Thursday, June 27, 2013

Video composting

COMPOSTING is a never-ending story.

Ask three gardeners about how make great compost and you'll get four or five different theories!

I came across this Gardening Australia video showing Jerry demonstrating some tried and true methods.

My Darlek-like compost bin has slowed down over winter but as long as I keep turning over the layers, it produces excellent results.

This weekend I'll be emptying most of the bins as they are just about ready to be refilled and start the whole process over.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cold composting

KEEPING your compost hot during the winter can be challenging.

I've found that I need to add extra water as the bins tend to dry out, even after all the rain we have had - or I leave off the lids for a day or so then replace them to allow the material to decompose faster.

Also, allowing the chooks to get in there and turn over the layers works well and means I can get on with other jobs.

Although they do cause a drop in the bin's worm population.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Thrifty Gardener

TALKING to Millie Ross, the original thrifty gardener is like chatting over the fence with an old friend.
The popular ABC TV Gardening Australia senior researcher is at once charming, refreshing and knowledgeable, without making you feel silly for not knowing the difference between a geranium and a pelargonium.

You feel that if you invited her around for afternoon, she’d show up with a home baked cake, help weed the herb patch, make you a charming planted garden seat and stay to help with the washing up. Her effervescent personality shines through in her new book THE THRIFTY GARDENER which is chock-full of groovy, fun and stylish garden projects, Milli shows us how to grow edible cubby houses, make a terrarium, build a self-watering pot to ponds and fire pits, all made from repurposed materials, pre-loved and recycled materials.
She says with this book she wanted to make gardening accessible to everyone.
Millie sets out to prove that you don’t need rules, stuff or knowledge to have a great garden – just get out your back door and get involved! In the introduction she says “It might be counterproductive to tell you this from the start, but I don’t really believe in rules, particularly when making a garden.”
Mill reckons we should embrace life and just get out there and grow.
”Experiment, play, plant, cut, kill, compost, dig, and, every now and then , push your luck,” she says. “Your efforts (or lack of them!) can help a garden to thrive or just survive, but don’t stress – tomatoes were making tomatoes well before we got involved.”
Subtitled Building the garden you want with whatever you’ve got, thrift is the book’s underlying theme. Milli loves scavenging and uses the most mundane items as containers – including a toaster she found on a scrap heap.
“Everything in my garden has a story and everyone loves my toaster,” she says with a laugh.
“I like everything I have has a bit of a story.”
“I garden this way because it efficient and time save and looks kind of great.”
 But Milli says people need to think about how they go about gardening.
“People will spend hundreds of dollars on technological won’t last the year but baulk at spending $5 on a plant that won’t work in their garden,” she says.
So Milli offers clear and easy-to-follow instructions on designing and building everything from practical yet picturesque chook runs to selecting seeds, propagating and planting.
Renters are well catered for, as Milli herself has been dragging pots around Melbourne for a decade.
And she knows the Geelong region as her parents live in the area.
“I encourage everyone to have a crack at gardening,” she says.
“Roses or radishes it does not matter, just don’t be afraid have a go!”
(A version of this story appeated in the Geelong Advertiser on June 8, 2013.)


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Online gardening

THERE'S a plethora of fabulous gardening resources online.

One of the best is the monthly newsletter from the good folk at Sustainable Gardening Australia.

Plus SGA has developed four informative booklets for home gardeners: Home Harvest, Sustainable Gardening, Waterwise Gardening and Gardening Self Audit.

They have other excellent resources so you can plan your spring planting and beyond on those days it's too wet and cold to pull on the gumboots and dig.

Chooks are a great way to get greener in the garden - they love turning over the compost!

One off-line choice to get some hens.

They are less trouble than you think, provide gorgeous eggs, manure for the compost bins, eat bugs, provide an amazing way to de-stress because they are so hilarious and will happily turn over an old veggie bed to prepare for the next planting.

Now it's winter it's a great time to plan your new chook run, hutch and investigate what type of chickens to keep.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Gardening behind the wire

THERE'S a great article in the latest Gardening Australia magazine about a prison gardens.

Written by senior researcher Millie Ross, it makes you realise how lucky we are to have our own gardens.

Now the rain has (temporarily stopped) I'm hoping the sunshine will give the spring veggies a bit of a boost.
As Peter Cundall so ably wrote in the Weekly Times today, so many plants require a certain amount of sunshine to reach their optimum growth.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Your beauty

BROCCOLI is beautiful.

I'm always dazzled by how quickly the seedlings escalate into gorgeous crowns.

Funny how much I loathe brussell sprouts and cauliflower but love broccoli.

It's perfect in soups or munched straight from the garden.

And I'm not the only one with my eye on this green beauty.

The hens have been eyeing off the broccoli bed for some weeks and Hilda has made several futile attempts to eat the crop.

Fortunately, the secure chicken wire fencing has kept them out of that part of the garden.

Tomorrow I'll pick some to take to work for lunch.

Thinly sliced and sauteed with a little garlic (I don't want my colleagues to think I'm fearful of vampires) and a squeeze of lemon - bliss.

The chooks can have the leaves, it's fun to see them toss the greens in the air with their beaks and catch them before scarfing them down.

Friday, June 14, 2013

All abuzz

I'M looking at bee-keeping sometime soon.

After several years of reading about and listening to keen apiarists talk about the highs and lows of bees, I think now is a be a good time to stop talking and start walking.

In the latest Weekly Times there's a good little article on an Ocean Grove chap whose taken the leap - inspiring stuff.

Now I have to join the local bee-keeping society and start the process.

