Bug-Free Brassicas

4 Comments

I have occasionally managed to grow cabbages, broccoli and to a lesser extent, cauliflower but it is a constant battle to keep them bug-free.  I choose not to use pesticides, therefore, exclusion remains the best option.

2020-05-21 01

After much research, I finally bit the bullet a couple of days ago and ordered a quantity of Vege Net from eBay.  I was particularly pleased to discover that the seller was located in my home state.

The order was dispatched promptly and I received it within 2 days of placing my order.

Then it was time to wrestle with 120 sq metres of knitted polyethylene fabric.

My plan was to make a reasonably fitted cover to slip over the hoops we had positioned over the garden bed.

I cut a large rectangle which would cover the majority of the bed and 2 semicircular pieces for the ends.  Pins are useless on this type of fabric so I used some old pegs to hold the pieces in place while I stitched the seams using a regular sewing machine.

2020-05-21 04

Once this was done, it was simple matter of slipping the cover over the hoops.  Because this is a raised garden bed the extra fabric simply hangs down to completely enclose the desired area.

2020-05-21 05

View of the new seedlings safely undercover.

2020-05-21 06

I anchored one end with some rocks so that it will not blow off.

2020-05-21 07

I am considering adding some lead weights to the other edges or making a long elasticised tie to go right around the raised bed.

There is another cover to be made for a second garden bed which is not raised so I will just anchor that one with rocks all the way around.

The total amount of fabric I used to cover the 2 beds was about 24 sq metres or 20% of the total.  The remainder is back in the bag for use to cover fruit trees or other garden beds in the future.

2020-05-21 08

I spent $125 on the fabric (including postage) and believe that it has been money well-spent as it is an investment in our future food production.

I would definitely recommend this product if you are considering exclusion netting for any plants.  It is available in smaller quantities and you could also simply drape it over the area rather than making fitted covers.

Not Only Food

2 Comments

The past couple of days have focused on food recipes but those are not the only recipes on the blog.

You may have seen a recent episode of ‘Gardening Australia’ which featured a recipe for making an exfoliating hand scrub/balm with lemon and rosemary.  I have lemons growing and access to a source of rosemary from a friend so it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Here are the details in case you missed them.

Lemon and Rosemary Hand Scrub

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Rind of 1 lemon
Sprigs of rosemary

The ingredients and utensils assembled.

2020-05-17 01

Finely chop the rosemary and lemon zest.

2020-05-17 02

Add the chopped ingredients to the sugar and combine.

2020-05-17 03

Add lemon juice and oil.  Mix thoroughly.

2020-05-17 04

Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator.

2020-05-17 05

This could make a great gift for a keen gardener.

This recipe is indexed on the tab ‘Recipes – Other’ along with other non-food recipes.

Site Preparation

Leave a comment

In my last post I mentioned that we had ordered a garden shed. We have been debating the need for a shed for a number of years and have finally bitten the bullet.

It will be a very simple 3m X 3m structure with double opening doors at the front. There are no windows, no side door and no power. It is really no more than an oversized lawn locker to store the mowers, mulcher, brushcutter and possibly wheelbarrow as well as some storage shelving for accessories and fuel.

This will create some real workspace in the area known as the workshop.

It will probably be 3-4 weeks before the shed is ready to be installed but there was a bit of site preparation to be done beforehand.

This is a view of the area where the shed is to be placed.  There is no ‘before’ photo but it had become somewhat overgrown so we cut back shrubs and some heliconias as well as moving some logs which had been dumped there.

The impending construction is certainly motivation to clear up the area surrounding the new shed.

We have quite a large stand of heliconias so we removed a few that were encroaching on the access to the would-be shed as well as using the opportunity to clean out some of the spent ones.  The edge of the clump is clearly visible on the left-hand side of the photo.

2020-05-13 01

The shed will be in the centre foreground of the photo.

Looking slightly to the right you can see the area where we have almost finished moving what was a huge pile of mulch.  We will be planting several shrubs once the mulch is cleared.

2020-05-13 02

The shed site is not the only one we are preparing.  Yesterday we moved all of the furniture from our verandah which extends around 2 sides of the house in preparation for the floor to be sanded and recoated.  The sanding was supposed to happen today but it rained overnight and some of the flooring was wet so the start has been delayed.

