2 March 2015 – Day 30 of the Garden Challenge
Eeeek. I have suddenly realised that I have only completed 26 gardens and it is actually day 30!! This means that I will have to complete another 4 today if I am to meet the deadline (she says as she is sitting at the computer typing sipping coffee). Easy. The seedlings that I planed on day one have all been sown out. It just reinforces the importance of regular seed sowing if you want to have a really productive garden. A little bit of planning and forethought can keep the ‘productive garden machine’ rolling on.
Bed 17 before – There was actually a tree that had self seeded and was growing in this bed. How bad is that? I harvested the cabbages and fed the scraps to the pigs, weeded, scraped the sugarcane mulch back to prep the bed (same old compost, manure etc). I picked the dried calendula heads to save the seeds. This is a cabbage garden. Not that there are always cabbages growing in here, I do like to rotate them around, but when I do want to grow them, this is where they live. The netting keeps the cabbage moth from laying eggs on the underside of the leaves. Prevention is always better than cure.
Bed 17 after – On the left I planted mini womboks (Chinese cabbage) and purple sprouting broccoli, and on the right pak choy. I’ve left the middle to rest for a future brassica crop.
Beds 18, 19, 20 and 21 – An overgrown wilderness of grass, weeds and spent tomato vines.
Beds 18, 19, 20 and 21 after – Weeded, composted, pruned, tied up and mulched. Looking much better. I planted out silver beet, and two kinds of lettuce.
Beds 21, 22, and 23 before – Weeds, weeds and more weeds.
Beds 21, 22 and 23 after – from another angle.
Beds 24, 25 and 26 – I mostly have herbs and strawberries in these. They just needed a freshen up to get ready for the new season.
Beds 24, 25 and 26 – Dressed and ready to go out to play!
16 February 2015 – Day 16 of the Garden Challenge
Doing a little bit often really makes a big difference. I haven’t actually been getting out there every day and doing one garden, as life just happens and it’s not always possible. I have been doing a few at a time. It’s quite embarrassing how bad the ‘before’ pics are. Oh, and look at the seed trays that I planted on the first day!! They are nearly all ready to plant out.
Bed 7 Before – There were four current bushes in there, now there are only three (one died from neglect). I had also planted hollyhocks in the middle of these garden beds, which have since bloomed and died. I totally underestimated how huge they would get and wouldn’t do it in this spot again as they were too much competition for the veggies and plants that I actually wanted growing there.
Bed 7 After – I replaced the dead current bush with a blueberry bush, weeded, added compost, manure and mulch and gave everything a seasol.
Bed 8 Before – Tomatoes that may or may not have any life left in them.
Bed 8 After – I pruned back the tomato vines rather harshly. If they survive good. If not…meh, no great loss. This bed as all the next ones got the same treatment i.e., weed, compost, manure, seasol. I ran out of mulch, which I’ll add when I get it.
Bed 9 Before – Every alternate bed has a fruit tree in this section of garden. This one has foxglove under it which is so pretty when it flowers (every part of foxglove is poisonous so never eat it).
Bed 9 After.
Bed 10 Before – Dead tomatoes, weeds and basil.
Bed 10 After – I left the basil and managed to salvage a tomato vine. I sowed radishes in the extra space. They are very fast cropping.
Bed 11 Before – Weeds, tomatoes and basil.
Bed 12 Before – There is some kind on stone fruit tree in here believe it or not. All the mess you can see is the perpetual spinach gone to seed. Literally thousands of seeds! I didn’t collect all of them, but did collect some.
Beds 11 & 12 After – Pruned back the tomatoes in 11 and kept the basil. There were a few good spinach plants in bed 12 that I saved, but I’ll keep the rest of the bed free for the fruit tree.
Bed 13 Before – My lovely passionfruit tee-pee is doing great however the garden around it is a mess. There are two kinds of salvia, sweet mini capsicums and chilis planted currently.
Bed 13 After – Aaah. Looks so much better. I added purple basil, parsley, another chilli variety and a border of lobelia just because it will look pretty.
Beds 14 (back) & 15 Before – Bed 14 had some silver beet, dead lettuce and parsley that had gone to seed. Bed 15 is home to the ginger, which hasn’t done that well because of lack of water.
Beds 14 & 15 After – Saved the existing silver beet in 14 and planted out more rainbow silver beet from the seedlings that I started on the first day. Bed 15 I just refreshed with compost etc and will focus on keeping it well watered.
