Friday, November 2, 2012

November garden

The lobbing of the old olive trees and the lilac tree has made room for new garden beds in the back of the garden, in an area which has a bit of shade at the moment but is going into full sun soon. It's the ideal spot for tomatoes and I planted several plants from self sown seeds out of the compost.  The first bed was created about four or five weeks ago and I used some Pura Veda seeds to get a bit of ground cover and much needed shade from the direct sun impact.

I used old jarrah planks to shape the beds and put some mulch around them after I had lifted the useful earth into the beds from the outside ot the area. On the side of the bed I am raising more tomatoes, zucchini and kohlrabi seedlings in pots.
The bed to the back left followed about two weeks ago and I sowed some yellow beans, kohlrabi and rocket. The garden bed in the forefront is just a week old and holds more tomatoes, spring onions and more radishes will hopefully come up. I also just stuck into the ground two onions which have started growing in my kitchen draw and were no longer useful in food. Hope to get some seeds out of them and they might also work as  repellent against pests.
My experiment with lettuces in pots worked well again this year. The seedlings just came up in the area where we had lettuce last year. the plants are going to seeds now a bit early because of the hot weather last week. To the right of the picture are some tomatoes just about to set fruit, and starting to climb up the home made frame. In the front are some sweet potatoes, the leaves are good for stir fry too. 
 This is the 2011 lettuce patch, plants are shooting up here too, desperate for some water. The soil is depleted, as no additional manure was added since last years crop, but we got about 8 weeks of lettuce out of it  and are still picking leaves as we go. I am looking forward to the sunflowers reproducing last years splendid work in attracting bees to the garden and providing shade to the crops below.
To the left of the 2011 lettuce patch is a new area where I grow green beans, peas and coriander next to parsley in the shade of an orange tree. The beans just started climbing on the hand made frame and a bamboo pole. The patch is visible from the kitchen and I enjoy watching the beans grow every day. This picture also shows one of my fruit-fly traps. First results are out and need to be written up in another post.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fruit fly traps

The mediterranean fruit fly is in my view the biggest threat to obtaining a yield on tomatoes and stone fruit in Perth. The plum trees we planted last year have set lots of fruit and some of them are already showing bite marks of fruit flys. It's time to do something about it, and might even alread be too late. I have prepared  a few small and big plastic bottles to use as fly traps and want to give it shot again, after my last attempts were not overly successful.

A good recipe for the bait is from a program of ABC Gouldburn Murray on 1 April 2011.
Jacky's Fruit Fly mixture:
Add one heaped teaspoon of vegemite to one litre mixing jug.
Add half a cup of hot water to dissolve the vegemite.
Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
Add finely chopped banana peel.
Fill remainder of jug with cold water.
Cut two small holes at top of empty 1.25 litre plastic bottles.
Pour a third of mixture into plastic bottle and hang (one litre mixture can be spread across three 1.25 litre bottles.)

Some other useful suggestions come from Garden Note 547 published by  the WA Department of Agriculture and Forest.
Mediterranean fruit fly - ceratitis capitata
Table 2 contains several fruitfly bait recipes, all exploring the need of the female medfly for protein:

Recipes to lure Medfly in home gardens
Solution 1
80 g white sugar
1.5 g dry brewer’s yeast
920 mL water
Solution 2
5 mL imitation vanilla essence
20 mL household ammonia
1 L water
Solution 3
Peel from 6 mandarins (or 2 oranges)
50 mL household ammonia
1 L water
Solution 4
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp ammonia
2 tbsp imitation vanilla essence
1 L water
Solution 5
1 tsp borax
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp bran
1 L water

The internet has plenty of advice on how to control the medfruit fly:
The WA Department of Agriculture also publishes another useful resource: Common Seasonal Pests. Time to cut the bottles and to prepare the mixtures.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wicking bed in Perth?

The weather has been very wet in the last two days and I have noticed how well the mulch we applied last year has changed to soil, or at least rich and dark coverage of the sandy sub-soil.

It's time to make new plans, especially for the garden. Designing new garden beds is on top of the list. I have been interested in wicking beds after Permaculture WA has been promoting it for a few years now and a friend in Mount Lawley had good yield with hers.
Today I got an interesting article with inspiring photo from  Sustainable Gardening Australia.
I tried to link the pic, but could not do so, so here it is again: neat beds and the box in the background looks just the size of my old fridge! Am also intrigued to see the mashed frame protect the plants from pest, such as fruit flies, can imagine a number of tomatoes growing in there and other delicat goodies.

