Saturday, December 12, 2009

I'm thinking sunflowers don't like being transplanted...

I planted a number of sunflower seeds in the front yard recently as an 'instant' plant to fill some of the space in the front yard, and they've been coming up really well in the areas where I shifted the soil significantly, such as the circles in the middle.

However, none of the sunflowers planted in the strip along the front of the house have sprouted, and I think it has something to do with the quality of the soil.  Instead of taking the hint and mulching, I decided just to 'transplant' some of the sunflower plants from one of the circles to the bad soil strip. 

Before transplantation:

One day after transplantation:

Lesson learned.  Tomorrow I'm going to head to the nursery to pick up some mushroom compost for the front yard.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Seeds are Sprouting

You'd think at the age of 29 the excitement of seeds sprouting might have dwindled, but no, the sight of seedlings is still gloriously thrilling.

My spinach seedlings have been shooting:

 and beans:

I took the above photo this morning.  This evening when I was watering my tomatoes, I noticed that they'd grown immensely during the day and they looked like this:


You can use the mushroom compost lump (with the white veiney things) in the morning and first evening photo as a size reference.

Even though I've been getting a whole heap of intentional seedlings, I've also got these patches of seedlings that I'm sure I didn't sow.  The weird thing is, they're all in clumps as if I deliberately planted them.

Here's an even bigger clump surrounding my basil seedlings.  The two basil seedlings are on the top left and right of the picture (the bigger leaves):

The question is, do I rip them out now or should I wait and see what they grow into?

Part of me thinks that as the beds were full of weeds only recently they're probably just weed seeds, but what if they're self-seeding from the previous owner's vegie plants?

And what about the areas that I planted in - how do I know whether they're the intentional or unintentional seedlings?  Because I haven't grown a number of the vegies before, I don't actually know what the seedlings look like....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

creatures having sex in my backyard

My rhubarb leaves have lots of holes in them and I instantly blamed the hundreds of slugs and snails that have bread in the recent rains.  But no, the creatures are these horny little things (although I caught them chomping on my weeds this time):


I don't know what they're called, but when I first saw one, I thought it was just a weird creature that looked like it was two creatures back to back.  I didn't realise that it actually was two creatures back to back.  And it's not just this one that I've photographed, all of these creatures are constantly copulating.  Imagine eating and having sex at the same time. All the time.  How bizarre!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Worm Farms

I found out that Hobart City Council sells subsidised worm farms, and have ordered one for just after Christmas, along with a 'starter pack' of 250g of worms.  They tend to be over $100, the ones that I've seen in stores around Hobart, but the council is selling them for $77 to HCC residents.

The worm farm is going to be in addition to the compost heap mentioned in the last post.  You can use worm 'wee', which are the juices that leak to the bottom of the 'farm'.  It makes great liquid fertilizer.  I just bought some from Lenah Vallery Primary School (I wish my school had such hands on and dirty stuff as worm farms when I was a kid), and I'm looking forward to making my own.

Compost building and keys to the shed (hurrah!)

I'm as happy as punch.  Why? well, I built a compost heap!

I meant to stick it down in the corner, but it's become clear that the corner bed is probably going to be the last bed I weed, and so in yesterday's inspired hangover haze I thought I'd establish one at the end of the concrete path, next to the rhubarb and the tap.

I dragged away the 'compost bin', which according to my vegie gardening teacher will not generate enough heat to be a 'hot' pile ie, one that kills weed seeds. Supposedly, a hot pile has to be at least 1m cubed, something that those black containers definitely aren't.  You can see a picture of the bin on the chosen bed in the pre-tomato staking photo below. 

the bin is in the top right hand corner

At the bottom of the semi-full bin was some nice compost-in-working, so i used that as my base.  There were some mega worms in the compost, and an (ick) cockroach.  You don't usually see many cockroaches in Tassie, compared to where I grew up in Sydney.

After my layer of old compost, I started applying some of the lesson in compost from the vegie garden course.  I'm not sure if I got the components right, but off the top of my head, it seemed right at the time.   I dragged out a heap of old newspapers (luckily I drink too much beer to have room for newspapers in the recycling bin), and shredded them, wetting them as I went.  I still haven't acquired a hose and adapter for the conveniently located tap, so I used my dodgy watering can that I picked up off the side of the road on throw out day, and watered each later of paper.  Then I dragged over one of the boxes of weeds that I had sitting in the garden.   I can't believe now that I've been throwing out entire bins of weeds week after week to go into landfill.  The cardboard box then got shredded and soaked, with tiny creatures streaming out of the corrugated interiors.  lastly, another box of weeds was added to the pile, and I wet the entire pile once more.

While you can probably see that the compost has layers, they're not very even, mostly because it's a heap rather than an enclosed layerd pile.  I'm thinking of getting some chicken wire to enclose it.

