Growing organic vegetables has been a great deal of fun, not to mention putting really fresh food on the table for a couple of lively pensioners.
But using GrowCover on various frames and hoop houses has made it a whole lot more satisfying and installing raised beds has made a big difference to my ageing back.
I'm learning to be more patient and more observant. I take more notice of the change in seasons and the variations between years. I am more likely to take a good look at the insects I still can't identify - I just like to keep them off my veggies if they see them as a good feed. I am not very charitable when I see snails and slugs either.
I watch my water use carefully as we are not on scheme water but only have water restrictions if our water tanks run low.
I feel very privileged to have this time to grow with my garden and our salad lunches with home made bread are a pure delight!
Web Weaver and Gardener
The Veggiepatch garden year
My garden diary has notes and photos of my activities in the veggie garden over a few years.I hope you find it of some interest...... and many thanks to all of our customers who have send updates on their own gardens.
My vegetable garden was developed from bush land in the lower south west of Western Australia. We have a 'mediterranean' climate. Work on the garden was started in January 2004.
To improve the acid sandy soil I added sea weed, manures, paper, mushroom compost, garden compost, sawdust, garden mulch, rock dust, zeolite,blood and bone and dolomite at various times. I think gardening for me is as much art as science so I keep experimenting as well as trusting my gut feelings. I've made mistakes and learnt heaps.
By using crop rotation and growing a mix of herbs and vegetables together, the garden has become very productive without using any pesticides or herbicides. The icing on the cake was the discovery ofGrowCover insect netting for row covers to help protect my plants from pests and harsh weather, and I haven't looked back since. It's great stuff, any veggie gardener or organic grower should give it a try.
In case you are wondering, all the photos used in the veggiepatch we site were taken in my own garden or sent to us by our customers.
The local birds, lizards and frogs enjoy it too. We even discovered a long necked turtle one day! I think she was looking for a safe place to lay her eggs. We had a tiger snake after heavy rain one Christmas taking refuge in our roof space. We just hoped it would go somewhere else pretty quickly.
Emu dad and three chicks came to visit (and ate my young apples)
Over a number of years my veggie patch has undergone various tansformations, from growing anything anywhere to a more orderly collections of raised beds. This is kinder on my back, easier to harvest veggies and replenish the beds with compost etc after harvesting.
This seasons small tomatoes are the best flavour I can remember. The crop started late, well into January because I was late getting my seedlings started in Spring. Every year I choose the best, ripest tomatoes and save the seeds. They have now become my personal heirlooms, about 10 continuous seasons at least.
Last summer I was plagued with white fly and they are still around, but apart from making my whole garden fallow for autumn I don't know what I can do. The kale was abundant, far more than we needed, but in it's maturity it became infested with aphids so I pulled it all out.
I didn't plan my rotational planting too well and we ran out of lettuce, though rocket has been a good substitute and there were plenty of beans and carrots. I just need to master the art of growing capsicums and onions.
The new apple trees had a few fruit developing until we had a visit from an Emu and his three chicks. I know they love plums and blackberries but add apples to that list now. I will have to remember to cover them next year - with guess what!
We are still eating well despite all these setbacks and it's time to be ruthless and clear out some beds ready for autumn planting.
It has been a busy and sometimes difficult year. Busy because our customers love the GrowCover and gardening and the arrival of our new frame kits. We get many questions about all these and enjoy giving our suggestions and help.
The difficult bit is about getting older and having to cope with the health issues life throws at us.
I couldn't do much gardening for about three months whilst recovering from some surgery and that was very distressing. We still managed to have some healthy veggies growing for our meals, just not so much to give away.
The garden had a bad infestation of whitefly that affected the leaves of zucchinis, beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. We still had a reasonable crop of to eat, the plants just looked awful and I felt quite embarrassed.
I found the whitefly also loved the pelargoniums too. I pulled out a mass of them at the beginning of summer to clean up for the fire season. The re growth is amazing and the whitefly seem to think it's heaven - so it just has to go until I can rid the garden of the pests.
On the plus side I grew a fantastic crop of broad beans (which freeze well) and garlic that should keep us going for the rest of the year. I've been slicing and drying some because last year the garlic started sprouting before we had have time to use them all up. Abundance of small tomatoes too, so have frozen and dried those.
I ate a commercial tomato on a trip up to Perth. Now I know why I grow my own and would rather go without than buy any.
My young grandson ( aged 11) loves garlic so I gave him some to plant in his own garden this year with instructions to add plenty of manure and keep them weed free.
I must get my own crops planted soon. The time is about right and we have had rain.
I planted kale, lettuce, radish, coriander, chard and spinach seeds in raised bed just a week ago and they were coming up beautifully, next time I looked they had all gone, eaten by slaters. Grrr!
