Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Winter Maintenance Tasks in our Garden

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been catching up on some much needed maintenance in various sections of our garden. We have been growing a lot of our edibles in containers while my husband built us a permanent raised garden bed which is now finished and ready for planting.  Prior to that we had an 18m long no-dig raised garden bed made out of hay bales which served us well for a year and also a 20m raised bed on the ground, which we've been resting whilst planting other areas.  It's now been revamped and I'm currently planting out in that too.

 

 

Some of the maintenance tasks I've been attending to are:

MAKING TEPEES: Since cherry tomatoes, beans and peas are all reaching for the sky, I’ve pulled out some of my collapsed bamboo tepees that I have made and have been repositioning them to support my new crops. Bamboo stakes and baling twine are used to make 3 or 4 legged tepees in under a minute and I love using bamboo as it’s a sustainable resource and locally available very cheaply. I can make a tepee for about 80c! They are very durable, last me usually 1-2 years and I fold them up and store when I’m not growing climbers. They take up minimal space too.

Recently I transplanted 4 snow pea seedlings that had been in a little micro garden plant nursery till I had the time to put them in a new home. They are now happily installed in their new pea pot climbing up a 4 legged tepee. I last had heavy feeding tomatoes and a few salad greens in this pot so I’m rotating with a legume to add nitrogen to the soil and revitalise it.

 

PLANT NURSERIES: I have set up a few baby plant nurseries in micro gardens – polystyrene boxes filled with nutrient dense light and fluffy potting mix. I allow my seedlings to harden off and get started before transplanting into the big wide world. They are close to the house so I can give them the extra attention they need before moving them to a raised bed.

 

RENOVATING MICRO GARDENS: I have developed an intensive cropping system from very small gardens which means I can obtain a high yield in the minimum space. I have less work to do as I don’t have to travel around the garden as much but to produce nutrient dense edible crops, these gardens need that extra bit of love. I top up during the growing cycle with my home made potting mix to reinvigorate the mini box gardens and also to replace the depth as the plants suck up the nutrients in the organic matter. There is always some shrinkage in this system but I have far less pests and high production so I feel that’s a fair trade off.

 

CROPS WE’RE HARVESTING: We tasted the first passionfruit off our vines a few days ago and they were so sweet – very little acid and definitely worth waiting for. They are planted in a naturally sandy soil so nutrients leach quickly. I’ve had to boost the organic matter with compost, adding coconut fibre which holds moisture well and digging in our food scraps. Have also added lucerne mulch to help feed the soil. This part of the garden is along our boundary fence and a pain to reach with the hose so they’ve had to pretty well look after themselves for moisture. Once a week I’ve been taking a watering can over with some E.M., molasses and seaweed to give them some love and let them know I still care! Also use Natramin, Nutri-Store Gold and Organic Xtra fertilisers to build up the mineral content and balance within the soil.

We’re also harvesting loads of chillis, pumpkins, spinach, salad greens like lettuce, baby spinach, rocket, mustard greens, tatsoi etc and herbs of all kinds, tomatoes, leeks, spring onions, capsicum, mandarins, lemons, avocadoes, eggplant and beans.  A bunch of bananas is nearly ready too.

 

HERBS: Herbs play a big role in my cooking and also for health but I hate going out at night in winter with a torch to grab a handful of herbs at dinner time. It gets dark so early so I’ve transplanted some of my most used herbs into some pots and put them on our outdoor dining table as an edible centrepiece. Much more convenient.

 

I’m letting our Lemon Basil go to seed and will replant when it gets warmer.  Have just harvested sweet basil and mustard greens, mild chilli and chia seeds and they are drying for processing soon. 

RAISED NO DIG GARDEN BED: This new no-dig raised bed is about 8m long and 1.2m wide with layers of compost, manure, soil, minerals, leaf litter, lucerne and other hay. We’ve had great success growing in raised beds – less pest problems, great drainage, not so hard on my back and much easier to maintain – so looking forward to planting out our larger winter crops in that very soon. The other raised bed (about 20m long) is currently being planted out with edibles from my plant nursery and will soon fill in the spaces as the weather warms up with other crops like zucchini and sweet corn.  It was previously intensively cropped so we've been making the most of our other garden spaces in the meantime.

Looking forward to sharing the techniques we use and picking up some tips from others. 

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Comment by Anne Gibson on July 21, 2011 at 7:28

We've been a building site on and off for months here doing external renovations and some major landscaping projects to get the big picture structure in place before 'colouring in' the details with plants etc.  Lots of work but satisfying when we finish each stage. :)

Comment by Lissa on July 21, 2011 at 6:33
Only when you're ready. It just looks idyllic where you are and I'm sure we can all garner some good info from your experience.
Comment by Anne Gibson on July 20, 2011 at 10:16
I'll try to organise something towards the end of the year when life is less hectic!
Comment by Lissa on July 20, 2011 at 6:14

Beautifu, beautiful, beautiful Anne :D

Are we going to get the opportunity to visit in person and see how you go about things first hand?

Comment by Anne Gibson on July 16, 2011 at 13:22

No not from Anthony - his website doesn't appear active any longer ...

I am planning to use the EM mother culture I buy to make a diluted bigger batch when I have a chance.  It will stretch it out much further and although subsequent batches have a shorter life (2-3 months), it will save a lot of money.  If you find any other sources of liquid EM I'd be interested in that too.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 16, 2011 at 13:00
That's fine Anne, I'm sticking with BD 500 for now. Anthony Foo on this site was making EM and selling it but he's dropped from my vision recently and I wondered if you had bought it from him.
Comment by Anne Gibson on July 16, 2011 at 9:05
I buy from an organic farmer at our local markets on the coast. It's not available online that I can find.
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 16, 2011 at 8:00
Lemon Grass makes great mulch, too. The dried EM comes from Bokashi Composting Australia in Sydney but it is available in more places than it was, even Bunnings keep it. Where do you get the liquid from?
Comment by Anne Gibson on July 16, 2011 at 7:47

Thanks Elaine - great ideas.  I buy my EM in a bottle as a liquid - where do you get the dried version? 

Nothing better than making/re-using your own resources ... our neighbour recently slashed his property which had a lot of cane grass and we were able to use it as mulch on our place to help build up the organic matter along our boundary which has very sandy soil. 

I grow lemon grass for mulch in my pots and containers too.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 16, 2011 at 7:21

There's always some reluctant starters in the sprouts and by the time most have been eaten, there's still some just waking up in the mix. I use fresh mix each time for sprouts and recycle the mix into existing beds or as part of new beds.

 

The EM I have used comes dried in a sawdusty-type mix and I've not tried to make a liquid from it. I just used the EM as directed when putting the scraps into the bin. All I do now is replace the EM powder with a spray of prepared 500 (the one I make with my radionics instrument) which keeps the scraps smelling sweet until composting time. Then I use a real prepared 500 which I buy from Aracaria farm in Mullumbimby (can buy direct or from Green Harvest) when putting the compost pile together.

 

I use whatever is to hand for a cover crop - el cheepo birdseed is a favourite. I've one large Sugar Cane stand and a smaller one as a pup of the original. Yesterday we chopped and mulched the cane and tops into 3 boxes and it's sitting waiting for a decision on where it'll go. It whirred up wonderfully well using my small cheap mulcher. Chopped the stems into billets then split it lengthwise with a machete. A very satisfying afternoon, making mulch from whatever is available :-).

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