Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Reflections on my way of gardening

Hi guys,  (don't worry, I'll add photo's later.  I just got in the mood to blog and didn't plan ahead and it is now dark so can't take the matching photo's)

So, if you've been following my blog posts, you will know what a busy 3 years I've had.  I've been gardening at my house for the past 11 years and have been a member of this site since 2010 but it's only been the last few years that I have upped the ante in terms of my garden obsession.

I've gradually turned most of the space in my garden into gardens, I've built a garden shed, tank for water.  Added bees and chickens, planted bamboo for stakes.  I changed from in the ground garden beds, to raised garden beds to wicking garden beds.  I now have over 20 different types of fruit (oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, pomegranite, lemons, limes, cumquats, mangoes, bananas, custard apple, lychees, loquat, longan, blueberries, raspberries, apples, figs, mulberries, avocados, pawpaws, grapes, guava, pecans, macadamia, walnut, cherry, panama berry, passionfruit) with over 40 varieties of fruit trees on my very small 560 square meter block of land with a few in "the extended backyard" (ie council land around my property),  I have tried to grow lots of different types of vegetables, sometimes (and still do) get carried away with trying something new just for the sake of a different colour and often grow things not suited to our climate because I am a stubborn wench and think the rules of climate don't apply to me (side note->they definitely do!).  So this year, I'm making a conscious effort to be more thoughtful in my gardening attempts and since it is the start of a new season and I spent today refreshing beds in preparation for new season plantings, it is as good a time as any to spend a little time reflecting on my gardening practices. 

a) I'm going to stop buying heaps of different types of seeds for the novelty factor and concentrate on saving and planting proven winners in my garden.  Some examples

     * I once planted purple peas and beans-> tasted awful and were stringy but dammit, if I could have purple, I was gonna have purple.  Have since concluded that purple vegetables are actually pretty unappetizing.  At that same time, I also planted a type of sugar snap pea that did extremely well but didn't save the seed.  Since then I have not had too much success so when I find a set that actually works, I'll be saving those seeds. 

      * Spent $20 on different melon varieties from diggers just because I fell in love with the idea of all these beautiful varieties -> have not had much success from any of them and also I DON'T HAVE THE SPACE TO BE A MELON QUEEN. This year, I had one rockmelon plant that popped up from the compost so no idea what variety but it has been the most successful, sweet and pest free rockmelon.   I've saved these seeds and these are my "summer" rockmelon.  I am giving charentais another go because of the success I've had in previous years but I'm going to try them as a Autumn/winter melon to avoid fruit fly. 

       *  The amount of bloody zucchini seed packets I have is embarrassing!! I have had success previously but not for a long time.  Found an alternative -> Trombonccino's and I'm not looking back.  No more zucchini's for me. 

b) Work on improving my wicking beds fertility.

      * Compost -> always made my own compost so this won't change

      *  Worm farm -> now this is where I will admit an epic failure.  My worm farms (and I say farms because I have had to restart numerous attempts as they die) just don't seem to thrive.  I went down to the markets and I got talking to a lady who was selling her own worm juice and different decorative herbs in pots (and never have I seen healthier plants).  She told me she never looked back after switching to aged horse poo and nothing else.  She's bringing me in some of her wigglers and I will be giving it another go because after using her worm wee on my plants the last two weeks, I definitely see an improvement. 

      * Making sure I am using organic fertilisers only.  

      *  Making sure I am watering frequently enough to maintain a beautiful, rich, dark soil but not too much that they become bogged -> adding sand to the mix to aid with drainage. 

c) Fixing some mistakes I've made.

    * I have 3 apple trees but only two nets -> apples must be netted.  I'm going to remove the third apple tree and plant one of the figs in that spot.  

     * Have a wicking garden bed that I did not build properly and it is in an out of the way spot, so I don't look after it anyway.  Remove it and put in a fruit tree there. 

 

d) Be conscious of what seedlings I'm buying.

    * NO more tomato, eggplant, silverbeet or capsicum seedlings -> they seem to import mites into my garden.  I've got some seeds of proven varieties and I'm gonna make sure I plant my own. 

     * Do buy seedlings of proven varieties.  For example, great success with floriana continental cucumbers and mixed lettuce seedlings (have not been able to get lettuce to germinate properly in this weather, yet have managed to supply our whole house with lettuce all summer from only 5 buys of punnets).

      * NO MORE random strawberries because "they look nice".  Buy from diggers only.  

There are a lot more other little bits and pieces that I need to work on but ultimately, this year is going to be about growing more successfully, organically and fiscally.  It's about getting my fruit trees to be fully productive and not wasting produce due to laziness. It's about stopping my impulse buying which then leads to frenetic activity trying to "fit it in".  It's about planting superior varieties for my climate and garden.  

