Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Finishing off the front veggie patch & home made compost..

& now there are 6...
As mentioned in the last blog I have been rather busy over the past few weeks trying to get the front garden beds up & running.. Added another 2 beds over the weekend just past to bring the total number of beds up to 6..

The last 2 beds will be made up in a few weeks time after we pick up a couple of ½ tanks that have been offered to us (Thank you sir).. Once they are all in Bianca & I will decide on what sort of cladding will be added to them to finish them off..
I have decided to keep using the wicking beds in the front yard after seeing how invasive the onion weed has been in the hay bale & lasagne style beds.. Not sure we will use IBC or tin style beds in the lawn as of yet & still have some tin put aside if we want to go down that road.. The compact dimensions of the IBCs would suit the slope of the land better but the tin beds wouldn't need to be clad so it will be something we think about later..

Wicking IBC beds...
Have been using the IBCs as wicking beds for a while now & have come up with a few modifications on the way they are being put together so they can store water in the reservoir..

Will be interesting to see how they go over summer once it kicks off.. I have a feeling that the corn in particular will be very appreciative of having the extra water available to it..

Harvesting the compost...
We have had 2 "slow cooking" piles of compost going in the patch now for close to 8 months.. As I ran out of horse manure on the weekend I decided to raid these piles to help add some organic matter to the new beds.. One pile was actually supposed to be a "Back to Eden" style wood mulch that just "cooked" a tad too much..

Must say that was very pleased with the way both batches had broken down & have already used over ½ of the composted timber pile.. There is a fair amount of the clipping compost left & think that most of that will be used in the last 2 IBC beds planed for the front yard..

Super fast manure mulching...
As you may have guessed by now I love using horse manure in the gardens & as an edible bedding for the compost worms.. The manure we normally get has been sitting in a pile for a few weeks before it is bagged up so is semi composted & normally very moist.. My local supplier was out of his finest pony poop when I stopped in on Saturday but I was lucky enough to get a few bags the next day from local farm gate.. Some of these pellets had been "sun baking" for a bit becoming rather hard to push through the screen so the big guns were brought out to process it : )»

Have tried the lawn mower method before with the moist manure but it just didn't want to cooperate by clumping up & stalling the mower.. Am thinking that I might be sun drying the moist manure for a few days in the future then running over it with the mower.. Will also save the gloves from extra wear & tear methinks...
Looking at playing around with a chook feeder this week so shall do a quick post on that once it's built..
There is also our Bits Out the Back Facebook page that we post mini updates on the worms, fish & veggie patch if you feel like a visit..
Have a great one all..
: )»

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Catch up Time.. Aquaponics, Chooks & a wander through the veggie patch..

Has been a while since I ventured over here to blog land so thought I would do a bit of a catch up post..Think we shall start with he Fish..

I did a "What is Aquaponics" style clip a few weeks ago to help a friend explain aquaponics to her family members.. Not a real in depth one but it will gives a rough idea on how the system works including the relationship between the fish, bacteria & plants.. It also shows a bit of the growth in the system if your interested on how it's looking at the moment..

Not much has happened with the aquaponics of late which is a good thing on one hand but frustrating on the other... The fish are all well & happy (so they tell me) with the growth in the beds travelling along fine.. The celery is still being picked every couple of days & the strawberries have been fruiting well..
Harvested our first aquaponic pepino last weekend which was great.. There are a load on there with a few easily 50% larger than the fruit above :D
Really hoping to get the grow beds sorted out into their new positions by the start of spring.. First a wicking bed needs to be pulled down & the ground levelled to make room for them.. The new configuration should free up some space to try out a few new ways to grow plants with the system..

Hanging with the Chooks...
The chooks are at the top of their game at the moment.. Greedy decided to moult at the start of winter, which was a bit of a concern to us, but grew back back a fine set of feathers just in time for the few cool nights we have had this winter.. Have started to make up 2-3 lots of sprouted wheat a week for the girls.. I think they now recognise the sprouting jar as there is much flapping & excitement when we go wandering down to the pen with it.. Have also had a go at growing them some wheat sprouts as a fodder crop in the aquaponics but have shelved that idea for a little while :)

Hope to make a start on the modified feeder & shall do a bit of a report on that once it is done for those interested..

