Boxes and Bounty

As a gardening experiment last month, I made a few wicking boxes for my front balcony. It faces east, across the River Derwent and while the view is lovely, it gets all the morning sun and can be quite windy. This time of year, we can’t walk on the concrete in bare feet before 2pm! I’ve grown salad greens in containers out there since I moved in, over six years ago but it’s a lot of work and difficult keeping water up to them with baking sun and drying winds.

IMG_20151215_102432I started out buying two food grade plastic crates from my local hardware store (I think they were 23 litre size), the kind that are often used as recycling boxes. All other materials were either recycled or things I had on hand.

Old hose was spiked with holes and laid in the bottom, with the refill end slotted into a length of larger diameter poly pipe to make it easier to pour water into. It looks pretty ugly but it works!

Next, I put a layer of gravel over the hose, making sure the refill end IMG_20151215_102947didn’t get buried as you can see in the photo. By the way, this gravel wouldn’t be my ideal but it was sitting in a pile begging to be used up and there was just enough to do all the boxes 🙂

At the top of the gravel, I carefully drilled a small overflow hole diagonally opposite the refill hose. This means water won’t build up and start getting smelly and the plants won’t rot in overly wet soil.

IMG_20151215_103048Next, I covered the gravel with some old tea towels that weren’t really wonderful for wiping dishes anymore. They allow the water to pass through but not the soil. Eventually, they will rot away and I’ll have to replace them but it was good to recycle them. Old shade cloth would be ideal if you have it.

At this stage, I put a thin layer of good quality potting mix over the top, and I recommend not cutting any corners with this. The better the soil, the better the plants! I mixed well rotted sheep poo and plenty of mushroom compost in large bucket and worked this through layers of potting mix until the box was fairly full. The result was a friable, rich mix, perfect for quick growing summer salad veggies.

I made sure the soil was damp before planting out the first seedlings and watered them overhead for the first couple of days, until the water reservoir started to do its thing. I ended up doing eight boxes in total and crammed in fast growing Pak Choi, Portulaca, Red Amaranth, Grumolo Verde Chicory, Garland Chrysanthemum and even Silverbeet. The results have been fabulous

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The pic above was taken 15th December 2015 and the pic below a month later, the 14th January 2016. The results have been incredibly successful and I’m only having to refill the reservoir about once every three or four days instead of overhead watering morning and night. Despite the fact salad is my favourite meal of the day, I can barely keep up with the amount of food these boxes are producing!

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Do you grow vegetables in containers? What are your top tips? Please leave a comment below – I love to hear from you all! 

Back to the Future Garden

Amidst all the bunny porn I’ve been posting lately (a friend’s description – not mine!) there’s been other things happening.
Up until yesterday’s rain, the weather was lovely and warm. The Basil is starting to take off in the greenhouse and I’ve been trying to pot up a few more each day to increase the crop.
On the balcony garden, which is primarily a winter salad garden, I’ve started sorting out the planter boxes and I’m thinking baby carrots along with the usual mustard greens and Coriander for the summer and autumn.
Also I gathered a large amount of Kale pods to dry. This much maligned vegetable is one of my favourites, as well as being one of the hardiest plants for my climate. Finely shredded, it’s the mainstay of my winter salads and stir fries, and the flavour is definitely improved by a good frost. My favourite variety is the Italian Black Lacinato but I grow Russian Red in the backyard too for the tender new leaves and Broccoli-like heads – the chickens get plenty of it too!
Collecting seed can be tricky as Brassicas cross pollinate easily but it’s worth the extra effort for the satisfaction of growing your own. It’s an investment in the garden of the future.
Wherever you are, have a great day in your garden 😀
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Fingers Crossed – NBN!

My Drowning Plaster Bird

My Drowning Plaster Bird

It’s raining – again or still – my brain is suffering from rising damp I think. The chickens are lurking under their shade table or in their coop to dry and keep dry and tempers are short in my little bunny kingdom.

Meanwhile, I still have no solid internet connection but I’ve still managed to keep NaBloPoMo going – haven’t missed a day so far! And I’ve just uploaded my final assignment to a Preparation for University Study course through Open University Australia. I’ve been really surprised and heartened by my results – but the real fun starts later this month when I begin my first proper online unit through Griffith University in Queensland.

I had a phone call yesterday, and the NBN are booked to come to my house tomorrow to wire in our new fibre connection. I cannot to begin to tell you all how happy that makes me! Above all, this will enable me to teach via Skype to anyone who has a solid internet connection. As well, I’ll be able to do my online uni studies without having to resort to leaching net connections from family and friends or docking to my mobile phone connection. (I hate to think what my bill is going to be this month!)

In the greenhouse, I’ve been incredibly pleased with how everything’s still growing despite the ridiculous weather we’re having here in Tasmania. I planted Basil seed some time ago and pricked out seedlings into egg cartons to grow them on quickly and give me a chance to pot them up without any further disturbance of their roots.

Basil from Egg Cartons

Basil from Egg Cartons

It’s a neat method and I find it gives seedlings a better start. As you can see from the picture below, the Lettuce Leaf Basil has certainly taken off well!

How the Basil Grows!

How the Basil Grows!

But sadly, the front balcony, which serves as my winter salad garden, is suffering badly from the wet weather. I think the only plants that are thriving are the watercress – funny that! Hopefully, we’ll get some more seasonal warm (and dry!) weather soon, so I’ll be able to collect the seed for next year’s crops.

The Balcony Garden

The Balcony Garden

There will be little or no gardening today. Reading, songwriting (another song about the rain?), more recording preparation and plenty of cups of tea for me I think! Have a great day folks wherever you are 😉