini :

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They can’t possibly be zucchinis because I eat all my zucchinis before they go to seed. There would never be any zucchini seed in the compost. They’re not like any other pumpkin I’ve grown. If they came from the compost, it must be something I’ve bought. I normally only buy Butternuts and the occasional Kent. And then I remembered.

I’d bought a variety from Coles I’d never heard of, called Naranka Gold. It had bright orange flesh and was beautiful roasted. I’d Googled it at the time and found it had been specially developed and grown for Coles. They say it’s a cross between a Chilean variety and the Kent. I’d saved seed but some would have ended up in the worm farm and ultimately in the compost.

I hadn’t sown any of that seed this season, so I got it out and sowed some in a large tub. It will be interesting to see if that’s what’s in the chook house tub. I hope so, the flavour was exceptional.

 

I can’t grow parsnips. At least not the root bit. I can grow the top bit—the leaves and the flowers. The bees love the flowers and so I toss seed everywhere and grow a parsnip forest :

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One day I’ll get around to studying parsnips seriously—making a bed with a reasonable depth of friable soil and working out exactly when to sow the seed. In the meantime all is not lost. I collect buckets of seed from my parsnip forest and share it with my neighbour. And he brings me beautiful parsnips in return.

 

Remember the self-sown plant I thought might be a cherry, but turned out to be a cherry plum?

The fruits ripened, the birds left them alone and I picked and ate them. Wow! Delicious! I want more of these. I saved the seeds. I’ve never had plum seed successfully germinate just by sowing it in a pot. This time I’ve put the seeds in some moist cocopeat and put them in the fridge to stratify. I hope that might do the trick. In the meantime, I think I’ve found another self-sown seedling. Amazingly, it had reached almost waist-height before I discovered it. It’s in an ideal spot, in the middle of the food forest where I can give it lots of TLC. I missed it because it’s surrounded by parsnips! :

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Of course it might be a real plum which germinated from a seed I tossed in there as I was snacking on my own plums.

 

The first ripening tomato :

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Only a cherry, but oh, so special. The first time I’ve ever had a tomato ripen before Christmas! This one made it into the record book by just one day. It coloured up on December 24th.

 

A couple of years ago, I made my first hugelkultur bed alongside the path that leads to the rear of the property :

At first it was one long bed, but I realised I would be needing to access the area behind it and so I broke it into three parts so I didn’t need to be leaping over the top. I used it initially for zucchinis and pumpkins, but eventually planted rhubarb and asparagus in one section and this year, planted raspberries in another. The third section has no perennials in it and this year I’ve planted zucchinis there. I’ve been watering from the tank either by hand or with a microspray head mounted on a hose holder, moving it from place to place to cover all the bed. It’s time consuming, so I decided to put in three separate watering systems, one for each bed. I’ve put in the first one to cover the zucchinis and I’m really chuffed with it :

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There are four microspray heads each covering one zucchini. In between the zucchinis and slightly behind them are four button squash plants. Now I just have to click the hose from the tank onto the end of the pipe and the whole bed gets watered in one go. I’ll do the other two beds in the same way. It will save a lot of watering time.

 

I’ve worked out what’s going on with the cucamelons. I was seeing tiny little yellow flowers with even tinier cucamelons-to-be behind them :

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Then they were dropping off without forming. I realised that these are melons and probably will have both male and female flowers, so I kept watching and sure enough, tiny groups of male flowers began to appear :

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I have no idea what pollinates them, but it’s got to be a very small insect. If I do it with a paintbrush, I’m going to need one with about 3 hairs and a magnifying glass to see what I’m doing.

 

We had 64 mm of rain in December; Melbourne’s average is 57 mm. There were no really hot days, so no stress on the garden. Growth has been good and it hasn’t been hard to keep the water up to the plants. I hope that continues for the rest of summer but doubt that I’ll be so lucky.

 

Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope 2015 is filled with delicious food for you. Home grown, of course!

October update

November 16, 2014

I’m a bit late with this owing to activities on the chicken front taking precedence, but anyway here it is—better late than never and just to prove that things other than chook things do happen here.

