Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Upcycling an old chest of draws into a garden feature



After a cold morning spent drinking coffee and googling garden upcycling  ideas on my phone, I decided to use an old chest of draws from the 'to burn' pile as a useful garden feature. My daughter and I dragged it around to where we wanted it, lined the draws with builders plastic (also reclaimed), filled them with chook compost and potting mix and planted some Johnny Jump Ups in them. We also sprinkled around some seeds for Love in the Mist (Nigella), calendula (pot marigold) and marigolds to add some more colour to the mix.





We also planted out some old terracotta pots with flower seedlings and seeds and left them lying artfully around. I must say the entire experience was very satisfying.

Until recently I have not been a flowers person; I prefer to grow food and herbs, but lately I find myself drawn to colour and flowers in the garden. Maybe I'm getting old.

I can imagine this feature spilling over with green, purple and yellow in a month or so, can you?


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Some more unusual vegetable beds made from old pallets



Yes...I did it again; I saw some old junk laying around and thought "That would make a really good garden bed"

This time it was an old pallet. My partner installs stand alone solar systems so he occasionally brings home a pallet that has been used to transport panels or batteries. They are usually used as fire starters (being made of pine they burn fast and hot).

I had cleaned out the trailer bed ready to be planted with more green pick for salads and stir fries, and was thinking I need more space for lettuce and baby spinach when I wandered past the 'to burn' pile and saw the pallet.

I propped it up with a stack of old tyres to be level with the trailer bed.

Lined the bottom and up the sides with black plastic from the 'take to the dump please' pile and stapled  it in place. 

Filed the lot up with soil, potting mix and compost and poked a lot of holes in the bottom. There it is; complete with bird cage covers to keep the chooks out of the lettuce.

The trailer bed is all cleared and ready for planting too.
The pallet bed is very shallow (about 10 cm) so it will be hard to grow anything but lettuce or baby spinach in it, but if the soil is rich enough and it doesn't dry out it should do the job.

Being made out of pine the whole thing will only last a year or two, but it re-uses something from my rubbish pile and makes a useful short term bed so I'm happy.

Using pallets for gardens isn't really unknown; I found these examples on the internet.




I guess I will be using more of the old pallets that make it home from now on.

What do you upcycle at your place?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Making pasta sauce


The tomatoes in the Hugelkultur bed have been supplying us with yummy Roma tomatoes for some time now and we have added them to most lunches and dinners (and the occasional breakfast), we are all at the 'I don't like tomatoes any more' stage, reached at some point in every harvest season when there is a glut. Therefore, I decided (this morning) to make some pasta sauce and bottle it using my trusty but under utilized Fowlers Vacola (FV) unit. That way we can have our tomatoes to eat in the winter when we are all craving them. I decided to use glass jars with metal lids (the ones you buy pasta sauce in in the supermarket) instead of the traditional FV jars because the FV jars I own are all huge (1 litre is the smallest) and we use our pasta sauce in small lots so the smaller jars are more practical for us.

A bucket of Roma tomatoes from the garden

Stage one of the Hugelkultur beds cleared and waiting for a compost top up and mulch before replanting.

I found a fairly easy recipe for tomato pasta sauce that can be preserved using the water bath method. The recipe below has been copied from the Brisbane Local Food site and changed only slightly. The link in the title will take you to the original post.


Home made pasta sauce
Makes 1.5 cups

You need a large non stick frying pan or a wok and a stick blender

1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fresh bay leaf
500g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
8 sprigs of basil, oregano or mint
sea salt, ground black pepper. About 2/3 tsp of salt per 1 1/2 cups of sauce is recommended.

Heat oil to medium heat, add onion and bay leaf, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is softened but hardly coloured. Add tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Cover, cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until tomatoes have collapsed. Add seasonings and blend until the sauce is a pleasing consistency and you are ready to bottle.