I found a suggesting for dealing with the problem. I put little tubs containing a solution of yogurt into the garden bed ( two tablespoons of yogurt mixed with half a cup of water). The slaters seem to love the stuff and I am collecting a huge number of them, including very small ones.
I know they are not supposed to eat plants and eat dead plant matter in preference. I am happy for them to live in my compost heap, but eating my tiny seedlings is just not on. Will replant seeds in a little while and see if the reduced numbers of slaters will let me grow seedlings again in that bed.
A tough summer and a bush fire threatening our home
has made the changing season and the first rains more than welcome.
Whether it was the effect of La Niña or too little rain, a fault in my reticulation system, the wrong or insufficient nutrients or something else I just do not know, but my summer crops did not do well this year.
The zucchinis failed to produce any reasonable fruit and many yellowed and were oddly shaped - usually we can't give them away fast enough, climbing beans fruited briefly before something ate though the base of the stems, tomatoes usually bountiful from January to May produced less than a quarter of their normal crop.
I did learn the lesson that allowing the self seeded tomatoes to grow unrestrained in the bed where I planted egg plant and capsicum seedlings resulted in them being effectively smothered. Since removing the tomatoes the eggplant and capsicums have been flowering and I do have some fruit- probably too late for the egg plants though.
Despite these set backs I have been busy installing raised beds as an easier way to garden with an ageing back and arthritis. Tom Keller, a local guy from www.crowea.com/gardensystem has started making these raised beds in kit form from colorbond with untreated jarrah trim and I love them. He is using our GrowCover on these and has been amazed by the results. We are not surprised but are delighted of course.
So despite the summer setback i have been getting the veggiepatch ready for autumn planting.
Two of the raised beds have been planted with garlic. I read that putting the garlic in the fridge for a week prior to planting breaks the dormancy so I'm giving that a go this year. The 2 new beds were prepared differently as an experiment
Bed 1 had :
original soil from previous raised bed
Coir-Peat ( bricks that you just soak in water to bulk up) to help retain moisture
blood and bone, a light covering
garden lime, light dusting
trace elements and sulphur, just a sprinkling
Top dressed with bought compost
Bed 2 had:
A base of kitchen scraps and plants that had been removed for composting - tomatoes, corn stalks, herbs etc
A layer of unimproved grey acidic garden sand (amazing how native plants grow in this)
Soil from previous raised bed - sifted to remove stones, old roots etc and numerous white grubs with brown heads - cut worms? and some wire worms? white segmented about 20mm long.
Organic 2000 (pellitised chicken manure)
Dolomite, light dusting
Trace elements and sulphur, light sprinkle.
Top dressed with bought compost
This is just experimental so don't take my word that it works until I report on the results when I harvest next November!
I reinstalled the drip irrigation and left it to brew for a week before planting the garlic.
In the other raise beds whilst there was still some warmth in the soil I planted assorted cabbages, kohl rabi, brussel sprouts, lettuce, rocket, sugar snap peas, onions, leek bulblets, radish and marigold.
We have already harvested and eaten the thinnings of lettuce and rocket and thinned the brassicas - everything is germinating well. We are still harvesting chard, silver beet and self sown amaranth.
In the garden beds remaining I will be planting various green manures ready to dig in in spring.
Time to give the citrus trees some food I guess and plant out the passion fruit that I grew from seed.
Much of the autumn and winter will now be spent doing some landscaping for bush fire protection and researching sprinkler systems and fire resistant plants for a new "herb" garden.
Much to do, but doing things more slowly.
My diary has been sadly neglected but the gardening has been non stop throughout spring and early summer!
I was determined to grow some corn this year and managed to get some organic corn seed from Merri Bee Organic farm (http://www.merribeeorganicfarm.net.au). I planted three blocks a few weeks apart. The cobs are beginning to form so I am keeping a close eye on their development. I can't remember exactly how I prepared the soil but I expect it was my usual mix of compost, manure, a little blood and bone and dolomite, perhaps a little sulphate of potash too. I should have recorded it I know.
I grew some corn seedlings in tall cardboard tubes which worked well and planted one bed with half seedlings and half direct planted seed at the same time. I was interested to see that the direct planted seeds caught up quickly with the seedlings and are developing cobs at the same time.
I have raised my first ever decent crop of carrots in one of the raised beds. I harvested the babies early on to thin them out and now have a good crop of mature and tasty carrots which will keep us going for quite a while. I have concluded that carrots don't like being crowded out by other veggies and grow best on their own. I sowed them direct mixed up with some dry sand to spread them out. Even so I really used more seeds than necessary.
I had a problem with this years climbing beans. I grew some very health seedlings in cardboard tubes and planted them out, covered of course!. Seedling after seedling was chewed back to ground level despite all my attempts to deter cut worm and slaters from having a good feed.
