gardening (9)

Growing your vegetables and herbs indoors can be very productive and enjoyable. Like any organic food growing, the tactics you apply can have a profound impact on your success.

Indoor food growing will protect your plants from larger animals, but not from insects. Indoor plants are likely to suffer from the lack of natural biological controls, that is, the predators that would keep plant insect pests in check in a more biologically complex outdoor environment.

The major insect pests indoors are: aphids, scales, white flies, mealy bugs, and mites. These all produce honeydew. The insects usually enter the home or indoor area on a plant or are brought in with garden materials. You can use this web site to help you identify which of these pests are affecting your plants.

 

Pest management tactics

  1. Physical - When a few bugs appear: hand-pick, squash, or rub them off. You must be observant each day to be successful with this as leaving things for a week could mean the end of the plant. Washing the plant off in a mild soapy water may also help, but be sure to not make a mess inside.

  2. Move the plant outdoors – At different times of the year, depending on your climate, there will be plenty of general insect predators and parasites in your garden, putting the afflicted plant outdoors for several weeks may take care of the problem. When moving plants infested with honeydew producers outside, you might wish to place them on stands with ant-excluders around the legs so that ants don’t prevent the aphid predators and parasites from doing a good job.

  3. Introduce predator insects indoors - For bug-infested plants that are too large to move, hand-pick, or hose off, you can import predatory insects. After cleaning up the pest insects the predators will die off from lack of food, so for each new outbreak new predators will have to be imported. This web site is a great resource for suppliers of predator insects and linking which predators relate to aphids, scales, white flies, mealy bugs, and mites.

  4. Organic insecticides - If you have exhausted all other methods of insect management, then be sure to select the least toxic material that will do the job. Move the plant outdoors if possible, and wear a mask and gloves while handling the insecticide and treating the plant, washing yourself and your clothes afterwards. This Australian site provides a list of well known organic products that deal with the aphids, scales, white flies, mealy bugs, and mites

 

Plant disease management tactics

Plant diseases are harder to cure than insect infestations, some tips are provided below which are primarily preventative measures:

  1. Do not over-water – Too much water will promote mould and turn the soil anaerobic. Closely monitor soil moisture levels. You may choose to have a wicking system with your indoor beds which will recycle water and allow consistent moisture levels. Here is an example of an Australian company selling well designed wicking systems into timber garden beds.

  2. Do not over-fertilize - Excess nitrogen may encourage aphid infestations indoors, in addition to creating weak, over-succulent plants more susceptible to disease. Use a blend of liquid organic fertilisers and apply no more than monthly. My preference is to supplement these with biodynamic preparations bi-monthly, such as soil activator.

  3. Maintain optimum temperatures for plants to grow – If its too hot or too cold they will not thrive, lack vitality and be more subject to disease. Our web site subscriber area provides optimum average temperatures for all common vegetables to thrive. Humidity is an important factor and if the indoor climate is too humid, you will encourage mould. In this case, use a fan to create airflow or open a window.

  4. Cut out infections - Leaves infested with mould or fungus leaf-spots can be cut off.

  5. Crown stem or root rot - It is best to destroy the plant. Avoid the problem in the future by not over-watering or over-fertilizing, and by keeping water off susceptible plants.

  6. Improve observation skills – Concentrate on developing your observation skills so you can know when the plants need help. This is getting in-tune with the plant and its very possible if you spend sufficient time observing the plant and objectively thinking through how it responds to changes. A green thumb could evolve from these observation skills.

  7. Replace soil – If you are not solving the disease problem, the last resort is to replace the soil in fresh material. I feel its helpful to get into the rhythm of replacing soil used in pots for food growing each year and try composting that soil so you bring life into it and then use that “refuse soil” next year in rotation.

You will find detailed information on pests and disease management of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees in our web site subscriber area on 300 food crops. In our biodynamic gardening courses, we do concentrate on biodynamic methods of pests and disease control.


