Saturday, February 26, 2011

Preparing for winter

Preparing for winter sounds like a strange task while Perth is about to crack the record of longest period over 35degrees. Another three days and we will be getting there. However some plants seem to cope well with the weather. The sweet potatoes are thrieving and the basil is looking healthy, this variety of basil has very straight flat leaves and is planted in a pot.

I sowed beans seeds into one of my raised garden beds, using toilet rolls and good compost. Now wo weeks after putting them into the ground, I realised that the slater must have had a party at that spot. The young shoots were raiserbladed off at the moment they tried to get out of the ground. This has been a lecture for me. I now have removed all straw and exposed the nicely protected area to the sunlight. Only the basil is doing well in there as well, or should I better say it is surviving ok.

My daughter and I seeded, zucchini, eggplant, kohlrabi and coriander for the cooler season. We put them high up onto a wooden garden table into green plastic seedling pots, 20 together in one tray. My daughter is watering it eagerly in the morning and evening and the pots are in the shade most of the day, onmly the afternoon sun is on them for abut two hours. So far a no-show. But it seems to be working much better than the egg cartone we used at the last try, as these dried out quickly and only two of the 24 seeds have actullay come up, but they are looking quite frail.

The cat has caught another mouse, I found it outside the backdoor, already dead but not nibbled on, on the morning after the last one was caught, This time I did not measure it. But friends told me that once a "Nedlands Possum" reaches 30cm it is definitely no longer a mouse. 

Here you go, medals for the cat!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fungus in the worm farm and another rat

The worms are having the same difficulties with the weather as the vegetables, it's too hot and they are cooking. Cold, wet, shreeded  newspaper is halfway successful in keeping them cool, but after three weeks of hot weather it looks like we are loosing the battle.

Also I have imported a fungus into the worm farm, probably through decaying vegetable scraps of fruit from our office compost.  For about one months I saw it developing. The fungus slowly grew and has been taking over first just one tray and after I removedthat tray there were still enough spores left to infest a second one. The removed tray I left out in the sun to dry.

The worms still looked healthy about a week ago, with fat rings around their tummies.  I transferred some of the fat worms to now live under my banana plant and removed further infected materialm this time into the rubbish bin. But the white fungus signs have come back.

I wonder what type of fungus it is and what I can possibly do with it. Or better against it. I might have to chuck out the worms and somehow sterilise the worm farm before getting another lot. I have plenty of worm juice from the past two-three years so I could do without, but I rather use my veggie scraps for these quiet animals.

The cat gave us another present just after dinner tonight I was surprised to see her come in at her own will, as the house is much hotter than outside since we don not have air conditioning. he had a good reason, wanted o be congratulated for another mouse/rat that she caught and presented us with in the kitchen. Luckily it was dead. I got a ruler and measured it from head to tail: 30cm.

What a cat! Reminds me that it's time to mop the kitchen floor again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beans galore

The garden is suffering under the continuous heat. The temperatures have been above 35degrees for quite a while now. Rain is again not in sight for this week and the water tank is nearly empty. Good time to change the fitting of the tap on the tank as it has been leaking a bit.

The beans are doing well and I harvested the first handful for a dinner. I added some compost under each of the beans separately and water them at least once a day by hand. The butter beans are performing best. They showed the first fruit after 8 weeks as predicted on the packet.

The tomatoes are finished and did not produce the yield that I had hoped for. I wanted to make lots of tomato paste, but could not even get together one full batch. The first patch is still growing pumpkins, the zucchinis are finished, sweet potatoes have come up are are doing well. Basil loves the spot and the weather. Ready to think about winter crops. But I might only raise some seeds and not put anything into the ground until it gets a bit colder.

I planted some more beans seeds in toilet rolls straight into one of my raised garden beds and covered the area with straw. The slater population had already multiplied incredibly and the seedlings were eaten as soon as they tried to come out from the toilet rolls. No plants made it past the garden bed rim.

The most success planting and the least slater damage we had in freshly made up garden beds where the slater population was not yet established. Once the plants were off the ground, the damage was minimal. I think this might lead to letting the beds pretty much die down before planting new seedlings, getting rid of all straw and removing the comfortable habitat for the slaters. Fortunately our garden is big enough for thr trial of such procedure. There are plenty of spots that would be suitable for new garden beds. But I might have to sleep over that thought and flag it in my gardening networks.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fruit flies - traps and more

Some of my tomatoes have been showing bite marks made by little creatures daring to share my garden and my produce. I noticed two different ways how my tomatoes were affected. One type bit the tomatoes very close to the stem so they fell off. The two tomatoes on the left were affected that way. When I checked the interior I found that the pest had not gone far inside and I could still eat 90% of the tomato.  The second type looked like a hole was punched into the fruit but I could not find any maggots. More like something has nibbled on it before it grew and the wound was now scarred over.

