Big Changes and Growth

It’s been a while but I’ve been keeping busy.  After my first two boxes were installed and filled I then had the opportunity to buy and plant two more.  Access to worm tea from our worm farm is a big bonus.  The plants flourish and grow with this fertilizer boost.  I have been able to tap off a considerable amount of liquid fertilizer and it’s about time to harvest the second lot of worm cast manure.  The plants just love it.

I also use natural pest control by making a solution of bicarbonate of  soda and dish soap to keep aphids off my plants.

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One of the significant changes is the installation of another tank for harvesting rainwater.  Hubby and his assistants worked very hard to get the new tank installed.

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We now have a 2500 litre, a 5000 litre and a 10 000 litre tank.  They have all benefitted hugely from the recent rains.  I think there will be enough to get us through the dry times.  Now we need to do the tidy up in the area.

We then went off on holiday for three weeks.  I missed my garden and worried about it surviving whilst I was gone in spite of having friends and family who looked after the care and watering.  I returned today to get a big surprise.  I recently had a birthday and retired from my job.  As a gift from my family to mark the occasion they bought ten more big boxes and my kind son even lined them with black plastic in preparation for filling.  Wow!  I was bowled over.  Now my  “farm” can really sustain us.

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The guys installed the new boxes where I used to have a vegetable bed so I lost some of my half grown crops but the benefits of these new boxes are going to more than make up for the loss.  I’m very excited and look forward to filling and planting in the next few days.  My family also gave me the gift of a voucher to buy heritage seeds and so I am well stocked and ready to let the fun begin.  Thank you to my husband and children for the awesome gift.  It’s all going to keep me off the streets and out of mischief for a while.

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Containers and fertilizer

I sit here with an aching back and a happy smile.  It’s been a good day in the garden today.  It started off when I went to look for some wooden boxes at a company that buys and sells pallets and the like.  I thought if I can’t get ready made boxes I’ll buy some lumber and prevail upon son or hubby to help me make them up.  They had great boxes for just R80! They’re the boxes that car parts come in and once they are discarded they are sold off.  I was really happy to find such a bargain.  But then came the hard part.  How to get them home?  I don’t have access to a trailer and neither do I have a tow hitch so a trailer is no good to me.  One of the helpers came over and after making the back seats of my little hatchback lie absolutely flat we discovered that by removing two slats from the base of the box we could just get it over the lip of the back door.  Quite a squeeze but it worked.

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Even the guys were impressed with the price of the ready made box – I think they are grateful to be spared the task  of making it up.  Once home I lined the box with black plastic and made some holes in it for drainage. Next came the task of filling the box.  This is where the sore back comes in.  The box is deeper than it needs to be so I had to use a lot of organic stuff as the first layer.  Leaves, branches, sticks – all the stuff that goes on the first stage composting pile.  As this matter breaks down and sinks I will have to top up the soil but it’s better than using rocks.  IMG_1058

Once the box was full of a mixture of soil, manure and compost we were ready to plant.  I have some of my lettuce seeds ready for planting out so they are the first to go in.  I have used recycled bottles to cover them for the first few day to help them get established.  The bottles also keep off the chill at night.

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I will be using the box for quick growing leafy vegetables for now.  The joy of it is I don’t have to bend over or crouch, both of which cause my left knee to lock and I struggle to straighten up again.  I will certainly be investing in more of these boxes.  I’m not sure how long the wood will last but for now they serve the purpose.  2016-05-14 15.38.46

We are between crops at the moment.  The baby tomato vines have died off and I’m waiting for the new plants to grow and bear fruit.  We do have turnips, some lettuce, spinach, carrots, a cauliflower and brinjals ready.  Everything else needs a few more weeks.  We do have lots of herbs like rosemary, parsley, basel and lemon grass which are a great for flavour in the cooking.

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The other exciting event today was that I was able to tap off about 1.4 litres of “worm wee” from our worm farm.  This is the first time and I am delighted that the whole system is working.  Once again, well done hubby.  So after a frustrating time doing battle with aphids and cutworm I am feeling more upbeat and encouraged.

Obstacles and Disappointments

Ok, so the cucumbers have bacterial wilt disease.  When I went to see if there was one or two ready for picking earlier this week I found two that had turned yellow and gone mushy.  I did a google on diseases and found this video that explains my vine’s symptoms. So sad and frustrating.  After all the excitement of watching the vine grow and nurturing it it’s all come to nothing.  I have now followed the recommended suggestion for spraying the vine with soapy water and bicarbonate of soda in the hope that I may still rescue some of the yet to mature cucumbers, but I’m not holding my breath.  It’s all a learning curve.

2016-04-30 15.05.52 I made sure to spray my second vine with the same mixture and hopefully I will have more success with this one. It’s growing on the other side of the garden and hopefully it hasn’t been contaminated by the nasty little creatures that attacked the first vine.

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I love the constantly changing garden as things grow and mature and others are planted.  I planted out the first of my seedlings grown from the Living Seeds I bought.  I also planted a row of beans directly into the soil and they are looking healthy.  There is Swiss Chard, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, butternut and zucchini doing very nicely and establishing themselves this week.  We had some very heavy rain overnight with a sharp drop in temperature.  I was able to gather enough plastic and glass bottles to cover each seedling before the rain fell so they weren’t drowned by the downpours.  The tanks are full to overflowing and everything is looking very happy.

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I have become very focussed on finding other spaces to plant crops.  Our garden isn’t big and with two dogs that enjoy tearing around I have to be sensitive to their need for some space.  This week I found a source for good sized wooden vegetable garden boxes at a reasonable price.  I have ordered four of them and when they are available I will then have to hire a trailer to collect them.  The beauty of using boxes is that they can be moved during the different seasons, depending on the amount of sun required.