 

Author – Peter Kearney – www.cityfoodgrowers.com.au

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Hidden treasure of the seed

There are many hidden treasures in a food garden. For me, one of the doorways to finding them is through contemplation, sitting time with no physical garden activity.Contemplation time is important for building a relationship to your garden sanctuary. You get to observe in slow way and appreciate the diverse beauty evolving each day.There is an energetic transfer between all living things in the garden during this time of contemplation. The plants respond to this energy and over time, the garden will become more productive, healthy and well balanced. You may even begin to think you have a green thumb. People visiting your garden will notice a feeling of beauty, something they can't put their finger on.As a food gardener, its important to become conscious of the garden being a reflection of yourself. The love and attention you provide it can't be purchased from the nursery in a fertiliser or a pesticide. Of course, you still need to work physically in the garden, but the world is also made of up of feelings, thoughts and non-physical stuff. Biodynamic gardening methods work quite strongly with this non-physical element. The gardener becomes conscious of the cosmic and energetic forces at play in the garden and works with them, taking advantage of all that is available.The benefit of contemplation time for the garden is great. My own experience is that the benefits are even more powerful for the gardener. This time of reflection can be used to concentrate thought on certain aspects of the garden, as well as general meditative activities. You will notice a calming, especially if it is done in the mornings before you head off to work. Things may be revealed to you in these reflection times that would not become obvious in your busy daily activities. Hidden treasures helping to build your health, wisdom and open up new opportunities.I have found that by allocating time (normally about 20 minutes) to this contemplation each day, I can achieve more during the day because I feel balanced, so I actually gain time. A strange concept.One of my favourite meditative activities in the garden is the seed meditation. The primary aim is to recognise the non-physical factors at work in the seed, however as we work through this explanation, you will see it can also be used to reflect on many aspects of life.Sit quietly and imagine a seed being placed in the ground, say a pea seed. Then think about the whole process of the seed going back to seed in the following steps:1. The seed is in a dormant sleep-like state, but it is alive. There is an energy force surrounding the seed just as it is with you each night.2. When moisture and heat are right, the seed will germinate causing a root and stem to come out of the seed. This is a chaotic state of change for the seed, a time of rapid transformation where chaos leads to order. This may be a common state for you, but often you may only think of the chaos.3. The stem comes out into the air and connects with the sun. It now draws on all the forces around it, growing and strenthening its life force. The plant must compete with other plants around it and needs care to grow to its full potential. Just as you grow and change each day and are subject to forces around, some leading to growth and others placing 'weeds' into your being.4. The plant begins to flower, to bring something beautiful into the world. We all have this opportunity in our lives.5. The plant moves into another state of chaos and transformation as the seed is produced after the flowering. This represents the start of new life for the plant. In our lives, we keep passing through stages of transformation, every one of them leads us to a greater knowing of ourselves, even if we are not conscious of this.6. The body of the plant begins to die off and the seed remains. It dries and carries the imprint for the new life of the plant. The life force around the seed reduces, but it is still alive. Each experience we have adds to our seed, what we carry forward in our lives.So you can see at each of those points during the seed meditation, you have the opportunity to reflect on life in a meaningful way. I find its best each day to extend my concentration only on those points where it relates to my feelings being revealed at the time. The treasure of the seed enters your thinking when you relate the process of the seed to your life's ups and downs each day. You do not need to be botannist to understand how a seed works, simply work it through your thinking as best you can.You may also find new ideas come to you during your garden contemplation time. My business at www.cityfoodgrowers.com.au evolved from my garden meditations.Peter Kearney, www.cityfoodgrowers.com.au
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Resurrecting a flood affected garden

Resurrecting your flood affected garden

 I'll be giving a special interactive library talk at Kenmore on the 29 April about recovering your flooded gardens. I am also offering half price garden visits for flood affected gardens at $88 per hour if you'd like a personalised garden consult.In the meantime, here is some more info for you... 

 

Was your garden covered by a thick layer of smelly mud, washed into it by the recent floods? This info is intended to give you the best possible advice for saving your garden, based upon organic principles and the best of my knowledge and experience.

  

Keeping up to date with new developments:

As new information comes to light in the next days and weeks, I will keep you informed via the ‘Linda’s Garden Harvest e-zine’. To receive this digital update log onto www.ecobotanica.com.au and sign up for the e-zine on the home page.

If you don’t have access to a computer, let a friend know so they can sign up and print it off for you.

YOUR SOIL 

Your garden soil and potted plants have been submerged and airless underwater for a number of hours. This causes anaerobic conditions that will kill beneficial soil microbes and plants.

 

Flood waters may also deposit toxic or dangerous substances like petroleum products, chemicals and sewerage onto your garden. This will make it dangerous to garden unless you take precautions to protect yourself.

