Yay! Growing Season Is Finally Here!

With the consistent warm weather of late and a crazy hot week to come, the market garden is finally starting to thrive! Most of the plants have recovered from the freak December frost, however, a good 50% of the first batch of french beans were lost along with a handful of the tomatoes. Not much you can do about freak frosts really… Our on contour garden beds, with mini swales are working a treat. The swales are heavily mulched with all of the weeds that have been pulled up and last seasons spent crops that didn’t go to the chickens or the cows, under all the mulch, feeding the worms and decomposing away. The idea is to build soil in the swales during the growing season and winter. Once the crops are all done, they will be removed and put into the swales and covered with straw mulch, then a cover crop and green manure will be sown in each bed to over winter. The winter here is just too cold for us to grow surplus food for people on a sustainable level, so this year we will concentrate on extra soil fertility and weed management through green manures and cover crops. Just before the new growing season, the green manures and cover crops will be chopped and dropped and the swales will be emptied of their rich, biologically active, worm castings intense soil, which will be placed on the beds, ready for the coming season, where will will start again with the soil building program. I am still hot composting, but am for going the worm farming, choosing to worm farm in the ground instead. Theoretically it should work well, but we can only wait and see:-)

 

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! Thanks to all those who have supported us in our journey throughout the year and we look forward to more fun and games in 2013!

Below is a photo update of the market garden. Last year’s plot is now 2/3 drip irrigated. I am slowly installing the lines as each bed goes in. Still watering direct seed by hand, but once they have established, then the drip lines take over. As funds increase, I will also add a tap to every line, so that the beds can be individually turned on and off so as to minimise water wastage when they are fallow.

Anyway, here’s to another jam packed year of living:-)

The no dig potatoes are coming along well. The purchased seed potatoes are doing much better than the ones saved... May have to just buy them next season to ensure a good crop.

The no dig potatoes are coming along well. The purchased seed potatoes are doing much better than the ones saved… May have to just buy them next season to ensure a good crop.

Market garden corner shot

Under planting of pumpkins with the corn and beans are going well.

Under planting of pumpkins with the corn and beans are going well.

Corn, beans and pumpkins growing together well. Each batch of corn has been staggered. There are currently 4 beds of 100 corn plants, 10 pumpkins and 40 beans in each bed, with another 4 to go. Each bed is planted 2 weeks apart.

Corn, beans and pumpkins growing together well. Each batch of corn has been staggered. There are currently 4 beds of 100 corn plants, 10 pumpkins and 40 beans in each bed, with another 4 to go. Each bed is planted 2 weeks apart.

Going to go a little easy on the radish. They are so easy to grow, prolific and quick to harvest. Have learnt to stagger them instead of feast and famine.

Going to go a little easy on the radish. They are so easy to grow, prolific and quick to harvest. Have learnt to stagger them instead of feast and famine.

The girls have been fenced off into a larger paddock now. The pasture still has some green to it, but is quickly browning off with this dry summer. Fingers crossed should have enough feed until the autumn break...

The girls have been fenced off into a larger paddock now. The pasture still has some green to it, but is quickly browning off with this dry summer. Fingers crossed should have enough feed until the autumn break…

Our brassicas will be planted under netting to keep the cabbage moth out. Working perfectly so far!

Our brassicas will be planted under netting to keep the cabbage moth out. Working perfectly so far!

Lettuce with a middle row of beetroot. This planting pair has worked beautifully!

Lettuce with a middle row of beetroot. This planting pair has worked beautifully!

Zucchini galore! Yellow, stripped and the good old faithful black beauty! They are now growing out of our ears!

Zucchini galore! Yellow, stripped and the good old faithful black beauty! They are now growing out of our ears!

Nothing beats home grown heritage tomatoes!  We have Money Maker (I wish...), Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Romas and Break O'Day. They are coming along well and pruning laterals seems to be producing higher quality fruit this season.

Nothing beats home grown heritage tomatoes! We have Money Maker (I wish…), Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Romas and Break O’Day. They are coming along well and pruning laterals seems to be producing higher quality fruit this season.

