Monday, July 27, 2015

Why Toilet Paper Rolls

it's the end of july here in Northern NSW ... so still in the dead of winter with cold nights.  but the days can be lovely and warm (like today!) and if you put your greenhouse so that it is against a great heat sink (e.g., the east side of a brick house in our case) ... the warmth that it generates can do great things for getting your seedlings growing.

start with good seeds
we use toilet paper rolls to raise our seedlings.  so many reasons to use this sustainable and biodegradable resource.  but still, it may seem a bit unusual to some, so i thot i would take the time to explain it here, as well as a bit of our process.  and too ... make sure that you source good, traditional, heritage, non-modified seeds products ... makes all the difference in the world.

 btw ... i should also state that not all seeds should be germinated this way.  some things like root veg need to go straight in the ground.  i have a mass of leeks that i'm germinating in a big pot and then these will go directly into the ground once they've got "hair" that is about 2 cm longer than shown here.

my next batch of leek growing up a storm!
but, as for doing seeds in toilet rolls .... here is our methodology.  our seeds all start out this way .... in a nice container (again, sustainable and re-used), with a mixture of compost and coi peat.  this makes it easy to give them the warmth they need for germination, without wasting space for those that don't (because, let's face it ... not all seeds will germinate .... grrrr!).  there are also seeds, such as the cucumber pictured here, where the seeds is large enough to go directly into the toilet rolls.

this batch of tomato's, cucumber and capsicum are
ready to be put to bed

and not long after, we see little sprouts to remind us that indeed we did plant something lovely under that blanket of rich goodness. depending on the type of seed and weather, this will of course determine how quickly they germinate.  beans for example germinate very quickly in spite of the cold ... while tomato's need a lot more warmth to get that growing ticker started.    these beans and tomato's were planted at the same time and look at the difference.

come on!  my blue lake beans are winning the growth race at this point.
but the sun is coming out and the tomato's are coming up!  woohoo!
some will absolutely surprise you.  this parsley basically sprouted overnight after a lovely warm day in the sun.  how wonderful!
go the parsley!  can't wait to get you out in the garden
and then on a dinner plate!
so once they get to a size where they have a small but sturdy root system and need to start stretching their toes into more nutrient rich soil, they get moved into our sustainable toilet rolls which can go directly in the ground, providing the developing root system with a little more protection as it adapts to the reality of life in your patch.

they may not be in the plastic garbage that comes from stores ... so not quite so pretty, right?  but honestly ... tell me ... what would you rather have ... something that has to be teased out of a container that isn't biodegradable and if you hold it wrong you might accidentally break and destroy, or this lovely container and blanket of goodness that can go directly in the ground?

gorgeous Scarlett Runner Bean just looking for a home!
our seedlings are offered at .50 per pot ... allowing you the ability to buy a few at a time, extending your season.  to see what we currently have available, look at our "on offer now" section of the web site.  

Happy growing!!!  


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Aspiring to Asparagus

loving asparagus is one of those "grown up" things i reckon.  first of all because for many of us it is a taste and flavour that we did not aquire until we grew up.  the other reason is because it takes patience to grow .... truly.  but as with all things, the reward of the wait is well worth it!

if you choose to grow asparagus from seed, then you can guarantee it will be 3-4 years before you start getting a good yield.  the other option is to grow crowns .... these are two year old plants that will start producing within 1-2 years.  i'm not a coward to say it ... i choose the crowns ... i would prefer to by them from reputable sellers (such as green harvest).  i want my asparagus patch to be big and bold ... so away we go!

when choosing where to plant your asparagus, location is essential.  this is not a crop that gets rotated ... once they are planted, they should stay in the same place as you'll find that asparagus, once settled in, will provide you with copious spears for decades to come.  so choose your location wisely!

the key to a good asparagus patch (well, as with anything i suppose), is really nutrient dense earth ... rich and yummy .... just enuf drainage to keep it yummy and fertile.  so last year we cut down a huge area of banana's (why?  another story for another day .... just trust me on this one).  banana's make great and rich mulch.  so i lined our bed with a plethora of fallen trunks .... and covered this with lots of old straw mulch.   ... and waited for a season to let it enrich.

the result, tho not that obvious, is a bed dense in nutrient bounty, just waiting for a spring plant.

the bed waiting to be built up
adding a little more yummy straw mulch before planting for good measure!

then you add your compost/ manure/ soil that you want to plant your asparagus in.  when planting out asparagus crowns it is important to remember that the roots need room to spread out and grow.  the best way to achieve this is to make a long furough with a ridge going down the centre ... this allows you to spread out the roots of the crown.

once you've done that it's time to gently arrange your crowns on the top of the ridge ... spreading out the roots so that they cascade down the sides of the ridge ... leaving the crown on the top.  once this is done, cover the roots and leave the crown just under the soil.

crowns spread out across the ridge down the middle of the
planting area ... be gentle!

now ... as any good gardener knows, when you plant something it always needs a friend .... a companion to spur it on to grow even more.  these beneficial relationships are usually two way streets, with each plant providing something for the other.  these benefits tend to be in the form of nutrients added to the soil or bugs that are repelled  or attracted.  whatever the relationship they create biodiversity ... which is more productive and makes yummier food! (FYI ... there are also bad companions, which will harm your plants and reduce productivity .... so best get educated!)

strawberries are great mates with aparagus (beans too, for that matter!).  and our family loves strawberries so it was a match made in heaven.  the asparagus have been surrounded by strawberries.  They will spread and create a natural ground cover that will protect the asparagus from weeds and also provide tasty fruit.

great mate!

but for now ... we wait.  the plants have been bedded in to ride out the rest of our winter ... with the promise that come spring ... we will have a  bounty of lovely young green spears and beautiful red fruit for our table.

all bedded in for a winters nap!

i encourage you to to plant some asparagus ... as with all fresh veg, once you've given it a go, you won't turn back!

for more on companion planting, check out these resources.