 

Here are some hot tips for resurrecting your garden:

  1. Ask Linda for a garden visit. I’ll come to your garden and give you specific advice on how to best help your garden survive. Its half price for flood affected families at $88 per hour with a handbook of reference materials too.
  2. Scrape or hose off as much of the flood mud from grass, paths and plant root areas as possible.
  3.  Where mud has dried on garden beds and in potted plants, scuffle the surface to break the hard crust and allow air into the soil.
  4. Encourage beneficial microbes with the use of Fulvic acid. It’s used in the decontamination of spill sites and helps beneficial organisms to multiply and consume the toxic materials in the soil. Call me to purchase this organic product
  5. After the Fulvic acid application, cover bare soil with a light layer of mulch such as cane trash to prevent the crust forming again when it rains and will protect your soil from erosion.

 

Do not fertilise your soil until plants are growing actively again. Possibly several months away yet. Then only use organic fertilisers low in sodium. I use QLD Organics Organic Xtra.

 

Apply a good compost when the soil is completely drained. Lightly incorporate into the soil. (Working wet soil will destroy the structure and result in compaction.)

  

Liming the soil and Lab analysis

 While it has been reported the last few days that we need to add lime to our soils to correct acidity, I do not recommend this just yet. It can have a deleterious effect on the soil at this early stage.

It will be best to arrange a soil laboratory analysis in about 6 weeks before proceeding with soil liming. I can arrange this for you.

  

YOUR PLANTS

  

Steps for resurrecting your garden bed plants 

Step 1 Remove all rotting plants, weeds and dead branches. Compost these.

 

Step 2 Trim back all dead or dying foliage to the point of living green stems. Compost these too. Clean secateurs with metho between all infected or rotting plants.

 

Step 3 Brush the back of a plastic rake over hardy shrubs like mock orange and lillypillies to remove caked on mud from leaves. It will fall off in flakes.

 

Step 4 Scuffle the soil with a cultivator and apply Fulvic acid and mulch to the soil. Ask me for a supply of organic Fulvic acid.

 

Step 5 Hose off some of the mud so leaves can photosynthesise. Leaves caked heavily with mud may eventually die.

 

Step 6 Spray leaves with a mix of the following to act as a rescue remedy for plants, increasing plant health and resistance to disease.

Add Seachange 50 ml per 9L PLUS Vitaguard at rate on the pack.

Note: If you do not have Seachange, Fish and kelp will work, but may be high in sodium which can stress a plant.

 

Step 7 Staking may be required in high wind areas, and where plants have been loosened by flood waters. Use one or two hardwood stakes. Drive in the stake/s, avoiding the roots. Attach a piece of long, soft material to the stake, then in a figure 8 around the trunk of the tree. Allow the tree some movement. Remove the stake when you feel the roots are holding the tree well.

  

Other considerations:

  • Sand from sand bags can be used to mix into your compost, a little at a time.
  • Keep the excess mud and send it through the compost system to detoxify. Beneficial microbes will digest most of not all of the toxins, especially if you add Fulvic acid to the compost heap. I have supplies of Fulvic 1400 and Stimulate, both suitable for this.
  • Turn over your compost now as it will have become sodden and stinky. Mix wet compost with dry clippings and a little sand to help the carbon nitrogen balance
  • Ensure worm farms are not drowning in water. Empty out water and mix through some fresh dry bedding such as shredded paper or coir fibre.
  • DO NO fertilise your garden beds or potted plants now. The root systems will already be compromised and will be stressed by further fertilizing.
  • All applications of plant and soil rescue remedies, Fulvic acid etc must be added as liquids or foliar feeds.
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Protecting your vegetable garden from large birds

If you are a new food gardener, a very experienced one or in between, it is quite likely that large birds have taken more than their fair share of produce from your garden. Its a very common complaint of food gardeners in my experience, particularly in locations with big native bird populations. I have just published an article to my blog titled Protecting your vegetable garden from large birds and talks about methods to minimise the impact of these large birds. These methods cost virtually nothing and do not involve turning your beautiful organic garden into a fortress or condone harm to the birds.Peter Kearney - www.cityfoodgrowers.com
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Slim pickings over summer

I am enormously happy that Food Connect can now supply suppplementary vegetable bags in our weekly fruit box. It's fantastic - we're not so completely at the mercy of the garden, and I can buy garlic and ginger without making a special trip to buy chinese imports (pretty much all the garlic in the shops is over from China). So now I've been buying carrots and broccoli every week as well - there are only so many meals we can eat based on eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, snake beans, rocket and spring onions :) We're eating much more pasta than usual! Sauteed olive oil, garlic, zucchini, eggplant and pine nuts, then stirred grated cheese, chopped parsley, rocket or basil, salt and pepper. Yum!

