Spring is nature’s way of saying “Let’s Party!” ~ Robin Williams
Archives for July 2012
“Joy is a flower that blooms when you do”. – Unknown
Yesterday, I had a glorious, uninterrupted, full day in the garden. I ticked every item off my to-do list and even managed an extra load of tasks.
But, the reason why this was possible was not so happy. Husband was laid up with a sore back. He rested in the kid’s playroom as they played around him, happy to be inside enjoying his company and out of the cold.
I have had a bit of a flat week. I’ve had a few disappointments that I had been dwelling on, so it was lovely to get out in the sunshine, get sweaty to some upbeat music, knowing the kids were otherwise happily occupied and not up to mischief.
I was able to;
- Pull out the powdery mildew covered zucchinis,
- pull out the flagging lebanese cucumbers,
- pull out the finished kidney beans,
- fill the compost bins,
- plant the dragon fruit cuttings,
- pot up 4 dozen seedling pots with tomatoes, cabbage and nasturtiums,
- tidy up all the rubbish that had floated into the beds and tidied up all the toys,
- spread some of the acidic palm stump sawdust under the blueberries,
- put on some worm tea,
- and, I managed a good amount of weeding and sweeping!
The garden looks so much better for it. And I feel so much better too, with a lot of energy expended and a resulting sense of accomplishment.
Next week, we have another kerb collection kicking off. Woo!
There is still so much to be cleared from our block, like pruned shrubs, a few straggling plants, redundant bricks, blocks and other bits and pieces.
Plus, there is the possibility of finding all kinds of treasures about the place in the coming weeks.
And, my sunflowers are getting ready to bloom.
I’m feeling optimistic again!
He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. ~Henry David Thoreau
I love legumes. Beans, lentils and chickpeas are some of my most favourite foods.
They are like the Ryan Gosling of the vegetable world. Versatile and delicious!
Also, being vegetarian, the protein, fiber, amino acids and folate that legumes offer up are essential to my diet.
However, I have been a bit disappointed by the variety available to grow. Those seeds I do source, are pricey.
I have a single chick pea growing very nicely in my pea patch that has started flowering. It was
illegitimate a happy surprise, sneaking into a packet of telephone pea seeds. I also have kidney beans that have been growing well. They are delicious when young and tender, but become unpleasant to eat fresh once the seeds begin to plump out the pods, so I leave them to dry on the vine and save their seeds for winter.
As I was rummaging around the lower shelves of my pantry, I had an idea. I found some puy lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, adzuki, black and kidney beans that I had purchased not so long ago at an organic wholesalers.
A little experimentation would be required!
First, I soaked all the seeds to see if they would sprout. The lentils and chickpeas were the first to start sprouting, followed shortly by the kidney, adzuki and black beans. The soy beans took a while to join the party but made it in the end.
So I have potted up a sample of each variety just to watch their progress in the coming weeks. Admittedly, I probably don’t have the space to yield enough legumes to save and last me the season, but there is another excellent reason to grow them nonetheless…..
As good as legumes are for me, they are also fantastic for my poor sandy dirt. They “fix” the nitrogen in the atmosphere, delivering it to the soil. This process can be improved by “inoculating” the seeds with nodule forming bacteria, but I have to say I have never done that and seem to manage well enough without in my domestic garden.
The process of “green manuring” involves planting various varieties of legume for the sole purpose of turning the crop back into the soil for nutrient value before the plant flowers. Once the legume fruits, the nitrogen is depleted somewhat, but still worth tilling back into the soil once spent.
Legumes can also be great companions for potatoes, corn, spinach, lettuce, strawberries, cucumbers, zucchinis, beets, brassicas and carrots. Alliums (onions, garlic, shallots etc) aren’t such huge fans of beans. So keep them a distance away. Lentils and asparagus peas are uniquely anti-social and like to have a bed all to themselves.
Once you have enjoyed a bumper crop of lovely legumes their space in the garden will be gladly inhabited by amaranth, brassicas, and Asian greens. All that converted nitrogen boosts these green leafy specimens.
