garden (46)

Spring Update: October

21 October 2022

I'll try to combine blogs from the same time of the year in future.  I'm sure I must have done one in the intervening 7 years between these posts!

No travel this year (or the last few due to covid).  It's really wet for about the third year in a row. The house is getting painted so my entire yard looks like a war zone. 

I am indeed getting cherry tomatoes and silverbeet in abundance.  I'll start canning pasta sauce soon.  My lettuce is mostly done now.  Berries came in: mulberries and native rasberries.  I have culled the Kumquats down to one tree - real estate is valuable here.  Once again, Rozie's passionfruit killed stuff - this time my seedless grape on a trellis out the front.  

This is the first year for a beetroot crop that Roz wanted.  I've used a lot of the greens as well and Roz loved the two she boiled up today.  Yes, the termuric has started shooting.  Haven't seen the ginger yet.  The changed chicken feeder solved the rat problem from the past, for the most part. 

Both Californian quails have escaped now.  Good riddance.  Mad buggers they are. I've started collecting Japanese quail eggs to incubate.  I ended up with a lot of males which have now been slaughtered and processed. I need new girls.  

I think food is about to get expensive.  I am finding I am eating a lot of vegetable material from the patch, although it is mostly still greens and stems.  We now eat meat about twice a week.  The quails and fish and looking increasingly good but not enough to tempt Rozie from the store stuff.  I paid $35 per kg for some lamb today.  I'm not sure too many people can afford to do that.  

16 October 2015

October seems to be when I travel.  I've been on a road trip out to Lightning Ridge for a week.  Yes, of course I did a video. LOL. 

Back to the yard.  The fish survived again, but the water was really low and very dirty - same for the chickens.  The grow bed was fine because I learned the "summer-proof with shade cloth" lesson from last year and made sure that was done last month.  The girls must become cranky about their water because I'm down to 2 eggs a day compared to 4.  

I'm still adding more "pot" style gardens.  It allows me to maximise every inch of the yard.  I can build them fairly quickly now days.   Yep, I've also changed the watering system in the last few days.  I think it will be an ongoing thing, to be honest.   The four vertical beds mostly have just a few flowers because My Rozie's passionfruit over-ran them.  I've had a lovely display of white roses over the arbor.  If I'm lucky, there will be a few left for the garden visit. 

Crops:  I'm about to get cherry toms, lettuce, silverbeet, and gooseberries.  The tiny lemonade, lemon and mandarin trees are beginning to fruit and I can see lots of other greens like Betel and sweet potato that will let me make heaps of pesto again.  I froze Kumquats and Rob's Davidson's Plums and Mulberries to make more sparkling wines/beers from.  That's been a new venture this year that is very successful. 

The Yakon is coming back already.  Still waiting for the Turmeric and Ginger.  I hope they've survived.  

I still see rats late at night but they are just raiding the grain off the floor of the chicken coop.  I can live with that.  

17 October 2014

I arrived home from France to be pleasantly surprised that the kids had managed to keep the tiny city farm entirely destruction free, which is no mean feat to be honest.  The fish were alive, chooks still laying, garden not dead - Bobbie relatively untraumatised.  WOW!  However, what I did notice was that my aquaponics bed had mostly bolted, or been burned in the sun. Time to summer-proof!

First order of business was to put the shadecloth back up over the aquaponics.  Thanks to the chook house, it is much easier nowdays.  Remember, it has to remain a temporary structure so I can easily remove it in Autumn.  Took all of 10 minutes.  Not as cute as last year but perfectly functional. 

Since I've also been adding more "pot style gardens", I have now also spent a fair bit of time extending the watering system.  I had to get a lot more creative to make sure pots get watered as well as the gardens.  If I had water in my rain tanks, I could actually test the damn things.  LOL.  

Talking of pots, I have two vertical pallet gardens now that I am testing during our summer heat.  If they survive, I'll add two more.  If they don't, then I will re-think that part of the garden.  I included them in the watering system as well. 

You know, what really annoys me about summer proofing is that I've done weeks of work.  Some watering systems had to be broken into half, extras bits had to be added all over the place - and, you can't even see what I've done!!!  Hopefully, it will reflect in the plant growth - otherwise, I might just concrete the bloody lot. LOL. 

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School garden

Well, it has been a hot and dry summer. The garden beds were really dry but quite a few things survived. Luckily for us, the rain arrived right on cue. A little drizzle here, another downpour there and before you know it the garden will be brimming with life again. No time to lose. This year we are starting bright and early with greens and tomatoes for the tuckshop.

The Mandarin tree survived and with a bit of trimming and TLC the orange tree is steadily coming back to life. It was also a very nice surprise to see a cucumber vine in one of the beds and a pumpkin vine in the compost.

5 of the beds in the tuckshop area have been restocked with compost, biodynamic lifter and coir peat to lock the moisture in. Thanks to donations from parents at school, 3 beds are now covered with shade cloth. This should help starting greens early. A few volunteers did an outstanding job of weeding around the grow beds.

The kids are really excited to bring their first food scraps for the worm towers. A new addition of worms should come in shortly. We are also planning to use more watering pots to allow for steady watering.


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Choosing the right set of plants to grow indoors is not an easy task if you are a fresh gardener. You want each plant to feel good in its place, you want it to fit the decor and arrangement of the room, and you want it to happen right now!

With the following guide at hand, this difficult task will become much easier to complete!

Air Plants


The ultimate trend this year! Have you heard of them already? Since they are called Air Plants, some of the most frequent misconceptions is that they don’t need any water to grow, or that they need only air to thrive, and no extra care at all. That’s so wrong!  

As opposed to the other types of house plants, the Air Plants absorb water (and everything else actually) through their leaves. In the nature the obtain it with the morning mist, rain and fog. When growing indoors, they need to be misted regularly with a spray bottle.