My tomatoes are patchy. I MUST get a fruit fly lure. Hopeless. It's on the list. I haven't managed to eat a beefheart yet - we just keep cooking with the bits we can rescue. I really want to eat one like an apple so I see how much I like it. I do love the idea that they have hardly any seeds or seed slime and heaps of the red 'meat' - marvellous.

IOur sunflowers are rioting. It's beautiful. In consequence the pale headed rosella couple are back. They spurn us for the rest of the year but visit every morning and many evenings to pillage our sunflowers. They're very shy at first, but by the end of the season we should be able to enter the garden without them leaving. They have a lovely high "puk" call, a real bush sound - but we're 8km from the city! They will have to compete with the chickens this year (not to mention the kids, who love to sit down with a sunflower head and pick all the seeds out). The seeds are very sweet and crisp when they're fresh, and are translucent white. I never get around to keeping them. It would be too fiddly anyway, it would take me hours. Apparently they're high in selenium and vanadium (as I recall - oh dear, I really should check these things). I wonder what they pull up from the subsoil? Probably potassium and phophorus I guess. I wonder about other things. Maybe boron or copper? Would be interesting to know.

A lot of the sunflowers are a lot shorter this year. I wonder if this is a different seed strain (I just buy bird seed from the supermarket, it's very competitively priced), the lack of attention (as they were completely neglected, whereas if they wilted and I was home I might have given them a mercy bucket of water), or if they have exhausted something in the soil because I planted them in the same place and have not fertilised the area. Sulphur deficiency can cause stunting, but they seem to be a decent colour - not very deep green and super healthy, but not obviously yellow and wan either. Interesting. I should scatter some sorghum seed too - the chickens would like that. Perhaps I might just do mixed bird seed next time and see what comes up. Hopefully there will be some sort of leguminous nitrogen fixer in there, that would be handy.

My companion planting chart says that cucumbers and sunflowers are friends, and I can see what it means. The cucumbers have been climbing through the lower leaves of the sunflowers very happily and the sunflowers don't seem to mind at all. The sunflowers are providing shade and trellis for the cukes, and the fruit is kept off the ground where you can see it and pick it before they get too big and where they are safe from some of the soil born rots. The cukes are suppressing weeds between the sunflowers. Nice.

We only have one zucchini plant in production. The other one is coming on now. So for once we don't have a zuke glut - just one or two every day or so. We do have a cucumber glut from just two plants - we are getting about one a day. That's a lot of tzatziki!Our capsicum has been disappointing - rather slow and not ripening evenly. We have three plants and we're getting about one a week. I think they're too hot. Semi-shade would have been better I guess. The big star is the eggplant. I put in the long lebanese variety, and am amazed to discover that they are, as promised, very sweet and delicious, not bitter at all. For a long time I've been averse to eggplant, even with the salt treatment to bleed the bitterness out, but am delighted to discover I am actually very happy to eat it when it doesn't have that nasty solenaceous bite behind it. Perhaps because we are picking them when they are very young? We have two plants producing and we're getting plenty but not too much.More corn is on the way. Some died in the hot part of the garden (oops - I forgot to water the seedlings every day for the first few days), but the bit that gets morning shade is galloping along. My daughter has planted her very own corn and california poppies in a pot and successfully sprouted them with no interference from me at all. Am very pleased she is doing this on her own. I'm a bit surprised she has been so attentive about watering it every day. I left her completely to her own devices and she knows what to do. Amazing what they learn through watching.We have one glorious rockmelon about to ripen. I think the four of us will set the table and eat it with delight.

The moon and stars watermelon is coming on. I'll be so happy if i get one! I've only ever grown one champagne melon (in a pot in Melbourne!) before.I let one cucumber rot into the soil and now have a million cucumber seedlings. My friend gave me some beautiful heirloom pumpkin seeds which she got from Green Harvest. So I have fairytale, red leicester? and one other (I forget) all sprouting. I planted some Qld Blue seedlings too which are starting to gallop about. Hopefully it's not too late.

