Attempting to grow a green thumb

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by BelindaKate, Apr 20, 2015.

  1. BelindaKate

    BelindaKate Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2015
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Hi everyone! I'm a bit of a gardening newbie. :p I'm 27 years old, and have spent my life so far moving often (either couch-surfing or renting) and building on my career as a writer (now published a few times over) and freelance artist/designer.
    I don't own the house I live in now, but as the property belongs to family, I've got a little more freedom with gardening now than I've ever had before. I haven't had much luck with growing food in the past- the only things I didn't kill were basil and parsley. :blush: Mainly this was due to focusing my attentions elsewhere. Now that I'm more settled and have a yard I'm allowed to grow food in, I'm slowly introducing myself to gardening!

    I live in northern Victoria, Australia. The weather here is very DRY and HOT through the summer, and WET, FROSTY, and WINDY during the winter (it's autumn here at the moment). This kind of weather is pretty foreign to me, given I've lived predominantly in Queensland, but I'm slowly figuring out the vagaries. :blush:

    Last spring, I attempted to raise seeds, and promptly killed them. The first lot I lost because I planted them too early, and a late frost wiped out my tender outdoor potted seedlings (whoops, on numerous counts). I lost the second lot because it took me too darn long to prepare the new garden beds- the saplings got root-bound and sick (I s'pose I would've lost the first lot to this too, if the frost hadn't got them first). Once I FINALLY got the new garden beds in, summer had already started. I planted the beds with saplings I bought from Bunnings (gahhh); three varieties of heirloom tomatoes (red cherry, yellow pear, amish paste), some parsley and basil (yay for comfort zones!), marigolds (aka pest control?), an eggplant, and some silverbeet as an afterthought (because mum wanted to make me silverbeet pie).

    The red cherry tomatoes and the yellow pear tomatoes did very well. They're still producing tomatoes now, though they're obviously at the end of their season. Aphids/Whitefly/whatever were hardly a problem at all. I dunno whether I just got lucky, or whether my marigolds served as a decoy. All I know is that my tomatoes were untouched, and my marigolds were annihilated by whitefly. I did lose four red cherry tomato fruits to some little green caterpillar that burrowed into the crown of the fruit, but I hunted and hand picked those suckers for a few days and then never saw them again. Probably coincidence, but I like to think that I'm an epic caterpillar hunter. 8)

    The big amish paste tomatoes did VERY poorly. While my cherry toms were putting out punnet-fulls, my little amish twig was still struggling to put out its first fruits. There were hardly any leaves, and the fruit that came was deformed and terribly ugly (from pictures online, I'm guessing it was a case of blight. The tree looked unhealthy, the fruit looked horrible, so I promptly ripped the whole plant out and binned it, just in case it spread to my other plants (whatever it was). I didn't see it again. If it WAS blight, I'm guessing the disease came from Bunnings, who have their saplings in an undercover area with overhead watering multiple times a day.

    The silverbeet grew poorly too. Because they were an afterthought, I didn't really have room for them, therefore they were planted close together.

    The dwarf eggplant did well, I got 8 decent sized fruits off it. I've pruned it back and transplanted it to a homemade self-watering air-pruning container (if this experiment fails, that's another whoops on my part) to make room for the next plants.

    I also had a whole bunch of banana capsicums, and while they did well at the start of summer (bumper crops!), somewhere along the line they became less healthy. They'd start off with these long black streaky marks on the fruit (which seem to cause that section of the fruit to rot within a day or two of harvesting). Then the fruit started to grow really curly (unlike the initial bumper crops, which were picture-perfect) and the black streaks would start to rot them on the plant, before they even had a chance to ripen. Then the leaves started to go all curly. I haven't been able to find pics online to check what this might be, but I'll be pulling the remaining plants soon.

