Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jarrah saw dust

I sourced some jarrah saw dust for the garden and we picked up a big bag of it last Sunday. It has a red ocker colour, fine consistency and a lot of dust came up when we bagged the saw dust for the tansport. Again demonstrated how little occupational safety and health is involved and how little we were prepared for the dust. We tipped two bags each straight into the raised garden beds. Not sure what is next to prepare the soil for good winter planting. There was enough to fill the beds half and we had leftover for a decent stock pile close by. 
I watered the saw dust in and it takes a lot of water. It seems to keep the water well, as layers further below were still dry. I could not find much on the internet about jarrah saw dust and gardening. Probably a too rare material to come across here in Perth. I made sure that the jarrah is untreated otherwise I would not have allowed it into our garden. The jarrah saw dust comes from a metropolitan backyard mill. The timber originates from the old Emu Brewery in Fremantle. It was never treated and is now finding a new purpose, being turned into floor boards.
The next months will be a bit of trial and error  will check what to do with it and how to best use the saw dust. This morning I put a bucket full into the next compost batch with a bucket of greens, a bucket of emu  manure and a bucket of leaves. Will tonight add moist cardboard and see what else I can prune into the mixture.

A friend gave me more zucchini plants, hybrids unfortunately, but I still planted the four seedlings yesterday. One went into garden bed three and this morning there is no trace of it. This must be the capital of the slater population, the place they want to keep free for parties, where they try to keep the ground clear of any vegetation. Two seedlings went into tomato pots. As the tomatoes are on the way out I thought the new plant would have time to establish and grow. By the time zucchinis would be ready for harvest the tomatoes can be removed. Both plants were in the centre of a slater nursery this morning and I doused them with a pyrethrum-chilly-garlic spray. That might assist.  The fourth plant fared the best. It went into a newly cleared area next to garden bed two. I just added compost and put it straight into the ground. Watered well and covered the surroundings with straw. It looked pretty unscathed this morning.

My moon planting calender showed a good time slot yesterday for planting root vegetables. So I finally added heirloom carrot seeds that I got for my birthday last year to the bed. I also planted a ginger rhizome at the edge of bed one after noticing that it started sprouting in my kitchen cupboard. I also found fresh growth in a spot in bed one where I grew some sweet potatoes in the past years. We must have overlooked a bulb or two and nature takes its course. The leaves look healthy and I added straw to mulch the spot and assist the plant in getting to the moisture and nutrients it needs. 

The weather is friendly, we had a few cooler days with temperatures in the high twenties. Friday's prediction goes up to 40degrees again, need to increase the mulch and water well.  Yesterday morning I watered with seasol and gave the plants a treat. With the additional watering in this hot weather, nutrients are more likely to wash out and need to be replenished. The plants simply need a bit more love and care.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Summer heat

We went away over the holidays; nine night down south, Margaret River, Pemberton and near Albany. We had a lovely time away from the garden and it was a bit of a shock when I cam back and saw how much it had grown and how much had actually died while I was away. The temperatures in Perth were mostly in the high thirties during that period and the plants had difficulties coping: not enough water and too much heat.

The green tomato shoots were brown, dry edges around the pumpkins and bed one had a very sad look indeed. But I knew how resilient plants are and got back just in time. I decided to give it a good watering on the afternoon we got back and then applied worm juice, diluted 20 to 1, the next morning.

But there was good news too. The first pepper has reached a noticeable size and the rockmelon is looking more like a rockmelon, hanging from the frame. More fruit has set, about four melons are growing at the moment. I harvested plenty of tomatoes and their taste is sweet and yummy.

The garden sounds have changed. We have more crickets and a few frog like sounds can be heard too. A few native wasps fly about and clean up around the plants.

The potatoes in one of the raised garden beds were getting a bit high and needed more compost to grow well. One of the compost lots was just ready after three weeks in the barrow. The earth was moist, nutirient rich and just right. A few fence droppers and four wooden boards gave the right hold to the new earth. Straw to be added soon as mulch.

Today is the fifth day since we got home and I have been busy pruning, weeding and was cutting many leaves with mildew off the zucchinis and pumpkins. Slowly the garden is getting back into shape. I very much enjoy the many tasks in the garden! They keep me balanced and focused, a bit like meditation where nothing else counts apart from the health and wellbeing of the plants.

I also have joined Permaculture WA and am starting a new gardening network in Mount Hawthorn under the umbrella of Grow It Yourself Australia. Letterdropping in my local area are on my to do list. I also need to get back on the waiting list for free mulch. And the planning for the winter crops need to progress. My moon calendar tells me that the 25 January is a good day for seeding root crops and a ginger bulb in my cupboard started growing and looks promising. Time to put it in the ground later today.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Redbacks and Rain

The time between Christmas and New Year is a time to tidy up, start new projects and think about plans for the year ahead.

I had not thoroughly checked our garden furniture and noticed some tiny and tidy white balls on the garage wall that were guarded by a fat red back lady. I had not turned over the garden chair for a while and noticed some fuzzy webs that were bursting out of the corner joints of the wodden chairs.

We ended up killing five fat red backs, first using spray and then squashing them on some bricks. Red backs are creatures I would not want to share my garden with and although sad to kill them they had to go. We sprayed the furniture and the shed side, trying to avoid the hunting places of the daddy longlegs.

