Thursday, April 30, 2009

pffft. Three hours

Thinking I should rename this thing. But then again, this has been pre-identified as the lazy end of the season, maybe I'll make up for it later. I'm at twelve & a half minutes a day - in fact, most of that time has been harvesting the food. You know, it really takes time to poke those chickens enough to get them off the eggs after they've gone to bed at night.

I was expecting that we'd be getting close to the lots-of-effort-for-no-eggs time of the year. One of my friends suggested the "chicken-soup-for-winter-and-two-new-layers-for-spring" approach, but they've been craftily putting any such thoughts out of our minds with 17 eggs in the last 11 days.

Aside, since our last little chat, we've brought in 1.2kgs of Red Capsicum, a half kilo of purple beans, a few handfuls of snow pea, over half a kilo of cucumber, and dried a good half kilo of basil for winter.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Two weeks of neglect

And so we hit the cooling of motivation that is Autumn. Yeah, yeah, I know. Its been here for a while, right? But it takes a while to get through denial (Summer can't be over), anger (Stupid daylight savings!!?? Fine. Have it your way!), bargaining (Come back daylight savings! I wasn't done with you yet! Please!!) before you hit depression, and depressed I am. Its cold and dark when I leave for work, and cold and dark when I get home. We've entered the time of the year when the only time you see a garden is on the weekends, and you got to fit that in around the rest of your entire life's living that exists in those two days of the week. And I'm depressed, remember. So to hell with it!

Well its not quite like that. But the shortening daylight hours, the easter holidays and now a weekend of doing, well, not much, lets have a look at how much fun the garden was having without me.

Lets start with the legumes. Purple King beans on the left, Snow Pea on the right. Both are pretty much cruising along without my assistance. I find Snow peas, like most teenagers, tend to be a little bit stupid left to their own devices. Take these ones for example, set out the proscribed regulation distance apart, and given some plastic-coated steel rod supports to climb up. Over spring I made the mistake of only putting in supports 1.2m tall (not so much a mistake as a necessity) - which the peas promptly outgrew to their detriment, doing the 'house-of-cards thing' the first time a good puff of wind blew. So this time I gave them 2m supports. Not that it really matters, because all they're latching onto is each other. Dumb snow peas. So they have required a bit of assistance in the form of some twine to make sure they make good use of those supports. This does only take about 5mins every couple of days when they're growing. With two weeks of neglect, they did start to bend over and break under the weight of their own stupidity - but most of them weren't so far gone they couldn't be saved. Both are now starting to crop. I'll be interested to see how they go once the colder weather kicks in.

Moving on the "not - your - regular - bed - companions - dept" capsicum / carrot bed. This originally had Capsicum & Tomatoes over Spring/Summer, but the tomatoes had an untimely end while Sydney baked over Janurary. During the earlier part of the season this crop fed a biblical plague of caterpillars and other grubs, leaving hardly a tomato for the wife to throw at me for such a woeful performance (this, before we even start talking about the licorice-flavoured basil I managed to grow beside them - it was no Italian summer in our kitchen).

But sometime towards the end of summer the Capsicum flowered again, and praise the lords, all the beautiful butterflies where dead, and there was not a caterpillar to be seen. I'll try this every spring/summer now: Plant the caps in spring, let the caterpillars take the first sitting (and harvest seed from the damaged fruit), and then wait until autumn for a good crop of caps (and they're delicious, too!).

As the keen observer may have already spotted, there also appears to be some cucurbits joining the party in this bed. Its one of the many squatters that showed up on my doorstep on the back of some keen composting from last season. At first I was horrified when they started popping up like weeds in spring (and some of my contemporaries would say they were weeds) - but since all my actual attempts at cucumber failed this year, I thought I might let this one go and see how it went over autumn. Theres a few small'uns on there now, just slightly out-pacing the snails. I don't foresee many cucumber, and after last season's harvest, thats just the way everyone I know likes it.

And of course you can see a lot of healthy carrots in the foreground. They need some mulch around them. The weeds are bloody everywhere.

And we come to the brassicas. Pictured is the kale I'm growing for the first time. I'm displaying them because the skeletal remains of the broccoli is just hanging in there, and is not a pretty sight. God knows whats eating them, but they've got to have a stomach ache. I haven't lost hope yet, because the same thing happened to me last year.

