Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy little Grass Pigs

Happy guinea pigs. Nothing a good feed of grass and a small handful of cape gooseberries can't fix when you've been kept from roaming the garden for a few days.

Odd as a Frog

Yesterday my wife delivered a bucket of tadpoles and frog-lets to the house door. Rescued from a fate no tadpole should face. I put them in the spare little pot pond which was emptied of its fish as I had put them in with the water chestnuts to keep the mosquitoes under control. Very happy tadpoles.

Which had me wondering where last years frogs got to. We'd heard calls but they seemed further away and I hadn't seen them anywhere in the garden for months. Even after shifting all the garden when I put the raised garden bed in and retaining wall.

This morning I helped my brother over at his farm house garden which has become over-run with weeds. I pondered the plight of the frogs as it was about this time last year that we had got tadpoles from the cattle trough.

When I got home I backed the trailer up and had some morning tea and a wander around the garden and much to my surprise, there was a frog in the pond. Much larger as a good winter of slugs and bugs would make your average garden frog, sitting on the edge of a pot. Wonderful. Alive.

So, at least one of last years frogs is still around and we have some new ones on the way.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Broad bean eaters - who? where?

As thick as thieves this little couple. I'm sure Jaz is the better one at getting to the stuff and Maiki just loves to tag along and hide when she can. Here they are feasting on a couple of broad bean leaves that are over-hanging from the hedge garden. . . obviously just a little too enticing to resist.

Spot the Guinea Pig

There is munching and crunching from under the Cape Gooseberry bush. Rustling leaves and odd little cheeky sounds. Can you spot the guinea pig? Jaz is there, trust me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jennifer Aniston - The clucky chook

This is a little sampling of some of the gifts were receive each day from the gals down the back corner. The top egg is a light brown and is from Penny. The large white is from our big black Australorp, Stella. And the little one on the right is from our newest hen, Clarice.

Jennifer Aniston has been laying, but has recently gone a bit clucky and is refusing to get off the nest. The next step might be to give her a bit of a holiday. One more day of nesting.

Can you see that look of utter determination in her eye. It tells the whole story. I am not budging!


Not all the flowers are outside at this time of the year. These orchids were forming their beautiful flowers through the chilly nights of winter and opened near the end of August. I moved them inside around that time and put them in a bit more of a warmer spot to nurture them a little more.

These will need separating out next season so I will need to learn more about them as I really like to have them around. These plants were given to us from a garage sale, so they were a bit of a surprise really.

Spring Blossom

The nectarine tree is doing well also. After being sprayed a few weeks back there doesn't seem to be anywhere near the curly-leaf on it this year. I removed a few leaves today and some a few days ago, but the blossoms are out in full swing and the hail has kept away - which is what knocked them off last year. The extra rain we've had has helped too I think.

Like the apricot tree, I also have high hopes for the nectarine and wish to see it fruit this year. I has grown from a seed of a grafted tree that had two different nectarine varieties, so I am curious as to what it might be.

The nectarine was the first to flower last year, closely followed by the apricot and yet this year the apricot has nearly completed its flowering and the nectarine was sprouting leaves before the blossoms opened, whereas the apricot is really only now sprouting its leaves. It will be interesting to see what happens next year.

It's an exciting time of the garden year to have these trees that I have nurtured from seeds open their blossoms. Beautiful.

The Lemon & The Lime

The lemon and the lime were talking to me. "Get us out of this pot!!"

I can understand why. They were almost pot-bound with the parsley plants growing alongside them. Long, long tap roots of parsley were cramping the pots. Two things to learn. Citrus don't like being cramped in with other plants and if parsley has such a long, long tap root it is clearly pulling nutrients out of the soil and a decent depth and so should be IN THE SOIL!

So, not only did I take the plunge and plant the lemon & the lime into the garden bed, but I also made two nice little timber borders for them to keep them separated from the border plantings of .... parsley. Some of which I had pulled out of the aquaponics system because I figured that a plant with such a long tap root would be wasted in the confines of the grow beds, which are not quite 30 cms deep.

