It’s well into winter now and there is still heaps going on in our garden and veggie patch. Since starting the patch last spring (with no gardening experience!) we have learnt so much and had a lot of both success and failures…. But the main thing is that it’s great fun! and we’re willing to try new things and learn from the experience.
The cold chill of winter hasn’t even dampened our enthusiasm, we can’t wait to get outside on the weekend and work on the latest gardening project. Growing our own food or should I say ‘trying’ to grow our own food J has been such a brilliant eye opening experience. Both Nat & I feel more connected to our food and the natural way of life. It has further inspired us to strive to live more sustainably and hopefully one day soon make a move to a small acreage and reconnect with nature.
Here are some of the things we are experimenting with. We would love to hear your experiences and advise so please comment.
New Herb Garden
Super excited about this garden bed! We built it from 100% recycled materials – Old second hand corrugated iron and reclaimed hardwood. Plus we’re having a go at making it a no dig garden. It’s got a really thick layer of pea straw, then a good layer of manure, more pea straw and then we’ll add compost and its ready to go! Now all we need is some nice spring weather and we can get planting. The plan is for a massive variety of herbs including Parley, Coriander, Oregano, Sage, Peppermint, Spearmint, Marjoram, Dill, Basil, Thai Basil, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, and Chervil.
The idea here is to go vertical and make a feature from this second hand guttering, hopefully the nasturtiums will cascade over the edges. The gutters are angled so that the water will run down and drain through all 3 gutters. I’ve even tried to make my own potting mix. I used equal parts of peat, compost and perlite- It’s a nice light weight mix.
We got inspired with the many uses for old pallets, and decided to make a vertical pallet garden. This one is going to be filled with lots of succulents which we are trying to propagate now.
The new found resource of second hand pallet timber got me thinking what else can I build with these? With a bit of creativity I worked out a couple of designs and I have now built a potting bench, outdoor chair and a coffee table. I managed to get the pallets for free by salvaging them from our local hardware store, they were just going to throw them out.
I bought a cheap plastic greenhouse to see how it would improve the germination of my seedlings and I’ve got to say it’s been a hit. I’ve had a much better germination rate and it’s meant I can continue growing seeds through winter, and I’ll be able to get a jumpstart on the spring growing season.
Growth in the garden has slowed over winter, I think the positioning of our beds isn’t ideal. With the low winter sun a good portion of the beds are in shade for most of the day. But never the less we are still enjoying plenty of kale, lettuce, spinach, turnips, celery, and soon the brussels sprouts and cauliflower should be ready! YUM
The chooks are going really well, so easy to care for and the gift of fresh eggs every day is awesome! Luckily our 4 mature girls have continued laying through winter and we’re still getting 4 eggs a day. We did have a little problem when 3 out of the 4 new chickens we got turned out to be roosters…. But that’s a story for another blog. All I can say is get your chooks from a breeder that knows what they’re doing!
Once summer ended our soil was looking pretty spent and starting to go rock hard. The soil blend we initially filled the raised garden beds gave some good results initially but we realised it was now devoid of organic matter. So we started our mission critical operation to increase the soil quality. I learnt that it really is all about providing organic matter for those tiny microbes, bacteria, fungi and worms. So in an effort to recreate nature in fast forward we started some awesome compost heaps!
Composting has been great fun! Each weekend we get very excited to go out and turn the heap. Observing the materials breaking down is amazing. We’ve used a bunch of different materials to make the heap including, kitchen waste, grass and garden clippings, autumn leaves, chicken manure and straw from the coop. I even got very scientific and logged the temperatures of our heaps, I’m really happy to report we hit 60 degrees. Hot composting like this gives us fast results and hopefully we will have some compost ready for spring.
Over winter I dedicated one bed to do a green manure crop. It’s another way of adding organic matter to the soil. The mustard also acts as a bio fumigant reducing the growth of soil borne and fungal diseases like tomato wilt. We’ll turn this into the soil soon and then grow some heirloom tomatoes.
We started this small worm farm using a couple of polystyrene containers, a pack of 500 composting worms from the hardware store, and some compost for bedding. We’ve been feeding them our pulp from the juicer, coffee grounds from the work coffee machine, and any other kitchen scraps that we don’t give to the chooks or the compost bin.
The worms seam really happy, the worm juice makes an excellent liquid fertiliser, and soon we will have a full tub of worm castings for the garden!
Happy gardening everyone!