Wandering the patch...
Have got stuck into a few jobs around the place of late getting the patch ready for the warm season crops.. There are some tomato, eggplant & capsicum seedlings that have just started to germinate which is a great sight to see..
Some water chestnuts have also made it into some small 100mm pots to give them a bit of a head start before going into the sedge bathtub bed that will be set up near the aquaponics..

 The yacon are starting to throw up shoots  & I think we will have more than enough for our purposes this year.. Have quite a few earmarked for other people & have already given a fair few away.. 

Made a decent start in setting up the new front yard garden beds as well.. There are now 4 IBC wicking beds along the front retaining wall with another 4 going in over the coming weeks.. The first 2 beds have the asparagus in them with some heirloom corn planed for at least one of the other beds..  Hope to do a post on them by themselves once they are in & growing :)

Garden walk around clips..
Have a couple of clips on what's happening in the patch at the moment... The first is of the front yard last week before the new beds went in..

The pigeon pea still haven't been harvested but when they have I shall post about our attempt at making humus with them...Should be interesting methinks..

The second clip is of the backyard patch with a bit of a quick look at the 2 new pineapple flowers that have just started to form :)

Hope to make a proper start to the insect house extension soon as well (looks at list of jobbies).. After last seasons success with keeping the fruit fly out I think we might finally get a chance at growing some decent tomatoes & capsicums :) 

Well that brings us roughly up to date... Shall post some project updates over the next few days to bring the blog up to speed all proper like ;)
Hope all are well & happy out there & have been having fun in the garden..

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Getting more from your broccoli & a tasty brassica salad..

 Harvesting broccoli to get more from your plants..
Broccoli would have to be one of my favourite plants to grow.. It starts off with a nice tidy little head of green goodness only to go onto providing you with countless meals of side shoots for months to come.. We were concerned that we didn't plant enough broccoli for the season but we have started to be flooded with side shoots from a few of the plants.. 

 We now have the second crop starting to produce as well so I think we will be sorted for broccoli until the start of Summer now at this rate :) Not sure what we will be doing with the punnet of seedlings I have to plant out yet..

 Brassica salad...

We have been making up brassica salads for quite a while now & they have become a side dish here that is loved by all.. Thought I would post the recipe here even though a similar version has been posted elsewhere before.. It is one of those salads that gets whatever is growing out the back tossed into it.. The only ring-in veggie for this one was the capsicum/bell pepper,the rest came from the garden or aquaponics..

Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad..
1 Small head of broccoli .
1 Small head of cauliflower.
Remove the florets from the broccoli & cauliflower then chop into smaller 10¢/Nickel coin size pieces necessary.. Dice the stem of the cauliflower & broccoli finely.. I cheat & use the food processor ; )»

½ large red capsicum/bell pepper, diced finely.
3 stalks of celery, sliced thinly.
Large handful of cherry tomatoes, whole or sliced in ½.
Handful of parsley, chopped finely.
½ doz onion leaves, sliced thinly.
1/8th cup pine nuts lightly toasted.. We also like to use macadamia nuts as well.
Hand full of brassica flowers. Mustard greens flowers give the salad a nice little kick if you have them.

½cup yoghurt.
¼cup Mayonnaise.
1 heaped tsp of Dijon Mustard.
1 heaped tsp of honey.

Salt & pepper to taste. 

Mix all dressing ingredients together & add salt & Pepper to taste..
Add all the salad ingredients except for the flowers & mix well..
Add the dressing & mix again..
Serve up & use flowers as garnish..
It is a great salad & can be made with almost any salad veggie you have on hand..  
The left overs from this dish were supposed to be lunch today but decided that they would be better used as a side for tonight meal.. Will just be adding a few extra broccoli side shoots to boost it out a bit..
Hope you enjoy it if you give it a whirl..