Preserving
Put sauce into clean, sterilised jars with good lids that will vacuum seal. If the pulp is still really hot, put a sterilised spoon in the jar before filling to prevent cracking. Place jars in a water bath up to their necks and bring the temperature up to 93.3 degrees Celsius (or 200 degrees Fahrenheit).
Hold at this temperature for two hours. Remove from the preserving pan and press down the lids to encourage vacuum sealing.

N.B. The Fowlers Vacola manual states that unless you use all their gear they won't be held responsible for these instructions being no good.

The chopping begins

But not before they get a good wash

Pasta bottles; found, de-labeled and washed by my eldest daughter (thanks hon)

The sauce; boiled, seasoned and blended, ready to bottle.

My good old FV stove top unit. Isn't she a beauty?

The bottles in their bath, all carefully positioned so they don't touch each other or the sides. Fowlers Vacola frowns on touching in the bath.

The final result; six yummy bottles of pasta sauce. I had better label them before I forget what they are though.

I want to do more preserving, it's so much fun.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Square foot gardening update number two


The trailer bed I planted using the square foot gardening method is growing really well. I am pleased with the results, mostly. Some of the squares are not growing as well as I would like for a variety of reasons, but the bed looks great and I will be starting to pick greens for salads very soon.

The climbing and bush beans are thriving (as you can see), they are heading up the trellis and some are even growing out the top of the net.

The baby salad greens are ready to harvest too; don't they look yummy.

The little cucumbers are finally up and starting to grow. The beans are providing competition for light though; I will have to remember to plant the climbers further apart next time.

The Ceylon spinach is thriving and is ready to use but the mizuna, onions and carrots have not taken off as I would have liked. The germination rate for the carrots and onion was low too.

The eggplant is up and growing well and the Tokyo bekana is ready to eat but the silver beet is struggling and I am down to two in the square.

The capsicum is a seedling as none of the seeds I planted germinated, but it is growing really well.

So far I am impressed with the method, even though I will have to fine tune the planting a bit next time.
My advice to myself so far is;

Plant climbers with at least one square between them to minimize crowding.

Plant advanced seedlings of most vegetables (not carrots or beans).

Plant extra carrot seed, at least three per hole, to allow for poor germination.

Plant fast growers like beans two weeks after other seeds to reduce over shading of seedlings.


Elsewhere in the garden........


My marigolds are looking beautiful at the moment.

I have a big pot of Lemon Balm (Melissa) coming up right beside the door.




Saturday, 7 December 2013

Hugelkultur beds update


Stage four of the Hugelkultur beds has not yet been completed, but stages one, two and three are producing lots of food. The beds look like a jungle with plants fruiting, seeding and new plants emerging, there is a good mix of vegetables and flowers too. At the moment everything growing in these beds are annuals as I have plans to top up the soil at some point and I don't want to move perennial plants to do it.


The jungle on the right are the Hugelkultur beds, the potato towers can be seen on the left, against the fence and the whole floor is layered with cardboard. The chooks stare longingly through the fence at this little oasis of green.

The corn is doing well in stage three, but there will only be enough for one meal from this tiny planting. I need to put more in, looks like another bed building day is required.

The zucchini are producing lots of fruit and providing shelter for eggplant seedlings.

Green and purple sprouting broccoli are still producing enough heads to feed us. 

Roma tomatoes are giving us enough vine ripened fruit to qualify as a glut.

Good old silverbeet just keeps on giving, although only one plant remains of the original three; the other two have gone to seed. The climbing beans are picking and the second lot of bush beans are almost to flowering now.

The amaranth towers above it all and provides some colour to the scene as it seeds. After collecting seed from it for more plantings, I will give the seed heads to the chooks.

I am really pleased with the Hugelkultur method of building garden beds; it retains moisture, it is an attractive looking bed, it makes piles of rotting wood useful and it encourages me to build new bed space. I will be continuing to build more beds in the future (as time permits).




This is me, mowing the lawn. We put up an electric fence around all the stuff we don't want them to eat first. Sheep are nature's mowers and whipper snippers.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Square foot gardening


The trailer bed has been planted with broad beans, snow peas, lettuce, beetroot, strawberries and calendula as my late winter/early spring crops. Now all those crops are finished so it's time to replant. 


