Monday, July 28, 2014

Spring fever comes early this year

The sun is shining and the days are a couple of degrees warmer, and a lot earlier than usual. This is the time of the year that I hate, the time I get itching to get out and plant, when every cell in my body is aching to sow seeds. Trouble is that I know that it is far too early.
To get rid of some of the excess energy I have been out every day digging and weeding, it helps and at least it stops me from spending too much on seeds.

My sister rang this morning and is suffering just the same. She has only just started growing vegetables and asked if this feeling struck every year. I had to tell her that it does, it will every year. Time to sort out the seeds for the thousandth time, lol.

I dug the last of the yacon today, and noticed that it is already shooting again, three months earlier than usual!! I can't plant it just yet though as the beds that I want to put it in this year are still too wet and the next two months are usually our wettest so I just can't chance it. The sets will just have to sit in pots and wait till I am ready, I hope they don't grow too much in the mean time. We still have some frosts to come so they might go dormant again.

I know that it won't be long till the trees are out in flower, the buds are swelling already so I bought a coddling moth trap for my two apple trees, it arrived in the mail today. I have also been cutting and putting together my shadecloth bed covers now that I have got the stuff for them at last. I realised today that I had forgot to buy the snap clamps to I got on Ebay and bought a couple of packets. My regular seller doesn't have them at the moment but luckily I found some from China. There are no other sellers of them on Ebay so I hope this seller continues to supply.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

great market day

It was a beautiful day for the Hamilton market today. I sold out as usual and I wish I had been able to take more. I took quite a few things that people are not used to but after the 'normal' stuff like silverbeet and kale went, people started to take more of an interest in the mangelwurzels, yacon and kohlrabi.
I did bring a couple of kohlrabi and yacon back but sold everything else. The left overs will go to the Nareen swap tomorrow.
I had quite a few new customers this time and they were very keen so I think they will be back for future markets.

After the frosts this week my pepino plants are looking pretty poor so I had to pick all the ripening fruit off them. They were covered in huge fruits due to the lack of frosts up till now. Just about all the fruits weighed about a kilo. Luckily they are best picked a little unripe and ripened indoors.
I like growing pepinos and in a good year they really produce well but they ripen too late most years. I am going to plant seed next year and try to develop an earlier ripening plant over the next few years.

There was a New Zealand seller at the market today, selling foodstuffs imported from New Zealand. Wow, she was so happy to see some oca (NZ Yam) and bought my last little bag that I had left over from the last market. I really hope that I get a better harvest next year. I hope I have learned from the problems I had this year.

I have definately decided to go with my half acre of garlic next year. I have done a heap of research and talked to current growers and one that give up on it (due to weed problems and the work that goes with that). I have already organised the spraying (no I am not going 'organic' with this) and ploughing the block so I will now have to organise the mulch and seedstock. At least I have lots of time to get that done.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Working while the sun shines

The last three days have been sunny, with some long awaited frosty mornings so, even thought the days have been cold I took advantage of the sun to get a heap of work done today. The last couple of days have been filled up with other things so today I spent the whole day in the gardens, well, after staying in till the frost melted away at least.
With the drier days drying out some of the beds it was a good opportunity to fix some up for spring.

First I started digging the bags of chook poo I bought a couple of weeks ago into some spare beds. I needed to get this done quickly as sunlight breaks down the nitrogen and I didn't want to waste it.

These beds were mostly in D block so this will also help with any residual nematodes. As I have written about before, the improvements in the beds here have really made a big difference in the root node nematode problem.

This bed of self sown silverbeet was so damaged by earth mites and snails that I decided to dig it in as a green manure crop. At least it has some use.

This bed is almost pure sand so this will help a lot in its fertility. I noticed that the bed had very few worms in it so I do need to add more stuff to the beds in this block (D Block).

Luckily, silverbeet prefers a lighter, low fertility soil and they do well on it.

Most of the afternoon was spent digging and replanting my seed potato beds. I managed to get 8 done and will try to get the rest done tomorrow if the predicted rain sets in late.

I was disappointed in the amount of potatoes in these beds. Usually I dig them twice a year with the biggest harvest in March but most of these beds were so poor that I barely had enough tubers to replant them. I did have enough left over though to take some to the landscape place in Hamilton to sell on Saturday.
I may have to add seasol when the plants shoot to get the microbes in the soil to help the fertility.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Snails and water ribbons

I was trying not to use any chemicals this year but it just isn't working. I didn't spray the earth mites and I lost all my beet and lettuce relatives, and the snail traps just aren't keeping up with the snails.

