Saturday, October 26

Spring Vegetable Garden

After a relatively average winter with near median rain (597 ml so far – 10 ml above the median over the past 18 years), we have had a cool spring with some rain; enough to keep the grass growing although it all has been cut. I began watering in earnest last week, although we have had a few days above 30ÂșC where I have had to water by hand.

This year after a few years of very bare patches in the lawn (we have a small 100 m2 lawn between the house and pool) I purchased some turf and filled in the bare spots. Spring has been very kind so it has taken off very well – although the dog appears to like the new patches and insists in lying on the new turf!

I purchased punnets of tomatoes in August, and put them into 150 mm pots and grew them in a hot house until they were about 600 mm tall. The capsicums are still in the hot house, but will eventually be transplanted into the hydroponics.

Tomatoes, lettuce and stawberries
Last week I transferred the tomatoes to 10 litre buckets with coarse perlite. The 90 cent buckets had a 20 mm outlet punched into the bottom that allows drainage. Unlike previous years I am trying to grow the tomatoes in buckets that sit above a 70 mm stormwater pipe that collects the leachate and returns it to the nutrient tank. Also unlike previous years, where I sat the tomatoes in a tube of 100 mm wire mesh about 450 mm in diameter and about 1800 mm tall, I intend to train the tomatoes up a cord – more like the commercial growers. I may end up using bamboo rather than cord.

Tomatoes grown to this stage in a hot house before being planted out into perlite

The lettuce shown in the top photo were planted last week, as were the spring onion. I will plant another batch of lettuce in a few weeks time so we have a continuous rotating crop through summer. The strawberries all came from a few plants I threw into the hydroponics last April, except for the two plants in the 70 mm stormwater tube. Last year I tried strawberries in the tube but they nearly all died – probably due to lack of water – so this year I am running the nutrient flow 4 times more often – and hourly on hot days. I hope to grow some cucumber, but the few I brought last week are doing very poorly, and I am not sure why – perhaps the sulphur-mancozeb spray I applied to stop the fungi?

The strawberries are doing very well - especially to the two plants from last year - below. I net them to stop the birds. The rest of the plants are herbs with a few garlic.

Strawberries
Strawberries and herbs

The soil garden still has broccoli, broad beans, but the asparagus has finished. The corn is just shooting, with the zucchini and squash ready to go in the ground. I’m not planting much more, as life is rather hectic at this moment.

Today was spent mostly taking honey - something I have not done for a few years due to the drought. I have two hives at home - one doing very well, and one I brought in from a farm which is not doing so well due to lack of flora in the area. I managed to take 16 kg from 9 frames and a lid full of comb. The honey is light amber and tastes very good – according to all three (adult) children and wife. This will last some time, but honey makes a good present, so we go through it relatively rapidly.