The chicory flowers are very pretty. People keep asking me what they are. I have stooked them to keep them from flopping around everywhere. It seems to have fresh flowers each day which open by mid morning and are faded by evening.I've got horrible grass back again. Am about to get moving on really fixing the back garden up - putting in edging and a proper section of lawn etc.. Will probably take me all year, but it has to be done. So many things on the list!Happy gardening peopleSJP

BLUE JAVA BANANAS

DWARF DUCASSE BANANAS
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Container growing tips

Hi

This week I posted a new article to my blog on container growing, which I thought would be of interest to the city dwellers in this group with limited food gardening space. The article talks about the challenges and how to overcome them, resulting in reasonable levels of productivity, whilst still using organic methods. You can read the article here. Please fell free to comment either on this site or on my own site.

Happy gardening
Peter Kearney
www.cityfoodgrowers.com.au
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Connections help us to weave through the sometimes bumpy road of life and enrich our human experience. Growing your own vegetables, fruit and herbs allows you to enter a hot bed of connections which are fundamental to life on earth.When a food gardener becomes conscious of these connections, a green thumb begins to appear and your effectiveness jumps significantly. You become much more effective at growing your own food in your own backyard, community garden, school or farm. Lets explore these connections, some from more conventional gardening methods and others which recognise the non-physical elements at play in the garden.A primary connection your plants depend upon is the soil. Healthy soil with a strong life force will improve your seed strike rate and the capacity of your food plants to: resist diseases and pests, handle moisture variability and produce healthy crops with seeds worth replanting. For most gardeners, soil is only looked at when the bugs and pests appear or when the crop yield is lower than expected. Think of caring for the soil as you would ideally seek to maintain your own health, with consistent practices bringing balance into your life to ward off the next health or emotional crisis.Plants impact each other through unseen connections. It s very important to consider the plant family that comes before the one you are planting, as well the plants sharing the space with your food crop. Some love to be companions and thrive in their growth, while other plants are not compatible at all and some get on with any plant. By working with these connections between plants in managing your garden, you are using natures gifts in a very conscious way.Other plants have the capacity to increase the sensitivity and health of the soil around your food plant by drawing in life forces and nutrients from an area quite distant from your garden bed. Stinging nettle and dandelion are two such plants. Some people have a similar impact when they come into an organisation.Animals have just as much right to live in your domain as you do. In attempting to grow food, the challenge is to recognise how they can help your food garden. This is quite a radical way of looking at what most people call “pests”. Bees are helpful in any garden and these can be attracted by flowers. Some flowers attract insects which eat other insects that may be very partial to your crop of cabbages. Birds are happy to eat some creatures that will love other plants in your garden. Occasionally those birds may eat some of your crop, but perhaps that s a fair trade for letting them do their daily work of cleaning up the garden. We have a wonderful family of happy jack birds around our food garden and they act as its guardians in protecting our garden from other large birds.The planets have a very big impact on the success of your gardening. Their forces are always streaming down onto the earth. The moon is the most obvious planet with a connection to plant growth and moisture. Reproductive forces are enhanced around the full moon. Other planets in our solar system, as well as the constellations, all impact plant growth and the success of cultivating and harvesting. You could ignore these forces and still grow food, but they are another gift to help us be more productive gardeners. Conventional agriculture and even most organic gardening practices ignore these forces. Biodynamic gardening has a strong focus on connecting with these cosmic forces in a conscious way with food growing.The human connection to the garden comes before everything. Without your love and attention, there is no food garden. This connection can very easily extend to other people and to me this is a hidden treasure of food gardening.I want to share some of my own experience here. I helped commence a Biodynamic gardening group in my local area about seven years ago. We met at each others places each fortnight to work on vegie patches and orchards and enjoy each other's company. This went on for three years. I felt very enriched by this community building experience and this led me to the business venture I have now and the community development work I do in urban agriculture. I had expanded my community connections and recognised from first hand experience how satisfying it was to share my desire to grow healthy food with other people of like mind. To my great joy, my son, who was a teenager at the time of the gardening group, showed an interest in joining with the adults to garden. He has now completed three years of Biodynamic farming training in Europe and is ready to help transform our food system with his young and vibrant energy.Peter Kearney - www.cityfoodgrowers.com
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