Daisy - Dawdling towards Delicious

Daisy

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I'll give the journal thing a go. I am a very learn-as-I-go type person so it might be good to track what I have done so that I don't forget! Sometimes I do things in a particular way for a reason I no longer remember... maybe this will help that and I can pick up some new skills along the way.

My aim is to grow my own food. I can not be completely self sufficient, but I'll get as close as I can. My first goal is some tasty, fresh food, year round, for myself and my pet house rabbits.

I moved to my little cottage in a tiny town 3 years ago, almost to the day. I was very unwell when I moved and did not tend the garden in the way the previous owner did. It attracted a lot of criticism from neighbours and I have pretty much been dismissed as a "brain dead hippy" for my refusal to use round up (glyphosate). The soil was dead. The existing cottage garden, while pretty, was sustained purely on chemical fertiliser and weed killers (like the farms in the area). There was a small existing orchard with apple trees, a pear tree, nashi pear tree, lime, mandarin, lemon and an orange hybrid. These look to be around 10 years old. The soil surrounding the trees is a black sun suck, littered with asbestos and broken glass. Remnants of the previous home site (this whole area was an aboriginal reserve in a time when they were banned from traditional lands).

Chickens were my first mistake. Any work I did was promptly ripped to pieces and it didn't take long for me to develop headaches from eating so many eggs. The first year here I saw more snails than I thought possible to live in one place. No joke, I stepped on over 500 in one night and that barely put a dent in the population. The chickens were useless when it came to snails. I learned they would rip leaves to pieces so all of my leaf litter was the chickens new playground. It was a delight to watch them. The poo was fantastic and it did not take long for the soil to start to come back to "life". Bugs started moving in, earthworms bigger than I have ever seen in my life, lizards, then came the native birds. I was pretty stoked to see such a variety. I would not be surprised if there are creatures in my garden not yet known to science. I live on the edge of one of the bio-diverse "hot spots" and while there has been a lot of damage done to the region by agriculture, there is a lot of healing as well. My home is right next to a major highway and stock route so there have been a fair few hitchhikers in terms of weeds and pests. I am also very near to a grain terminal which brings a lot of mice, and snakes. I didn't consider those things when choosing the home, the cottage just hooked me. I don't regret my decision but it has not been easy to adjust to life here.

I now have (far too many) pekin ducks, who have done a wonderful job of controlling the snails and fertilising the garden. And with the weather cooling off, more outdoor time available to spend in the garden. I have had enough time to observe what plants come up at what time and which weeds indicate what. The garden is packed with bulbs and other flowers that only come up over winter. I have also been quite gleeful with how well I have controlled marshmallow root, as other people spray theirs and it just gets worse each year where as mine are reducing, although I will never get rid of it with the amount of weed seeds blowing around the area. I do enjoy weeding when the stuff is young enough. I am just glad to have some cover over the black sand as it really does increase the heat. Rabbit litter and hay has been brilliant as mulch.

I had some early success with growing zucchini and pumpkin. Anything I put in pots seems to do ok, while things that go in the ground are far more susceptible to pests (wild rabbits, snails, earwigs and slater bugs are my biggest issue). Pak choy, kale and rocket does well here, the bugs don't like them much. Beans and peas are perfect just in the ground. I want to increase my range of herbs because the bunnies love them and fresh herbs sell for high prices if I ever have the need to do that down the track. The rosemary was well established before I moved in and I have added oregano, parsley and mint (in pots). I was not keen on the taste of the kale or rocket and would like to learn more about seed species - a completely new topic to me and one that might take some work to get my head around.

As I am in Australia, the climate is extremely hot and dry during summer, so I am very attracted to hydro and aqua ponics. To my dismay this is quite expensive to set up so I haven't got there yet but am edging closer. Learning as much as I can along the way. I have a pond, but I think it might be better to get a kit initially until I understand what I am doing. I learn from experience and not so well from videos.

So here I go, it is time to get to real work in the garden now that the soil is better and winter rain is near. Hoping Spring will bring success this year!
 

Britesea

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sounds like you're off to a great start!

My favorite kale is Lacinato. I especially like to crisp up some bacon, remove the bacon and add shredded kale to the bacon fat, then add a splash of chicken broth and cook until tender, then sprinkle the crispy bacon top and serve.
 

tortoise

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I'm not a big fan of kale, except as "baby" kale. I do like Swiss Chard, which is nearly as prolific but sweet and more tender. Chard doesn't go bitter in hot temperatures and it won't bolt in hot weather either. I like to get "rhubarb" or "vulcan" variety which are reds, because that way I can tell them apart from weeds when they're small. When small they look just like a common weed here called lambs'quarters.

The forum members from Texas, USA might be able to help too. Australia is USDA zones 7b - 11. :eek: I can't really imagine. I've been to zone 11, but in the cold season - and it was still hot!
 

Britesea

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Chard is great. When we lived in CA (San Jose), we had a chard plant that was at least 4 years old when we moved. It was a monster- at least 4 feet tall. Even the aphids that covered it every fall couldn't slow it down. Up here in the mountains, most of it is annual, but I did notice one survived the winter this year, and is already putting out leaves.

Another good one that we are very fond of is collards. I grew it for the first time last year and even DS, who dislikes most greens except baby spinach (and only raw) liked them (cooked).