The second exciting thing that happened to me on the weekend was that I found the keys to the garden shed for the first time since moving in.  They were on the fridge, which is extremely inconvenient for vertically challenged people like me.  In the shed the previous owners have left me all this old gardening equipment, some of which could live in a museum.  There are poisons (which I'm not so keen on despite my weed anxiety), clay soil fixer, rooting powder, hand weeders, grass airers, hoes, trowels, labels, and more.  Woot!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

oh the joys of mushroom compost

So after light-starving my inaugural three garden beds (shown in the previous post) in the hope of killing any stray weeds left behind, I uncovered them (hazaah!) and started mulching them with mushroom compost.  Now, at this point I should point out that before my vegie garden course, I didn't know what mulching was, or what mushroom compost was (in fact, I'm pretty sure I didn't even know of the existence of mushroom compost).  Luckily, the course has been jam packed with compost theory and mulch obsession, so I feel that I know a bit more now  (did you know that there's a difference between dirt and soil?!)

Anyhoo, I mulched, then decided to stick in a couple of tomatoes, one of which was given to me by my garden loving neighbour, who has millions of seedlings in his backyard in various yoghurt tubs, plastic cups and bottles.  He just passes them over the fence.  Sweet.

broad beans

I also planted a couple of his broad beans, and I'm hoping that the broad beans that I loathed as a child turn out a bit nicer in adulthood.  I transplanted a passionfruit from the rhubarb bed, which I'd temporarily stuck there, and also put in a few cucumbers (although I now know that cucumbers grow a little differently to how I thought - across, not up - so I may have to move them).

I had sat down originally with my Lost Seed packets to plan out a vegie garden.  I had my companion planting list, my crop rotation diagram which should, theoretically, determine what I plant together as well, and my entire garden map that I drew up a couple of weeks after moving into the house.  Of course, the companion planting and crop rotation groups were totally contradictory, and so I decided to plant things as I went, just as I always have done.

Just a quick note: Lost Seed are a Tasmanian company that make non-hybrid seeds (yes, something else that I learned in my course). Apparently if you want to grow things from seed the following year you're best off getting non-hybrid seeds.   They've got an amazing array of weird seeds.  Luckily for me they have companion planting summaries on each seed packet, listing a plant's likes and dislikes.  I tried to comply, and ended up following the companion planting far more than the crop rotation.  What does that say about me?

The images below show the three beds, with a weedy one in the foreground:

On the top bed, to the left, I have planted some 'Tigerella' tomato seeds.  The stakes make me look a lot more optimistic than I actually am.  They are simply marking the spot where I planted so that I can identify if they don't come up.  Of course if they do come up, the stakes can have the joyous job of holding Tigerella, the stripey (yes!) climbing tomatoes.

Oh, I should point out, on top of the tap thingy, there is a punnet of parsley that my earlier mentioned neighbour passed over.  I must remember to plant so as not to offend, for one of the major disadvantages of having a neighbour who can look down into your backyard  is that they can identify if you haven't planted their carefully raised seedlings.

Next to the Tigerella are some spinach seeds, the cucumbers (to be moved), and then 2 rows of lettuce.  I managed to show some restraint and only sow 2 rows, following the advice on the packet that wisely suggests staggered planting.

On the middle bed, there are (from left to right) the passionfruit plant, celery, some basil and the tomato seedlings planted a couple of weeks ago (this post actually covers about 2-3 weeks activity).  Along the eastern end of the bed are sown more tomato seeds, this time 'Gardener's Delight' of the climbing variety.  You can see more overenthusiastic staking. 

Then on the bottom bed there are the two mystery broad bean seedlings, a heap of dwarf bean seeds (as a gift from my mum), and some cauliflower.

With the exception of the spinach, tomatoes, celery (which was disasterous!) and basil, I've not attempted to grow most of these plants  before, so I'm quite excited to see what a cauliflower looks like, and I'm almost wetting myself over the Tigerellas.

Lucy 1 - Weeds 0

So, after a week or two of living in my house, I noticed that the weeds were descending.  It's been a particularly wet winter in Hobart this year - apparently the wettest in the last 100 years - and then along came heat just as I moved in, resulting in weed city (in hayfever land).  Of course, there's just one of me and a substantial area of garden (although the front was a little less dominating that the back), and so I couldn't (and still haven't) tackle the entire weed problem in full straight away.

So I bought some weed matting, and dug up the weeds in the three bottom patches, covered them with the matting, and went away and plotted my next move of attack.  I've been doing a 6-week vegie garden course at Adult Ed, and at the time I was just about to start the course, so I didn't want to pre-empt things.  Good thing too, as I was soon to learn about such wonderous things as 'soil theory' and compost.  I wish someone had told me years ago that there were consequences to re-using potting mix over and over and over...

Here are some images of the 'dormant' beds smothered in weed matting.  Note the growing weeds in the background (I swear they were growing about 5cm/day)


Catch up post. The garden's original state

I set this blog up as a visual garden diary.  I want to record images of my garden so I can look back in years and exclaim 'oooh, it was so naked' (obviously I'm planning on a few more trees), or 'gee, look at all those weeds' (which I'm actually doing still at the moment'.  I also want to record what works, what doesn't, my mistakes, what I've planted (easily forgotten), creatures that lurk under leaves or emerge by night... and so on....

I've been living in the house for 2 months now, and in that time I've have planted and weeded in both the front (pretty flowers, ornamental etc.) and back (vegies, fruit, practical stuff), but have only scratched to surface really.  I'll be doing some catch up posts ie.  how the garden looked before I even bought it through to the present.

So here are a couple of images of the garden when I inspected the house:

The front yard

The side of the house (unfortunately, by the time I moved in all the daffodils had gone for the season)