Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Welcome to Dunny Roll Mountain

All my seeds, except for carrots, are starting off in dunny rolls (here's a video showing HOW TO START SEEDS). They are placed in large containers and then filled with potting mix & topped off with seed raising mix.

I use the best quality potting mix & seed raising mix I can find and I like to use one that has slow release fertiliser plus water crystals because my seeds have to sit out on the veranda for about 6 weeks prior to planting out as seedlings. I live in a cold climate so like to start the seeds early and then leave them in a warm sunny spot to sprout, then transplant out into the main garden once the last frost of the season has passed …which is not until the 2nd week of November (the locals around here say the day after the Melbourne Cup)

I start my seeds in 3 distinct lots and that is because of the cold climate and weather conditions that I live with. The first lot of seeds planted are the ONIONS which are started in pots mid-August and planted out into the garden mid Sept as seedlings, The 2nd lot are CARROT SEEDS and they are planted directly into the garden bed. The 3rd lot of seeds are the frost tender plants such as corn, tomatoes, beans etc. They are started as seeds in Early October and planted out into the main garden mid-November. .

The dunny rolls are collect through the year and come in very handy as they just lift out of the container and can be planted into the soil where they break down anyway. It reduces transplant shock as well

Once the seeds are planted I give them a big drink of water and then place the containers in the glassed area of the veranda where they are protected from the cold & frost. The veranda faces a warm northerly direction which gives the seeds / seedlings filtered sun all day long.

From these seeds I will fill all 7 garden beds, which are each approx. 9 metres long x 1 metre wide ,  and produce in excess of a tonne of fresh food for this 2014 growing season. the food produced will be harvested and then used fresh or processed by way of blanching, freezing, drying, storing or bottling.

This photo below shows last years garden growing nicely. All the plants in that photo were started by seed

and this is some of the fresh food produced through the season


Monday, 29 September 2014

Last Seasons Corn, Beans & Capsicum Beds

This is a photo of last season’s Corn, Bush Beans & Capsicum Beds. 

I plant the same vegetables every year in the same beds. . We allow the beds to rest after each harvest and do not grow continuously. There is a minimum of. 6 months rest for the beds before replanting begins the following season. Each bed is covered thickly in animal manure & dynamic lifter etc straight after harvest.

I always plant 80 corn plants into the corn bed. All corn is started by seed and I always use the same variety of corn which is Yates Sweet Corn “Honey Sweet” .I like that variety because they grow well and produce multi stems with many corn cobs … one plant I got 6 cobs from but mostly I get 2 to 3 cobs per plant plus a handful of little one which I give to the chooks

Last year harvested 201 cobs of corn from 80 corn plants. I harvest them all at the same time and then blanch and freeze them to use through winter months. I think the corn is my favourite plant to grow and often I will pick some and stand in the vegetable patch eating it like a squirrel … just love it. .. can never have enough corn growing

 As for the beans, if I can get 27 kilo a year or more then I know I will have enough beans to blanch and place in the freezer to last through winter.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

How to Grow Vegetable Crops

A bit of info about why I garden  the way I do  ..... I live in a cold climate so grow both Summer & Winter vegetables at the same time except for garlic which grows through winter months :)

CROPS GROWN - Corn, Tomatoes, Capsicum, Beans, Peas, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, Cabbage, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Watermelon, Strawberries, Parsley, Rosemary, Basil, Thyme, Garlic

FRUIT GROWN - Apricots, Plums, Apples, Persimmons, Peach

STORING PRODUCE - I use a number of different preserving methods such as Freezing, Blanching, Bottling, Storing, Drying, & Cold Storage.

SOIL PROFILE - Naturally occurring deep sandy/loam top soil with white then red clay sub soil.

MY GROWING SEASON - Australia - Cold Climate  - Spring through to Autumn  - August  to April (first onion seeds set to last pumpkin harvested) except for garlic which is grown through winter from March and harvested in early summer to December (depending on variety)

RESTING BEDS - Through winter my garden beds may "look bare" but in reality they are covered in a 10cm layer of cow/sheep/goat chook poo, leaves, garden waste (No kitchen waste as it encourages rats) etc which is allowed to break down over the colder months..... I use the beds, while they are resting, like a compost  ... saves on double handling plus feeds the soil & free range worms all at the same time (I do not need to use a “Captive Worm Farm”)

GREEN MANURE CROPS - I do not want to use Green manure crops because I don't like the idea of digging them in (too much manual labour for me)   ..... I find using animal manures a far easier, less hassle-free way of increasing the soil structure and fertility of the soil

MULCH - I only mulch my garden during the winter months when the garden beds are empty. I do not mulch the plants at all during their growing season because it can encourage molds to flourish. I plant the seedlings very close together ….as they grow they create their own shadow on the ground excluding and out growing weeds etc.

