Grass roots gardening…

Saturday

Today was a fairly easy day. I planted up the seedlings and broad beans seeds in the veggie beds. We have tomatoes, golden beetroot, two types of kale (Tuscan and Scarlet), broccoli, coriander, cos lettuce and pak choy. We’ll also plant silver beet (chard), rocket and basil. It’s late in the season to plant basil, but the netting should protect against the weather and keep the temperature a couple of degrees warmer than outside. We have lots of self-sown rocket coming up around the chillis that we moved from the veggie beds. We also have self-sown basil. I’ll transplant these once the seedlings have grown enough to move.

Planted veggie beds

Planted veggie beds

Stephen planted several thymes around the chilli hill. There are a variety of flavours in addition to regular thyme, including lemon, caraway, bush bbq, pizza,bergamot and Jekka’s thyme.

Chillis and thyme

Chillis and thyme

Our timing was perfect, it started to rain just as we finished planting.

Sunday

Today we started the day working to clear the grass from one end of the front verge. This corner has always been a bit of a problem due, in the first few years to the next door neighbour’s gardener scattering grass seeds our way when he mowed the lawn, and in recent years to our current neighbour’s lack of care of their front yard. We’ve tried to keep up with pulling out the grass, but the groundcover we planted there was a bit sparse and straggly and wasn’t helping. The grass was out of control.

Starting work on the verge

Starting work on the verge

The overnight rain ensured that the job would be as easy as it could be – not very easy. We had to pull out the groundcovers that were planted there and then pull out the grass. We both worked at it for a few hours and finally got it  done mid- afternoon.

First we removed the groundcovers, leaving a pretty dense layer of grass

First we removed the groundcovers, leaving a pretty dense layer of grass

There was a huge amount of grass to pull out. The roots were deep and strong. We know that, while we managed to pull out all of the visible grass and as many of the roots as possible, there are still plenty of roots in there.

We pulled out all the grass

We pulled out all the grass

We’ve planted several new plants, mostly groundcovers and low growing grevilleas.

New groundcover plantings

New groundcover plantings

We have a  groundcover that we really like, Myoporum parvifolium (Creeping Boobialla), growing at the other end of the verge. It grows in a dense mat and it should be the perfect thing to grow and cover the ground between the other plants. We’ll put in several plants of that and then  put down weed matting before we mulch.

New plants in the cleared area

New plants in the cleared area

A netted garden…

The garden netting arrived yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised. We still had the horizontal length of poly tubing to put up so we’ll have something to clip the netting to when we want to access the garden, so we took care of that yesterday afternoon. We had exactly the right length of tube left to fit around the whole garden, we just needed to buy a joiner.

The horizontal line

The horizontal line

This morning Stephen taped the tops of the start pickets so the sharp corners wouldn’t tear the net.

Taping the tops of the star pickets

Taping the tops of the star pickets

Then we draped the net over the framework. The size is just right, so that’s a bit of a relief. We found that the ends of the cable ties that we used to secure the poly tube to the pickets were catching on the net, so they all had to be taped as well.

The netting is held in place by clips that can be easily moved.

Clipping the net in place

Clipping the net in place

The net is pretty secure, though we do need a few more clips. I’m really happy with the way it’s all come together.

The netted garden

The netted garden

The sides of the net lift and clip to the top bar and allow for really easy access to the beds.

The net opened down one side for easy access

The net opened down one side for easy access

Once everything was done I prepped the bed that we have decided to plant broad beans in by raking in some lime.

Prepping a bed for broad beans

Prepping a bed for broad beans

We went shopping and bought veggie seedlings, we’ll plant them tomorrow. While we were at Bunnings I noticed that they do sell similar netting, just not in the size that we needed.

Veggie seedlings waiting to be planted

Veggie seedlings waiting to be planted

Netting the veggie bed is something I’ve wanted to do since we first put the planters in. I feel like we’ve finally achieved a major goal. Only time will tell how well it all works.

