Adapting the greenhouse for summer...

27 November, 2014

Earlier in the week I had a comment from James about using the greenhouse. He had experienced, as have I and many others I'm sure, the problems of too much sun and heat, resulting in dead seedlings.

Mine have seemed to be ok so far, so I thought I'd share what location they are in and what seems to be working in a bit more detail.

My greenhouse is a mini greenhouse, which as of Autumn this year has been located in the front yard.

It sits in an area that gets all day sun throughout both summer and winter. North is to the back of the greenhouse, allowing the suns heat to warm the plastic all day.

Over winter it was pretty much entirely closed up, but stayed quite warm and got even a little hot on sunny days. I was occasionally using it (and still am) to proove bread when the sun is out as it seems to get to just the right temperature.

From about September onwards I was opening up the front zippers on sunny days and closing it up at night. Earlier this month I started leaving it open, and haven't had any reason to close it up since.

This is the current set up.

As you can see the door is quite wide and seems to allow for plenty of circulation. The capsicums and peppers are loving it and I reckon I'll have ripe capsicums in the next week or so.

I've raised less seedlings in this greenhouse than I could have, with many being raised indoors.

The only seedlings I've raised in the greenhouse were the rockmelon, watermelon and succession sowing cucumbers from a few weeks back.

These sit in trays which allow for a water reservoir at the bottom, which stops the seedlings from drying out. I think this is working ok partly because of the tall containers I've sown into. More shallow containers may be too wet with this method.

Looking forward I think I will either move the greenhouse come late December/January, as it may be too hot for the capsicums/peppers, or I will cover it with shadecloth to prevent too much sun and heat from building up. But I've not tried this before so it will be a bit of a wait and see.

Does anyone have a greenhouse they have used shade cloth on? Any info would be appreciated.

Out with the old, in with the new..

23 November, 2014

Before I got to the stage of growing pretty much all my own fruit and veg, I always thought that there were two distinct garden seasons: summer and winter. The planting out for the summer or winter garden (depending on which season you are approaching) always seemed to be a distinct event, with the remainder of the season being all about maintenance.

That's not at all how I garden now.

One of the things I like about gardening is that the garden is in a constant state of transition. Today the transition was from old cauliflower bed to rockmelon bed.

This bed sits in the front yard and is one of the few areas that gets full sun in winter, making it ideal for any kind of brassica. In the middle of the bed sits the Ziegler plum, with the idea that when the tree grows to full size I'll have summer dappled shade for any underplantings (necessary in our climate with summer days exceeding 40 degrees C with increasing regularity) and that the underplantings provide mulch for the fruit trees. Being deciduous come winter I still get the advantage of full sun. And I just love the idea of a food forest.

I had let one of the caulis go to seed. Ok, I confess, I actually didn't pick it in time and then it was too late, so I let it go to seed. But no matter, I get seeds. It was the only brassica in flower at the time, so I have some hope that I'll actually get some proper cauliflower seeds and not some weird brassica hybrid, but we shall see.

I cut this plant off and will let it dry out.

Cauli gone to seed.
I've also found that saving my own seed lends itself to an easy way to recycle plant labels. I have found the best markers are the small white plastic markers written on with pencil. They don't fade and are less easily dug up by birds than other plant markers I've used.

So when I collect plant seed, I put the label with the saved seed, rather than recycling it in with other plant labels. Thus I know what seed it is, and come time to sow it I have a ready to go plant label. Win!

Another win was a few onions that came up, this being the onion be last year.

Anyhoo, back to the rockmelons.

Two varieties of the four rockmelons I'm growing this season were planted out at either end of the bed which is roughly 2.5m square (it's an oval shape so I can only estimate). These rockmelons were grown from seed and raised in the mini greenhouse.

To prepare the bed I first dug it over with a fork and then dug in some manure. I then planted the seedlings out in threes (as they were grown in the pots) about 40cms apart.

I'll wait and see if the look like they need more space before I decide if I will or won't thin them.

But they currently seem to be co-existing quite comfortably.

To do something with the space between the melons I've thrown in some beetroot seeds. They should be something I can crop as baby beetroot before the melons completely take over the bed.

I then heavily mulched around the melons and lightly mulched the beetroot seeds. Rockmelons particularly need a lot of mulch, so don't be stingy!

To stop this mulch being rearranged by the local birds, I then covered the bed with wire lattice.

I particularly like using this wire lattice as I can bend it around the odd shapes of the bed edges, and it is a little less obtrusive than the plastic stuff. I find plants grow through it quite easily, and I'm also thinking that this will allow the rockmelons to grow above the mulch, possibly aiding airation and reducing mould diseases and keep the fruits from getting bug eaten. We shall see.

Right now they just look jailed, but they will escape I assure you.

Morning meander...

16 November, 2014

I do like a good meander around the garden in the morning, with cup of coffee in hand. Just checking things out, seeing what plant has put on what growth, what bugs are doing what damage and what garden tasks need to be prioritised for the coming day.