Be aware of the use of pesticides in your garden as many can harm bees.

I'll keep you informed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pruning time

THIS weekend I aim to finish pruning my fruit trees.

So I'll spend an hour or so giving the secateurs and saw a good clean, oil and then sharpen.

There's something very satisfying about reducing a triffid to a few sticks which you know will burst forth in greenery in spring and by summer be adorned with apples and peaches.

My chooks like to cluster under my feet as they vie for insects falling off the branches.

The lemon tree has grown a bit since this images taken so I'll be
getting rid of the busy branches crowding up the middle
to allow air flow and sunshine in...

As usual the delightful Sir Peter Cundall has some very useful tips to share.

Remember to toss all the cuttings into the green waste bin instead of the compost bin in case of pests or disease. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Citrus masterclass

A DEAR friend alerted me that Heronswood will hold a citrus masterclass on Saturday July 27 with South Australia's Ian Tolley - acclaimed citrus expert, author & nurseryman, and Diggers CEO - Horticulture and Operations - Tim Sansom, who will unlock the secrets of growing, pruning and designing with citrus in your garden.

This very special illustrated masterclass includes practical growing information and design tips, as well as the opportunity to ask all the questions that you have always wanted answered about growing citrus trees.
Lemons can be most fickle plants.

At the moment the lemon tree in the chook run is looking a bit scraggy, while the other one almost under the deck which receives less sunshine is going gangbusters.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Soup, glorious soup

PUMPKIN soup to me signals the start of winter.

So after heading down into to the garden and picking a 6-7kg pumpkin, I decided today was the day to celebrate winter with some sustaining soup.

It's fun to make and I love saving the seeds which I'll keep to pass onto friends, plant next season and give a few to the hens.

Step 1 - pick and cut up your pumpkin

Step 2 - Add chopped pumpkin to carrots, tomatoes, carrot,
red capsicum, pepper, bay leaf, garlic and onion and just cover with water
before simmering for about an hour.

Step 3 - Once cooked, blend it smooth then add yogurt or cream
and some coriander / basil and enjoy!
Email me if you want the recipe - surfychic @ shewrites

Friday, June 7, 2013

Oils aint oils

IT pays to read the label on the olive oil bottle carefully.
And go organic when you can.
MOI International has paid two infringement notices to the ACCC totalling $20,400 for misleading claims made on its olive oil products
MOI International's Mediterranean Blend oil product was prominently labelled as extra-virgin olive oil and "100% Olive Oil".

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Winter breakfasts

WINTER is the time to enjoy really nourishing breakfasts.
For me, brekkers is the best meal of the day.
Starting with great coffee. I don't have a machine, but a friend makes the best darn press-cafe I've ever enjoyed.
Pancakes made with my hens eggs and lemons from the neighbours = yum

Followed by porridge with low-fat high-taste Greek yogurt, blueberries and passionfruit or scrambled egg with thyme and spinach on good sourdough or a stack of half wholemeal and half regular flour pancakes, I feel ready to get through the rest of the day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Down and dirty

DIRT baths when it's wet can be a challenge for chooks when it's wet and muddy.

Hilda and Gidget enjoying a relaxing dirt bath
There's an area under my back deck with gravel and limestone crush which the girls love to roll around in when it's pouring.
Not only do they get to keep the mites at bay, a dirt bath allows them to extend their wings, roll their feet into the air and enjoy a good stretch.
If your chook run is getting ab it muddy, toss down some shredded newspapers, some straw and then add a good pile of grit or fine gravel they can loll about on. Don't worry it will soon resemble a mess, chooks love a bit of chaos! 
This time of year you should also add some crushed fresh garlic to their water as a bit of a tonic.
Keep on adding as many fresh greens as you can to their food.
Plus a teaspoon of linseed to their pullets will give them a twinkle in their eye. As though they didn't already have one when looking at your broccoli seedlings. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chook book

THERE'S a great new guide to keeping chooks from those lovely people at Organic Gardener magazine who have produced a their Essential Guide to Backyard Chickens.

When wandering about my local ABC shop the other day I saw this publication and had a quick flick through.

Robust information, well written and chock full of no nonsense details, plus great photos make this hard to resist guide perfect for experience poultry people and newcomers alike.

Like my friends who keep chooks, I cannot resist reading books, magazines or online publications about these fascinating creatures.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hakea heaven

A COUPLE of years ago I planted a hakea bush on the front nature-strip amongst some grevillias and now it's a blooming delight.

Bees make straight for the nectar as do honey eaters and other native birds and the flowers are such a lovely beacon on these grey winter days.

It is not simply a gorgeous shrub with its beautiful flowers, fast growth and thick foliage it is also a marvellous screening plant.

Recently the local council put in footpaths on my side of the street and they dug up most of my nature strip garden, despite not needing to place the concrete there. In their wisdom, the workers dug up most of the plants leaving the grevillias roots to the sky.

Somehow amidst the carnage the bottle-brush and hakea survived.

I managed to save a couple but the majority have died.

But every morning when i walk outside and see the hakea in flower, I'm grateful it's still there.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rain on me

OK, it's been raining long and hard and I'm ready for some serious sunshine now so I can get outside and weed, turn compost and chase chooks.

Tomatoes are still popping up and I'm pulling them out as fast as I can.

The tank is overflowing and the lemon trees are looking fantastic considering they are in such clay-like soil. This is probably due to all the composting I've dug in over the past few years, because they struggled when first planted ans spent a couple of years sulking.

Looks like there's a break in the rain so I'll pull on the wellingtons and do what i can before the next cloudburst.