Cooler and more productive weather

This past weekend saw us emerging out of the very wet weather we have had over the past few months and the temperatures have started to drop. Perfect weather to get stuck in and do some work. I don't have any before photos this week because I didn't know exactly what we would be doing. Here is what we achieved.

We made a dent in the woodchip pile and tidied up the path from the driveway towards the house (i.e. buried the problems).

We also used some logs we had from chopping down the leopard tree to shape the bed where the citrus trees live to the left. We topped up the woodchips here too while we were at it.

These are some of the grubs we found in one of the old chip piles. Massive!

We pruned, weeded and mulched around these azaleas next to the driveway. If was pretty hard to get out of the car here before! Not sure what to do with this area yet so these shrubs can stay for a bit longer.

We weeded and mulched under the fig tree. We also fixed the chook house which had taken a bit of a tumble. Just have to dig a swale along the tree drip line and put up a fence and we will be ready for some fresh eggs!

I have also been reading Retrosuburbia, the new book from permaculture co-originator David Holmgren. I borrowed this one from the library but I might get my own copy. I have been enjoying it a lot so far and brings into context some of the ideas I have been thinking about. I think Benny likes it too!

We have this Wednesday off for Anzac Day. We will go to dawn service and see how the day goes from there. This weekend is meant to be sunny and cool, bring it on!

Until next time,


Working by the Moon

Ever since I have started working with nature and spending more time outdoors I can't help but notice the effect the moon has on me. Perhaps it is because I am a woman. I am not sure, but I can't dispute the fact that every time it is full moon I never sleep very well!

I read a book by Lyn Bagnall called Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (affiliate link). In it she described that moon planting hasn't been proven, but by what she has seen in her own garden that it could be possible. So I am going to give it a red hot go.

According to the moon, in April on the weekends I should be completing these tasks:

7 & 8 April - Weeding & Pruning
This is because sap flow is low and prevents regrowth.

14 & 15 - Prepare soil
Another point where sap flow is not ideal for plant growth, but not its lowest. It is the time to prepare the soil for the planting of crops which occurs on the:

21, 22, 28 & 29 April - Planting of above ground crops
This is a much longer period than the others and will cover two weekends this month.

So on the 7th & 8th I prepared the herb garden which involved pulling out some weeds and fit in with this cycle. Last weekend (14th & 15th) my parents stayed over so no work was completed. I don't think I can plant things for two weekends so I will have to do some other tasks instead, but I will try to minimise the weeding. I will definitely start some more seeds as my tiny shadehouse is freeing up a bit now.

An aspect of Lyn's book that spoke to me was even if the moon planting has no effects, it still creates a cycle of tasks to occur in the garden. I really liked this as at the moment I am kind of running around like a headless chook being quite overwhelmed with all the things that need doing. By separating the tasks I hope to keep my workload under control and receive the best results for my efforts.

I bought this Laminated Perpetual Lunar Moon Calendar Planting Guide (affiliate link) to help me with my planning. I reset it at the beginning of the month according to the date of the new moon. It is very simple to use and has easy to understand explanations of the phases of the moon on it. I highly recommend it. I am looking forward to giving my weekends a set purpose and seeing some results.

Until next time,


Creating our Herb Garden

Over the weekend I managed to get enough time to finally finish putting together the herb garden. It is placed right by the front door that goes to the kitchen. By placing it here we are going to try our best to keep an eye on it and full of tasty herbs. I thought that I would make a step by step to help any other gardeners out there wanting to do the same thing and to keep a record of what we have done. Maybe it will work out really well, or maybe it will be a total failure! Only one way to find out :)

Step one: Collect materials. For this method of bed formation we wanted a weed barrier, a fertiliser and a mulch layer.

I got the paper for the weed barrier from when we moved offices at work as everyone was throwing away old documentation. I have been squirreling it away at our place until we needed it. For this garden I used mostly manila folders to see how they go.

For the fertiliser my MIL had some leftover composted cow manure from her garden, so she kindly donated it to us. We used this because it was available to us and locally sourced but you could use any type of well rotted manure.

For the mulch layer we used  woodchips. Any conventional mulch could be used here. There were some contractors clearing around powerlines just around the corner and Brodie had a chat to them and got a whole truck full of woodchips delivered to us, for the very convenient price of a case of beer. This is the pile with a dog for scale.

This is the area before I started. It was a bit neglected as we had been concentrating on other areas.

Step two: Pull out any vegetation in the area, then rake to remove rocks and large chunks. The leftover rocks in this bed helped to create the border.

Step three: place the paper weed barrier overlapping over the raked surface. In this photo both stages can be seen.