    I planted some California Wonder capsicums too, but I think I got the timing wrong. While the banana capsicums were happily producing bumper crops, my "normal capsicums" hadn't even put out flowers. They just stayed alive (and grew a little) over summer, until the weather cooled right off, now they're producing loads of capsicums. Since they started producing fruit though, their leaves changed. Pale yellowing of the leaves with bright green leaf veins. Iron deficiency?

    My basil plants grew bonkers. I've got approximately fifty-million bags of basil leaves in my freezer (I don't bother putting them in oil or anything, they still taste great in pasta sauce). I kept them bushy all summer, and only just let them go to seed at the end of the season. The bees LOVE BASIL FLOWERS. I've never seen so many bees! I'll be saving the seeds. I've already got loads from my thai basil (they went to seed quicker). Now I'm just waiting on the normal variety.

    I've discovered that the flat-leaf parsley likes our summer a whole lot more than the curly-leaf parsley does. While the flat-leaf kept me in stock, my poor curly-leaf remained a teeny squat plant for most of summer. Hanging on, but not growing. Then the weather cooled off, and now the curly-leaf is growing quick.

    These first beds are raised beds using those metal frames they sold at Aldi briefly for $30 per bed (compared to Bunnings's $100 per bed, they were a steal). I put these beds in the garden because the owners of the property said they'd only let me put veggie gardens in if they were neat (i.e. not "messy food forest gardens like that Lawton bloke does"). Unfortunately, I've found that these beds SUCK for our blistering, dry summers. I was hard-pressed keeping the gardens damp, even with heavy mulching and daily watering. I'd soak the beds in the evening until the dirt was saturated through the entire depth of the beds, only to find it dry as a bone by midday the next day. I'm going to see about building a little frame with shade-cloth over this garden area for next summer.

    So, now the weather has cooled off, I'm using plants that supposedly do well in cold climates. The bed that had the eggplant, half the banana capsicum crop, and the failed amish paste tomato plant now have dwarf green beans (already growing strong and putting out fruit), parsley, and comfrey transplants. Yesterday I planted a short row of sugar snap peas, daikon radishes, and purple plum radishes directly into the bed (after preparing the soil). I've put upturned plastic takeaway containers over each seed to act as mini cloches, hopefully protecting the seed (and hopefully soon saplings) from slugs and the cold nights. I'll let you all know if it works! As soon as I can, I'll build a little plastic hoop house over each bed. While the plants I chose apparently grow well in winter here, frost (I'm told) will kill off tender flowers, meaning my beans and peas won't produce well if frost gets to them. I'm hoping the hoop houses mean that I'll actually get a little produce through the winter, and also have a safe place to plant my spring saplings without having them get hit by a late frost.

    Once my California Wonder capsicums finish growing the fruit they've already got, I'll be pulling out those plants as well as the remaining basil, tomato plant, and sad silverbeet from those two beds. Cold climate garlic, lettuce, and coriander will go in their place in one bed. If this is a terrible combo, let me know. :p In the second bed will be chives, leeks, lettuce and coriander. No massive plantings, just enough to see if I can actually grow these things during winter under hoop houses. :blush:


    I'm going to be working on other areas of the backyard, too. I'll be converting a little garden shed to a chicken coop, and a perpetually shaded corner of the yard will be their run as well as doubling as a compost area (I'll let them free range too). I'd like to grow dwarf fruit trees along the fence as well as add some more veggie beds. I'd also like to fence in the front yard and put more garden beds there, so that my crop rotation will include the front yard. I would LIKE to plant Australian natives on the council-owned part of the front yard, but it'll be a battle to get approval, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

    I'm also considering contacting the foodie-region wineries and olive farms to see if they have any second-hand food-grade barrels they want to get rid of. I've already got a water tank on the property, but it runs out fast in the summer. I'd like to see about adding more water storage in the dead space along one side of the house, fence-line, and behind the sheds (two garden sheds, one big work shed). Given that the majority of the rain hits during winter, I'd like to get them soon.

