The studio is finished! Michael is moving in as I write this. We did all the finishing ourselves – painted and installed the bamboo floor. We’re really pleased with it. (for anyone who’s interested, these guys built it for us).
The garden, however, is far from finished. We’re waiting on someone to come and level out the soil and lay a path, then we can start to rehabilitate the lawn, and install the veggie gardens. We missed the summer crops, but all going well I should get everything in time for winter.
The heat hasn’t been good to my potted plants. I spent a few weeks shuffling pots into the shade on super-hot days, and then out into the sun once it cooled down a bit. Sometimes I was too late – I lost a few plants. Nearly lost my apricot tree, but managed to resuscitate it. Nothing’s gotten enough water. However, I have been getting a handful of tomatoes – lots of Green Zebra and Tommy Toe, and the occasional Wapsipinicon Peach. The Ananas Noir are currently ripening.
The outside of the studio is all done, save a little painting, and the plasterer is busy on the inside.
Today I dug up a big mound of bricks from along the side fence, and used them to make a little temporary border, to mark out where the fruit trees will go. I’ve been applying liquid claybreaker pretty regularly, and everything does seem less solid. I then went a bit crazy and added rockdust, potash, compost and chook poo, scattered a few packets of green manure mix*, and gave it a good water with worm juice and seaweed. Hopefully the roots of the green manure will help to break up the hard soil. Once that’s grown and been dug in, I’ll dump more compost on to raise the soil level up by 15cm or so before planting the trees.
I’m really pleased with our compost. We have a tumbler, and have been using it for about three months now. It’s lovely and crumbly and smells amazing.
*It’s a summer mix from Green Patch Organic Seeds, containing Mungbean, Sunflower and Millet.
Back in July, I found two wrinkly, sprouting potatoes at the back of our cupboard, leftover from a Ceres veggie box. Despite it being totally the wrong time of year to plant potatoes, I stuck them in a pot, covered them with soil, straw and manure, and then left them alone. They popped up very quickly, and were perfectly happy until most of them were destroyed by hail and wind. But a few bits of greenery survived, so I continued to leave them alone, until today.
Eight big ones, eight medium ones, and 14 babby ones. We shall feast on potato salad tonight!
For more Harvest Monday goodness, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions.
And just when you think it’s nearly finished, they pull up your whole backyard to install the electrics and move the garden hose.
The Darebin Backyard Harvest Festival is on every November. It’s a series of open gardens and workshops all about sustainable urban gardening. The events are all free for Darebin residents. I went to a permaculture workshop a few weeks ago, and a backyard chickens one yesterday, with Justin of ChookChat, who lives just a few blocks away from us. It was an excellent event – informative and entertaining. I am now even more determined to get chickens! My dad found an old broken coop on the curbside, and is restoring it for me. Recycled! Sustainable! Chicking!
The battery rescue chickens are ISA Browns – a breed developed to lay a lot in their first two years, and not much after that. Heritage breeds lay less eggs per week, but will lay for many more years. So I think I might get a mix – two rescue girls and one or two heritage. Hopefully they will all get along – I hear that introducing new birds to a flock can be quite stressful!
One of the biggest dangers for urban chickens is foxes. The fox population in Melbourne is huge – much bigger than in the country. Wherever you are in Melbourne, you are never more than 600m from a fox. Some estimates say there are up to 10 foxes per square kilometre. We will have to do some serious fox-proofing. And hopefully Dame Maggie will help protect the flock. Not chase them. I’ve been taking her to Ceres a lot to get her used to being around chickens. She loves watching them.
Now that the new fence is up, I’m starting to think about how we will plant along it. I want a little mini grove of fruit trees – I’m hoping for two espalier apples, an apricot, a nectarine and a plum. All either dwarf or pruned to stay reasonably small. I’d like a very small, skinny food forest – underplanted with nasturtiums, comfrey, alpine strawberries and horseradish.
The only problem is the ground along the fence is rubbish. I can’t even call it soil. It is heavily impacted clay (had a concrete slab and shed resting on it for 40-odd years), with bricks and bits of concrete smushed in there. And the clay is clay. We could ditch the music studio and start a pottery workshop. But clay can be broken, as long as it’s the right clay. Sodic clay can be broken with gypsum, but non-sodic clay can’t. Time for some kitchen science!
I got a lump of clay from the backyard and popped it in a glass of water. Now we watch for dispersion. If the soil just sat there, or fell apart, then it would be a stable aggregate that wouldn’t respond to gypsum. But that big cloudy halo means that it’s unstable – and gypsum can help break it up.
So I’m off to Bunnings to get some liquid claybreaker. After the builders have cleared all their stuff from the area, I’ll pop in some sleepers (or maybe use the bricks I unearthed) to raise the soil surface, and then dump a trailerload of compost in there when we fill the veggie beds. Then maybe a summer green manure before the trees go in.
The slab is laid!! And we have a fence again so Dame Maggie won’t keep escaping to play with next door’s toddler (our neighbours have been so amazingly patient and lovely). Our garden, however, is a disaster, as you can see.
It’ll still be a few weeks before I can put in my raised beds, which might be too late for a decent tomato and pepper harvest. So I have potted up some of my seedlings as a backup. Seven tomatoes, three capsicum and an eggplant. And a zucchini. And a cucumber. I’m putting them in potting mix and chicken manure, topped with potash, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells and rockdust. And mulch. And watered in with seaweed and worm tea. I also rescued the rhubarb from being covered in concrete, and stuck it in a pot for the time being – it actually looks MUCH happier than it did in the ground, which says a lot about the sandy soil in that bit of the backyard.
In other news, the potatoes are looking great, and the stick of a blueberry that I had almost given up on has suddenly sprouted leaves! Hurrah for spring!