Friday, June 29, 2018

Kitchen garden update

It's been a month, since setting up my new kitchen garden. I was watering every other day - but only a light sprinkling. Just until the shallow roots delved a little deeper, into the potting mix. Even though the temperatures were milder than summer, the soil was still drying out. As we hadn't seen any rain for many weeks.

Over 4 weeks ago

This was my kitchen garden, newly planted, in early June. This photograph was taken in the late afternoon, as it took most of the day to set up. Being quite advanced specimens too, it greened the area nicely.

It's quite a lovely place to look out, while sitting at the dinner table. But it's amazing what a month of growing in winter (in the Sunshine State) can do.


Taken, late morning this time, you can see how much sun the plants are given. I haven't had any curious kangaroos, take a nibble yet. But they have other places on the verandah they frequently visit - noted by their little nuggets of poop. For those who've never seen kangaroo poop before, imagine rabbit pellets on steroids.

Which actually gives me a great idea. I know, right? Poop and gardening. It's what makes things grow! In containers, once the nutrient in the soil runs out, you need to add more. Time to make some fermented tea fertiliser. I might as well DO something with those pellets, my kangaroo friends left behind!

Lettuce, front
Silverbeet, dwarfed on other side (not as much sun)

From the kitchen garden however, I'm snacking on lettuce leaves and picking herbs for cooking. It's a small supply, to be sure. Sometimes I have to venture to the wild parsley which has seeded itself in my garden. I did that for pizza the other night. Lots of parsley! I still consider this garden, a bit immature though. Growth is slower in winter, so how I browse it, has to correspond.

The kitchen garden experiment has worked successfully. The only downside, is not having enough supply. Maybe when the silverbeet grows big enough to pick, that will change.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Zero waste Master class

Doesn't that sound fancy? A master class, in reducing waste. I wanted to shout out to those in the local area, about an event coming up on 20 June. It's a Wednesday, at 6pm.

Here's a link for more information. Tickets cost the change out of $12. A pretty reasonable price, for a Master class.

No personal affiliation - okay, maybe a little. The Source in Toowoomba, is my favourite place to bulk-buy foods and reduce packaging.

 Shhh...I get loyalty points

I slipped them my email, and they mentioned the Masterclass, in one of them. But I still pay full price for my goods. Unless I use my loyalty card. Yeah, but everyone has one of those. So no extra concessions.

I guess there's nothing to see here, but someone who is excited to reduce waste. Do you have a favourite store/local merchant, to shop for bulk supplies?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Easy wins

Sometimes on 5 acres, when there's only two of you for labour, and only so many resources to go around (plus, the weather isn't playing very nice) well, you take a few losses in the garden. A substantial few! Like, why am I still doing this, few?

You may have noticed this, when I wrote about food production (or lack there of) in this post, about the necessity of water.  I was going to curtail my gardening efforts, until I resolved the water issue. But then, inspiration happens and you think about the situation a little differently.


Like how can I get some easy wins, on the board? Having endured so much failure, I wanted something with minimal effort, delivering quick results. Perhaps it will cost me a little more, but buying punnets of seedlings, instead of growing from seed, will get a quicker turnaround. Because I realised winter is perhaps our optimal growing season, and we're already three days into it.


While I'm at it, why not purchase some pots designed to deliver water to my plants, more readily? Two of them, cost me the change out of $50. It's not something I would normally do, but I wasn't happy, avoiding growing food in my garden for a lack of water. I needed something to deliver it more efficiently.

Water conservation

This self-watering pot, works somewhat like a wicking bed. A cavity is created for a water reservoir, under the black insert. While the soil and roots can wick it up, from above. I already had one of these (lasted 12 years) so knew they faired better, than most pots in the garden.

Because the bane of growing in pots, is the capacity for them to dry the soil out, if they're put in full sun. Which is exactly, what I planned to do! But I had a strategy too. This was not just going to be any garden, it was going to be my kitchen garden. I have wanted one, just outside our kitchen door, for ages.

