Saturday, September 24, 2011

Visual plants and ancient trees

We recently had a verge-side "bring out your dead" day whereby residents drop all and sundry on the footpath to be collected by the council for recycling or dumping (imagine old fridges, tree cuttings, items from yesteryear - that sort of thing). Leading up to the pick-up day itself, neighbours (and visitors) can be watched crawling along the street looking intently at the piles for that little (or big) treasure! It confirms the old adage "one person's trash is another person's treasure!"

I'll admit to some kerb crawling (said tongue-in-cheek!) myself and picked up some big pots and the top of a wheelbarrow to use as a succulent garden. I like the effect!


I've always been a fan of the succulent family for their ability to survive on very little attention only to grace you with a lovely show of delicate flowers! Here I've planted some Aloe (has a flower stem that grows from the centre of the plant up to about 50cm with a red poker-like flower); a red jade tree (at least I think it is); and Aeoniums, together with some yellow African Daisies (also hardy). I had some small zygocactus pieces that had struck out roots so popped them in as well (see in foreground of photos).

With Summer just around the corner, this little garden should be settled in enough to cope with the heat... ...but we will see!

A side note: Simon's aunty gave us a Ginkgo tree - these are simply lovely trees and from what I've read (as I know little about them) they are quite ancient and grow quite large to about 50 metres. Long thought of as a sought-after medicinal plant in Chinese and Japanese cultures, it has many healing properties. We'll be keeping ours in a pot and will admire its delicate fan-like foliage which turns bright yellow in Autumn.

ginkgo biloba

Happy gardening!

Spring gardening: some extras

A lovely day today to tidy up the garden and get some more vegies in - love the cycle of growing!
Popped in some more dwarf snappy beans - they are so productive for such little plants, I'm totally sold on them!

dwarf beans

Also sowed some coriander, parsley, bok choy and chives, all to minimise the growth of (and turned in) the seedlings coming up from the compost (that one wasn't a fully 'hot composted' load then was it?).

Dosed up the potted plants and seedlings of beetroot, carrot and swiss chard with a weak seasol solution. Pulled a couple of garlic too as they are beginning to go dry and yellow - not as big as I'd hoped but had planted team around the brocolli and caulies so perhaps didn't get the feed they needed.


Spring is the best time of the year! Happy gardening!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sustainable House Day 2011

Part of Sustainable September includes Sustainable House Day. We visited an open house on Sunday morning, a renovation (retaining the small, street-facing original double brick home) using passive solar and universal design principles throughout. It was really helpful to talk with the owner and hear their experiences on the ins and outs of designing and building a home using green principles.

Here are my take away thoughts:
  • Get a number of quotes from architects and builders before making a final decision.
  • Have a good ongoing relationship with your architect (they can also help when talking with the builders, especially if issues arise).
  • Be prepared to compromise if necessary for practicality sake (it's incredibly expensive to take a purist's view on sustainable design and building!) and be wary of "green washing".
  • Be available regularly at least to stay in touch with progress, especially if there are suggested design changes.
  • Engage builders who are knowledgable in sustainable building practices, materials and approaches (including minimising on-site rubbish and disruption where possible).
  • Be realistic (and well prepared) about budget and timeframes!
  • Think beyond the initial build/renovation (i.e. future proofing and ongoing maintenance needs, etc).
  • Be prepared for a relatively stressful time throughout. :o)
And the garden? Don't leave it til the end, build it into the design and get stuck in! :o)

Happy gardening!

Garden efficiencies and cycles: seed propagation

Having had our no-dig garden now for some five months, we are beginning to get into a bit of a cycle: fennel made way for garlic (planted earlier and now quite large) and new seed plantings of Swiss Rainbow Chard and parsley. The snow peas have virtually finished (with some saved for seeds), just as the dwarf beans began to take off. With the beans in full tilt we planted some purple runner beans from seed (using teepee style sticks over fennel for support and bug protection), and beetroot and carrot seeds, plus some coriander seedlings (sown during Winter).
dwarf beans

It's great to see cycles in action side-by-side simultaneously in the one small space - an ongoing cycle of life!

I'm also becoming more aware of the need to be efficient in the garden, not just with precious resources such as water, but with seeds and seedlings, and fertilisers too. I've been researching and reminding myself of ways to store and propagate seed from brocolli, peas and beans, and have struck various herbs like rosemary and marjoram. We've also propogated some green tomato ('Zebra') seeds - hoping they'll germinate!

Being efficient and effective with fertilisers and composting is also important - so far we have one compost bin, but ideally could use two or even three (being about 80 litres in volume), to spread the benefits further and more regularly, and minimise the need for buying compost. Others have been successful at growing compost, mulches, and green manures, as is key to permaculture practices. So our peas and beans can be turned into the ground once harvest is finished, and the fennel leaves bulk out the compost heap too. As the lemongrass kicks in that can provide some mulch/compost.

I'm beginning to see the real benefits of the no-dig approach as well - the soil is really friable and free-draining and the plants seem to grow more vigorously. It's easy to beef up a zone after one crop in preparation for another as well - although due to our small-sized garden this seems more intensive to do!

And finally, our new limestone raised garden bed now has some tomatoes planted - the big Aussie Grosse Lisse, Roma, and Beefsteak varieties! Bring on Summer (and Spring has just begun)!

Happy gardening!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Remember Sustainable September

Don't forget it's Sustainable September in Perth! Of course, every month should be (is) filled with our sustainable efforts, but this month provides lots of opportunitites to highlight the ways in which you can be sustainable in your home and business. Check out the Calender of Events for the month.

Happy gardening!

Planting the "Big Boppa" (passionfruit)

A lovely way to spend a Father's Day morning - planting a passionfruit vine (with a little help).

This is a hybrid of the Panama Gold variety called the Big Boppa. I've read mixed reviews about its productivity, but hoping that with the right condiitons and feeding it will do well. It is supposedly a vigorous grower with large yellow-ish fruit and quite pulpy.

It should, together with the black passionfruit we just planted, create a nice shade and wind break in the summer months, as wll as lush fruit (mmmmmm pavlova anyone?!).

As always, happy gardening!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Passionfruit vine

passionfruit by margoc
passionfruit a photo by margoc on Flickr.
We put in a passionfruit vine last weekend on the western side of the house (where the patio is) and we are hoping this will develop into some living shade from the harsh Summer sun. This one is known as a Sunshine Special and is said to do really well in Perth and all year round.

Thanks to Simon for getting stuck into this one and digging out the hole! We filled it with yummy manure, soil conditioner (a wetting agent) and lots of mulch.

Let's see how long it takes to reach the roofline!

Until then, happy gardening!