In the end I abandoned that bed and planted a new set of seedling in another part of the garden where I grew tomatoes last year. I installed my teepee frame and planted three beans on each leg.
I also planted some corn, cucumbers and lettuce in the bed and covered it with a tall growhouse.
The beans have climbed to the top of their frame and are just beginning to develop beans. We have been eating the lettuce for many weeks but need to plant some more as many are going to seed now.
I planted tomatoes in the failed bean bed and managed surprisingly to grow some Greenfest peas.
The grand kids love podding these so I took some up to Perth for a pre christmas treat. My favourite peas are the sugar snap - you eat both the full size pea and the pod. I had a few of these too but not enough.
My garlic crop this year was my pride and joy, over 90 large healthy bulbs, over 8kg now strung up to keep them dry and ready for use. I've set aside the best ones for next years crop - about 14 bulbs, as we love our garlic, which should give us about 140 garlics next year. I planted then out last autumn in a bed enriched with compost and manure and grew one bed under growcover and one bed without. Both did well but the coverd garlic grew larger on average.
The garden was rampant with silver beet which was self sown throughout spring. most of it is going to seed now. They are amazingly prolific and most are being added to the compost. They do suffer from what I think is a fungal infection, brown spot on the older leaves. I usually just remove these and use the unblemished ones.
I have planted several beds of tomatoes again this year as I freeze and dry them as well as enjoying that amazing flavour of fresh home grown tomatoes throughout the summer cropping season.
I have rather more than I planned though as some self seeded tomatoes took over a whole raised bed.
I actually planted some eggplants and capsicums in it but they are difficult to find. I should have been more ruthless thinning the tomatoes
but I hate pulling out healthy plants.
My potato patch is almost ready for harvest, this year I planted the potatoes in a trench and covered the plants as they grew with soil and mulch ended up with a mound around the plants. I will know when I dig them up whether this method produces a decent crop.
I planted some butternut pumpkins in the same patch and they are begging to fruit. Be a while yet before they are harvestable. The zucchinis are ok in another bed, we are harvesting them small at the moment, steamed whole or eaten raw. They may need a little more water or something as some are growing a funny shape.
We have had our first plums, small but lovely, from a two year old tree and the small nectarine tree has a respectable crop growing. I should have thinned them earlier. Next next year I'll try to be more ruthless as I often read about thinning giving better results. The lemon tree full of fruit during spring was a delight and now has an abundance of new fruit on the way. It's only a small tree, about 1.5m high and 5 or six years old. The other citrus trees ( orange, grapefruit, mandarin and lime) are much younger and although they flowered well in spring have not yet set any fruit. I am hopeful for next year though. The blueberry bush is looking healthy and has produced a handful of tasty berries - not enough for a pie yet but I am patient.
The strawberries are looking moth eaten and are funny shapes but I haven't given them much love and attention. They taste fine but we share them with the slaters and I suspect the emus. A couple visited the garden on Christmas day, eating the flowering heads of flat weeds - yes please come again! and a kangaroo who browses contentedly about 15 meters from the house. The motor bike frogs are singing again and I have occasional sightings of a tiger snake - last time it was lying on the table in my sun porch. A bit too familiar my my liking. I have been busy removing as much tall grass and weeds from around the house and garden so I don't accidentally step on one.
Well I thought I hadn't really grown much this spring/early summer, but recounting all the activity I realise just how productive the garden has been after all.
The rain came in April and now we are cutting wood and lighting the fire on cool evenings.
I cleared the summer beds and replenished the soil with compost, not that I had enough so I had to buy in a truck load of composted green waste from the local tip.
After last years success growing garlic I wanted to do it again. I had saved the best garlics for replanting and put them in a bed prepared with a layer of old canola hay used as mulch last season covered with manure, compost and some dolomite. They sprouted so quickly it was amazing. Since then a mass of self seeded plants have grown up too. I've weeded out most of the borage for the compost heap and harvested many young silver beet. As the garlic grows I'll have to be more rigorous as I've read somewhere that they don't like too much competition.
The capsicums that I replanted undercover to see if they would survive the winter amazed me by producing more fruit than they had all summer. That bed too has flourished with a whole range of self seeded vegetables from the compost.
I am also giving winter tomatoes a try in an enclosed court yard in pots. They have begun to flower and have grown to about a metre high.
We have just eaten the last of our summer tomato crop, not bad fruiting from January to early May. The last of the crop were picked green and allowed to ripen indoors. I dried and froze plenty for the winter and spring. I would rather go without than buy commercial ones which now seem quite tasteless.
My broad beans are growing well but the cabbages and broccoli are slow and not very encouraging.
There is more rocket than we will ever need but not enough lettuce, so I still haven't got my succession planting quite right - I forgot that growth slows down as the temperature drops.