We’re gonna need a bigger pot…

I woke up this morning, worrying that I hadn’t ordered enough soil for the veggie beds. I thought about changing the order from three cubic metres to five cubic metres, but decided to leave it as is. Which is definitely a good thing…

Delivered soil for the veggie beds

Delivered soil for the veggie beds

The delivery of beautiful rich garden compost was made by Gardener’s Direct just before lunch time. After we’d eaten lunch we got stuck into moving it into the beds.

Shovelling garden compost

Shovelling garden compost

It didn’t go as easily as it might have. The star pickets at the corners of some of the beds prevented us from being able to tip the wheelbarrow at the right angle to get the composted soil into the beds. This meant we had to fill beds and then shovel soil from one bed to another for three of the beds.

Emptying the wheelbarrow

Emptying the wheelbarrow

It was a lot of double handling but we  developed a good system with Stephen barrowing the soil into the beds and me shovelling from one to another.

Shovelling from one bed to another

Shovelling from one bed to another

Anzac and Jet did their best to help, keeping an eye on  all the work done.

Anzac and Jet supervising the work

Anzac and Jet supervising the work

Jet chased flies and jumped around in the beds.

Jet likes jumping in the beds

Jet likes jumping in the beds

They are called beds so she had to test them for comfort.

Jet testing the beds for comfort

Jet testing the beds for comfort

And spent plenty of time posing for photos.

Jet loves the camera

Jet loves the camera

Anzac checked out the quality of the compost.

checking the quality of the compost

checking the quality of the compost

And spent plenty of time getting in the way of the wheelbarrow.

Helping dad in the garden

Helping dad in the garden

Finally, the planters were all filled and ready for planting.

Planters filled any ready for planting

Planters filled any ready for planting

Did we have enough soil to fill the beds? Oh, I think so!

The soil that's leftover after filling the planters.

The soil that’s leftover after filling the planters.

The loose soil in the planters will settle a bit, so we might want to top them up – a little bit. We’ll also fill all our spare pots, ready for planting herbs, citrus trees, and anything else we want in pots. I somehow think we’re going to have a bit leftover even then!

More than enough leftover soil

More than enough leftover soil

The netting is on it’s way. On Tuesday I received a notification from The VeggiePatch to say my order was posted and it normally takes up to 3 working days to arrive. Theoretically, that means it could be delivered tomorrow, after all it’s only coming from down south. But anyone living in the Perth suburbs knows proximity is no guarantee of a prompt delivery.

Revitalising the veggie garden

We’ve decided to spend our Easter break renovating the veggie garden. It’s been a bit of a mess lately, and not as productive as we’d like.

The garden before

The garden before

A year or two ago we planted passionfruit to grow up and over the veggie beds to shade them in the hotter weather. The plants grew prolifically but they didn’t fruit. They did, however, send out feral runners from the rootstock that have been coming up all over the place – in the various beds and also in the rose garden, even reaching into the native beds. The passionfruit plants did do the job of shading the beds, but they were very messy. We decided they had to go.

The garden before showing the growth of the passionfruit

The garden before showing the growth of the passionfruit

We’ve also had a big problem with insects and caterpillars devouring our leafy greens. We’ve made the decision to net the beds to protect them. We’ll also make sure to include some shade net as well. That’s going to take some design time. The first thing to do is to clean out the beds.

The passionfruit plants came out first. This was a big job on it’s own. Stephen took care of this over the past couple of weeks.

The first passionfruit plants have gone

The first passionfruit plants have gone

Then we pulled out almost all of the overgrown herbs from the herb spiral. We’re going to plant our herbs in pots.

Work on the chilli spiral begins

Work on the chilli spiral begins

The spiral has now been planted up with transplanted chilli plants.

The chilli spiral

The chilli spiral

We have a lot planned to get done in our garden over the four day break.

