Friday, October 28, 2011

Looking back on the first gardening year

Our first year of gardening is coming to an end. We thought and talked about it during October 2010 and then got to work on the the first day of the new moon, 6 November 2010.

It has been a rewarding journey and I am pleased that I found the time to document this period of growing and learning in this blog for myself, my friend and for other budding gardeners who share this passion for growing our own food and being outdoors working with plants and the earth.

I have been on a steep learning curve and bought about five gardening books last year. I don't want to miss every step of the journey. We are here for the long haul and hope that we are able to grow more and more food that we put on our table each day.

It's spring. Still some rain arriving and the temperatures are usually below the mid twenties, although we already had two days beyond 30degrees.

I am not surprised how often I wrote about the weather and especially about how little rain has fallen. Looking back we probably had a good year with close to average rainfall. I'd like to thank the WA Water Corporation for taking such copious records but I am thinking about grecording the rainfall directly in the garden, although my rain gauge is a very simple one from the post office.

Both water tanks are full and my last town water bill was a pleasant surprise.We only used 42,000l of town water in the past six months with three people. That's only 230 litres for the whole family per day or 70 litres per person and day! That's certainly called water wise!
Compost and mulch were the other big issues in the past year. The sandy soils of Perth are one of the poorest in the world. I never took to the term sandgroper but I understand what that means a bit better after one year of gardening behind our house.
We have produced plenty of compost during the past twelve months and I have just ordered another big pile of free mulch. All compost has been used in preparing for the spring planting but I am happy that two new batches are close to being taken out. They live in a small rubbish bin until they are needed. This makes it wasy to cart the heavy earth around in the garden. Two compost tumblers are in good working order, the third one has gone back to my friend who has herself commenced a gardening adventure around her new house in Duncraig.

The raised garden beds are still not in full production. I am proud of the idea to cut them in half with an angle grinder. Filling them with mulch and with jarrah saw dust has not fired back yet. It was a cheap way to fill them up and where I planted something I made sure there was plenty of good compost around the roots of the plants to thrive.

Pest were a big issue in the past year. That's understandable, as these little critters have a very difficult time to find a place to live in these sandy Perth soils. I recently prepared the first patch for spring planting, creating four 1by1m garden beds. I made the mistake to cover the soil with straw. The watering and the retained moisture in the compost rich soil provided a phantastic environment for a slater nursery.

The other day, when planting squash and zucchinis I noticed the colonies of critters. The straw I used to cover the summer garden beds provided the ideal environment for them and numbers multiplied quickly.

But again, I decided against spraying and simply pick them off, chuck them into a bucket and fed them to the neighbour's chooks. The chooks were happy and the neighbour thanked me with a bucket of lemons so it ended up as a good deal, just not for the slaters.

The new gardening year is about to start and everything is ready for the continuation of the journey.

Gardening has made me a more balanced person. I enjoy the caring for plants and getting my hands dirty. I feel connected with my ancestors and at the same time am producing some healthy food for my family and friends. I have been grateful for every little bit that the garden produced in the past year and am looking forward to the next year.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lettuces in blossom

My lettuce patch has been full of surprises. Due to the hotter weather and the drier season the lettuces were shooting up and started to flower. I was amazed to explore the variety and similarities in flowers these plants are producing.

Whether they actually go to seed is still to be seen. I am not sure how many are hairloom varieties and which ones are hyprids.

We had planty of salads to eat and the new lettuce seedlings are planted.

Here are some pictures to share:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My herb garden

In the past years I had herbs growing next to the grape wine in front of a fence in poor soil. I grew majoran, thyme, mince and parsley. Alas, the plants did not survive and it was time to find a place for my new herb garden. I new it was the right time when I heard about the University of Western Australia having another plant sale on the 30 November. I came home with some lemon and anise basil, black cummin, spearmint, dill, Vietnamese mint and a plant called mushroom plant, I never heard of before.

The right spot was quickly found just outside the back door and close to the water tank in full sun most of the day with a bit of shade in teh arvo from a wattle tree. I removed the grass cover and weeds and gadded compost in the planting spots. Before I set the herbs I laid eight bricks flat to make a small garden path for easiert access. I split some of the plants in half with the aim to increase their survival rate. the other halves I put into one of the garden beds where I had already seeded lots of parsley and coriander a few weeks ago with healthy plants developing.

I am pleased with my new herb garden. I also included a parsley plant which I transplanted from another spot. The patch is flanked by a pot of mince and a pot of coriander. There is ample room for more herbs and yesterday a new gardening friend gave me some majoran and thyme that I will add to the patch. He also has promised me a blood orange tree that I will be picking up in a few days. Although it's the wrong time to tranplant trees, I am hopeful and will give it a shot. More about this another day.
Not sure what this iris is called?!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September hail

What a surprise a few days ago when around 8am a storm struck and our suburb was showered in hail. Here is the evidence:

The storm reminded me of the huge hailstorm that caused havoc in Perth last year in March. But the size of the hail this time did by far not reach the proportions of that day.

All looked well. A nice ball of ice collected with the water sweeping down from the roof at the outlet of the downpipe. I was tempted to put a snowball into the freezer for later thorough inspection, but left it as it was. the hail stones were perfectly round.

All looked fine, apart from the leaves of the nasturtions that got a few holes; but a few days later upon closer inspection of the palm leaves I noticed that the leaves are covered with yellow spots caused by the impact of the hail on the plants.

I am pleased that it was not my own head which had to bear the brunt of the hail and I am sure the plants will recover. Interesting weather and another story to tell!