Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Week 15 - New Garden Bed Part 2

After a trip to the garden centre, I have edged the garden using treated pine half round edging. I used five of these to give me a garden 3m x 1m against the fence.

Two bags of garden soil, two bags of cow manure and 1 bag of chicken manure we have a garden ready to be planted out with some new seedlings.

I have some spring onion and bok choy to grow in the new bed. I will be getting some iceberg lettuce in the next week.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Week 15 - New Garden Bed

The new garden bed has been started. Today was the first fine day we have had since Christmas Day and I decided that while the ground was nice and soft from all the rain, I would start clearing the area where the new garden was going to be. This area has basically been somewhere I have been throwing grass clippings and leaves for around 5 years.

Much of this waste material has decomposed and only the top 15cms was still grass clippings and leaves. I moved this pile further down the slope and started to attack the ground with the mattock.

A mesh of fine roots was all the way through the ground and these needs to be broken up and the soil loosened. The roots were thrown into the green garden waste bin. Three quarters of a bin later most of the roots. twigs and grass had been removed from the   garden bed.

The next step in preparing the garden is to determine what I will use for a border around the bed. I will be off to the local garden centre to get some supplies.

The following images show the existing garden.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Week 15 - Post Christmas Update

Well it has been 15 weeks since I started my vegetable garden and the family is starting to enjoy the fruits of my labour. This seems to be a good time to reflect on some of the things I have learnt over the last 15 weeks.

I started this garden using the knowledge I had gained from both studying agriculture at school and watching my mother tend to our garden on the farm at Lisarow. My mother grew almost all of the vegetables we ate as children and had a vegetable garden that occupied around 70 square metres.

My garden is only around 6 square metres and obviously we do not derive all our produce from it but we use it to supplement what we buy. For this reason I selected vegetables that we use regularly but do not store well.

The vegetables we now have in the garden are:

  • Tomatos
  • Lettuce
  • Capsicum
  • Squash (Mixed Varieties)
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet Corn
  • Strawberries
  • Mint
Now for the lessons learnt.

  1. Squash and Cucumber plants require a great deal of space. They should also be spaced out at least 70cm to allow space for the plants to grow. Next year I plan on creating a new garden bed on the other side of the backyard to grow these type of plants. This will allow me to grow more vegetables in the existing bed. 
  2. Tomato plants can grow to up to 1 metre in height. When I first planted out the garden I planted a row of sweet corn behind the other plants. In most cases this was OK, but the three sweet corn plants that were planted behind the tomato plants were completely overshadowed within 6 weeks of planting and have only grown half as high as the other corn plants. 
  3. Sweet Corn plants should be planted in a block (3 by 3 plants) to aid in the pollination of the plants. It also will ensure that the plants are not overshadowed by other plants.

I am sure there are more lessons learnt I will expand on these over the next couple of posts. I will also document the creation of the next garden bed on the northern side of the backyard.

Keep on gardening!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Week 12 - Harvest Photo

Midway through Week 12, I have harvested a number of the squash that were on the vine.

The squash here are: Yellow Squash, Yellow Button Squash and Autumn Cup Squash.

All were as a result of hand pollination. When left to the bees and insects I have not had much success and most of the squash fruit withers on the vine.
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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Week 12 - Harvesting and Growing Continues

The harvesting of produce continues, the various lettuce varieties have been a great addition to lunchtime wraps and sandwiches.

The squash fruits have been slowly getting larger and the hand pollination appears to have been reasonably successful as the plants are producing quite a few new fruits.

The tomato plant continues to produce flowers and hopefully this signifies a good crop. It will need to be re-staked again next week as it has outgrown the stakes I put in a couple of weeks ago.

The capsicum plants look like they are beginning to flower. I will be watching these over the next couple of weeks as I have not grown these previously and am interested to see the flowering and fruiting process.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week 10 - First Harvest

In the next week I am hoping that we will be harvesting the first of the fruit and vegetables from the garden. The photo on the left shows the squash which will probably be ready to eat shortly. There are also more female flowers blossoming which I am trying to pollinate. These should start to fruit in a couple of weeks.

The other thing that is ready to pick is a single strawberry. This photo shows the strawberry. One or two days and this should be ready to eat.

The photo below shows the current garden and plant growth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Week 9 - Comparison of Growth

The image above shows the amount of growth in just 20 days of growing time. The image on the left was taken on the 24th October 2009. The image on the right was taken on the 14th November 2009.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Week 9 - Hand Pollination

Lots of rain over the last two weeks, which has resulted in more plant growth. The squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries are all starting to flower.

I was given some advice regarding the pollination of the squash flowers. For the fruit to appear the female flowers need to be pollinated. It is possible to let nature take its course and let insects perform the pollination but this can be a little hit and miss due to the short time the flowers are blooming.

