Archive for December, 2008

Late December 2008

December 30, 2008

Too tired to type …… we have been lucky enough to have a number of wwoofas over the last month. Lots of work done, so I thought it was a good time for show and tell, well the telling past might need to wait to the next post, when I have the energy to put thought to keyboard. I have some interesting garden makeover photos to post,  so check back soon.

our garden coming to life

our garden coming to life

a happy wormwood plant for the chicken to help themselves too.

a happy wormwood plant for the chicken to help themselves too.

South Side Makeover Step 2

South Side Makeover Step 2

sunsetting in our garden

sunsetting in our garden

Maya, the urban farm cat.

Maya, the urban farm cat.

Lasagne Gardening

December 8, 2008

I avoid digging at all cost.

Takes too much energy and time, not to mention it breaks up healthy soil, exposing the animal and plant life, upsetting the delicate balance.

I have found the easiest way to garden using the lasagne method.

You can use anything that has once lived, straw, manure, cardboard, paper, lawn clippings, chip bark, even clothes made of natural fibres, autumn leaves, fresh garden prunings.

If you are building a garden on top of invasive grass then you will need to create a deep mulch layer and I would be suggesting also using clothes, cardboard or thick paper.

Here is lasagne gardening in action:

This is the creation of our very first garden bed.

We started by thickly mulching the whole yard with chip bark.

Then we edged the area with logs we found on the side of the road.

Step 1

Step 1

Next we put a layer of cardboard, then horse manure, then more cardboard.

our-1st-nodig3

On top of this we put straw, more manure, another layer of cardboard, then finished it off with some old carpet.

completednodig

Oh, and we put a handful of composting worms in to help along the process. A few months later in early spring the first plants went in . For each seedling I dug down through the layers until I reach the original soil. We backfilled with compost and good quality soil. We had a wonderful crop of zuccini and herbs throughout spring and summer.

the-nodig-spring

Ladybug Ladybug

December 3, 2008

Every urban farmer needs good bugs and Labybugs are some of the best bugs to have around.

When we moved into our home there were no bugs – nothing, not even an ant. One of the first things I did was order packets of Good Bug Mix from Green Harvest in Queensland.

The Good Bug Mix contains a wonderful selection of seeds, all of which are plants that encourage good bugs to come and get rid of the bad bugs.

When we planned the layout of our garden we decided to set the second hand picket fence (thank you Trading Post) back from the foot path. I like to create as many rooms as possible in a garden. By setting the fence back we created an east facing garden bed, a climbing frame and an west facing garden bed – so one space became three.

The area set back from the front foot path was allocated as the good bug garden – for a few reasons, firstly it was right next to the pathway and dogs, so I needed non ediable plants to form a barrier.  Secondly, I like the idea of having a good bug garden in clear view (and reach) of the neighbours as I was hoping to use it to educate then in th importance of attracting good bugs to their gardens but also hope that some would help themselves to seeds – or at least I could easily give seeds away to passer bys.

One of our little friends

One of our little friends

A few pictures of our good bugs!

)

busy bugs 🙂

getting the bad guys!

getting the bad guys!

the good bug garden late winter

the good bug garden late winter

Let’s Get Hoppy

December 2, 2008
golden cluster hops in our garden

golden cluster hops in our garden

Hops are a wonderful plant to grow: as they are a bine (not to be confused with a vine), they grow up and up and across and around, and can provide a fantastic summer-time cover.

Like grapes, they are perfect for the patio or summer deck, where the thick foliage provides a cool, natural shade. In winter, the foliage dies back, allowing the sun to shine through.

And of course, for the home-brewer, the flower cones which bud out in late summer/autumn are one of the fundamental ingredients for beer. Hops provides the bitterness and aroma of beer, and also acts as a natural preservative for the malted barley wort. In old times, the bines were also cut and used for basket weaving.

Hops basically need full sun, water and nutrient, and something to climb up. They need a well-drained soil, that is basically acidic – it is the alpha acids that are sought after in the flowers, which provide their distictive flavours.

There are many different strains that have their own distinctive flavours and aromas. Legend has it that all strains are based upon the English Fuggles variety, which grew wild around England. And just like any bine/vine, these guys will run rampant given the right conditions. They could take over your garden, so perhaps they re best kept confined to a pot or some such vessel. I’m not aware that you can buy seed, but they grow extremely well from rhizomes, which are more-or-less easily available via searches online. Most decent Home-brew shops will also be able to point you in the right direction.

We’re baby-sitting a couple of bines for a friend this season: a golden cluster, and a cascade. Cascade are an American variety, and used in beers such as Mountain Goat’s Hightail Ale. It is particularly nice and earthy. I have used Golden Cluster in one of my earliest brews, but I don’t remember how they smelt or tasted (I used them in conjunction with another strain of hops). Both are in large pots.

As you can see from the photo above, the Golden Cluster is just placed on top of a bed we’re developing, and the bine is working its way up the Jade (money) tree. This is not proving to work that well, so I’ll be setting up some lines so they can work their way upwards easier. Once they  reach a certain height, they then like to spread out horizontally. This particular plant I hope to train along towards a north facing window to provide some shade in the heat of summer.

The other plant (Cascade) I have working its way up a trellis I set up out the front porch. Unfortunately, I don’t have the height here, so I I’m going to have to improvise somehow. Its also not copping the full daytime sun, but gets plenty of the morning light as its east-facing.

The ideal place would be a fence/trellis that gets a lot of sun, and obviously well-drained soil. I have heard that they tend to being quite invasive if planted (a bit like bamboo), so it depends on how much you value the rest of your garden. Oh, and did I mention they really like a lot of height…..?

Come winter, after you’ve picked the flower-cones, the foliage drops, and you cut the bines away and use them to make dream-catchers or baskets (etc). These are cut right down to the root, and the plant then lies dormant until the next spring. The dormant period is when you divide rhizomes to give to other home-brewing friends with gardens.