For more regular updates, pictures from the patch & other happenings come visit us on our Bits out the back Face Book page.. 
Have a great one All...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Aquaponic update, some lost fish & plans for the pipes...

A few Goldfish deaths :(

Lost a goldfish a few weeks ago & found 2 more laying on the bottom of the tank on Monday..
I had no idea at the start as to what could of caused the deaths so went looking online for some idea of what it could of been.. I came across a few sites with the one listed bellow being fairly comprehensive in its listing of different diseases & their symptoms..

I had no idea what might have caused the deaths at the time but am now fairly certain it was a sudden drop in water temp that may have caused them to perish..  Another theory put forward by a viewer is that it could of just been tired after mating... Apparently, as the gills & eyes looked so healthy this could of been a possibility.. Have never read of this happening before & really hope I didn't bury a few fish alive..  The goldfish are destined to go to a new home soon I don't know if I will get to test this theory.. 

Update walk through..
Bit late I know but here is the latest update clip for the aquaponic set up..

I found sometime this week to finely sort out how I will be altering the pipe work on the system so that all the water will run through a filter to remove solid fish waste & un eaten food..
One of the first things to make up was the 90° elbow units..
At the moment I am using normal 90° fittings on the pipes to redirect the water but it was pointed out to me that making up these nifty little units out of 2 x 45° elbows will let the water flow a lot more efficiently increasing flow rates throughout the whole system.. An upside to that is I think I can now down size the pump to one that should be slightly cheaper to run..

 As the system can’t be left off line for any length of time I have been making up these elbows & pre fabricating the other pieces needed so they can be added on all in one go..  I really want a whole day set aside for this just in case any unforeseen events arise needing extra parts & time to finish the job.. 

That's about it for now as I really should be out there harvesting the Yacon..
For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our Bits Out the Back Face book page..
Thanks & take it easy all..

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Time for an aquaponic system update & the first fish harvest..

Did another backyard aquaponic system update last week.. It's all travelling along rather nicely at the moment & am happy to report there have been no dramas as of late..  **knocks on wood**
Plant growth is still coming along nicely even though the temperatures have been dropping a bit.. Thinking we are still right to plant out a few more seeds though..

Should have the site for the mini fish farm all sorted by the next update hopefully..

Have taken the first 4 perch from the system to share at a bit of a family get together over the weekend.. 3 were not the largest but wasn't expecting too much.. Might pull a few more over Winter but not sure yet, shall see how we go..

Information on the iki jime method of despatching fish can be found here
& is well worth the look I think.

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our "Bits Out the Back" Facebook page..
Have a great one All...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to make a chicken waterer with nipple drippers..

Made up a chicken waterer for the girls cage over the past few days.. This one is 25L/6½gal in size & should last the 4 of them for at least a week if not longer I think..

A closed in water feeder like this will also help to keep their water cleaner.. It was a constant battle with them scratching dirt into their old feeder so it needed cleaning at least every second day..  I think the closed in feeder will definitely take some of the "AWWW DAAAD" out of the daily chicken choirs..
I have already started to work on another design that I will have a crack at at a later date..

There are also the "Chicken feeder, Living greens feeder for poultry or rabbits"
& the "Cheap chicken feeder, how to build a bulk chicken/poultry feeder" clips that might interest you if your into doing some basic DIY jobs around the chook pen..

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our "Bits Out the Back" Facebook page...
Have a great one All...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A couple of updates on the patch...

Backyard Aquaponic update, more plans & jobbies. 29th April 2013
Not much happening with the aquaponics of late other than plants growing & fish swimming.. The radial flow filter is yet to be included into the main feed line to the grow beds.. It needs a few minor alterations so it can be cleaned out more effectively before that can happen though..

Have been inspired to start off a small 2000L/530gal fish farm so am making plans to clear some space to include it next to the aquaponics.. Hope to make a start on that as soon as I can save up some extra coin :)

Wicking bed & Straw bale garden update.. 1st May 2013
Really love the growth the garden puts on at this time of year but with the milder weather creeping up on us I think I will be wishing it was spring soon enough.. The hay bale bed looks to be working just fine & am looking forward to planting out some spuds soon using Peter Cundall's no-dig potato method ..