This article describes the process of hand pollination and includes pictures to show the differences between the male and female flowers.

Other work performed this weekend was to fertilize the  bed using a seaweed fertilizer and replenish the snail baits as they deteriorate after rain. The baits are required as the number of snails has increased dramatically since we have had so much rain.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week 7 - Lots of Growth

During the last week we got over 100mm of rain. Including about 20mm of rain in about 15min on last Sunday.

This meant that we have had a great deal of plant growth over the last week. The tomato plants have almost doubled in size in 7 days.

The lettuce have grown quite a lot and hopefully in a couple of weeks we will be harvesting some lettuce.

The squash plants have thrived and are now starting to produce prolific shoots and leaves. They are very healthy plants and I am expecting to get a good crop of squash.

The strawberry plants have started to flower and to protect the fruits from birds I created a wire mesh screen to place over the plants.

The final work done this weekend was to put some snail baits down in the garden bed and re-mulch the beds where the mulch was washed out during the torrential downpour last Sunday. I also sprayed the leafy vegetables with pyrethrum spray to protect them from pests.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Week 6 - Extending the Garden Bed

This weekend I spent some time and extended the garden bed to allow me to plant some more seedlings. The garden bed had previously had been a flower bed but had been let go. After cleaning up all the grass and leaves I used a mattock to break up the heavily compacted soil.

Once the soil was broken up and the larger clumps removed, I added cow manure, chicken manure and some slow release fertiliser. I mixed the soil thoroughly and planted seedlings purchased from a local garden centre.

My experiences with growing my own seedlings were varied and the lettuce and tomato plants grown from seeds do not seem to be maturing and I am going to supplement the seed grown plants with seedlings.

This week I planted the following new plants:
  • Tomatoes (2 plants)
  • Lettuce (cos, butter)
  • Capsicum (6 plants)
  • Sweet Corn (7 plants)
  • Strawberries (2 plants)
Once the seedlings were planted I watered them thoroughly and mulched using sugarcane mulch. This should prevent them from drying out as quickly.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Week 5 - Mulching

During the last week, we had some fairly substantial winds and I noticed that the seedlings planted into the bed had started to dry out. On the Friday night I gave both the bed and the seedling tray a water with diluted sea-weed fertiliser solution.

On Saturday morning I weeded the garden bed and placed some straw mulch around the plants. This should prevent the soil from drying out so much in the wind.

Next week, I will be planting the tomatoes and lettuce out into the garden bed.
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

End of Month 1 - First Seedlings Planted

It is the end of the first month since I started the garden. The seedlings grown in the seed planter were reasonably successful and it was time to get the larger seedlings (squash and cucumber) into the garden bed.

After a week of cold and wet weather, the weather on Sunday morning was clear enough that I could spend some time planting seedlings.

There were a small number of weeds in the garden bed that required removal and once this was done I worked out the required spacing and planted out the squash and cucumber seedlings.

It was at this point that I realised that the space was small and that if I planted the seedlings at the recommended spacing I would not be able to fit much in this bed.

I made the decision to plant them closer together with the idea that I would thin them out to the strongest growing plants in a couple of weeks.

The tomato and lettuce seedlings I left in the seed planter. They need a couple more weeks prior to planting in the bed.

The final step was to water the bed with a diluted mixture of seaweed fertiliser. Shortly after completing this the rain came back.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day Twelve - Seedlings and Garden Bed

Due to unforeseen circumstances, a couple of days after planting the seeds into the planter, I needed to go away for 10 days. I gave the seeds a good watering prior to leaving and hoped for the best. To my surprise the seeds germinated and the seedlings survived both the warm spring days and the freaky duststorm that the Central Coast got on the 23rd September 2009. In the first and second photos are the seedlings that germinated. The only seedlings not to germinate were the Capsicum.

I have also included a photo of the garden bed where these seedlings will be planted in 3-4 weeks.

Edit: new photos of the Sydney duststorm
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day One - Growing Our Own Vegies

Over the past 4 weeks, I have been preparing a little used raised garden bed to allow it to be used as a vegetable garden. Previously it was the location of a large hibiscus tree and weeds and grass.

Two weekends ago I removed the hibiscus tree and cleaned up all the grass. I also loosened the compacted soil with a mattock and tried to break up the larger clumps of soil and removed any further weeds and leaves.

This weekend I bought two bags of cow manure and one of chicken manure. I mixed these into the existing soil to prepare the bed for planting.

To give my first batch of plants the best possible start and let the bed settle in I planted a batch of seeds in a seed planter.

I have chosen the following plants as they are foods we eat on a regular basis:
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Lebanese Cucumber
  • Lettuce (various varieties)
  • Capsicum
Over the next few weeks I will post updates on how the plants are progressing. I will also include some photos of the bed and the seed planter.