Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

G'day,

How are things at your place right now in the garden? I have noticed the garden changing - drying out for a while now with no rain to help. The difference between raised beds which are in  full contact with the ground and my containers which are either set up as a wicking bed or simply separated from the ground e.g. sacks, baths, laundry tubs, etc. is most marked. A few weeks ago everything was flourishing, there was moisture in the ground and  watering needed to be minimal. Now the raised beds are looking very dry, even with watering twice a week the plants that were growing well are falling over and laying down, I just can't keep up the water enough. As we don't usually have good prospects for rainfall at this time of year, I have to make a decision soon. Do I keep pouring water onto the beds to try to keep plants alive or do I harvest everything now while it is still "pickable"? The beetroot needs to grow larger to be very useful, the kale will struggle on without doing much and will probably pick up again when we do get rain. At least my Asian broccoli is coming to the end of it's picking life and so can be composted. My normal broccoli will not form heads unless I water these regularly, they look a good enough size to persevere with, so that's what I'll do. Out will come the tomatoes in the raised beds, and the strawberries will get watered but I don't expect them to give much fruit.

Thank heavens that I don't just have gardens in contact with the ground, all the other containers are producing very well. Oh to have soil that holds water well. Even after trailer loads of manures being added over the years this continues to be a headache out here at Park Ridge. What will it be like in summer, when the heat really arrives? Well I won't be growing much then , I can assure you. 

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Comment by Jeff Kiehne on August 13, 2017 at 9:05

Have a look at gumtree  "free mulch in Brisbane."

Comment by Roger Clark on August 12, 2017 at 10:59

I have tried getting free wood mulch through the Mulchnet website (I think that what is was called). A friend of mine keeps getting load every few days, as he was living near where some of the guys who drive the trucks live. I registered but never got lucky and gave up, I even offered to pay for delivery but this had no effect. I would mix the woodchips with horse manure and I'm sure it would make a difference.  

Comment by Jeff Kiehne on August 12, 2017 at 7:36

If you have the space and local government and bad neighbors are not a problem how about getting some free mulch from a  tree lopper  if kept for a couple of years in a pile will decompose  without adding manure  but some grass clippings can help  but only problem is a big pile gets very small.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 11, 2017 at 1:28

I don't compost my lawn clippings at all these past 8 years -- even before that. I may fluff them up if they seem to mesh and intertwine but as Masanobu Fukuoka recommended, always apply your mulch so that it is uneven and contoured. That way you encourage pooling and uneven rot down.

As for the dew, my feeling is that  ground covers, shading  and all produce plants help trap the dew longer in the morning so that it seeps into the mulch more. These heavy dew mornings carry a noticeable volume of moisture that adds to ambient humidity close to the ground. It's a micro-climate  dynamic -- although I'm sure land contours, slope, axis and such play a role.

If you've ever walked through dew covered grass or frosted paddocks, you know how wet they can be. You'll be soaked from the knees down at least. Dew is heavy enough for water to flow off my corrugated iron roof either into my tank or creating a water stream into the street.

But then, since I'm on the coast, maybe I get heavily dewed...

My approach is that there's a heavy dew in the morning, well then the garden has been 'watered'. Not greatly of course, but it has been moistened.

This article --LINK -- Dew as a Source of Plant Moisture -- offers a useful perspective.The point being that the importance of dew lies not in the total quantity but in the frequency of its occurrence.

In Israel,if there is no rain in the winter season, the grass and early crops do not grow, if no dew in summer, later crops dry up and fruit does not mature. If there are many nights without dew, it constitutes a drought, in their thinking.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on August 10, 2017 at 23:47

One thought about mulches: make sure the soil underneath is damp before applying mulch. With so little rain the dew is about all we have in natural moisture this dry season. The dew won't enhance the soil much as it does not penetrate far (I imagine) but keeps the top layers of mulch damp so if it's damp underneath, the soil can stay damp. But if the mulch is on dry soil the dew probably won't add to the soil moisture.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 10, 2017 at 22:32

So long as it is not a mulch that mats eg. uncomposted lawn clippings.  That only serves to keep the moisture away from the soil.  

Comment by Dave Riley on August 10, 2017 at 22:14

Mulch does much more than the alter soil temperature. It also retains water by protecting soil moisture and holding any precipitation or dew. It also creates an organic layer that not only breaks down to enhance soil texture and microbiology, but it also serves as a permeable transition zone between dirt and the environment above.

Mulching also protects the soil surface from sheet and gully erosion and the force of raindrops.

Unless you are prepared to use a lot of water, your top layers of soil dry out even at this time of year -- indeed more so than others -- because there is so little rain. Mulching can reduce the need for watering by up to 60% . That's regardless of the air temperature. Given that the  ambient temperature has around a 12-13 variance at the moment, mulching protects soil and plant roots from the mercurial changes and evens out the soil temperature.

In similar mode it protects the top layer of soil from drying winds.

Mulching also encourages earth worms to spend time closer to the surface.

Since so many mulch materials break down quickly you are always topping up the nutritional and biological quotient of your soil. Just as cover crop mulches like legumes fix nitrogen in the soil by seeding it with hard working microbia.

Indeed without mulching bare soil you cannot promote and enhance a dynamic food web-- instead you are forced to follow a reductionist approach and add fertilizers and supplements.

Finally, read the mulch queen Ruth Stout: LINK.

Comment by Roger Clark on August 10, 2017 at 18:25

This is a good discussion, thanks to everyone who has joined in. It's good to get everyone's ideas about the What, the Why, and the Way Forward.  Mulch at this time of year, does not, I believe, keep the moisture in the bed as the daylight temperatures are not as high as in summer when the mulch stops a 35 degree day from scorching the soil. While it is a great thing to keep soil covered at all times it is not as vital at this time of year as it is in summer. (My opinion only).

When I look at my raised garden beds in this current very dry time they appear to not respond to watering, but my containers which are in close proximity and have had the same treatments regarding nutrition, watering and lack of mulch, are flourishing. Why is it so? As one eminent person used to say. If I dig up a section of raised bed I will find it dry and yet the manures, etc. that have been added are still there, the clay is still there. If I dig up a corresponding section of a large container it will be moist, the manures will be starting to disappear into the lovely crumbly soil and earthworms abound. Whereas the raised bed will yield very little in the way of worms. I will much the beds in spring, but come summer, apart from my ginger, turmeric, and a few other heat loving plants. I will not be growing veges but covering up the beds to protect all the critters from the sun. 

Comment by Dianne Caswell on August 10, 2017 at 10:31

You have such a big property to maintain. Perhaps cutting back some of the foliage on plants and trees may help as if they don't have as much foliage then they don't need quite as much water. You could use the foliage and branches to spread around the driplines to protect from the sun and dryness. The plants will come back even better when you do get rain. Just a thought.

Here's hoping for an unusually wetter Spring to get right down to the roots, perhaps a Rain Dance might help.

Comment by Jeff Kiehne on August 10, 2017 at 7:51

If you are after hessian they use for construction and upholstery and packaging and   for craft would think that the school would purchase.

http://www.loganpackagingbrisbane.com.au/shop/catalog/hessian-cloth...

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