The good news is, there is a legume to plant for almost every season. In my temperate part of the world, climbing beans, asparagus peas, dwarf or bush beans, lentils and chickpeas are good for spring throughout summer, with broad beans and peas being more suited to our cooler months.
Do you love Legumes too? Whats your favourite variety?
I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing things away we could use. ~ Mother Theresa
The school holidays are upon us and so far, it has been mainly lovely clear sunny weather, despite a bit of a chill about.
But, two days into our break, my youngest little bloke has succumbed to the very contagious, hand foot and mouth disease. He’s covered in a nasty blistery rash and is as grumpy as a virally-infected 3 year old should be. So, our weeks activities have been cancelled while we endure an enforced quarantine.
Thankfully, The kids love being outside and in the garden, but we have a little problem. Often, there are not enough tools to go around. The kids seem to want THIS shovel, or THAT trowel. Or, I need a tool they insist they are using! Plus, my tools, once borrowed, don’t always find their way home and I waste time looking for them. Squabbles erupt and the fun is over fast.
A bit of research had me raiding our recycle bin for our used milk cartons for a recyclable (and gloriously free!) solution.
I dug out two, two litre milk containers, and one three litre container.
First, I wanted some shovels/scoops. I made a few different designs. The small, pointy one is especially ideal for filling my little handmade paper seed pots.
The kids impatiently waited for me to get the photo taken so they could grab their tools and begin the
destruction digging. Plenty of tools for everyone!
Then I got a bit carried away…
I made the bases of the bottles into little trays for my paper seed pots. I made a funnel for my twine. I cut up a heap of plant markers. There was only a little bit of plastic left to sweep up and deposit back into the recycling bin.
The best part is, as long as we drink milk, we’ll have a supply of little scoops and shovels, tags and trays. The kids can lose them, bury them, toss them in the composter and it’s not going to be the end of the world. If they break, they go back into the recycling bin. If I get over-run with milk carton tools, I can just collect them up periodically and pop them back in the recycle bin too.
I am so chuffed with the results that my brain is ticking over, what other fun can be had with the stuff I usually chuck out?
I would love to hear your suggestions.
“God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest.” ~ P.D. James
If you have read a bit of my blog, you will know by now about my
borderline obsession appreciation of worms.
My worm bin is slowing down a bit in the cooler months. It has not needed much water, so it is not producing much leachate. Leachate is the stuff that dribbles out of the base of your worm farm. As long as it is clear and doesn’t invoke a gag reflex with the smell, I have diluted it 250ml:9 litres and found it a wonderful garden tonic for the veggies. However, leachate is often confused with worm tea.
Worm tea is extracted from the worm castings, which are dunked in water (like a big teabag) and usually brewed for 24 hours or so with a oxygenator and a slurp of molassess or honey to feed microbes.
Advocates claim that worm tea is superior to leachate and chemical fertilisers because ;
- it is a natural repellent for scale, mites, white flies, and aphids,
- it is a natural fungicide in soil and on plant surfaces,
- increases plant stem size and foliage,
- is a soil conditioner,
- does not burn plants,
- it aides in the creation of colloidal humus and
- improves water retention in soil.
Sounds good, right? So I decided it was high time I gave making worm tea a go.
A quick trip to my local Big W sourced a small aquarium pump, a length of tubing and an airstone to oxygenate the water. These set me back about $20.00. When I got home, I searched the web to find a solar pump that could so the same job for approx $70.00. If the worm tea proves beneficial, I might switch to a system that doesn’t use mains power.
I made my big worm teabag. A generous few handfuls of worm poo (castings) with all the worms picked out was wrapped in a clean dishcloth and tied with twine.
I submurged the worm tea bag into a bucket of rainwater along with the airstone and a teaspoon of honey and flicked the switch. I have set mine up off the ground where it can’t be reached. Even though I can secure my greenhouse gate, I don’t like leaving big buckets of water around for the kids to explore.
Then, I waited 24 hours. Occasionally I checked on it and gave the teabag a bit of a swish around the water.
