Friday, 29 June 2007

Beginner 101

Fluffy sent me an invitation to blog on A Rake's Progress and you will immediately sense just how organised I am when I tell you it has only taken me 45 days to find my blogger login details. This is the same organisation and efficency I like to bring to gardening so be warned.

Coincidentally, just like din (below) I too am a woman with chooks, a vegie garden (on the left), fruit trees and an-almost-4-year-old. One of my chooks is even called Olive! There I'm afraid the likeness ends. While din is obviously a woman who knows what she is doing, our garden by comparison looks like a bomb hit it. All enthusiasm and no inclination to RTFM I'm afraid. Still, we're learning as we go and having fun so we're happy.

We moved into our Brunswick house eight months ago. We were very lucky to have inherited from the previous owner an olive tree, a mulberry tree, two lemon trees, three apple trees, a quince, a grape, a passionfruit, a bay, youngberries and a vegie garden full of rhubarb, mitzuna, potatoes and oregana, rosemary, sage and thyme. By the time we'd unpacked, sorted a few things and had time to look at the garden we felt we didn't have much time to add much before the worst of summer hit. We focused on mulching, watering (we have two water tanks) composting and I threw in all my heirloom tomato seeds. I also started a small herb garden by the back door and planted lemon thyme, purple sage, italian parsley, vietnamese mint and lots of basil between the rows of tomatoes. Summer was fabulous, we profited from the hard work done by the previous owners and feasted like kings. Only the olive and mulberry didn't fruit, the olive having produced 4kg the summer before and the mulberry suffering from a minimum of water.

One of the first things we did after moving in was get four bantams who are now fully grown and free-ranging throughout the back-yard. They sometimes attack seedlings so I have rolls of chook-wire I can hang around the vegie garden when I need to. The hens were due to start laying in April but went through several moults with the bizarre warm weather we had and never got started. I'm not worrying too much, I figure they'll probably sort themselves out come spring. We feed them with an organic layer mix from Andrews in Sydney Rd, kitchen scraps and of course they are free-ranging throughout the garden eating lots of pests. The chicken manure we collect from their coop is added to the compost and also to a cow-manure-tea I have brewing in the garage. You can watch our chooks on an eerily silent film if you feel so inclined.

Since the cooler weather we have been busy digging up stretches of lawn and widening all the garden beds (right). We have been composting and mulching all these new areas and we have planted much of this with gorgeous grasses and other drought tolerant plants, they don't look like much now but we are hoping come spring they will start growing madly. Basically, we stopped watering at the end of January and have replaced anything that hasn't survived the summer with a drought tolerant plant.

In the vegie garden I have planted broccoli, lettuce, broad beans, snow peas and spinach. I grew them all from seeds from Diggers. The broad beans are doing OK, most of the broccoli is growing well, the spinach has vanished, the lettuce just stays the same with no visible growth whatsover and the snow peas are just popping up. The vegie garden is very close to a neighbour's walnut tree and I have just read in a companion planting book I found in an op-shop about the effects walnuts can have on some vegies and fruits. It is interesting as the tomatos in this garden didn't grow anywhere near as well as the tomatos near the house so maybe there is something in it. The rhubarb has come back to life after the summer and is also doing well and we still have a few potatoes popping up spontaneously from the compost.

We want a larger vegie garden but despite having such a big yard it is hard to find spots that aren't shaded. In the center of the yard are two fabulous trees that together provide a living umbrella throughout the summer and lots of breezes so we don't want to lose them. There is a car parking space at the rear of the yard that I was hoping to plant more fruit trees in but if the walnut tree does turn out to be the culprit I may have to relocate the vegie garden to that spot.

We have also just expanded the herb garden so that we can plant a few more vegies there. (above)It is a great spot for capturing winter sun so we do want to keep enough space for sitting in but worked out we could afford to make the garden a bit larger than it was. I have spring onion seedlings ready to go in and also some root vegetables I want to try out so this will be the perfect spot for them. There is also a hanging rosemary I will be using to cover the chook shed with and I am still working on where my stawberries will go. They are varieties that can grown in pots and hanging baskets so I am toying with the idea of turning the shed roof into a garden and planting them there. I also have a loquat tree looking for a spot, a dragon-fruit and a dwarf kaffir lime, not to mention a list of wannahaves a mile long.

Phew I think that enough for now, are you still awake? I promise future posts won't be so long. At the moment I am focussing on raking up leaves for the garden and compost and practising my begginner pruning skills. Ever heard a tree scream? Oh, yes, and then there's the frog pond we started building........... As you can see I'll be needing all the help I can get so please comment with all your suggestions and ideas.

1 comment:

din said...

Oh your bantams are so sweet and gentle looking. I'd intended my chooks to free range, but didn't do enough research - Olive and Beryl are Light Sussex or Sussex Light (I forget which) which is the bird equivalent of bulldozers. Not only do they try to eat everything that looks like it might be edible (taking a bite out of each green tomato for instance, just in case one might taste good); they love to dig. Sadly after a few frustrating months with them trying to destroy the garden I ended up fencing them in, with occasional garden visits for a treat.

I really look forward to hearing more about your garden... (and must get round to finishing another post, maybe tomorrow...)