This is the long side at the front of the house.

2020-05-13 03

The shorter end which looks out towards the vegetable garden.

2020-05-13 04

In other garden news, GMan planted clivias along the western edge of the driveway.  These were sourced from multiple plants we had in pots.  Most are orange but there are also some yellow ones.  My $20 investment in a single orange clivia which I bout almost 20 years ago has paid handsome dividends.  The yellow ones have also multiplied from a single plant which was a gift several years ago.

2020-05-13 05

I think the clivia plants will make a nice border to the edge of the driveway.  The area behind them is a work in progress.  The shrubs were planted in mid-December and are growing quite well.  You can see some of the piles of mulch which have been moved from the site near the shed.  We plan to lay some sheets of cardboard to suppress the weeds then cover them with the mulch.

Gifts From the Garden

Leave a comment

When you have a productive garden, there is frequently more available than you can reasonably use.  So, we are often giving away produce to family and friends.

It is not all a one-way street and we are grateful for goodies which are gifted to us in return.

My sister and brother-in-law recently gave us a large pumpkin and some chillies.  The pumpkin was put to good use and you can read about it in this earlier post.  I used the chillies to make a bottle of sweet chilli sauce.

2020-05-09 01

A few days ago we visited my brother at his newly-purchased inner suburban unit.  I hardly expected that we would come away with fresh produce when he had been there for barely 3 weeks.  However, I was surprised to find myself returning home with a container of macadamia nuts which we had collected from the back lawn of the unit block.  This bounty is falling from a tree overhanging from a neighbouring garden.

2020-05-09 02

Also, some friends gave us a quantity of rosemary.  We have planted some cuttings so that we can add this to our own garden and I stripped the leaves off the remainder and dried it in the dehydrator.  Once it was dried, I ground it and then mixed the ground rosemary with Himalayan salt and I now have a jar of rosemary salt which will be be perfect for seasoning.  I am looking forward to trying it on some oven-baked potato chips.

2020-05-09 03

I was watching Gardening Australia last night and saw a segment about making your own Lemon and Rosemary Hand Scrub.  I am going to get some more rosemary from my friend and try that one out.  The recipe and details will be a future blog post.

 

 

Some More Structures

Leave a comment

Following on from the completed compost bays, I thought I would share some of our other handiwork in the garden.  Unlike the compost bays, we needed to purchase the materials for our latest endeavours.

Growing food crops invariably invites other critters who also deem it to be food.  While I am reasonably happy to share, I am not keen on seeing the entire crop destroyed.

This year has seen the inclusion of an additional pest in our garden – the citrus fruit piercing moth.  From what I have read it would appear that this is as a direct result of the extended period of drought last year followed by good rain.

We have an orchard of numerous citrus trees which generally produce a bumper crop each year but 2020 is not shaping up so well.  We have lost the entire crop of Washington navel oranges as well as the majority of the grapefruit.  These are the earliest maturing of the citrus and we are less able to assess the losses on the two Valencia orange trees as well as the two mandarins.  Fortunately, the lemon and lime trees do not appear to have been attacked much at all.

In normal seasons the only real pest to the citrus trees seems to be the scrub turkeys helping themselves.  They particularly like the mandarins.

I had previously read about using poly pipe and star pickets to create a frame for netting to cover fruit trees, however, we had never implemented this method.  A few years ago we had simply tried draping the netting directly over the tree but while it was relatively effective the netting ended up with rips in it.

The arrival of the citrus fruit piercing moth spurred me into action and we bought the supplies to create the poly pipe frame for the mandarin tree.  We chose to do this one first as it seemed to have very little damage so far which is probably due to the fruit still being quite green.  Everything I have read plus my own observation indicates that the moth attacks ripening fruit.

We used an unused net which we had over the new poly pipe frame.

2020-04-24 01

The net barely reaches the ground and I am not sure how diligent the moths are when it comes to finding their way in.  I plan to extend the length a little by adding an extra piece of netting to the bottom edge.  This will be salvaged from the previously damaged net.

The next job is to monitor the tree by torchlight at night to check for any moths which are already inside the netting.

