Gardivalia Open Day is just around the corner! Join us.

As I have previously posted, we have entered our back yard garden in the Gardivalia food gardens section this year and the opening weekend  is October 24th and 25th. That’s the weekend after next. I’m pleased to say I’m not doing my usual control freak panic (yet), quite happy to just let things evolve, ensuring a few crops are growing and that it presents well. It’s more about showing how you can relatively easily create a sustainable garden, manage it organically and use good design to ensure things flow smoothly and minimise unnecessary work. It’s about showing how far we have come in a couple of years and I must admit it’s giving the many locals who have been concerned that the house was going to be loved, an opportunity to have a look and rest assured it’s in good hands. Here is a preview of how it’s shaping up.

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The asparagus has been producing some great spears, this bed needs mulching. The thyme growing around the water feature has proven to be a great addition. Bees love it, it’s great to have for picking and it bounces back after a ‘hack’ with the hedge shears.

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The apple tree on the junk fence is in flower. Some baby figs developing too. That’s very exciting!

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The broad beans are in flower and I’ve seen bees in there. Hopefully we will see young broadies showing soon.

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This shot below is from the gate into the veggie patch.

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IMG_9284This photo was taken from a similar position August 2012, my post about it is here. It shows the asparagus bed when started and mentions my plan about having the wisteria acting as a frame around the greenhouse. It is getting there!

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I hope the mushrooms will perform for the opening but nature will dictate that. I’ll work with nature every time.

As you look around……………… click on this for a little more information of how and why we have created this  food garden. Come along on the 24th or 25th October and introduce yourself. Should be a great day!

With the balmy weather shining on us this weekend, it was a good opportunity to sit under the mulberry tree and enjoy a casual lunch. I know, the dip in the plastic container is not good. Just didn’t have chick peas on hand to whip up some hummus. Better stock up!

Casual Lunch

 

 

Gardivalia 2015-We’re in!

October in West Gippsland is the month when gardeners, would be gardeners and just lovers of gardens have the opportunity to visit properties throughout the Baw Baw Shire. Gardens that are opened up for the public to visit and learn from. Food gardens, formal gardens, native gardens, permaculture and community gardens as well as events, forums and workshops being available for people to expand their knowledge and develop friendships and networks. This event is Gardivalia and I’m excited! Yep, check out garden Number 13, Around The Mulberry Tree. That would be us.

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I’ve entered Around The Mulberry Tree so that we can show people  what you can achieve in a relatively short time to get a food garden established.  Wicking beds, chooks, shiitake mushrooms, permaculture concepts, composting, worm farming, fruit trees, berry growing and greenhouse gardening are all part of our garden. The importance of thinking through the design and demonstrating how you can use recycled materials and creating habitat for birds and bees is also part of our garden. This is only the second season the vegie patch has been constructed and we want to show the development of it and the garden over the next few years, so this is the benchmark. Excited as I am, it’s a bit like having to clean up before you have visitors! I want to make sure we present in the best possible light, so there are a few jobs to do before our open garden weekend.

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We transplanted a couple of standard roses from the front yard to frame the entry to the patch. They were just in the wrong spot out the front and should do much better here. This area has compost bins, a worm farm, potatoes in the bath tub, garlic growing beside the chook shed and there will be bee attracting flowers bordering the beds.

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I’ve transplanted the rhubarb from the garden beds to the veggie patch, these pavers will be filled with toppings, herbs and bee attracting flowers will be planted in the bordering spaces. I’ve planted climbing peas on this frame near the compost bins,

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and these sweet pea seeds have been planted near the berry house. I soaked these overnight then left in damp newspaper for another 2 days to hasten the germination.

In the greenhouse I have a range of cuttings that hopefully will be established enough to sell at a little plant stall on the weekend. I have tomato seedlings starting, poppies and other flowers seed ready toppling out. I will definitely need to give this a sort out!

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I always perform better with a deadline and this is certainly one I look forward to meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Wrap

Leave it!

It’s about this time of year we get fed up with the leaf litter and do a major clean up. Even though there are more to fall, it gets a bit out of hand. Everywhere you look, leaves, leaves and more leaves!