And then the rain came, 16mm total. I calculated that we have the rainwater tank fed by 80m2 roof area. 1mm rain collects 1 litre of water per sqm. 16mm therefore might have deposited 1280l water into my tank. What a catch! I love the sound of water dripping into the tank. It filled up by a third and the danger of running out of water by the end of January is banned. The water should last until well into March. Great start for the year. Here is the Watercorp chart showing the rainfall until today:

201116.4                       16.4

But the water did not only bring happiness. The wet and humid climate brought me some mildew, diligently identified by some permaculture friends yesterday. Affected were one pumpkin and today I discovered mildew as well on a zucchini, all in the first bed. I cut them off and the cut-offs went straight into the bin. Cutting off the leaves also brought a bit more light onto my tomatoes.
The weather is better now and the humidity has disappeared. Hopefully I called all of the midew fungus. My grapes and the tomatoes look fine. A least for the moment. But I will keep a proper look out for the signs.

The rockmelons have set fruit. They still love the climbing frame and I love it that I can see it grow without even bending over.

I removed all pumpkins from the second patch this morning and put them straight into the compost. Now the capsicums have the place to themselves and get more water and light. The first fruit has set here as well.

After the rain I replanted a zucchini from the first to the second bed, did not get enough space where it first was and will now grow with two sisters. With the plant I took a good chunk of earth aiming to not disturb the root system. The earth looked great, healthy, moist and in good shape, despite being removed from the very far corner of the first patch. The rainwater had penetrated at least 15cm. I think we did something right when preparing the ground or it had something to do with many years of leaving the soil ti itself after an intensive gardening period on the block in the fifties to seventies. Definitely not the sand only soil type one would expect in Perth.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Accident free new gardening year 2011

I wonder whether there is such as thing as "new gardening year"? Anyway, 2010 has been and gone and 2011 has commenced. I was in bed by midnight and it felt just right. Unfortunately I stabbed the top of my right foot on Christmas day on a dead branch of my lavender bush when using my leftover washing machine water to water my favourite and only rose "fragrant cloud".

A piece of the dry twig penetrated the skin, broke off and got stuck. A 50cent-size area of the foot blew up like a blister. I had difficulties pulling the piece out and the swelling went down soon after I did. Still, I copped a major infection and the foot got worse by the minute, swelled up and around the wound it got a red halo. I applied my "magic oil -NeoBallistol Oil" that I have brought over from Germany regularly with friends. But it did not bring the swelling down and the red halo around the would grew. Christmas Day, Boxing Day and then two public holidays only saw me getting to the doctor on Thursday. He said it was possibly a staph infection and he put me on a high dose of pennicilin which I have to take four times a day, four times 500mg for five days. Not only bad for my stomach, but he also jabbed me against tetanus and the arm is sore still...

What did I learn from that? I am wearing gloves and gardening shoes now each time I go out! Sometimes learning is painful. More tips on safety precautions while gardening from Victorian Health Authorities.

It has been hot for a while and now at night time the temperatures stay up over 20 degrees, challenging times for the garden.

But all is well. I took out a few pumpkin seedlings for a friend yesterday and found the earth in good shape, moist and looking like earth should. I have been watering twice a day, small amounts only. Seems to be the right amount to keep the earth moist. The straw is doing a good job as mulch no matter what people say.

The first patch is looking great, lots of fruit has set and the two pumpkin plants in front are doing fine. They have sent their shoots in all directions and I am guiding them around the garden bed for further protection against the sun. Some tomatoe plants have climbed as high as the shade cloth and we need to adjust it accordingly, probably changing the direction of the cloth as well as using higher bamboo stakes to accommodate the plants.

The beans in the fourth bed are doing well.  All 24 beans came up (four varieties of six beans, half climbers half not). Eight were planted in toilet rolls, they had more difficulties getting up from their confinement but seem to grow  healthier looking leaves. Three beans had their young shoots eaten by some creature, possibly slugs. Slaters are busy working especially next to the water tank but they seem to leave the plants alone. First tentacles appeared on the climbing beans pointing towards the poles.

The third bed has been dedicated to the growing of pumpkins. I tried to plant spring onions, beans and capsicum without success. All disappeared within a week, most plants were eaten. I guess this was due to shredded but uncomposted  newspaper that we added after wetting only to increase organic matter in the patch.

The pumpkins are more hardy. They came up from compost and are doing fine.

They are shading the feet of the grape vine, good service on our hot summer days. The grape harvest is coming along beautifully. Grapes look fine! They ripen slow by slow. Every day plenty of ripe ones and lots of green ones on the vine too. The variety is quite loose and allows enough sun onto each grape to make it sweet and juicy.
Unfortunately a small number of grapes have split open, may be due to too much water. So I am a bit more careful with watering the stock.

The rock melon has embraced the climbing frame and made attempts to attach to the peppermint tree close by. No fruit has set yet, might need more bees to do the job. A friend of mine shared her story that recently a rockmelon plant in her garden came and went without setting any fruit at all.

There are plenty of flowers, although I am not sure how to distinguish the males from the females. Should be a similar issue to pumpkins and if need be I will become the fertility angel.

I am relaxed about it at the moment but will watch this space. I think it might have something to do with the variety of plants involved. The three plants that grow in the second patch were bought in a garden centre. I am not sure about what variety they are but promise myself to grow more heirloom varieties next season to ensure they are hardy and fertile!

My latest potatoe experiment is doing well. I put more compost on the heap recently and shaded it with a swim suit of my boy on an old clothes rack. Better to be in the ground than in the bin. They are making a start in my new raised garden bed. See how it goes.

All is well and my foot is nearly healed. Hope the weather will cool down soon. Today it is overcast and 32degrees, 50% chance of rain. My watertank is still half full, but could take a top-up.