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Converting to wicking beds End of summer.

Hi everyone.  Well, what a beautiful day today was compared with the last couple of shockers.  So hot the previous week that I think I almost died :) and the cool change on Saturday felt like the onset of winter.  Lucky for me, the beds continued happily on their way and most things survived.   Only casualty was my broccoli and cauliflower seedlings.  I planted seeds and they just shriveled up and died or didn't even come up -> too hot I guess.  So, I gave in and bought green dragon broccoli seedlings at masters yesterday.  There were two cauli's left so hopefully with the cooler change, they'll get going nice and strong.  Also, my capsicums didn't come up at all, maybe I was too impatient? As I had a couple of plants in another bed that will need to get ripped up when I get motivated again, I decided to transplant them -> last weekend -> before the god almighty heat wave!!! I was so worried about them but I cut them right back (sorry baby capsicums, but you needed to be sacrificed for the greater good) and they bounced back after a couple of wilty days.   So what you can see from below is that I finally finished the fourth bed yesterday (overcast = great day to work in garden) and this is one month on for the other 3. See here for previous wicking bed blog Corn and zuccs going great, beans far left good, toms, caps and eggplant in far right and I just planted sugarsnap peas, cucumber biet alpha and soy beans in the front right (new bed).  Just to re-emphasize -> NO wilting of established plants even for the past week of horrible heat.

Here are a close up of the zucc and corn -> they look amazing!!  Also I'm excited as my first white eggplant has appeared.  Has anyone ever tried these?  I was a bit disappointed with my black eggplant this year and thought I'd try something new when I saw these at masters. They're supposed to not be bitter at all and I'd be interested in any feedback.

I've had a few problems with the front self wicking beds.  The Lebanese cucumbers got downey  mildew (which I had never seen before).  Have sprayed and am waiting to see if they will survive.  I think it was my fault because I used cheap potting mix to fill that bed and didn't add any slow release fertilizer.  I have planted new seeds from Mr Fothergill's (Biet Alpha F1 in the back beds) as I haven't had much luck with this batch of leb cuc's so it could be the seeds themselves.  When they come out, I will add loads of compost and try planting peas or beans in it.  Another problem was my beautiful Charentais rock  melons.  They're the biggest I've ever seen them, the vine looks great and healthy (minimal powdery mildew) but I've learnt a valuable lesson -> the large blossom end is very susceptible to rot.  I've already lost 3 because I didn't realize that they were rotting until one collapsed.  Inspected all the other fruit and only those where the blossom end was resting on the ground (as opposed to the side of the melon) was there damage.  LESSON LEARNT!! I will from now on always twist the developing fruit slightly so the blossom end is not on the ground. (normal is on the left, rotted one on the right)

I have also built self wicking beds down the side of the house with some of the left over wood.  These have the water reservoir dug into the ground and the wood holds the planting soil.  I decided that the wood was not in good enough condition to build a proper double story raised bed for the back garden and rather than let it go to waste, am using it on the side of the house where nothing was ever planted (as I had hibiscus's that just got chopped down -> was going to plant screening bamboo and then realized -> DUH!! I can fit more veggie beds in).  These are not as self sufficient as the properly designed beds as the water reservoir is much smaller but they still only need refilling every 5-7 days.  As the are down the side of the house, they are currently being used for more rambling plants.....  Pumpkins and moon and stars watermelon in the older one (built end of December - no female flowers yet) and I just built the one on the right yesterday.  It's 2 meters long and one half will have sweet potato (the potato bags did not do well for me -> prob my laziness with watering to blame) and I planted new batch of charentais rockmelons on the left (circled). 

My latest addition to my growing self sufficiency is a worm farm.  I figured I can no longer rely on earth worms getting into my beds and need to start building up a supply of red composting worms to put into the beds with a built in worm feeder later on. So in aid of that, my little worm farm is the beginning.   My son is so excited, trying to explain to him that he can't add all the scraps to the bin yet is very hard.  Hopefully he'll get bored with lifting the lid and looking at them soon, though I must admit, I'm just as guilty... can't help myself, I have to see if they are ok. :)

