Thursday, December 31, 2009
Sounds unlikey doesn't it but just reading through magazines like Earth garden and Grass roots made me realise how few problems we have here with our chickens. From what i know we don't get lice or worms or scaley leg. we don't even get fleas on our dogs and cats - the theory being that the climate is too dry.
This dryness most of the year is also probably not a good environment for bacteria to survive and breed.
My chickens have been relatively free of problems and only in their old age do they succcumb to sickness. Funly enough this usually happens when we are away and someone else is looking after them. They also inexplicably slow down their laying to about half their usual when someone else if looking after them. We put this down to probable lack of treats and leafy green which we usually toss in daily.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The plans are to fatten them up for eating.
Monday, December 28, 2009
After mulchinhg all of the beds that could do with mulch i piled the rest of the grass into the chook house. with a bit of water addded the chooks may help to semi compost the grass and i can use it at a later date on the garden.
On the garden fron the snake beans really appreciated the humid weather over chritmas and i have been picking bunches every day.
The cape gooseberries (sourced from plants that have been grown in Alice Springs since the 1970's) are coming along well although no signs of fruiting yet.
carrots (all seasons)
some dwarf french beans (due to the cooler weather)
tomatoes - mostly cherry types
leafy greens - amaranth
shallots - spring onion looking
figs - from friends house
snake beans growing high
Saturday, December 19, 2009
I went on my own little caper to the telegraph station yesterday and collected some capers which are currently flowering and fruiting like mad - this is all despite only having had 70 mm of rain this year (only 10 of that was recent). The plants are always covered in ants which must get some return for guarding the plants - maybe they get to eat the fruit? The fruit once ripe are fairly tasteless and full of seeds - hence the native passionfruit tag.After fighting with the ants for a while i gathered a pocket -full and put them into a jar layered with salt. i tried this method before and it seemed to work alright as far as i can remember although i don't remember how long it took befire they were edible .
Monday, December 14, 2009
One of our crew had an articulating metal blade - which is better than a static metal blade in the event that you hot a rock or wood during your work.
We ended up with a trailer and a couple of ute laods of muclch but our tips for the next harvest were:
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I think I planted the sorghum about 8 weeks ago and want to slash it down before it begins to shoot to head. Sorgum is a summer hardy green manure crop that seems to grow fast and furiously.i first slash down the sorghum starting from the top and cut it into 2 inch pieces, rught down to the base.Once the bed is slashed i decided to add a bit of blood and bone to help hasten breakdown - but i don't usually do this and it also works fine.
And a bit of Sulfur to help reduce the soil ph (caused by our bore water)Now all there is to do it wait a couople of weeks for the breakdown and then plant. I always find that after i dig in green manure crops the worms are incredibly active,
Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) is one of the worst threats to biodiversity in arid Australia – conversely it is also heralded as the saviour of pastoralists and perhaps both are true. What is true is that it is very common in and around Alice Springs and when left to grow rank, constitutes a major fire risk.
While all this happens gardeners happily drive off to the fodder store and load up their bales of hay (which have come at least 1500km) onto their utes for garden mulch. I have bought very few bales of imported mulch in my time – trying to make to with refuse from mine and other peoples gardens. However I have become increasingly interested in this wasted resource sitting on our doorstep, growing, burning and damaging vegetation as it does. Many an old gnarled river red gum has been burned to theground by fires started in couch and buffel grass along the river.
After many positive responses about the concept I decided to approach the Landcare group about a Buffel harvest where community members come together and solve several problems:
Remove an unwanted plant
Gather a locally available resource to mulch gardens and save water
Reduce their carbon footprint in the process.
One permaculture principles goes something like “the problem is the solution”
We take an unwanted plant and put it into a wanted space – suddenly we look at it a little differently
The process is probably going to consist of a small team of slashers and a larger team of sweepers. The sweepers load the mulch onto trailers and utes and deliver to local residents. Contact landcare or myself if you want to be involved…….
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Everyone was holding up very well despite the heat as stepped over the small rabbit proof fence into the bush tomato plantation. This was another trial that was looking at the success of cultivating bush tomatoes. Although the water was now turned off these hardy little plants were still flowering and fruiting and we were able to taste all the different flavoured berries at varying stages of drying. A very acceptable bush tucker – we all agreed. I have eaten too many fresh berries in the past and got a headache - which turns out to be a side effect known by Aborigines from where this plant grows (latz 1995, Bushfires and Bushtucker).
They were also spreading from the original rows through suckers as Solanum centrale, like many bush tomatoes is clonal.
The other plant being protected by the rabbit proof fence was Asparagus. Raghu was very taken with Asparagus as a great plant for central Australia – a man after my own heart. Any plant which likes salty water, ignores hot weather and seems to withstand all pests has got to be a winner.