I ran across a new-to-me item in one of my seed catalogs called "kalette" have you heard of this? It grows like brussels sprouts- but its little tiny baby kales. I'm intrigued.
 

tortoise

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I saw the kalette! It's a new hybrid, I think it was just introduced last year? Tempting, isn't it?! If I was growing for market I'd definitely pick it!
 

Daisy

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The forum members from Texas, USA might be able to help too. Australia is USDA zones 7b - 11. :eek: I can't really imagine. I've been to zone 11, but in the cold season - and it was still hot!
Thanks for that info :) Yeah, it is VERY hot and dry in summer, and winter is almost equivalent to an English summer. From reading the forum, it seems my summer is about as productive as the dead of winter under snowfall. Sometimes it feels like I am watering the desert with a hose haha. It does cool down much nicer than the city over night here, but it is more dry.

I am going to have a go at growing out of season, but I guess it is the sunlight more than the temp that matters for the flowering kinds.


ran across a new-to-me item in one of my seed catalogs called "kalette" have you heard of this? It grows like brussels sprouts- but its little tiny baby kales. I'm intrigued.
Ohh! I am intrigued too! Seeds are hard to come by here, more so now, but I appreciate having some names to look out for. It makes it much easier to look for a particular name. Kalette sounds like the perfect sort of thing for me. I prefer the baby kale as well, as do the bunnies. It can get a bit tough as it ages. Thanks :)

I really like "broccolini" and it grows easy here too, although I don't have any seeds this year and its time to plant. I could probably eat the wild radish or canola that blows into the yard in the same way haha.

The silverbeet is a kind of chard I think? I had a HUGE plant growing out near the orchard and I only pulled it out after the second year because its roots would have been starting to compete with the nashi tree! The leaves were still great in the second year of growth. I did get some seeds off that one but I think it is still a bit warm to plant them out again. I will not be surprised if it comes up by itself once the rain starts. My neighbour usually puts some rainbow chard in but I am not sure if he will do a garden this year as most of it went to the chooks at the pub last year, I had enough myself and my chooks were sick of it!
 

tortoise

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The silverbeet is a kind of chard I think?
Accodring to Google, it's the same plant as Swiss Chard that we're talking about. I puree and freeze leafy greens and use them in smoothies. I want to try pressure canning it too.
 

baymule

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Yes, it gets HOT in Texas. That is why we have air conditioning. I'm old enough to remember life with no air conditioning, only fans. Oh the magic of a attic fan that sucked in the air through the up raised windows!
 

Daisy

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I'd die without air con here in the summer. My greatest fear is the thing breaking down. Getting repair men out here is a nightmare, and thats without the cost of it!

I had little success with growing out of season, anything that did grow from seed is still tiny - but it does mean it is ready to plant out for the spring season. I lost a few, but some have survived. I put some seeds around but not much luck yet. My watermelon just poked its head out of the soil today.

My neighbour grew the chard as usual and once again we both have more than we care to eat. I gifted him some capsicum plants for summer so he can grow those for me next :p They would be useful for the pub and other neighbours too if all of those plants survive. I only kept 3 for me as I am very good at killing baby plants.


So today I am trying an idea that @wyoDreamer suggested to me in another thread. I didn't have exactly what was needed from what I read online, so I improvised. This is probably an expensive way of doing it, if it was all brought from the shop, but I had this stuff on hand and I needed to get those seedlings out. I had accidentally damaged a few so if they fail, it could be one of many reasons. My neighbour says his lettuce grows like a weed, so I want to give that a go (again).

I have these tubs and this hose line sprinkler. It has holes all along it, attach the hose and it pours the water out of the holes. This really has not worked well as a sprinkler system for me, so I thought I would try it this way. If it doesn't work, no loss.

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Hopefully I have arranged the hard plastic in a way that protects the sprinkle hose and doesn't block it off. Some of the sprinkler is above the soil so it waters above and below at the same time (more so below). I tested it and it does fill both tubs, but I have a pipe in the green one if it does get blocked and I need to water separately down the track.

I didn't have weed mat or anything to use over the top of the reservoir, so I just kept the potting mix bags intact, besides some holes poked along the bottom where I have planted the seedlings for the roots to go through. At the moment there is gaps on either side. I haven't put a drain in the tub as I would like to see how the water evaporates. I figure it could also work as a bug trap? I will put drainage holes in if need be, but would rather not cut into the tub if I don't need to.

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I have had to fence it off from the ducks as they love to stick their noses under seedlings and were very interested in my work. Here they are, pretending not to be interested.
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It is all a bit messy, because I run out of energy very fast and need to get as much done as fast as possible with the energy I have before my body gives out. I am notorious for planting too many things in too small a space, but I dont expect all of these to survive as I was too rough and damaged some. As I get more experienced, I expect this stuff to become neater. For now, I just have to get the job done.
 

flowerbug

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things i can think of are wind breaks, partial shade cloth and mulching to keep the moisture in the soil during the heat.

chop and drop crops also can be used to provide mulch and shade during the hotter season and can be trimmed back during the cooler season to let more light in for the crops.

permaculture sites usually have these kinds of things explained well in vids/text for arid/semi-arid climates so there is much out there read and ponder. :)
 

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