Monday, January 26, 2015

Mid Summer Update 2015

A week or so ago I began to sort through some of the soil from the chook pen and managed to extract a few decent wheelbarrow loads of soil which I used to pot up seedlings and the odd avocado seed or mango seed that I found along the way. This is the second time I have 'mined' the chicken yard to get soil to top up containers instead of purchasing potting mix and it works well and is already inoculated with micro-organisms, matured chicken manure and tiny, tiny immature compost worms. It's great stuff. 

What happens of course is that along with whatever I am trying to grow in the pot, dozens of 'weed' plants also pop up. This did cause some despair at first until on careful observation I realised that the majority of them we can eat ourselves and the others are great feed for the chickens. So given that most of our plantings are in containers it is not such a big call to weed them out over time - especially when I am picking and thinning out for using in salads for lunch at work.

Something of an anomaly for us this year is the noticeable absence of Monarch butterflies. Only one has been sighted to my knowledge earlier in January. Ironically, of all years, I actually have a decent supply of milkweed for the caterpillars to feed on. On the upside however is that given the plants have not been eaten bare they have managed to set a decent bunch of seed pods which I will harvest for growing out a small forest of these plants to put to good use next season.

Last week I also managed to find some sweet potatoes in the garden. Normally I dig for these around autumn but with areas of the garden dying off and drying out I decided to hunt around. If there wasn't going to be a find of any sort then I would plan to plant out the garden earlier. This was the harvest I found in one area of barely a metre squared.

I thought that this year I would train the grape vine out into the garden to help reduce the impact of the easterlies in summer. I think it has worked but probably took energy from the plant which it would have put into fruit otherwise. Despite this, the vine was covered in more bunches than I have seen previous years, as though it has established itself after nearly five years and was tapping into some reliable water supply. Our boys got stuck into the bunches that the silver-eyes didn't get to and the rest were quickly harvested by my wife to dry out into delectable little currants.

This is a scene of the mid-summer jungle. Already plants are drying out and the garden is transitioning into an autumn looking garden as the vine leaves have turned colour in this last week quite quickly and are already falling from the vine, dried, brown or golden, and ready for the compost heap.

Australia Day Harvest

After the last couple of warm days and their accompanying easterly winds I have eased off on the watering in parts of the garden to allow some of the plants to dry out so we can harvest their seeds.

This evening after the days celebratory activities there was just enough time to get into the garden and harvest some of the beans, tomatoes and lettuce. Plus cover up the one decent sunflower head that made it through the last few months so that the Red-capped Parrots don’t polish it all off in the early hours of the morning.

We have been calling upon the mains water to deliver water to parts of the garden this summer which is not a practice I like to do too often and over the last five years of living here is something we've really only done sporadically. This summer we've watered with mains more regularly and the results are much the same as other summers still. The summer conditions still dry out large areas of the garden. The more resilient areas being those where there has been a good covering of wood-chips and mulch previously and/or some serious compost areas. 

The chickens are doing well and have been supplying a regular egg or two a day on average. Enough to get us by with the odd carton purchased from friends here and there. The build up of vegetative matter from garden pruning and kitchen scraps is now due for gathering up and forming into another large compost heap ready for autumn plantings.

Large areas of the garden are now ready for clearing up and re-planting which seems rather early in the year compared to previous years when I've had tomato plants still in full swing. I missed that pleasure this year as I relied more on seedlings that came up in the garden as time really was not on my side with the regular routine of seeding which I do around August and September.

This summer I have really had to let the garden take charge of itself and simply keep the water up to it and train any stray tendrils or vines along the string or rope or cane that I have managed to put in place to guide them.

Scattered around the place are seedlings for various trees that I have started over the last few months in order to plant them out at the new garden when we move. I've had great success with wattle seeds from the trees at the back fence which I collected late last year. These will be grown and planted out and will be sacrificial trees that will be cut and mulched once they have done their job of establishing the garden soil.

Our fish have steadily died off since last winter it seems. Nearly all of our goldfish are gone now leaving only the Koi which seems a little odd. On Christmas Eve we got a bunch of yabbies for the table and we released a few into the pond to see how they would go as the marron we had did really well previously. They don't appear to be harassing the Koi at all and are more than likely doing a fine job of cleaning things up on the bottom.