If the netting of the mandarin tree proves to be successful in eliminating the moth as well as the scrub turkeys we will consider doing at least some of the other citrus trees.

While we were buying the supplies we made sure we also bought enough to create poly pipe tunnels over at least a couple of the garden beds.  The critter I had in my sights this time was the white cabbage moth.  Unlike the citrus fruit piercing moth, there are many and varied home-remedies to deter these pests.  However, the best prevention is to eliminate them from the brassica garden entirely.

I am determined to grow a successful crop of cauliflower this year so I  used more of the poly pipe to create hoops over the bed.

2020-04-24 02

Using some of the damaged fruit tree netting I set about making a cover.

2020-04-24 03
I included shaped ends so that it fits neatly over the hoops.

2020-04-24 04
There are a few holes which need to be patched but I am confident that this will make a difference.

I regard the money spent on supplies to create these exclusion zones as a worthwhile investment as there are a few hundred dollars worth of produce at stake – and that is just in one season.

 

Compost Bays – Stage 1

Leave a comment

I mentioned at the end of my previous post that GMan’s latest garden project was building compost bays.

We have a small acreage (1.5 acres) in a temperate sub-tropical area with a high rainfall and good soil.  This means that everything (including the weeds) grows at a rapid rate and we are constantly trimming, pruning, weeding and mulching as well as the regular kitchen scraps.

There is a compost tumbler but this is nowhere near sufficient to keep up with the demand.  Over the years we have employed several methods of containing the compost, including a small rainwater tank cut down and 44 gallon drums plus enclosures made from a selection of wire panels.  At times these have been located within the vegetable garden area but as we expand the crops we are growing we needed a more permanent solution.

These photos show a couple of the previous solutions.

Cut down rainwater tank and compost tumbler in the background.

2018-05-13 03

Wire enclosure and metal rubbish bins beyond the garden beds on the right of the photo.

2018-03-18 02

We wanted our permanent compost bays to be within reasonable proximity to both the house and the vegetable garden/orchard.  The other limitation is that much of the land is either very steep (the rear of the block) or subject to intermittent flooding during heavy rain.  Therefore, the best site was quite close to our front boundary so it needed to be aesthetically pleasing.  This is no mean feat, considering that it will be constructed almost entirely from recycled and salvaged materials.

Two large panels of timber lattice will form the back of the bays and this will face the street.  We acquired these from a former neighbour about 10 years ago and they have been stored under the house.  GMan painted them ‘Woodland Grey’ to match the fence post and pergola.  The posts had been left over from previous landscaping projects and were painted and cut to length.

Because of the slope of the land, the bays will be stepped as can be seen from the height of the lattice.

2020-04-16 03

The central divider is made up of pieces of a roller door that retrieved from a friend – once again, many years ago. GMan riveted them together and cut it to size.  There will be a total of 4 bays, 2 on each side of the central divider.  These will be created using sections of Weldmesh panels which were here when we bought the house 14 years ago.  We have used them for a multitude of purposes but this will be the final location for some of them.

There is no more work happening on this today as GMan is the baker as well as the gardener/handyman around here and today he is making sourdough bread.

However, I will post some more photos when the compost bays are completed.  I will include a view from the street so that you can see how we have managed to keep it looking neat and integrated with the rest of the garden structures despite being only a metre from our front boundary.

 

Making and Growing

1 Comment

It rained almost all day yesterday and today has been a succession of intermittent showers.

I had managed to plant some more seedlings before the rain started.

New snow pea seedlings.

2020-04-09 01

Eggplant seedlings.

2020-04-09 02

The climbing beans are thriving and enjoying the trellis.

2020-04-09 03

Lettuce and bok choy growing quickly.

2020-04-09 04

GMan created a new bed for the cauliflower seedlings.  It is located where the compost heap was so the soil is particularly good.  As an aside, GMan is working on building new compost bays so there will be more about that before too long.

2020-04-09 05

Meanwhile I have not been completely lazy.  I made covers for the armrests of the sofa.  On one of them I added a pocket to hold the remote controls.  The fabric I used is the leftovers from the upholstered seats of the dining suite chairs.

2020-04-09 06

I try to mix the days up with outcome-based activities interspersed with day-to-day housework and periods of complete relaxation.

