Friday, December 28, 2007

Making the most of Water

I just thought I would share what I do to save water. Since moving here I have noticed it is a lot drier than in Adelaide where I grew up. A once a week water of pot-plants in the middle of summer would be quite adequate, but here it is pushing it to go more than a couple of days. Although the weather is only a couple more degrees hotter, there is less rain and when we do get rain it seems to disappear from the ground in no time, plants seem to wilt very easily.

I am on mains water but I still like to conserve what water I can (especially seeing that I am paying for it, and it is about to go up)

So here is what I do...

Kitchen: I have got a square plastic basin which sits perfectly in the kitchen sink and when dishes or hands are rinsed, this water is collected. I have a normal garden type bucket sitting next to the fridge which the water gets tipped into (this is especially handy if I am feeling lazy and don't want to go all the way outside to empty the basin, I can keep adding to the bucket by the fridge and then make one trip) and this is then tipped into the garden each day.

Bathroom: We use the "if its yellow let it mellow" rule, reducing the amount of times we flush the toilet (using a dual flush). I have just started using the laundry "soaking bucket" in the shower, it is a 25L round tub which I put in the bottom of the shower and stand in it when showering, collecting the majority of the water, this then goes onto the garden aswell. I have also found that my showers are shorter because I can actually "see" how much water I am using.

Laundry: All the washing water (when I remember to connect the hose) gets pumped onto the back lawn, which is about 5mx5m under the clothes line and is the only bit of lawn I have.

Outside: I have an unwritten law for the non productive garden areas "if it cant survive on minimal water (mostly rain) it doesn't survive". All my plants in pots are grouped together, so that they can be watered together with the watering can.

What does everyone else do to make the most of their water?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Veggie Patch Progress

The corn and pumpkins keep growing, most of the corn seeds germinated which is good considering they were out of date according to the packet.

I have a few tomatoes on the tomato plants, in this photo there is three if you look closely, these were some seeds I got from Seed Savers they were labelled "Delicious Tomatoes" so I am looking forward to seeing if they are true to their name

One of my original plantings of corn has a cob on it, it is one that survived one of the chooks discovering she liks corn plants, especially since they only had a few leaves and didn't like being pulled out of the ground completely by one destructive chicken (they now have there own run)

Theives in the garden!!!

When I moved in I discovered an unidentified fruit tree, once it sprouted leaves I assumed it was a plum, but wasn't sure if it was even a fruiting variety. It flowered and 3 fruit set, Great!!!! I thought, when they ripen I will be able to tell what they are. Every time I went out to water the veggie patch I would look at the progress they were making and how they were looking closer to being ripe. Then one morning I couldn't find them amongst the leaves, I searched and searched but couldn't find them, then I thought to look on the ground, there they were, someone had picked each one, taken a few bites, discovered it wasnt ripe enough, then discarded it.

Looking at the bite marks, I would assume it was a possum. Now I dont mind sharing with the wildlife, I just wish they would learn some manners and share with me, and wait their turn!!! All I wanted was one of the plums to see what sort it was! I think the flesh was starting to turn red, so I think it is a satsuma, but I will have to wait and try again next year.

Update on the Lemonade Tree

Well I am glad to say that the poor Lemonade tree that I almost killed is on its way to recovery. It has shot new leaves and is continuing to flower, so things are looking promising.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Water Crystals

After reading about "rechargeable solid water" on Scarecrows Garden I thought I would have a look for it at my local garden centre. They sell a similar product called Solid Water Pouch, but at $5.50 for one pouch I thought that was a bit steep, especially when you can get 200g of the crystals for about the same price. So I bought the jar of crystals and will use this in my pot plants because I feel like I am fighting a losing battle trying to keep them alive, even with pots sitting in icecream containers trying to prolong the watering time.

I'm planning to re-pot my poor lemonade tree for over summer, (because I left it too long to decide on a spot to put it, so it will go into the ground after summer) and I will definitely be including these crystals into that potting mix.

About 6 teaspoons of crystals expanded to fill a 4L ice cream container.

