News from the ‘Mews’ – July 2015

We’re in the thick of winter, particularly with this cold snap! I’ve just come back inside (to the cosy wood heater) after feeding my rainbow trout and collecting eggs from the chooks and it is bloody freezing – 8 degrees (to be exact), cold, windy and raining! The good news is all our water tanks are full and we’ve passed the ‘Winter Solstice’ so bring on the sunny Spring days I say! Here’s this months happenings and a few sustainable living tips too.

So, this was July 2015:

The colder temperatures have seen a slowing down in the growth of most crops and a few frosts have caused some minor damage, but all in all, everything is growing well. The white cabbage butterfly has finally vanished too!

We’ve picked our first lot of:

Δ  Celery

Δ  Beetroot

Δ  Bok choy

Δ  Lettuce (Yes, ‘Butter lettuce’ grows a treat in the cold weather!)

Δ  Spinach

Δ  Silverbeet

Δ  Rhubarb

Δ  Coriander

Δ   Basil (but it’s struggled with the cold weather even in the greenhouse.)

It is great to be eating fresh seasonal produce that we’ve grown in our own backyard. It gives a real sense of satisfaction, and it’s not hard to do!

The crops that are still maturing include: peas, cauliflower, broccoli, tuscan kale, leeks, cabbage and garlic.

red cabbage, sustainability tips, veggie garden        broccoli, winter gardening, veggie garden

An Aquaponics Update:

The aquaponics system has matured now and is really firing up. The rainbow trout are growing well and relishing the 10 degree water temperature in the tank. An early problem with iron deficiency has corrected now that the water pH is down to 6.8. The level of acidity in the water affects the availability of various nutrients to the plants.

My system was initially too alkaline (basic) and this caused an iron uptake problem. Iron is required by plants to produce the green ‘chlorophyll’ pigment and when there’s an iron deficiency the leaves turn pale and yellow, despite the leaf veins appearing green – have a look at the picture below as an indicator:

iron deficiency, plant iron deficient

Once the system matured (ie. all the nitrogen fixing bacteria became established), I really noticed that the plants grew at a very rapid rate, despite the cool temperatures. Bok choy, kale, rocket, parsley and lettuce are doing really well growing in scoria and powered by the fish waste products. A productive little ecosystem right in our back yard. Ain’t nature wonderful!

Check out pics and our (first!) little video of our Aquaponics system below:

aquaculture, garden beds, permaculture     aquaculture, permaculture, butter lettuce

Our Fruit tree additions:

We recently purchased some bare rooted fruit trees (from BGG Trees in Batesford, near Geelong, Victoria) to add to our existing stock.

Δ  A double grafted apple

Δ  A double grafted pear

Δ  A Red Haven peach

These will complement our apricot, lemons, lime, fig and feijoa trees.

The staff at BGG were very friendly and helpful and their range is fantastic. Highly recommended!

Looking forward to some tasty fresh fruits in the future as these trees mature.

Our Bees and Backyard Chooks:

Our bees are definitely keeping a low profile with the winter chill, but we do see them venture out of the hive whenever the sun decides to shine.

And, we’re still getting 1-2 eggs per day from our chooks while our Muscovy Duck has just started laying again. Her eggs are great to use when baking cakes, they’re rich in flavour!

Till next time,

Cheers and keep warm! Pete

After sharing our ‘self-sufficiency’ journey and a few sustainable living tips via ‘News from the Mews’ for a few months now, I’d love to see if you have any questions about Home Gardening or Permaculture that you’d like me to chat about here on the blog?