    Looking forward to participating on these forums! I have a lot to learn. If I ever share plans that sound completely wrong, or you think there's a better way I could be doing something, please let me know! I'm very aware of my newbie status. :angel:

    Cheers!
     
  2. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2010
    Messages:
    1,194
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Welcome aboard BK!
    Great to see u having a crack!
     
  3. Terra

    Terra Moderator

    Joined:
    May 16, 2007
    Messages:
    757
    Likes Received:
    23
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Welcome Belinda
    Great first post , you've made good observations , as you have experienced the leafy greens are the first crops to do well , as your nutrient base increases the flowering and fruiting crops will improve . Your on to it , grow some legumes , build some compost , build a big worm farm and scavenge what you can to put through your compost and worms . The answer to all our garden problems is generally more organic matter .

    Start a thread in the members section a great way to record your progress and ask questions and find the replies .

    Plenty of garden planting guides out there , adjust a bit for local conditions eg bottom of a valley or top of a hill can make a significant difference I like Jackie Frenchs guide it worked well at my last place time will tell here . As you have learned timing makes a big difference .

    https://www.jackiefrench.com/cal.html

    Another I look at a bit
    https://www.gardenate.com/zones/
     
  4. Australian Beekeeper

    Australian Beekeeper Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2014
    Messages:
    145
    Likes Received:
    11
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Welcome Belinda. Looking forward to reading more about your gardening progress.
     
  5. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2006
    Messages:
    3,046
    Likes Received:
    199
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    E Washington, USA
    Climate:
    Semi-Arid Shrub Steppe (BsK)
    Hi Belinda and welcome!
    Your climate interests me as many of the conditions mirror my own place (hot dry summer, cold winter, windy, etc).
    You also mention water storage and I know Aussies are the world's best at storing water, tankage, etc.
    In looking up the Koppen Geiger climate map of Oz I see you are in the Bsk environment, same as us, a semi-arid climate (although you won't get temps as cold as here).

    One of the key aspects of the Bsk climate is "evaporation exceeds precipitation". What this means to us is that while we can't alter the precipitation component, we can change the evaporation aspect, meaning minimize the evaporation of the water that does fall from the sky by providing shade, wind protection, and mulch to store and maintain what water there is in the soil (where it does the most good). As Geoff Lawton says, the best place to store water is in the soil. Our dry climate soils, when left unprotected, dry out to an extreme degree and depth which reduces the beneficial soil life (microbes, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc) to a minimum and inhibits the creation of a living soil layer so crucial to healthy plants. By shading, wind protection, and mulching, we've been able to drastically change our soil profiles, begin to create a layer of living humus/topsoil, and significantly reduce our water use for irrigation.

    These are things you may want to consider in planting/growing around your place. Keep us updated on your progress!
     
  6. BelindaKate

    BelindaKate Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2015
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Hi, everyone! I know I'm horribly late- I was hoping to have some good photos and video before I posted again, but as my sis still has my camera, I'm posting now anyways. ;D

    Thank you so much for the helpful links! I've bookmarked them all. :D Anything to help me figure out planting times/ climate is awesome. I just had my first frost this morning, and while the grass and open beds were white as snow, the beds under my mini-greenhouses/hoop houses are going great. :D

    I started keeping a garden journal, too! Because, ya know, I forget stuff easily.

    As soon as I get my camera back, I'll start up a thread in the members forum. The yards will be going through a massive transformation, and I'd love to share with you all. :D
     
  7. Rodney7777

    Rodney7777 Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Hi Belinda

    I am going to recommend this web site. www.singingfrogsfarm.com

    I too and trying to get a green thumb and I can't get enough of that site, including some very good links.

    By the way I like this way of making raised beds or small swales. --> https://youtu.be/vhfjUSusROc

    Regards Rodney
     
  8. BelindaKate

    BelindaKate Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2015
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks, dude! I checked out their site, and investigated one of their recommended links to the Pollinator Partnership site. Loads of info! Great stuff.
     

Share This Page

-->