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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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Lots of activity

I'll have to add photos later - for now I am only wordsI pulled out our pumpkins because I want the space they had consumed. The vines have filled our compost bin. The banana pawpaw circle is groaning with banana stems plus the dead wattle tree from out the front, so it's no use for the moment.I would like to have left the pumpkins in (soon this infernal cold will pass and they would have 'gone off', they have so many babies attempting to set all the time).I have planted LOTS of seedlings (finally there were some new types at the store). I've planted broccoli (Green King this time), cauliflower (my one flowering cauli has lost its central flower head to a rot - now there are four axillary heads where the main one should be - it will be interesting to see how this turns out), savoy cabbage, chinese cabbage, bok choy, silverbeet, beetroot, spring onions, chillis, squash, and zucchini. Yay. I've also planted dwarf beans and scattered more succession seeds about - carrot, bok choy, lettuce etc.I've watered everything with dipel, as I am SICK of the caterpillars knocking off my seedlings and riddling my bok choy with holes - and I just don't get time to pick them off often enough to be winning the competition. I also gave things a water with a little bit of neem and a dose of seaweed. Things should pick up now - the garden has not being going VOOM enough for my liking. I have managed to exclude the chooks most of the time - but they are punishing some of my lettuces regularly enough that I've not had a single leaf from these plants- lol. It only takes two minutes of naughty chook and pow, lettuce stub.I've bought a pond - just a small one, about as big as a bath but made of plastic; wildly expensive next to salvaging an old bath I know, but it will look good and grow LOTS of water chestnuts, kangkong and taro for me (I hope). I will add those little native fish that eat mozzie larvae - they start with G, i forget - and am hoping to get some frogs too. I'll need to make some habitat for them first though. I've planted lemongrass around it and will plant asparagus and rhubarb as well.I planted lemon grass and sweet potato amongst the trees in the 'orchard'.The potatoes, after a slow start, are sprouting well. I don't think I gave them enough cover - the ones with the most dirt on top (as opposed to straw) have sprouted the fastest. Or it could be the amount of sun, because the straw ones were in volcanoes. They didn't seem to like my volcanoes so much.The big news is that I've extended the vegie garden - we now have a line of potatoes halfway under one side of the clothesline, and I am about to add a climbing bean trellis in between the clotheseline and the pond- I'll post some pictures. It will be lovely to have some dirt garden for the legumes. This year's peas are OK because I dug a trench in the no dig compost and filled it with potting mix (as you are meant to do for the legumes), but I only added a bit for the dwarf beans and they are floppy and slow (when will I learn?).I've removed all of the lovely pavers that next door gave me from the vegie garden path. They were nice for a while but now that the straw under them has sunk the sides of the beds are too exposed. I'm going to go back to using straw unless someone knows where I can get sawdust. The pavers will make a nice edge for my pond. I don't really like their colour so I am thinking of attempting to paint them - maybe undercoat and then house paint? Am I dreaming?I potted up my comfrey, jade plants, orchid, aloe vera and some shade plant things I had sitting around being neglected.Oh yes and most exciting of all - I have a WORKING water tank pump. It's AMAZING, I love it!!!! (although for some stupid reason it doesn't have an off switch - you have to unplug it each time you stop using it! dumb.)
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