Garden Share Collective... size...

31 August, 2015

Welcome to the new format of the Garden Share Collective, a group of food gardening bloggers/instagramers and the like who post monthly on their gardening shenanigans.

Many thanks to Lizzie for starting the GSC happy fun times.

Given there is now a new format of the GSC I'm a little unsure how to proceed. But as this month's theme is size, I'll do my best to give a bit of an idea of what is going on in the garden within the bounds of the theme.

My garden pretty much takes up the majority of the just over 750 square meter block, minus the space for the moderately sized house and garage. I have no lawn whatsoever, and besides a 3x5m paved area and the many square meters of gravel paths, the space is pretty much entirely growing areas.

The backyard houses the majority of the dedicated annual veg patch, with six 2.4m x 1.2m wicking beds.

This currently has the remaining brassicas (stills some small cauli's coming along, as well as a few broccoli and romanesco plants) as well as carrots, silverbeet, spinach, onions and peas.

Also in the edible plant category are a few fruit trees, including the fig and an ANZAC peach, which now also has Blackburn Elberta grafted onto it and which new shoots are flowering, so I'm hopeful for the first crop of these this coming season.

Peach blossom just starting.

Heading around to the back part of the yard is the orchard.

This area houses the majority of the espaliered apples and is looking a bit threadbare at the moment, with most of the trees just bare sticks. There are a few onions on the right, regular and purple sprouting broccoli on the left, and behind those the faint pink bloom of the nectarine. The asparagus patch also sits in this area, but is just a pile of mulch at the moment.

Moving around to the front yard, we stop off on the way in the newly built polytunnel/fruit cage.

The polytunnel is 4m x 2.8m and has some newly transplanted capsicum/chilli plants and the recently planted tomato seeds, which are have just started to germinate (3 seeds are up and running, yay!).

Next to the polytunnel is the fruit cage (approx 4.5m x 2.8m) and which houses the fruiting plants in wicking buckets, including gooseberries, blueberries, apples, plums, damson, sloe and apricot trees. On the left is the espaliered cherries, which will hopefully in time grow up the pagoda which leans against the house.

Moving onwards we come to the front yard.

I actually have no idea how big this space is. As the block is a weird triangular shape, with the house smack bang in the middle, this space covers the front entrance of the house and around to the side. This is an interplanted space with fruit trees and veg amongst the ornamentals.

Example: almond tree next to the pink camelia:

This space currently has cabbages, kale, onions and silverbeet, as well as the lemon which is giving plenty of fruit.

Also in this space are cider apples, two plums, white mulberry, banana (looking slightly sad after getting a bit frosted earlier on this year, but bravely putting out new leaves), mango, lychee, pear, sour cherry, three sweet cherries, two thornless blackberries and three varieties of raspberry.

Turning around past the lemon, we head back around into the backyard where it all began, and the most recent gardening events have occurred, where I pulled out two badly situated (it was awkward to get around them to reach the wicking bed when I moved them, but I refused to move them out until I had harvested the apples on them) stepover apples.

These are now in the pots while I decide where their new homes will be, and the space under the peach expanded and some strawberries transplanted below.

Hopefully that fits the bill for the new look GSC.

While I usually report on the next month's garden to do list, this time around there isn't much to report, as I'm just about to head off for five weeks in Europe (Italy, Spain and a few days in Paris). So for the next month blogging will be fairly quiet, unless I manage to come across some gardening on my travels.  But I look forward to reading everyone's posts and getting inspired to do lots when I get back!

How to build your own greenhouse/polytunnel...

26 August, 2015

One of the things I have always wanted was a greenhouse. Now while here in Melbourne town we don't have the crazy snowy winters of other climates, instead having a few mere frosts through our winter months, I do find that our summers are not quite long enough to get a worthwhile harvest from some of the more heat loving plants like eggplants and capsicums/chillies.

A greenhouse would instantly solve my problem, extending the season in both directions (warmer earlier in spring, and warmer later into autumn) and allowing me a lot more produce time from said plants.

But they were ridiculously expensive. All the reasonably sized ones were in the many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. It was then that I looked into the cheaper option of the polytunnel aka hoophouse. But when I was considering this option I had used up all the main spaces in the yard, and had nowhere to put it.

But then I needed move the chicken pen, necessitating the moving of the raised beds which I converted to wicking beds. I then had space to build in. The polytunnel idea then came to the forefront.

I decided to use foodnstuffs method of star pickets and polytube which I was also using for the new chicken pen (now converted into a fruit cage). I however was not going to attempt this on my own, so roped in my lovely long suffering mother to help me build the thing. Thanks mum. I owe you!