 

 

Buying with Purpose, Not Panic

Leave a comment

There has been a lot written in recent days about people panic buying everything from toilet paper to rice, pasta and Panadol.

We have plenty of foodstuffs and have continued to top-up more perishable items like cheese and butter.  Today I did my small version of panic-buying.  This was prompted when I broke a sewing machine needle yesterday.  I went to the drawer to get out another and found that it was the last of my regular machine needles.  I still had some heavy-duty ones which are designed for jeans and heavy fabrics like denim.

Here is the result of what is likely to be one of our last forays into the shops apart from a basic weekly (or less) grocery shop.

2020-03-23 01

Spotlight for 3 packs of sewing machine needles, a new pastry brush and a couple of packets of seeds from Bunnings.  The needles should last me for many years but the prospect of being stuck at home with piles of potential sewing and no needles was too much to bear.  In the past few days the media has been reporting that seeds and seedlings are being cleared out everywhere.  My own experiences this week would make me agree with that assessment.  GMan offered the observation that you can’t eat sweet peas!  However, they are one of my favourite flowers, they make me happy and it is the right time to plant them so they came home with me.

Then it was off to another Bunnings as GMan continued his quest (unsuccessfully) to purchase a new wheelbarrow.  We checked out the garden section and were surprised and delighted to find plenty of vegetable seedlings.  I think there must have been a very recent delivery so I took advantage of this and bought punnets of cauliflower, celery, pak choy and eggplant seedlings as well as a well-established capsicum plant.

2020-03-23 02

The cauliflower, celery and pak choy seedlings had not been thinned out so I did that when we arrived home and found that I ended up with 29 cauliflower seedlings and 24 each of celery and pak choy seedlings.  I am now keeping my fingers crossed that they all survive.

2020-03-23 03

I hope to share and swap some of these seedlings with others in my extended family so that we can all benefit from nutritious, home-grown produce.

Growing Up

Leave a comment

One way to maximise the growing space you have available is to consider vertical gardening.  There are fancy prepared kits, DIY pallet gardens or you can simply choose to attach containers to an existing wall or fence.

Even though we have an extensive garden area there are always opportunities to grow plants in a vertical manner.  It may be to contain a vigorous climbing pant, create a screen or to make it easier to pick produce.

Here are some examples from our garden at the moment.

2020-03-07 01

Stake pyramid with twine and the snake beans heading upwards.

2020-03-07 02

More beans, this time with a trellis made from some leftover reinforcing mesh.

2020-03-07 03

Cherry tomatoes trained and tied to the perimeter fence of the vegie garden.

Vertical gardening is not just confined to food crops.

2020-03-07 04
Here is the mandevilla making its way up the side of the freestand pergola entrance to the garden.  We have 2 planted on each side of the structure and in time they will cover it entirely.

Officially Autumn

2 Comments

Yesterday was 1st March and the official beginning of autumn in Australia.  Coincidentally, I saw this link from the Bureau of Meteorology.  This is what 1C of warming looks like.  Are you prepared for 3-4C increase in temperatures?  That is what we look like reaching this century if the government continues its current level of inaction.  Not a great future for our children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile, I do not actually need the Bureau of Meteorology to tell me about the longer summers.  It is clearly evident in my own backyard.

This photo taken today is of our liquidamber tree.  It always loses all of its leaves each year but this has become progressively later each year.  There is not even the slightest colouration of the leaves yet.

02-03-2020 01
On the other hand, I am trying to make the most of the longer summer.  I planted a second crop of corn at the beginning of February.  It takes 3 months to mature and I want to see if we can extend our summer growing season until the end of April.

02-03-2020 02

I am also growing zucchini late in the season.

02-03-2020 03

There definitely needs to be a change in mindset with regard to sowing and growing times if we are to make the most of the climate changes.

It is definitely much too warm to consider cool weather crops yet.  The forecast maximum temperatures for our area (400m elevation) are 27 – 29C for the next week and this pattern is likely to continue until the end of the month.

While hothouses allow tropical plants to be grown in cooler climates, I am wondering whether there will come a time when cooler weather crops such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage become impossible to grow in our location.  It seems that celery is no longer possible to grow here as the seeds need cool soil to germinate.

Food security is just one very real and present threat from climate change.