Air Plants are usually placed in glass globes hanging from the ceiling. Choose a bright place where they won’t face any direct sunlight. Watch this video to learn how to plant one in your home.



Madagascar Dragon Tree

Also known as Dracaena marginata, this plant is ideal for contemporary-designed spaces. Its exotic-looking, structural shape makes it a centrepiece and a great addition to any minimalistic interior. Moreover, the Dragon Tree doesn’t need much water, and the level of light should be moderate to low.

It is best to water the plant once a month, thoroughly until you can see water in the pot saucer. Then discard it to avoid rotting of the roots. If you want your plant to look more like a bush rather than a tree, simply pare off the top and two new stems will grow from that point.

String of Pearls 9779197092?profile=original

The perfect addition to any bizarre interior, this creeping succulent with its long shoots or streaming foliage is very easy to grow and has such an appealing look to the eye. To feel comfortable, the plant should be potted in sandy soil for a good drainage. Place the pot on a place where its leaves can hang down freely.

String of Pearls likes bright rooms, even direct sunlight, but it doesn’t like air currents so keep away from windows and air vents. Water it once a month in winter and twice a month in summer.

9779198478?profile=originalMaidenhair Fern

As long as you don’t forget to moisten it regularly, the Maidenhair Fern will keep growing with its beautiful, soft foliage for years. The plant can be a fresh accessory and looks great when placed on the coffee table in your living room. The fern is so delicate and soft, that it is ideal for almost all types of interiors.

Just like the String of Pearls, this plant also doesn’t like drafts. Position it in a bright place and keep it moist all the time. If you tend to forget waterings, I suggest to buy a self-watering pot, which allows the plant to take up just the needed amount of water right when he needs it.

Fiddle Leaf Fig9779199256?profile=original

Such a lovely plant can be skipped in your home! Its large, lustrous leaves and great height makes it the perfect house plant. I guess that’s why many interior designers and homeowners adore it - it creates a structure and accent in every room it is placed. It can grow up to two meters if you plant it in a larger pot.

It thrives best near windows where it can receive much light. Yet, keep it away from strong direct sunlight as it can burn the leaves. The soil of the Fiddle Leaf Fig should be maintained wet as it originally comes from a tropical climate.               

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I have been very busy in the garden since the Garden Rescue, you all gave me just what I needed, a swift kick up the backside to just get out there and stop feeling sorry for myself. Well that is what I did. It's a start.

9779167283?profile=originalVEGI GARDEN #1

The Lettuce have decided to give us lots of leaves due to this hot weather we are having, they have only been in 3 weeks. The Mini Eggplant are growing well with lots of flowers and my bean seeds that I planted about a week ago are up and climbing.

9779168078?profile=originalVEGI GARDEN #2

The Passionfruit is doing very well they loved their horse manure. The big leaf 'Thingy' to the left came up in the compost from Roger, does anyone know what it might be. The photos were taken when the sun was beating down and are usually standing up more. Warrigul Greens are doing well as are the Sweet Potatoes. Worms Towers still to go in.

9779169060?profile=originalTOMATOES and CHILLIES

It is not the best time for the Tomatoes, Chillies & Capsicums in this hot dry windy weather, but most are doing well with the exception of the trial soil tomatoes. The Mini Roma's are already fruiting and others are flowering. Lots of different Chillies in flower and fruit.

9779165301?profile=originalHERB GARDEN

The Herb Garden is going well. Also the Citrus are flowering and fruiting, though a couple had a setback in that a couple of Palm Tree fronds fell on top of them braking a few branches that were in flower. There is a lot more to be done and I have also been working in other parts of the garden. I am truly enjoying my time back in the garden.

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Wicking Reservoir-Pipe Experiment

9779144877?profile=originalI'm expanding my front veggie garden at the moment, and decided to add some form of water savings to a section of the expansion in case I have another dry spring and summer like last year.

This is based on (and is) an open wicking bed (within the area of the garden around where its being laid). Rather than the water being in an open trough, its will be in pipe, relying on wicking fabric to transport the water from inside the pipe, to the soil. It will sit on almost flat (maybe/preferably slightly depressed) sheet(s) of plastic wider than the footprint of the pipes. Struck-out April 2016, no plastic sheet used in working trial.

The disadvantage over an open trough is that it will not collect rain water as well. I'm mainly using it because I wish to encroach upon my 300mm of soil with the reservoir (pipes).

This would be nowhere near as efficient as the IBC wicking beds I have, but a good compromise and will save on water. I'm hoping that this is useful for me to just chuck into the bottom of a garden as a quick retrofit to an existing open type of garden bed.

All works based on Colin Austin's wicking beds concepts.

Simple, >11 Litres - 2Metre 90mm, 1 End Cap, 1x PVC 90 Degree Bend, 500mm 90mm PVC.


>22 Litre, 2 Metre Array x 2

>33 Litre, 2 Metre Array x 3


Most microfiber cloths (best to test) make great wicks


How to Add The Cloth Wicks
10 to 20mm size holes are drilled into the top of a horizontally sealed pipe array. Both ends of a micro fibre cloths are then inserted into separate holes with the ends of the cloth always extending to at least the very base of the inside of the pipe. When plugging the hole with the cloth, ensure the insert is a tight fit ... twisting the cloth into the hole helps to achieve this.
Other Possible Configurations
A narrow, lengthways cut/slot along the pipe, and slot 2 x MF cloths in, then another 2 ....
A length of 30mm holes, drop fabric lined netting pots to make contact with very base of pipe, and fill the pots with sand and other test material, including direct soil mix.
With or without the sheet?
I am very tempted to exclude the plastic sheet. I know that there are additional water savings by stopping the downward flow, and encouraging sideways and upwards flow & wicking ... but how much water loss is there when the bed is directly above a rocky surface,. After watering, even when dry, the water can sit there for hours. In this sitting time period, perhaps most of the water can be wicked away with only a little (and probably beneficial) shale & clay rock absorption of the water. Update April 2016. I went without the plastic sheet.