And finally, lets have a look at that little pot of inspiration that makes me want to progress along to the fifth stage of dealing with tragedy: Acceptance.

Don't they look grand. I don't usual have many victories in pots, but these Pak Choy look a million bucks. I've been giving them a bit of seasol, but absolutely nothing for the last two weeks. The pot they're in is large, round and deep - and they're really happy. True, this is probably because my broccoli is acting like the hunk of meat you throw in the water to distract the piranhas. I can only hope these little guys make it to safety before the hoards of evil get hungry again. I reckon these could easily be grown on any balcony - and they grow mighty quick too.

All in all, not bad for that lengthy display of sloth. I should stay out of the garden more often.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

And the cost?

- $9 for the weed mat of awesomeness
- $15 for 250L of sugar cane mulch
- $8 for a 30kg bag of moo poo.

- Harvested the last of the honeydew
- Collected eggs... back up to 3 eggs every two days

Looking ahead:

- Lots of capsicum are ready to go
- Beans & snow peas are flowering.
- Lots of carrots have sprouted.
- Another few weeks until we have some lemons.
- Some surprise tomatoes & cucumbers have been growing.
- Kale & broccoli are on the way.

The weed fabric of Awesomeness

This weekend was a huge. While in the last week I've barely spent a total of 30 minutes in the plot - I've made up for it with a good two-and-a-half hour slog over the weekend. Naturally, however, if I'm going to invest this much time in the garden, I want to be doing something that's going to cut down the amount of time I need to keep the cogs turning.

Enter weed fabric, Stage Right.

For $9, I picked up a 10m roll of weed mat on Saturday morning. I've used similar stuff before with mixed results. For starters, the last roll I bought was woven plastic - and while it said it would let water pass through, it would mostly run off. Don't believe its evil lies! I'm sure water would run through if you say, tried to line a pool with it. This stuff however, is fabric. Oh weed fabric, where have you beeeeen all my life??!!

Why do I need weed fabric, you rightfully ask? Ok there's plenty of good reasons. But let me draw your attention to exhibit A: "The evils of modular block retaining walls". Just look at it. That shit is growing under the blocks, through the gaps and into my garden. There's grass and Pennywart invading en masse. Given my time again, I would have lined the inside of the wall with said weed fabric of awesomeness, but alas, to do so now would be a far greater investment of time (and disruption to yonder citrus' roots) than I care to give. So I intend to lay it over the top.

First of all though (and most importantly, mind you), to save time later I'm going to give my Orange trees a good feed before I lay the weed fabric of awesomeness down. Today I'm spreading a bag of enriched moo poo around the drip line of the trees, with some slow-release citrus food and finally some blood and bone (with added potash goodness).

Scooping the old sugar cane mulch to the side, I've tried to pull out as much of the invading platoon of life-sucking useless weeds as possible. I'll want this mulch later; because its broken down quite considerably - its rich and moist - its almost compost. But let me sing the praises of sugar cane mulch another day.

I've laid the weed fabric of awesomeness out on the garden bed in place. Let me show you some of its finer qualities. Not only does it not have the same water-phobia that historically the plastic variety has, it's really easy to pin stakes down through it. In this case, I've put my water-spikes through it into the ground, as well as the stakes I have guiding my beloved Orange trees to the heavens. Best of all, they drive through tight on the edges of the newly formed hole, so there's no space for anything to grow through (Well, ok - that remains to be seen. Ya know what they say - Evil slips through.)

The excess can be tucked under the top row of blocks (well, there are some saving graces of modular blocks). While I'm sure I could leave it just as it is, there's a number of problems (other than the weed fabric of awesomeness wanting to embrace its freedom, and take flight on the next liberating gust of wind). First of all, it's black - and I'm not so sure baked citrus roots it going to be useful or tasty. Also, the goodness of being porous and letting the soil breathe probably also means that some light is getting through. Now. Let me tell you about your run-of-the-mill grass and Pennywart. They're tough bastards. Yes, they're going to go a little yellow, but on that little bit of light, they're going to continue to suck the life out of my soil like the cold blooded vampires they are. So I'm going to cover the lot with some fresh sugar cane mulch. It's going to keep everything looking consistent, its going to make more compost, and most importantly its going to put those few extra nails in.

And hey presto. The garden has been weeded. Hopefully - permanently. Now all I need to do is water in all the goodness (with some added Epsom salts for sweetness), and we're done here.