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They get piled into one spot and this week I will be mowing them to chop them up a bit and making a couple more leaf mould bins. The chopped leaves will be layered with lime, manure, some greens and mature compost. Wrapped up for 12 months then the resulting leaf mold will be spread onto the garden beds. This acts more as a soil conditioner than a fertiliser and I love watching the process take place.

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We hadn’t seen this area for months!  The before shot is on the right above. There has been the fire wood that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago dumped here, the trailer stored and then the leaves started falling. I’ll bet by tomorrow it will be covered again!

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Some more work was done on thinning out the  ‘spooky’ area out the front,

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Compost and coffee grounds are collected from work, I even have the cleaner bring me in spent coffee grounds from her husbands bakery. I’m sure she think I’m nuts, she’s probably right! Great for the worm farm and compost bins though.

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We have ordered another garden shed and started marking out where it will go. We will need every bit of space possible when the back of the house comes off when the extension starts. Had to move a couple of plants, hope they cope with this! I really like the way this bed is coming together, hard to imagine just 2 years ago it had a revolting old bungalow here.

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I finally cracked it about my tiny little oven! As good as it has been, I had to take something to work for morning tea last week and it took me over 2  hours to cook a standard size batch of mini muffins as I could only fit a small tray in to bake so it was done in succession. I’ve been trying to think of ways around this for a while but the problem has been that it doesn’t matter what we bought, it would have to be moved/disconnected when the kitchen reno begins. That seems a little extravagant and wasteful so I have bitten the bullet and bought an LPG gas pizza oven that I hope will pretty much function as a normal oven. I have set it up on the side verandah along with a temporary light and table. This area should (in theory) work well and when the building works start I can move the oven anywhere. As I write this, my first loaf of bread is in cooking. Bit nervous about taking the lid off the dutch oven! I can’t believe the delight it brings being able to put a pot in without having to take the knob off first so it can fit in!

I’ve just been out to remove the lid, temp up to about 230c and loaf looks pretty good so far. Might be a challenge learning to manage the temp control but I can cope with that. I could actually take the lid off the dutch oven without having to remove the whole pot. Yay, progress!

The loaf I am testing this week Is Josey Baker’s ‘Your First Sourdough Loaf’, I wasn’t that pleased with the way the dough was behaving so I might need to make some adjustments because of the whole-wheat flour I am using. I have a bag of Callington Mill organic whole wheat and it seems to take up less water  than other whole wheats I’ve used.

Drumming my fingers in anticipation for the timer to go off……………. Drum roll please!

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I’m pretty happy with that! Think the temp might have been a bit too high for starters but it smells great, I am looking forward to tweaking and learning how to use this oven more effectively now.

 

 

 

 

Seasons are Turning. GSC March

I’ve missed doing a post for a few Garden Share Collectives (GSC) recently, just can’t seem to make the deadline! Thanks to Lizzie at StrayedTable  for co-ordinating all of us home growers showcasing what is happening in our plots.

Harvests at the moment. What else? Tomatoes, tomatoes and yes tomatoes! I say that bit it has generally been a pretty average season. Also capsicum, cucumbers, grapes, zucchini and mini eggplant. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to planting full size eggplant. The ‘finger’ variety suits us well. There are a couple here left, centre.

Tomato harvestThe capsicum crop has been the best in years, yet I haven’t had much success with chillies that  are usually mounting up by now.

IMG_9815I discovered what an invasion of white cabbage moth on the capsicum growing in the greenhouse so a dose of Dipel was in order. Dipel is an organic pesticide derived from Bacillus thuringiensis. I’ve used this successfully in the past and I must admit I love seeing the little critters fall to the ground!

IMG_0116Yet again the value of using exclusion bags on crops as they mature has been proven. This shot shows tomatoes, some in the protective exclusion bag and one that didn’t have the protection. See how the birds ruined the tomato? Little buggers are even attacking green tomatoes this year!

IMG_0110I’ve started seed for kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts and cipollini onions. Hope I haven’t left it too late for the sprouts!

IMG_0124Time to gear up in preparation for the onslaught of autumn leaves that have already started to shed from our English Oak. This is a massive task. Will need to spread the 4 different compost piles I did last year and reset them ready to fill this year. This photo was taken last year and I love it. Quite look forward to seeing these pretty colours!