Day 1

Next step, I decided that the five raised bed planters needed to be turned so they were all in line and moved over slightly to allow easy access with the wheelbarrow. This involved removing all of the soil from the planters, pulling them up, and moving them.

It also involved digging out most of the star pickets that held the reo mesh that the passionfruit was growing on.

At the beginning of work on Good Friday

At the beginning of work on Good Friday

I shovelled the soil out of the first 2 planters.

Moving soil out of the first two planters

Moving soil out of the first two planters

This was the hardest part of the job, the soil had to be wheelbarrowed out and dumped on a plastic sheet until the planters were moved.

Temporary storage of the garden soil

Temporary storage of the garden soil

While Jet kept an eye out for flies on the soil, and kept the ball close, I moved the planters.

Resituating the first two planters

Resituating the first two planters

Once I’d lined up the first two beds in their new positions I barrowed and shovelled the soil back in.

At the end of work on Good Friday

At the end of work on Good Friday

Day 2

Next I cleaned out and moved the other three planters. This was a bit easier because I was able to just shovel the soil from one planter to the next, and then shovel it back once the planters were lined up. The mulch around the outside of the planters had gradually built up over the years, effectively making the raised beds not quite so raised. This has resulted in the newly moved beds being only about half full of soil. After Easter I’ll order a load of organic garden soil and top them up.

On Easter Saturday after the beds have been moved

On Easter Saturday after the beds have been moved

My final job for the day was to work out how to make the existing irrigation system work with the realigned beds. It took several attempts to realign the poly tube with the flexipipe and sprayers attached, but I think I finally got it all worked out. We won’t know for sure how things will work until the beds are filled and planted. And it may have been easier and faster to redo the irrigation from scratch.

At the end of work on Easter Saturday

At the end of work on Easter Saturday

Jet had fun helping today. She spent the afternoon running around the garden beds and snapping at flies.

Jet watching for flies

Jet watching for flies

While we wait for delivery of the soil we’ll have to put the star pickets back in around the end beds and put the mesh back on top; then do the same over the middle bed. These will act as good support for the netting that we want to put up. We need to make sure the net can be easily opened for access. We also need to be able to give access to pollinators when we grow flowering crops like tomatoes and broad beans, while keeping out the insects like the cabbage moth butterflies. And we want to incorporate shade cloth for summer, though that might need to be an additional layer of net just for the summer.

I’m so glad that we put in a spa bath when we did the bathroom reno. It’s lovely to soak in the tub with some epsom salts and with the jets going. Especially after a day of digging and shovelling in the garden. It might only be regular bath size, but oh what a difference those spa jets make!

Day 3

I woke up this morning thinking about the irrigation and decided to simplify the whole thing. The current arrangement is a mess. We have two irrigation lines going into the veggie garden and because I tried to just reuse what we already had we can’t be sure which line is watering which bed until we give it a try, and chances are they will all be mixed up. We also have lines wrapping back and forth between the beds, with flexipipe coming up and into the beds all along the way. This is going to make walking between the beds a nightmare. The beds are already pretty close together, we don’t need to be tripping over sprinkler lines.

We started the day with a shopping trip for star pickets, another reo panel, and a few irrigation system fixings. We also checked out what’s available in the way of netting. We want something that’s going to stand up to the weather and last for a few years. It looks like we’ll have to go with 50% sun block shademesh. That’s a bit heavier than I wanted but it seems to be the lightest we can get – from Bunnings anyway. There’s no point doing anything about the netting until we have the support framework up and the beds topped up with soil. I know the sizes that it comes in so I can work on a design that will be workable and easy to use. I can also look around for something strong but lighter weight and lower sunblock.

I spent the afternoon reworking the irrigation to the beds – cutting pipe, putting in t-joiners and elbows, and adding flexipipe and sprayers where needed. This is much harder work than it sounds – lots of bending down and trying to force poly tube onto fittings. There was plenty of hot water used to try to soften the tube and make things fit together more easily. It took a few hours but I finally got another part of the job finished and working to our satisfaction.

