Monday, 2 January 2012

Work Log - January 2, 2012

I've decided to write a seperate post with a list of things I did in the garden each week, briefly and for reference.

Planted - Sunflowers in the sewing room bed, Beetroot in the long veggie bed.

harvested - parsley, oregano, lettuce

other - staked tomatoes - they have quite a few fruit on them now!

Sowing directly into mulched beds

Here's a happy little seedling:

It looks great, and I'm sure it will grow well. But it's the only one of about 25 seeds planted in this bed that have survived.

A month or so I pulled up the daisy and begonia that overran this bed. I added manure and some stinky dynamic lifter, then sheet mulched with newspaper and topped it off with sugar cane mulch. My plan was to plant a crop of sunflowers for a spectacular annual show before planting it up with natives.

The problem was sowing the sunflower seeds. To get down to the soil, I had to dig through the mulch and punch a hole in the newspaper. This meant that by the time I'd got down to the soil, there was a quite a deep hole I had to drop the seed into.

Not many of these seeds came up. I suspect this is because they had too far to grow to get back up to the surface.

So this morning I decided to have another go at this bed. This time I dug the little holes down to the soil, then filled them up to the surface with mushroom compost (from Bunnings). This meant I could plant the seeds to the recommended depth of about 10mm and water in then cover them over lightly with sugar cane mulch. 

I'll keep my eye on these over the next week or so - hopefully we'll get a few flowers in this bed!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Mandarin tree rehab

Here is our sad little mandarin tree.

I wonder who planted it, and what they were thinking when they chose its position.

As you can see, it doesn't like being so close to our unruly murraya.

While mowing the lawn I had noticed a flap of weed matting poking up near the tree. 

I think this black plastic matting may have been quite popular many years ago for weed control. I don't like it. The weeds find their way through anyway, and are harder to pull. And it stops worms and other good bugs from living a normal life in the soil. And it's nasty black plastic.

I decided to pull the matting up.

You can see the way the roots of the weeds find their way through the matting.

As I pulled, weeds and all came out.

I expected the matting to go all the way around the tree, but it was only on the side away from the murraya. I weeded the other side the old fashioned way, with a fork and shovel.

I also discovered a brick border!

It took a lot of work to scrape the invasive grass away from the bricks. While I was at it I decided to attack the murraya, too. I chopped quite a bit back from it:

The tree has a bit more breathing space now:

I was tempted to rake the murraya cuttings under the mandarin tree as mulch, but I was worried that maybe the murraya is giving out some kind of allelopathic gas. The mandarin certainly seems to hate it. So I stuffed the leaves into the compost bins.

Next it was time to add some fertiliser:

Finally I grabbed a couple of bags of Eucy mulch I had in the shed. It's chopped pretty fine, but the carbon -nitrogen ratio is so high I figure it will last ages.

I scraped the mulch back from the base of the trunk as I'm told it can cause collar rot.

All done! We'll see if the tree improves. 

I would love to actually get some fruit on this tree. I've only ever eaten one mandarin from it, and it was delicious! There are a couple more on the tree:

We'll see how it looks by this time next year.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Stink Bugs!

Our citrus trees are host to unwanted guests..

Stink bugs!! Eww!!

When we moved in this time last year, the poor lemon tree was covered in these things. I had never seen them before, but Rach identified them straight away as stink bugs. They are also known as Bronze Orange Bugs. They're back this year:

The above pic shows the mature stage bug. They have 3 stages: the first is green and quite difficult to spot. Next comes the immature yellow stage:

They feed on citrus trees by sticking their needle-like proboscis into young shoots and sucking out the juice.

Here are a couple of younger ones getting stuck in to some mandarins:

The adult stage reminds me of Darth Vader. "I find your lack of juice disturbing"

You can see Darth's sucker sticking into the shoot above.

When they are disturbed they give off a nasty stink - hence the name.

The fruit yield on my citrus trees is absolutely awful, and I think these little guys play a part in that.

So what's the plan to control them? I have tried a little bit of spraying with white oil. This seems to annoy the younger bugs, the mature ones don't seem too phased by it. I'm not too keen on spraying myself, as there are lots of other little critters around that are quite welcome - spiders, ladybugs, lacewings etc, and I don't want to frighten them away.

Picking them off and squashing them works ok - it's a bit yucky, and it stinks!

I do have a theory which I'm in the process of testing. I have 2 trees next to each other. When we got here under these trees was a carpet of weeds. I have been laying down newspaper and mulch as these things become available:

The left side tree is done, and I'm half way done the right side.

Now, when I'd mulched under one tree but not the other, I noticed that the stink bugs all but disappeared from the mulhed-under tree, and seemed to concentrate themselves on the one I hadn't mulched under.

So do they need a carpet of weeds under the tree to thrive? Perhaps the weeds steal nutrients from the trees and reduce their ability to fight off the bugs. 

I'll finish off the other tree as more newspaper becomes available. Funny how we used to swim in the stuff, but now I read my newspaper on an ithingy, so I keep an eye out for abandoned local papers when I walk the streets. The stink bug season will probably be over by the time it's finished, so I'll have to wait until next year to find out if my theory is right.

I don't mind if they don't disappear completely. I figure the trees can handle a few bugs and stay strong. 

Time will tell!

Messing about in the dirt

Welcome to my blog. There, I've done it.

My beautiful lady Rachaeldaisy & I bought a house in the Blue Mountains almost exactly one year ago. After a lifetime of living in share / rental houses, planting trees, vines, and veggies and sometimes being around long enough to enjoy the harvest, at last I had a garden I can seriously invest time and energy into!

Over the last year I have planted a few things. Some of them have thrived, some have not done so well. I've also spent a lot of time just hanging out in the garden: watching the way the sun travels over the garden, seeing how conditions change with the seasons, watching storms and wind come in and wash over the place.

I've also done a lot of reading and thinking about what I want my garden to be. It's my environment, and I love it and want it to be a reflection of my outlook on life.

A few weeks ago I was sitting with RD on our deck looking over the garden and talking about our plans for it. The idea of a garden diary came up. We thought it would be a good way of tracking when I plant things and why, so I can track the consequences of my choices. And then I thought why not make it a blog? I'm far from being an expert, in fact I'm probably the worst kind of novice. I'm armed with enthusiasm and enough information to make a mess! I will make many mistakes. But I'm hoping if I share my mistakes (and my successes), maybe someone else will stumble on my notes via google. Maybe it will help someone not make the same mistakes, or share in success.

Anyway, at the very least it will be a good record of my activities. 

My plan at the moment is to keep the posts short and to a single topic. I'll review a tree, bed or plant in the garden at the moment, or record a new planting along with my thoughts and plans.

I'll include photos as required. Here's a teaser. I'm really happy to see ladybugs on my squash plants. There is one on each plant!

happy digging.