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Growing local

A 'model' kitchen garden... in the subtropics.

After years of experimentation I now have a garden that has 'structure'. Less jungling and explosive but easier to manage than in days of yore.

Despite what may have been my past perspective, I have reduced the size of the garden that grows my veg.

Given my space quotient, compared to my BLF peers, this may seem an anathema.

But there were reasons why:

  1. My management practices are more efficient by concentrating my green thumb eye upon a set number of planted out beds.
  2. After years of effort I have a delicious soil (at least the earthworms think so) so the whole regenerative thing is much easier now such that I can concentrate more on the harvest of particular plants. Nonetheless, 9 working years  gardening outback was hard labour.
  3. I've integrated my Vetiver nursery  with my domestic gardening activities so that there is no waste of resources.

I've honed my nursery practices and have finally managed to  replicate Vetiver slips easily while keeping my costs down.

At present, I have 600 slips in stock (sample trays of Vetiver slips in image at left) but hope to quickly advance to 1200 -- given that I know  more about what I'm doing.

Practice matters. ...and doing homework.

Despite the dry weather too.

In the grand scheme of things I have not, as yet, proven anything -- but I'm enamoured with the prospect of creating a Vetiver 'model' kitchen garden... in the subtropics.

In the meantime, now that I am finally free of the flu, it is this patch of green that serves as my primary therapy.

Indeed, I am so proud that the beds are green -- and the paths and 'lawn' are not.

Aside from the Vetiver I'm currently growing spring onions, various radishes, cabbages, tomatoes,Yacón,cucumbers, corm, sweet and chili peppers, climbing beans, garlic, bottle gourd,tromboncino, chokoes, Madagascar beans, Okinawan spinach, Warrigal Greens,  Sambung, Nopales (prickly pear), rocket, bok choy, Kang Kong, leaf celery, mustard greens, pigeon peas, asparagus, mitsuba, Florence fennel, thyme, oregano, coriander, chives, parsley, Mexican coriander/culantro, katuk, moringa, chaya, pumpkin, cassava, Piper lolot, curry leaf..

We won't mention the fruit trees. Not much to see there. 


I guess I should mention the poultry.

I expanded their run to take in the 'orchard'. The original run was big and this one is almost three times the size. So the chickens are very happy campers.

4 hens is all. Eat the weeds and other things. Pigs  with feathers.

As you know, when chickens take up residence the earth at their feet becomes Ground Zero. They scratch and eat it bare.  So long as they cannot up end the fruit trees -- saplings really -- co-existence seems to be working.

They also get to see me every time I come outside. As lifestyle options go, I'm appreciative of being deferred to as a god: purveyor of fine foods, ruler of the poultry universe.

Some one cares...and we're bonding big time my groupies and I.

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Comment by Jeff Kiehne on November 8, 2019 at 9:42

Palm fronds make a good mulch for trees  if cut  up with a power saw  and inner spring mattresses wire springs  will stop digging  just cut exterior off and dump.

Comment by Dave Riley on November 7, 2019 at 16:53

So far no issue with chicken digging roots. I have ringed each tree with stakes.But I do like the pellet option. Maybe a bit late for my trees as they are surviving into adolescence.

Not the norm here given soil depth.

I also try to keep my poultry 'amused' -- weed & cuttings  throw-overs, choice snails...and 'hens' nights'.

Comment by Cres on November 6, 2019 at 17:06

If the chooks start scratching too deep and destroying your fruit tree roots you can also put heat treated pallets around their base or alternatively criss cross logs and branches to reduce the appeal of scratching there.

I do it when I've got young fruit trees that need help establishing. Without the pallets the chickens and brush turkeys would leave the soil bare. Since implementing the pallet protection system my survival rate with fruit trees is noticeably greater. The thick mulch provides resilience during neglectful periods of watering. I can lift the pallet easily to add manures/compost. Watering and rain gets through the gaps readily.
On the smaller fruiting trees I used to also tuck the bird netting under the pallet to stop ground entry. You can use the pallet side rails to screw upright timber framing on if you need to cover/shade the trees as well. Plus pallets are free!

If you don't like the look of it you can do a light covering of your favourite mulch so it's hidden, knowing that if it gets blown/scraped away your tree is protected.

The Fuyu Persimmon above (only pic I have of pallets around the base)  survived when most things around it were dying. It eventually died from mysterious causes (I lost about 4 well established fruit trees of different families in different areas of the garden all around the same time, just slow death of limbs drying out and slowly dying back down the trunk)  but not from lack of water or nutrient. 

Comment by Jeff Kiehne on October 13, 2019 at 9:26

Dave if your sending Vetiver slips locally a courier may be cheaper Australia post have changed how they charge  and not all that smart the changes.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 12, 2019 at 21:23

Now that I am finally over that brutal flu.....

I'm into a nursery growth spurt. After pushing the envelope effort today, I now have around 1100 Vetiver slips in production.