Look at all the snail damage on all my kohlrabi. I am trying to save up enough money to get some chook tractors built to try and get the pest problems under control but there is always more important things to spend the money on, and I am also worried about them eating all my beautiful frogs.
I went out this morning and put some relatively safe snail bait down just so I can have some veg to sell later. Sigh.

My experiment with growing water ribbons in containers has been a failure. The roots just get so matted that it is impossible to separate them to get at the tubers. And the tubers are small as a result.
This mat of roots is so solid that leaving them out in the rain for a couple of weeks has not made any difference. I thought the rain would wash the dirt from the roots and loosen it a bit.
I think I will just have to go out and pick some from the wild if I want some for myself.

Water ribbons is a common native water plant that produces small tubers that are edible raw or cooks. They are much better cooked though, but even then they don't have much taste.

I think that I will just have to grow muntries and pigface as my Australian natives as they seem to the best for commercial production. I will try again with murnong and maybe I will have better luck this year.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Brrrr, too cold to do much today

We may not be getting our usual frosts but it is still colder than I am comfortable with. Brrrr, I barely stepped out of the house today, just enough to do my inspection rounds and pull a few weeds. I am so glad I don't live in those cold parts of the world where you have ice and snow for months. It got up to around 10C today and that was cold enough for me, though I know that that would be warm in many parts in winter.

Many of my potatoes are still growing since we haven't had many frosts. I am a bit unused to seeing them green at this time of year.
I still have to dig some up though as it is time to supply seed potatoes.

 Surprisingly some of my shrubs are starting to show flower buds, this is my poor little lime tree - yes it is a bit yellow but all citrus get yellow at this time of year. They can't absorb their nutrients well in the cold.
I also noticed that my yellow cherry guava is popping out flower buds also. It fruits twice a year and that may be why it is hardly growing. I am toying with the idea of taking off all the flowers now so it can put more energy into growing this spring.

Talking of spring, it will be upon me pretty quick now so I am getting restless already. I bought a few packets of new seeds from my favourite seed company (Baker Creek Seeds) today and I am going to check out some of the others shortly. At lease with my new plans limiting what I grow this year I will not have to force myself not to go overboard with my buying, oh, but I do love getting packets of seeds in the mail.

Friday, July 18, 2014

It's getting very wet

Usually it is not this wet for another month but already some of my beds are under water and the rest are very boggy. I can't walk on some of the paths as I would sink up to my knees so I have to leave those whole areas alone to avoid pugging the ground.

 Luckily most years I don't lose too many plants to the wet except potatoes which seem to rot easily. The water is not actually still, it is moving through the ground which keeps it fresh so roots don't rot easily. It just looks like it is sitting stagnant in puddles.

I always worry about the garlic beds when it is this wet but they always seem to keep healthy and I have never had them rot. They are much more rot-resistant and water loving than people think.

Luckily I learn't my lesson with the potatoes two years ago and they are all planted in my driest beds. Everything else will just have to cope. I see that the snow peas aren't handling it well and I hope they live until spring as I lost the spare seeds so I need the plants in the ground to provide me with more.

I am about to start working on my website while I have time, and make a new wiki since it looks like my wiki describing to my customers how to grow and cook everything I grow has gone under.
I have also joined Pinterest today to have a play with it. Here is my page/profile as it is at the moment:

I'm not sure if it is useful but I will see if it is interesting enough to keep at it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ok, I'm back

I am now back from visiting my sister and her family for a few days. Now ready to get back into it but I didn't have time to take any pics so you will have to wait till tomorrow for some.

While I was away and just before I was doing some research into growing garlic on a commercial scale. I spoke to a couple of growers, and someone who used to grow garlic and has now stopped.
It looks like garlic is still a good crop to grow but the returns are not quite as good as some growers suggest, it all depends on your marketing of course. I am still deciding whether to go for retail or wholesale but I will decide later.

The lady who stopped growing said it was only because of the high workload in growing it, especially the weeding. I think that I will plant it next autumn but not organically as I will have to spray the ground with round-up a couple of times before planting to keep the weeds down, that is the only way I will be able to grow it with the time and energy I have as just one person. I will also mulch between the rows.

