Monday, 20 May 2013

Autumn Days

I've been a busy girl out in the fields recently.  It's a five stage plan.  Above our house we have about 25 metres between us and the back boundary.  I want a small, terraced kitchen garden directly outside the back of the house, then a wide meandering grassed area, then a dense planting of natives for screening, wind break and to encourage the small birds closer to the house, then behind that the firebreak.  The kitchen garden will have to wait as we need some earthmoving done first, and the whole area will need to be fenced to avoid Bertha Bunny and Kevin Kangaroo from eating all my lettuce and herbs!
In the meantime I am concentrating on the mass planting of natives towards the very top.  This too needs fencing and I made a start on that this week.  But I've run out of wire.  So until I go to town tomorrow my thoughts turned to the ground work that is necessary.  The top of our place has always been rather arid, it is super dry below the surface yet in some parts there is a thick layer of moss on the surface.  On digging a few deep holes it seems to be sandy, like the rest of our hillside land, we had wondered whether there was sheet rock just under the surface to make the moss form - no, no rock. 

My conclusion is that as this land used to be forest about 25 years ago, that forest and undergrowth has left residual roots in the surface 25cm of soil.  It is just a mass of tiny fibrous roots that don't seem to belong to anything, and these tiny roots seem to be forming a barrier to stop water from soaking in, leaving the surface wet, which encourages the moss.  So I researched what to do about this, iron sulphate kills moss.  But it also reduces the pH so I ran around yesterday doing about 50 pH tests in different areas.  Surprisingly, the untouched soil is pretty much neutral, good to know that we don't have any glaring pH issues, and it also meant that I could throw around the iron sulphate, lowering the pH a tad would be just fine.
Before I started scattering iron sulphate around, I grabbed The Hun out of the shed and cultivated all the soil along the top as deeply as I could, which broke up the surface moss, broke apart the fibrous root masses, and left lots of little furrows for water to sit in and slowly seep into the ground.  Today I spread the iron sulphate around and watered it in, apparently the moss will turn black and die.  I also spread some blood and bone around, and scattered some grass seed.  It will be very interesting to watch and see what happens over the next few weeks.  The next stage is to complete the plant protecting fence, then continue with planting the 50 or so tube stock natives I bought.  Then they all need their green plastic protective covers on, then I plan to mulch them all.  Then HOPEFULLY by spring I will have happy, healthy plants that will grow strongly. 
Speaking of mulch, last week we bought 10 bales of pea straw.  Sound silly but I just love the look of bales stacked on the pallet in front of the vegie patch, it feels very farm-like :-)  And I love the smell of straw.
The first thing I did was mulch my fenced garden area downhill from the house.  I love the look of mulched straw almost as much as the smell of it.
My little bits and pieces near the front door are growing nicely.  I've grown about 40 marigolds from seed and have just potted them on.  Next stage will be to plant them around the vegie patch to help prevent root nematodes.  I'm enjoying popping out the door and grabbing a few leaves of lettuce or herbs to have with my lunch.  This is my kitchen garden until such time as the real one out the back can get started.
I am delighted to see, tucked away under a plastic bag cover, that some basil seeds have sprouted.  I thought it would be too cold.  I think these ones are called lettuce leaf basil, apparently they have huge leaves.  I hope they keep growing, I love basil!
Meanwhile, out in the vegie patch, Steve's crop of potatoes are growing strongly.  It's one of the few things we've found we can grow outside the fenced area that doesn't get devoured by roos and rabbits.  This variety of potato is King Edward, Steve grew them last year and they were really really good.
His broad beans are going well too.  He has planted a lot less of these this year, we were overrun by them last season and still have a couple of kilos of broad beans in the freezer to get through!
The broccoli is looking great.  A trick Steve tried with the brassicas this season was protecting the young seedlings with a short piece of storm water pipe.  He often found that something chewed the young brassica stems at ground level and killed the plants, so the pipe was to try and stop that happening.  And it seems to have worked.  We were suspicious that the culprit was slaters or little beetles, regardless, the pipe seems to have an effective barrier.  In the background are sugar snap peas along the fence, and parsnips/swedes/turnips mixed up, in a line in front of the peas.  Vegie growing is always satisfying when it is not cabbage moth season!
Steve has also continued with the grand shed reburbishment.  It is looking great, things have their place and there is now a huge area of floor space to move about in.  Next job is to build his big workbench which will sit in the middle of the floor.
The lathe even got unpacked and did its first little job of resizing a bolt.
And now the shed is working properly, construction has commenced on the Chook Spa Retreat and Fortress.  :-)


  1. Lobe your blogs Dy, and cant wait to see you very soon :-)

    1. Thanks Ange, looking forward to seeing you too! X