I've collected so many seeds from my veggies over the years that will never be used that it occurred to me that I could use some to grow as sprouts for adding to salads. So far I've tried kale, alfalfa, fenugreek linseed and lentils. I have used the trays from my vegetable dryer lined with cotton fabric. I found some plastic domes that fitted nicely and rinse them daily with fresh water.
Time now to look at seed catalogues ready for spring and get some seeds growing in seed trays.
Summer is nearly over and my diary has been sadly neglected so here is a catch up for anyone interested in my garden activities. If you would like to send comments or advice I would love to hear from you
We have enjoyed the tomatoes, zucchini, a few capsicums, cucumbers, green beans, peas, lettuce and rocket over summer. I should have learnt by now to do succession planting to extend the season. I very nearly ran out of lettuce and rocket.
I was harvesting about a kilo of tomatoes a day once they got into their stride in February. I freeze some whole, dry others and enjoy the rest in salads and cooked. I don't usually stake my tomato plants, they just sprawl where they will but next year I might see if staking them makes any difference.
I tried a new lettuce this summer - Butter crunch- but almost ran out, so hurriedly collected seeds and replanted more. They are doing exceptionally well together with some rocket in a covered raised bed
I didn't manage to grow eggplants, corn or pumpkins - next year I promise myself. The strawberries and raspberries were a disaster and I only had a small handful of blueberries, but the bush is still young.
The small tomatoes are grown from my own saved seeds. Many are now at least seventh generation.
I got fed up with using kitchen paper for drying the seeds because they just stick to it and
prizing them off is a bit of a chore, although sometimes I just plant the paper with seeds attached directly in seed trays.
This works ok but this year I devised an easier way. I attached fine insect mesh (similar to fly screen mesh)to a small embroidery frame. I spread the fresh seed on the mesh and left them to dry. Once dried the seeds were easy to scrape off with a blunt knife and stored in envelopes or small plastic bags.
Seed viability test
Just to make sure that the seeds were viable I planted some directly is a garden bed and in seed trays.
I now have a forest of tomatoes I was not sure what to do with!
Over wintering summer veggies
I will try and grow the tomatoes over winter in pots and in covered beds. It's still pretty warm so they should get a good start and we do not usually have much cold weather until about July/August.
I am also going to try and keep my capsicum plants going over winter this year to give me a head start next summer.
Last year I replanted a couple in pots and kept them in a covered courtyard and then planted them out again in the garden once the warm weather arrived.
So I prepared an over wintering bed. I dug trenches and filled them with dried out stalks and straw mixed with pelletized chuck manure, covered them with soil and added cow manure,dolomite, blood and bone and compost. I then collected the capsicum and chilli plants from various garden beds and replanted them in the newly prepared bed and covered it with GrowCover HD. I hope some will survive. I will probably interplant them with peas.
Green manure and autumn planting
It's really time to clear more of the summer beds and either plant winter veggies or a green manure crop. I have some barley and peas ready to sow for green manure, but I must improve the soil in the beds where I plan to put garlic as soon as we get some rain. I was so pleased with last years crop and have selected some of the best heads of garlic for this years planting.
It is almost time to plant broad beans too and sow some kale, cabbage, broccoli, turnips and swedes.
I would love some rain, the poor sandy soil is so very dry I am amazed anything grows. The drip irrigation does seem to keep the plants growing though even with only about 8 minutes a day.
The flies and mozzies are back so it's into personal protection mode for this undercover gardener!
Have started some serious harvesting of broad beans for the freezer as well fresh for meals and nibbles . Also found a few snow peas I had forgotten about in the walk in GrowHouse. The brussel sprouts are still very slow in growing sprouts despite their impressive size, I doubt if i will try growing these again.
The first lot of climbing bean seedlings I planted were savagely attacked by slaters or cut worm or both so with my second attempt I have protected them with cardboard collars (from toilet rolls) and wood ash.
I also found some ideas for managing slugs and snails at http://www.weekendgardener.net/how‐to/snails‐slugs.htm
planted four apples, two pear, a lime, persimmon and avocado trees this year and now have to hand water until I set up some reticulation for them. I try to imagine them in full bloom in a few years time as we come down the drive way. The lemon tree has masses of flowers so hopefully a good crop again this year. The other citrus, plums and cherry are still too young to produce any fruit. Why did I wait for so long before planting fruit trees?
Built another tall growhouse with 6m x 5m GrowCover over a bean frame made using rubber spline (the stuff you find in fly screens) attached to a central pole. Also covers a trellis for cucumbers. Planted more tomato seedlings and radish, lettuce, leek and sun flower seeds.
Still have to prepare beds for my zucchini and pumpkin seedlings and find a spot for the remaining tomatoes. I don't mind how many of these I grow because they can be dried, frozen, made into sauce etc. and used all year round. Can't wait, last years finally ran out about a month ago.