Want to explore the making of wicking beds, the principle is good, conserving water, limiting fertiliser and concentrating the good soil where it is really needed.

The second immediate task is to find out more about nitrogen fixers. Have been looking at a good youtube video that explained how the plants need assistance when picking up the nitrogen from the soil.
One thing is clear to me and not frightening but exciting: I need to learn more!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Urban farming

Becoming more and more interested in urban farming, ready to learn and grow myself, I have found a few inspiring videos such as this one:

The tree lobbers have been and there is plenty of space to plant, space for new fruit trees, veggie gardens and my blueprint looks more and more like this picture which is taken from a community garden surbey in Sydney. What a great place to work in and recharge your batteries:
Still, our hearts need to heal as the cutting of old olive trees and the lobbing of our shade giving ficus was a big blow to our souls. It will get better and time will heal the sorrow and some new growth will give hope. Looking forward to a fresh start.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Food revolution

Two videos have come to me today and inspired me. They are both about food.

The first one it by Britta Riley "Garden in my Appartment".  Britta Riley wanted to grow her own food (in her tiny apartment). So she and her friends developed a system for growing plants in discarded plastic bottles -- researching, testing and tweaking the system using social media, trying many variations at once and quickly arriving at the optimal system. The method follows open source development and the network now connects 18,000 people around the world.
The second one is by Jamie Oliver, who won the TED prize 2012. His lecture is titled: Teach every child about food.  My daughter has been cooking from a Jamie Oliver cookbook for some time now and she could get the meal together (with a little bit of help) in less than 1 hour. Tasty food and easy to make.

I admireJamie Oliver's drive for advancing the food revolution and find it inspiring. Just have my doubts whether Americans can be inspired with the word revolution at all right now.

A lot of things came together and motivated my own household to eat less in general but especially less sugar, fat and wheat; and  a lot more veggies and lettuce from the garden that self seeded from last years's crop.

The ad on toxic fats that rocked our state recently has been quite useful too. It makes you think and helped shift habits and priorities. It's not hard to change your eating habits and there is no excuse. I am writing this while my barley is cooking on the stove.

Wheat creates toxidity in the body and  toxins are an issue as the body has dofficulties to deal with them. I will make more effort at avoiding eating it. A recent study in China has confirmed: The most important food toxins are cereal grains (especially wheat), omega-6-rich vegetable oils, and fructose from sugar and corn syrup. Rice is actually the only non-toxic cereal grain and one of our “safe starches.”

Here is a chart of the percentage obese people (by countries), defined as having an average body mass index (BMI) above 30:
The BMI estimates fat in your body by comparing your weight and height. It is calculated by dividing your weight  (in kilos) by the square of your height (in metres). It's easy to calculate your BMI online, just use one of the many websites available free of charge. Being myself at the upper limit of a healthy weight towards overweight, I vow to change that before the rich Christmas period comes up. 

I also vow to protect my lettuce patch from the tree lobbers who are coming tomorrow to make more space in our garden for food production and  especially more fruit trees. Only the big ficus in the middle of the garden is allowed to stay, but the top will be lobbed off too. Make sure the tree lobbers leave the mulch in place.

There is hope and a lot of motivation too. Better check on my barley now!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chicken in the backyard?!

Chickens are a major link in a permaculture garden and I have been thinking about getting a chook coop for a while now. I have been admiring various constructions and found great blog posts such as these ones:
Special fascination for me have the mobile chicken co-ops and the genuine creativity people put in place when building such houses using what they have or find with the help of friends, verge collections or through initiatives such as freecycle. A great example of a mobile chicken coop is this one, using an old water tank on wheels.

Curious chicken at my mother's place
My garden is big enough, the right spot has been identified and cleared of jungle; and I even got some poles and chicken wire already organised. But so far I have been waiting to make the move and get the pen set up. The time is not quite right yet.

Also I have been turned off by the usual small size of chicken tractors, which is the name given to mobile chicken houses that people place on top of their garden beds to ensure the chickens eat pest, like slaters and snails, and leave their goodies as compost.

Today I saw a post on facebook that intrigued me and I am closer to devising what the final chook coop will look like. Check out this genuinely creative and sustainable construction by Matt Pike, described in the Farmer Pal's Forum.

