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Growing local

I'm terribly sorry I had such a long break from here... I was completely bogged-down with work (a very heavy workload until recently!) and PhD-related stuff. Now I've got a reasonable schedule again!

Sadly, my gardening efforts were almost a complete failure last year. I had to grow stuff in pots because of the hard clay, and I think the cheap potting mix, combined with my lack of skill, contributed to my garden's demise. I had pickling onions grow ok, but they unfortunately tasted so horrible they were inedible. I got about 5 raspberries, ZERO goosberries (some bug chewed through the outer layer and ate them all from the inside. Lettuce grew well enough in a styrofoam box, as did mustard. I got a few tomatoes from my diseased plants, two chillies grew and died, and I only have a couple of plants remaining which were hardy enough to withstand the diseases I couldn't identify, as well as some neglect when life got busy.

I'm determined to do better. I have about 9 months until I need to move to Sydney for at least a year (university-related), but until then, I'm seriously considering just concentrating on a very simple, very managable set-up using the square-foot gardening method. I am thinking that 2 one square metre raised beds (not raised very high) should do the trick. I'll make the best soil I possibly can, and since I've got a book to instruct me, I probably won't make as many mistakes. I think a major mistake I made last year was not knowing how to control pests and disease. I wanted to do it organically, but I didn't have the know-how.

By the time I'm in Sydney, I hope to have some successful harvests under my belt, a functional garden I can leave behind for family members remaining here in Brisbane, and skills I can use when I build a garden in Sydney.

Anyway, it's nice to be back :-)

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Comment by Lissa on March 11, 2012 at 11:42

Welcome back Daniel :) You sound so determined you will have to have success with something!

Comment by Florence on March 7, 2012 at 12:15

Welcome back Daniel ~ Since you only have 5 months before you move, I think the quickest way to get a harvest is to buy in planting medium... mushroom compost's probably the most economical ~

Then plant something that's quick to harvest... you could probably get some tomatoes if you start with seedling.. leafy greens are generally quick to harvest too.  For low maintenance plants to leave in the garden for your family, I would probably plant some herbs.  Herbs are easier to start with seedling/cuttings/divisions than seeds, and things like parsley & chives last a long time, sage, thyme, mint etc are perennial ~

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 7, 2012 at 6:38

And it's good to have you back, Daniel!

Don't fret over pests and diseases - they only come along to tell you that the plants are sick. Concentrate your efforts in having as rich a soil as you can have. And that means a lot of organic matter initially, grow a cover crop over winter, turn it in and start in spring. Soil preparation time is never wasted and will contribute to the overall health of your crops.

Are you following Mel's Square Foot Gardening? I have found using his mix that the compost is the absolute trick here. Since I never use peat (nor do I recommend anyone uses such a non-renewable resource) it means soaking up lots of coir bricks. He says to have compost from 12 different sources but doesn't specify exactly what he means. Making compost at home is time-consuming and you never, ever have enough! If you have the space, over winter can you collect and store lots of horse/sheep/cow etc manures and let them quietly compost? That will be a big start. Dig all your household vegetable and fruit scraps into the soil, even if it's only into the underneath soil, it will compost an be ready for spring planting without much effort on your part.

Once you have your above-ground beds in place, sow some bird seed thickly into the soil, cover with some potting mix, keep damp and await results. Once the majority of plants are reaching flowering, cut them down and either turn them in or let them rot on the surface. If there's time to grow two cover crops that's fine too. Although growing a cover crop and digging in the household scraps might cancel each other out. Perhaps the scraps could go in a designated spot and then when composted, dig them up and transfer the humus-like soil into your garden.

If you stick to salad plants, you will have some success once the soil is prepared. Tomatoes, Lettuces, Cucumbers are the usual ones, they are simple to grow and readily available as seedlings. Tomatoes need stakes and Cukes need a trellis. Meanwhile if time permits, read up on organic gardening from Library books - there's always something to learn!

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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.

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