Our last stop was a brief car ride back down the road to the dates. These date varieties had been gathered from all over the world……
Although known as a tree of the desert, they are actually from desert oases, and they need up to 400litres of water a day when in full production. The trees at azri were scaping by with less than 100litres but many were still fruiting. Commercial dates usually need to be pollinated to ensure a good crop. There is a beetle which does this job overseas but here it has to be done by harvesting pollen, mixing it with water and spraying it onto the female inflorescence. Quite a labour intensive process!
One unfortunate pest from overseas has been introduced called the date scale insect and it is also widespread throughout alice springs. Unfortunately this limits where the date material can be exported for horticultural purposes but in reality it doesn’t bother the dates most of the time.
Dates don’t like summer rain or humidity and do less well the further north you go.
We managed to snaffle a couple of dry dates from the tree which were very nice, and were bright red when not dried. We were told that they could be picked at this stage and would dry quite well in the sun or shade.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Last weekend a hardy band of garden types headed out to the arid zone research institute to have a look at the orchards and try to capture as many pearls of wisdon as we could from the man taking the tour - Raghu.
Despite Raghu having only arrives at azri less than a year ago - he had mountains of interesting information to offer.
As we waited for Raghu to finish some photocopying for us - i told the group that one of the reasons i had organised this tour was to garner support for an orchrd subgroup that could advise the community garden committee. So after a few moments of people lookin at each other and scratching their heads Raghu came out and we were off!
After negociating a goodly number of locked gates we parked our vehicles in the shade of the Olives and Date palms. The questions started, left right and centre about the olive trees and several indepedent conversations fire up about preserving olives, olive types. Rahgu said that the Olive trees produced well but like most of the trees in this orchard - they were on low water rations designed to keep the trees alive rather than producing a lot.
Several people had asked me about the jujube in the last couple of months, so i was intreaged to see this tree that was supposed to do so well in Alice Springs. Marg Latz recently obtained one from a business in Darwin called "tropiculture". i have no idea if they are best grown from seed or cuttings or even when they fruit, but there was no sign of fruit and barely any to be seen on the ground.
I got the picture that the tree may well have done quite well in Alice but had no commmercial potential - because people like to buy and eat things like apples and bannanas.
We reluctantly moved ontowards the citrus which despite low levels of water, weeds and relative neglect had reasonable fruit still on them. I asked Raghu why there was never commercial potential for cirtus in the centre and the main reason he sited were labour limitations. He said that securing labour was a limiting factor on many crops and it was a challenge when you had to secure new labour for each crop. Of course Citrus do very well in Alice Springs - just about every second house has one.Just over yonder were many rows of metal and wire trellises which were where the table grape experimental plantings had been. I lively discussion followed on table grapes - that there were competitors from the gasgoyne in WA to Emerald in QLD. The challenge for grapes was to grow them as far north as you could to get the earliest crops of the year onto the market. the down side to this was of course increasing humidity and rainfall as you go north - and this all has to coincide with good fresh water supplies. The titree grape growing areas was small incomparison the other industry players and had experienced some decline in profits in recent years.
Some nice rows of figs were still standing and had set lovely fruit. There are a range of varieties which fruit at different times. The major challenge to commercial figs was birds.
Some very sorry rows of apples were still in existence which Raghu said did reasonable well but were given hell by the rabbits which loved to ring bark them. There were a few trees which appeared to have keeled over quite recently. The continuing decline of the fruit tree varieties here was a worry - because i dare say it would be very difficult to obtain these varieties again - and importing them from interstate would be difficult and costly.
Thanks to Stephen who took some great photos - and which adorn this blog post.
Having just mysteriously lost a page or two of writing I think i'll cut my losses and post the rest of the fruit tour on the next post......
coming up - pistaccios, bush tomatoes and dates.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The pumpkins are growing rampantly as are the other melons and a few setting fruit. Still no bees as the red gums are still flowering. I'll have to keep hand pollinating them!
Gourds and snake beans are growing well while the cabbages look fine but i'm wondering if they will not have tight heads due to the heat??
The sorghum crop is progressing well. the amaranth continues to grow rampantly - almost everywhere.
like a weed it seems to be able to utilise things in the soil that other plants are unable to extract - it might be a good green manure crop because of this trait, making minerals etc more available to the following crop. The rabbits seems to be going for it as much as any of the other greens i'm feeding them at the moment.
I have a large male rabbit seperated in a chook tractor. At the moment he is living of the fat of the land with no supplementary pellets. He gets Ruby saltbush, Mulberry leaves, amaranth, mint, general weeds and the grass on the lawn. He hoes into this stuff much more so than when he had pellets. Certainly the growing rabbits are eating much more and i'm not sure i could keep up with their food demands with the hours i have left in the day after everything else. So they'll have to stay with their beloved pellets for now.
Dispatched 3 rabbits on the weekend. All safe in the freezer now.