The broad beans produced very well.

The calendula provided flower petals for oinitment, seeds for planting and looked pretty too.

The lettuce and strawberries grew really well together but now the lettuce has gone to seed.



Square Foot Gardening
I have been reading about square foot gardening lately and I thought I would give it a go in the trailer bed because the size of the trailer can be divided into 24 neat square foot beds.

I used wool to mark the beds out; not a long term solution, but it will do for the first planting.
I later removed the calendula, but decided to leave the strawberries.
The idea is to plant a given number of plants in a square foot of garden space. The beds need to be easily accessible and it's an advantage to have some trellis space. It's amazing how many varieties of plants can be squeezed into that little trailer bed using this method.
This method of gardening was pioneered by Mel Bartholomew, who must have a good mathematical mind.

This chart gives a planting guide for lots of common vegetables.

I planned the planting of my trailer bed using an online planning tool which made the planting much easier. Then I got to work planting the bed.


My November planting plan for the trailer bed (for some reason it shows the planting date as the date I downloaded the plan; the real planting date is 17th November 2013).

I dug up each square, added compost and a sprinkle of blood and bone and planted the required number of seeds in the square in the advised pattern.

The whole bed looks neat and tidy again. I put the shad sheet back on until all those seeds sprout then I will mulch the bed and take off the shade.


Carrot and Potato towers; growing potatoes in small spaces.

 You guessed it.....as I am largely immobile due to my knee injury I decided to go through my photos for the last few weeks and update all the posts I planned but didn't get to.

Carrot towers
The carrot towers have been disappointing so far; the carrots haven't grown at all and many have died. I'm not willing to give up on the idea yet though. Some of the possible causes of the failure are;

  • Transplanting the carrots (they don't really like to be moved) or transplanting them too young.
  • Over watering (I admit I went overboard on the watering because they were right beside the door)
  • No morning sun.
So next time I will either plant advanced seedlings, or seed into the tubes and I will move the whole thing to a spot that gets morning sun.



The carrots have not grown at all.

The marigolds around the bottom look great though.

Potato towers
I have had some success with potato towers though. The basic theory is the same as the carrot towers except all the growth comes out of the top of the tower and the height allows the plant to form many more potatoes than it could in the ground.

The potatoes surrounded by compost which is kept inside the wire tube by a newspaper lining.

The potatoes are planted into cardboard boxes full of compost to reduce grass invasion.
Each tower is planted with two potatoes, I have Desiree and Kipfler  potatoes in this year.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Dry days of spring and Hugelkultur update number two




The hot, dry, windy months of spring are here. I am using lots of water on the garden and there is no rain in sight to refill the tanks. I water the garden with the water from the washing (about 160 litres a week) and from the chook and sheep water buckets when I refill them (about 30 litres); I also use about 20 litres a day straight from the tank to water the seedlings and potted plants. I am happy to be re-using the water from the washing and animal waters but I think I need to start putting a plug in the bath when we shower too, so I can scoop it out and water more. This drying wind really affects the vegetables.
In an effort to save my seedlings and tender plants, I have been covering the seedling hardening off area with old sheets to conserve water and provide a little shade. 



My seedling raising area.

Happy seedlings in pie trays to give them time to soak up the sprinkle I give them every day.

In the Hugelkultur beds everything is growing well. I still only water these beds once a week with the washing water (about 80 litres). This bed badly needs re-mulching to further conserve water (that is my goal for this week).



I know it looks dry, but the soil under the plants stays reasonably damp.

In the hugelkultur beds I have......


zuchinni


Roma tomato, just little fruit at present.



Cabbage


brocolli, just starting to bud.

And good old silver beet.

The trailer bed has broad beans and some really late snow peas; so I covered it to provide some protection from wind and sun. We might get lucky and get a crop.

The heirloom lettuce in the trailer bed is going well and we eat off it every day.

We are looking forward to beetroot soon, but in the meantime the leaves are added to stir fry and salad (when my partner isn't looking)