Some of this is bespoke. I'll replant a few in my grow beds  here at home, and space I'm developing at my offsprings' place.

Today's rain is surely a welcome event for the Vetiver hedges we've planted along the shoreline. Poor blighters have suffered under drought conditions and strong winds let alone the sabotage  of the tides and salt.

Another 200 are destined for a paddock near Chinchilla  to feed cattle.

Just saying, if anyone wants Vetiver slips -- now is a good time to contact me. I'm cheap @ $0.75 per plant. (For now, anyway -- that's as cheap as I can go given overheads).

But rather than drive out to me, I'm keen to do a postal experiment as Vetiver does/should travel well as it isn't prone to death. This is what Vetiver Spain does. So if anyone is keen I'd like to post you 'x' number of plants @75c each -- plus the cost of postage, whatever that is. I want to see how they handle the postal service.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 1, 2019 at 21:43

If the hedges can survive on our shoreline in sandiness next to the high tide line, chances are good in your place Andrew. If suffering from any doubts,  just water them. They'll happily grow just in water alone -- despite their drought surviving abilities...once established.

Think hydroponics... For the nursery, I use a bit of composted manure + seaweed mix in the root water.

Obviously the deeper the roots can reach the more sustainable and independent they are.

None  planted over the cooler -- and so very dry -- months  have flushed big time yet, but these storms may change all that.

Just look at the city's lawns or the livestock paddocks....'Tis hard times for grasses.

I've been digging up a few clumps this week for division that I had planted around 14-18 months ago. Harder work  than I'd expected. And that's with detaching the plant from the deeper roots.

Barrow loads of mulch, over 200 slips... Worth the effort. It took us 15 minutes to remove each  clump -- and we know what we are doing.

[NOTE TO SELF: Don't let nursery stock get so big before dividing. Keep it around 15-20 tillers because I'm a busy man.]

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on October 1, 2019 at 19:46

I'm still struggling to get mine going mate.  I really hope I can get it through because I reckon I have the "poster boy" location and use for it.  Hoping the rain bucks it up a bit.  I've got little other hope for ground water at my place.  It does make the point though - I never complained when my neighbour pointed his drains into my place.  I knew eventually it would be to my advantage.  If I can just get that vetiver going... 

Comment by Dave Riley on October 1, 2019 at 19:20

You need to 'harvest' the rain. Tanks can only do so much in way of storage as any watering budget will confirm. Tanks may be better than dams, but it is an inefficient way to 'store' water!

Living on sand I've learnt to appreciate seepage and the aquifers below. So I seek to hang onto the water that falleth from above by directing it underground.

Of course last night's downpour created garden flooding here but all that water had  gone subterranean by morning and all that was left was the flow lines of debris.

I have a spear pump that brings it back up at will -- so I have a system of down and up seep and suck.

Nonetheless, very little leaves our property -- just one side of the roof drains to the street...which is simply wasteful as all urban situations should seek ways to hang onto precipitation, cleanse it and feed it into the soil rather than allow it to run off.

If you do not have ground water you can tap into -- aside from having a swale mentality  and being a aficionado of folk like Brad Lancaster -- I reckon the other challenge is to find ways to 'wick' the moisture back up.

Research in Vietnam is suggesting that partnering plants with Vetiver creates a hydraulic symbiosis with its deep roots, the Vetiver draws up water from below to invigorate not only its own leaves, but the surrounding soil as well.  This irrigating  symbiosis pairs with the  mychoriza activity associated with the Vetiver roots.

The Vetiver System has many agricultural uses for: soil and water conservation, soil moisture improvement, groundwater recharge, recycling soil nutrients, pest control, mulch, forage, clean up of agricultural contaminated waste water, protection of farm infrastructure (canals, drains, roads, and building sites). The Vetiver System will reduce soil loss from farm land by as much as 90% and will reduce rainfall runoff by as much as 70%, thus significantly increasing the effective rainfall available to crops. The impact goes further - groundwater is recharged to the extent that ephemeral streams flow longer and stronger, wetlands are rejuvenated, wild life habitat is improved and soil fertility improves - resulting in increased crop yields that have been measured as much as 40%. More data and information at TVNI archives:

Agriculture and Crop Production
Soil and Water Conservation
Gallery 1 and Gallery 2

I may have an obsessed Vetiver perspective, but any hint of run off here, is something I've addressed by planting Vetiver hedges. It is like swaling without digging out the contour. 

Vetiver is also very useful in slowing down water flow -- as I hope Andrew Cumberland will soon find out.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on October 1, 2019 at 18:52

I didn't get anywhere near that amount of rain, I'm afraid.  I am happy that I have a large roof, all of which is under tank storage.  It'll get the fish through for a few more months.  

Comment by Sid Saghe on October 1, 2019 at 10:40

This last storm reminded me to start getting buckets ready to collect water this summer and grab a few more drums to store in. When we get rain it's amazing but so much in one go then dry for ages, we need to be smart about it!

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