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Chasing the Sun!

In the recent survey I posted, a question was asked about what full sun, part shade etc. means. So here my thoughts on it in terms of Australia and what I’ve read.

Aspect

The aspect of our garden to the sun is often the very first thing most new gardeners consider or are plagued with uncertainty. This is no surprise and worst of all you are often left with little choice (especially in suburban and urban areas) where to put your garden. The are a few things you can do though to help get more or less sun depending on your situation.

Full Sun, Part Shade

Firstly what exactly is full sun or part shade? Well, at a basic level I would say between 6-10 hours is Full Sun and around 3-6 hours is Part Shade.  That gives you a good start but it should not be the last consideration. Secondly, I’d consider when during the day are you getting these hours of sun. Generally speaking, if you have a choice the morning sun is preferable. Mid-day sun is too hot in most of northern half of Australia and less desirable. Mid-afternoon sun is then next preferable. An ideal example for growing most fruit and veg would be full morning sun and then filtered sun during the mid-day to late afternoon. So on the east coast north Eastley aspect is often perfect for both summer and winter.

Plan and Experiment

Getting this ideal example should not put you off and you need to experiment and a lot depends on the many variables of your garden – where your house or other buildings are located, existing trees, height of fences or walls etc. If you have a bit of a blank canvas such as just lawn and trying to decide what to do then try get as close to the ideal. From a permaculture standpoint design is at the core. Planing in the beginning can save you a lot of time, money and energy later on. Having said that, you need to give a go and learn from your mistakes.

Tips

Some tips might be. Simply count the number of hours sun at different parts of the garden during the day. If you finding lower 6 or seven hours you could consider raised beds so that walls for example provide less shade. If you getting too much sun (or too hot) Consider planting some trees that could give filtered light through there canopies. Also consider companion planting plants that are different heights which can provide shade and shelter if needed.

Take consideration when searching the internet to look at blogs and forums from your local area. Also take into account where they are and you are in the world and what there temperatures are like. Many books are European and from the UK so sun is a lot more important than Australia because of colder climates.

Please drop us a comment, ask any questions and I’d be happy to answer, point you in a direction of a good resource or research an answer for you.

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Meet the Dome

Dome Pest Net Protection 2017-06-09

Dome shaped crop protection

My strong growing brassicas have been destroyed by an invasion of whiteflies, snails and locusts. Therefore, I made my first attempt at building a frame for netting and providing protection to my new brassica seedlings and spring crops. The arch can also swivel from the floor to the top on each side to provide access. Below is an image.

 

DomePestNetProtectionAccessView2017-06-09

I found snails crawling on the outside of the netting this morning – a delightful bonus! It proved it was working and it was easy to pick them off and feed them to the chooks

I have another bed which has recently had onions planted (direct sowing). I’m afraid that the germination may not be great as all the recent heavy rain has pounded the bed and compacted the soil. I will need to get my second dome up!

Circles and Rectangles

I went with using circle shaped garden beds which was discussed in a previous post. It’s becoming more clear that using circles and domes makes life a lot harder than straight lines and corners. Hopefully, there are more advantages to circles than rectangles that are still to be discovered. So I wouldn’t say the verdict is out but I’ll keep you posted .

This is where I warn you to consider carefully,  when deciding to use circle shaped beds. Design and materials for dome and circular shaped structures may be harder to come by or more expensive and the complexities of using bends can take up precious time.

I used electrical conduit (pvc) for the frame as it is relatively cheap, flexible and reasonably strong. I sourced some steel pipes from the local waste disposal centre slipped neatly over the diameter of the conduit. The pipes are dug at an angle and around 750mm deep into the ground as support to hold the structure. We get some strong winds so I’ll see how it holds up. I sewed two pieces of 4 square metres together and to the frame. One arch goes across the top and stays in one position with a further  arch on either side can be rotated from the top to the ground to provide access.

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My Backyard Permaculture Design

VegGarden_Design 2017-06-12

It’s time to explain a little about my veg garden design. The basis for my design has been solely on Linda Woodrow’s book:

Disclosure:  some of the links in this post are referral links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.

Permaculture Home Garden: How To Grow Great Tasting Fruit And Vegetables The Organic Way

Linda used a ’mandala’ design which centred around the idea of circles for each garden bed. Whoa what is he on about I here some of you say! This  is what I thought also – not square or rectangular beds. This is crazy talk. Well there were all sorts of reasons for it and Linda detailed it quite nicely in her book which made enough sense so I just went with it. This was the first and only book I’ve read about permaculture. Maybe I should have researched more but I’m one of those people that can research so much and then end up doing nothing. Therefore, I’m trying to break the habit and follow some basic rules which I’m making up as I go. First rule is – More doing and less planning to a point that derails the entire project.

Have a look at this link  https://www.growveg.com.au/garden-plan.aspx?p=839720 which shows my garden plan. It is a great tool from www.growveg.com for designing gardens. I’m still getting to grips with it but it gives you an idea of my design.  I’ve given some photos. Wish I had a drone to do do some arial shots.


Now stop … don’t be thinking that looks a bit sad. It’s early days and it will come together at some point.

Let the chickens do the work

I made a dome chicken coop. The ’how to’ for building the coop is all in her book and you can find the instructions easily on the web. I made my own changes borrowing from some other ideas on the web. I used electrical conduit for the frame and bolts rather than wire to hold frame in position. All in all it was a good project but putting the wire mesh on the dome frame was a nightmare. The gauge wire I used was not easy to mould.  The wire bits gave me a few stabs but there was something therapeutic about the blood and sweat in the end.

I like building things. It makes me think of when the kids want to play games and I’m like “no no let’s play lego..” because I secretly prefer that to pretending I’m a cat.  Walking around on my gout ridden knees trying to lick myself and make mowing noises. Just yesterday my youngest walked off after a while into our lego ship build because I was getting too into the design. I was left building on my own. I need to work on my parenting I know but this ship was pretty awesome.

So got side tracked there but the basic idea is that I have my dome chook tractor move on a new area in a cycle. After sometime when they’ve eaten the weeds, grass etc and pooped some fertiliser, while laying eggs, they move on to the next bed. I’m going around in a circle and will eventually have 6 round garden beds in a big circle and a pond in the middle. The cycle will then repeat and once things are established the chickens will have fodder after harvesting.

Grey and lifeless soil

So far this is going ok and all though things are a bit pokey looking at the moment as we start to go into winter. I think that I’ll be spending some time getting my irrigation system better set up and soil up to scratch over the winter ready for spring. I planted some onion and carrot seeds recently straight into my new virgin bed. My beds are at ground level and soil is very sandy with very little organic matter. No earthworm activity. I have done a PH test and it was around 6 so a bit on the acidic side which I expected. I’ve added some dolomite and ash from the wood heater to correct but left one bed without because the potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil.

After the chickens have been there I dig it once to get out any weeds that are left. I intend this to be the only dig and then will follow a no dig or only dig the first 8”. I add some cow or sheep manure and organic fertiliser in a pellet form. I’ve then also dig in some dry pine needles. Seems to be various opinions out there about pine needles. I’m giving them a chance to try build organic matter and to recycle what’s on the land. I finally cover with lucerne hay.

Please share any of your own stories or ideas. You welcome to criticise. I’m experimenting so don’t expect this is going to go perfectly.

That brings me to introduce you to my my next post which will be about my irrigation and I’m doing this all on rented property….