Time for improving the soil again and planting seedlings. It's been such a dry winter and the water tanks haven't quite filled so we will have to be very careful with our water use this summer.
I now have tomato, spinach, lettuce, beetroot, basil, capsicum, chilli and cucumber seedlings ready for planting and have been preparing the soil in the beds for them.
Feeding the soil
My basic soil is acid sand that drains too freely and has very little humus so in three new identical beds 3m x 1.4m I have added the following:
1 barrow load of canola hay
fresh kelp seaweed
a layer of soil
3/4 cup of zeolite
1/2 cup trace element
2 cups rock dust
3 cups of bentonite clay ( for water retention)
4 cups pelletized chuck manure
1/2 cup dolomite
10 spades of compost
There is nothing scientific about these quantities, just what felt OK for my garden soil. Everywhere is different, but I don't think I will have done any harm. I need something to help retain moisture and nutrients and feed the plants and soil short term and long term.
I set up the drip irrigation system - 8mm drip irrigation pipe with drippers at 15cm intervals 30 cm apart which deliver 2 litres per hour.
New testing veggie beds
I planted out the same number of tomatoes, chilli, capsicum, spinach and lettuce in each bed and covered bed 1 with the new specification GrowCover, bed 2 with the original GrowCover and bed 3 will be left without a cover. I did cover bed 3 just for a few days to help overcome transplant shock and the hot spell we had. I want to see what the difference will be.
Other veggie beds and sowing
I built a tall frame over a trellis and covered it with 6m wide GrowCover which was not available to us before. I planted various beans and some cucumber but I think the slaters chewed their way through many of the original ones so I planted more with better results. Not sure now of course which beans are which as they emerge- time will tell! The bed also has some peas growing.
The raised bed from ezyvegies has produced some giant brussel sprout plants but so far no sprouts, maybe I was too late or it wasn't cold enough here but there have been some wonderful lettuces, some went to our community run health food shop Karri Country Good Food.
By mid October we began harvesting broad beans. Lightly cooked with garlic and butter - a delicious treat Funny how I never liked these until I grew my own and I can some freeze them too if I get a good crop.- The peas I grew as green manure actually gave us a bonus for eating and another spring treat was asparagus - not many spears but eaten raw straight after cutting as a reward!
A local gardener told me I should cut the old asparagus stalks at the end of the season, burn them and return the ash to the asparagus, also add manure and compost as they like a good feed. I didn't have enough stalks to make it worth burning but I added wood ash instead for potash.
Some leeks grew well with the garlic, they are such a great addition to stews and stir fries. I replanted the bulblets that were growing on the base.
Kale has been growing steadily and leaves harvested as needed, the broccoli produced small heads and broccolini once these were cut. They have now been pulled out to make room for other seedlings just before a wave of cabbage moths arrived.
Herbs Parsley, coriander, borage and florence fennel have self seeded around the garden. The fennel bulb has been great in salads and I have made some tabouli with the parsley, a good accompaniment for some salmon a friend brought to share for my birthday. I have two large rosemary bushes, a wonderful herb to add to roast potatoes and used with roast meat if you are not vegetarian. Marjoram and oregano just love my soil and thrive without much attention. Herbs are such a pleasure to have in the garden, I often rub the leaves between my fingers to release the fragrance.
Some garden myths were exploded and really useful garden tips explained. No digging was a strong recommendation, just cut the tops off plants, add compost etc and replant. Though I am still not sure how you get a fine tilth for seeds without some ruffling of the top soil unless you add a really large quantity of compost and soil first. My garden beds grow a lot of healthy weeds and I do like to pull them out from time to time!
August - September 2010
A busy time growing seedlings ready for spring and summer planting. Also one customer told me about wicking beds that sound like a good solution to urban garden watering.
"The wicking bed system has a water reservoir at the base, and rather than watering from above (by irrigation or by hand), the water wicks up through to the soil and the plant roots. It's supposed to encourage more vigorous root systems, and require less water overall because there is less evaporation. We used most of the information in this link as our building guide: http://www.theruralindependent.com/garden-projects/wicking-beds
Making one myself is on my to do list, but a garden shed comes first as I have never had anywhere except the car port for storing my garden tools and supplies.
All the winter grown potatoes have been harvested, they survived the frost undercover.
We have had a continuous supply of lettuce and the never ending silver beet, but most of the swedes and turnips planted with some garlic failed miserably, and the garlic is not doing too well either in that bed so I think lack of winter sun is possibly the problem. I'm not good at onions and the punnet I planted has not thrived- so it's back to the gardening books and the Internet of course.
The garlic in another bed is looking really good, but not yet ready to harvest.
The snow peas sadly finished in late september so I pulled out the trellis and John built a new raised bed in that spot. It's now ready for planting a summer salad crops.