Yesterday we went to the open day at the Lockridge Community Garden and a visit inspired us even more, especially an opportunity to look into the backyard of permaculture gardens in private hands in the vicinity of the relatively community garden.

Keep it up guys. And everybody who would like to get involved should check out PermacultureWest! Well worth connecting with.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Food and Health

My good friend Annemarie sent me a picture this morning. It's too good to keep for myself:

I checked out their website, but could not easily spot this picture on it, check it out yourself if you like. This statement is probably not true at face value, as the importance of food gets more and more recognised. So I would replace the word 'no' with  'not very much'. But pointing out the lack of interaction between food and health industry is a very valid point which needs to be raised.

Finally the rainy season has started in Perth. We got a wooping 54mm on 28 April!  It poured down, a welcome breathing space for plants and soil biodiversity. I noticed that due to the humidity in the garden the sound levels especially at night time have risen significantly, lots of crickets and frogs. A real pleasure to watch and listen.

Despite a broken foot I have prepared pots for planting and sowed lettuces and herbs.  I pulled out huge stalks of sun flowers and will get the garden bed ready for beans. I also pruned some bougainvilleas and will have another go at propagating them, as the last attempt was unsuccessful. I noticed small roots starting already to grow out of some stems close to a leave. This season might be better.

Getting my hands dirty, turning the compost, emptying the worm farm and preparing the garden beds feels go good and right. I can't wait to go out in my garden again.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Diversity in potatoes

I was intrigued by this photo showing potatoe varieties from Peru on a facebook group. I traced back the origin of the photo. It goes back to the CIP, the International Potatoe Centre in Peru which seeks to ensure the genetic diversity of this staple food crop.

The picture comes with the following subtitle:

A few of the many varieties of potatoes. CIP maintains the world’s largest genetic bank of potatoes, including 1500 samples of 100 wild species collected in eight Latin American countries, as well as samples of 3800 traditional Andean cultivated potatoes. The collection is maintained under the auspices of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, and is available to plant breeders worldwide free upon request.

Here are more pretty pictures about potatoes. Unfortunately in Western Australia the marketing of potatoes is limited through the Marketing Potatoes Act 1946. But the limitations in what kind of potatoes you can grow and sell in WA only apply to commercial producers. These are people who grow more than 100 square meters of potatoes. Luckily this is a lot bigger than my garden. Sadly the problem remains how to get the potatoes through quarantine. Also the Perth weather would probably not be suitable to grow any of these successfully anyway.

But they are so pretty!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Preparing for autumn planting

New moon is tomorrow and the weather is already cooling down a bit especially at night time. Yesterday the daytime temperature was still 35 degrees, but I feel that autumn is around the corner. It's officially to start on 1 March here in Australia.

I have prepared three big pots for autumn planting and will check my local list of vegetable to grow. Am thinking about spring onions and leek, also am longing for a zucchini.

Currently there are only a few sunflowers that attract many bees. The beds are deserted apart from a few capsicums and tomatoes.

From a facebook list I got a good link to many recipes for canning fruit and vegetables. Looks very promising and makes the mouth water in the hope for a good winter harvest. the website contains recipes for jams, jellies and spreads, including some fruit butters and sauces referenced in the main alphabetical list below:
I will check it out, especially the relish.

I will have a vegetarian friend come over for lunch today. Just turned the breadmaker on to make me some nice pizza dough. On the menue is Pizza Bianca and some simple salads, including my Croatian inspired coleslaw.

My dough recipe is simple:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon yeast and some salt
The breadmaker does the work and I sit back and I have time to do other things, eg writing this blog. Once the dough is ready I roll it out into three pizzas and let them rise for another hour of so.
My Pizza Bianca only has olive oil, mixed herbs, garlic, salt, mozarella and parmesan on it. One pizza is for lunch and the other two will be tonight's dinner. I will prebake their bases when I bake the lunch pizza and finish the pizzas up tonight. 

If you want to make it from scratch, this video helps. However, I rather use some wholemeal flour. Give it a go, it is as easy as it looks here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Growing potatoes on top of lawn

Perth's climate is dry and hot in summer, but we have been getting good winter rains. The average rainfall in 2011 even topped the average rainfall mark by a few mm.

I am intrigued by this simple method of growing potatoes above ground, just on top of the lawn. I put it into my bucket list of methods to try.