Monday, 24 August 2009

Hot, hot, hot

Well today was a scorcher with temperatures in the mid-30s. The sun was intense and the winds were hot and dry; nothing like a nice winter's day. And, of course, I had a trailer load of manure to spread around the banana pit. As I needed some grass, or dust as it would be, to help the manure break down, I also had to do some mowing.

So there I was outside throughout the day guzzling down litres of water. As this should be the last bulking up of the banana pit soil, it was definitely worth it. Soon I will also have Yacon, ginger, and galangal growing amongst the bananas as well.

I have now pulled out all the invasive sweet potato as it was not forming tubers in that area. I do plan to leave some slower running sweet potato around the enlarged front edge of the banana pit as it has produced some good food without smothering all the other plants.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Put a lid on it

And so I did. The nest boxes now have lids attached utilising four strap hinges per box. Due to the slope on the nest box, the strap hinges had to go on top of the bracing, as opposed to below. This caused some issues once the metal sheeting was placed above the nest boxes. But this was fixed by cutting about 25 mm off of the bottom of the sheeting. So now the nest box lids can be opened fully. The black flashing will prevent any water from getting inside.

I have to say that I preferred the look of the coop before the sheeting above the nest boxes was put in. But the sheeting will reduce the solar penetration. We'll see if I need to make any adjustments to improve the air flow. It would be cool to have openings which could lift up and hook onto the underside of the roof. However I will not go down that road for now.

I was slightly paranoid after the random planter made a comment about the nest boxes getting hot. So I put a thermometer inside the boxes. The good news is that the temperature does not seem to be any different from a shaded side of the coop. But the true test will be during the heat and humidity of summer.

Still a few more items to complete (such as some paint) before the move in date, but we are getting close. :)

We now have two hens which have gone broody, so it will be good for them to have a proper place to sit.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Coop Case - Progression Beyond Framing

There has been further progression with the coop case. Material evidence has been presented for all to see. So impressed was the jury, that the material has been left in place. Although the case development took a turn for the worse when a key piece of evidence did not fit the crime scene. This almost resulted in the case coming unhinged. Although this was a setback to the case, other supporting material is still to be presented. With any luck, Rusty and the egg laying gang will be ready for lock up in another week or so.

TRANSLATION: I sourced the wrong darn hinges for the nest box lids. So after trying to figure out how the impossible would fit on, I consulted with the builder of the Hen House Hilton and asked what he used. Apparently I need to get some long narrow strap hinges as opposed to the non-mortise hinges which I tried to use.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Chickens Framed

Shocking allegations have come forth that local Maculata Grove chicken residents have been framed. Photographic evidence has been presented which clearly shows the group's mastermind, Rusty, at the centre of the controversy. When requested for a comment all Rusty's lawyer would say was "It's a coop".

It is hoped that further progress of this case can be made for all involved.

Samford Local Growers Public Offering Part Deux

I have been a part of the Samford Local Growers since the first meeting at the Old Catholic Church back in the middle of 2008. It has been a great experience meeting other like-minded people who are interested in growing fresh organic local food in their backyards. The information shared has allowed me to garden that bit more effectively in the new-to-me climate of South-East Queensland. As well, the local knowledge in the group has been invaluable.

The group generally gets together every couple of weeks. Our meetings are at members properties and involve selling and/or swapping food-related produce, plants, and seeds. We also have morning tea and tour around the host's garden. There is lots of discussion around gardening and how certain plants perform. I have obtained quite a number of plants through attending these meetings and it is great sharing knowledge.

The group recently decided to provide our home grown organic produce to the wider public in the Samford Valley. Our first public offering was at John Scott Park on the 11th of July. Our second offering was at the Samford Valley Markets on the 8th of August. Both public offerings went very well, and our second one certainly had twice the produce available as compared to the first. The reception from the public was very good with many of the local growers (including me) selling out of most of the produce. The majority of the produce was picked fresh that morning, which is something that is simply not possible in the retail shops.

Our plans are to continue selling at the Samford Valley Markets, held on the second Saturday of every month. And who knows, we might even increase the frequency of our offerings in the future.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Torturing Tomatoes

There is a great article in the September/October 2009 edition of the ABC Organic Gardener magazine on tomatoes. It is written by the knowledgeable and sprightly Peter Cundall. The entire article is a fantastic read, but the part the I found the most interesting involved torture.

Funny enough, I did this exact thing about a month ago. I was given some tomato plants in small cylindrical pots (shaped like a glass which is taller than wide). I left them in the pots for at least a month after they were given to me since I did not have a place to plant them yet. So there they stayed getting watered with the rest of the potted plants. They were not given any food, so they quickly used up what little nutrients there were in the pot. Yet they started to flower and even fruit (that's how long I left them). When I did finally plant them out, I used the tried and true trick of planting them deeply by removing some of the lower growth and planting just below the remaining stems.

