Saturday, August 29, 2015

More Veg adventures

Since making new ground in my old neglected vegetable bed, I needed some fill to improve the growing conditions. Hopefully soil that was in better condition.

New vegetable bed, with Middle Ridge in the background

It was time to raid a garden area, I had temporarily set up, after evicting the chickens from Middle Ridge chicken coop. That coop, had aged chicken manure in the run. I turned it into a temporary growing area, back in April this year.

It was only ever meant to be temporary, as I had other plans for that area, but I took some photos of the plants before removing the soil.

 Middle Ridge temporary growing area

Most of it was overrun with weeds, but it helped keep the soil shaded and ensured I always had a steady supply of greens for the guinea pigs and chickens. You can see its starting to wane as we come out of winter.

 Daikon radish flowers

The best crop of all, which I really loved was the Daikon radish. Its going to seed at present, and I'm saving the biggest to collect from. I wanted to eat it when I ran out of radish for stir fry, but I needed the seed more.

When cooked, Daikon radish tastes more like parsnip than radish, but still has a mild after-bight that we all know radishes for. I really enjoyed it, and treated it like carrot in my stir fries.

Walking stick kale x 3 plants

Another crop we have eaten from, is the Walking Stick kale. I used them in a stir fry and a casserole. A bit fibrous, but still tasty. I would also pluck this for the chickens and guinea pigs, though the latter weren't overly keen on them.

 Savoy cabbage x 1 plant

The slowest of all growing plants in here, would have to be the Savoy Cabbage. I hope this guy is spared from pest attack. Of all the cabbage, Savoy is my favourite. Its the very best cabbage for flavour in sauerkraut, and its even sweeter when fried with bacon. It even beats Sugarloaf cabbage, as far as I'm concerned. But its the only one I've got too!

I don't know when it will be ready, but it certainly hasn't hearted yet. It may bolt to seed before I get to taste it. If so, I'll collect the seed and plant more.

Lacy Lady pea x 6 plants

The Lacy Lady Peas were a mediocre crop. They grew well, but didn't produce many pods per plant. It could do with the fact, they had to recover from a particularly windy period though.

I'm guessing they're a cooking pea only, as when eaten fresh from the vine, they don't taste tender, despite the fact they received adequate water. I will save the seed and try again, paying more attention to trellising and wind protection.


A surprise crop, which no doubt came from the chicken feed that was once present here, was wheat. I pulled some recently, when I was clearing out part of the area, and fed it to the chickens. Even though it wasn't ready yet, they still liked it very much.

Wheat won't ever be a mainstay crop here, but if I manage to save seed (not knowing anything about wheat, lol) I'll throw some in the chicken feed areas and see what comes up. I have some buckwheat, amaranth, millet and barley to throw into the chicken feed areas as well.

I've never grown my own chicken seed before, but I figure, why not try? If I can get fencing up, I'll even let the chickens do the harvesting for me.

Right side removed

But back to the new vegetable bed, and what to fill it with. I cleared out one row of the soil from the Middle Ridge growing area - fed the weeds, including some silverbeet and celery to the chickens, and transplanted a rubarb plant into the new vegetable bed.


The rubarb transplanted well and even improved. I've never seen the stems that long before. I've also planted basil next to it, and some seeds of some variety, which I hope will use the trellis behind.

I'll come back for more of the soil at Middle Ridge as I need it. Which I found was required quite recently, when extending the new vegetable bed too.

New curved bed

It adjoins the former bed, but as it wasn't going to be a straight line, I used a different kind of block. It was good to use up some odd blocks I had laying around. Notice the colour of the soil is slightly red? That's the natural clay in this area.

Two adjoining beds - both filled with improved soil

Mixed with the new soil, and coffee grounds from my husband's work though, the soil is now a lovely chocolate brown colour.

I planted some jerusalem artichokes in the new bed, and some horseradish root in the block at the very front. Should make it easier for harvesting the root without dispersing it. I have to be careful what plants I choose for this area, as it sits above a retaining wall and gets good drainage.

I depend a lot on the rainy season, with some water from the chicken coop tank, to keep this area hydrated. So anything with a good root system, or preferably a rhizome, will survive here.

I'm not stopping, however. as I have more beds to extend. I'm gearing up for Spring. :)


  1. As I read your nonchalant approach to weeds I got to thinking how great weeds are to either compost or use as no-dig layering material or to use as weed-tea. I think folks need to re-think their attitude to should do a post on this some time.

