News from the ‘Mews’ – September 2015
It’s been a long, cold winter. We’ve had it all; icy cold winds, grey skies, rain and frosts (2 mornings in a row our duck pond was frozen over with 15mm thick ice! Mind you, that didn’t stop our duck having a swim after the ice had melted.)
As I look around the property I can see signs that spring is on its way. The fruit trees are setting blossom and leaf buds, the bees are venturing out of the hive when the sun happens to shine and the weeds seem to be growing like crazy. Yep, spring is on the way! I think it’s my favourite time of the year.
Over the winter months our veggies continued to grow, albeit at a slower rate, and the frosts did some minor damage, but overall, the gardens did pretty well.
We’ve been harvesting good quantities of tuscan kale, silverbeet, broccoli, celery, bok choy, rocket, beetroot, butter lettuce, and of course eggs from our chooks and Muscovy duck. Keep reading as I share some of the sustainable living tips we’re using on our property – this month I’m sharing tips on preparing for the next growing season, how to get the best out of your veggie produce and a little update on our aquaponics system!
Preparing for the next growing season:
With the arrival of spring it’s important to plan for the next growing season and start raising seedling. Remember that most veggies have a 10-12 week ‘lead time’ from when you first plant them, until you can pick the first produce. Yes, it does take time to produce quality food, but the rewards are well worth the wait, and they’re in your backyard – not down at the local supermarket.
I’ve been using the greenhouse to plant out and raise seedlings because the temperature is warmer and more stable as we come out of winter. The young plants also do much better in the sheltered environment of the greenhouse.
Whilst the seedlings are growing I can prepare the soil in the garden beds and let the chooks in to clear out the last of the winter crops. This is a win/win situation as they get some exercise scratching and foraging and they add nutrients to the soil too.
Here’s a few tips to get the best out of your veggies:
Δ Cultivate the soil well, down to at least 200-300mm depth – mix it up with a garden fork or spade! This will break up any remaining roots from previous crops and aerate the soil. Open soil structure is essential for optimum growth and water retention.
Δ Add plenty of organic matter to replace nutrients in the soil. We have been using compost, worm castings (from our worm farm), seaweed extract and Munash ‘Rock Dust.’ Any soil type can be improved by the addition of organic matter, and as it breaks down to ‘humus’, it provides food for the bustling community of soil microbes which are essential for good fertile soil and healthy, productive crops.
Δ Rotate your crops – that is, don’t plant tomatoes in the same bed year after year as this can promote disease and possibly nutrient deficiencies.
There are several approaches to rotating crops. One simple system is to rotate each bed through a sequence based on the crop type: Leaf, Legume, Root and Fruit. The rationale behind crop rotation is that you are working with nature to get the best from the soil.
Here’s a few examples and a little infographic to share the idea with you!
Lettuce and celery (leaf crops) would be followed by Peas and Beans (legumes), which in turn would be followed by onions, carrots etc (root crops) and finally tomatoes, eggplants, capsicums etc (fruit crops). This cycle then repeats.
Example: Root crops like carrots, grow deep into the soil and break it up, whereas legume crops like peas and beans actually add nitrogen and enrich the soil. So, by crop rating you maximise the BEST aspects of each of your crops to benefit the next!
Aquaponics Update #2
My aquaponics system is going great guns! Since I added the 35 trout fingerlings back in May, they continue to thrive and they are powering the plants above them in the grow beds. Tuscan kale, chinese cabbage, butter lettuce, parsley and coriander have done particularly well and the fish are now 180 to 220mm in length.
At this rate we hope to harvest fish around the end of October. Smoked trout anyone?! The system only requires minimal inputs now, such as:
Δ Feeding the fish
Δ Testing the water
Δ Cleaning the pump/siphons.
PS. No weeds have set up in the grow beds, which is a bonus too!
Now is the time to get out into the garden, re-connect with nature, and prepare for the coming growing season. Your efforts will be amply rewarded with fresh veggies and produce, and you’ll have the satisfaction of having done it yourself.
As always, till next time!