Top-up Bucket System 
This system may benefit with a slow gravity feed from a large water reserve like a 200 Litre blue barrel.
Future Use in My Garden
I am planning to use multiple separate systems. I'm planning on small separate systems in or to -
* Mitigate total loss of water in combined reservoirs due to an unexpected leak in a pipe.
* Make it easier to level. Two metres and under is a quick and easy levelling job. Level is important as the holding capacity reduces as a pipe's, or in this case a WRP's level is offset.
* Maintain the system easier. By breaking down the large array into many small WRPs.
* Multistage a rollout into the long garden bed. This allows for expansion with less disruption to the total garden in one hit.


This system can be boosted beyond wicking by filling up the filling pipe to the very top ...

The cloth plugged holes slow down an instant leak, but of course increase the water distribution from the reservoir's wicks' via gravity & displacement coupled with wicking.



This particular skipping rope (broken) is another material I found to wick well.


Pros and Cons


Can be used in many different types of beds. (Raised, level, in-ground ...).

Can be retrofitted.

Water savings.

Parts can be found as recycled parts.

Parts quite cheep if purchased.

Water in reservoir always clean, no anaerobic/nitrogen drawdown issues that some wicking reservoirs may get.


Introduction of plastics to the garden (be as selective as possible over plastic types).

Requires solid base (may not work in sandy soils where the water rapidly continues to travel down).

Small reservoir for a wicking bed.

Pipe array requires to be kept level in order to take advantage of total water holding capability of reservoir.

Update 9th March 2016

Not much has been happening with this. I will make an effort starting tomorrow with the season been a tad dry. I have thought through the 2nd wick option ... to have slightly large holes (than current) drilled into the top of the pipes and geo-fabric lined pockets which are affixed to the outer part of the pipe, have an opening, and extend to the inside base of the pipe (pocket sealed at the base). This could be used instead of the micro-fibre wick. The pockets (which become the wick) would simply be filled with the surrounding soil or sand. Water should then wick up and through the soil from the pocket wick. Update April 2016. I did not go with this option.

Update 14th March 2016

The area for a double 2 metre run of WPR was cleared (I chose not to use a plastic sheet at base)

9779150685?profile=originalThen I placed some deco at the base (to help me level the WRP)

Then WRP installed (all connections sealed with pressure pipe pvc glue)


Then WRP Covered with soil. This should hold over 22 Litres of water.

Update 16th March 2016

Soil has now covered the pipe. Due to this being the first run, I have used a long vertical pipe for the water

delivery, as this gives more options for the moment. I have included a second vertical observation pipe in the diagonally opposite corner to the delivery pipe.

9779151491?profile=originalOn a test run, I filled the pipe to horizontal level (90mm). I noticed that by the end of the fill, I had actually put over 30 litres in. This was due to the water wicking out during filling (the new soil is dry and seems quite willing to take the water away). Within 10 minutes, the reservoir was back to half full.

I toped up the reservoir 2 further times over the next half hour and observed that it now took about 20 minutes for the reservoir to drop down to half on the last top up (the slowing down of wicking is due to the moisture level rising in the soil surrounding the pipe. 

I topped up one further time, observed the level to be 3/4 full after half an hour post top up and retired for the evening (it was getting too dark). A level check the next morning shows an empty reservoir.

I dug holes above the pipes, and noted the moisture around 10cm from the surface. (originally dry soil and no rain overnight). This is wicking from pipe to wick and from wick to soil, and soil wicking to sounding soil quite well.

I am quite satisfied with the results so far. So onto planting next.

Update 14th of April 2016

The plants have been fed well with 2 applications to date of charlie carp & seasol, and 1 application of volcanic rock dust & Go Go juice on initial planting.

The plants have also been kept well hydrated thanks to the pipe.

Pipe being filled with garden hose in following shots.


14th April 2016

5th May 2016


What's Next?

I'm planning on putting a similar one in starting around 1 Metre from the existing WRP. I would prefer to use a natural material for the wick, and will start to look around for something that can wick well and last several years with little disintegration as the wick plugged holes need to be kept tight.

Update 27 July 2016

The 2nd WRP has been installed, this time a 2 x array, 3 Metres in length.

9779154885?profile=originalDue to the 1st WRP wicking out water too fast for my liking, I only made half the number of holes in this version, this time installing the wick by folding the 4 corners of the cloth, inserting the 4 cloth corners while twisting into the hole. I have left the outer part of the wick short. The wick can be further pulled out in the future to allow for a higher wicking rate if required.

9779155671?profile=originalOnly the front part of the garden in photo is covered by the array, however excess water from the WRP will flow  at the base (on hard ground) to the back part of the garden.

Update December 2016


External Reservoir and Float Valve to be connected to the array...

With this cheep device, the pipe array has a true feedback mechanism with the external reservoir, taking away the blindness of a gravity feed or gravity drip feed.

The external reservoir's feed to the pipe is governed by the pipe's level and therefore (via the cloth wicks), governed by the soil's requirement for water. End to end wicking is back. This is very important for true water saving via wicking, as the external reservoir would just keep on sending water regardless of soil moisture (i.e. - too dry, too wet, or just right) if allowed to just feed the pipe array without any feedback.

Over the next few days/weeks, I will acquire the appropriate float valve, and the external reservoir will be installed, and system trailed.

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Garden update: Stardate 19122014

We have now hit summer, well and truly.  It’s hot and there is a real need to watch the vege carefully so as to water those that are wilting.  The vertical gardens are especially susceptible.

Greens:  The need for care is particularly true of lettuce, which have the added disadvantage of tending to bolt.  I’m moving from Cos to Mignonette because they seem to survive the heat better.  The sweet leaf has come back nicely now (note to self: prune it in in winter next year).  Sweet potato leaves are abundant,  the betel is growing nicely as are the recently gifted Ceylon spinach.  Perpetual spinach really needs to be cooked or used as pesto.