  2. Hi Phil. Yes, weeds are fantastic and always in plentiful supply around here. ;) Any issue I had with weeds formerly, had been passed down through the garden guru grapevine. It was well known that everyone hated weeds and did everything in their power to get rid of them.

    Move to acreage though, and you quickly realise how impossible it is to eradicate them. So I use them instead. There are some favourite ones the chickens and guinea pigs like, so I should write something about that. Thanks for the feedback. :)

  3. Wheat is easy to grow. I put in a small quantity every year.....trouble is, the parrots generally find it while it's still green and strip out the seeds. My chooks won't eat the wheat that is in their feed mix, so everywhere I put chook poo compost I get wheat coming up. It's even coming up in the semi-darkness of the compost tumbler where the sweepings from the chook coop go. But they do love sprouted wheat. I sprout it just as I would do for other sprouts. My bird vet told me it's at its nutritional best when there's just a small green shoot and a few tiny roots. They love it then.

    1. Wheat grass is meant to be a super food for people, isn't it? I can see it being popular in a gang of hungry hens. Interesting, they don't eat the wheat in the food, as a grain. They must know something, we don't. ;)

      You're doing a good thing by sprouting it for them.

  4. Your garden is pretty impressive for somebody who has said that she can't grow food! I never cooked daikon but I will now. Usually we use it for a kimchi or a quick Japanese pickle here. We used to grow it because it helps to break up clay soil and it seemed to work for us.
    Like you, I am trying to figure out ways to use the weeds because its an impossible task to eradicate-which I really don't want to do anyway. I'd just like my cultivated food to have a head start before the weeds take over sometimes.
    When you say you are using coffee grinds, do you mean that you put them directly in the soil or that you add them to compost? I remember using the grinds in my potted plants but I cant' remember much about it-and of course I add it all to compost.

    1. Ha, I know! This has been my most successful year, in terms of what I can eat from the garden. It was the new growing area and all that fertility, which helped. The only decent soil I had, thanks to chicken fertility.

      I had thought of using the daikon as a ferment, but had read fermented radishes give off a very unfavourable odour. Plus, stir-fry was quicker, lol.

      I know what you mean about the weeds. Since I had to turn over my soil in the new garden bed, I'm expecting the weed onslaught to follow. I'm already seeing the volunteer tomatoes appearing - and that may not be such a bad thing. There are some things I keep weed free, like anything from the Allium family, as they won't grow well with weed competition. Otherwise, the weeds help shade the ground.

      I actually planted some nasturtium seeds, in hope it would out compete the weeds.

      Re: coffee grounds - David works in a cafe/restaurant, so they get about 20 litres a day. I mix them up in the soil, with a spade, and find they make the texture more aerated. I've also noticed the plants perk up in it, than anywhere else in the garden. Where I added it to the potting mixture, for my potted palms recently, the fronds exploded in new grow!

      I wonder if the stimulant in coffee, works in plants, similar to how it works in human biology?

  5. I suppose its the caffeine in the coffee but it has its own nutrients too so maybe a bit of both.
    Daikon does really stink up the house as it ferments! But once its refridgerated (kim chi gets put in cold storage pretty fast), the smell stays in the jar. When you first open the jar, it reeks for a moment but then the smell is replaced by the signature kim chi aroma. We love it so have to tolerate the problem.
    I have some nasturtium under my oak tree and it does seem to work there-its a larger leafed variety. I have another patch in the garden and it holds it own-a smaller leafed variety-but not as well as the under the oak. I will plant much more next year-its not an annual here but the flowers are delicious. I read that the pods can be pickled but I haven't seen any yet to determine if its worth it.
    I'm really glad that you are getting food. It looks gorgeous and its useful. Good job!

  6. I read the coffee grounds have nitrogen in it, but can't remember where I read it.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the Daikon ferments. I just love to eat them fresh/cooked. Nice fried with cabbage, onion and bacon.

    Back when we had nasturtiums 2012 was the last year, I think, Sarah loved to pick the flowers and suck the nectar from them. We hope Peter gets to enjoy that particular garden treat too, but we have to be sure he knows which flowers are safe to eat - or he'll just start putting any flower to his mouth. Some can be extremely poisonous, so we'll wait till he's a little older.

    I imagine the nasturtiums have the ideal place under your oak tree. They love dappled shade during hot weather. :)


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