Its been just over a week since I planted the trees out and so far they are doing well and with the several days of consistent rain over the last weekend they appear to be holding onto the fruit that is forming. As is the apricot tree - which is very exciting!

The Blue Gate

Penny Chook Chook was not happy after I put her and the girls back into the straw yard after so much freedom while I worked in the garden over my holidays. It took her a little while to settle back into being in the pen again.

They really turned the garden over, which was good. The spinach took a real beating but I transplanted them into other areas of the garden to get leaves off them later for the chooks. I have also planted a lot more seeds of spinach so I have extra for the chooks.

Following the last few days of rain the garden has had another growth explosion with the borage, nasturtiums and garlic really taking off. The banana is looking happier also, especially with the warmer weather encroaching.

Oh, and the choko has really taken off from its root stock from last year. In fact, it never really totally died down over winter and has just taken off again. I also have a white flesh one that I want to grow this year.

The sunflower seeds have all sprouted and there are small seedlings reaching for the sky already. I will wait until they form a little more before planting them out in masses. I have some Russian Sunflower seeds (Giant Russian) I am also growing this year and after planting some into a pot and having the chooks take a liking to them I figure I should also have plenty spare to feed the chooks too.

Might as well make up to them for locking them back in the pen!

Hedge Gardens - letting the plants do their own thing.

At the border of the new garden bed is a bit of extra garden area that I have decided to keep as a hedge garden where I can put all the flowering plants and odds and ends and really just let them do their own thing. It's a mix of bulbs, herbs like rosemary, lavendar and borage, daisies, grasses, the cape gooseberry (which is pictured below), sugar cane, and at the end it is finished off with the banana.

The bed near the chook pen has garlic and sweet peas with a healthy cover of nasturtiums at the moment which is sheltering it all and keeping some of the peas supported. In time this will be removed and added to the compost. It is also camouflaging the other crop of broad beans from the wandering eye of the guinea pigs who have still not found it or been able to reach it. This is a good thing as you can see from the other crop of broad beans near the borage plants that they got into when the barricades fell in windy weather.

The guinea pigs enjoyed the broad beans. So far the rest of the beans have not been reached or discovered.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Work In Progress

My garden has turned into an obsession.

It's crazy. But its getting closer to where I would like it. After moving the lemon tree and lime yesterday to new, sunny spots in the garden beds with their own little patches I planted out the italian parsley from the wine barrels. I was amazed that the roots went so far down. I'm sure if put in the ground the actual tap roots of the parsley would go nearly a metre! So I have decided that they will be of more benefit planted in the garden than pots. And it's a wonder that the lemon and lime survived with the limited nutrients.

So now they are all planted out in the larger garden bed on the sunny side of the house. The lemon, the lime, some parsley plants and 160 cloves of garlic with a couple of freesias thrown in for something pretty to look at.

The aquaponics system is testing me. I replaced the watering pipe to the garden beds today with pvc and just had the water running through holes. It worked a little better, but I had to also face up to the conclusion that on paper the pump I got is capable of what they say it is, but in reality, I really need a bigger pump.

It's working alright at the moment, but nowhere near where I would like it to be. Still I look for a solution...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Early September Update

It's all been happening.

Lots happening.

Firstly I have wanted to reclaim my shed and get all the STUFF out and have some SPACE. But not without cleaning out under the house and creating some space for some of the stuff.

And it wouldn't be as easy to do all of the under the house part without using some of it to do the retaining wall which was going to be needed at the back of the block to: Stop earth piling up against the fence and create more garden space.

So, the wall came first. And I also did under the house where and when I could to make the most of the wet days and do other things out in the garden on the dry days. I put slabs under the house and made what has been affectionately called "The Man Cave" where I will plant seedlings and pot up plants for the garden.

I have also been tinkering with the aquaponics set-up as the water is still doing more filling in some beds and less filling in others. I think I'm nearly there. The water is clearing and the fish seem happy.