In the OG article, Peter recommends giving the tomato plants some potassium when they are potted on from the one week seedling stage. He also indicates that the plants can be transplanted into the garden once they have started flowering. As once they start flowering, they will no longer waste their energy producing leaves and focus more on delivering what we are after, the fruit.

Now in the very same garden bed where I planted the tortured tomatoes (see left-hand side photo), I also planted some of my own mollycoddled tomatoes (see the green mass in the background of the right-hand side photo) which did not experience the pain of being root bound. Well guess what? All the ones who had it tough in the pot are producing fruit, without exception. However the ones that I grew are looking very nice and leafy, but have only recently started flowering. Thus they are still a long way off from providing me with food. Basically they are being slack as I gave them such a cushy start in life.

So there you go, it is worth bringing out the thumb screws on plants such as tomatoes.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Childhood Dream

One of the great things I love about living a more sustainable lifestyle is seeing my daughter experience and taste what life has to offer. She is a little over 15 months old and just loves being outside and seeing things around the garden.

We have the main food garden area fenced off primarily from the chooks, but it also helps keep Felicity from helping a little too much. But whenever she gets a chance, she will slip through the chicken wire gate with a giggle, go right past the garlic while heading straight for the curly-leafed lettuce. Thankfully for the lettuce, she only pats it. However if one is unlucky enough to be a tomato, well you won't be spending much more time on the vine. Although recently she has learned that the red ones are best for picking and eating.

Felicity loves to share. She will offer her partially enjoyed tomatoes to Mom and Dad, or even to the chooks. Felicity also enjoys sitting down with the chooks and sampling some of their food. Amazingly, this doesn't phase them including Rusty the rooster. I guess even the chooks have learned that life is about sharing.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Planting Asparagus

I should have done this post a while back. I was just reading the "asparagus in the egg bed" posting by James at random plantings ( and he had done a bit of research about planting asparagus. Well so have I and it is about time I shared, as I have found out some crispy information.

First off some quick basics. Asparagus is a long lived (about 20 years) perennial, so it needs to be located in the garden where it can live out its life for many years to come. While it can be readily transplanted, it will take time to recover from the move, meaning less fresh asparagus in the kitchen (if it even makes it that far). Asparagus does well in a sunny position, but it can also handle some shade during the day and still perform well.

As James stated in one of the comment responses, asparagus loves a deep rich well drained soil. Of those adjectives, well drained is the most important. Poorly draining soil can result in root rot. So don't dig a pit into clay soil, particularly in sub/tropical areas with heavy seasonal rains.

Asparagus is tough, it can grow just about anywhere. If a seed is able to germinate in a crevice between two rocks, it will and will do quite fine thank you very much. That said, you want eat the new shoots, so giving it deep rich soil will allow the plant to produce more spears more often. And more spears means more tasty dishes.

Asparagus is happiest in a neutral soil pH between 6.5 and 7.5. If the pH starts getting below 6.0, then it will start to suffer. As mentioned previously, asparagus likes rich soil, but particularly rich in phosphorus and potassium. So make sure you given them fertiliser rich in phosphorus and potassium when planting. In fact (as I have also proven), the roots can handle being directly on the fertiliser.

Asparagus should be planted about 12.7 cm to 15.3 cm deep. Any deeper will result in a decreased yield. This information is quite different to what the majority of web sites or even "experts" will tell you. Ohio State University is to thank for this tidbit.

Of course the next question is how close to plant them. Again the information in this area can vary considerably, however with good reason. You need to know how you plant to harvest your plants, how rich the soil is, and what other competition exists. In ideal conditions, they can be planted as close as 15.2 cm. That right, 15.200000 cm. This tidbit is from John F. Kelly, J. Bakker, Hugh C. Price, and Norman L. Myers. This means you can get your 20+ asparagus into a small area and get a better yield of harvest. This is much smaller area than what the Gardening Australia fact sheet on asparagus tells you (in fact much of the information there is out of date).

So what did I do when I planted my 80-some home grown seedlings out?
  • I prepared the soil as well as I could (see the Asparagus Galore post).
  • I used individual holes for planting out the seedlings as opposed to a furrow (purely by choice).
  • I offset the rows resulting in a diamond type planting pattern. The spacing between the plants was no closer than 30 cm partly due to the state of the soil prior to improvement. As a future experiment, I will plant some new seedlings in the centre of the diamond (giving a 15 cm plant spacing) to see what the result is.
  • The plants were planted about 10 cm deep which is even shallower than recommended. This was on purpose as I figure I can always add more compost over time.
  • I added chicken manure to each of the planting holes. While I did not hold the chooks bum over the asparagus seedling hole, it was freshly collected during the days prior and even on the day.
  • The roots were not spread out during planting. There is no need to do this as it makes no difference to the growth of the plant.
So I hope that this "fresh" information helps people out there growing asparagus. I will post another entry in the future about harvesting asparagus as I again have some interesting information to share.