Level up

First thing was first though. Site and design. It was a north facing site, right next to our concrete verandah. Meaning, it would receive all day sun. If I was hoping for an overexposed site, to dry out the pots - I succeeded in finding it. But to my plan!

I was going to raise the pots off the ground, to avoid frost (on the rare occasion we get any) as well as make it easier on my back, to come out at night, and pluck the bits I needed for making dinner. I also didn't want cane toads jumping in the pots, squashing my seedlings. So I dug the site, to level the ground, for my recycled crates.


Then I put my creative thinking, hat on. I needed something to shade the pots from all day, sun exposure. Luckily, my son had destroyed an inside screen, last year, running through the house, lol. It had three panels, and one was destroyed. I sat an, intact panel, on the edge of my crates, and put up a few recycled wooden stakes, to hold it up. I knew that broken shovel handle, would come in handy, one day.

The beauty of this temporary set-up is, I can remove the screen, if I find the pots actually NEED the sun, to warm the soil. Especially with semi-overcast days. I like the thought of being able to change the set-up, as the weather conditions change.

Pot arrangement

Then it was time to arrange my collection of new and old, pots. The pale ones are new, and the darker ones are old. Because it was limited space too, plant selection was important. I couldn't have anything in these pots, that wouldn't be used. I kept this in mind, when purchasing seedlings.

Most of the new plants were seedlings, but I discovered after planting out, there was room for a few more. So I grabbed some from my existing garden. They will take a while to come back - as their roots were more disturbed and I had to prune them, but I was happy with my final arrangement - which I'll get to in a moment.


Another one of those easy wins, came about, through purchasing premium potting mix. Two bags full. They're ready made, to give plants a good start to life. But I also had some leftover compost from the wicking beds, I was in the process of breaking down. And David scored some unexpected, free leaf matter, as well.

So I only purchased half the amount of bags I needed, and substituted with the other available resources. It pacified my recycling philosophy, that was getting ruffled, due to the newer resources I was bringing in.


This is my favourite pot, I will be visiting regularly. Herbs! Basil, oregano and thyme. There are other herbs sprinkled through other pots, but these are my favourite to eat in omelets.

The hens are still laying, thankfully. Between one and four a day. On average, two. It's not bad for 6 hens, with some going through a moult and the sun hours are diminishing. So I still have the opportunity to eat my herbs with fresh eggs.

Kale leaf

You saw the mixed lettuce, in the first image, but we also like to eat kale. I got two different colours, and pretty advanced specimens, at that. So I shouldn't be waiting too long to snack from the kitchen garden.

I've had this kitchen garden on the back-burner for a while, and I'm happy to see it finally take shape. Of course, you may think this next plant I chose, to be a rather odd placement, in a kitchen garden.

Strawberry flower

Strawberries. Only three plants. It won't make much of a meal, but I do like to snack on berries in the garden. Being so close to the house, I dare say the kids will find them, before I do!

But that was the whole point of placing strawberries in the kitchen garden. To make it a place of interest for the kids. They may not like to snack on herbs, and thankfully one of my kids will at least, eat lettuce - But neither can resist strawberries!

Common mint

I've wanted garden mint for a while. Every time we've tried it however, it didn't receive the kind of moisture it needed. I ran out of space on my raised area, but knew I could rig something up for the mint. It would sit on the Eastern side of the kitchen garden, so would be shaded by afternoon.

I also had another strategy up my sleeve, to help.

Two buckets

I have many, 5 litre buckets, around the place. The pale bucket (above) once grew ginger in it - hence the holes. I was going to make my own self-watering pot, and create a layer of insulation from direct sunlight, by placing the bucket with drainage holes, inside the sealed bucket. I should hope the mint will do well.

Finished kitchen garden

All in all, I'm happy with the result. I can grow a small area of food, without running out of water, or depriving the plants. I can alter the shading arrangements, to suit the climate also. It's easier on my back to pick from the raised platform, and I have outside lights, for ease of picking at night too. No more, trudging outside with the torch.

It may not be pretty, but it's an easy win, all the same. So I'll take it!