Water water everywhere . . .

6th June 2016

The dam at the farm is definitely spilling now! And a few trees are down too, including one magnificant big swamp gum (E. regnans) that we will honour by milling the gorgeous timber (future kitchen benchtop methinks).  The trees in our forest are not so used to northeasterly wind (growing mainly with prevailing northwesterlies to train them) and combined with the wet soil, we've had more trees down in the last week than from other gales and storms in the last few years.

Now is the perfect time to don your gumboots, put on a raincoat, grab the umbrella and take a look around your garden to see where the water is running. Where are the standing puddles? Where are the unintended drains? Could some strategic spadework (when the storms have passed) create better movement of water to safe areas next time?

We definitely don't advocate doing any tramping around on garden beds when things are this wet - it will damage your soil structure and create long term problems. But judicious observation can be quite valuable inputs to musing by the fire later on!

Its a brief newsletter this time . . . gotta go and bring in some more firewood!

Gutsy green manure

Remember the green manure seed that I sprinkled on the weed/autumn leaf/mushroom compost covered garden bed a month or so ago? Here's a link to the newsletter with the story about it. And here's a picture of the brave plants last week:
Not much of the grain (oats, ryecorn) has survived - I think birds came and feasted on it. But the tic beans, lupins and peas dont mind the frost at all. They simply pose for a selfie then get on with growing in the cold weather. Unlike other more sensitive species like nasturtiums, new potato vines, perennials like cape gooseberry and rocoto chilli. We had some good hard frosts last week, which will sweeten up brassicas like kale and broccoli, as well as roots like parsnip if you're lucky enough to have some to harvest now.
The great thing about growing a green manure crop over winter is that there are heaps of exudates being, well, exuded, from the roots of these growing plants. All these sugars and nutrients feed the soil life, which is insulated from the extremes of cold underground. At least in our mild climate where the soil doesn't freeze.

Check out the huge root systems on the little pea seedlings below, which I pulled out of the pea straw mulch around the artichokes at the farm. Later on in their growth cycle we'll see nodules developing on the roots which house rhizobium bacteria that fix nitrogen from the air pockets in the soil. When we eventually chop and drop or dig in the green manure crop, all that nitrogen is then available for the next crop as the soil critters break it all down and release it slowly over time.

Potting mix recipe - an update

Following our last newsletter I received a great email from Jonah - a talented Hobart gardener who works with the very fantastic Still Gardening program. Jonah had a heap of insightful comments about the potting mix recipe we had included.

I wont copy his email in full here, but if anyone wants to see the detail let me know and I can forward it to you. The upshot of Jonah's suggestions were:
  • Less lime would probably do the trick (say 50g instead of 150g) and a mixture of ag lime, dolomite and gypsum would be good to get Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur in the mix.
  • Less iron (ferrous sulphate) would probably do the trick (say 10g) and it can be brought cheaply as 'moss killer' from Hollanders.
  • Trace elements (micro nutrients) could be replaced with up to 20% by volume of worm castings. However my worm castings are always full of tomato seeds, so I'm keen not to use them in a mix that I want to have 'clean'.
  • To save cost and be more sustainable, you can recover sand from spent potting mix by drying it out in the sun, then tip into a bucket of water. Stir around gently for a bit, then pour off the floating organic matter. Recover the sand from the bottom of the bucket.
So: in light of all Jonah's good information, I'm re-printing the recipe below, with his suggested amendments in red. I think the key is to make your own judgement based on your observations. Have a play with things, tweak the volumes, and see what happens. The results you get are the important thing.
For a 50 litre batch:

40 litres composted potting bark
10 litres potting sand (recover what you can from previous spent batches)
150g (50g) lime (Mix of dolomite, ag lime, gypsum)
150 g osmocote
30g (10g) ferrous sulphate (moss killer)
15g micro nutrients (or worm castings up to 20% by volume of mix)

Thanks for writing Jonah. We love to get feedback about what's in our newsletters. Even if its to offer alternatives to what we've written. There are so many knowledgeable folks out there, and we are always happy to share information and keep learning. Happy potting everyone!

Biochar workshop at Wielangta Farm

Come along to learn what the 'biochar revolution' is all about!

Sunday 3rd July, 10.30am - 2.30pm
We'll make some biochar in a pit kiln, and cook lunch while we're at it.
$20 per person, includes lunch and a FIMBY calendar to take home.

Come for the learning about biochar,
or for the fireside scene,
or for the lunch (a winter feast it will be),
or for a sticky beak at what we've been doing at the farm,
or for the social occasion (hanging out and chatting with avid gardeners!).

Email Christina to book your place and get directions to the farm.
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