The star pickets were spaced 1 metre apart. We used 2.4 m star pickets, banged around 40cm into the ground to give a nice high space, then a measured length (I have no idea how long, we just did the first one and then used it as a template for the rest) of polutube was fixed to each side to create the top. Then three treated timber braces were screwed into the lower side of the polutube arches to brace the structure.

The edges of the star pickets were taped over to ensure they wont pierce the plastic cover.

Then the whole thing was covered in a sheet of greenhouse plastic. Lots of wrangling was done to get it all in place, then the plastic was fixed in place with cable ties. These went easily around the polytube arches. For the star pickets, to ensure the plastic was firmly fixed and risk of tearing was reduced, we put an extra bit of polytube on the outside of the star picket (it nestled nicely into the top part of the 'Y' shaped part of the picket) and cable tied around that.

A couple more smaller star pickets to make an entrance, and a few bricks to hold down the flapping ends and it is done.

It is by no means a perfect structure, but I'm hoping it has a few good years of use in it.

To get in I simply move some of the bricks and move the plastic sheet.

Inside, even on a not too sunny day, it is quite warm.

I've laid out some spare timber sleepers to make paths. I couldn't resist starting to plant into it, so I have moved the capsicums overwintering in the old mini greenhouse and put them in the new and improved model, as well as some bought basil in the middle (I always get basil in pots, not just the leaves, when I have to buy it so I can use what I need and plant out the rest).

I also have put the tomatoes recently sown from seed in this space, to hopefully germinate soon.

As a side note, I've been using chalk pens for labelling plants and they are great, as long as I make sure not to water the labels when I give them a top up.

Both ends haven't been permanently fixed down to ensure that come summer time, when I need extra ventilation, I can roll up the end plastic sheets and have a good air flow through the space. This is from the back end, where the polytunnel meets the fruit cage.

The polytunnel was planned to the left side of the available space to be closer to the deciduous trees and benefit from summer shade and winter sun. This also happened to place the water tap inside the polytunnel space, which was a nice bonus for easier watering.

The overall cost was about $240, which is pretty good for a 4m x 2.8m space.

Having had the polytunnel for just on a week, I can only say I'm sorry I didn't build one years ago. I'm very much looking forward to getting some plants in come spring and hopefully get some early crops!

Cider bottling...

19 August, 2015

Recently I bottled up my main cider batch, produced from the scrumped apples which were crushed earlier this year.

This was probably a bit later than I could have done it, as these had been sitting in secondary ferment for a while. But this was when I had time to do it, and really, cider doesn't exactly go off. I had always intended to bottle it as while I could drink it as is I'm aiming for a lightly carbonated cider, which either required a soda stream to fake the carbonation (not really my style) or bottling up with a few additions.

I have been storing up cider bottles from my purchased cider drinks for quite a while, so I had a nice stash of cider bottles to bottle into.

The three main brews were labelled with their recipes (I experimented with tea bags/red wine tannins and some additional malic acid) with my much loved chalk pens, so seperate bottling of each recipe was required. I was happy to have enough different bottles to keep each style to a recipe, which should help in telling them apart.

A little DIY with some tubing and an adjustable tap gave me a suitable siphon. I love a low tech solution. Plus, I get to do the sucking bit and do a little cider taste test.

Two birds, one stone.

It's interesting to see how different the taste is between brews. I don't have a favourite as yet, but will have to make sure I keep these recipes in mind for next years brewing.

The ciders were all fully fermented, so were a slightly dry beverage. As many of my friends and family prefer a sweeter brew, I decided to add some non-fermentable sugar (lactose in this case) to sweeten the brew.

To provide the carbonation I added half a teaspoon of regular sugar into each bottle, hoping that there are still some live yeasts to do a little extra carbon dioxide making, thus carbonating my brew. These will be closely monitored by regular taste testing, so that when optimal carbonation is achieved these will all go into the spare fridge to chill them down and prevent excessive carbonation and exploding bottles.

I now have quite a few bottles of cider. I also labelled these with the trusty chalk pens. Excess cider was in the glasses. No I didn't quite drink all of the cider that didn't make it into the bottles.

Bear in mind this is only half the batch, which were the recipe testings. I still have another carboy of naturally fermented, not adulterated cider to bottle up.

Good thing I have friends coming over this Saturday. I'm sure they will be happy to do some taste testing with me.

New crop rotation system...

16 August, 2015

Part of the planning for the spring planting involves mapping out the main veg patch. Now that my raised bed veg patch is now wicking beds in the backyard, I have had to rethink my crop rotation a little.

I love planning the garden almost as much as actually getting into the garden to get my hands dirty. Planning with my garden notepad not only allows me to look over previous plantings to see what worked and what didn't, but the planning stage gives me the opportunity to imagine a bountiful cornucopia of produce that the garden could produce.