Tomatoes underplanted with zucchinis

Tomatoes underplanted with zucchinis

We are leaving this lot to save the seeds. Should get a gazillion seeds from this lot :-)

We are leaving this lot to save the seeds. Should get a gazillion seeds from this lot 🙂

Colourful carrots:-) It is hard keeping the boys off this batch!

Colourful carrots:-) It is hard keeping the boys off this batch!

Ava-Li loves her peas. She just won't leave them alone! So much so that they will not be making it into customer vegie boxes!

Ava-Li loves her peas. She just won’t leave them alone! So much so that they will not be making it into customer vegie boxes!

The smell of these turnips  is amazing! If they taste half as good as they look then we are in for a treat!

The smell of these turnips is amazing! If they taste half as good as they look then we are in for a treat!

Our grafts are going well as is the small batch of tree lucerne I am experimenting with.  Will do another batch and plant everything out in the autumn/winter.

Our grafts are going well as is the small batch of tree lucerne I am experimenting with. Will do another batch and plant everything out in the autumn/winter.

The tiny greenhouse is holding it's own.

The tiny greenhouse is holding it’s own.

This fig cutting will hopefully provide us with heaps of figs in the coming years! It is loving it's home in the tiny greenhouse at the moment.

This fig cutting will hopefully provide us with heaps of figs in the coming years! It is loving it’s home in the tiny greenhouse at the moment.

Purple peas

After a horror start with seedlings (damn slugs) our cucumbers are starting to set fruit!

After a horror start with seedlings (damn slugs) our cucumbers are starting to set fruit!

Potatoes are my favourite veg and their flowers aren't too bad looking either.

Potatoes are my favourite veg and their flowers aren’t too bad looking either.

Potato flower More potato flowers

On Holidays and Time to Catch-up With Farm Work

Although I am on my holidays, there really isn’t any “holiday” here at the farm. I will be making weekly visits to work to check up on everything as well as do our regular deliveries. It was a pretty hectic end to the year, but all the jobs have been completed at work and now it is time to catch-up on work on the farm.

The market garden is coming along well, with potatoes now being harvested. The first batch of potatoes were from seed potatoes saved from last year’s crop. These have not done as well as the bought seed potato and next year I will be a little more stringent on seed saving selection. This being said, the no dig style beds are still producing well and as the bed gets harvested, they will be limed, rock dusted and top dressed with manure ready for another crop. The purchased seeds have gone much better and we should get a pretty good harvest with them.

The greenhouse project is now back on. I should have the frame completed by the end of the week, ready to be clad with polycarbonate panels. This greenhouse won’t be going anywhere! It is securely anchored into the ground and the frame itself weighs a ton – almost literally! The frame is made from blackwood, harvested from a friends place about 10kms away. This is a beautiful timber, normally used for furniture. This will be the best looking greenhouse around 🙂

The frame is almost complete. Made from blackwood, this is going to be the best looking greenhouse around!

Update

It has been a little while since my last blog entry. Things have been pretty busy, both here on the farm but also at work. This time of year we are busy marking, writing reports, more marking and more reports… It is part of the job, and I must say the least enjoyable. That being said, it is a small price to pay really when you love your job:-)

So firstly an update on the farm:

The orchard is coming along very well this season. I count over 20 apples that, if the rabbits or birds don’t get them, will develop well and should be ripe for the picking from January onwards. Considering they were almost all ring barked last summer by rabbits and they have only been in for 18mths, I don’t think I have done too badly with keeping them going. Our hope is that they will continue to grow this season without any pruning, and then next season, each of the trees should have a handful of fruit, with a good crop in season 2014/2015.

The market garden is starting to really thrive. In our local climate, we are about 2-3 weeks behind Melbourne’s growing season, however in our makeshift little greenhouse, we managed to get things started and planted nice and early. Our mini-swales on contour are working well and the compost I made and spread made a huge difference to growth rates. We did get a late frost which burnt some of the zucchini leaves. They have made a comeback, however, I am sure they would be much more advanced if not for the frost. All good though as zucchini goes crazy when producing! All our other veggies are coming along well, with new additions to our stock this year, violet cauliflower and chilli, as well as a mixed variety of colourful carrots.