It's been a while since I wrote my diary so here is a catch up.
My mid winter harvest includes some new potatoes, leeks, kale (two varieties), snow peas, parsley, rocket, lettuce, fennel, coriander, rhubarb, and broccoli (not in the photo because we ate it!
Constructions In May we built some new raised beds and at the end of July reconstructed the walk in tunnel house using 40mm rural poly pipe and star pickets. We should have used 50mm poly pipe which would have slipped over the star pickets. Instead we had to attach them with cable ties.
The tunnel house has two beds with a path down the middle. I enriched the soil with manure and compost. I planted cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale seedlings in one bed in July before the tunnel was built and in early August planted turnip, swede, kohl rabi, pea, chinese cabbage and tomato seeds direct in the second bed.
The tomatoes are an experimentinside the tunnel house. August is very early for direct planting of tomato seeds. The soil temperature was about 10 degrees at the beginning of August. I will plant more seeds at monthly intervals and see what germination and growth I get with the extra protection and warmth of the tunnel house. With any luck I may get some tomatoes before Christmas this year.
I never have enough tomatoes. When there are too many to eat fresh I dry some and keep them in the freezer ready for making up into batches of tomatoes in oil and vinegar with peppercorns, mustard seed and coriander seeds for adding to salads. As I grow small tomatoes I also freeze them whole for using in casseroles and spaghetti sauces through out the year.
Next year I plan to build a raised bed inside the tunnel house for raising seedlings
Soil I have been improving the soil in the vegetable beds with a truck load of composted green waste from the local tip and manure. In some beds I have added rock dust and zeolite to add minerals over the long term and help retain nutrients. The canola hay mulch is providing protection for many of the beds.
Crops As an experiment I planted several beds with potatoes, some covered some not, to see if I could get a spring crop. We had several days with frost which damaged the uncovered plants and those touching the GrowCover netting in the covered beds. I dug out the damaged potato plants and the remaining covered potatoes are doing well.
Raised beds I planted some of my broccoli, brussel sprouts, & kale seedlings in the new raised beds together with rocket and lettuce. I started harvesting small broccoli heads, kale, rocket and lettuce in July.
This has been a pleasant surprise because in previous years things have been pretty lean. In my climate it now looks as if I can get a winter crop by planting in early autumn whilst the soil still has some warmth in it and we get some rain. The advantage for brassicas is the absence of cabbage moths and cabbage white butterflies at this time of year.
The turnips and swedes I planted with the garlic were a failure though, the beds got thoroughly choked with chickweed and rocket so I weeded them out and found stunted turnips and swedes. I pulled these out too so the garlic now has free reign which I hope it will appreciate.
One bed of broad beans has a support frame made from reinforcing mesh suspended from metal stakes. The mesh can be raised as the plants grow. I added poly pipe arches onto the stakes to make a frame for GrowCover to protect the broad beans from wind which tends to knock them over.
The broad beans started flowering in late July.
Also In late July I started to harvest the snow peas planted in April. I thought that peas were a spring and summer crop, but it's good to know I can enjoy these in winter too. I will plant sugar snap peas in spring as I think these need warmer weather. The peas I planted as green manure are growing well but not yet flowering.
Fruit trees I
planted some new fruit trees - pears, apples, persimmon, lime and a grape vine in July and have had a fine crop of lemons for the first time. We have enjoyed some lovely lemon custard deserts, fresh lemon flavours in savoury dishes and home made hommus.
So it has been quite a busy time in the garden over winter and I've had the delightful company of robins on the look out for grubs and insects disturbed by my activities.
Broad bean frame
Raised bed just planted
Raised bed growing well
Walk in tunnel house covered with GrowCoverHD
Winter potato patch
March was a most unpleasant month for gardening, dry and hot with and irritating march flies because all the Marri trees were in full bloom.So I did very little.
April though has been just wonderful, cooler autumn days, rain and sun. So full steam ahead clearing garden beds, building new raised beds, improving the soil with compost and pig manure and planting direct and in seed trays. Some beds I will green manure in preparation for spring planting
Planted broad beans, peas, garlic, kale, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, turnips and swede. I scattered a collection of old seeds and mustard as a green manure crop onto one old potato patch.
I managed to get a truck load of compost and a large roll of canola hay so beds and fruit trees have been given a feed and mulched.here are seedlings popping up everywhere but I suspect many of them are canola!
I'm not sure the potatoes will grow at this time of year but as many of those harvested this summer have begun to sprout I thought I would give it as try. I've planted them in trenches which I will fill in as they grow and mulch them too.
We pulled down the large walk in GrowHouse and will rebuild it with 50mm poly pipe and star pickets instead of 25mm pipe that was just too floppy. The cucumbers and eggplants inside did well though.