IMG_4643Head over to the Garden Share Collective and see what other gardeners are doing.

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Farewell to 2014. Hello 2015.

I must admit, I don’t really ‘get’ the hype that many have in relation to celebrating New Year. To me it is just another day, but I don’t mind any excuse to spend some time with those we love and to indulge in just a bit more food to well and truly top of the festive season.

My last weekend of 2014 was spent…….

Preparing the vegie patch to cope as well as possible during the anticipated hot spell (36c tomorrow and 40c Sat). With a camping trip coming up I like to leave things pretty well self managed as much as possible. First up was to offer the chooks some extra protection from the overhead and hot westerly sun by installing some shade cloth on the coop. I also added an extra water source that is in the shaded part of the coop to extend the water availability and it will be cooler there. Chooks don’t like hot water!

Chicken shadedBecause the summer sun is so much higher, it means the shiitake and pioppiono mushroom logs are exposed to a bit too much sun. I’ve rigged up a temporary shade cover that will do until I get a chance to make a more permanent structure (I hope). I’ve also put the plug into the bath they are stacked in to maintain the humidity to a higher level. I don’t anticipate harvesting anything from these logs for quite a few months yet, but I want to maintain the best the conditions I can. I am considering installing an automated misting system here, but it is not high up on the very long list of priorities!

Shiitake shade coverMulching of all the beds has been done in earnest. The ability to keep surface roots cool and minimise evaporation by mulching has proven to be extremely effective. I use organic sugar cane mulch just because its easy and readily available. I’ve mulched the asparagus bed, tomatoes, the potatoes growing in a bathtub, the wicking beds in the greenhouse and I will do the last couple of wicking beds over the next couple of days. The photo below is of the wicking bed in the greenhouse where I have had to heavily cut back the sweet potatoes (on right) because of their vigorous growth that was threatening to overtake all the strawberries. I doubt whether I will get tubers and as I only use the tops for greens in stir fry it doesn’t present an issue.

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One of the compost bins and the worm farm need a little more sun protection.  Some shade cloth and a piece of carpet should insulate the worms. They seem to hold their own pretty well if they have a deep place to dig down into.

IMG_6896This is what’s happening in the greenhouse. I’ve rigged up the gravity fed ‘auto pot’ watering system for the tomatoes (on the left). The old olive drum is full of nutrient made from an organic mix and it syphons into the pots when the water level drops to a specific point. It can go for several weeks without extra watering. There are cucumbers (yellow flowers) capsicum, lemon grass (gangbusters!) all doing well and the tomatoes I have trained along bamboo stakes have been maturing since mid November. I am now starting to harvest larger varieties which we welcome very much.

IMG_6901I planted up our camping herb planter box. By the time we head off, these lettuce, basil, coriander, chives and parsley will be a good size for adding to our evening meals. These little touches add greatly to our camping meals and saves buying large quantities that end up wasted. Not to mention how I can avoid having plastic packaging when I buy supermarket herbs.

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The exclusion bags I put over the blueberry fruit have proven to be excellent! I now need to go in and pick these luscious beauties. Some are as big as marbles. Hope the taste is big too!

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We spent New Years Eve with friends and their lovely guests and I have some interesting reports to make on the food I took to share. That will be covered in my IMK post tomorrow.

I wish everyone a happy 2015 and look forward to learning more from the wonderful bloggers I have hooked up with in 2014. It is such a fruitful and rewarding way to share knowledge and learn so much more than you would normally.

 

Espaliers, skirting boards and spring pasta.

We have at long last commenced the fence around the veggie patch. We are going for a rustic paling look across the front and on the gate but along the back it is just posts with ‘reo’ attached so I can use the steel as framing for espaliers, beans and other things as needed. I got to plant the fig which has been in a pot since we bought it at the Castlemaine market the Easter before last. This may be quite a hot spot so hopefully the fig should do well. Not sure about the root system, but what the hell! I’d already started training it to a ‘U’ Goblet shape and hope I get some side shoots soon so I can train it to spread across as well as up.IMG_5168I’ve also planted 2 apples along this fence. With another 2 planted along the front patch fence which I will train as step over apples, (photos when that fence is completed). This means they are varieties which have been grafted onto unusually dwarf rootstock so you can keep them small and manageable.IMG_5169I’ll train the granny Smith as a double cordon style shape like this photo below. Mine certainly won’t cover as much space as this but I want to demonstrate what you can achieve in small spaces with fruit trees.espaliers-2013-13-620x416

Now to the walls on the inside!