GROUND LEVEL BEDS - I keep the beds as close to the ground as I can to reduce water drainage & fluctuation of soil temperature. My soils are a naturally occurring sandy/loam with good drainage so no need to raise the beds. The higher the garden bed is raised the faster water will drain from it especially if it is built on top of an already sandy soil

WEEDS - If I see long tap rooted weeds then I know my soil is not fertile enough (so I add more manure) ... If I see grass growing then I know my soil is fertile enough  ....... If I see a weed growing its not the end of the world ... I just walk up to it, crouch down and remove it ... simple ...

WATERING – I water my garden mid-morning and try to water it deeply once a week which encourages the roots to grow down into the soil where the temperature is stable. … short sprinkles of water every day can cause  roots to come to the surface and run the risk of expose to summer sun and hot soil temperatures  Watering at night can cause powdery mildew.

Below are some photos of food we grow year after year


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Ready to plant onion seedlings

Almost time to plant out the onion seedlings .... maybe tomorrow.

If the garden bed isn't fertile and doesn't have good structure then the plants will struggle to survive. Onions take 24 to 32 weeks to reach maturity (depending on variety etc) and need enough nutrients to sustain them during the long growing period

 We put grass-fed animal manures (we never use Factory Farmed manures as they are toxic in my opinion), mulched up leaves, Blood& Bone, Dynamic Lifter plus a bit of straw from the hen house straight onto the beds after each harvest and then let the beds rest during winter . This allows the organic material to decompose. The blood and bone is essential because it replaces the nitrogen that is lost during decomposition. Allowing the beds to rest after each growing season is essential to maintaining the health, soil structure and fertility of our soil.

If you don’t have access to grass-fed animal manures and don’t want to rest the beds then you can

1) buy a bag of cow poo from the shop and put that around the onions. It will add a small amount of fertilizer but will help improve the structure of the soil which in turn helps with moisture retention & micro development etc .

2) Buy some Blood & Bone which is a powdered animal product from abattoir. It replaces nitrogen that can be lost during decomposition of organic material such as straw etc

3) Buy Dynamic Lifter which is dried chicken poop ..it probably comes from "Factory Farms" so may contain residues but I don't really know. I use it even though I have poop from my own chickens

What you are after is constant growth ... not too fast and not too slow


4) you could buy a "Complete slow release Fertiliser" which will contain all the necessary chemical elements essential for plant growth and will release over time ("Complete Fertiliser doesn't lock up nutrients either) . There is nothing wrong with using a complete fertilizer except for the fact that it doesn't add any organic matter to help with soil structure. ... I don't personally use it on my vegetable garden because the area is too big and would cost me a fortune but on small gardens, raised beds or pots its fine.

5) I never use "fish emulsions" or "liquid soil conditioners" because they can cause rapid sappy growth which can attract Aphids (that's my opinion)

6) you could do green manures (grow legumes or rye etc and dig them in blah blah )... I don't do green manures because I don't want to, doesn't suit what I'm doing  ... I much prefer to allow the beds to rest after each harvest


Monday, 22 September 2014

Garlic Harvest - one down four to go

Yes, Yes,  I know, I know ... you are probably sick & tired of hearing me talk about garlic ... blah, blah, blah, garlic this, garlic that ... ooohh look at all my garlic  ... "ohhh pleaseeeee no more garlic smugness"  ... hahaha  .... I'm sorry, I know I can be a right royal pain in the bum ... but I get soooo excited when things turn out and the plants grow well  .... sort of .... OK so this first lot of garlic not so good .... got a bit moldy .... don't ya hate that .... when your garlic goes moldy .... I know I do

Planted 200 of the "Glen Large" and managed to save 135 of them. Had to harvest early due to a rainy cold snap which caused the White Rot to run rampant .... the bulbs were covered in mold ... urrgghhh what a fun job that was to remove ...  was very tempted to just chuck the whole lot in the bin and then I though "bugger this" I'll see if I can save some ... well surprise, surprise got more than I bargain for ... some of the cloves tried to reshoot as well so could have lost all of them if I hadn't harvested even though a month early. The bulbs are small but will still get a feed from them.