I was thinking for some time about making fruit fly traps despite not being sure whether the bite marks were actually made by fruit flies. However, I thought I get in my traps early and look for other solutions if I do not catch anthing.

Checking out the internet I found a lot of material and at least two useful videos on Youtube. 
One trap uses a chopped off plastic bottle, glued the top on upside down and inserting a banana before glueing it all together again. Both traps on the right show this model. I put one filled with a banana peel out earlier but all I caught in 24 hours was a cricket and some blind ants. Poor things! Both traps on the left side I filled with the mixture described below. This morning I put all traps into the garden beds but I could not spot any animal trapped. Let's give it more time. 
The second type of trap (left trap in photo) simply inserts a cone shaped paper into a tall glass jar and gluers the paper tightly to the rim so no animal can escape. On the video it was suggested to insert apple cider vinegar but I just run out of that vinegar and did not want to waste my raspberry vinegar.

I filled the bottom of the jar with a different concoction of sweet liquids to entice the little critters to come inside. The composition for the mixture was suggested on Grow It Yourself Australia. I replicate the recipe here:
  • 1/2 litre of water
  • 1/4 tablespoon of Cloudy Ammonia
  • 1/4 a teaspoon of Vanilla Essence 
  • 50 gm of Sugar
  • a bit of Liquid Detergent
  • a blob of Vegemite
Whether it is working in the long run is still to be seen. First tests were rather negative, but may be it's just a testimony of how healthy my garden actually is. You wish!

Monday, February 7, 2011

First bean(s)

Yesterday we discovered the first beans, only one is ready for harvest, a yellow butterbean. But I consider it a great start and there are plenty of flowers for more to follow.

The climbing beans are utilising the banboo poles and growing past the top with their shoots looking for the next benture post. I am not sure whether to cut off the shoots at the top to encourage them to grow side shoots and more flowers there. I am grateful that google and the many gardening links give me such helpful gardening resources.

And I treasure the support from friendly gardeners at Permaculture West and Grow it Yourself Australia. I am committed to establishing a local group of people who grow their own food in my neighbourhood. This has the aim to share experiences, seeds and seedlings; to pass on excess harvest, if any; and to simply broaden my network and connections in my suburb. I see more and more raised garden beds popping up on the verge and there still are the old Italian, Serbian and Greek growers that use their suburban block for vegetable gardening, growing chillies, artichokes, eggplant and heaps of tomatoes. I want to connect these neighbours and bring the growing community together. But that needs a bit of work and plenty of time, letter dropping, writing articles for the local community newspaper. I decided to start with a flyer to give out on the Open Day of my friendly Loftus Community Centre on 19 February and  put up some flyers at the local shop and the local library. Taking things easy is the motto: Slow food and slow growth.

The jarrah saw dust has composted well. I mixed it in with plenty of leaves, dirt I swept together from under the clothes line and a big bucket of emu manure that I soaked well overnight. The small flakes of the jarrah sawdust ghave a great texture to the compost, also it soaked up a lot of moisture. I also cleared out the worm farm and added the mixture to the compost. Then  I added some bentonite clay from my cat litter box and some epson salt/magnesium.

Two big pots of compost as a result of only two weeks turning of the compost barrel. I cover the compost with some cardboard and carpet during daytime, but still some moisture escapes, might think about a better design and have earmarked an old small rubbish bin to keep the compost until it is needed. But I read it is much better to use it right away than saving it for some later days.
I am looking forward to the first crops growing in the compost and planted another lot of tomatoes in the corner of one of the raised garden beds. But the sun is still very hot and they did not survive their first night well. I hope that shade cloth will give them a bit of relief.

After emptying both compost barrels I already put another lot on, same mixture. It is already looking good after just three days!

The new moon has brought us the Year of the Rabbit. I let the first period for planting in February go without much work bacause of ongoing 35 degrees and a hot sun. I am pleased that we were spared from high winds and cyclone Bianca. Although we had a bit of wind, the big ficus still worked well as wind break in our garden. That big tree will certainly escape the chop when we tidy up the back of the block to prepare for fruit trees before the rain comes.

It's time to plan the winter crop and I have taken some leave after dental sugery. If only my brain would work with the pain killers.