If there’s one thing that gardening produces a lot of, it’s green waste that needs composting. So while we have a small compost bin for the farm’s kitchen scraps, a proper compost pile is needed for the garden, even at this early stage.
One of the easiest ways to create something fairly solid is to assemble a compost bay from pallets. What’s nice is that pallets are a free resource (the unbranded ones that is), which can be obtained (with permission!) from the loading bays of many shops.
The pallets are quite easy to screw together, to create a bay that’s two pallets wide, and two deep. Cover the inside of the pallets with shade cloth (or equivalent) to stop the compost falling out.
A half-size front makes it easier to add to the pile, and this is just wired on, allowing it to be easily removed when the compost needs turning (or harvesting!).
We’re only a few months into our farm adventure, and already we have a good-sized pile that should be ready by spring or summer. Happy days.
It’s been a while since we’ve done a “first of” post. We did many during the first heady months of establishing our first proper veg patch, when every harvest is new and exciting. After time, of course, it all becomes very routine and not worth mentioning.
Still, dragon fruit is a pretty spectacular thing! We were given a piece of this succulent by a friend, over five years ago. Since then it’s clambered up our fence and into the tree, but only now has it started to fruit.
The flowers are distinctive, and they bloom for only a very short period. A few weeks later, we had three bright red fruit standing out against the green of the plant, and the grey of the fence.
A possum eat one, but we still ended up with two fruit. We cut them up to use in a fruit salad, combined with a harvest of mangoes and some yoghurt, yum!
This is just one of the sub-tropical plants that I’m starting to grow in Sydney, as we seemingly shift inexorably away from a temperate climate.
The plan for our new farm includes a having a number of beehives, to complement the three we already have in Sydney.
So when I heard through the grapevine that a Canberra-based beekeeper was looking to downsize their collection of Warré hives, I jumped on it. Beekeeping does end up taking quite a bit of time, so its no wonder that many beekeepers end up trimming down the number of hives they keep.
The hive was in a community garden, where it was happily surrounded by vegetables and fruit trees.
Preparations were made the night before the move, putting on a ventilated lid, sealing up the entrance, and strapping everything tightly. It was then just a matter of getting the hive onto the ute, for the 2.5 hour drive down to the coast.
Within ten minutes of opening the hive back up the bees were busy flying around, surveying their new location. While there isn’t a huge amount flowering on the farm (it’s mostly rainforest), we do have several hectares of weeds that will keep them going!
The plan is is to add a second Warré hive, and a Kenyan top-bar hive, and then see how we go from there. And once we get our plantings underway, they will be very happy hives 🙂
Over Christmas, when we had three dry months, our tanks dropped to nearly empty. They also started to stink, clearly the results of anaerobic decomposition of the plant material washed off our roof. Smelly water feeding into the washing machine, not good!
Our setup has first flush diverters, designed to capture the first lot of dirty water that flows into the gutter. They’re not magic, however, and gunk still gets in to the tanks, and builds up over time.
In the country, where households have to rely exclusively on their water tanks, it’s routine to get them cleaned out every while. I haven’t heard of it being done in the city, however. This might be because most of the tanks were put in at the same time as us, or later, and the problems are only now starting to emerge.
When we were out at a country show, we collected a business card from Leigh’s water tank cleaning, who we talked into dropping by our place when he happened to be heading into the city. We also talked to the Water Tank Cleaning Company who operate throughout Sydney (their website was down at the time of posting).
Leigh was very friendly, the the process is surprisingly simple. It’s basically a hand-manoeuvred version of a pool cleaner, which is steered around the base of the tank where the gunk has accumulated.
It’s somewhat horrifying to see how much dark brown water gushes forth. No wonder our water filters kept getting clogged up, trying to deal with all that!
It’s a quick process, and within half an hour, our two main tanks were done. That should keep them going for a few years…
That mound of green is one of our current success stories in the garden, but not in the way we expected.
It’s sweet potato, and it’s the best example of my pivot from temperate to sub-tropical plants, matching the shift in Sydney’s climate. It isn’t eaten by slugs, snails, caterpillars or other bugs. It’s not affected by powdery mildew, rusts or other fungal diseases. It’s not even slightly stressed by 40deg heat.
Last season, however, it completely failed to provide edible tubers. Doh 😦
And then I saw on Gardening Australia that sweet potato leaves are edible. Eureka!
They’re treated like spinach leaves, steamed, fried or sautéed. They’re delicious, and we use them in salads, as a green alongside meat, or in stir-fries.
They’ve become all our all-year, all-weather source of greens. But let’s hope that this season they also give us actual sweet potatoes!
Whether you’re in the city or the country, you have to wage a constant war on weeds. Many are hard to kill, some are poisonous.
Others, however, are hard to identify. And if you don’t know what it is, how do you know whether to pull it out (and how)?
When down at the recent Small Farm Field Day, I visited the stand manned by the Department of Agriculture. They pointed me to an excellent phone app, called NSW WeedWise.
This contains a comprehensive collection of weeds, including photos and descriptions. It also indicates how serious a weed is, and whether you’re required to destroy it.
A lot of the weeds I already knew about, but I was pleased to learn about Moth vine. This looks quite like choko, and it’s growing on the back fence of the convent.
Far from being edible, however, it has sap that’s poisonous, and it spreads itself liberally when the seed pod bursts open.
Another day, another weed. Download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play.
Dried herbs are a pantry staple, used in everything from roasts to pasta sauces. While they’re easily obtainable in every supermarket, it’s nice to make your own.
Particularly when you’re drying herbs that simple can’t be found in shops.
Pineapple sage, apart from being loved by bees, makes a delicious tea. Infuse a teaspoon’s worth of herbs for 5mins, and then drink with delight.
Lemon-scented tea tree (leptospermum peteronii) has a lovely lemony taste, as the name would suggest. Distinctly different from a lemon, the dried herb can nonetheless be used as a replacement for lemon in soups, etc.
All of these herbs were dried in our cool cupboard, and the biggest effort is plucking off the leaves to store them.
What herbs are you drying from out of your garden?