This type of garlic called "Glen Large" is a soft neck variety and more suitable to warmer climates even though garlic likes cold environments my place was just a bit tooo cold for it plus we got a late snow shower right at the critical time of bulb formation and things turned pear shaped after that ....

I've not grown this type before and not sure if I will again, haven't made up my mind just yet. The weather is temperamental at this time of year so is always a challenge growing garlic at the best of times.  As the temperatures start to warm up in Spring, the garlic starts to set bulb and if a cold snap comes through it can cause the bulb to reshoot or rot or both. Nothing much can be done about White Rot as it occurs during cold wet weather and it travels through the soil in the water. Its just one of those things that nature does.

This variety of Garlic has a very strong flavor and is incredibly tasty. I'll probably give in and keep a few for next years planting ... the habit of saving seed/cloves etc is hard to break.

The image below shows the remaining garlic still growing, got about 600 left in the ground. Fingers crossed the weather remains reasonably stable until they are ready for harvest. ... The remaining garlics should be ready some time within the next 6 weeks and the Elephant garlic sometime in Dec (it takes 9 months to maturity)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

More Baby Chickens

 *Yes*   ... L.O.V.E. little baby chicks ...so cute .... so fluffly ....

Check these guys out ... most people have a fish tank in their lounge room but not me ... no sirreee ... I have a brooder instead .... OK so not in the lounge room but out the back room  same thing (not)
Picked these little cuties up last week from the produce store ... they're about 4 days old when I got them so had to place them into the brooder to keep warm. Each day I put them into a carry container and take them out side to a small run so they can sit on the grass in the sunshine .... heres a video of how I WRANGLE THE CHICKENS into the cage hahaha tough job

They are a collection of Light Sussex, Rhode Island Reds and a couple of  Barnevelder ... I've never owned Barnevelder before so will be interesting to see how they turn out ... very pretty though ... I like them a lot.

Below is a photo of them on the grass having a bit of fun running around
They came straight from the hatchery and apparently have been "sexed" even though they could only give me an 80% accuracy rating that they are all females so we will see I guess .... last year I got some and ended up with 1 rooster which wasn't too bad.

Why do I grow my own food ?

Planted all 4 packets of carrot seeds yesterday because I like to grow my garden as if it were a mini farm ... (and here's a dodgy CARROT PLANTING video to prove it!).. If I'd had 10 packets and a bigger carrot bed I would have planted more ... and if I lived on a farm then I'd be sitting in my tractor right now plowing up the "north 40" (acres) ...I'm not interested in successive plantings (Not that there's anything wrong with that, just doesn't suit me) .... I'm a backyard farmer rather than a hobby gardener ... and I'm deadly serious about what I do and why I do it on such a large scale ... This food that I grow is used to feed my husband and I throughout the year. 

Why? because I hate the taste of the crappola chemical laden, limp, old, moldy excuse for "Fresh Food" that the "Supermarket Titty" provides (I'm sure it leaves the farm fresh unfortunately then held in massive warehouses for too long).

We prepare the beds, I plant, I grow, I harvest and then I process it by a number of different ways (blanching, freezing, bottling, drying, storing, etc depending on the type of vegetable ... I use the K.I.S.S. method (Keep it simple stupid) ... below is a photo of last years carrot harvest ... yup all 80 kilo of them

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Carrot Time!

Here we go again for another season! Todays job is to plant the carrot seeds straight into the garden bed.

There are a couple of things I have discovered about starting carrots from seed …
1) the ants L.O.V.E. carrots seeds and will steal them as soon as you put them on the ground and
2) little birds love newly sprouted carrot seeds/seedlings and quite happily will pull out as many as they can stuff into their fat bellies!
I'll post the photos of how I plant them once I pull my finger out and go outside, I need to stop mucking around on the computer and checking facebook etc .. you know how it is ... anyhoo, I have develop a way of planting the tiny carrot seeds in such a way that makes them easier to germinate so will make sure I take my camera and I might even do a video of it as well (which I will post in a later blog update if I don't look too much like a wally on it)

I will probably end up planting all of the seeds because I love carrots and use lots of them in cooking such as stews, baked, salads, carrot cake (drool). I do tend to harvest the carrots all at the same time even though they are not all ready at the same time and the reason is because I like to harvest and then blanch as many as I can and place them in the freezer for use later through the winter. I dont mind that some are big and some are small. If the carrots are left too long in the ground they can go woody and i much prefer it when they are tender.