New mains irrigation lines have gone in in preparation for next seasons extension and over half of the market garden is now irrigated, with the rest to be completed as funds come in. The no-dig style potatoes are going well, of all of the seed potatoes, I would estimate that 70% of last season potatoes have sprouted and about 90% of new season seed potatoes taking. There are still more to go in and as work finishes up, I should get more time and energy to finish planting. I have not irrigated them at all however they are well wet enough and I will continue monitoring as the summer approaches.

Our first batch of chicks were hatched two weeks ago and they are all going well. We aim to add another 20 girls to the laying flock and process any excess we have. With our consumption rate, we will need 30 chickens in the freezer for the year. This will add to the 2 lambs and cows we will process through the year. Plenty of protein for a growing family, plus some:-)

So the question is, will we be ready for a farmers market stall in January/February??? The way things are growing… probably not, but will give it a good crack:-)

At work work, things are also pushing along. I have just got formal approval for teaching Permaculture at the school to year 9 and 10’s in 2013 and 2014. We will have a trial year in 2013, but I am sure that in 2014 and beyond, we will be teaching a full Permaculture Design Certificate! Also, work on the swale design orchard has started. With a fall of 1/10, no irrigation and horrible, horrible clay to work with, it will be interesting how well the design works. Last night and this morning we had a decent dump of rain, about 25-30mm of rain in 12 hours. The bottom 3 “speed humps” have been rough cut in and it was amazing to see how in a very raw state, the speed humps slowed the water down and collected so much silt. As the remaining swale/ponds are shaped, this should reduce significantly the erosion that occurs on the site as well as allow for a huge collection of water to infiltrate into the berm.

Things are moving along, plenty of work to do both on farm and at work and as we come to the end of the year, rather than slowing down, it is time to speed up!

Heading in the right direction!

Below is a bit of a photo update of where we are at. With me having time off from work, it has given me plenty of time to… well… work! I have my man bag of gardening goodies packed to take to “work” with all the most used hand tools in there. Hayley called me a “metro-farmer”, very cheeky indeed! It is very cute actually as I am taking to the habit of saying bye to the family when I go to work and then say “see you all at morning tea”. Tano-Li decided he wanted to go to work with me today, so my little apprentice helped wire up the tomatoes 🙂 Anyway enjoy the photos.

This is an old 'Crumpler' work bag I had that we no longer use. I have now turned it back into my "work bag".

My little padawan learner helping plant beetroot seeds.

We have 9 zucchini plants in and 8 button squash seedlings powering away to the right (not in picture sorry). Hayley seems to think this is enough for us and small sales.... I'm thinking we need double this.... time will tell.

Although they are looking really sorry for themselves, the potatoes I put in months ago have been giving us a steady supply of beautiful potatoes for some time now! It is a bit weedy and the leaves are all dying back but the potatoes taste magnificent!

These guys are literally everywhere! They are on the sunflowers, corn, the strawberries, lettuce, pak choy, zucchini, tomatoes, capsicums etc.... Absolutely sensational to see!

These corn plants were not to most successful I have ever grown, somewhat embarrassing actually. They are “Golden Bantams” and were the second batch I tried. These seeds germinated fine, but have grown slowly, my first batch of “Balanese” corn had a rate of 4 out of 100 seeds germinating… I have direct sown another area which will not cross pollinate and they are already showing themselves after 4 days! Much better!

We have a whole bunch of baling twine laying around and I have wondered what to do with them, so I used them to make a growing vine for the beans as they come up. A little late, but should still get a good harvest by autumn.

This is the whole row of the baling twine growing vines.

Here you can see Hayley's chamomile plants that help attract the bees and also the dried flowers make great chamomile tea. You can also see the tomato trellising inspired by Milkwood OMG. Not as ellaborate as Milkwood, but it will definitely do the job.

So much still to do, as you can see from the last photo, there is a large empty patch of dirt that I still need to prepare and plant up. As the potatoes are being harvested that also leaves an area that requires turning over, manuring with cow and alpaca goodness and then planted with a green manure, ready for winter crops. Call me mad, but this is living!