Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Rest of the Garden

Time to show you the rest of the garden...

Avocado Tree
It actually took us a little while to work out what this tree was. Unfortunately it's only the possums that enjoy the fruit. The few fruits we've been able to grab off this very tall tree have gone off as they went soft.

Mango Tree
It's a very large tree. This year we got beautiful sweet and green mangoes. (Green mangoes are great to snack on with a little chili paste). The bats and possums have their fair share as well. The tree has once been cut right back, and it's probably due for another major pruning to keep it accessible. The mango and umbrella tree work well at reducing the western sun on the house as well. (I'd love to replace the umbrella tree one day with another fruiting tree).

This is taro! It's growing up the umbrella tree in the previous photo.

Tahitian Lime
One on either side of the front door. They need plenty of sun and an occasional urination.

We have three pawpaw tree at the moment. None have borne fruit yet, but this one will be the first to provide us with a green pawpaw salad "Somtum".

Pawpaw & Mulberry
Working back from the mango tree on the southern boundary (plenty of sun)... No fruit from either yet. The iron grill is for beans to grow up.

Star Gooseberry
I haven't tried the fruit yet, but you can munch on the leaves while you eat some spicy curries.

Pineapple Guava
Apparently the fruit tastes like pineapple and strawberries. It can be hedged (all hedges should be edible!). It hasn't grown to well so far - it had been crowded out a little by the lemongrass and an existing hedge.

Kaffir Lime
Likes lots of sun and water. The older the leaves the more flavour - great in Thai dishes. The limes have a unique and strong flavour as well.

Side Garden (looking from both directions)
This part of the garden gets plenty of sun and water (greywater). Along here we have chili, lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, galangal, edible rape (green choy sum), marigolds and basil.

Chocolate Sapote
I'm really looking forward to this one! I've tried the fruit but they say it is like eating a passionfruit full of chocolate custard. It's not a fast grower, but then again it's not getting a lot of sun...

Northern Wall
This is the northern wall i.e. the one the gets the least sun as it shades itself. Ideally the passionfruit and turmeric would be best in a sunnier spot. I'm still not sure on the best spot for this chocolate sapote...

I think I might talk about the watering system next time...

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Garden Today

About time I show what's in our garden today....

There are 6 outer circles, 1 inner. Everything else is down the sides of the yard.

This is circle #1 (the most forefront in the above photo) planted 9th Feb '08.
Here you can see beans, pawpaw & corn. Ideally I would have planted some sort of vine like cucumber or squash as well. The idea is beans, corn and a vine provide each other with shade as they grow. Too much sun and a plant stops growing and wilts. The beans will climb up the corn as well as fix nitrogen in the soil. Corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder - a great partnership. The corn has just started to form as well as the beans.

(Tip. Don't plant anything from the onion family near any sort of bean or legume. The nitrogen is fixed by bacteria that live near the beans roots. Onions are anti-bacterial).

#2 (clockwise from #1) planted 2nd March '08.
Straight after the chooks had been moved from this circle I spread some horse manure and more mulch before planting the corn. The corn is a bit sickly here - our puppy got into the seed tray before I planted them. In the corner there is a cucumber vine and I have beans in a seed tray ready to plant in a week or so. Behind this there are some soy beans.

A lot of this is our first time planting. Please don't take all this as gospel but a chance to check out our ongoing experiments.

#3 planted 15th March '08.
Again more corn. Unfortunately there's not enough. I used half the seedlings in #2 to top our puppy's mess. It takes about 2 weeks to get healthy seedlings, so it will be interesting to see how this patch goes when I top it up with younger seedlings. Again, this is all planted straight after the chickens have left. There is more cucumber in the top right (it should creep east through the corn) and a few potatoes in the mound behind.

#4 chickens since 15th March '08.
She's laying an egg back there.

#5 planted 2nd Feb '08
A lone rosella at the front with a strip of alfalfa behind it. They say rosella makes a great tea - good for the blood. Apparently alfalfa (lucerne) is good for the soil.... At the very least it gives the chooks some food when they move onto it. At the back is our 'compost' pile - just sticks, leaves etc that we had no where else to put. Again, lots of juicy critters underneath for the chickens. The rosella flower only lasted a day!

#6 planted 3rd Feb '08
There were no chooks before this planting. At the back there is sweet potato - it creeps everywhere and needs to be trained away from everything else. Just in from the potato is a row of carrots - they can't be transplanted so were directly sowed. In front of these are a row of tiny tom and roma tomatoes with green snake beans to either side. At the front of all this is a mixture of lettuce, rocket, cabbage & pak choi. Leek, basil, parsley, eggplant and celery didn't make it.

#7 planted 3rd Feb & 23rd March '08
This was sort of an extras circle. There were some extra cabbage, rocket and lettuce seedlings so we planted them here. They've actually done better than circle #6! I have just yesterday sowed directly a few different types of beans and peas - hence the stakes. (No chooks, just horse manure).

I think I will leave a description of our plants outside the circles to next time...

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Chicken Tractor

Some call it a chicken tractor others a hovel, I call it the cheaper version of a $600 shop bought movable chicken coup.

I can claim no credit for the idea, it comes virtually direct from Linda's book. But hopefully, checking out a few photos will help the next person improve on the design.