I like to grow Topweight because they grow well in my cold climate conditions. Top weight is an old variety of carrot and tends to be resistant to disease. Plus they are a nice size carrot. I’m not going to bother growing the baby ones this year even though they are in the photo, I bought them by mistake.
In Cold Climates carrots can be planted from Sept to Feb, In Temperate climates from July to Mar and in Tropical & Sub Tropical climates from Feb to Nov (I’m quoting from Yates Garden Guide on when is the best time to plant carrots)

below are some photos from previous years ...


  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
DONE! Whoohoo carrot seeds are planted … yup 4 packets of seeds all in at once … yes, yes ,yes , I know, I know, could have done successive plantings blah, blah, blah  but I don’t want to because that’s not how I like to do it … Maybe I’m a little bit  … well you know  … odd … but who cares not me.

The reason I plant all of them at once is because I then like to harvest them all at once even if some of them are small doesn’t matter. I use all shapes and sizes plus I prefer the carrots to be on the tender side rather than leaving them in the ground … they can go woody if you’re not careful

Once they are ready for harvest I pick a nice day and get into it early and just dig those suckers up (last year 80 kilo)  …. Actually the soil here is real nice so the carrots pull straight out of the ground without much effort at all. Once harvested I top & tail them (remove the leavers and tip of the root) and drop them into a large container of water (just fill up the wheel burrow is the easiest way to do it)

Once the carrots are washed I take them inside the house, put on a couple of saucepans of boiling water, peel & slice and then blanch the carrots in batches for 3 minutes (at a rolling boil) then plunge straight into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Let drain and then package into freezer bags and pop into the freezer …  VOLA! .. easy all done in one day …. A very long day but well worth the effort because then I have carrots ready to use in stews or steamed etc through the winter months when the garden beds are empty and resting. I don’t blanch all of them and do keep a couple of kilo fresh in the fridge which we use in our morning juice of apple, carrot & celery

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sprouting Time - Peas and Onions

Its Pea Time ... that's right you heard me  ....  the peas have finally sprouted and are looking rather cute sitting in their dunny rolls sucking up water and growing taller by the minute.... awww pretty.

Planted then on the 20/08/14 and its now 21 days later . They are looking good, rather happy that all 9 "Greenfeast"  have sprouted. A 100% sprouting is very good indeed, I'm happy when I get over 50% ... the same cant be said for the "Snow peas" they are just starting to sprout and so far 3 out of 9 have developed. Admittedly the Snow pea seeds are 2 years out of date but I was too slack to go get more so used what I had .... its all good, what ever grows is ok with me.

This is the dodgy video I did on How To Start Onion and Pea Seeds ... I had a cold when I did this so hard to breath and talk all at the same time :)

The onions are going crazy which is a good sign ... think it might end up being a good year for growing onions ... I know that sounds a bit out there but I can sort of tell what vegetables will have a good growing season from the way the seeds behave ... The mysteries of nature have a way of "knowing" if the coming seasons will be good for the developing seeds

They are looking good and standing up nice and tall, have another 3 containers so should end up with a few hundred onions. That's a lot of onions soup! (got a great old recipe for French Onions Soup which I will share very soon, just have to stop mucking around and write it out)

The bed they will eventually occupy is 9 metres long by 1 metre wide and can handle approx. 900 onions. The photo below is from last years planting. The beds are specifically designed long and thin so I don't have to walk on them to plant which stops the soil from becoming compacted.

Last year was a really difficult year because of the drought . We missed out on the winter & spring rain fall plus living in a rain shadow doesn't help. The water tanks ran out half way through the season so had to harvest the onions early.

Below is a photo of the early harvest from last years growing season. Didn't get as many as previous years but cant complain because we had no water left so they just had to make do with what was in the ground. Thankfully the soils here are very fertile and have good structure. I ended up harvesting them early and putting them on the veranda to dry.

They stayed on the veranda until the tops turn brown then they are topped and tailed (removed the leaves and roots) and placed in mesh bags or cardboard boxes (which ever I have handy at the time) and then placed out the back room for storage. The photos below show the different storage methods I have used over the previous years

Woolly work space

This is a photo of my little work space where I make the different crochet & knitted toys. I find it incredibly relaxing and no two to...