The passionfruit climbing over the old chook run has finally decided to flower… :

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…and produce fruit :

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The redcurrants are colouring up. I suppose I’m going to have to think about netting them, although last year I didn’t, and the birds left them alone (although that ant seems to be interested) :

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I put three cucamelons into a wicking tub and they’ve been slow to establish; maybe the weather hasn’t been hot enough yet. Their thread-like tendrils have finally found the wire support, so maybe that will jog them along a bit :

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Last year was a poor year for the persimmon, with only three fruit and the blackbird got all of them while they were still green. There are only three buds on the plant again this year, but this time I’ll get in ahead of him with netting :

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I planted out all the tomatoes during October because they were big enough and it looked like all the cold weather had gone. I did a quick tour & count and there are 36 plants out, most in wicking boxes or wicking tubs and just a few in the garden. This one, in a wicking tub, has trebled in size in just a couple of weeks :

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These are in a wicking box :

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The comfrey re-appeared with a vengeance :

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These three chokos in pots are looking for something to grab onto. I don’t know where I’m going to plant them as I don’t have a trellis prepared. Maybe I’ll see if they’ll climb up a tree :

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Well, I finally put one next to the wire corridor connecting the two chook runs. I have a feeling I’m going to regret it if it takes over the whole area :

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The raspberries are in their first year of growth. Looks like I might get some fruit :

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Basil futures. I froze pesto last year and it worked so well, I’m aiming for plenty more this year :

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This is Wild Rocket. I think it has a stronger flavour than the common variety and the foliage is more attractive :

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I go through 3 litres of milk a week. While I know the bottles can be recycled, it still pains me to have to throw out something I could maybe use. So I came up with this:

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I’ve put 4 tiny holes in the bottom and I fill them from a bin that contains water with seaweed fertiliser, worm juice and comfrey tea, then sit them on a wicking box or wicking tub and let the contents trickle out slowly. It helps when I don’t have time to stand and water with the hose and it adds a bit of extra nutrient along the way.

I picked all my garlic. There were three batches, one (supermarket purchased) in a wicking box and two in the garden (one from Yelwek and another from a local source). The garlic in the wicking boxes didn’t form single bulbs, but separated into cloves, each with a single stem. Not worth eating, not worth replanting. I composted it. Was it because it was supermarket garlic or because it didn’t like the wicking box? I’ve grown it successfully in wicking boxes before, so I’m blaming the supermarket. It wasn’t that stark white Chinese stuff. I know better than to plant that! :

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The local garlic in the garden was OK, but the bulbs were very small :

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The Yelwek garlic produced the most robust plants, with the thickest stems, but that still didn’t translate into large bulbs. I think lack of fertiliser may be the problem. I really need to do more research into growing garlic :

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The potato onions, also from Yelwek, aren’t doing well. After planting the bulbs way back in April, some in the garden and some in a wicking box, they sprouted and seemed to be growing well. Then in winter, they grew backwards and some died. Now it’s warmed up, the leaves are growing again, but the bulbs are small and I don’t know if they’re going to get any bigger. The batch I put into a wicking box all rotted away in winter. Too much water probably :

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I’ve put pumpkins in the hugelkultur bed, in between asparagus which are only in their first year. In the other hugelbed I’ve put zucchini and button squash. I’ve made a huge hugelmound from raked leaves and twigs and put 3 extra pumpkin in there.

Pumpkin :

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Zucchini & button squash :

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Pumpkin on the hugelmound :

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The strawberries in the strawberry wicking buckets are bearing, but a lot of the fruits are deformed. They look awful. I’ve never had this happen before :

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Google tells me it could be caused by inadequate pollination or lack of calcium or boron, or attack by certain types of mites. I inspected, and there are aphid-like insects on them so I’ve removed all the trusses of developing fruits and given the plants a good spray with a garlic-pyrethrum spray. I wouldn’t be surprised if pollination was a problem, because they’re up on the deck against the house wall, where insects might not find them.

I always like to have a patch of calendula somewhere in the garden. The bees love the flowers and I can pick the petals for salads :

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That’s all I can remember for October. I won’t write anything about chooks because you’ve had that ad nauseum by now and anyway that all happened this month. I’ll bore you with more on that in next month’s update.

Time for something new

April 4, 2014

I’ve done wicking boxes. I’ve done chooks. I’ve done swales and hugelkultur. I’ve done drying food. I’ve even done solar.

It’s time for something new.