The other thing I did this weekend (and it was thanks to the event page that I found out about it) was head down to the Wynnum/Manly community garden.  I didn't even know it was there and was so excited to find something like that so close to home.  Am thinking about joining but don't know if I will be able to find the time to attend all the working bees.  Will email them for some info.  Anyway, today was a harvest share (which I only found out about Saturday night) and I thought "crap - what do I have that I can take"   I would have taken tomatos but just gave away a whole bunch to my neighbor the day before and the rest weren't ripe.  Nothing is really ready to harvest yet what with the new beds and all.  I have a bunch of banana's, not ripe yet but surely soon so I cut a hand (18 in all), had two green capsicums, 2 pumpkins, 3 red chillies, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass that I put together.  Took my little harvest down to the swap...... I loved it!! Banana's were the first thing to go so I felt happy.  But I scored big time... There was rosella jam (my granddad used to make it so I just HAD to have some), small bits of honey comb (kids begged me to get some), tomato relish and beautiful purple beans.  I also found a guy who grew edamame beans successfully and picked his brains about how to grow them.   Also, it was nice and shady -> was worried about it being on at 2.30 in the arvo and had a nice shady park that the kids ran around in while I walked around looking at the great garden.  Will definitely attend this event again but hopefully be more prepared for it and have more to swap.

Well hope you enjoyed the updates..  Elaine, if you could give me instructions on how to link to the previous wicking bed post, it would be appreciated. 

Views: 216

Comment by Elaine coolowl on February 23, 2014 at 18:50

Open the page you want the address of in another tab. Make that tab active then highlight and copy. Go to the post you want to put the link into, see 'link' top left of window bar? Hit that and paste into the highlighted spot.

Comment by Susan on February 23, 2014 at 19:16

Thanks Elaine

Comment by Christine Cox on February 23, 2014 at 19:41

Fantastic job and blog. Inspiring!

Comment by Elaine coolowl on February 23, 2014 at 22:37

Great post Susan, now I've had time to read it all. White Eggplant are good to grow, the fruit are a tad softer than the purple ones. None are bitter if grown well and fed well, I have never used any salt on mine (not even on bought ones) to get out the 'bitterness', there's just never been any. 

Comment by Lissa on February 24, 2014 at 5:21

Terrific post Susan :) The wicking beds are working well for you.

I've been growing the white eggplant recently (also bought from either Masters or Bunnings as a seedling) and have found it very nice eating. Also so pretty growing in the garden!

Comment by Valerie on February 24, 2014 at 13:30

Great Blog Susan.

Worms you get in a worm farm unfortunately apparently don't survive in veggie beds. The worm farm has much smaller worms (different species). The big worms will compete with them and win according to Claire Biggle. That's if you have big worms in the beds. I tried in-ground worm farms in my beds but they seem to vanish, maybe something to do with not feeding them very much or it being too exposed to the sun.

You can still use the vermicast and worm juice though. That works a treat on veggies.

Comment by Elaine coolowl on February 24, 2014 at 15:01

Mixed views on 'in-garden wormeries' or 'wicking worm beds'. There's some posts on this site about them and a lot on the general internet.

The red compost worms do survive outside of those worm prisons. I have them living of their own volition under my compost bins. They must have walked there from the worm castings I brought home and stored close by some years ago. They move into the compost when it is ready for them and I move some of them when I put the compost on the beds.

I have never been able to dig around enough to see if they survive in the wicking beds - there's always plants there and  although I have not actually found any I have no reason to suppose they have all died.

There's every reason to suppose that the native soil-worker worms and the red compost worms will live in harmony. They eat the same stuff (fungi and bacteria on vegetable matter) but inhabit different strata of the soil. They need the same conditions - not too hot nor too cold, some calcium and being kept damp.

Comment by Susan on February 24, 2014 at 15:04

Thanks guys for the feedback re white egg plant.  It's good to know that it should be money well spent.  I agree Lissa, it is looking rather pretty :).  Valerie, I didn't know this.  I've been watching Rob Bob's video's and he always seems to have tonnes of worms in his beds -> I just assumed they were the red ones as he showed a feeding tube for one.  I might just try one as a trial in a bed and see how it goes then.  Definitely plan on using the vermicast and juice on vegies.  I want to get more away from using bought fertilisers as I can whilst still imputing minimum effort, if that makes sense?

Comment by Elaine coolowl on February 24, 2014 at 20:55

It makes total sense. The fertility comes from the interaction between various micro-organisms and the plant roots. I've yet to make enough compost to only use that - it is the ideal and most benign. So I do use Organic Xtra pellets with occasional waterings of Seaweed, Worm juice (not 'wee' worms don't have urinary bladders ;-), and I'm trying liquid Biodynamic Tree Paste. The idea is to feed the microbes which feed the plants by a complex interaction.

Comment by Valerie on February 24, 2014 at 21:03

Yes by the time you buy fertilisers, I wonder if it is really cost-effective to grow your own. Hoewer you quickly learn to make do with what you have around you. Here is an interesting link for fertilisers

http://www.homegrownfun.com/natural-fertilizers-around-house/

I love watching Rob Bob's video. I subscribed to his youtube channel. He is very inspirational and very generous too.

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