..... my not so exciting ventures into gardening, self sufficiency, getting solar electricity & hot water & pretty much life in general in a small country town .....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Time to plant your chokos

I asked David from Productive Gardens http://www.productivegardens.com.au/ the following about planting Chokos

"Should I get the seed out, dry it before planting or plant it straight away or put the entire choko in?"

He replied very quickly with

"Hi Nicole,
Chokos are a great thing to grow, quite pest and disease free and being perennial, will crop on for quite a few years.
Prepare the soil with well rotted animal manure or your best compost but the site must be well drained.
Now is the time to plant them, just put a whole one aside until the fruit sends out a root. This means the seed is mature and the whole fruit should be planted. Place the fruit at a depth of about 10cm and at an angle of 45 degrees with the shoot downwards. The stem end should be at ground level or slightly exposed."

So I purchased a few from the markets & left them alone in the fruit bowl last week.

As you can see they have started to sprout from the top.

I'll leave them grow for another few days & hopefully the weather will have calmed down so I can plant them out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Going to Seed :(

With the warmer weather we've been having (27 degrees on Wednesday!), most of my winter vegies are going to seed.

Bye bye Sugarloaf cabbages....although I still may get a few.

Farewell Brussel Sprouts.....I still wouldn't have eaten them but they were for my lovely MIL.
At least the rabbit & guinea pig will appreciate them.

But at least the Broccoli are still going strong!

In the greenhouse, the seeds are starting to shoot for my Summer crops.

I'm even trying herbs from seed & no doubt I've planted far too many - at least I can give them away. Also planted marigolds & nasturtiums for a first time companion planting experiment.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fresh Vegies for Tea - Yum!

Wandered out to the patch yesterday afternoon to find these lovely vegies just waiting to be picked for tea.
Fordhook Giant Silverbeet, Sugarloaf Cabbage & Mini Cauliflower.
Can't get any fresher than this!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Big Weekend in the Garden

I spent my weekend filling these four beds with layers of autumn leaves, stable manure, lucerne hay, very old sheep manure & topsoil.
I am officially knackered after this effort!

But I couldn't rest as next came the great potato experiment.
In the top bed I laid down cardboard, placed the seed potatoes on it, covered with stable manure & lastly lucerne hay.
As the potatoes sprout they will be covered with more & more lucerne.
The bottom bed you can see had the works in terms of manures, organic matter & topsoil.
Both beds had Coliban, Nicola, Sebago & Desiree certified seed potatoes planted in them.
It will be interesting to see which bed performs the best.
Reuse & recycle is my motto.
I have used the base from an old bed as a trellis for my peas.

In front of the Melbourne Market Dwarf peas are Brocoletti & along the sides are Fordhook Giant silverbeet.

These are my favourite gardening books.

A big thanks to Frogdancer who came up with the idea to recycle empty toilet rolls by using them as seedling starters.

Fold down the 2 sides

Turn & fold down the "pointy" ends

Neaten the inside if necessary with the end of a fork/spoon/screwdriver etc.

And voila, seedling tubes ready to fill

The star of my winter garden

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Progress at last...

Finally can report progress with the big vegie patch!

On Saturday 8 of the railway sleepers were cut in half by Jon to form the ends & I used full length ones for the sides.

Quite a lot of effort to put them into place as each full one weighs between 60 & 70kg so I doubt that they will move around much.
Thank goodness for my father in law, Les - he may have turned 70 this year but is very fit & strong.

So I now have 4 8x4 foot beds that are 2 sleepers high (25cm).
The beds have been lined with the cardboard boxes that the solar panels came in last month.
Next job on the list is to lay slotted ag pipe down the middle of each bed to form a semi "wicked" effect. Other irrigation pipes will be run & Jon is going to plan how to connect them to the rainwater tank & the bore - not that he knows this yet!
Now to fill the beds I'm going to make them "No Dig" or what some people call Lasagna gardening.
Basically I will just fill them with layers of shredded newspaper, stable manure, very old lucerne hay, shredded autumn leaves (2 wool bales full), grass clippings & well rotted sheep manure. Very lucky that all but the hay was free or bartered for.
I already have a cubic metre of topsoil/garden blend but will probably need another 1 1/2 cubic metres to add to the above mix.
Then the planting can begin!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Greenhouse

I purchased the greenhouse from http://www.oldfields.com.au/treco/gh_hobby.htm in January 2008 & didn't get it set up until October 2008 due to extra hours @ work.
It has heaps of headroom being 1.96m high(especially if you are short like me) 2.59m long & 1.97m wide.

Jon bought me the outside sink & a few months ago we had power connected to it to run the pump for the homemade hydroponic unit shown below.

Not much success with this over the Summer as it was just way too hot in there, even with all the vents & louvres open. I didn't get around to putting up the metallic shade netting that goes over the entire structure but it will be a must come Summer.

