Spring maintenance in the vege garden

Lots of action in the vege patch over the last few days.

DSCF4700_7 Sept 2014_Skitch

Part of the trellis-side bed in the Second Hugelkultur Shadehouse

Today was pretty typical.  Realised first thing this morning that I finally had to do something about the way the Mugwort was starting to smother the Sugar Snap Peas on the trellis in the 2nd Hugelkulture Shadehouse.  Four cuttings of Mugwort were planted behind the trellis on the southern side of this shadehouse as a temporary home, until I had a place where they could be planted out.  But so far I haven’t got any of the future food forest area fenced off, so there’s still not a permanent place to put the Mugwort.  And now it has gone mad with the increase in temperature as Spring comes on strong here is Southeast Queensland.

I now see that I can make use of the Mugwort behind the trellis, because I’ve seen how it can be pruned to provide a windbreak and groundcover, and the ongoing prunings will provide masses of green mulch.  That is, providing it doesn’t prove to be alleopathic.  I have my suspicions about it – the Cassava and Lemongrass it was planted near haven’t been looking very healthy, though that might be just because neither of them likes Winter very much.  This is the first year I’ve grown Cassava, and it went from rampantly healthy in late Summer to near-dead by the end of Winter, but perhaps, like Comfrey, it just doesn’t do well in Winter.

You can’t see the Mugwort growing behind the trellis because I’ve pruned it back fairly heavily, but you can see the thick layer of Mugwort prunings in the bottom left of the above photo.  This extends behind the trellis up past the Lemongrass, and this is from an original planting early last Summer of only about six or seven stems of Mugwort.  Lovely thick, soft branches and leaves that will probably break down quickly.  Nowhere near the right conditions for “chop & drop” – the evaporation way exceeds rainfall lately, so I gave it a good wetting, then covered it with a thick layer of barley straw to make sure it breaks down before it loses too much Nitrogen.

The Ceylon Spinach in the background is climbing up the Pigeon Pea.  I showed a Bangladeshi friend around the garden a few days ago and his eyes lit up when he saw the Ceylon Spinach, Amaranth, Curry Leaf trees (in pots), and Luffas – all things he knows from Bangladesh.  So I’ve potted up some Ceylon Spinach to give him, along with one of the Curry Leaf trees (which are also waiting for the food forest to be fenced so I can plant them out).

The Tatsois in this bed, like all the Brassicas in the garden, are flowering furiously.

Tatsoi.  You can see the flower stems just starting to develop.

Tatsoi. You can see the flower stems just starting to develop in the top right corner of the phots.

I’m letting some of each of the Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Pak Choy, Gai Laan and Choy Sum go to seed so I’ll have supplies for next year. Same with the Loose-leaf Lettuce.

The other thing on the agenda for today was to renovate one of the Kangkung wicking pots.

01042013P1050516_Kangkung_Wicking Pot_small

Wicking pots – they’re numbered so I can note treatments applied to different pots.

This is what they looked like in April last year (2013).  The two on the left are growing Kangkung (Water Morning Glory – Ipomoea aquatica), which is an Asian vegetable that generally grows beside drainage ditches or ponds.  It has hollow stems that can float on water, from where they put down long roots to the muddy bottom – but they grow well in wicking pots too, providing the nutrient is kept up to them.  These ones produced well until late Summer, when the heat got to them (probably combined with my failure to add sufficient compost to the top of the soil in the pot – it was just too crammed with stems to be able to get to the surface of the soil).  With Spring coming on I need to totally renovate them now if they are going to be productive into Summer.  This means emptying them out and refilling with new soil.

You can see this longer post for detail on the construction of these wicking pots.

DSCF4693_Sept 7 2014_Wicking Pot

Internal arrangement. Two 2 litre yoghurt buckets with the bottoms cut out to allow soil into the water layer, and four empty flower pots, upside down, to create voids for water storage. The black material is charcoal from the previous set-up.

I decided to modify the design slightly by allowing the soil to penetrate down into the water reservoir, to promote wicking when the reservoir level is low.  This idea came from two sources: first, Roman and Jana Spur’s wicking broccoli box design (which I mentioned here), and an article on Gardening Australia last month about some blue-barrel wicking planters for the Town Camps in Alice Springs.  The soil will fill the yoghurt buckets after the geotextile is put over the charcoal.

DSCF4695_Sept 7 2014_Wicking Pot

The geotextile has been laid over the charcoal layer at the same height as the overflow drain hole, then coarse sand has been poured into the yoghurt buckets.

I used coarse sand to fill the buckets instead of the soil mix I will use for the top layer because I have a thing about trying to avoid large amounts of nutrients getting into the water reservoir ever since my experience with sulphides forming in the bottom of my first wicking pots.

The remainder of the pot was filled with my usual raised bed soil mix, since it holds water extremely well but also drains easily when saturated.

DSCF4713_070914_Sept 7 2014_wicking pot_small

The rejuvenated wicking put, with the “survivors” of its previous incarnation given a new chance. The “jam tin” is covering the water filling pipe to keep mosquitoes out.  You can see what this wicking pot looked like 12 weeks later here.

In a couple of months this should be a good crop of Kangkung, and one of the great things about Kangkung, apart from that it’s easy to grow and tasty, is that the more you harvest it, the more it grows.




One thought on “Spring maintenance in the vege garden

  1. Pingback: Wicking pots and beds | Sustainable @ Lockyer Valley

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