2016-04-30 15.06.50These are some of the recycled pots with some happy herbs growing and I have turnips, carrots and celery growing in bags.  They are looking very healthy and we anticipate some good harvests there.

Our red wrigglers are chomping their way through our kitchen scraps and the compost bin is almost ready to be emptied from the bottom.

Winter is officially upon us.  Our area is on the edge of the winter rainfall part of South Africa.  We do get some summer rain but most of it blows in with each successive cold front and can it blow!  Last night we lit our first fire of the season.  Let’s see what next week brings in Gogo’s Growing garden.

Learning and Growing

Growing food is a daily learning curve for this backyard farmer.  I am so grateful for all the people who post and share their own experiences as well as answering questions.  Facebook pages like, Urban Homestead,  Port Elizabeth Urban Agriculture and  Nature’s Way  are a valuable resource for information.

A lovely gift was from friends from our church who gave us a bucket of their red wrigglers to supplement those we bought.  We now have a happy bunch of wriggly worms chomping their way through our kitchen waste.  Thank you Mike and Glyn.

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The first batch of seedlings was ready for planting this weekend.  I was able to plant out some tomatoes, broccoli, Swiss chard, beans and carrots.  Space in my patch is limited so I have resorted to using cheap bags from the hardware store to plant squash, turnips and some more carrots.

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The water in our first tank is getting low now but we still have a full 5000 litre tank at the front of the house.  What a relief to have a source of rainwater.  My biggest concern is pests.  I still see the occasional cut worm and the cucumber vine has some wilting leaves which could be ominous.  The cucumbers are looking good and should be ready to start harvesting within 2 weeks.

Growing food is so good for the soul.  It keeps one out in the fresh air, active and absorbed in the cycle of nature.  It’s definitely worth the trouble.

 

Red Wrigglers and Vermicast

I have been thinking about a worm farm for a while but it all seemed like it would be a huge problem to set up.  I am a big fan of researching on the Internet so I went to YouTube and did a search.  This Australian gardener gave a practical and informative description of how to make and maintain a worm farm.  I showed the video to hubby and the next day he came home with all the materials and a few hours later we had the structure for our worm farm.  I am so impressed.

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We placed  it under a pin oak in the corner of the garden where it will be in the shade all year around – it’s important to keep the worms cool.  Oh worms!  We have a worm farm but where will I get worms in this city?

I went back to the Internet and came across this site. Wow! The business is situated just a few kilometers from home and Charne was able to supply me with 500 red wrigglers today. I love it when a plan comes together.  So begins the next stage of our “backyard farm” development.

One of the things I’m discovering is that there is less and less waste in our home.  We’ve been recycling for quite a few years but now I find we are using a lot more of the materials we would usually send to the recyclers – like containers, cool drink bottles and cans.  This gardening thing is really producing huge benefits.  The best thing is popping out the back door and picking enough salad greens and baby tomatoes to make a salad for supper.  Today has been an exceptionally hot day here.  It’s Autumn but the temperature at one point was 37deg C.  I hope it’s followed by some drenching rain soon.

 

The harvest begins – slowly

  
I think this harvest isn’t too bad for a Friday afternoon. The hard work is beginning to bear fruit. We have enjoyed green peppers, Swiss Chard, a large sweet potato, lots of lettuce, baby tomatoes, green beans, herbs, brinjals and even a butternut.  

I received my order of heritage seeds last week and I’m all excited about my little baby seedlings starting to appear in the seedling trays. I found a lovely warm, sheltered spot for the seedlings on our front verandah where they are sheltered from heavy rain and strong winds.  I feel like a very protective mommy all over again. 

   
 
Broccoli and Swiss Chard are coming first in the germination stakes but the other seeds are also just beginning to poke their delicate shoots through the soil. I know it sounds a bit silly to get excited about my vegetable garden but hey, when the world around us is unravelling it’s the simple things like fresh homegrown food that feeds body and soul. 

The long-term plan is to build some raised beds in my “farmyard”, but that may have to wait until I retire from my day job later this year.  In the meantime it’s back to Living Seeds catalogue to plan the next stage. 

Heirloom Seeds

I have been reading up about the ills of genetically modified (GMO) seeds and crops.  It’s seems that huge corporations like Monsanto have increasingly taken control of the production of seeds worldwide.  I am no expert on the subject but I’m trying to do some research and find out why this is such a bad thing.  My friend Peta Bennet also referred me to this site on the Top 10 reasons to avoid GMO.  It seems that it’s almost impossible to buy GMO-free seeds commercially.  Some of the risks of GMO foods are documented in this article.  By joining the heirloom seed revolution, ordinary gardeners are helping promote food security for future generations.  As part of the learning curve one needs to save seed and be prepared to share and swop with other farmers with the same goal. My first order of seeds is from Living Seeds.  The linked article explains more about what an heirloom seed is.  Although I have long known about GMO and the risks of being exposed to them, I have only recently discovered what heritage seeds are.  One of the motivations for following a LCHF diet, or Banting, is to avoid those nasty GMO-contaminated carbohydrates like wheat and corn.

Now my big question is,  “If I’m going to be planting my heirloom seeds and saving seeds from the products, surely I should first destroy any crops in my garden that have been genetically modified?”  I have previously bought commercial seed packets in the local garden shop so I have no way of knowing if they are harmful.   I have posted my question on two online urban gardening sites and I’m hoping that a grow guru can answer that question for me in the next couple of days.  For now I am planning and preparing for planting my next crops.

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