Shade for The Chooks

At the moment here we are getting hot dry weather (maximum temperatures around 36C to 38C is not uncommon). Where the chooks enclosure is located, gets shade from a date palm in the afternoon but until around 3pm most of their enclosure is in full sun. To create a bit of shade for them I had used some of the palm fronds and laid them against the side, the chooks loved this and this corner has now become their favourite spot. To make it a little more permanent, as the wind kept blowing them over, yesterday I tied them to the mesh using some garden string. So far so good and another thing saved from landfill.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Corn and Pumkins (+ 1 week)

This is the corn and pumpkin bed after just a week, almost all of them have popped up now, its amazing how quick they grow once they start

Maybe I Havent Killed My Lemonade Tree

Last week I was a bit neglectful and forgot to water my lemonade tree as often as I should, and combined with the hot weather it went a bit beyond wilting. I only noticed when the when the leaves dried up quite substantially, I hoped that I could save it with lots of TLC (and water), but seeing there was only about 3 leaves that weren't dry and crunchy I didn't hold much hope. I moved it into the veggie garden area, because this gets afternoon shade, and its about 4m from a tap (rather than being in full sun all day and the nearest tap is probably about 20m away). I have been keeping it watered and giving it love and, yesterday I noticed on one of the branches there are tiny leaves shooting, so here's to hoping it survives.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Corn and Pumpkins

This bed will be a trial for me, a bit of an accident actually, I had planted some butternut pumpkin seeds and nothing happened, so forgot about them, and planted corn in the same spot, well now both are popping up out of the ground. Its lucky that they are good companion plants.

True "Blood and Bone" (plus feathers)

Last Saturday morning one of my four chickens was looking a bit sick, very lethargic and not herself, so I separated her from the others and gave her food and water, and hoped for the best, but she didn't make it through the night. Not wanting to just throw her body in the bin, or the compost, I thought to bury her somewhere. I wanted somewhere that she could stay undisturbed, so the vegie patch was out of the question.

This is a pic of them just after we had some rain, they got a bit wet playing in the (rare) rain.

There is an area of the garden I had been wanting to plant some taller trees to create a bit of a barier from the sidewalk and to sort of close in this section of the garden, and also to give some shade to the house from the afternoon sun, so thought this was the perfect opportunity. Out came the spade, watering can and gardening gloves, with hole dug, the chicken was laid to rest and an Acacia (Acacia Aneura) planted on top, this Acacia is supposed to reach between 4m to 10m and will provide a great habitat for native birds and bees.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rains mean growth

Lots of things in the garden have started to spring to life and start flowering after the couple of big rains we have had in the last month or so.

The frangipani's are starting to flower, their smell is just divine, it’s a smell that I have always adored. It reminds me of lovely sunshine filled days when the weather is warm and great to be outside. I have picked some of the flowers and put them in some water to hopefully make some floral water to use as a room spray, or mix with some other essential oils.

The Agapanthus are starting to flower too, I love their blue colour.

This is a plant that I am yet to identify, but it has pretty purple/blue flowers on it, and it has heaps of buds that are just waiting to pop open.

Here's a close up of the leaves and flowers.

This I believe is a Hippyastrum which has just started to flower

My Battle with Three Corner Jacks

In both my back and front yard, I have three corner jack's (or caltrop) which means that going outside without shoes on is just asking for punishment. It has decided that now is a great time to start to grow, personally I think it knows that this is a busy time of year and it has a good chance of being left undisturbed and allowed to grow, flower and set seed (in the thousands) then die off and pretend it was never there, with the seeds lying in waiting for an unsuspecting foot to come along (OUCH!!).

And a close up of one that is just about to flower:

I'm going to beat it at its own game, I have made myself a rule that if I go outside and see a group of plants at least a few of them need to be pulled out and fed to the chooks, and I also have my "sacrificial thongs" which live by the back door.