Later in February 2010
Despite the grasshoppers, white fly and hot weather I am actually harvesting a regular supply of veggies.
My beans and tomatoes are producing a steady daily crop and at long last I have managed to grow cucumbers in my walk-in GrowHouse. Looks as if there will be quite a surplus of these but I found some unusual ways to user cucumbers on a number of web sites from cleaning mirrors to fixing squeaky hinges. See theamazing cucumber!
Having added manure to my zucchini bed they are at last growing up and I replaced the low hoop tunnel with a GrowHouse which is much taller. Despite being covered they are producing fruit so somehow they are getting pollinated.
I harvested my first eggplant too - small, but I just couldn't wait to pick it! There are several more developing. I am really delighted because they need such a long growing season and I doubted they would fruit in time. Oh yes and I harvested my first capsicum as well.
So we are eating tomatoes, green beans, rocket, small zucchini, chinese cabbage, silver beet, daikon (radish), occasional lettuce, leaf amaranth (tastes like spinach and germinates prolifically so can be harvested young), the last of the peas and potatoes.
Beans and eggplant
Tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum rocket, daikon & chinese cabbage
Zucchinis in a growHouse
Capsicum fruit and flower
Feeling a bit despondent, grasshoppers and heat have caused some losses in my "ornamental" garden, including my small fig tree that has almost no leaves left. I just don't have enough stored water either to keep it all going. My Chamomile ground cover has mainly died after so much original enthusiasm for avoiding high maintenance lawn. This year too I have had infestations of white fly and resorted to sticky yellow traps and some aphids on Zucchini. I made up a spray using elder, wormwood, chilli powder, soap and baby oil. It seemed to work for aphids!
I was carefully hand watering lettuce and rocket seedlings in my walk in tunnel house during a hot spell, but was unable to do so for a couple of days after I had added some manure. The young leaves have shriveled and some turned white. Many seedling have died. I wonder if the manure caused leaf burn.
On the bright side the cucumbers and looking really healthy and beginning to spread, flower and set fruit. They are ignoring the climbing frame I installed for them though!.
Continue to harvest tomatoes every day. They are my own seeds going back several years, so are nameless, small but not quite as small as cherry tomatoes and full of flavour.
I love these fresh for salads (or eaten just for that flavour burst when passing the fruit bowl) and the excess for drying or freezing whole. I make up batches of dried tomatoes with vinegar, olive oil, black pepper corn, mustard seed and coriander seed whenever I need them. They are delicious in salads, on pizza or with cheese and biscuits and give us that tomato taste in the off seasons.
I'm not good about staking my tomatoes so they tend to fall over and spread everywhere, makes harvesting a bit like a treasure hunt. Though I am a bit wary about putting my hand into unseen places at the moment, having just encountered a tiger snake next to my compost heap.
My young fruit trees (orange, mandarin, grapefruit, plum, cherry, apricot and nectarine) get a good watering about twice a week. The cherry trees leaves have been badly eaten by something, just hope they recover next season. The lemon tree is covered in many young fruit and just wondering if I need to cull some of them.
Photo of the back of the bean frame. Coriander flowering with sunflowers
Everything is very dry, I need more mulch. To save water I have stopped watering some vegetable beds where things have now gone to seed. Harvest my first bean of the season on January 1st. Was one planted with a handful of miscellaneous seeds by my grand daughter. I have harvested the lettuce and daikon already and the peas are nearly finished. The rest are hiding beneath tomatoes.
What I thought were cucumbers are in fact Zucchini and two small fruit are developing already.
In other beds I have more zucchini growing, pumpkin, beans, peas, amaranth ( self sown).
The capsicums in the walk in GrowHouse are beginning to fruit and the eggplants are flowering.
After digging up all the potatoes I added chicken manure and blood and bone before putting in some cucumber seedlings with a small climbing frame. I am giving them extra water whilst it is hot and have scattered lettuce rocket and daikon seeds in the bed too. I only seeded half the GrowHouse so I could give the capsicums and eggplants more water from the drip irrigation.
The climbing beans are now protected in a GrowCover "tent' and doing well. Most of my unprotected original plantings produced only four plants but I have been harvesting a few beans from them together with the last of the snow peas. They have climbed right to the top of the 2m high frame.
Summer has now begun in earnest, the once green "lawn" actually a mix of roman chamomile and winter grass/weeds/clover has turned dry and invaded by grasshoppers.
Some recently planted ornamental shrubs have been severely attacked - lesson here for me! .
The beans I planted and protected on their frame with two parallel layers of GrowCover and doing well. So it must have protected them from snails and slugs and wind. Only about four of my original beans planted on another unprotected trellis have survived and and now flowering - so it's the young seedlings that the slugs and snails seem to love.
