Spring at last,

Today is warm and blustery, typical for spring in Canberra. Before the expected cold change hits this afternoon I took the opportunity to plant some cold tolerant seeds out. This included beetroot, lettuce, kailaan (a brassica) and snowball turnips.

I have tucked them away in a plastic bag, to make a mini-greenhouse for them.

A quick update on the chicken greens – as you can see below they are growing away nicely. Time to plant out some new trays.

And a final picture from my spring garden. Daffodils and jonquils against a backdrop of wattle.

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New Shoots

I am playing around with growing some edible greens for my chickens. We already give the ‘girls’ leafy greens from the veggie garden and one chicken flies over the fence regularly to help herself, but they would still love even more.

My minor brainstorm turned out to be bird seed. I remembered how quickly the seed cleaned out from our budgie’s cage grew (this was when I was quite young). So armed with some bird seed, some trays and a heater pad, this is what has grown in just over two days!

The tray is now outside for the day getting some sunshine and hardening off. It will be a few days before the chickens get given it to eat. Of course the shoots will all be demolished in a few minutes so I will have to get a production line happening.

Sleeping disorder

A change of location is always a bit unsettling, but our new chickens are having some unexpected problems – “just where are we supposed to sleep?”

I assumed, incorrectly as it turned out, that they would prefer to sleep in their straw filled carry box. No. This is where we found them the first night.

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Sitting on top of the nesting box

Obviously our girls are of an age where they prefer to roost. So today we spent some time re-arranging the pen and adding a special roosting area. Cue this evening.

I was running late shutting the chooks away for the evening. So they decided for themselves. If in doubt, sit on the roof of your pen!

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What? this looks good to us

So finally having managed to persuade them to go inside their safe house for the night we have our fingers crossed that the chooks will finally get onto the right perch.

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Autumn activities

We are still picking saffron flowers, over 230 so far, but now our thoughts are turning towards putting in our winter crops. Peas are the first to go in. Having successfully sown 4 varieties of seeds I’m now trying to get them all planted out into the garden.

It’s not just the digging and planting that is taking time, but I have also been wrapping copper tape around bits of pvc pipe to act as a barrier to all those snails and slugs trying to devastate my plants. My first planting was the Alderman climbing peas. I am growing them up some commercial mesh that I bought in Japan. 

Alderman pea seedlings in their snazzy copper collars

I also needed some new garden stakes, however because I always enjoy painting them interesting colours to make the garden just that bit more entertaining it took even longer to get them dry enough to use.

New garden stakes, painted and ready for action

Having gotten the stakes painted I used them in the front garden for my Purple Podded peas. I am putting in a different support here. Tying double pieces of string to the crossbeam and then securing the lower end to a stone or in this case a few small pieces of concrete. This way the growing plants can be slipped between the strings so the peas have an easy way to climb up. 

I ran out of pvc pipe to make protective collars so I have re-used some seedling pots, cutting the bottom out of them before adding the copper tape. In the background is the mulched area is where I have planted my bush peas. 

Since planting this lot I have also planted out some shallots at either end of the trellis. The shallots can be planted quite close together so it was a good use of the space left over from planting the peas.

And yes I still have to find a spot for my Snow peas!

Bean counting!

The front veggie patch in early March

After the rocky start to our summer gardening season, we have by stint of watering, persistant snail removal and good summer rainfall, managed to get our best ever crop of beans! I have picked over 2.5 kilos of beans in the past two weeks and over the same time 4 kilos of tomatoes. 

The same patch today with bountiful tomatoes barely contained in their frames

Apart from eating a goodly amount of beans and tomatoes I am also doing a lot of saving for future meals. The beans are being sliced, blanched and then frozen … 

Beans ready for the frezer

… I am roasting the tomatoes, to concentrate their sweet flavour, before bottling them in sterilised jars for future use. 

Roasted tomatoes in jars from my latest batch
The best thing is there are still  plenty more where they came from.

Hard yakka

First cob of corn for dinner

It was a perfect afternoon to get into the garden, sunny enough with a nice breeze. I was working in the front garden, planting out some daisy cuttings and pulling out a dead shrub.

The biggest issue was whether the bull ants (inch ants) were still nesting next to the dead shrub. And yes they are. However I did manage to dig out pretty much all the dead stuff before the ants came charging out. Having been bitten earlier in the week I was being quite careful.