I’ve had several major projects on the backburner for ages. They include:

Making cheese: I make cottage cheese; that’s easy. I want to do more involved stuff like hard cheeses.

Fermenting: I make kimchi and yoghurt; that’s the extent of my fermenting skills. I want to extend ferments to other foods.

Build a rocket stove: I have electricity and gas for cooking. Both fossil fuels. Both with a limited future. I have kindling wood coming out of my ears. A rocket stove would make me independent of fossil fuels.

Bees: There aren’t many bees in my garden any more, even when there are plenty of flowers. Pollination is an important bee service. Maybe I could improve that situation with my own hives.

Most of these need work to get up and running, some minor, some considerable.

For hard cheeses, I’d need a full cheesemaking kit, including a cheese ‘cave’—a small refrigerator with a thermostat able to be set to proper cheese ripening temperatures. The only bit of kit I have at the moment is a cheese thermometer.

Fermenting would be easier to get up and running. I already have Sandor Katz’s excellent book on the subject:

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Rocket stove? Where to put it? I’d need a proper undercover outdoor cooking area. There’s only the carport at the moment and while there’s room, it’s not perfect and I don’t want to rush into anything without serious thought.

Bees? I don’t want to do beekeeping as it’s done at the moment. I want the bees to do what comes naturally and the closest thing to that is a top bar or Warre hive. I like woodworking and I reckon I could make my own top bar hive. I’d still need protective kit and probably should take some lessons.

There’s one other project that has taken my fancy lately, thanks to some excellent posts from Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture. Growing my own mushrooms. A shiitake log, to be exact. I have eucalypts and can provide fresh-cut logs. It’s only a matter of buying the special spawn, inoculating the logs and waiting for the mushies to grow.

Looks good doesn’t it? I can almost smell them cooking:

This week, Kirsten has another post about shiitake cultivation and increasing the vitamin D content of the mushrooms by putting them in the sun. People yes…but mushrooms! Who’d a thunk it?

And if I needed any more persuading, I opened my copy of Australia’s new permaculture magazine, PIP, which arrived yesterday, and there was another article from Milkwood about shiitake logs. Something is pushing me in that direction. I think I’ve found my new project.

Here endeth the summer

March 24, 2014

Well…I hope so.

The autumn equinox has been and gone, we’ve had an inch of rain, the days are cooler and the plants are making new growth.

I’ve planted my garlic and potato onions from Yelwek Farm. Some went into the garden and some in a wicking box. I had success with one potato onion bulb (just one!) in a wicking box last year and I want to see if that was a one-off or whether they will tolerate the extra moisture in a wicking box. The drainage will still be good and if I need to, I can shelter the box from excessive winter rains. I’ve grown garlic successfully in a wicking box before, so no worries there.

Potato onions in the garden:

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Garlic in a wicking box:

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I’ve also planted asparagus in the first of the hugelkultur beds I made.  By spring, this bed will be in its third year and the underlying wood is starting to break down, at least enough for me to get the treeplanter into it without hitting any resistance:

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I’ve staked and tied up the ferns for the time being to keep them tidy and to dissuade the rabbits from investigating them. I’ve had to protect each side of the bed with wire to stop the blackbirds tearing it apart. The ferns will die back over winter and I’ll side-dress each plant with chook poo compost before the spears emerge in early spring. I doubt they‘ll be big enough to harvest this year but should be OK for the next:

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In the spaces between each asparagus plant I’ll sow cucumbers next spring/summer and let them ramble over the mound. By that time the asparagus will have stopped bearing and will be at the fern stage. The ferns, which grow to over a metre tall in mature plants, should provide some shade for the cucumbers during the summer. So the asparagus will do two things—provide me with a yield in spring and shade for other plants in summer. An example of the permaculture principle which says that each element in a permaculture system should perform more than one function.

Garlic chives are flowering. The bees love them. I’ve got a couple of dozen new plants in pots and will plant them everywhere:

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Tamarillos are ripening. I made sure I kept the water up to the plants in summer and it looks like a bumper harvest this year:

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New batch of potatoes coming on. These are Kipflers:

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Dandelions for use in casseroles and soups this coming winter:

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The last of the tomatoes ripening. This one is called Nicoleta and the seed came from a member of the Ozgrow forum. It’s a good size and shape and has a beautiful flavour. I’ll be growing this one again:

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Still getting a few strawberries from the wicking box on the deck. The blackbird has found them so I’ve had to put a net over them in addition to the ring of wire around the tub. Did I mention I hate blackbirds?

