The Garden Share Collective August 2014

Can you feel it? That faint hint of spring, in the little sting of the midday sun, the ever so slightly lengthening days and the bud swell in deciduous trees? While most mornings we are crunching across serious frosts (and dealing with no running water until 10am due to frozen pipes and pumps), the afternoons are definitely feeling less wintery than July. Before I know it, we'll be in full Spring Garden Mode and the rows of tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums...but not just yet!

The last month has seen a focus on getting some irrigation infrastructure in place in the market garden - the old set up was difficult to mow around a mishmash of different configurations and lengths. The six new beds we have formed are giving us a good idea of the space we'll have to work with - they are 'raised' a good 30 cm above the ground level, so will warm a little more quickly in spring, and also provide good drainage and a deep loose profile for the veggie roots to grow. After a couple of emails with Matt and Lentil from Grown and Gathered about their garden, we've decided to give mulching heavily between our new rows a go. This will hopefully reduce mowing and weeding time, as well as providing a happy space for soil microbes and worms.

We've also had couple of downers this month - our beautiful rows of garlic appear to have some type of virus...it looks like Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (even though I can't get confirmation that garlic could even be infected with it). It is spread by aphids and there is an infestation of in an Oat crop elsewhere on the farm. This is a big, big problem - I'm not sure we'll get the garlic to harvest from here, but all we can do is fertilise and pamper it, and focus on keeping the rest of the leeks and onion aphid free. I've sprayed all of it with a nettle and comfrey tea concoction, which is a double whammy for aphids and foliar fertilisation...I'll spray this week with a simple home made white oil solution, and then switch back to the nettle/comfrey tea each fortnight. Watch this space.

The other downer is my snow peas - I have had total failure with them. I think it's the super heavy frosts we've been having, even though they are meant to like the cold, I think they've been too much for the small plants - and I think they were kept in the hot house too long before planting them out, making them weaker and not as resilient. I hardened them off outside for a good week or so before planting, but they still failed to thrive. I've replanted some seeds directly into the garden now, so we'll see how they go.

There have been many positives though - my talented and very awesome other half finished off a new chicken tractor for one flock of our chookies, meaning they are much more comfortable than in their old one, and that they now have proper laying boxes, so we aren't getting as many broken and dirty eggs. It also means we can move them around much more easily, which is great. We plan to move them our of the market garden where they currently are, to another area where we will be planting our 'sprawling' crops in summer (like the pumpkins, melons and sweet potato) so they can work over those beds and fertilise them for us. I'm still nervous of loosing them to foxes where they are going, but we're hoping the electric netting keeps doing it's job. Our second crop of broccoli is finally forming heads, and actually looking much happier than I thought it would - I think the plants went in a little late, so the vigour just wasn't there compared to the earlier crop. I thought it would be a full-on failure, but it looks like we'll get some nice compact broccoli heads after all. We also planted a new Globe Artichoke row along one of the fence lines around the market garden - this was partly to create space in one of the current perennial beds for more asparagus, but also to act as a permeable barrier for frost and wind, and as a haven for the many little birds that hang out around there are do a great job keeping aphids and other nasties down in the veggies. It looks like the majority of the divided Globes are looking ok a couple of weeks on, so fingers crossed they keep on growing. Most exciting of all - we're getting some pigs! They won't be arriving until late September, and we're going to be using them to dig up and prepare the second half of the market garden, so we can double the size of it. I'll write more about this as it unfolds, but I am well excited.

// Planting //

Gearing up for Spring! This month will see tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum, snow peas, leeks, spring onions, basil, beetroot, broccoli, lettuce, mustard, peppers, parsnips, carrots, coriander, dill, chamomile, marigolds, calendula and cosmos...I'm sure I've left stuff out! We're getting a jump on spring planting because we have a 'hot house' to start things in...I'm still not sure it will be warm enough for germination for some things, but we're giving it a go. I am waiting on a couple of heat mats to arrive in the post so I will try those out too and report back next month.

// Harvesting //

Kale, silverbeet, spring onions, herbs, broccoli.

// To Do //

Finish the irrigation in the market garden, and finish mulching between the new rows. Pull black plastic 'mulch' over the bare rows to protect it and start prepping a row for potatoes to go in next month. Finish setting up our mini polytunnel/hoop house, where we'll be planting carrots later this month. Keep weeding and tidying and get a couple of compost bays built so we can easily deal with the garden waste directly in the market garden. Planting, planting and more planting!

What a huge month, I didn't realise it until sitting down to write this post...I have a feeling August is going to be a big one too.

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 The Garden Share Collective is a monthly collection of posts collated by Lizzie over at Strayed from the Table from gardeners across the globe, sharing their veggie patches, potted gardens and windowsill herbs…Go and check it out! “Creating a monthly community to navigate through any garden troubles and to rival in the success of a good harvest we will nurture any beginner gardener to flourish. Each month we set ourselves a few tasks to complete by the next month, this gives us a little push to getting closer to picking and harvesting. The long-term goal of the Garden Share Collective is to get more and more people gardening and growing clean food organically and sustainably.”