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Growing local

My plan, and a request for advice

Thanks to many kind people's comments here, I've now got a basic idea in my head of what I want to do. Here it is, step-by-step, and since I'm so new to this, I'd love any tips at all :-)

  • Mark out the proposed garden area, probably 1.5m x 5m (thank to Elaine for the tip about being able to reach across it. Will 1.5m x 5m be a big enough garden to grow most of my vegetables? I plan on growing quite a variety of stuff to feed our four person household (all adults).
  • Dig remaining clay off surface with mattock and remove it (and see if I can make a pizza oven out of it! Mmmm wood fired pizza!)
  • Till soil underneath to aerate it as much as possible, maybe to 30cm deep (is this enough?)
  • Fill the space from the removed clay with compost and aged horse manure (anything else?)
  • Mix soil, compost and horse manure
  • Test pH of new soil mix
  • Research what needs to be done for soil of my pH
  • Prepare new soil/compost/manure mixture with a few additives based on research (i.e. dolomite, seaweed water, etc)
  • Plan out first crops to go into the ground in the next week or so (is this too soon after soil preparation?)
  • Plan out crops for other areas of the yard to benefit the garden (pyrethrum (spelling?) to make organic bug spray, bee-attracting plants, beneficial bug-attracting plants, wildflowers and sunflowers (to make me happy :-)
  • Research green mulch crops I might like to grow before planting or as a live mulch while my main crops grow
  • Find sources of seeds and buy some
  • Buy plastic cups and seedling mix/potting mix to germinate seeds in
  • Buy a few books on gardening
  • Research and buy supplies of consumables (seaweed solution, etc)
  • Buy fencing materials to keep the foreman and junior forewomand (the rottie and the beagle) out of the garden (there's a builder's recycling yard at Underwood I might go to). Photos of the foreman and junior forewoman are on my photo page.
  • Harden the seedlings when ready
  • Transplant them into garden
  • Mulch
  • Do the usual watering, bug removal, etc.
  • EAT! :-)
Any tips at all are most welcome. I have no idea what I'm doing!!

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Comment by Donna on June 30, 2010 at 18:16
Just realised I didn't mention Method B, which was to dig in the compost/ manure and aerate the soil, and then perform the same two trials - one green manure & one veggies.
Comment by Donna on June 30, 2010 at 13:48
Well... you asked for it :)

* First thing I would do is to plant some fruit trees, recommend paw paw and banana circle especially if you have room (check out Scarlett's page for a pattern) - theoretically you can have fruit from both of these within 12 months

* Diggers say you can provide fruit/ vege for standard family in 10 sq m ( although they are in a lot friendlier climate than us, still a goal though providing you are flexible about the types of food you eat

■Till soil underneath to aerate it as much as possible, maybe to 30cm deep (is this enough?)
■Prepare new soil/compost/manure mixture with a few additives based on research (i.e. dolomite, seaweed water, etc)

Hmm not sure of this anymore... having just read the one straw revolution and the whole NO DIG method is in my head... I could be tempted to separate a couple of the sections and try a few methods

Method A - just dump the compost/ manure on top of the grass and top off with mulch
1. Plant daikon radish and other green manure crop directly into the mixed components
2. Plant vegetable seeds directly into the mixed components

* Testing pH is recommended, pretty easy to overcome if too high/ low - don't add any dolomite in your soil mixture until you have tested this first

* If the manure is aged shouldn't be a problem planting immediately...

* Are you going to have raised beds if yes then what are you using for the outside - tin/ wood/ concrete etc... have you considered making at least one a 'wicking' bed which greatly helps with water retention?

* As advised you are welcome to any seeds in the Brisbane Seed Savers vault, there will be enough to get you started at least.

* If you don't have chickens you can geminate seeds directly, but it is important to water daily during this period which is why seedling trays work better. You can use anything provided there is adequate drainage - margarine containers with holes, toilet rolls etc. In saying that they aren't that expensive - I just bought two trays including inserts and think it was about $15.00 for the lot.

* Instead of buying books, recommend you borrow them from the library first... a lot of books are not suited to our climate, check out Annette McFarlane for sure though. I have a few if you are intending to attend Garden Visits I am happy to lend them out.

* Depends on how intent they are to get in, fencing could end up being your most expensive outlay... although it might be worth a sacrificial bed which is 'theirs'.. The place you are talking about might not be the cheapest option, pays to know the prices and look around.

■Harden the seedlings when ready
A trick to harden transplanted seedlings is to put an upside down pot on them for a few days (and of course water them in, with a weak seaweed solution would be of great help)
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on June 29, 2010 at 20:42
You could also rock up to your local health food shop or bulk foods shop and see what they have. Winter offers more choices so Mung Beans, Lentils, Buckwheat (unhulled), Broccoli, Alfalfa ... any seeds for sprouts are OK for cover crops and more to the point, are readily available and usually fairly cheap. Since Broccoli (and Mustard and relatives) and Alfalfa are very tiny seeds the per kilo price of around $30 while scary isn't so bad. You really do only need a few grams of each seed to get plenty of plants. Alternately, buy a packet or two of mixed bird seeds, all sorts of useful plants in those very cheap from the supermarket seeds.

Get as big a variety as you can - even Wheat or Barley for sprouting are good too, as are Sunflowers - then sow thickly, more thick than you would ever consider for growing on - dig in or just slash and drop when the first plants are just coming into flower. Then sow another crop if time permits which should give you some free soil tilling with their roots and a lot of nice organic matter. Then if it's around end August then, buy some easy to grow seedlings of eg Lettuces, Tomatoes, Cucumbers and see how they go before you dash off and spend lots of money at the seed merchants.

Stick to simple plants for a start while you get a handle on growing in your patch - micro-climate is all.
Comment by Florence on June 29, 2010 at 19:19
Daniel, I think Jane maybe refering to this one?

Check the July seed swapping information as well here If what you want is not listed, you can always post a msg and see if anyone has them in their collection.
Comment by Daniel on June 29, 2010 at 17:49
Hi Jane! Thanks for the idea! I googled Fotheringale's but couldn't find it. Does it have a website by any chance?
Comment by Jane on June 29, 2010 at 16:33
Daniel I can recomend mustard as a cover crop - Red Mustard is available in Fotheringale's seeds in a mixed Mesclun packet. The mustard is quick growing, when 15/20cm high just till it ino the soil.
Comment by Daniel on June 29, 2010 at 16:09
Florence, the link is great. Thanks!
Comment by Daniel on June 29, 2010 at 16:08
Thanks Elaine and Florence! I'm checking out the link and will look into a cover crop. Do you have any suggestions for a cover crop for my soil? When it is grown and I want to plant the next crop, do I just till it into the soil?
Comment by Florence on June 29, 2010 at 15:43
Hi Daniel, I suggest you check this out if you haven't already
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on June 29, 2010 at 15:37
I understand your keenness to get going ... but ... isn't there always a 'but'? ;-) From my observation and from what others have posted here - plant a cover crop first! The extra time - you can plant in spring rather than mid-winter - will be repaid in extra fertility and extra activity from the worms and micro-organism (the 'little people'). It's these almost-unseen characters which give a garden its real fertility more than the compost - the compost/manure feeds the little folk and they feed the plants.

Fencing the garden to keep the dogs out (and chooks if you plan to have them) is money well spent.

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