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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Its time to plant Carrots

Carrots are very yummy crunchy things full of goodness. The Queen of veggies they say . I think broccolli  is the King? Anyway, lovely though they are and good keepers, they are a difficult crop in hot & dry or cold & wet conditions, which unfortunately  describes  good old WA. Sure they are easy of you want to drain an aquifer  like the guys around Myalup are up to..... running literally thousands of sprinklers on sand all through the hot days, no doubt using an arsenal of chemicals and fertilizers as well,  is how they get their truckloads of carrots for The Duopoly. Everybody and the environment will pay down the line for the cheap carrots purchased today.
However we can withdraw our support from such operators,  shun the $1.50 a kg carrots and grow way safer, tastier and more nutrient dense carrots with Earth care as our priority in the following manner:
First "chook" the area to weed and fertilise,

I dont mind leaving some old brocoli or chard plants for shade. They will sprout chook food again too. 
 Move the rotary hoes (chooks)  out. Hose the level bed until wet right down at least 6 inches. Now this can be a long process......maybe  a few days of short applications until the soil accepts water easily.  Then mulch the whole wetted bed with grass clippings ( I get mine from the tip, as long as there are no dead beetles and there are plenty of weedy plants represented I am pretty sure it is safe) Any weed free, fine mulch is good, but make it at east 2 inches ( 50 mm) thick  Make  small furrows in that, then trickle in the seed . I go tap tap tap on the packet and try to get a few seeds coming out at a time. OK , its a skill .  You can  mix the seed with dry sand to help spread it . Cover with  with half  a  cm worm casts or compost, hose again, cover that with thin layer seed free fine sawdust and PRESS down.  Work quickly to cover each row of compost immediately , as the wonderful microbes in it die if exposed to ultraviolet light,.THEN cover the area with chemical free hessian

or that lovely floating row cover white stuff . This is worth the expense. You can water through it, it keeps stray creatures off the emerging carrots which by now represent a lot of time and effort on your part,  it lasts and can be re used many times.  See John's online shop  here.
I  water  the bed  once a day for 2 weeks, by which time the hessian or old sheets should be lifted off as most carrots should be just visible.
Carrots  do do better for me in  good soil unlike what all the books say. Maybe they  fail for me in sandy soil they recommend, perhaps  because our sandy soil just too easily dries out .
February is the ideal time to grow carrots. Just make sure it is in the waning phase of the moon, but you can get your bed ready and mulched before hand, just sow the seed soon after the full moon. If you ignore moon planting or buy dodgy seed (where the people inexpertly saved the first plants to go to seed) you may get all tops and no carrot. To avoid this calamity get our seeds here

Weed your carrots while they are small and also thin them out where crowded and eat the tiny things in salads. I plant radishes with my carrots as companion planting is the go and if the carrots fail I will at least get something .

 I find if you baby your carrots with daily weeding and water for the first few weeks then  they are easy peasey after that, just needing a deep water once a week. The mulch means weeding isn't too bad and soil doesn't dry out between irrigations.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New 5 m long delux model Wicking bed

We have incorporated a worm tower for disposal of vege scraps in our second deluxe wicking bed….. 5 meter long and bench height. The tower is simply a thick walled pipe which is made from  recycled plastic bottle lids, ( hence it is gaily coloured)  buried 4 inches ( 100 mm) or so into the surface of the wicking bed. The earthworms can  enter to feed. We simply deposit our kitchen scraps or  chook feathers  in the pipe along with some water  and replace the lid to keep out flies and other pests. Wet any dry-ish materials and, if you really want to care for your worms ( and who doesnt) , you could even run your big scraps like cabbage stalks or watermelon skins through a blender for a few seconds before slopping them in .  The worm tower transforms the whole wicking bed into a big worm farm. Worms will always be happy as the moisture is so reliable in the wicking bed.  Their castings added to the soil will make  plants to thrive.


The two 5 metre wicking beds built on a slope mean I can plant from the downhill side without  bending….absolute luxury.

We made these in an area that has pretty poor water pressure so irrigating the standard garden bed  is too time consuming .

Using “waste” jarrah that would normally be burnt has its building and aesthetic challenges but it would be hypocritical to use sleepers from the big mill which is fed from the last of our native forests. These forests were last logged with hand tools in 1920!  All governments since then have reserved them for high conservation value until  the Barnett state government’s Minister for Forestry Terry Redman gave the  go ahead to log them all, thus sealing the fate of the numbat and 3 species of black cockatoos, all of which are critically endangered. Friends have used corrugated iron sides and wooden posts at the corners. I am a little cautious of using metals which could break down  against soil so I stick with wood.

 Here you can see the woodchips have filled the 200 deep black plastic reservoir, the fill pipe has been installed, the shadecloth has been laid over the woodchips and the soil is being shovelled back into the box. I put a thin layer of mulch on top to  protect the precious soil bacteria which are destroyed by ultraviolet light and dryness.

These are a bit of work to set up but will save us time and  back aches for many years to come I hope.
Here we are in January and we've survived another 40 degree day. The tomato and egg plants aren't bothered. Young Lee is looking for caterpillars on cabbages with ease. 
Worm tower can be seen with blue lid . This bed's reservoir  has been filled only once  since when it was constructed  about November 10th 2012.