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This is purslane. It self-seeded in a wicking box and I’m hoping it will flower and seed there again. It has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a crunchy texture and can be eaten in dozens of ways:

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The oca has kicked on with the recent rain and should form lots of tubers by winter when the plants will die back:

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It wasn’t the best of summers from a food-growing point of view. Yields were woeful compared to past years. The most important things I learned were that I have to make provision for shade on 40-degree-plus days and that plants in wicking boxes will do better than plants in ordinary garden beds.

It also wasn’t the best from a personal-keep-cool point of view either. Before next summer I’m going to have an evaporative cooler installed. I don’t need to worry about electricity use, because the solar panels will run it through the day. No more do I want to try and sleep in a house where the temperature is in the high 30’s.

Updating…..

December 8, 2013

Mainly photos—easy post when you don’t have to write much.

The redcurrants are ripening. I haven’t protected them and I can’t believe the birds are ignoring them. Same thing happened last year:

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These ones made it inside. I’ve probably nibbled this many straight from the bushes:

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OK, so potatoes are relatively cheap. I still like growing them. These are Sebagos:

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The rhubarb in the hugelkultur bed has taken off:

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Here’s what it was like when planted a few weeks ago:

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Burdock leaves. Huge. Better dig up the root and see what I should do with it:

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Corn getting going:

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Oca leaves. The tubers won’t be ready till winter:

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Picked my garlic. Could be bigger, but better than last year. Will be useful:

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Small tree. Its first year. Only two apples. Cox’s Orange Pippin. Supposed to have the best flavour. Better put a net over these:

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Threw some old parsley seed amongst the zucchini on the hugelkultur mound. Who says parsley seed has to be fresh?:

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Borlotti beans. My first attempt at growing beans for drying:

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Pumpkins on the hugelkultur mound:

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Self-sown tomatoes on the hugelkultur mound. Really should pull them out, but will leave them to see what Mother Nature decides:

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Warm? Really?

October 9, 2013

They’re saying we had the warmest September on record. Well…I don’t know what happened to it once October hit. We had a week of freezing (well, cold), gale-force winds that saw a lot of trees and branches come down around Melbourne and culminating (at my place, anyway), in a humungous hailstorm that had me panicking about what to save first…the chooks or the solar panels. The solar panels came through it OK and when it had passed, it was hilarious to watch the Girls trying to pick up pea-sized hailstones in the belief that this was some new kind of treat that Mum had thrown at them.

I usually plant my first crop of beans on the first of October and subsequent batches on the first of every month thereafter, up until about February. They normally take 2 months to bear and I have a continuous supply of beans until autumn sets in. I checked the soil temperature in the wicking boxes and at 10º C there was no way I was going to plant them just to see them rot away. I’m still waiting for some warmth.

I also have this tray of curcurbits (zucchini, pumpkin and cucumber) to put out:

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I want to plant them on the hugelkultur mound but the soil temperature there is even colder than in the wicking boxes.

I’ve put out some tomatoes…ones I bought some weeks ago from the old guy at the Sunday market. I don’t know how he manages to get his tomato plants so big, so early, when my own seedlings are only centimetres tall. His tomatoes don’t have stems; they have trunks! I only buy from him when he has varieties I haven’t grown before and then I can collect the seeds and add them to my collection. I bought Golden Girl, Cherokee Purple and Black Krim. He reckons this one is better than Black Russian so I’m anxious to try it. It’s supposed to have a slightly salty flavour along with the typical richness of the black varieties.

Down in the garden, the salsify is flowering, so this photo is for Fran of The Road to Serendipity who sent me the seed:

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If it sets seed, I’m going to broadcast some of it into the food forest as bee forage. The flower stems are taller than I am:

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I have a nice patch of calendula growing in one of the veggie rings. I’ve been collecting and drying the flower petals in the hope of getting enough to make calendula ointment:

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These red currants are setting fruit already. I didn’t know they’d flowered:

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Oh, there they are. You wouldn’t call them spectacular. I wonder what pollinates them:

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Postscript:

I wrote this post a week ago and it was left in ‘drafts’ in favour of the solar posts. So I’m happy to say that warmer weather has arrived (forecast 30º C today) and I’ve planted those beans and some of the curcurbits.

