Adding Mulch To Save Plants Through The Summer

We had a really hot spell here in South Australia a few weeks ago. It almost seems like a bad dream now, because we’ve had perfect spring weather for the past three weeks or so. But when we were suffering through the 40 degrees C + for a few days and before that a week of high 30′s it seemed like summer was here and was going to be relentless – even though it was still spring!

Anyway, it reminded me that I had not got any mulch down around my plants that had managed to survive the harsh winds and rabbits. My plants were suffering (just as I was) in that consuming heat.

So in the cool of the evening I got to mulching my herbs. I like to use pea-straw for my mulch. I make sure it’s really wet before I mound it around the plants. I soak it in an old baby bath and then when the water has really got it in, I place it about 8 to 10cm thick – that’s about 3 or 4 inches for those who use imperial.

That way I know the plants are not only benefiting from less soil erosion and moisture evaporation, but they’re also getting a good drink when I first apply it.

And I also use the pea-straw mulch for other things in the garden. For example, I have a gorgeous stag horn that I add a couple of generous handfuls to each summer. It prevents the stag heart from drying out on really hot days. I use it in a few of my potted plants too. Pots can dry out really quickly in summer, so it’s a great application. You just have to remember to keep the  base of the plant clear of the mulch, or it can rot.

Another benefit of using mulch is that it gives your plants a little supplementary food as it breaks down.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

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Rabbits Eating My Vegetables

Right, so I’ve got very little water, a very windy location… but guess what? Yes, another problem. RABBITS! They seem to be getting up in numbers again here in South Australia. Not that I had really noticed them much living in a town, although we do see them running across the road (and some as road kill).

But at the farm… well, they’re just everywhere. Move a bit of tin on the ground, a rabbit runs out. Walk a little at dusk, a rabbit or even two run past. And their presence is obvious in the garden. Through winter I planted several rows of red onions. ONIONS I tell you! All (over time) nibbled down to the ground. Who would have thought rabbits would take a liking to onions?

Not just the onions. I tried leeks too – all eaten. They ate my wild strawberries right down to the ground. They’re not that keen on herbs, so I might be OK with them (although they had a good chew on the flat-leaf parsley). And they didn’t go for the broad beans. But you can’t live on herbs and broad beans, can you?

I tell you though, I don’t mind a bit of onion with my rabbit stew! So they better watch out! This means WAR! I’m pretty sure it’s rabbit season here all the time. Don’t know how I’m going to catch ‘em yet, but I’ll come up with something – and my vegetarian days are over (at least for the time being).

So there you have it – these are the main challenges that I have with my organic food garden here at the farm. None are going to stop me growing our own food plants on the farm in the end. Each challenge will be addressed in turn and we’ll go from there.

I can already see a gorgous and productive garden (in my mind), and I believe that if I can see it in my mind, I can create it in my world. I hope you can overcome any obstacles you might have in creating your own gorgeous and productive organic garden. If you need a little help, take a look at my Organic Food Gardening Beginner’s Manual.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

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Organic Gardening In A Windy Location

Growing veggies in quite an open location has it’s own complication. My new organic veggie garden is fairly exposed and our location has pretty strong winds on a regular basis – great for our future wind turbine, but really bad for growing vegetables.

farm

I think I’ll probably end up building a walled in garden area, but in the mean time I’ll be planting a lot of trees and understory plants to allow the wind to pass through more gently before it reaches the house and garden areas. I’ve also been looking at a product that is woven plastic and is used over frames. It allow wind, rain and sun to permeate, but protects at the same time.

When it’s really windy the wind burns the leaves of plants. And worse than that – in summer anyway – is that the wind dries out the soil, which compounds the watering issue. Of course, using a good thick mulch pretty much prevents the drying out problem, but there’s still the burning of the leaves.