Tomatoes:  For some reason I have a shortage of them right now.  I am of course planting cherry varieties to avoid getting stung.  Capsicums are going to have the same trouble and I have learned that bell chillies do as well.  After the recent rains, many of the planted seedlings are taking off, so all should be well if I can keep the supply high (to offset losses).

Fruit/citrus: most of my very tiny, 1 year old citrus are growing me one of two fruit.  No sign of anything on the grapes but the Loganberry has produced a tiny flush of berries.  My experimental rockmelon seem to be surviving okay which is great.  Lots of flowers, but no sign of fruit.  I’m also about to get a really good crop of cumquats for cumquatcello.

Livestock:  the chickens are giving me a smaller two eggs a day which builds up surprisingly quickly.  The big news is in the fish.  In the last month they have just boomed.  However, after seeing RobBob’s at Ipswich, I’ve decided my “boys” will get a second year of life.  Having said that, I intend to harvest at least one over Christmas to try.  I also need to work out a way to divide the tank in halves so I can put new fingerlings in (where they can get some baby food) without slowing water flow.  I’ll do a video on that when it happens.

Corn:  I am surprised at how good a corn crop I will eventually get.  Even better is the fact that I have done the permaculture thing with them – there are yellow French beans planted in the same bed (using the corn as a trellis) and lettuce sheltering at ground level from the sun.

Worm Towers:  After visiting Gayle D’s at Christmas, I found a 20l black bucket at Kmart for $5.  Add a large pot saucer ($3) and you have a wonderful worm tower.  The other option is a $10 white 20l fishing bucket with lid.   Given my small compost bins are full, these are proving a good option.  I like to add some cheap solar lights to make them extra useful. 

Merry Christmas one and all.  Bestest festive wishes to you and yours.

Andy and My Rozie

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2015 Update:

The Lemon, Lemonade and Mandarin look like they wanna make lots of babies. I'm happy about that. It looks like this is the time of year for citrus, Lemonade particularly. 

So, the corn crop went in yesterday. All good.

Cherry tomatoes are finally starting to produce some fruit again.  Cabbage getting ready. Jeez, even a Cauliflower. Now that summer is here: I'm getting 4 eggs a day. The greens are starting to perform again. It's Quiche and salad weather!

I REALLY need to get some bees.

2014 Post:

The most exciting news at present is my citrus.  

The Lemonaide is starting to flower. The lemonaides are a beautiful fruit in my humble:


Meanwhile, the Lisbon lemon is concentrating on new growth: 


On the other hand, the Lotsa lemon is covered with flowers, most of which will probably fall off: 


The snow peas have finally started to produce!!!!!!


We continue to have an abundance of cherry tomatoes of different varieties.  However, following a careful scientific study (Rozie ate one of each type) we have decided to focus on the orange tear shapped variety rather than this little chap.  


Oh, and the girls are now providing a steady 3 eggs per day.  We are having asian omlette tonight for dinner. 

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My Victorian garden

It's easy enough to buy expensive things and follow the directions and get beautiful (although often not very tasty or resilient) plants. Growing amazingly healthy plants using natural processes and products to be found in your own backyard (or front yard as the case may be) is much harder - but it is possible. It's a question of harnessing and powerboosting natural processes. Brilliant soil, teaming with microbes and organic material, is the real holy grail I think.

My garden's pretty good at the moment:


I only put manure, blood and bone, dolomite, potash and pea straw on it. And LOTS of water (except for the xeroscaped cottage garden bit - it's a rental). I put all that in - it cost $100 in seedlings. It was totally bare before - the owners had cut everything down and left the wood chips on the ground. There is lovely volcanic loam to start with though. Oh and I make sure the correct crops follow each other, and replenish the soil in between them as necessary. Coriander (all outer leaves already eaten :)  is just visible in centre bottom of the shot between the calendula and the chives.

This garden has a mix of: tomatoes, basil, chives, parsley, coriander, dill, tatsoi, leeks, spring onions, beetroot, silverbeet, lettuce, english spinach, cucumbers, celery, carrots and rocket all cropping, and I've got parsnip seedlings coming on. I need more beans and peas - must pull out the tomatoes and cucmbers, but they're still cropping! I have one scarlet runner bean in another part of the yard, and I got heaps of peas over summer which came up as volunteers in the pea straw mulch around the potatoes and corn!


Look at all my tomatoes!!


I also decided to get serious about strawberries and have been getting a few now - they like that self watering pot in the foreground, but they don't like my Mini Garden tower thing so much, because the spot it's in is a bit too hot, and they don't get as much water. I should put it next to the vegie garden, but am just a bit paranoid about it being nicked (as if - it's the country - but there you go). Was terribly excited to decorate our chocolate tart for our picnic the other day with strawberries and mint leaves from our own garden :) (I rolled the pastry in the tin, dusted with cocoa - hence the mess).


Note, as usual, my strawberries are 5 months behind the commercial crop - !? - which here in Victoria is December. In Brisbane my strawberries were ready in September, not April. I don't understand THAT at all.

I also have another bed around the side of the house, which has zucchini and a monocrop plot - which recently had potatoes, and now has a (ridiculously optimistic probably) crop of late corn, an Oca, and some roma tomatoes. That's my entire garden - and I'm feeding 30 kids every Tuesday at our schools' kitchen garden program as well as us :) It's very small!

We regularly buy fruit, onions, garlic, potatoes (although we didn't have to for the last 3 months - and in Brisbane that was sweet potatoes, and we had them all year), broccoli (in summer), maybe a capsicum, cauliflowers before ours are ready, carrots because our daughters love them as a snack. Our next big crops will be carrots, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, parsnip and turnips or swede. Then broad beans, then back to the main crop season in summer (tomatoes, potatoes, corn). Most meals have 4-7 vegies in them.