Step four: Add the fertiliser layer on top of the weed barrier layer. I mostly did it at this point to prevent the papers from flying away as I was working. This is most of the garden area with the weed barrier and fertiliser layers.

Step five: Add the mulch layer. Some of the woodchips we got from the contractors had a lot of leaf matter in it so I used it for the garden. It is less chunky and should break down quickly to add fertility and organic matter. I put this mulch down to about 5cm thick.

Step six: Repeat the steps until the whole garden is complete.

By using local materials available to us we have helped to improve our soil and prevent further carbon emissions. It cost us negligible amounts of money for this area and we prevented some papers going into landfill. We planted out the bed with basil, lettuce and silverbeet. We haven't got a lot of herb seedlings to plant which is why we decided to get some greens in the ground as well. I also installed the retaining wall to the right at the same time to create some separation from the deck and reduce the slope a bit. These were scavenged from the property.

I hope this can help someone to build their own garden bed, let me know how you go! This time of year is great to do it as it is cooling down and lots of great herbs can be grown, like my favourite, Coriander!

Until next time,


Building our Firewood Shed

What a fabulous long weekend off! We took the opportunity to collect some firewood from various sources on Good Friday. We had been planning on building an area to store our firewood but had never got around to it. Well, better late than never! This was the stack we collected, just in time for the cooler weather. It is a variety of different timbers at different stages of moisture so having a place where they can live in the dry is important.

First we started by choosing an area. We chose this spot as the stairs go to the back door into the loungeroom which is where the fireplace is. It is also a bit of a dead space that can't be used for much else. As it is in the backyard it will also be accessible for any outdoor fires we may want to have.

Then we cleared the weeds and junk that we had dumped in the area. We made a base by attaching some pine beams to the existing poles. We wanted to raise it up to deter snakes and rats from living in the area. Then we reused some of the treated pine that was part of the old pool fence. Brodie cut notches in each end so they would sit flat on the timber.

We then added these small bits of hardwood at each end of the shed to be able to stack the firewood higher and make it look a bit neater.

While we were mucking around and doing all this I was also hard at work with the axe to try and get the pieces that we cut up into fireplace sized pieces. You can tell by the axe stuck in that piece of wood that I gave up at that stage!

Then we stacked the pieces. Dry ones to the right and more wet to the left. This was as we burn the dry wood hopefully the wetter ones will be ready. This way we can keep a constant cycle of wood and always be prepared for the winter.

In this photo you can also see that we added a sheet of roofing to the underside of the platform to prevent too much water getting into the timber. All in all, it cost us $0 as we used all scavenged materials from around the property. At first I thought that having a lot of "junk" lying around the property would annoy me, but being able to re-purpose it has been very rewarding and saves us a lot of money.

Until next time,


First Vege Beds

On the weekend we were very productive. Brodie needed some more space for his new business, The Cottage Farm. Him and his mum are growing a bit on her block of land, but that will mostly be delicate crops. So in our front yard Brodie decided to prepare 4 x 5m beds to plant roots in. This is what they looked like right after he sized them up.

He made them this size and straight because they are the same size as the beds on the other property, making it easier to net and apply compost and other amendments evenly as required. The roots crops are to be planted here as our soil is more favorable. After a bit of work and the addition of some composted cow manure, he managed to make it look like this. The beds on the right is what it looked like before.

When we did some basic soil analysis last year we found out that our soil is a clay loam, rather than a straight clay which is what we thought it was. It absorbs water beautifully and is pretty fantastic to work with.

While Brodie did all this, I worked on weeding an area and spreading wood chips over the top. Due to our busyness (laziness) we didn't spread the wood chips all over the front yard, so some weeds have appeared. This is the area I weeded and covered.

On Saturday night I watched Back To Eden, a documentary about how a man in the US placed wood chips all over his garden and the abundance it now creates. I decided to simulate this in one of my side beds. I fully weeded this area, placed the logs down and covered it again in another 5cm of wood chip. This bed will be the small tree zone that will protect our garden from the wind a bit and create some privacy from the neighbors. We also planted a few pigeon pea trees in the mix to create some quick growth. Lets hope they take off.

There are also some of the plants that I spoke about in this post planted along this area. As you can see, still haven't weeded that area up the back of the photo! I saw a red belly black snake slither into The Pile on Saturday afternoon so I decided to stay away!

Benny was very helpful yesterday by sitting on the wood chips that I was trying to get into the wheelbarrow, but who could be mad at that face?

Next weekend we will start to dig the top swale and the herb garden near the front door, weather permitting of course! We are getting lots of done at the moment and it is great to see my design coming to life.

Until next time,

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