I've mismanaged by lettuce planting or they just have not survived the sudden heat so we have finished up with very few for Christmas lunch. Fortunately the peas are doing well and are so sweet. The rocket and strawberries are a bit nibbled but still usable.
The self sown leaf amaranth is growing well along side some capsicums seedlings which need a bit of encouragement so I watered them with some fish and seaweed solution then mulched with hay.
The zucchini seeds collected last year have germinated in profusion so they have been thinned and mulched and are growing in a low hoop house for now. Once they are big enough and start flowering I will remove the GrowCover. That worked ok last year.
A mass of pumpkins germinated so has be radically thinned out and are now covered with a hoop house.
The Egg plants in the walk in hoop house are flowering - this is really exciting as they need such a long growing time and I am hopeful that we will get some fruit this year. The Capsicums in the same hoop house are beginning to fruit too.
Harvested some potatoes because the leaves died back, lack of water I suspect. The potatoes were pretty small but they didn't have much compost when I planted them as I didn't have enough to spare. There is never enough!
We have enjoyed a few raspberries from some canes given to us in Spring. I wasn't expecting any fruit until next year so it was a wonderful surprise - they really are my favourite cane fruit. We also had our first boysenberries.
The lemon tree is at last producing well and I love the perfume of the blossom. The nectarine, a couple of year old, has four small fruit, it's a start. The two young plum trees that are supposed to cross fertilize didn't flower at all this spring - someone suggested they might need more potassium.
The cherry trees, again only in their second year, have been attacked by cherry slug and I some kind of leave eating insect - large round shaped nibbles, so they are looking very sad at the moment. I was told that sprinkling with wood ash helps to protect from cherry slug. I was just too late.
About four cucumbers near the lemon tree with their own climbing frame are looking ok, that's a first and are developing flower buds. The ones planted by the big trellis all disappeared along with the beans. I'm growing some more in seedling pots too.
The corn did not germinate, I got them from a seed swap and I'm not sure how old the seed was so I wasn't altogether surprised.
The tomatoes are beginning to fruit but won't be ripe for a few weeks yet. We are eating our last lot of dried tomatoes from last year. I dry them and store them in the freezer. As needed I fill a small jar with the tomatoes, fill to a third with vinegar, top up with olive oil and add black pepper corns, mustard seed and coriander seed. They are great added to salads or eaten with cheese and biscuits. The flavour is intense, and I confess to eating them on their own too.
So it's watering, mulching and reading time of year and hopefully harvesting summer crops if they survive.
I've been busy clearing out some of the veggie beds and replanting for summer.
I grew some tomatoes from my own seed and planted them out in late October. They are doing well and just beginning to set some tiny fruit.
John built me a new bean trellis and I planted some climbing beans and peas in October. The snails and slugs had a wonderful feast on the beans and only a few survived. The peas were fine and are climbing nicely. I planted more beans in a different garden bed with some Growcover protection this time.
I also planted a fair few potatoes this year, Royal Blues, and I have begun harvesting some for immediate eating.
I have also just planted seeds of
Cucumber ( I have never been successful in growing these, so this year I have given them a climbing frame)
Pumpkin (I have so many seeds but not sure what variety)
Eggplant (not sure this will be any good as they need a long growing season and it's rather late to get them going)
Capsicum ( It has not really been warm enough yet for these so I also bought some seedlings in the hope of getting some fruit)
Daikon ( the Grandchildren got enthusiastic about planting seeds in August so I am getting a few interesting surprises including daikon and lettuce)
Carrots ( not good at these, they always seem to take ages to grow and are small and stunted )
Chard ( and silver beet always do well and last for ages. I pick the leaves as needed- a real standby almost all the year round.
Sunflowers ( Grown in the veggie garden for pure pleasure - the parrots get a good feed too)
Walk in tunnel house, covered with GrowCover HD.
The frame made from 50mm poly pipe supported by star pickets.
Earth Staples are used to secure the Growcover to the ground at the sides.
Snow peas flowering and producing pods in July
Winter grown potatoes, protected from frost with GrowCover
Raised bed - quick and easy to build. Arches made from electrical PVC conduit pipe.
Broad bean support frame
A bit of bread fun for a friendly art competition!
Self sown Silver beet Many thinnings have already been eaten. Silver beet is a great cut and come
leaves over a long time before going to seed - and then starts a new batch.
Peas prefer to be direct sown, but here I have grown them in toilet roll tubes so that root
disturbance is minimized on planting out.
A support frame made from reinforcing mesh installed for broad beans. Can be raised or lowered
Carrots and parsnips sown under the low hoop house.
Garlic sprouting in its GrowHouse. Swedes, cabbage and turnips also planted in this bed. Mulched with canola hay.
Narrow GrowTunnel made from PVC pipe to cover a climbing frame for peas
Zucchinis in a GrowHouse covered with 3m x 7m GrowCover