Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January's Jungle

The sweet peas are in full swing now. A couple of bunches have been picked over the last few weeks to bring inside and to give to friends and family. They have a beautiful perfume and vivid colour.

The photo below was taken in early December. Within a matter of weeks the garden is now a jungle of pumpkin vines and zucchini bushes. Beans and peas and cucumbers.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Delayed Gratification

The beloved little Kale plant pictured above has done us well over the two years its been in the garden. It is the last of its kind and I am hoping that eventually it will produce seeds to carry on the good will.

Just prior to Christmas it was heavily, HEAVILY, invested with Cabbage Moth caterpillars. This is when the photo was taken. I was taking off about a dozen caterpillars morning and night for a couple of days and feeding them to our Japanese Quail. Quality nutrition.

This year I have not sprayed for the usual caterpillar onslaught as I have not made the time and have not felt a compelling need as our boys have happily been plucking caterpillars also and feeding them to the animals. And what a year not to spray. I have never seen so many cabbage moths in our garden. In the early days of January you could look out to the garden on a sunny morning and the air was full of a couple of dozen of fluttering white wings.

I also have in the back of my mind a ticking curiosity to see just what might happen if I don't spray. What is nature going to do? In this case, what might happen was already happening. By the time I had noticed the dozens of caterpillars clinging to the kale I also noticed the presence of tiny wasps. They were already working on the job themselves.

Whilst munching into the kale the caterpillars produce blends of volatile chemicals. These chemicals attract parasitic wasps. The wasps lay eggs in the caterpillars and the eggs hatch inside the caterpillars and devour their hosts from the inside. When they finally mature, the parasitic wasps emerge, killing the caterpillars in the process. It is this rather insidious method that is employed by the wasps that helps to control numbers of the butterfly and reduce further egg-laying and development of more hungry caterpillars on our kale and in the garden in general.

The most astounding observation however was just how rapidly the kale bounced back from this apparent trauma. Within a week its crown was flush with new, bright green growth whilst further down its branches the last dormant remains of dying caterpillars released unto the garden a new generation of wasps to do the work I have not managed.

And here is the catch.

By spraying our gardens we might eliminate the caterpillars in their early stages of development - but what then are these parasitic wasps going to feed on? We've eliminated a potential food supply for them.

We were able to feed our quail and chickens, plus several generations of these tiny, tiny wasp that leverage the work of reducing caterpillars. Our kale has bounced back and with any luck after the experience will finally decide to share some seed!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Going Deeper

For a time - a whole lot of time in fact, I have been wanting to verbalize and record some of the journeys that my mind has been on over the last year or more. I think I am ready to do this. But it has been occurring to me to do so within the context of my blog - which sometimes has seemed odd to me because I've not always seen the connection between my thoughts - and my blog on our garden and permaculture journey.

I can see the connection now.

So I am back.

And I have some opinions.

And thoughts.

And I've made some connections.


I'm ready to share.

Stand by...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Tillellan Update

The pile of woodchips has been sitting for nearly two years and getting richer and darker. The worms really got into it around autumn and have broken quite a bit of the leaf matter down into a dark, damp soil.

The grass has also encroached over the pile to take advantage of the smorgasbord of nutrients and moisture that is available. I have mined some of this mulch to add to our garden at Petit Paradis for the summer garden. I am somewhat confident that it will assist in holding water in the container gardens - how successfully I am not sure. Even an average summer in Albany with the January easterlies can suck moisture from the garden regardless of summer rains.

While I was bagging some of this magnificent soil I was contemplating the future garden at the Tillellan site. Renovation works started about two weeks ago. Excavation works for the back retaining wall will start soon hopefully, as there are the lumber remnants of the trees that stood on the back of the block to bury into swales. The excavator operator does not yet know of the pivotal part he will play in the future garden. But the builder has been briefed on what is to come.

As far as a design for the garden is concerned I have moved away from the initial design I had envisioned for several years. I will need to meet the families food needs whilst also allowing for the increasing amount of room required for the increasing numbers of animals. Plus allow for the possibility of a future residence at the very back of the block, which was part of the initial plan and was to come first. In the first instance, we are now focussing on the renovation first so that we can move in, and then the possible second residence.

Monday, September 5, 2016

So, what's been going on?

Life has remained very busy since the previous post (in January!) but I have some time to make a bit of an update in anticipation of our project getting underway very shortly with the start of the house renovation.

Last summer came and went without too much attention to the garden so for this summer I am gearing up for the eventual move to the new house and the setting up of the garden there.

More recently we have been sorting through boxes and boxes of my MIL's lifetime of accumulation of stuff. Not such an easy feat with young family and work. Gradually the clutter is clearing and there is a rather large pile of 'material' that is ready for burying. Quite literally it will be buried as part of the new garden. There has been so much paperwork to sort through and deal with that anything that will benefit the soil in its decomposing I have put aside to bury rather than fill out our bins.

A part of the garden as it was at the end of winter.

I managed to get some time in our garden here (PP) the other week and found a few casualties from the last couple of months. A few neglected plants that have survived (just) and some that are thriving. I planted out seeds after sorting through the collection and prioritising  those that are going to need planting out this season to keep viable seeds.

Our two female rabbits will hopefully have young soon after having visited a friend's place recently. Part of my time in the garden was spent getting the animal hutches set up for summer so they can be fed and checked easily.

Once again, to make the most of our small space I am planning lots of vertical gardening this spring and summer to allow for food production and seed saving. Much of this is still to be set up, but I hope that this years garden will match previous years where the garden is bursting with plant and animal life.

Our boys are finding the garden space very entertaining at the moment and now that there is deck space to play they are also making the most of it. We had the rabbits on the deck for a while to nurture them and observe them. Now that they are back in the garden we have our 'outdoor room' back.