You wouldn’t think so, but even low growing plants suffer from hot summer winds, so even they need protection. The taller plants take the brunt of the drying winds though, so I’m going to have to put a lot of thought into planning where trees, shrubs, flower and vegetables beds are going to be best placed. The more tender the plant, the more protection they’ll need.

More on another problem :-( next post.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

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Getting Water To My Organic Garden

OK, so what are these problems that I’m talking about with my new organic garden? The first and main problem is that we don’t have mains water. We’re relying on rain water alone.

This is our first growing season on the farm and we haven’t got any water system in place yet. The farm has been abandoned for probably 30 or 40 years, but they must have survived with the water system they had. There are two main unground water storage tanks, one that uses a large shed for water collection and the other uses the house. Both tanks hold about 45,000 litres (about 10,000 gallons) each.

We cleaned out and re-roofed the shed tank and it has been collecting rain water for part of the winter. We didn’t finish cleaning out the other tank before the winter rains, so it’s filled up with fairly yucky water now, which we’ll have to pump out, clean out and re-roof this summer.

rain water tank

So we have some water in this tank, but haven’t got a system to get it out of the tank and onto the garden…yet! Of course having no mains power adds an element of difficulty. But hubby has added a connection to my car battery which allows me to run an inverter (240Volts) so that I can plug in a pump or whatever other appliance we need.

By next winter we’ll have the other underground tank restored and by the next growing season I’ll have irrigation set up for all my veggie plots. Plus we’ll probably have 3 or 4 above ground tanks that will collect rain water from other out-buildings on the property.

I’m really sad that I won’t have much growing for some time….  I just love having my hands in the soil, but it’s really disheartening to see your much loved plants start to grow and then get wiped out by a few days of extremely hot weather. So I’ve made the hard decision to not grow veggies this summer. (sniff!!!)

But I will still be posting with tips and chatting about how the farm’s going. Next post I’ll talk about some other issues with my new “garden”.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

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Growing Organic Herbs On The Farm

farm herbs OK… it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted on the blog…  really sorry, but so much has happened since March!!!

We’ve bought a small farm in South Australia, just on the outskirts of the Barossa Valley. It’s 111 acres, though about 100 acres of it is share farmed.

We got it for a great price, but the drawback is that there’s no mains water or power. We’re going to have to get quite creative to give this old homestead back it’s life.

The photo to the left is a small section of garden I’ve started on. I’ve just planted herbs as they’re the toughest plants around. Though I’m not sure if even they will survive given our sudden and long burst of very hot (spring) weather we’re getting here.

This week the temperature is all over 35 degrees C (95F) with a bunch of days in a row of 39 degrees C (102F). Bucketing water in this heat is a real strain. So it seems summer has hit us early – very little spring. Our seasons seem to have been going directly into the extreme weather without much in the way of autumn or spring these past few years.

There are also quite a few challenges to growing a beautiful and productive organic food garden on this piece of land that I’ll be talking about in my next post.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

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Pine Needles Keep Soil pH Acidic For Blueberries

Are you growing blueberries in your organic garden? I’ve got a few blueberry plants growing in 10″ pots. We’ll be moving soon, so I didn’t want to put them in the ground and I was curious to how well they’d grow and fruit in pots.

I potted them up into the 10″ pots about 6 months ago – so early spring here in South Australia. They really took off ( I always fertilizer – with organic slow release pellets – when I pot up ) over spring, were flowering in summer and we had a nice handfull of fruit from each plant late summer. Not bad for plants that are only about a year or 18 months old.

I think one of the reasons they did so well, given that they need a pH around 4.5 to 5, was that I added pine needles as a mulch around the top of each plant (being careful not to get the mulch too close to the stems). Then each month or two I throw coffee grounds (not hot!) on top of the pine needles.

So every time I water, some acidity is watered through the pots, keeping the soil beautifully acid – just the way blueberries like it. I’ll probably refresh the pine needles when I put them in the ground, once we move to our new property, which I’ll tell you about soon.

