News from the ‘Mews’ – May 2015

Winter is definitely on the way, we’ve just had our coldest overnight temperature of 1.5C, but we have also enjoyed some lovely sunny days too (sweet relief!) Today I’m sharing my adventures over the last month with a few sustainable living tips to inspire you as we navigate the winter months!

So, this was May 2015:

There has been quite a bit happening in May.

Δ Seeds planted in April have grown and been planted out into the garden beds where we expect nice crops of:

+  Broccoli

+  Cauliflower

+  Cabbages and lettuce

+  Peas

+  Beetroot

+  Kale

+  Celery

+  Carrots

+  Leeks, and

+  Onions

Δ I am getting into the routine of raising more seedlings every 3-4 weeks to extend the growing season and have a few ‘spares’ in case of extreme weather or bug attacks! We are still doing battle with the white Cabbage butterfly – I mentioned these guys in the April blog post here. These grubs have taken a liking to the bok choy in particular. They are masters of ‘green’ camouflage for sure, but I still seek and destroy (squish!) where I see evidence of them dining on our produce.

Δ The greenhouse has worked really well to provide a warm, humid environment for the seeds to germinate rapidly. I am also growing parsley, coriander and basil in pots in the greenhouse. You really can’t beat freshly picked herbs when cooking – the smell is phenomenal!

herb garden, organic herbs, fresh herbs

Δ Crops of beetroot, celery and spinach planted out in March are growing nicely and we look forward to harvesting the first produce soon.

Δ Our chooks are starting to lay again after their moulting ‘recess’ (they need some down time too – this varies for different breeds) and the eggs are as good as ever – big breakie anyone?!

organic eggs, backyard chickens, permaculture, sustainability

Δ On the 1st May we harvested our second batch of honey from our bee hive (5.5 kg of liquid ‘gold’) The hive is now packed down for winter and the girls have 8 full frames of honey to tide them over the coming colder months. They rarely venture out when it is cold and windy, but when the sun shines they are still quite active as seen below.

beehive, bee keeper, organic honey

The ‘Big News’ of May

My aquaponics system is now stocked with 35 fingerling Rainbow Trout (thanks to the guys at Ballarat Fish Hatchery). The Rainbows have been in the tank for 3 weeks now and are growing well. They are feisty little critters and almost leap out of the water at feeding time – it really is fun to watch!

Let’s give you a little summary of what aquaponics is and the system looks like at our property:

Raising aquatic animals (eg. fish) with hydroponics (ie. growing plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

So in essence, the fish waste (ammonia rich) is converted by bacteria into nitrates which act as a food source to grow plants.

aquaponics, aquaponics sytem

The water tests are showing that the system is in balance and cycling well. I have added quite a few plants to the grow beds too. Some look a little ‘anaemic’ at the moment, but I am sure as the fish grow and the system matures, that it will go really well. I’ll keep you all posted.

Routine maintenance for my aquaponics system includes:

Δ  Clean the pump weekly

Δ  Carry out water tests

Δ  Check that the siphons are working (the siphons drain water back into the fish tank)

Δ  Feed the fish (twice a day at present)

So the focus this month really has been getting my aquaponics system to begin balancing. An aquaponics system is a great example of permaculture principles at work, where ‘waste’ from one system (the fish) is used to provide nutrients to the growing plants, all while using only 10% of the water used for normal soil based growing.  I’m enjoying exploring this new permaculture project and we can’t wait for our first aquaponics produce and fresh fish feast!

It’s also important to remember that winter is definitely not a hiatus in the garden – the seedlings I mentioned above are all ‘winter crops’ and will provide us with product for some hearty winter meals very soon. The honey we’ve just harvested is also a great one for winter too – think steaming porridge and big cups of tea with ‘from the hive’ honey! Grab some organic honey next farmer’s market visit, particularly if the colder weather has you battling with a sore throat!

Till next time, Pete.


So I’d love to know if you’re getting out in the garden? If you’ve got any winter gardening tips you’d like to share with us please get typing in the comments below!