I love it that the vegie garden is right next to the tap, and right in front of the front door (just like the permaculture manual recommends) - it's the best watered garden I've ever had because I walk through it every day and can see when it needs a drink. I have a timer on the tap and I just move the sprinkler around, keeping the water pressure low to minimise water loss.

Still, I can't wait to buy another house (rather than rent) and kill ALL the grass and fill the whole yard up with productive trees and berry bushes etc :)

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I am about to add a few new things to the range of activities here at McDowall Manor:

1. Chocolate making.  I don't actually eat a whole lot of chocolate, but this is another one of those skills that you can "grow into."  Desert seemed to be a logical progression from my home-made entrees and mains.  I reckon I'll have a fair crack at this one. 

2. Chooks.  I'm currently pricing up 3 girls (guaranteed) to be delivered.  Now, this is where I curse Farina.  Oh yeah, we all love her to bits, but bloody hell.  My Rozie spotted her Banded Plymouth Rocks chooks and I was doomed.  It didn't matter that I could get the very reliable and placid Isa Browns so much cheaper.  To quote the website that I am using, "Add some class to your flock!"  LOL.  

So, I have decreed that one of these chooks shall be named "Farina" in honour of our site hostess.  (I am just grateful that I don't have to buy a flock of damn Peking ducks as well!)

3. I won't give away too many details yet, because this could be a fool's dream - but I am thinking of building some decking in the big girl's yard to make a floor for the Pizzeria.  It's a bit of a stretch for Andy the Unhandy Man to attempt.  

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Some Random Observations:

Today, I realised I haven't bought any salad greens for 4 months.  

The other night, I made tomato soup that was completely home grown.  It was served with home made olive bread rolls and grated home made cheese.  Happy to report that is was really damn good, and I don't even like tomatoes. 

Tonight's Thai Beef salad was pretty much all our greens again.  A Thai Youtube friend taught me you can include radish leaves which I did.  He is correct. 

I have a fridge and pantry full of preserves - gotta stop doing jams etc for a while. 

My perch are only a few months away from harvest.  I need to buy more fingerlings to settle over winter. 

I think the passionfruit crop is slowing down - thank god. 

I have a crop of cauliflower and turnip seedlings slowly sprouting indoors.  They will go into the new wicking bed that I am making which will use a big fat slab of my compost (which now even includes locally sourced horse poo).

Snow peas are shooting in the shady patch. (Must check on the zucchini in that bed as well!)

I'll get to try lemonades soon for the very first time - courtesy of my own tree which is planted in planter box seat that I built myself.  

Kratky hydroponics is not going so well.  I'll post in the wicking bed group about that soon. It's my own fault.

Aquaponic bok choi is ready for harvest.  They look really good. 

Bobbie eats poo.  It's disgusting.  He is a wonderful little man except for his toilet habits/diet. 

Man, I feel like a farmer!

You guys have taught and inspired me so much!  I'm very grateful.  

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Public vegetable garden by the river


I have posted an article in the discussion area last month about the launch of Epicurious Garden at South Bank, and I finally visited on Tuesday.

It's right by the river, with a fountain, seatings, and lawns, so it's a very nice area for just relaxing with a couple of friends, or have a picnic as seen with quite a few people utilizing the seats and tables.

9779116284?profile=originalI deliberately waited for a month to give the plants some time to grow, but they're still quite juvenile when I visited.  Understandably, the trees are small and immature, but the beans and tomatoes looked as if they've just been planted, and not doing very well.  Especially the beans.  I love their trellis though, looks very sturdy, but I think they must be very expensive custom made artwork that are not financially practical for home growers :).  

9779117253?profile=originalEspecially love the Eagle kite, which I think act as scarecrow to the crows and ibis in the park.  I thought it's good idea, and it looked good flying in the wind.  However, I then thought it might also scare away other wanted birds as well, so may not apply to my future garden since I don't think we would have as much of an ibis and crows problem as South Bank.

9779117858?profile=originalOther than the usual herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees, there's a few exotic in there like the cranberry hibiscus, taro, cocoyam, tamarin, Queensland arrowroot, variegated cassava, and black Sapote (aka Chocolate pudding fruit) etc

There's many things which I thought were planted too close together, but I'm guessing they will remove some as they grow bigger so the ground don't look so bare.  

Apparently, there's gardener volunteers onsite at various times throughout the year to talk to(source link), but I didn't see anybody there that looked the part or wearing badges, so maybe next time.  (Anyone from here a volunteer?)

It's certainly worth a visit, and I'll be back in a couple of months to check the progress.  I think it's great that there's a public edible garden at such a prominent inner city recreational park.   I've uploaded a bunch of photos into a photo album if anyone's interested.


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Built my IBC Wicking Beds


After having no luck with my other beds I decided that perhaps wicking beds are the better solution for my neglectful gardening habits. I decided to modify regular wicking beds and put in a reservoir to save money on media and increase water retention in the system.

I'm currently waiting for my seedlings to sprout so I can put them in. I'm also looking for a cheap supplier of black bird mesh because the possums and bush turkeys are my constant nemesis. Bunnings only seem to have the white. Being at the front of the house I think the black mesh will look a lot nicer.

Full details on the build here.

This shows how the water flows through the reservoir. The light blue is the water movement up the wicking media as it seeps through the geofabric.


Note: I am aware that white mesh is better for birds but it's location is in an area which isn't really a bird flightpath (Except marauding turkeys looking to dig). I use white netting throughout the back beds because it's much more open and a lot of birds congregate there.

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Wow.  What an absolute success!  On Sunday 11 September Logan Food Gardeners has its first get together.  We had 23 adults plus kids for morning tea, chat and a wander around the garden.  This was an absolutely fantastic turnout, considering the online group has only been going for just over 1 month.  Already though the group has 72 members and is growing every day.