Blueberries are a superfood – they are extremely good for you, so if you have the right climate, give them a go.

Just by the way, both rhododendrons and azaleas love acidic soils too, so you can use this method on them and they’ll really reward you for your time.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

Setting Up Your Organic Garden

One of the first things you’ll want to do when you start organic gardening is to set up some irrigation. It really saves you sooooo…. much time, and water in fact. You can include a timer tap to your system and know that you are giving your vegetables a deep watering, which is exactly what they need.

Below is a photo of a new patch where I wanted to expand my veggie garden. I actually put in a few things before we got around to putting together the irrigation, but we installed it long before summer hit hard.

Planning Your Organic Garden

The irrigation system is quite simple and easy to install. I think that’s always (almost) the best way to do things. Simple is almost always best. Just in case you’re wondering, the frame and wire setup is for my scarlet runner beans.

And below is the irrigation we put together for the area. The main plot is irrigated in a rectangle and several areas set out behind the trellis in cross sections for curcubits (pumpkins, cucumber, melons and zucchinis).

Installing Irrigation

I’m not sure how much time I save, but I know it’s a lot. And with the tap timer I never have to wonder if I forgot to turn the water off.

If you’re starting out with your own organic vegetable garden, you might like to look at my e-book “Organic Food Gardening Beginner’s Manual” for more step-by-step tips to get you started on the right foot – so to speak.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

Herbs In Flower In My Organic Garden

The most beautiful herb that I have flowering in my organic garden at the moment is the garlic chives. Their clusters of dainty white, star-shaped flowers are just gorgeous. They seem to be hardier than my ordinary chives – they’ll tolerate drought and frost in my garden. So it’s great to have them available to throw in some scrambled eggs or just to garnish even.

Garlic Chives flowering

Aren’t they pretty. They look great amongst the other herbs in my garden. Of course you could grow them in a flower bed too.

Some other herbs that are flowering (or have just been) are my tansy, curry plant, chives, pink rosemary, some of my lavenders and golden oregano.

My tip for today: plant some herbs :-)

They give in so, so many ways and most are quite easy to grow.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

Much Welcomed Rain Brings Some Relief To My Garden

This past week has been such a delight after the massive heat wave we had last month. So many days of 40 degrees or so in a row can really take it out of you!

Thankfully we also had some rain during the week, that the ground just sucked right up – so to speak. I think all living things breathed in a deep sigh of relief, even though the rain was brief. I know my garden suddenly looked greener and healthier for having been rained on.

Alas it was too little, too late for many plants here. Many (most) of our tomatoes and capsicums got burn marks on them. So we had a lot that were un-saleable  at the market, but we still use them ourselves.

calorie counting doesn’t work for weight loss

Some of our herbs shrivelled, went crispy and turned up their toes. Except for the real stayers…  basil and kale loved the heat and the parsley liked it OK too. But the watering of my potted plants was a bit much to keep up.

Phew….  I’m so glad that summer’s behind us. I just love autumn, the cooler weather, the changing colour of the leaves and landscape. And taking of cuttings to create all those little, new plants. Yes, it’s wonderful to be a gardener!

What’s going on in your garden?

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…

Organic Gardening With Good Companion Plants

I’m a strong believer in organic gardening (as you might have guessed) and one technique I love to use is Companion Planting. Basically, planting groups of plants together that help each other in some way. Often it’s to confuse insects with a vast variety of smells or textures.

Some plants benefit others by attracting pollinators or detering nematodes. You get the idea. Anyway, a “Go Organic Club” subscriber sent me in a few photos of the companion planting he’s got happening in his organic garden.

Companion Planting in Organic Garden

He’s got lovely combinations of vegetables, flowers and herbs. Thanks Robert Esparza for sharing your garden. I really appreciate it! Your veggie plot looks really healthy.

Give companion planting a go. I’m sure the benefits are measurable mostly by the healthy, tasty produce you get from garden.

Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…