Finished irrigation

Finished irrigation

Each bed has it’s own line coming off one of the two main lines into the area – the back three beds off one line, the front two beds and the chilli spiral off the other line. The bed lines can easily be swung out of the beds when we need to add soil, or dig the bed over. The main lines across the ground will be covered by mulch and we won’t have to worry about standing on and damaging any fittings.

Day 4

Our day in the garden today started with us ramming in ten star pickets. With the existing two these will make the upright support framework for our netting.

Star pickets to support the netting

Star pickets to support the netting

I did some research on the ‘net last night and found The Veggie Patch. They are based in Western Australia and sell insect netting for veggie gardens online. This is definitely preferable to shadecloth because it’s much lighter and won’t cut out much light through winter, so we’re going with this option. We also discussed our options for the top of our support framework. We were going to go with a flat ‘roof’ supported by three reo panels. We’ve decided against that idea and instead we bought some 25mm poly tube and made a hooped ‘roof’

Poly tube hoops fitted to support the insect netting

Poly tube hoops fitted to support the insect netting

I’ve ordered the netting. I’ll order the soil for the beds tomorrow. Hopefully the soil will arrive in the next couple of days and we can fill the beds and maybe get some planting done over the three day Anzac Day weekend, next weekend. It would also be great if the netting arrived but it’s only a three day week. I don’t think Australia Post will get it here, even if the seller gets it in the mail tomorrow.

Admiring our garden renovations of the past four days

Admiring our garden renovations of the past four days

We’ve realised that we also need to add a horizontal line of poly tube down each side along the top of the star pickets. This will give us something to secure the netting to when we want to lift it for access or to just have the beds open. Another job for next weekend.

We call it Boxing Day…

The day after Christmas, that is.

According to Wikipedia:

The exact etymology of the term “boxing” is unclear and there are several competing theories, none definitive.

…but it seems to mainly be related to making up alms boxes for the poor which were given out on the day after Christmas.

Here it’s a public holiday, no matter what your charity frame of mind.

Another hot day today with temperatures up around 37°C ( 98.6°F) and the wind blowing a gale once again. I really don’t mind a breeze, ‘specially when the weather’s hot, but this wind we get here is ridiculous. And today’s has been an easterly as well, so apart from air movement it’s done nothing to make the day more pleasant. We were woken several times through the night by the sound of the wind and of the fence creaking alarmingly. Luckily fence is still there, and wind has now dropped off slightly.

After me talking to my mum about the computer and TV that Paul, my brother, bought her today, Stephen taking to his dad and skyping his mum (Christmas day in the States) we spent much of the day outside. Once again we filled the pool for Anzac. Kaz is welcome to use it too, but she won’t put more than her paws in – very gingerly.

New video of Anzac:

Cooling down

Cooling down

Eating treats

Eating treats

Dog Paddling

Dog Paddling

Kaz in the pool

Kaz in the pool

Ready for action - in ball-chasing position

Ready for action - in ball-chasing position

And we had a small veggie harvest today; a few tomatoes and a capsicum.

Today's veggie harvest

Today's veggie harvest

Stephen's Boxing day cray

Stephen's Boxing day cray

And to finish off a small video of yesterday’s blue-tongued lizard

and another small one of the dogs in the water:

And back to the garden…

Last night was a late night and it was nice to just take our time and relax this morning; not that I sleep in much. I think I was up around 8-8:30. That is quite a big sleep in for me, though!

This afternoon we worked in the garden. There was rain forecast so we wanted to get the plants that we bought last weekend into the ground. Stephen took care of that while I laid the pea straw on the rose garden. I also put the remaining straw and some sugar cane mulch on three of the veggie beds. The other two beds have seeds coming up and we don’t want to mulch them out.