I have had heaps of really positive feed back about the visit on Sunday and the Logan Food Gardeners online site.  It is already bringing people together who have the common interest of food gardening.

I love it that our members range in age from teenagers to the retired.  I also think it is great the we have a good mix of men and women and people of completely different backgrounds.  The photos below show a few of the members in the garden.






Everyone really got into the spirit of the event and brought plenty to share including seeds, seedlings, fruit, veg and of course tasty treats for morning tea.



Check out more photos by clicking this Logan Food Gardeners link

First Garden Visit 11/9/11 

Thank you so much Logan Food Gardeners members for making this group such a success.  See you next month.




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Donna's Garden - September 2011

It's been a long time since I got back into the garden.  Not a lot growing in the vegetable gardens I cleared a month or so ago... planted heaps of seeds but none of them seemed to want to grow with the exception of beetroot and a lonely kale plant.  After going to a heap of effort and drawing a map of where I planted what, this time I just planted willy nilly without taking notes - so am expecting everything to germinate lol!



I went to the green shed and bought a few seedlings (always hate doing this as they cost as much as a packet of seeds) as well as some dynamic lifter and fine sugar cane - supposedly for the chickens bedding.  Have now removed all the weeds from two long (2.4 x 1.2m) and one square beds out the back, given a boost with dynamic lifter and planted lettuce, silverbeet, italian parsely and basil seedlings.  Then numerous seeds of a very wide variety, as I mentioned I didn't write them down but there were some chinese greens, eggplant, capsicum, chilli, lettuce, zuchini and likely others that came to hand.



Awhile ago I dug up some of my comfrey and tried to propagate it by just planting bits of root, this worked really well and I have now some in two of the garden beds as well as underneath the new banana grove.  I will be doing this again and putting them in a number of other locations to use as mulch - probably ring the new banana grove as well.


The almond tree is starting to get leaves and I notice a couple of flowers (edit.. looking for photos to add to this blog I found it also flowered last October but no fruit, fingers crossed but it did say 7 years).  Searching back through my blogs, this was first planted in September 2008 so is only three years old.  Check out how much it has grown...

December 2008



September 2011



During the floods I lost one tamarillo, but the other one is starting to flower so hopefully will be able to propagate some more from seed as they are so tasty and take up so little room.  


The dwarf peach was planted in the ground last year, but after a number of relocation's of various garden beds it ended up in the middle of one of them so it has a collar to keep the dirt away from the graft.  It has a couple of fruit, but not as many as I had hoped.  Two years ago I got a bumper crop, and last year none so was hoping for more... 




Since severely cutting back the two guava the citrus have come back with a vengenance, they must require sunshine to thrive.  In the past I have had lots of problems with any new growth being attacked by aphids and ending up dwarfed but this year they have doubled in size!  Will have to see how they go as the guava's start to grow back - pretty sure that guava will grow from cuttings so might have to look at trying this and growing them somewhere else.  On an aside, should guava had red leaves in this season?  I will look it up but if anyone knows then I don't have to ;)


I have had a huge problem with paw paw this year, the two out the front have just died.  The leaves got tinier and tinier then there were non left and the fruit fell off.  Not sure what happened there, will plant another one soon and hope that it does a bit better!  


But the babaco that Lissa managed to strike cuttings of and gave me two, one is growing really well and even has three flowers!!!  It is under a couple of banana plants so quite sheltered.  The one in more direct sun is still alive and healthy but nowhere near as good as the other, I plan to plant another tree near it anyway since Ashely expanded that bed so hopefully that will give it a bit more shade.



It is only September and we have a new banana flowering.  It is one of the full size ducasse.  There is also two over wintered bunches that we are waiting to ripen.



I chucked all the out of date seeds in this bed and will wait and see if anything comes up before planting anything else.  It is a new bed and has a layer of chicken poo enriched dirt so if I don't get anything I will probably plant some corn here.


The herb garden isn't doing all that well, although I have just given it a boost with dynamic lifter and a light sprinkling of mulch so hope for better things soon.  It has rosemary, garlic chives, curly parsley, italian parsley, heaps of self seeded dill and fat hen and a sick looking lemongrass that I chopped and divided (out of season) that hopefully will come back soon.  Also a self seeded chilli plant.



On the animal side, two of our three chickens are laying again after a good dusting for mites... not sure what the other one is waiting for but am optimistic that means she will lay longer into the next season when she does start.  We have three remaining quails from Joanne and at least one of them is a girl as we are starting to get quail eggs as well.  Since our Alaskan Malamute Cody passed away last December the house has been a bit lonely, but about a fortnight ago a kitten adopted us and we have since named her Marley... hopefully she is a great mouse hunter as we have mice again.


I am hoping to host a Garden Visit in October, so if I get my butt into gear and finish making the place respectable again then you can all come and see for yourselves how it is growing :)

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The start...

My garden to date has consisted of herbs and tomatoes in pots. The tomatoes did ok crop-wise,  but have long since succumbed to the summer heat. The remaining herbs and pots below. The chillies are going crazy, the basil is doing well and the capsicum not so great.9779065694?profile=original


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Donna's Garden - November 2010

Well it has been a long journey but at long last MY BANANA'S ARE FRUITING!!! Ali beat me to the punch as her flower appeared about a week before mine.. but I have two (in your face Ali lol) and one with a short leaf so soon to be three! I am also almost expecting up to another four as there are plants very similar in size - seven in total at (approx) 35kg ea flower - 245kg of bananas!


Here is a blog about my banana plantations if you're interested/ missed it. I first planted these four in June 2008, nearly 2 1/2 years to produce fruit - not sure if that's a record or not but it felt like it with well meaning onlookers advising that it takes 9 months for banana's to fruit.

Check out some of the angles, they will need supported for sure as the bananas grow bigger! The two at the back are fruiting already despite having full size suckers, the one at the front on the left has a flag leaf on one despite having full size sucker, and the one at the front on the right doesn't have a full size sucker but the 'correct' teenager yet it doesn't have even a short leaf yet!


