1 September 2007

It's Spring!

The end of winter is never the best time to see a beautiful vegetable garden as the harshness of winter does take its toll, but there is still beauty to be seen in a functional garden and even though plants are wilted and yellow, to me that's just part of the cycle of life. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

It's the first day of Spring today so I'm celebrating the end of a beautifully cold winter and the start of warmer days. H cleaned out the chicken coup yesterday and today I hope he'll make a shade structure for them. We want them to have a little area of protection from the sun and rain. We'll use recycled timber and iron sheeting we already have so no money will be spent and waste products will be given a new life.

This is Cocobelle, my favourite chook.

Bare spaces here where we harvested all the turnips and some cabbages. We'll be planting potatoes in this bed.

I cleaned up the aquaponics gardens yesterday. I removed some celery that's been growing there for the past five months and planted beefsteak and Amish paste tomato seedlings. I still have one pink brandywine tomato growing there. It's just a side shoot from one of the large bushes we had growing but it's full of flowers and since the other tomato bushes were removed, it's really taken off.

This is the aquaponics system. The fish are in the 3000 litre tank at the bottom and we grow all sorts of organic vegetables in the two grow beds at the top. The water in the fish tank is pumped up to the vegetables, it trickles down through the gravel and this process and the action of beneficial bacteria growing on the gravel, purifies the water which then falls back into the fish tank.

So far we have planted in the aquaponics beds: tomatoes, capsicums (peppers), parsley,
asparagus and ruby chard. We'll probably finish off the rest of the celery in the next couple of weeks, so I'll plant some celery seeds (tall Utah) today to be planted when they're about 4 inches tall. I love gardening with aquaponics, it's so easy. You just plant and that's it! No watering, fertilising or weeding. It's all taken care of within the system. And the bonus? Fish!

Here you can see one of the two grow beds attached to the aquaponics system. In the centre and just to the left are the just planted tomato seedlings. Joel over at backyardaquaponics harvested 31 kilos of tomatoes from one bush last year. I'm aiming for half of that.

The fish are growing quite well. We have three large silver perch about 6 or 7 inches long.
They're quite fat now and have developed blurry stripes. We expect them to start growing faster as the temperature increases. We took all the plants out of the tank when we had the problem with the fish dying and now that's been rectified, I'd like to put some plants back in. I'm sure the fish like the plants and hiding in them makes them feel more secure. They're very timid creatures until it's feeding time and then they turn into a pack of sharks in a feeding frenzy. It's a good thing to watch as the fish swim right up to the surface and down again, hoping to get every bit of food they can. As soon as they've had their fill, they're quiet again and hang around the plumbers pipes we put in the water for them to hide in.

This large fish is one of the originals along with lots of the newer ones.

The soil vegetable garden is changing quite quickly as we've been harvesting cabbages, cauliflowers, green beans and peas, and planting seeds and seedlings. Our aim is to provide as much of our own food as we can grow and often it's a balancing act to keep the food coming every day. We often have gaps when we have to buy potatoes or pumpkins, with most of the other vegetables we make do with what's in the garden - if we have no chard, we eat cabbage or spinach, if we have no carrots, we eat turnips, no lettuce, we have rocket, there is usually something to keep us going. From my experience, creating a continuous supply is the most difficult thing to manage in the vegetable garden.

Over the past week or two we've planted bok choy, carrots, radishes and silver beet in this bed.

This is our vegetable and fruit growing list at the moment. In the ground producing, or as seeds or seedlings, we have: cabbages, cauliflower, bok choy, potatoes, English spinach, silverbeet and ruby chard, garlic, green and red welsh onions, amaranth, thyme, comfrey, oregano, marjoram, bay, rocket, lettuce, snow peas, green lake beans, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, pigeon peas, chokos, asparagus, parsley, capsicum, celery, zucchini, pumpkin, bananas, pink grapefruit, lemons, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, pineapples, passionfruit, peaches, nectarines, mandarin, grapes, red paw paw and avocados.

This is one of our newer Washington navel oranges. It's two years old now. I'll remove a lot of these flowers as the tree is still not strong enough to hold them all. Removing some of the oranges allows those remaining to grow bigger and removes the risk of the branches ripping away from the trunk while it's still young.

now that it's the first day of spring, we hope it will all start growing like Topsy. We'll spend the day making and applying fertiliser, harvesting, pulling out and planting, sowing, reorganising, changing, tying up and pruning and hope that our work helps produce some delicious organic food over the months to come.
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