The beds look great with the fresh straw. Mulching the rose beds is quite a job, though. Getting around the rose bushes is a very prickly situation. And then I had to resituate the tricklers and test them. I had one gusher – one of the soft lines and come adrift from the main line, but it was easy to locate under the straw, it sounded like a waterfall!

The rain finally came; not heavy, though. It’s not much more than heavy drizzle, but it’s contuing so that’s good. Any rain is better than none and the garden will be smiling.

As usual, there was also much time spent throwing the ball for Anzac. He is persistent and never seems to tire of chasing the ball. He stops now and then for a tussle with Kaz, but you never get much of a break from having a soggy, drool soaked tennis ball dropped in your lap and then being poked and prodded until you throw it!

The freshly mulched rose garden

The freshly mulched rose garden

The freshly mulched tomato bed

The freshly mulched tomato bed

Freshly mulched veggie beds

Freshly mulched veggie beds

Veggie beds without mulch.

Veggie beds without mulch.This one has beans coming up, and up the other end there are hundreds of spring onions.

Learning? Ah, not so much. Squeaky, squeak…

Today’s Advanced Word class was a real disappointment. I had high hopes after Wednesday’s Intermediate class. The presenter wasn’t very knowledgable at all. I wonder how advanced her Word skills are. Much of what we did covered what I’d class as basic skills. Formatting, Mail Merge (which we covered much more succinctly on Wednesday), Word Art, Text Boxes – all basic stuff and she didn’t use styles at all for text formatting, just the format buttons. We also covered interactive forms, but she showed us the way to input the legacy field controls rather than the 2007 Content Controls. I think I knew more than she did; I had to tell her how to do a few things, and those I didn’t know I was able to figure out and tell her, before she could. No doubt we’ll cover printing and dictionaries and more formatting before we get to the things I enrolled for e.g. Macros and Master Documents. And even then, I get the feeling we’ll only touch on those things, not go into the depth I need. I doubt there’ll be much more than I already know or could figure out myself. All of these things are listed in the course outline, but I thought they’d touch on the more advanced aspects and cover the things I’m interested in, in more depth. Not so. Though I do wonder how much of this is due to the trainer. I really do think the trainer we had the other day was more capable, more interested and interesting, and a far better trainer. Two of the others in the class of four were in the Intermediate class with me and they were saying the same thing about the trainer.

I will be able to sit the Microsoft Certified Word Specialist exam for no additional cost, for what that’s worth. Perhaps it will be worth something on my resumé.

I had to go to the supermarket on my way home and bought the dogs a couple of new soft squeakies. They have other soft squeakies but these have been a real hit with Anzac in particular. He’s been racing through the house, jumping over the sofa and over our bed and teasing Kaz while he’s been almost constantly squeaking one of them. He seemed to favour one for a while but then swapped for the other and tore around with it. It was also involved in a doggy tug-of-war and survived, so all in all a very good buy.

Our veggie and rose gardens are thriving now that they have targeted water supplies. The roses are looking so healthy and all sorts of seeds are germinating in the veggie garden. The seedling that we planted are growing like crazy as well.

Pea straw, plants and pups at play…

The last couple of days have been quire warm and unpleasantly windy. You’d think I’d be used to the wind and wouldn’t dislike it so much.

We bought a couple of bales of lovely pea straw for mulching the roses and veggie gardens. It’s nice, clean, white, dry straw. Perfect. We’ll get it laid next weekend.

We went to Zanthorrea Nursery to buy a couple of plants, and to have a look around. We haven’t been over there for a while. As is typical when we go to Zanthorrea we come home with more than we planned. We wanted to buy a wattle to replace one that died in spring after flowering; we bought two. We wanted a coneflower (Isopogon formosus); we have one already, but it’s quite hidden, so we wanted to plant one somewhere where we can see it. We bought two; Isopogon formosus and Isopogon latifolia that has a more protea type leaf.