When the flower first appeared I thought it looked a bit rude - now it is a lot nicer! Not all the petals have opened yet but already I counted 70 bananas on just one of the flowers, bring on January! The plants are looking very dodgy, we will have to rig up some sort of support as the bunch grows or we might end up with the whole plant falling over.


The Infrastructure Manager has been very busy creating two more gardens down the other side of the back yard - didn't give him much choice when six more banana pups turned up. They are two of each Lady Finger, dwarf Lady Finger and dwarf Blue Java - hopefully we get one of each to survive... although at the moment looks like we'll get 100%!


To create the beds, Ash concreted the edge then I used the yellow pages to create a barrier on the grass, covered with a generous sprinkling of blood & bone, some cut up banana fronds and comfrey leaves then covered with lucerne - here's hoping the grass dies!


The tamarillos are struggling on gamely (think they get too much sun) and there is a lot of fruit and flowers, hopefully I will be able to get either seeds or cuttings going this year and I will plant some more in the new banana bed. I have both a red and an orange variety, if anyone has a different one I'd love a cutting or seeds. [Edit, my blog 'My Fruit Tree Obsession' says I have a yellow and a red... but the fruit looked orange last year?]



One of my guava is fruiting not sure which one - china pear or thai white (think it is the thai white based on my blog 14/06/10 but time will tell). These have both done really well, and that part of the garden is looking decidedly forest like with 2 x citrus, avocado and these two competing for space! I will have to give them a good haircut this year to keep them in their place.




The passion fruit have all gone crazy, Ashley has fruit already (grafted purple ones from the green shed) but mine (red and yellow panama) are finally starting to flower - lets hope this year I get some fruit! I carefully didn't fertilise them but gave a good shot of potassium and boron for good measure after last years disaster.





Most of my veggie beds are empty, slack with the succession *again*. I got out last weekend and planted a huge amount of seeds, but looks like a lot didn't come up... will have to replant corn and beans at least. The red okra came up and a few others likely cucumber, pumpkin, melons (didn't label very well either *again* - you'd think I learn my lesson but nooo lol.)





My sweet potato is out of control, it loves the rain and produces heaps of vines, but needs encouragement to put forth roots and therefore create tubers. Every so often I go and bury them by chucking a shovel load of dirt onto the vines.


Didn't realise that I planted the new stuff amongst the stuff I missed last year woops. This might get a bit crowded with tumeric, ginger, comfrey and a plant that tastes like asparagus - Scarlett can you please remind me the name?


Yesterday I got out and dug all the marigolds into the big bed (a bit early but I got sick of waiting) and finally put the irrigation system into that bed - just have to connect it to the rest - and covered all with a layer of lucerne. In general I am trying not to dig but I seem to get nematodes all the time and this is the best way to combat them, if it doesn't work I will have to do a molasses drench but that does kill all the good bugs too. I'll chuck a couple of shovels of fresh compost in there next weekend.


There are two beds out the back to clean up, they have some tomatoes that severely outgrew the tubes that I was trialling, the green zebra has grown up and then over the side and now the fruit are all hanging down the side! I am waiting for the broccoli and radish seeds to ripen and the tomatoes to finish (or another tomato elsewhere to start) before cleaning them up and putting the irrigation in.



Well during writing this blog I have searched through and found information in four of my previous blogs, it is a great relief to know that I don't have to reply on my sketchy memory!

If you want to see full size photos, they are in my November 2010 album.

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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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Donna's Garden - October 2011

With a garden visit coming up, it was time to give my garden a huge make over... so I decided to mulch.  After ringing around they all seemed to have a minimum order of 10 cubic metres so I finally buckled and ordered it to be delivered on Thursday morning.  Now, I love a freebie as much as anyone but they >nicely< delivered more like 15 cubic metres!  Gee thanks, I was struggling to use the 10 and would have preferred to order 5 - so they deliver 15, thank you very much.  


I lost count of the number of wheelbarrows within the first hour, at the end of that first day I had moved just under half of the pile.  At the end of the second day we had started to get more creative with Ashley deciding to cardboard and mulch an area that we had planned (at some distant time in the future) to make into a garden.  This will be dug back to the tank and a retaining wall built.


Now it is day three and I am getting desperate!  Each garden has mulch piled up at least a foot over the level of the ground and I still have about 1 - 2 cubic metres left.  Now I am on the warpath looking for more spaces that can take a wheelbarrow or two to store for later use!  


Even the herb garden got mulched and I am eyeing the vegetable garden beds as well.  I am determined to find a use for every last wheelbarrow just so I can say 'I told you so' to my doubting husband who was not very happy when I told him I had ordered 10 cubic metres of mulch.  Ironically I could have used up the 10 cubic metres reasonably easily, it is the extra 5 that I am having trouble with.





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Donna's Garden - October 2010

Well, I am too scared to check just how long it has been since my last blog - it certainly feels like forever! Working with two little kids never seems to leave enough time to do anything... as my garden can certainly tell you!

We are about 3/4 of the way through putting an irrigation system in which will mean that my poor plants won't be subjected to so much stress by non watering... surely I can find enough time to turn the tap and timer on ;) At the moment there is two systems with most of the veggie gardens having drip irrigation, trees having their own drippers and the side and front garden having microjets - I'll keep an eye on it (if it ever stops raining long enough to need it) and see if that is enough.

I have a fair few things flowering at the moment and will be busy collecting seeds to share including broccoli, radish, italian parsley, mustard for green manure, mizuna, dill, coriander and marigolds for nematodes/ green manure.






Italian Parsley





The main (original) asparagus bed has done well, we have picked heaps and am now leaving the rest to feed the roots up for next season. The ones that were planted last year haven't done very well as I haven't looked after them or watered them, plus the chickens scratched up one bed... hopefully a lot of love and affection this year will bring the ones that survived back to health.