Does this mean I'll stop experimenting.  NO! I would never have found the trombonccino's if I was going to give up.  But I do want to limit my experimentation and once I find something that works well, ensuring that I plant it/use that technique again instead of moving on to the next big shiny thing. 

Well thank you for listening to my rambling tonight.  I feel that by putting this down on my blog, I may just stick to the plan.  Some photo's will follow.

Happy gardening folks

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Comment by Susan on February 27, 2017 at 21:31

Elaine -> :)

Me too Christa re the fruit trees but not in bins -> I just don't think I'd keep them alive that well.  I'm trialing the seeds from a self harvested trombonccino -> If I have success with these, there will be heaps to go around so I'll save you some.

Lissa - I like the reddish carrots and I don't mind the white.  Not so much of a fan of the purpley/black ones they have.

Thanks Andy *Blush*.  I always love watching your videos so we're even. Yeah, I think that's where I'll head with the experimentation thing -> try to limit to a couple of things per year.

Thanks Dianne.  You got me on to salvia's and my garden would not be complete without them now.

Comment by Dianne Caswell on February 27, 2017 at 6:47

You have had an interesting year in the garden Susan, you are an inspiration to all those young and not so young gardeners and your School Gardening with the children is to be commended. Good luck in the garden in 2017.

Our garden has undertaken a major overhaul in the past couple of months with the beds along the front of the house being cleared ready for planning in the next couple of weeks, most work done by me with a bit of a hand from a young girl. I am planting both for the valuable fruit value as much as aesthetic value, no experimentation here just what I know should grow well here. I will still plant flowers for the Bees and Beneficial Insects, couldn't have a garden without my Salvias. Happy Gardening to all!!!

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on February 26, 2017 at 22:28

I've taken some time and thought about this (yes, I know you can't tell from my shallow answer). I've decided to experiment with one or two plants a year - no more in case there is something wonderful that I haven't discovered yet (which is likely). Otherwise, I will grow what grows well in my yard, as much as possible from my seed which is adapted to my own micro-climate.
If you get a bit down about your yard, just remember that you are a bit of an inspiration for me to continue to do better.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 26, 2017 at 12:45

One of the best aspects of GVs apart from the socialising is seeing how other people cope with similar problems. Never a dull moment and always something new to learn.

Comment by Lissa on February 26, 2017 at 10:59

Purple carrots are good :)

Nup, melons don't work all that well here. Sad but true.

Yep, also tried all sorts of different worm farm set ups and they never thrived. Aged horse poo was my final fertiliser of preference.

I have a giant box of saved and bought seed which I have been carting around with me....time they went to someone/s who might use them because I sure won't be. Very hard to part with them lol.

We've gone through the same process from the looks. Excitement, the desire to grow things which may or may not grow, trying out different methods, different ways to feed the garden.

I am hoping that once I take off looking after other peoples gardens (and pets) that I will find out all sorts of wonderful things about gardening that I currently have no inkling of! Staying at Karla's made me realise how good the wicking beds are...something I wouldn't have experienced at my own garden due to my lack of desire to transform 3 four metre long beds.

Comment by Christa on February 26, 2017 at 8:15

Thanks Susan, for sharing the highs and lows.  You seem to say what I think!  Love your blogs.  You have prompted me to decide what is important.

My whim is to grow as many fruit trees and fruiting plants in 100L and 200L wicking bins, as I can.   As they do not compete for ground space, I may have forgotten about the top space (but they can be moved with the help of a trolley and a strong man, I am running out of them)  My aim is to grow 'eat out of hand' food, and maybe just a few that can be bottled or pickled etc. 

You are pretty right about the seeds thing, I have stopped buying a lot of them.  I must give Trombonccino a go and also madagascar beans. If I go too foreign with my veggies, the cook balks at things he does not recognize.   Keep up the good blogging and gardening.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 25, 2017 at 21:09

Some of us are gals ;-)

I get that you're rationalising to using successful plants. 'The more trial, the less error' (made up that one) you've done what a lot of us have done and finally figured a way through the mire of competing varieties and types. It takes time and application. We none of us will stop experimenting though - nature of humans perhaps and definitely of food gardeners.

Suggestion: stick to local provenance for your plants, try Green Harvest, Eden and any other local suppliers. There's Strawberry Redlands Joy and Lowanna. Especially Lowanna are less prone to disease than Joy and have a firmer-textured fruit which lasts until ripe before it goes soft. Good flavour, too.

Don't know about mites, so far I've not seen any. I do buy Toms, Capsies and Eggplant from seedling suppliers.

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