Bed 16 Before – Home to my quince tree and spring onions…and weeds.
Bed 16 – After – Ugh. So. Much. Better.
Well only 6 days in and things are looking better already. They just look tidier and cared for if not full of life. Some of the beds that I have sown seeds into won’t start to look alive until the end of the month when the seedlings will really start to grow.
This is the first and the largest bed. At the front is some moth eaten kale, the left has some self seeded basil that can stay, and a few leftover heirloom carrots which I will pull (I put a photo of them on insta a few days ago) and the right side of the bed is where I recently had corn planted.
What I want to do is replenish the beds for new planting. I don’t often ‘fertilise’ plants while they are growing, but I do top up the bed with nutrients before I sow. First I raked all the sugar cane mulch and fallen leaves off the surface to expose the soil. I don’t really dig either but just add onto the top, sort of like adding another blanket to your bed. Good soil is alive and you actually want to feed the soil and its good microbes/worms, without destroying their little mini eco-systems.
This is where compost comes in. Ideally we can all make our own compost out of our garden waste and manure but as I have built so many raised beds from scratch I needed a lot compost to get started. I love to use mushroom compost and veggie gardens just love it. Fortunately there are lots of mushroom farms around where I live and can get it delivered by the truckload very cheaply, and sometimes free. It is the ultimate of recycling. To make the compost they collect animal manures and animal bedding like straw and mix it together and compost. It gets impregnated with mushroom spores and taken to mushroom farms to grow the mushrooms. Once they have finished with it that’s when I get it. It is still filled with goodness. Compost is important because it is the ‘organic’ content in the soil that the good bugs/worms live off. Just like the good bugs in your gut, it is these bugs that help to make the nutrients available to the plants (by digesting them first) and it is the good bugs that help balance out the bad bugs.
I’ve added a generous layer of compost and soil.
I also rake in a few handfuls of organic fertiliser (by some miracle this stuff is both kinds of organic and isn’t very expensive). This stuff is great if you don’t have animals to make your own from.
Before I sow any seeds I give the newly prepared garden bed a good soak.
I sowed corn on the opposite side to where it was before. If you can it’s better to not plant the same thing in the same spot for a while ie crop rotation. On the other side I planted heirloom beets. And around the borders I sowed basil, and then marigold in front. The basil and marigold seeds are seeds I have saved previously and just stored in these little glass jars.
To reclaim this kale I have removed the majority of their leaves so that just healthy ones remain.
Neem oil is natural and organically approved. I’ve given the kale a good spray with this and hopefully it will deal with all my pests. I will check them regularly however and if I don’t think it’s working will try something else.
Next I add a thick layer of mulch around the base of the kale, and lightly sprinkle some over the rest of the bed where the seeds have been sown. Normally you would wait until they sprouted and mulch around them but as we have had such a hot summer, and it’s not over yet, I’m just trying to give the soil a little protection and keep some of the moisture in. Mulch protects the soil from the elements, keeps the moisture in, and keeps the temperature even. I use sugar cane mulch because it breaks down easily, its readily available in my area, and its cheap.
Ops. Let me backtrack. Before I mulch, I give the seeds a head start by giving them a seasol (seaweed solution) sprinkle. Compost tea/worm juice/seasol are all tonics, not fertilisers. They will give your plants a boost so that they can grow strong, but aren’t a fertiliser as such. It’s kind of like taking vitamins. Ideally I seasol every week to once a fortnight. It makes a really big difference.
Second garden done.
Third garden has more infested kale and broccoli at the back that I think is never going to get a head, so I pulled it out and topped the bed with much/soil/fertiliser like I did with the first other bed.
I have self seeded mixed salads all over the place. Most won’t do very well because they are in footpaths or clumped together. I dug a few up to transplant, saving lots of time on seed raising.
Seedlings transplanted. I stripped the kale back and sprayed with neem oil like the other ones. Watered in with seasol (which reduces transplant shock) and thickly mulched. Done. (pic further down).
This is sad. I was growing onions in here.
I have decided to plant it out with spring onions. They are the handiest thing to have in the garden. I have some in another bed that are going to seed. Perfect opportunity to collect the seeds and replant. They are the kind that will grow all-year-around here. They like to be sown directly.