A few weeks ago, Jon put 5 yabbies in the water storage/recirculation box thus venturing into aquaponics on a very small scale. The yabbies will eat the algae growth & their waste products will help provide the nutrients for the plants above.

The website below is fantastic, a wealth of information & easy to follow if anyone is curious to find out more about aquaponics


I have definitely put this idea into the basket of dreams & who knows, I might actually make it a reality.

Just have to convince the rest of the family.....

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Patch at Present...

Well this is what I've got at the moment.

In the left hand side of the tub are 4 Sugarloaf cabbages & in the right, 3 Cauliflower & 1 Brocoli.

Hiding amongst the mulch at the back are celery seedlings.

There is a mix of Sugarloaf cabbage & cauliflowers in this bed.

In the open bricks at the front are a few Forono beetroot which are supposed to be cylindrical.

Time will tell as this is the first time I've ever grown beetroot.

On left, the more advanced plants are Brussel sprouts. Now normally I would not grow these horrid nasty things but they are a special request from my mother-in-law Ann.

She is still getting her patch going & really enjoys them. Strange woman......fantastic lady but very strange!

At the back are mini cauliflower & at the front mini Leprechaun cabbages.

Next is the rhubarb that just won't quit.

Mum told me that they die down over winter & can be safely transplanted then which is what I would like to do.

Not this sucker!

I harvested about a 1/3 of it last week to stew, thought yes, it's finally going to die back.

Looking at it today, what do I find but more regrowth.......arrrgghh!

The pea patch was a bit (ok well quite a bit) late going in. I'm trialling Melbourne Market dwarf peas on a teepee/trellis.

In front of the peas are more brocoli for Jon.

Brendon reckons I can't grow enough vegies to feed 1 person let alone the 5 in our family (7 if you include Ann & her husband Les).

So I just have to prove him wrong!

Along the fence are the potatoes that I missed last harvest.
Yep they are covered in old lucerne hay to hopefully provide some protection from the frosts.
Our first one was in the 2nd week of April & there are plenty more of them to come.

You can just see their tops except for the big one on the right. It's just too big.
There are 6 more Sugarloaf cabbages towards the front & the the vine is a Sultana grape in desparate need of pruning.

Last but not least is the wasteland which will become the main summer growing area.

There will be four 8x4 raised beds constructed from railway sleepers.

Now just to enlist the aid of Brendon (19yo son)
to throw a few sleepers around.
Preferably where I need them.....hmmm... is it ok to bribe him with beer?

2010 Self Sufficiency Challenge

Have just accepted a challenge from Sara to become self sufficient in the garden for 2010 & hopefully beyond.
Now I've tried to be realistic when setting my goals as finding time will be my biggest hurdle so here goes.

From a typical suburban backyard I would like to be self sufficient with;
80% vegetables - spuds will be my downfall as we really enjoy them
15% fruit - all my trees only went in over the last 2-3 years
50% preserves/jams/sauces
50% herbs

Number one priority is to make time to garden - stop putting it off!

As for the rest

Aim 80% vegetables
Plan 1. Work out how many kg of spuds & other vegies I use a week & go from there.

2. Get a better idea of what to plant when - read Earth's Companion cover to cover as a guide/ask experienced gardeners in the area

3. Get stuck into making my 4 8x4 beds - have everything ready to go except a helping hand with the very heavy railway sleepers.
Need to recruit son.....

4. Keep a gardening diary for future reference ie what planted/when/where, frost dates, rainfall etc.

Aim 15% fruit with young (2-3 yo) Trees & first season berries.

1. Purchase more rasberries & put trellis in place before planting.

2. Plant the kiwi fruit vines (male & female) instead of just looking at them in their pots!

3. Mulch, fertilize & protect from frost

4. Learn about diseases that can affect them & prevention where possible eg curly leaf

5. Prune sultana grape in July

Aim 50% preserves/jams/sauces

Plan 1. Train my family to eat only homemade.
I am using trickery atm by decanting HM tomato sauce into existing bottles!
I will be concentrating on sauces as I am the only one who eats jam (which I've not made before but want to) & DH is the only relish eater.
I do make Worcestershire sauce but need to find recipes for thick mint sauce (have common mint growing), sweet chilli, Fountain Mustard sauce & a sweet n sour dipping sauce that they will eat. No use making heaps only to have them turn up their noses at my efforts.

I do have a headstart with 50 jars of tomato relish & 12 jars of pasta sauce that were made March 2009

50% herbs
Plan I usually use a few dried herbs & not a great variety at that.
The usual supermarket mixed herbs I get is comprised of Majoram, Sage & Thyme.
My favourite seasoning is 'Spicy BBQ' & is comprised of Salt, Garlic, Paprika, Onion, Soy Bean oil, Bell pepper, Dill Seed, Coriander, Rosemary, Chilli & Mustard seed.
So these are the herbs I will be planting.

I do use a lot of minced garlic so would like to grow enough to supply me all year round.