There are many examples of box-like tractors, we needed ours to be round to fit the shape of our garden. The idea being, every two weeks we just hop inside to lift it to the next spot without even having to let the chooks out. (They devoured all our carrot tops last time I let them range free)

The materials:

* PVC piping (there's got to be a better environmental alternative out there....)
* Bird netting (lightweight and much easier to handle than traditional wire mesh)
* A few t-junction and straight joiners
* Twine
* Wire
* Zip ties
* Shade cloth
* Tarp
* Some sort of clip for the door
* Pot for water (chickens love to knock them over and scratch mulch into them. Look for wide bases or tie them down somehow)
* Boxes
* Fake egg or golf ball (encourages laying in a desired spot)
* Bamboo / doweling for the perch
* Drill


I think a few tips here are more important than instructions - the pics should be mostly self-explanatory.

1) Measure 3x cut 1x! Something to watch out for is the cross-over at the top - some poles will need to be ever so slightly longer to keep it round.

2) I suggest you don't do it alone. PVC doesn't always shape the way you want it too.

4) We attached the t-junction joiners to the PVC by drilling a small hole and threading wire through both PVC and joiner. This also works for joining PVC cross over points as well.

5) After the structure is in place it will be quite flimsy - it needs cross-bracing. I found this frustrating. Every square I tensioned upset the tensioning on the previous square grrr...... The solution I found was to tension all the bottom squares with twine in one continuous zigzag. After a little fiddling, I then re-braced with wire (twine would never last). You should only need to brace the bottom squares.

6) The netting should be pretty straight forward - all fixed to the base with twine. If you live in an area with rats/snakes you can leave an overhang of net on the ground to confuse burrowers.

7) The perch is just bamboo. Chickens love sleeping off the ground, a survival instinct from predators.

8) The tarp - need I say more? If you're worried about wind carrying the tractor away use tent pegs.

9) I'm sure there are variations on doors. Ours is just fixed with zip ties at the top with clips at the bottom. A benefit of shade cloth is it provides a little more shade for the chooks without smothering them in tarp. In reality the door can be much much smaller. We only use it for putting scraps in. Retrieving eggs and getting inside is just lifting the tractor up itself.

Our only issue to date has been aesthetics. I think one day we'll try to make a Thai style 100% bamboo model.

By the way - chooks are cool!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Nursery

What we've learnt to date.....

As you can see it's nothing too complicated. Constructed from thin bamboo and branches from trees in the yard.

(I can't stand to take green waste away from the land. There will always be a pile somewhere for broken branches etc that will either be re-used, decompose or deter termites from the house).

We used 70% UV shade cloth because it gets the afternoon sun. There is a flap that falls down to cover the front.

(All sorts of flowers)

We buy/swap seeds (organic where possible) - it's obviously much cheaper than seedlings and not much more work.

We started by planting straight into the soil (as above). This is fine until you transplant when all the roots are tangled amongst themselves and break.

(Corn, Cucumber & Spring Onion)

We now use individual square holders (as above). Square, as B4C explained, because the roots take better when transplanted (as opposed to round where they tie themselves up). If you still buy eggs, egg cartons seem to work just as well and after a few rounds can be dropped straight in the soil to decompose.

Why not plant straight in the soil?
Too much mulch! Mulch is fantastic and you can almost never have enough - it makes the soil crawl with life, retain water etc etc etc (see "humus")

What soil do you use?
We've started using soil conditioner. Partly because it's the best of a limited range at the hardware store. We tried all sorts of combinations of aerators, additives, soil types... the most important for us was a relatively fine and consistent soil without getting boggy/clay like. (not standard potting mix) I'm sure in time we'll try and do away with buying soil and taking straight from a nice pile of compost....

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Belated Beginnings

This blog should really have started July '07 when this garden begun. July was when we finally moved onto land (albeit 353sqm including the house) in inner-city Brisbane. I remember researching vegetable gardens, discovering permaculture and then stumbling upon Linda Woodrow's "The Permaculture Home Garden". It's this book that forms the basis of our garden.

First things first, I should describe briefly how we built this garden (I'll let Linda tell you why).

(This is how it looked when we moved in)

(This is what it looks like today)

1) The Edging : Next time I'm at the hardware store I'll write down the name of the product and edit this post. Basically it's a recycled plastic that is held in place with pegs

2) The Rocks : Sandstone! We laid weed matting then broke our backs shoveling 1 cubic metre's worth of rocks. (I recommend more than one layer of matting - grass still manages to poke through - No herbicide, It's an organic garden)

3) The Soil : We didn't turn anything. Basically a layer of wet newspaper, horse poo (pre-composted - no smell) and heaps of sugar cane mulch.

4) The Chicken Tractor : A whole new post to follow.

5) The Fence : Bamboo and bird netting to keep our cheeky little poodle out.

6) The Pond : Barely visible in the above image. Basically wine barrels, a bath tub and a grey water pump under the house. It's our new experiment in re-using water. There'll be a dedicated post for this one.

7) Irrigation : Invisible because it's under the mulch. I will explain the grey water system later, but basically there's a giant loop of holy pipe that runs around the garden.

8) Design : Read Linda's book. Basically a series of circles allows greater surface area for picking veggies without getting your feet dirty and also allows you to move the chickens around in a circuit.