I have spent some time this weekend working on the hallway. I managed to finish hanging the wallpaper and started work on restoring the 8″ cedar or Australian pine (not sure which or what the difference in fact is ). It would be so tempting to just paint these or even go and get new, fresh, perfectly recreated mouldings made from craft wood or pine but these babies have been here since the house was built and I like the scars they show and the story they tell. I wonder how many of the scuff marks are from people who were quite nervous (justified I’m led to believe) about going into the doctors for a procedure or checkup. This is the starting point, the boards have been sealed or varnished over the years with a quite dark finish. They are terribly scuffed and we’ve had to glue quite a few together in places.

IMG_6094I started by going over the boards with metho to break down the finish (luckily we found a couple of 10 gallon /20 litre) drums of metho in the stables when we moved in. Doctors obviously bought their metho in bulk! IMG_6095This along with a scourer to help dissolve the finish, washed and a final sanding using steel wool and they are looking much happier. Love that grain!IMG_6096The first coat of Tung Oil, and I’m really pleased with how they are coming up. They still show many dents, scuffs, splits. holes and dings. I’m quite OK with that! They don’t actually look quite that red which is good. Another sand with steel wool, another coat and they should be good to put back in place. I’m keeping the unveiling of the hall until it’s just about finished.IMG_6097

Spring pasta.

We are starting to get much better harvests now that the soil has warmed and the sun has been out a bit more. (I nearly stupidly said “now that we have more sun because of daylight saving”, but that would have been silly). Dinner last night was an easy pasta dish. I walked around and picked a young garlic plant that was growing in the way of something else. Young garlic delivers a subtle flavour to a dish without overpowering it. I also picked some young asparagus, thai basil, oregano, parsley and chervil.IMG_5183 Now don’t get excited but I also picked, yes, broad beans. A whole tablespoon full. We love broad beans and have been anxiously waiting on a harvest as they are very late this year. IMG_5185A couple of leeks, some broccoli I’d frozen before we went away, along with these herbs, some cherry tomatoes and mushrooms and it was lovely light dinner. IMG_5189

 

 

Garden Share Collective

Thanks Lizzie at Strayed Table for getting all these together.TheGardenShareCollective300pix1

Well Spring is well and truly showing its face. Flowers are smiling at me, fruit trees and deciduous trees are in bud, leaves are popping and showing signs of life. Birds are sharing their joyous chatter and everything just looks clean, pretty and bursting with energy.

I’ve been picking oranges from the now very healthy tree. The broccoli and kale are nearly done but I’m still getting side shoots from the broccoli.

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I started some sweet potato in the greenhouse and have planted them out into one of the greenhouse wicking beds. I don’t really expect to get a crop of tubers but the leaves can be used like spinach and in stir frys. Good little root system! IMG_5358 The broad beans are growing beautifully, but no sign yet of ‘beans’. Researching I found mention that they don’t usually appear until it warms up enough for insects to do their thing with pollination. Sure hope this little guy has done a good job!IMG_5355 My worm farm is apparently a nice place for slugs to take up residence. This is just a few that were ‘relocated’ never to return. I’m sure their offspring will though!IMG_5345 I’ve tidied up my pots, adding fresh potting mix, thinning our any dead wood and fed them. All my seedlings are doing well, tomatoes growing rapidly and the cipollini onion seed that I heard about from another blogger are up and nearly ready to transplant. Time to do some cucumber, pumpkin, beans soon and all those other summer crops. The Brussel Sprouts still are teenie weenie, don’t hold out much hope there.

First tulip opened today.IMG_5417Two Corella birds sitting in the oak tree watching down on me.IMG_5428And this magnolia says it all!IMG_5270And this magnolia says it all!

Garden Share Collective-Firsts.