We took the pups to the beach and had a lovely time, as always. Kaz is going into the water more and more all the time now.  She even stepped into the pool yesterday when I filled it for Anzac. Normally she won’t go near the pool of her own accord, we have to really coax her. And at the beach she’s running in belly deep even when there are crashy waves. It’s amazing the way the beach changes over time. At this time of year the surf is so rough that it sweeps the beach away. Lots of rocks were uncovered and so much sand was washed away that instead of a flat beach we have a sand cliff. It’s the same each December, but in the autumn the sand comes back .

Talking of the pool – we have a clamshell that we fill one side of for the dogs. Usually only Anzac uses it and, oh boy, does he love it. He loves to get under the hose as you fill the pool and then he gets in and splashes like crazy. He’s so much fun to watch!

Raindrops keep falling on my head…

We had rain today. Beautiful rain. Not a lot, but any is better than none at all.

I went out mid-morning to work in the veggie garden. I wanted to finish the watering system we’d started installing on the weekend. The rain chased me inside a couple of times, but for only a few minutes at a time.

I wasn’t really happy with the layout that we started with on the weekend, so I took it up, plugged the holes in the poly pipe where we’d put the first lot of flex hose/trickler sprays and relaid it.  I worked all day, putting in the little short lengths of hose and the sprays. Stephen had gone into the office and I was still working when he got home. He went to Bunnings for me, to get bits and pieces I needed to finish.

When it was finished (well, the first time finish) we found that we had so many sprays on the one line that the last couple of beds were hardly getting any water, due to the low pressure. We have 33 sprays in all in the veggie garden, three of those are on citrus trees.  Back to Bunnings for Stephen to get some fittings to split the line into two sections while I started planting out seedlings.

Making two separate sections made a huge difference. The coverage of the sprays is perfect.  The system isn’t fully automatic, with timers etc, but it’s a lot better than putting on a sprinkler and watering the paths as well as the veggies. It’s a matter of turning on the tap and making sure the correct area is switched on. On this system we have the two veggie areas and the rose garden. It’s not such a hardship to walk out into the garden and switch the splitter.

The veggie garden suffered while we were away. We hadn’t planted much because we knew Tanisha wouldn’t have too much time to be out watering. The tomatoes were past their best, the leeks also suffered. The broad beans had finished and we wanted them to die down to be dug in. But we do have nice looking capsicums. There wasn’t much else in the beds. Now we have: tomatoes, basil, chillis (several types), rainbow chard, beans, eggplants (thanks Gino),the capsicums, leeks, sweet corn and sugar snap peas. I think that’s everything. We also have sundry other herbs growing in the herb bed.

Now that the watering system is up and running, I need to build a shade structure to protect the plants in the heat of summer.

Veggie beds with the new watering system

Veggie beds with the new watering system

There was no walk today, but the dogs enjoyed spending the whole day outside with me. It was quite warm and muggy and even Anzac was happy to lay around chewing bones and toys, just expending bursts of energy every now and then. I’m sure he’ll make up for it with ball throwing requests as the evening wears on.

More ball training and gardening…

This afternoon we set to work in the veggie garden. We pulled out all the strugglers and stragglers, added compost to the beds and dug them over. We went to Bunnings to buy seedlings – tomatoes, basil, corn, rainbow chard and a couple of chili plants. We also bought bits and pices to set up a trickler watering system in the veggie beds. Before we went on holidays we set up a similar system in the rose garden and it’s working well. The veggie beds are a bit more of a challenge because they are separate raised beds, but we want just one continuous line to go around all the beds. We got the tricklers installed in the first bed and it looks like they’ll work well. Once it’s all done, I’ll plant up the seedlings then order a load of mulch to top up around the beds.

I also spent a lot of time today throwing the ball for Anzac (he could chase the ball all day). He’s already really  good at dropping the ball in the hat. Tomorrow we’ll try it at the park. That will be the real test. There are lots of distractions at the park. Not like at home where his sole focus is the ball.