I rounded out the afternoon by harvesting all the good sized Blue Lake climbing beans and picking our first cob of corn. We are now getting a steady feed from our tomatoes and fruit from our fig tree is making dessert choices easy.

Fig tart for dessert

Although we are not the only ones lining up for a feed. Our resident Grey Currawong loves our figs as much as we do.

Not bad for a bird with only one eye! We gave him/her this one.

Over the garden fence, again

I’ve checked and it’s been five years since I last posted about visiting an open garden! During that time the Australian Open Garden Scheme has met its end and it’s been left to the various states and territories to keep the movement going. Here, Open Gardens Canberra has taken up the challenge and is running the new scheme.

Last week I saw a notice that three gardens were open this weekend, two private and one community garden. We only made it to two gardens but they both turned out to be worth the visit.

First stop was Isobel’s garden in Dickson, where her back and front yard have undergone an almost complete re-vamp since the house was rebuilt in 2001. I must say I’m biased because she has a similar layout to Chez Fork, with a combination of predominantly Australian plants and a big veggie garden.

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The view across Isobel’s back garden

As the internal divisions of the garden beds are not fixed, Isobel has used off-cuts of artificial grass (left over from the local school) to form temporary pathways. It’s apparently worked quite well, both at suppressing the weeds and providing a readily moved path. However she did warn against walking on the ‘grass’ on a hot day with bare feet!

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Artificial grass paths between the potatoes and the tomatoes

She also has some lovely, simple water features under a large specimen of Silver-leaved Mountain Gum (Eucalyptus pulverulenta), which she grew from seed  she collected near Bathurst.

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Simple water features under the Silver-leaved Mountain Gum
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Another view of the garden across the pumpkin vines

Our second stop was the Charnwood Community Garden, which was established in the late 1980’s by the Canberra Organic Growers Society. Here there are over 40 plots of varying sizes. There were a number of plot-holders on hand to discuss the finer points of their gardens.

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Looking across the Charnwood Community Garden

I really enjoyed seeing the variety of colourful crops and flowers being grown in the plots.

I was pleased to be able to talk to one of the plot-holders who had the most  vigorous crop of sweet potatoes (a.k.a. yams, kumara) growing. I hadn’t realised that it was possible to grow these in Canberra, because our winters are so frosty, but here is the proof.

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More sweet potato than you can poke a stick at!

Even better I was told that the yield was more than three times that of the potatoes he also grew. I know that this is one crop we will be trying out next year! He also had a great crop of snakebeans, which his partner preferred over regular climbing beans, as she had less ‘top and tailing’ to do for the same weight of beans. This tropical variety of bean (Vigna sp.) has turned out to be a good grower in Canberra’s ever increasing hotter summers. I also saw that these beans were growing in Isobel’s  garden.

Of course being gardeners it wasn’t long before we were sharing tips and favourite tool recommendations. The best ‘idea I plan to steal’, came from the community garden where one gardener was using an old bicycle wheel, atop a hardwood pole as a frame for growing his climbing beans. Pieces of twine were hung from the rim of the wheel and as the beans started to send out tendrils these strings were directed to where the plant could find them. The twine was only secured at the top, the beans kept things secured at the bottom.

I have to conclude with thanks to the gardeners who so generously offered me some seeds from their patches (and I didn’t even ask!). A variety of long tomato called Sherry’s Sweet (which I have only spotted in US lists, but was previously available through the Diggers Club in Australia). Also a climbing butter bean, which the grower’s father bought commercially from the now defunct Walton’s department store in the mid-1970’s and which, the family has been growing ever since. (I see that Diggers Club is now offering these beans, which I understand to have come from this same grower).

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Sherry’s Sweet tomato and climbing butter beans

 

Feathers

Honestly,  you’d think someone had been killed in here. One of our younger chickens has started moulting for the first time. Huge patches of skin can be seen! Yikes.

Today I  see that one of the other ‘girls’, the little Arucana, has also started loosing her feathers. The very hot weather is effecting them as much as it effects us. The chickens spent most of the day in the shade next to my stone water trough, drinking as much water as they can.

Another interesting effect resulting from the moult is that the pecking order changes. The black hen who is now moulting was the number 2 chicken. This evening I see her being pushed out of the way by one of the chickens we are minding for our friend. This smaller chicken is normally two places below in the order. Once again I find that chickens are endlessly fascinating to watch.