I topped this bed up too, but made sure that the soil was nice and fine on the surface so the seeds could easily sprout through it. I drew a nice swirl to sow into, just for something different. Covered the soil back over, gave it some seasol and lightly mulched. Done
Bed 5. Not much to do on this one. The lighter green leaves are paprika and the purple ones are eggplant (heirloom mixed). They all look really nice and healthy so I just topped the soil up with compost, gave them a seasol and re-mulched them. Done.
Bed 6. This was my first ever garden bed! Looking the saddest of them all I think. I use it for herbs mostly. Currently it has mint, lemon balm, chives and something else that may be tansy.
I normally grow everything from seed, but to get a jump start on growing, I bought some seedlings. Often when you buy herb seedlings their are lots of little seedlings clumped together. I like to break them up and plant them out into different spots. In the long run they will do better not being so overcrowded.
I added some flat leaf parsley and the large leafed plants are horseradish! Ooh, I cannot wait to harvest horseradish. They also got a seasol and a thick mulch.
This is where gardens and animals work together. All the scraps from the garden go to the chickens and pigs. The chickens give me nutrient rich eggs and manure in return, and the pigs give me manure and…friendship. The manure of course is composted and then used in the garden. Awesome.
Remember on day 1 I sowed seeds so I would have something to plant? Well this is them on day 6! Pak-choy as usual leading the charge followed by the red velvet lettuce. All the other seeds are beginning to sprout. It really doesn’t take long!
1st February 2015.
Well first day of the 30 Gardens in 30 Days challenge and I was looking for a place to begin. Probably the most important area in any garden is the seed raising garden (or table, or trays or whatever you want to call it). What would a garden be without seeds or seedlings? You need them to get the party started. My own personal mantra is ‘sow some seeds every week so you will always have something to eat’ and it seems especially relevant right now as I have zero seedlings to plant out in any of my gardens. My bad.
Things to remember about sowing seeds
1. Sow on a regular basis so you can harvest on a regular basis i.e., don’t leave 3 months in between plantings.
2. Some seeds like to be sown directly and others in seed trays. Generally larger seeds or any crop grown for its root like to be planted directly. These include things like pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, carrots, radish, beetroot, corn etc. Small seeds often take longer to germinate and need a little more TLC to get started and do better when sown into seed trays i.e. lettuce and herbs.
3. Don’t let your seedlings dry out! If they dry out they will die so give them a light water every day until they are well sprouted. Seed raising trays should have good drainage to avoid water logging which will also inhibit germination.
4. Buy good quality seeds from a reputable seed supplier. There are the most amazing organic and heirloom varieties available from ethical seed companies, you just need to find them. I buy all my seeds from The Diggers Club (not a paid endorsement, I just love them 🙂 You want to make sure the company you buy from does not in any way support GMO seed production or Monsanto (boo). As gardeners we need to think of ourselves as conservationists and plant heirloom varieties to ensure their survival, goodness knows the food giants aren’t taking this approach.
5. To ensure success sow in the right season. Some like it hot, some like it cold. Check the instructions on the packet before you plant, ask a local gardener or do some online research. In the world we live in you cannot complain about lack of access to info. It’s all just a mouse click away.
6. It’s not rocket science…you can do this.
This is my seed collection. These segmented boxes are great. I have separated my seeds into sections like, spring, autumn, all year round etc. Takes the guess work out of regular sowing. I also have a section for paddle pop sticks and a permanent marker so I can lable what I have planted in my seed trays.
I’m not going to plant out all the trays I have, just three. I chose 5 colour silver beet mix (rainbow chard), two kinds of lettuce, pak-choy and I planted a whole tray of two kinds of basil because nobody ever said ‘I have too much basil”. Pesto here I come.
For those who don’t know, this is what rainbow silverbeet looks like! It is beautiful and prolific and no garden is complete without it. It’s very hardy and keeps producing for years. You just keep harvesting the outer leaves rather than pulling the whole plant up. I promise just a few plants will produce more than enough for one family, you will be able to give it away or feed it to your chickens which they absolutely love.
Growing up my Mum called it spinach, and being a child of the 80’s, when everything was boiled to death, had a huge steaming pile of it plonked on my plate on a regular basis while being told to eat it because it was full of iron. I hated it. Fortunately we now exist during and era that is surely going to be known in the future as the ‘culinary enlightenment period’, and I have learned to do other things with this wonderful veg rather than just boiling it. It can be added to quiches, frittatas, pies, green smoothies, juices and my all time fav way to use it is in turkish gozleme. Drool.
For step by step instructions on how to sow seeds follow the link by clicking here.