May 21, 2015

The Garden in May

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A visual record this month.

I wanted to start focusing on individual plants rather than the garden as a whole.

In the montage mix, note the Jerusalem Artichoke harvest from one plant! And in part shade!


The Prickly Pear has taken off . Maybe that's not a surprize in Queensland --given the past infestation -- but its rootedness ensures I can look forward to nopales.--especially  for salsa.
Achocha slipper fruits
And I'm so pleased that after a year of so much frustration with cucumbers my Achocha plantings have decided to settle and grow. They're also called Bolivian Cucumber and produce these dainty slipper like fruits that taste just like cucumbers. The more you pick the more they produce.

...and my Samphire survives. I haven't grown it from seed with any success but cuttings are a maybe.I have nibbled and can vouch for the taste and texture...So I'm keen to persevere.

The Katuk does well. A most generous plant. The leaves in Autumn have a deeper, less sweet,  flavour but there are more of them.

In the air I'm being over run with chokoes and, not far behind, Butternut Pumpkins/Squash. Beans coming on, especially my favorite -- the flat Romano bean. Plenty of greens in da spinach mode: Egyptian, Okinawan, Brazilian...and the Vietnamese Pepper/Betel Leaf.
I had this dish when I was recently in Melbourne -- Bo la lot – Betel Leaf Wrapped Minced Beef(or Lamb) -- and it was stunning.
Great feed to be had from my Sunchokes -- Jerusalem Artichokes -- and in the starch veg options, I've been planting out chitted seed potatoes.Spuds do well in Beachmere's sandy soils.

Everything would be just Jim Dandy if it wasn't for the fact that Beachmere's resident Bush Turkey has discovered my garden and arrogantly digs it up during the daylight hours.


As a matter of update interest. I created a new bed yesterday and tried to invest it with what I've learned veg gardening in Beachmere's sand. So it was an experiment in trying to synthesize my preferred  DIY for gardening in Beachmere from the getgo:

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METHOD:
Since it was on verdant sand I thought I'd really get creative so I dug a trench the length of the bed and laid down two old tree trunks -- approx 8 inches/20cm diameter-- on the bottom, along its length.
I then dropped atop of this a thick layer of cow manure, before filling the hole in.
I then built up the bed and created 2 knolls with sand ("soil") I mined from the chook pen.
The chook pen is my excavation site.
I then inserted a bottom-sealed terracotta pot inside each knoll and covered the bed thickly with grass clippings and any to-hand mulches. (see DIY: irrigating with terracotta pots.)
Two hours work. Instant garden bed.
I then planted the knolls out with seed potatoes and sowed the gully with salad and herb seeds and seedlings.
COMMENT:

I'm trying to synthesize my experience of sand gardening and utilize my knowledge of terracotta pot irrigation(see below).

Chooks and chook poo:
After attempting various methods to harness the fertilization quotient of my chooks I decided that the best approach was simply to steal the earth under their chicken feet.  I'm assuming it has some soil qualities -- what with living  beneath chook behinds for a few years -- so I can grow plants in it.
I've built up a few beds with this sand I've excavated from my chook pen. In my system -- all the kitchen scraps, garden weeds, uprooted old vegetable plants -- indeed anything edible -- go to the chooks.
I never compost. Too much work.
Two chickens can eat a lot. While they are ravenous eating machines it isn't so easy chasing their manure which I'd have to handle carefully anyway for fear of burning my plants. So I keep moving the chook house (a wire A frame, covered in tarpaulin) around the pen...and just harvest the top layer of sandy soil.
The new bed required 4 wheelbarrow loads.
Tree trunks:
I collect tree offcuts whenever I can. While I use them in the garden for edging and as mini microclimates, I have to keep moving them about often so that I don't get over-infested with termites. I've also started burning aged timber like this to create wood ash to spread on the garden beds.
I also bury these logs as a core skeleton for garden beds. This is a Hugelkultur modification which I hope acts as a sponge to hold water near the surface despite all the sand.They serve as the textured 'bottom' of the garden bed.
Manure:
After years of experimenting with manure I worked out that the best way to use it was to bury it. You can either do this vertically  -- by Honey Holing/Fertility Sponging -- or you can adapt the method used by 19th Century intensive French market gardening -- La Culture Maraîchère -- and bury it in trenches.
So that's  what I've done.
My garden bed sits on a river of poo and burying it this way ensures I don't waste the resource.
Potting up:
Like dressing a Xmas tree, inserting a bottom sealed terracotta pot like a volcano flu completes the design.I usually fill these only when the plants indicate they may need more watering. While the pots irrigate the knoll, the valley depression between the 2 knolls serves as a sort of swale which I'll plant out with garden greens and other annuals.
Dynamic:
As the manures compost the surface contour of the bed will drop. And later as the tree trunks rot, the ground level will fall further. In response I can top up the sand cover or simply deepen the terracotta pots.
My assumption -- my working hypothesis -- is that the biota of the soil will do my work for me. I've found that it's the organisms in the soil who'll do the spreading and converting for you. They do a much better job of mixing soil and sand than I could ever manage by hand.
By continuing adding mulch to the soil surface as it breaks down you get a sort of fertilizing sandwich effect  from above and from below.
 I've sifted sand and dried manure 1:1 before, and it's hard work.
Any plants I reckon can work out their own lifestyle. The roots can go where they please or not please. If the manure layer is too 'hot' they'll keep their distance -- but the French La Culture Maraîchère   worked wonderfully without the spreading of manures or of composting them.
Also the layer of tree trunk and manures will serve as a water sponge that should have pooling 'wicking' effects.
Experiment:

Once fully planted out I get to see if the whole shebang works....
At stake are all my years gardening on sand and whatever I may have learnt en route.

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