A simple walk around the back yard will result in the base of the thongs being covered in three corner, rub the thongs together over a bucket and "tada" another hundred or so plants that will not grow.
Eventually I will get them to a manageable level.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Moon Planting

Recently I have been looking into moon planting, while my knowledge is by no means extensive I thought I would share what I have been able to pull together from various sources and what I am trying to work to in my garden. Some people may think that this is a load of hogwash, but my thinking is that if the varying gravitational pull of the moon can affect things like the tides then why shouldn't it have an effect on other living things which are made of a large proportion of water, in this case plants.

The moon cycles through four phases as shown below, each of these phases has an influence on different parts of the plants and their growing phases. It has been noted that on the day of the change of the phase (new moon, first quarter, full moon, and third quarter) planting, or taking cuttings should be avoided for that day (12 hours before, and 12 hours after the time of the change). The times I have put in are South Australian time

Generally energy is focused either above ground or below ground. From the new moon to the full moon (waxing) energy is focused above the ground and from the full moon to the new moon (waning) energy is focused in the root area of plants.

New Moon

Fri 10th November 2007 9:34 am

Leafy plants, green manures, liquid fertilisers, mow or trim to promote growth

First Quarter
Sat 18th November 2007 9:03 am

Fruiting plants, green manures, liquid fertilisers, mow or trim to promote growth

Full Moon
Sun 25t
h November 2007 1:01 am

Root crops, also a good time to take cuttings as this requires good root development

Third Quarter
Sat 1st December 11:15 pm

Barren time.
Have a rest from sowing. Concentrate on weeding and pruning to restrict growth. Apply solid fertilisers.

New Moon
Mon 10th December 4:10 am

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The start of my Veggie Patch

This photo was taken at the beginning of April this year and is what my Veggie Patch looked like at the beginning. During summer (I think it was the end of January) we had huge rains which caused flooding in some areas nearby, leading to national highways being closed and many floodways being washed away. This also sent all the plants in the area into a state of confusion, thinking it was spring, rather than the middle of Autumn. Hence the weeds shot up and set seed before I knew it, and the tree in the background started to flower and grow leaves (about six months too early). This did however show me that the tree was deciduous and not dead, and from the type of leaves and the flowers on the tree I assumed it was a plum tree, but could not be sure until it set fruit, if indeed it was a fruiting variety rather than an ornamental.

I decided that since this garden bed was close to the house, received morning sun and afternoon shade and had a tap readily accessible, it would be a good site for my veggie patch, and looking at the layout I would guess that at some time previously it was set up as a veggie patch. I set to levelling out the mounds that had been created, a rather slow process using a nail rake, (I was being lazy and not really wanting to shovel piles of dirt, cause I know my back would let me know about it afterwards, and not in a good "I've done some physical work" kind of way) but I eventually got there. Then the peastraw went down and I started to water the start of my veggie garden.

After a few weeks of watering my peastraw garden I had pea plants starting to emerge, at least now I knew that things would grow in what I had created. At the same time some seeds that I had planted had now transformed into seedlings and so in they went in to the ground along with some corn seeds along the fence, partly for the corn cobs (hopefully) but also to create shade from the reflected heat from the iron fence. In this picture from left to right is silverbeet, chinese greens, corn seeds, italian parsley and tomatoes. The italian parsley didnt get planted because I ran out of room in that little bed, which was the one with the best soil and there for my main focus for the time being. My plan: Start with a small bed and once that is up and running move to the larger one.

This is what my veggie patch now looks like today, we have had a few pretty hot days this week (35 degrees +) and so the tomatoes are starting to wilt but they will get a good soaking tonight once the weather cools down a bit, and they will perk up again. Also I have let most of the weeds grow as I am aiming to have them work as a living mulch and also as a constant supply of green feed for the Chooks. So all in all its a bit messy, but its a natural, "organised chaos". Each morning I go out and pull the flowering tops off of the canola weeds and the chinese greens that have decided to flower rather than being leafy and any tops of pea plants which might look large enough to cope with it, and maybe for a treat a couple of leaves of silverbeet or chinese greens. I have discovered that the chooks don't like the purslane that is growing so that just stays and creeps. I am also discovering that with a bit of water the three corner jacks (or caltrop) are starting to come up, so at first site they get pulled out completely, I have enough of those seeds in the back yard to last me a lifetime.