There is kale and brocolli still going strong, these will have to be pulled out in the next few weeks although I am hoping that the curly dwarf kale will go to seed, it was a winner in my garden this year! There are also a few beetroot and carrots still to be harvested.


I am trialling lettuce in the orchard under the trees in styrafoam boxes to be used as a baby mescalin size for salads. At the moment there are two, but I think I'll get another one as they are usually cut and come again... hopefully this will mean that there is heaps of lettuce for salad this summer. I will also keep planting in the main beds to see if I can find one that is truly 'heat tolerant' to grow to full size, also the chooks love it even if it bolts to seed.


Speaking of chooks, they are doing well. Bubbles has already gone broody and finally given up on the eggs, now one of the white sussex (Betty or Flossie - can't tell them apart anymore now they are the same size) has gone broody. They all seem to lay really well and we are probably getting six eggs a week each when they aren't broody - heaps of quiche/ egg dishes, the favourite at the moment is omelet with a kale/ dill/ fetta filling yum! I find they are no trouble, we have a 5kg feeder which I check weekly when I change their bedding, there are two home made waterers with special cups which are checked and filled at the same time. Daily we get 3-4 eggs and they are only on the cheap pellets which is about $13 per month... I don't give them kitchen scraps but give them something green pretty much every day from the garden - I am thinking of growing them lettuce along with mine to put in once a week as a special treat. They get let out on weekends when the dog is shut up inside but I have put temporary fencing around nearly all the garden beds so they can't scratch/ eat my veggies. I wish we had got them years ago, they are great and I recommend them to anyone!


The trees (that haven't died) are all going really well with the exception of the sole remaining blueberry, the apple and nashi espalier attempts. Think I am going to bite the bullet and rip these out soon, the blueberry is in a pot so it can soldier on for another year. There were a couple of blossoms on the almond, there are flowers on Ashley's passionfruit (his wasn't trimmed but mine was - his is flowering and fruiting but mine isn't - they weren't fertilised at all except with potash), the tamarillo is flowering, heaps of paw paws coming on, heaps of pepinos coming on. The citrus most have new fruit, the avocado and guava are growing huge and most of the trees have new growth. The fig looks great at the moment with heaps of lush new leaves.




I cornered Annette McFarlene at the BOGI fair and asked about my banana grove. I had four Ducasse that were neglected and struggled with lack of water/ competition from grass and took a year before they started to grow. I let a few suckers grow on thinking that would be the 'baby' for when the mother produces fruit, but these are now as big as the parent - nearly four metres! So each one of the originals has at least two plants, and one has four at differing sizes. In addition to this I was keeping them tidy and cutting leaves off as soon as they started to get a bit yellow not thinking about the job they do getting nutrients from the sun/ retaining water etc. And to top it all off the leaves are shredded by the wind/ clothes line/ tree so not getting as much leaf area! I have been dumping the chicken bedding in the middle and compost too as well as trying to keep the water up to them. She has assured me that they are *not* ornamental and advised they are likely to flower in November (fruit in January) so eagerly watching to see if her prophesy comes true!


My sandy soil just seems to be a nematode trap, I get it in at least one bed every season despite rotating them and in the weirdest things too like silverbeet?! Anyway there have been a couple of green manure crops at the end of winter and now the big bed has marigold seedlings coming up to do it for nematodes now.


There isn't much new growing at the moment but I will hopefully get out there next weekend and plant a few seeds for summer. Probably try the last of the winged beans (the other ones didn't come up I don't think), corn, okra, purple king beans, snake beans, cherry yellow pear tomato, and a few others that I can't think of right now.

The side permaculture/ orchard style will also be where I try eggplant, chilli and capsicum this planting - they just seem to take so long and I feel it is a 'waste' of my veggie bed space :) There is yakon, taro, cassava at the moment as well as a couple of sweet potato patches. I noticed there are a few self seeded things coming up including a stars and moon watermelon so they will be good ground cover too.


My herb bed is chock a block but a lot of it has gone to seed - I will get in there and thin out some stuff and get some new seeds in soon I hope. I planted some fat hen seeds that were given to me by Jacqui at the first Garden Visit at Jane Street and these look to be going to seed, I will have to look up what to do with them!


New things I am going to try and get crops off are wheat for wheat grass which is really healthy for you and tastes okay if mixed with apple juice. Also chia as it has really high levels of omega 3 which is lacking in most peoples diet nowadays.

Interestingly I have had both boys tested at a naturopath recently for intolerance/ sensitivity and deficiency. They are both lacking int he B vitamins as well as potassium, magnesium and silica - I laughed and said I could easily make up a watering can and sit them outside for a dose :) Apparently these are often deficient in a modern diet with non organic and processed food. Brewers yeast is supposed to be really good so am trying to add it to their diet. Poor baby Brendan has had a bad run with his digestive system over the past few months and as a result he has yogurt with chia seeds, digestive enzymes, probiotics, slippery elm and brewers yeast morning and night - he loves it weirdly enough! David is another matter, I have to hold him down and syringe his into his mouth - hopefully he gets the idea that it is easier for him to just drink it - his is a really yummy chocolate milkshake with whey isolate, pysillium husks and brewers yeast. Nearly everything I cook has ground up linseed or chia seed included in it for the omega 3 content.

It was interesting when labelling my photos that a large number of my plants are from other people thanks to the Brisbane Seed Saver group and the monthly garden visits. It is a great way to meet new people and talk about our gardens and I would like to thank everyone for participating and sharing so much knowledge, seeds, plants and information. It is a great network and hopefully it will continue to grow as new members join. Thanks again to everyone who has given me things for my garden!





Anyway, that's more than enough dribble about my garden - hopefully next time it won't be so long between blogs... and I look forward to reading about *your* garden!

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