Postpostscript:

A question for all you computer geek WordPress bloggers. In the above post I’ve got two celsius temperatures quoted. You’ll notice the little degree sign º between the figure and the C. Can anyone tell me how to do this without leaving the blogpost edit page?

Here’s the roundabout way I go about it. Return to desktop leaving blog page open. Open Microsoft Word to a new document. Click ‘insert/symbol’ and find the degree sign. Add it to document. Copy degree sign to clipboard and close Word. Return to blogpost edit page and paste degree sign into place.  It’s giving me the irrits doing this. I know I could just type 30 C and everyone would know what I mean, but I’m a stickler for doing things right. I annoy myself intensely about this. I suppose it’s the scientific training.

Growing rhubarb from seed

August 31, 2013

When I first decided to plant rhubarb some time ago, I found it pretty hard to come by. The nurseries that did sell it, only had it in large  20 or 25 cm pots. Digging a hole for a pot that size in the heavy soil where I wanted to plant it, just wasn’t on and besides, I wanted many plants. I searched in vain for small plants in small pots.

I discovered that Edens had rhubarb seed in their catalogue and sent for some. It germinated readily and so well that I reckon nearly every seed came up.

I sent for more seed last year and had the same good germination from two varieties—Crimson and Victoria, sown in March and germinated in only 10 days. I’ve just planted nine plants from that batch along the first hugelkultur mound:

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Each plant has had a good dose of aged cow manure. Here’s hoping for great yields!

The rest of the mound will be used for pumpkins, zucchinis and cucumbers. All the rain we’ve had over winter has prompted the growth of the native ground cover (Stinking Pennywort—Hydrocotyle laxiflora) which was growing there naturally and it’s almost covered the mound. It will make a good living mulch:

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It doesn’t look it, but that mound is about 40 cm high. Those leafless ‘sticks’ behind the mound are just-planted raspberry canes. I’m determined to get good value out of my hugelkultur beds!

Bread & cheese on a wet day

June 13, 2013

We had 47 mm of rain on the first day of June; just over the June average for Melbourne. Then another 23 mm by the end of the following week, 20 mm last night and it’s been raining all day today. The gauge is visible from the bathroom window and it looks like another 20 mm so far. The 3 pools at the rear of the property are brimming. I’d be happy if I was a duck but I’m not. The chooks are disgusted; they’ve been confined all day to the only bit of their playground that’s covered by a tarpaulin and their holes are just puddles. But not muddy ones thankfully; the soil is sandy and water drains quickly, so I don’t expect any cases of chookfootrot.

It was obvious no outside work was going to be done today, but I had a batch of bread lined up to make and also some cottage cheese. I’m making the cheese weekly now, using the recipe from Green Gavin’s e-book, Keep Calm and Make Cheese. It’s a bargain, downloadable from Gavin’s blogsite for just a few dollars, as are his other e-books.

The bread turned out fine:

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As did the cheese. Here it is draining in the sieve:

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From a litre of milk I get 200-250 gm of cheese, depending on how long it drains. I keep and freeze the whey to use as stock:

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The cheese has a lovely fresh taste and it’s free of all the additives in the commercially made stuff. One day I’m going to have a go at a hard cheese.

Out in the garden, I’ve been making more hugelkultur beds from sticks, raked-up litter and leaves. The bed I made last year has been invaded by fungi which is good because it means the underlying wood is being broken down:

fungi 001

I’ve been adding wood ash and chook poo compost to the bed and I’m hoping to get a good crop of pumpkins from it this summer.

The garlic and potato onions I bought from Yelwek Farm earlier in the year are growing well. The garlic took a long time to eventually sprout but it’s OK now:

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These are the brown potato onions. The nets are to keep the blackbirds off. Their constant digging is driving me crazy:

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There’s not much else happening at the moment. It is winter after all. I’ve planted Sebago, Desiree and Kipfler seed potatoes and still getting lots of greens and two (small) heads of broccoli. It’s almost the winter solstice and time to think about what tomato varieties I’ll be sowing this year. I may wait another month and start sowing in July. Time to get out the seed bank and do some sorting out.