The resulting tea didn’t really resemble leachate. It was almost clear, with some sediment on the bottom. It had no smell at all. I decided not to dilute it and splashed it about the seedlings and newly planted beds. Apparently, you have to use the tea within 4 hours of removing the airstone before the microbial population diminishes. To be fair, the worm tea didn’t kill my seedlings. But it remains to be seen if my worm homebrew really does anything better than a drink from the hose. I am a bit suspicious! Maybe warmer water and weather would help.
I will continue to make batches and spread it around. When using water from the hose, I let it sit overnight to let the chlorine evaporate before submerging the teabag. Yes, I have been using a new pouch of worm poo each brewing. I mix the spent castings in with my seed raising mix.
If, in a few weeks time, everything looks like it needs a good dose of manure, I’ll know my worm tea has been a bit weak.
So, can anyone tell me what I might be doing wrong?
UPDATE: I think the washcloth net was too fine for the worm poo to steep. I might have tied the package a bit too tightly, restricting the flow of the worm poo. So when the zip went on one of my laundry delicates bags, I decided to recycle it into worm-poo-bag. It made a huge difference having the bigger holes. After 24 hours, the resulting worm tea was lovely and dark, with a little sentiment on the bottom. It didn’t smell. So I diluted it 1:9 and splashed it about.
So far, so good. Even the weakish tea showed results. I’m convinced that it will be worthwhile keeping a constant “brew” on the go all the time.
“You cannot plant a field by turning it over in your mind.” – Anon
This last weekend it seemed the planets aligned and the conditions were perfect to help me finally get cracking on my front garden plan.
For the first time, my parents took all three kids to their weekender in Lancelin. It’s not until three little kids leave your house that you realize just how much noise they make. It was almost deafeningly quiet. It was an equally weird feeling to fall asleep without keeping your ears open. As was coming home to an empty house. So we slept in on Sunday, past 8:30, not something we have done in over 3 years.
The weather was just beautiful. Clear and sunny all weekend. A preview of Spring.
First, we had a lovely, long, lazy, delicious lunch at The Monk in Fremantle, then we sauntered around the markets and I had a very satisfying afternoon Nanna nap in the hammock. I want to do that more often.
We also got quite a few things done around the garden. Without my little “helpers”, my tasks whooshed past, one after the other, until I had piled up quite a list of jobs completed. A bit of disco music helped things along, because it was just too damned quiet without it. I finally spread than manure down the side lane. I finally planted the blueberries. I fussed over the worms. I put more mulch on the potatoes. Despite my awesome productivity, I missed my little entourage.
While I toiled away, Husband designed a plan for the front raised beds and before long, had plotted them out with stakes and twine. As you can see, Its a lot of space. It’s all going to be set up before spring arrives and I am beyond excited. I can’t believe how much extra space I will have to plant. The front yard is actually much better aspected than the back, it will get more sunlight, good slope for drainage and is quite protected. As husband very pragmatically pointed out, we are paying a mortgage on it, so why not cultivate it? He’s just thrilled that he will no longer have to repair retic, weed or mow the space.
We will be the only house in our suburb (that I know of) that will have veggie patches in the front yard, but even the neighbours seemed genuinely curious and enthused once we explained what we had planned. Surely any skeptics could be easily won over with a basket of fresh green zebra tomatoes or a handful of raspberries?
We are going to build the beds using recycled jarrah railway sleepers. Jarrah is a local wood and the sleepers have not been treated with any chemicals so should be safe to use. They will eventually degrade, in about 10 years or so.
I originally wanted the pathways in between the beds to be astrourf, for no other reason than it would look a bit prettier. Husband assures me it would be tricky to fit and has otherwise convinced me to go pea gravel over a layer of weed mat instead. Pea gravel is cheap and local, plus he has assured me it shouldn’t all just roll down the hill. During winter, the gravel will act as a heat bank. Plus, it’s not agony to walk on, like blue metal or rainbow stone.
So naturally, I’ll keep you posted. There is still plenty of work to complete before they are ready to plant, but I hope to get it all done in time for spring next month. Seriously, I’ll probably be talking about my new front beds for a while…