I previously had eight raised garden beds, and so I used a four bed crop rotation system. Now that I have six wicking beds, I have decided to expand the crop ration and trial a six bed crop rotation system.

Crop rotation is a system which theoretically assists with preventing garden diseases, as many diseases 'build up' in the soil and repetitive growing of their favourite crop just means you are growing food for the pests.

Rotating crops through the soil spaces you have means each year whatever disease may have built up will essentially be starved out by the following years of crops.

Now I have to say I'm not that certain myself that rotating crops is absolutely necessary. But I still do it, because I'm not prepared to risk my crops. And it isn't really that difficult, once you map it all out.

This is what I will trial for the coming season:

I have kept the seperate catagories of Alliums/Root veg, Beans, Solanums and Brassicas, but have added additional beds for Melons and one special bed all of its own to corn.

I will probably plant the odd thing that doesn't really in theory belong in the specified beds, just because I need the space, but generally this is how things will go.

With the new six beds I have allocated a rotation following the layout of the beds in the backyard. The beds are all 2.4m long by 1.2m wide.

Now I just need to plan out all the glorious veg I can fit in these beds.

Garden Share Collective: August...

11 August, 2015

I started writing this post thinking I was horribly late with this month's GSC contribution. What can I say, its been a crazy busy few weeks of late, both in the garden and in other aspects of life in general. That's just the way it goes.

But I am a big believer in better late than never, so here I looked over the recent garden photos and started to write this post, and then I found out that the GSC has had a makeover and is now posting on the last Monday of the month, not the first. So it turns out I am not late, but in fact early. I feel so much better.

I will post in the old format of the GSC for today, and then join in with everyone on the last Monday of this month, just before I head off to Europe, in the new format.

Cheers as always to Lizzie, Kyrstie and Kate for being the fab GSC hosts.

Overall the garden looks as good as can be expected for the winter months.

Backyard wicking beds are going pretty well.

Peas are growing well and just starting to flower.

Purple sprouting broccoli just keeps sending up heads.

Only the lemons I need a ladder to reach are left. That said there are plenty of those.

Cabbages are still taking their time to heart up.

Almond is almost blossoming.

The almond at the neighbours place is in full bloom. The trees in the orchard remain bare sticks.

The previously planned new chicken pen has been re-purposed into a fruit cage. The chickens have gone back to my grandmother after my chicken sitting duties concluded, and while I loved having them I'm happy to delay getting more chickens. So my planned chicken cage is now a fruit cage for my container grown fruit trees. I'll net the front side (the back part is enclosed in wire) when fruits start to form.


I planted out some lettuce seeds and carrot seeds in the bed under the Ziegler plum tree.

I'm not sure they will do that well, but I had to plant something. I was suffering from seed sowing withdrawals.

I also have planted a grapevine and kiwiberry to climb up the arbour where I am espaliering two cherry trees. I'm underplanting with excess strawberry runners. You can never have too many strawberries.


Still quite a bit. The purple sprouting broccoli continue, as do the regular broccoli. That's all the brassicas that are worth mentioning, which is my fault as I sowed them too late, except for the self sown kale plants. There are plenty of lettuce and silverbeet for leafy greens, as well as a heap of parsley to freshen up soups and salads. I've been eating plenty of carrots and the odd beetroot, small fennel bulb and parsnip. I'm also harvesting some young onions for use as spring onions.

Fruit wise there are lemons, and although not strictly a fruit, I'm picking the odd few sticks of rhubarb.

  • Sow the tomato seeds. I meant to do this three weeks ago. My bad.
  • Plan out the wicking bed crop rotation system.
  • Copper spray the peach and nectarines before bud burst to control curly leaf, which decimated my peach and nectarine crops last year.
Nectarine about to bloom. Better find that copper spray.

  • Finish the polytunnel/greenhouse (it's almost there!)
  • Set up my earwig traps to save the apple blossom from marauding insects.
It still feels like there is a lot to do before spring. Hopefully I'll be able to get it all done.

Harvest Monday...

03 August, 2015

It has been waaaaaayyyyy too long since I posted for Harvest Monday, courtesy of Daphne at Daphne's Dandelions.

Current crops include quite a few carrots, the larger being the usually sown ones and the smaller are the transplated carrots. I'm getting plenty of greens including silverbeet, purple sprouting broccoli and normal broccoli (which are really small this year, probably due to late planting) as well as plenty of parsley. I'm still getting a few chillies and capsicums (here are some jalapenos for tonight's Mexican dinner), as well as the odd small beetroot.

Fruit wise the lemons are in abundance, the rhubarb is going strong, but sadly this is my last apple of the season.

I hope the harvest's are looking good wherever you are, and you all pop over to Daphne's to check out what people are picking.