Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sopping Sunday Seedsavers

The worst day posible for sorting seeds - raining and humid. It has been raining for 5 days now and we seem to be picking up about 30 - 50 mls each day. Today is no exception as it has rained non stop for the last 20 hours.
So although the seeds were a bit too moist to do any sorting, a small band with undampened fervour for growing things turned up with raincoats and umbrellas.

There was a small exchange of stories about the likelihood of flooding in Eastside. Luckily we had a historian who had got the story straight thanks to talking to a lot of old timers in town - Warburton street will flood before Giles street by all accounts.

After our lovely morning tea we made our way out the back yard to discuss growing seeds and the like.
rain or shine - serious about seeds!

We covered potting mixes, types of irrigation , sunlight, seed depth, thinning, hardening off areas, humidity  as the wind buffeted the trees around. I think we felt quite stoic there out in the rain. This was followed by a small garden tour to see some of the goodies growing .
 We also talked out fertliser options, compost, manure, heap as opposed to bins.

Back inside to get a few seeds - and of course more refreshments!
Recent garden successes and problems were discussed and new plants discovered - yes you can eat Luffas!
This was all acheived whie looking after 10 children so well done all.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

the growing challenge

I hadn't heard of this until recently but it's a great idea for people who are new to growing plants from seed. It's about growing from seed yourself and getting 3 other people to do the same. click on the link below the pic and investigate!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Next seedsavers meeting -Growing seedlings and preparing soil for the winter garden

This meeting is well timed for all who want to get serious about their winter garden this year. There is still time to prepare soil if you haven’t already done so.

For me the brassicas are the star performers over winter but there’s so much more as you would know. The Brassicas are good to get in early.

I also encourage people to bring in seed packets they have purchased from Eden seeds etc as I always find I never use all of the seeds in them - then they go out of date.

This meeting will focus on raising seeds/ seedlings and soil preparation for the winter garden, but I’m sure there will be some seed sorting on the side. This will be followed by seed swapping and people are free to take seeds from the seed collection.

When:Sunday 28th of Feb, 10am
Where: 33 clarke st, 10am

Monday, February 15, 2010

Brassica seeds going in

Feb is the month to begin putting in brassica seeds and this period lasts for a couple of months. the key with brassicas is geting them in while there is still some warm growing weather, but at the same time you are still trying to grapple with the ravages of summer. i try to grow them on into larger pots in the nursery so that when they do go into the ground they are a bit more hardy and able to take a bit of biffo from the pests and the sun.

Broccoli heading while sweet potatoe still prospers - must have been a mild winter

 This gives me broccoli in May through to whenever it gets too hot to keep up with it, or i just move onto the Asparagus and let it go. Brassicas do fantastically well in the mild winters in alice and don't mind the  frost. They get no attatck from cabbage white butterfly and generally look pristine without much effort. I have tried brussel sprouts a couple of times but have been beaten by aphids so cannot say that they have worked, but aparrently other people have succedded. You do need to plant them in Feb so that they are heading in the coldest part of the year - June - July.

Cauliflower over red cabbage

What i have planted so far...

Cauliflower pale face
This is a big fat cauliflower and the plants are eventually over a metre wide so leave plenty of space (like i never seem to do) The sno ball little cauliflowers are often termed space savers. i call the a waste of space. they produce hardy anything and are only mature marginally faster than paleface. Give them a miss is my tip. You may also be duped into buying these from nurserys where they have not been properly labelled - i was.
Cabbage - vertus
Will give these another go this year
Broccoli - green sprouting calabrese
A long lasting Broccoli that produces lots of side shoots with long thin stems and are delicious. Just keep on picking it while you can keep up with it - or until you can't stand to eat that many aphids. I have been saving the seed from this variety for many years.

Black Tuscan Kale
Kale - Nero di Toscana.
Black Tuscan Kale is a hardy thing that grows for more than a year, but although it is tough it is not quite adapted to suviving the heat and pest onslaught that an alice springs summer brings. Gow it over winter and into the summer until it karks it. i have never managed to get viable seed to save from this one.
Kale - Siberian
I don't remember buying this one but i'll put it in and give it a go.
Kale - Old Women meet and gossip cabbage
This is more like an annual kale than the two others above. closely related to Ethiopian cabbage ora different variety of. I grow it all year round and use it as a great egg conditioner - that is i feed it to the chooks.

Brassicas i plant a bit later
I plant these later because they are direct seeded and are harder to keep he water up to - and i am not too keen on hot radishes. Radishes get milder as the weather cools.

Radish - i really like Diakon and i made a fabulous lacto-fermented preserve of them last year, which as it  aged gained a smokey flavour.
Kohl rabi

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pumpkin patch powers on

Iv'e tried to cut back some of the pumpkins to give the rock melons and watermelons a chance.
The garden plot is seething with grasshoppers and the eggplants are no more. A good stage to test our new organic grasshopper killer which is now on order.

The goji berries i planted last week have germinated, so we shall see how they progress in this climate.

The Zucchinis and pumkin are providing produce as are the snake beans and carrots. the snake beans have slowed down with the drier weather
Have just harvested some olives, which after sorting in to green and black have now been put into  a brine solution which will now be changed daily for 10 days.

                            the black olives

                           And the green olives

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Organic control of lawn grubs

A lawn loveheart ooh - some people know how to be romantic!

Lawn beetles in the lawn.

Some lawns can be decimated by lawn beetles or lawn grubs. our worst experience of it was the first couple of years we after we moved into the house. the lawn was quite badly effected. Now we seem to get some each year but after a dose of an organic treatment they don't persist. I'm not sure if it's just the treatment or wether there are also some predators in the lawn that may control them.

 Well you will most likely not see any beetles because it is actually their larvae that do the damage on the lawn. you will notice patches of short grass that seem to have been chewed. if you dig down through the grass there are these green larvae curled up on the surface with a lot of poo around them.
What to do?
there are some organic methods which i use and seem to be successful.
The first is Dipel bacterial culture which you spray on the grass. when the grubs eat it they perish as bacteria multply in their gut. it is only harmful to insects.

The second one i have used is Derris dust or Rotenone. This is made from the crushed and dried roots of a tropical vine. It works on all manner of caterpillars and seems to also work on lawn grubs. it is short lasting and is best applied in the evening as it breaks down in sunlight. It is very toxic to fish so keep away from ponds.

I haven't found any of these work on grasshoppers by the way.

I feel as if i have to justify having a lawn - so here goes
It's my wife's fault - i have tried bargainng away bits for this or that, planting fruit trees in it etc but it seems like a bit of a sacred cow.
So there we have it. It keeps the peace. i have heard other people say that too but something needs to be said about being green and the colour green. When you live in such a harsh place you need to create an enticing and less harsh environment around you. I have known people who rented poor quality housing to have a terrible experience of Alice Springs beacause they could never go outside. Needless to say they never became long term residents.

The first house I lived in in Alice Springs was a house on dirt with no outside living areas. When it rained you had to stay inside rather than sitting under a verandah and enjoying it. When you dropped the washing it got dirty and when you hung the washing meat ants attacked your feet. Some investment in connecting with the outdoor environnment is needed and sometimes that means a lawn - especially if you have kids. Of course there are alternatives. We changed the front lawn into a native garden years ago because we didn't use the area and it wasn't growing well anyway.

The good points to our lawn is that it is well used, we cut it for animal feed in summer. There is a great cooling effect also around the house. The lawn only gets water 2 times a week and this is cut down to once a week in winter and for a much shorter time as the grass is not growing. It gets fertilised with organic fertilisers a couple of times a year and they say a well cared for lawn looks better and uses less water.