Signs of spring

cabbage-large

Another quiet lazy weekend in the garden. We’ve had a couple of cabbage already, with Matt remarking that you can tell an organic one by all the live caterpillars tucked in the leaves.

Brisbane had it’s yearly Ekka without the usual strong westerly winds. Instead we had a flash of rain on our day off.

One of my red tulips has poked it’s head up. I was expecting the petals to come up closed and then open into their characteristic bowl shape when they have matured. One of the King Edward yellow daffodils is also flowering in the front yard.

We were chatting with our neighbour who unfortunately had their white picket fence spray painted with green graffiti tags. He commented that the days had started to warm up and remarked that we went straight from winter to summer in a week. The clover coming back was a sign of spring for him. Matt uses the leaves returning on the frangipani tree as his guide.

We have picked the unknown citrus that was green and is now going yellow. We’ve decided the only way to finally decide what it is, is to taste it. Will it be a lemon, lime or orange?

Reserve water

heron

Our grass is turning yellow from the lack of rain. Any one know what type of bird this is?

If you remember our last lot of beans had rust on them. Low and be hold our current beans also have rust on them, so they will need to be removed and thrown in the wheelie bin so they don’t reinfect any other crops.

I’m going to instigate a no-spaces rule in the vegetable beds. I’d like to make use of all of our available pots and containers for growing fruit and vegetables to meet our goal.

We have two hoses – an old green short one and a new silver kink-free long one. We tried to use up the last of the water in our tank to flush out any dirt or debris. Not all is lost as we still have mains water. Since the long hose doesn’t reach far enough from the house tap to the beds I have had to heave a plastic 9 litre watering can over.

I went back to trying to fill up a bucket using the short hose attached to the tank, but I couldn’t get a drop out. So Matt attached the long silver hose and trailed it down the slope. He cleverly used gravity to trickle fill up a few buckets. Alternating between two buckets and the watering can and using team work we managed to water everything edible. The soil in all the beds has cooled down, but now the tank is empty.

Tank off

tank-off

July was our worst month so far. We didn’t sow suitable Winter crops early enough. We really need to start seeing some action in the garden or we will fail miserably at our challenge and in as little as a few months it will then become an impossible feat.

As we sat on the grassy hill enjoying some sun and steak sandwiches, we discussed our progress in the garden.

I’m worried the potato crop has failed a second time. It looks like we have lost the first row. Matt declared that he has given up on them this year. He thinks we should have used more soil and compost for hilling them up, rather than nutrient poor sugar cane. He also thinks we have been watering them too much, whereas I think they might have not been watered enough.

Matt also thinks that our soil isn’t good enough yet, as we used compost from a landscaping supplier rather than use the full no-dig option. We agreed that the vegetable beds don’t get enough sun in Winter as they are shaded by the neighbours’ mango trees. And yet too much sun in Summer.

We were starting to consider that the unidentified citrus tree we have might be a lemon, as the fruit are starting to turn yellow. I looked through our plant label album and discovered it was actually a ‘washington navel orange.’ Matt nobly took the blame and said it was his fault for thinking it was a mandarin!

Our grass is starting to brown off and we haven’t had any decent rain in over five weeks. To make matters worse, I accidentally didn’t turn the tank tap off properly. (I have a habit of not putting lids on jars tightly either!) Our tank was half full, but now it is down to the bottom rung.

Watering edible plants

“Every dollar’s worth of fruit and vegetables has needed at least 103 litres of water to mature. Every equivalent dollar’s worth of home grown food uses only 20 litres”.
David Holgrem

We purchased a three thousand litre plastic tank with the assistance of a government grant. It collects rainwater that runs off of our one car colourbond garage.

Fortunately we are allowed to use the rainwater as we choose, and it’s the main source of water for the vegetables and fruit trees. Our tank is situated close to the beds and trees, so we have managed to do without a water pump. Gravity works well until the tank is below a third full, then the pressure seems to drop off and watering takes twice as long. So far the tank has been big enough.

Natural rainfall always gives our plants a big boost in growth.

The Diggers Club has an informative article on “how much water do I need to grow fruit and vegetables? [PDF]”

Tank half full

It hasn’t rained for nearly three weeks now and our tank is probably only half full. I guess that means we could water the vegetables and fruit trees for six weeks without any rain and or using the mains. The pressure has decreased though and it takes longer to water. Still no pump, for some reason it’s just hasn’t been a priority.

I wanted to plant out some bulbs in the front garden. An old work colleague drove past our house and said “is yours the house with overgrown garden?” smirking, of course.  Grrr. We have been concentrating all our efforts on the backyard. The edibles get most of our attention and they are situated close to the tank, which hangs off the back of our garage. So Sunday, I spent a futile hour trying to pull up grass near the public footpath. My shoulder is now aching and I still didn’t get any bulbs in. Fortunately it’s a holiday today and I can rest my mouse-arm, by indulging in more vampire and werewolf stories.

Matt has been battling the grass out the back and slowly making more progress with the mulching. It makes my sinuses all blocked up so I’ve been using any excuse to get out of it. We’ve run out of newspapers so we’re both off the hook today.

On the food producing front the shallots have put up green shoots, but not the garlic. The potatoes are also sprouting leaves. The beetroot has tiny first leaves, but not the carrot as far as we can tell. The beans I planted as seeds are up, and trying to catch up to the ones that were planted as seedlings. The cabbage is looking healthy, although something has been nibbling so I guess another spray is in order.

I’ve finally pulled up the fourth bed. After much heartache, I discovered a splattering of black and white dots underneath the leaves and decided if the plants weren’t going to fruit properly then they weren’t going to become havens for pest colonies. As I threw segments of the vine into the wheelie bin, I discovered little green caterpillars, hairy spiders and yellow ladybirds.

Later as I was reading the zucchini seed packet, I think I discovered the problem. You aren’t supposed to plant zucchini, squash and pumpkin that close to each other as it can cause cross-pollination. I think I planted about six different kinds in the one bed. I’m surprised we didn’t grow a totally new monster species. Oops.

The fourth bed has been battered down by the rain and is now only half full. We’ll need to top it up with more sugar cane mulch and manure, before we can plant anything in there yet.

April was another disappointing month and we didn’t reach our monthly target again. But the chokos have started producing and a few days in things are already starting to look up. Dark clouds are circling above and natural rain always give the vegetables a growth spurt. Just what we need now.

Rain, rain, come again….