Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not bad, them chickens.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Potted Mango

A few years back, my sister kindly gifted me a Bowen mango tree for Christmas. I remember being quite perplexed by it - not knowing exactly where I'd put it. If you don't know, the Bowen is a variety of mango you'd regularly see in the tropics growing to a size that would put Jack's Beanstalk to shame. Big trees mean deep roots, so the most compelling showstopper was that my yard is a light dusting of topsoil over a rock outcrop, and I couldn't dig a hole half as deep as the initial root-ball anywhere on my block without some serious pneumatics and a lot of diesel. These roots weren't going to be going anywhere.

But I'm never one to miss an opportunity, and certainly not one so nicely given as this. So I thought I'd try an experiment that I'm certain no-one else has been crazy enough to do (or admit): growing a mango tree in a pot. I've kept it fed and watered as much as laziness will allow: a healthy diet of moo poo, slow release fertiliser, worm castings (usually about once every two months) and worm juice (whenever else I have time). Its generally grown about a foot each summer, and I've yet to hear a complaint from it.

And I'm pleased to say the enterprise paid dividends last night when we tucked into our first Mango. Thanks Big Sis!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Slug fortifications

If you were ever a kid, chances are at some point or another you've built, modified, and defended a fort. You'll have laughed. You'll have cried. Sometimes because your mum wanted the cushions back. Sometimes because your brother turned your fairy castle into one. And sometimes because your wife just didn't share your enthusiasm about those ramparts you're building in the backyard. For the record, I don't currently fall into that last category, even though the wife does sometimes refer to me as her child (or the garden beds as ramparts).

But deep inside my love of forts is as strong as ever, and so today I'd like to share with you my most recent undertaking: slug fortifications.

If you've been following, you'll know well enough that over the last few years I've tried just about every technique of slug genocide known to man (like here or here). But lets face it, there are some things you just can't change, control or eradicate - and sometimes I realise that.

So I've taken a span of 100mm PVC pipe and given it the chop into 12cm lengths. That gives you the basic structure of the fort, but its still needs defenses. Around the top end of each fort (I'll let you figure out which end is the top) I've wrapped some adhesive copper tape - which I'm told by the experts gives slugs something like an electric shock. I work the forts into the soil to a depth about 5cm, filling the remaining internal space with some of the surrounding soil. Then the surrounding mulch covers up to just below the level of the copper.

This is the second crop of purple king beans I've planted inside the fortifications. I also successfully used them to plant pumpkin and zucchini over summer. I'm so confident with this method now, I'm telling you about it! While the size of those plants soon has them spilling beyond the walls of safety, it hardly matters because a bit of slug damage on a mature plant is hardly catastrophic. What's important is getting the plants passed the point where a bit of munching will kill them. I can only hope this leaves the slugs to attack the new growth of all the things I don't want growing in the vege patch.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Preparing for beans

So it was a less than spectacular summer. Time to move on.

 This week I'm getting things ready for autumn crops, and top of the list is beans. The wife loves beans, and is by far one of the worst garden pests when it comes to getting them to the table - because they rarely make it much further from the vine than her mouth. Luckily, her one-for-the-pot-one-for-me attitude rarely causes a problem when they're cropping well (and it keeps her cookie-munching habit at bay). But the last two attempts at growing them have been less than spectacular for one reason or another, and we need a good crop in autumn to stock the freezer again.

The first job is to get their new home ready for them. I'm putting the beans where I had zucchini over summer, and even on my small rotation of garden beds, its been over a year since I planted beans here. I got a head start by releasing a few over-enthusiastic chooks into the foray for some advanced weeding

Then yesterday I got things rolling by raking all the mulch left over from summer to one side. With only about 25% of it broken down over the last three months, there's a reasonable amount for the next three. On the cleared side of the bed I took care of the remaining weeds, then dumped a bagload of moo poo and a generous amount of blood and bone. After turning it into the soil, I've shifted the mulch and repeated the proceedure on the other side.

I use a sheet of 100mm welded mesh for climbing-bean support - It gets rotated around the beds as needed, attaching to brackets that quite obviously aren't there for the asthetic appeal. These days I lean this trellis slightly so that its easier to weed along the fenceline - and to pick beans that hang away from the angle. I'll be growing the Purple King variety of climbing beans on this.

Next I have two sheets of 10mm avairy wire attached to steel stakes, which I've driven in towards the back of the bed on the southern side(so as not to shade everything else). I found these perfect for Snow Peas last spring, the thinner wire just the right thickness for them to grab hold.

Covering the shortfall of mulch, I'm pretty much ready for the beans later in the week.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This year's champion: Jalapenos

Every season you get winners and losers. And sometimes you get champions. By that, I mean your freezer is full of them. You eat them in every meal. Your friends are sick of you trying to offload the excess glut onto them. Even the chickens won't touch them any more.

If you've ever grown food at home, you know what I'm talking about. Its happened to you. You say, plant a single cucumber and everything around it dies, leaving the plant to grow to humongous proportions and produce enough fruit to feed a small nation.

Just for the record - I don't grow cucumber any more.
I've learned my lesson.

This year however, we have enough jalapenos for a record attempt on the world's largest burrito. I planted four seedlings in my herb garden about three months ago which have received only occasional love from the watering can, and later on, a decent amount of scaffolding to prevent the plant from falling over under the weight of the fruit.

It's a stark contrast to last summer when a mystery animal tasted the fruit, but had sufficiently little gray matter to forget about the burn before it went for the next one. And the next one. Ooooo and just one more. This seems to implicate a possum, but whoever the culprit, I can't imagine what it must have been like for it the following morning. A permaculturist might say you should always expect to share some with the wildlife - but sometimes that's just cruel.

Thankfully the wife discovered in previous years that chillis preserve quite well when frozen, and will keep a good twelve months or so. But now the freezer is filling fast, I'm starting to think about other things we can do with them. Anyone got a good pickled chilli recipe?