Bit of a mixed bag this month, Winter can be quite depressing with the weather cold, daylight hours are short and some of the winds we have had have tested the moods of many. Rain has been incessant too, making it difficult to get out into the garden. That’s why on days like today we need to celebrate and make the most of such lovely sunshine.

Loads of firsts to report!

First baby lemons on the dwarf Eureka lemon IMG_5024 First shiitake mushroom since I set up the new dedicated spot for them IMG_5029 First crops in the the new wicking beds in the greenhouse are going well.IMG_5036First fruit on the Pink Grapefruit tree. Waiting with anticipation to see if they are pink when they ripen. Climate can effect how much colour develops, with warmer areas having stronger colour.IMG_5041 First tomato seeds planted have emerged. So far I have planted Siberian, Purple Egg, Grosse Lisse, Heirloom Mix from Diggers, Russian Purple, Money Maker, German Johnston and Tigerella, I’m yet to sow Amish Paste, San Marzano, Periforme Abruzzese, Black Krim, Big beef and Black cherry. I’m determined this year I will have a great range to do a taste test of. I am also planning on selling some to staff and passers-by. This helps cover cost of seed, potting mix etc.IMG_5052My first ever brussel sprout plant is not performing too well (I think). Seems stunted, anyone got any ideas? It’s about 500ml high, maybe that’s normal but not having grown them before I’m not sure.IMG_5027 First heavy frost came yesterday, looks like someone has put cling wrap over the bird bath.IMG_3501 First of the jonquils are smiling around the placeIMG_3521  First firing up of the wood fire stove this year. I did the big clean up of it and baked bread, osso bucco, potato & leek soup and made a lovely big pot of chicken stock. The bread I made this week isn’t my usual sourdough but a loaf my niece handed over the recipe too. It’s a basic yeasted white bread cooked in a cast iron pot. Because I had the wood fired oven on I was able to fit it in, bliss! Loaf looks good, osso bucco was delicious as was the potato and leek soup. the only things bought for all of this was the osso bucco meat, and some chicken necks for the stock. Everything else came from the garden or what I have in bulk (bread flour etc). That makes me happy!IMG_5131

Osso bucco with mash and broccoli.

Thanks Lizzie from Strayed Table for hosting the Garden Share Collective concept. Great to see what others from around the world are up to. Hook up to GSC wont be available until Monday 4th August. Looking forward to what you have to report.

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You don’t see until you look.

After reading a post from Sarah at The Garden Deli about hidden and undiscovered flowers that act as nectar and pollen attractors for butterflies, I thought I’d take a sneaky peek at what was happening in my garden. We see VERY few butterflies here apart from the dreaded white cabbage butterfly which is rated as foe, not a friend. They were conducting a ‘Big Butterfly Count‘. I might check that out, sounds interesting. I wonder if they are as obsessed with ‘big things’ over there as we are here? Maybe someone has a ‘Big Butterfly’ at the front of their business or at the entrance to the town. Would be far prettier than a ‘Big Pineapple’ or ‘Big Yabbie‘ like we have!

Anyway, I am home for a few days trying to repair a damaged knee (fell during my marathon of work a couple of weeks ago) and today was an absolutely beautiful day. It is very frustrating on such a day not to throw myself into another round of jobs and just be a bit passive, but due to the injury I really need to take heed. Something I don’t do very well!

Alas,  I found no butterflies and no hidden flower gems in the lawn, but I sat with a cuppa for a while and was entertained by some hover flies and bees in the veggie patch and garden. I deliberately left these broccoli to flower for that purpose, so it was nice to see it had the desired effect.

IMG_4859Incoming bee for landing.

IMG_4894 Hover flies everywhere and look at the pollen on that bee!

The beautiful jonquil flowers also had some visitors.

IMG_4938Flowers on the broad beans, and the supporting wire I installed is doing a great job.  Can’t wait for a harvest from these.

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Almost a celeriac!

I was chuffed at seeing how well one of the celeriac plants was doing and one morning it looked a bit lop-sided so I went to investigate and obviously something other than me thinks celeriac is worth having a chomp on. Bugger, it looked like it was going to be a cracker too!

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Genetics.

Does how you paint go into your genetic profile? Father & son here, made me giggle.

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