I will write a longer post tomorrow. I have to go now to help my mother with our TV retune as she has lost her favourite channel.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I've been doing some thinking - wow that hurts

After taking my tax stuff into the accountant and shaking my head while doing the paperwork, I realise that I am going to have to make some changes to how I am doing things. I should be making more income than I am, at least coming even, which I am not, so I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past few days.

With such a small amount of land I have decided to concentrate on the veggies that pay for themselves and drop a lot of the others. I will still grow a range of unusual veg but not as much as I would like if I had more land.
I am going to concentrate on these vegetables:

Seed potatoes

I will also plant snow peas and broad beans between crops for the nitrogen. Although I love growing melons they will be mostly dropped because they are not cost effective on a small plot.

I am doing some research and may plant 1/2 an acre of garlic next autumn. I would like to do an acre but I doubt I will be able to afford the stock bulbs to start with. My brother-in-law will let me use half an acre of his land to try this on and I will pay him with part of the profits.
I am waiting for a couple of other small garlic growers to call me back tonight so I can quiz them on growing and markets.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shade cloth and chook poo

Well I'm back from visiting my friends over Geelong way. I was so good to catch up, I don't think I have seen them for a year or more. I really miss talking to donkey people and seeing their donkeys. I really miss my own.

I spent three days over there and was going to do some driving about and camping in my van, but then I saw some chook poo in bags on the side of the road and had to have it. It was only $3.50 for a 20 kg bag - could you pass that up?

Well, that was the end of sleeping in the van so I came home early.

I managed to get off on Sunday as my rolls of shadecloth arrived on Saturday morning.
I got two 50m rolls but I suppose I should have got three. I still have plenty of time to buy and use more though. I just wish Farm Supplies would hurry up and get in my rolls of polypipe. I have been waiting for over two months.
Oh well, I still have a few beds with hoops over that I can use one of the shadecloth rolls on.

I spent some of today rolling out, measuring and cutting up one of the rolls but the other has to wait till I have the pipe. I might go and see them tomorrow and if my pipe is not in or ordered I will try another place.

This reminds me that I should also order a few more packets of water saving crystals.

It all makes up very expensive but once all the beds are covered and done up I won't have to spend much more at all.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Markets, swaps and nothing much else

After being harassed by my sister for not updating my blog I have to write something so here it is. Really, I haven't had a lot to do so I go out every morning and inspect all the blocks and spend an hour or so randomly pulling out weeds.
Last Sunday I went to the Nareen swap where afterwards we had a local lady speaking on her tour around Spain. We then had a lunch with heaps of food put on. It was a great day. She had stories of her career as a journalist as well as here farm where she not grows olives.

Here is one of the tables filling up as people come and place the stuff they have to swap. There was a good range of baked as well as fresh food, jams, sauces and empty bottles and egg cartons.

I came home with three packets of Rocky Road as well as some biscuits and eggs.

I started doing some digging today but with the rain bringing up all the worms to the topsoil I quickly had to stop as I was chopping too many of them up.
Oh well, with nothing much to do this time of year I am going to visit some friends over Geelong way for the next week (if my rolls of shadecloth arrive on Monday, otherwise I will have to chase them up as they are late) and then head north to visit my sister.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

More yacon growing

Ok, as promised here is some things I learned from this years yacon growing.

I left one plant in the ground from last year to see what they are like after two growing seasons. The results were not all what I expected, a bit disappointing really.

This is a picture of the 2 year old plant. It did grow much bigger than usual but had no more tubers than a single season plant. I am guessing that the tubers from last season rotted over last winter so there are only current season ones.

The plant was big though and produced a large number of growing sets, I separated over 25.
All in all it is not worth growing them for two seasons in this climate.

I harvested half of my last bed where the plants were shaded and on much better soil so they grew much better.

The tubers were not as numerous or big as I expected. I think I will go back to growing them on sandier soil next spring as the tubers seem to be bigger then.
I did notice that on this heavier soil they grew deeper so were a bit harder to harvest, but there were more growing points on the lower stems.

I think that I will grow in light soil for tubers or heavy soil for sets.

Separating your sets

 When you get a set you should divide it with a knife into separate root sets for replanting. Each set should have at least 3 growing buds. This set here can be separated into four.

If a single growing point falls off it will still make a plant but the more points, the bigger the plant, and so the more tubers you will get. Singles are ok but they will take longer to grow into a decent sized plant.

Here is a set with three good growing points.