Corn seedlings are doing well. I just love how the water collects in the leaves.

Self sown winter tomato in the orchard is actually ripening already!

Red Russian kale developing nice fat seed pods

Umm, I thought these were bush beans, but look at that tendril that just wants to climb. Will need to sort out some sort of climbing structure. Maybe a teepee.

Overwintered eggplants are putting on new growth and look about to flower.

Late planted out tomato seedlings are doing well.

But some are outgrowing their housing. I'm loath to remove the protection because unprotected seedlings were eaten by earwigs. Any suggestions anyone?

Radish seedlings seem to be surviving. Just.

The espaliered pears have just one pear. Yay for the first pear. This one is a Williams Bon Chretien.

The cherries (on the only sweet cherry tree which has set fruit) are starting to ripen.

I first noticed the glimpses of red on an early morning pre-work harvest. Knowing from experience that leaving an unprotected cherry tree with ripening fruit is asking for trouble, I did a very quick netting job.

It hasn't worked perfectly, as there are obvious signs that the birds are pecking through the net. But there isn't too much damage. Today's must do task is re-net the tree properly.
In other protected fruit the strawbs continue to do well. No bird damage here.
Not edible, but the smoke tree is looking gorgeous.

I mean really, isn't it just lovely.

Ok back to the food. Zucchini seedlings will need thinning.

White mulberry continues to crop.

Strangely, of four Tuscan kale plants only one has not gone to seed. I think I will pull the others and leave that one for seed, to try and get some of those slow to bolt tendencies in future plants.

The Ziegler plum has fruited for the first time and has hundreds of fruit on it. I may or may not have done a happy dance on seeing this.

One of the thornless blackberries is just starting to flower...

... while the other has set fruit already.

Of possibly around 500 seeds of lettuce sown, of 8 different varieties, this is the only one to come up. Or perhaps more came up, but were eaten by snails despite the copious amounts of snail bait. Well done you, lettuce!
The first flowers on the way for main tomato bed plants. This is variety Green Zebra.

The rockmelon, watermelon and extra cucumbers are doing well in the mini greenhouse. These will stay to get a little bigger and maybe be planted out in a week or two.

Also in the mini greenhouse the overwintered peppers are growing great guns.

The potato bed seems to be doing well. After some pretty poor results with previous tower style potato growing strategies I'm going old school with the in the ground method. I will probably add some more mulch to mound up the plants a bit.

The raspberry cage is doing well. I'm getting a small handful of raspberries most days. Delish!

The banana has shrugged off the slight winter damage and is quite happy in its microclimate. Below is a potted lychee and to the left is the mango.

Speaking of which, the lychee is flowering for the first time. I'm not holding my breath, but I'm very pleased it is so happy in its pot. It was in the ground for two years but really didn't do well, so I've potted it up in a wicking pot style, which seems to be working well. Go lychee!

The mango is also flowering, but I've seen this before. This mango is a cold climate variety called Florigon, and has set fruit twice. Both times the fruit dropped early. Tease.

But not teasing is the other free growing pear tree. This one has fruited for the first time and has 15 fruit on it!

This one is variety Durondeau. Apparently it should ripen around Feb-March. I cannot wait!
Bah, what's this! Bastard snails. Soon to be squished. Sorry, but I can't let you eat my cucumber seedlings.
The espaliered mandarin has set some fruit. I'm cautiously optimistic because the espaliered orange trees both set fruit but that has all dropped. But they are young trees so I forgive them.

The only blueberry to set fruit (an evergreen type called Magnolia) will need netting soon.

Even though they didn't set fruit, I'm very happy with how the blueberries are going in the wicking buckets. They have always struggled in my yard, but in these buckets they seem quite happy and are putting out lots of new growth which will hopefully mean lots of berries next year.

And lastly, the step over apples have set fruit. This is one of the Woodbridge Winter Pippins. 

Mulch, mulch, mulch...

09 November, 2014

Just how far do you think four bags of sugarcane mulch goes?

Not very far, let me tell you.

They covered:

Four of the six (the other two had already been mulched) beds for the cordon espaliered apples in the orchard.

The bed on the left and the bed behind that have potatoes, which have been planted in the cardboard tubes to allow for a little mounding up.

The center front bed has cucumber seeds, which I am hoping I can train up the espalier wires; two birds, one stone style.

The other beds will be planted out with whatever else I can't squeeze in elsewhere in the front or back yard.

Also mulched was the corn bed.

And last but not least, I just managed to cover (will likely need a top up as it's not enough to prevent weeds and water loss) the tomato bed.

Four bags doesn't go very far. I will need quite a few more to adequately mulch the garden for summer. And mulch don't come cheap.

Anyone have any cost saving mulch solutions?

(I've already tried local arborists, but they aren't prepared to leave mulch on the kerb. Dammit.)