Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday on the plot

It was a beautiful day today; and there are so many wondrous things going on in the Plot. I am loving this time of year.

Today was the first time in a few weeks I really had any length of time to spent out in it; and it put on such a show. While I've been out of town in the last week, my orange trees put on so much new grown I almost didn't recognise them.

The plums have put on heaps of growth; its a luscious green that gives the orchard a real glow. I took a few minutes to remove the growth below the main branches so the tree doesn't get distracted putting in effort where it ain't wanted. Surprisingly enough, the Mariposa is covered in fruit - I say surprisingly because the Satsuma hasn't blossomed, and I'm not aware of any other plum trees in the neighbourhood. But in any case, off they come! I really want to get some height and form in the trees this year, and growing fruit is no way to achieve that. I must have removed almost sixty of the little pests.

The apple trees awoke while I was away, and new shoots are starting to appear on all of them. The potted pinkebelle is the furthest along, and shooting from the top (pictured right) - its a columular apple, so I imagine this means its going to put on a bit more height.

With the storms rolling in this afternoon, I took the oppertunity to get a few new things in the ground, and let warm spring rain water them in (I love working in the spring/summer rain - it has such a beautiful fresh smell to it). Got some purple king beans and snow peas sown directly into one bed - these are two work horses for us; they've never failed to grow for me any time of the year, they preserve easily, and I get very few pests on them (the biggest "pest" on the snow peas is the wife, who usually eats them straight off the plant after work in the afternoon, before the hard working gardener gets home). We very rarely have to buy either these days.

I also planted out some seedling that I prepared earlier, as it were. This is the first time I've used some seed-raising mix instead of my own mix of compost and soil - I figured a bag of the stuff is on the cheap side, and lasts a while, so I'd give-it-a-go. I have to say, I'm pretty happy with what I see. These guys came up faster and bigger than I'm used to, and I think I'll be using the rest of the bag. Check out that root development!

This year i've got a variety of cucurbits to keep my trees company: butternut pumpkin, buttercup pumpkin, black beauty zucchini and our ol' favourite, the honeydew. The butternut pumpkin I've grown from seed saved from a store-bought specimen; so I don't yet know how it will turn out. In previous years, I've had very good results from store-bought honeydew. This year, I'm using seeds saved from last years fruits. The buttercup and the black beauty I picked up from diggers.

Pumpkin is a big strategical change for us; we only started eating it this year, and my understanding is that pumpkin keeps forever (well, figuratively speaking). This is wonderful; because I can grow lots of them and save on the shopping bills for a long time. The only problem I have to overcome now is finding enough places to grow them.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Weed fabric and... toilet rolls.

With great sadness, I must today start by describing the slow, but terrible demise of this blog's protagonist, the plot, over the passing months. It has been a time of great upheaval; mountains (of dirt) have risen and fallen, once lush grasses have at times been replaced by a boggy swamp. And with commitments elsewhere; the plot has fallen upon dark times. My old nemesis' have re-captured all the territories I strive to banish them from.

But let us not forget that good usually triumphs over evil, and that this story will have a happy ending. Enter, weed fabric of awesomeness.

You might have heard me preach the good word of said weed fabric in previous posts. And not least of all because it is awesome. But it has saved me loads of time over the last few months. I laid it around my citrus trees earlier in the year, and I've hardly had to weed the whole area since. Its now time to find a way to apply this beautiful principal to the rest of the plot.

I've picked up four ten-metre by 1.2-metre rolls of the mat for the job; at a cost of roughly $10 each. You might think that $40 is a big outlay for your average vege patch - but I plead that you stop and think about the worth of your own time. I can tell you now, the hours of work this expenditure will save me is worth far more than a measly couple of twenties. And four rolls isn't going to just cover the patch; its going to cover all of my orchard, too. For a long time.

I can't express enough that you must buy the weed fabric; and not the woven plastic mat. The plastic mat is somewhat water retardant; while the weed fabric lets the water soak right through; and will break down nicely into the soil over time.

But how, might you ask, do you apply a sheet mulch to a vege patch? I struggled with this very idea for a long while, but I think I finally have a solution to put into place. You see, I've heard a lot of people mention in the passing months that a really good use of old toilet rolls is as a container for sowing seeds. When you're ready to plant them out, you just stick the whole thing in the ground, and let the container break-down in the soil. Sounds great right?

The natural progression of this idea is to use it in conjunction with the weed fabric. I'm going to lay the whole plot with the fabric, then cut small incisions at intervals. Then I'm going to plant whole toilet-rolls into the mat; thus holding the mat off the plants, and leaving a minimal space for any weeds to germinate. In some beds, I'm going to sow seeds direct into the soil, and still use the same idea - use the toilet roll as protection, and plant the seed in the middle.

Two weeks on, and the corn loves it:

Now I know by this stage you must be sick of hearing about my weed fabric; so let me assure you, there are new adventures to embark upon! They're in the planning, and will be coming very soon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ecobags rock my world

Its not too often I come across a product that rates so well, that it requires a redefinition of the awesome scale. But this weekend just gone I had the honour of working with such a product.

Its called the Ecobag - and on a scale of one to awesome; its like, twelve awesomes. The Ecobag is a twenty-five litre bladder that sits flat to the ground around your tree & drips a slow but constant flow of water at the base of the tree. But, there's more! It also inhibits weed growth around the neck of the tree - one of the few short-comings of the weed-fabric of awesomeness (the edges tend to loose most arm-wrestling matches with things like Kikuyu). Of course, you can see where I'm going with this: The combination of the Ecobag and the weed-fabric, you've got a combination so legendary that had they been around in ancient times, Homer would have needed to write another ballad. At a cost of about $12, and $21 in combination with a roll of weed fabric, saving time never cost so little.

So lets look at the applications.

In the remaining bed of the orchard, I'm rather hoping that one day I'll be able to have a 1,000L aquaponics tank. That means I'd like all the plants in this bed to be renters, not buyers. So I'm leaving my citrus potted & sinking the pots below the level of the ground. With time constraints, I've always had a lot of trouble keeping my pots adequately watered, fertilised and weeded. Rollout the red carpet, and blow the trumpets! The Bag will do all three.

In the top bed previously featured with the weed-fabric; I've done just what I described previously, and used it to cover the remaining open area with something some determined weeds can't push out the way. Lets see evil get around this one. But also pretty importantly, I won't need to worry quite so much about these trees when I go traveling for weeks in the height of summer.

So make the best decision you've made in a while; and get yourself some of these!