So this grunting, digging and shifting heavy stuff has been going on for the last week starting with picking up the sleepers from the sawmill last Monday.

I also replaced the fencing wire to the chook yard and planted out pepino cuttings to wind through it as the chooks don't seem to peck the leaves of the pepino that much. I have plans to move the meyer lemon out of its pot and plant it into the garden where it will hopefully thrive a little more. It has fruit forming on it at the moment.

The wall took the best part of a day to put up, most of the time being the foundation laying before putting the sleepers in position. Then I deliberated on how to make raised garden beds out of the spare sleepers and in the end decided on a plain rectangle shaped garden bed coming out the width of the chook fence. This left a small edge garden along the cement edging where I had the inspired idea of leaving the grasses that seem to have thrived there and made it a real hedge garden of flowers and herbs and grasses that will eventually mask the sleepers and create a natural-looking fence to the vege garden beds behind.

So I began liberating spring bulbs from their pots and strikings of rosemary and borage seedlings that were coming up in random spots of the garden. There is still a large cape gooseberry bush which is doing really well as it was getting water from an over-flow pipe. This water was also helping out the broad beans planted nearby. Because it worked so well I have left the pipe there and built the wall around it.

Likewise with the kitchen water soak. The garden is chock-full of worms in that area and I have extended the pipe to carry water a little further from where the sleepers are, to another area where I can keep the system going and probably much better.

In the low, far corner I have mainly planted exotics that I had no real purpose for but which have made, collectively, a nice little jungle corner. The pond is still leaking but I have not ventured into it to any extreme as the pond is likely to get an overhaul at some stage. I do need to do something to with the water chestnuts which I took out of the pond and have now just started to sprout through the earth brand new little shoots.

As usual for this time of the year the nasturtiums have taken over the garden but I welcome this as it keeps the soil moist and shaded and makes great compost later on. Actually, the soil in the back garden where the trees where is fantastic! I have added to it when we first moved in sheep manure and trailer loads of horse manure which has helped somewhat, but by far I think the biggest asset to the quality of the soil has been newspaper and cardboard. Placed in sheets with thin layers of soil in between the worms just flock to the stuff and have made it over the last eighteen months a really wonderful, dark, rich, friable soil.

It has worked so well that I anticipate using as much paper as possible to build this soil up further as I now have another foot or two of soil depth to add in order to "fill" the raised garden. So over time I will leave areas in fallow and add plenty of shredded newspaper and layered cardboard.

In other areas of the garden where paper has not been covered over or has been disturbed by the chooks scratching about, the slugs and snails have gravitated to it and it has made it easy to collect them and put them into the fish tank with the perch. Happy Perch!

The odd bail of hay or pea straw has been put into the back garden too, but it is newspaper that has added the very friable, moisture holding properties of the soil as I can see what the worms have done to it in areas where I know I have placed large quantities of either paper or cardboard.

The apricot tree is now dotted with bright, white flowers and is being visited by busy bees. Only just today did I notice the greenery starting to bud out also. The nectarine flowered at the same time last year as the apricot but has instead this year starting shooting leaves at the lower branches and stem and today has pushed out flower buds which perhaps will open tomorrow, or maybe appear overnight. I will see.

The banana palm is doing well, now that it has tapped into the water supply of the worm bed and is not seeking out sun between the trees. In fact, the whole garden has benefited from the removal of the mallees though it remains to be seen what impact this will have during summer when the trees also shaded the back garden bed from the sun directly above.

In expectation of this - and because I now have the space - I have planted sunflower seeds and corn to create a bit of summer shade for some of the other crops. The timing of this larger garden also coincides with my desire to plant out as many of the seeds that I can that I have this year, so as to get newer seed stock from them. Not to mention a heap of seeds from the Diggers club.

I should also mention that over the last few weeks of holidays the chooks have had the run of the garden and have stripped the silverbeet plants of leaves and raked the soil over very well. They weren't keen when I put them back into the pen but seem to have settled in more now and the new little orpington has settled in and is regularly laying eggs.