Have made a proper start on the hoop house extension & hope to have all the frame up by next weekend so you should see some progress on that in the next update..

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our Bits Out the Back Facebook page..
Have a great one All...

Friday, May 3, 2013

How to make a straw bale garden bed.. Our 1st Lucerne/alfalfa hay bale bed..

Have wanted to make up some straw/hay bale garden beds for a while now & am happy I finely have..

The second bed is in the process of being planted & have also started a small no dig straw/hay bed for some potatoes to go into.. I love the idea of being able to grow in the straw as it slowly turns into compost & humus that can be added to other beds once it finishes breaking down...

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our Bits Out the Back Facebook page..
Have a great one All...

Planting out vernalised garlic... Tips for the subtropics & warmer areas..

Am trying out a few different methods of growing garlic this season to see if I can improve on previous years crops.. The garlic being used has been saved from the past two years crops..  As we are in the sub tropics & don't get the chill that other areas get to help kick their garlic off I decided to vernalise (chill) the majority of our seed garlic..

Am glad I decided to as they are already out preforming the traditionally planted cloves... Think that this will be my preferred method of preparing seed garlic from now on..
Most have gone into the soil, some into the aquaponics & the rest weree planted into the straw bale bed out the front...

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our Bits Out the Back Facebook page..
Have a great one All...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to make an easy as worm barrel farm for lawn clippings & garden scraps..

It really can't get more simple that this barrel farm.. I call it a dump & walk barrel as that is how I feed it.. A catcher or 2 or lawn clippings get dumped into the barrels & I walk away, its as easy as that.. The prunings & old plants from the veggie bed in the patch go in whole if they are small enough or get the once over with the lawnmower to chop them up a bit if they are to large..

A great type of farm to have under a fruit tree as any nutrients that leach out will feed the tree.. One like this will be added to a new bed we are making out the front soon..

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our Bits Out the Back Facebook page..
Have a great one All...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Aquaponic garlic…

Decided to have a shot at growing some aquaponic garlic after some prompting from a fellow Aussie Tuber, Shaun.. I already had some sitting in the fridge chilling out so it was only a 2 min job.. Took me 4 days to get to the 2 min job but such is :D

Shaun has an Aquaponic system & a great soil garden as well that he posts about on You Tube..

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our Bits out the Back Facebook page..
Have a great one All...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Aquaponic system Maintenance.. Dealing with a nitrite spike..

Have had a bit of fun trying to get some fluctuating nitrite levels in the system under control over the past few weeks but think I have it sorted now.. Made up a clip explaining how I think it happened & the steps taken to keep the fish safe..

Will be keeping what happened with this system in mind as I start to plan for the new tanks & beds that will be going onto the system.. Have already thought about altering the way the filter is set up to try & remove as much solids as I can before they make it to the grow beds..
I found both the folks on the Backyard Aquaponics Forum & Paul from Earthan group very helpful with the advice that gave .. Paul's site also has a great salt treatment calculator that might come in handy to some..

Thought I would post a bit of a look at how we managed to clean out the grow bed that was loaded with fish solids.. I think this is part of the reason there was a nitrite spike in the system in the first place..

Held off posting on the bed cleaning just so I could see the levels drop & stay stable for a week or 2.. I think this shows that the cleaning was successful in reducing the solids that caused the nutrient "spike".. 
Making the air spear was really easy & came in handy cleaning out the beds..

Thanks to Paul from Earthan group again for giving me the heads up on the design of the DIY spear..

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our Bits Out the Back Facebook page..
Have a great one All...

Monday, March 25, 2013

How our Aquaponic system works...

Made up a bit of a clip on Sunday just showing how the aquaponic system is configured for now.. I think it will always be a work in progress as there will always be something to play or experiment with.. Have already got a few ideas on how the new beds will be made, arranged 7 plumbed up.. Just need to wait for some plants to wind down before I can start moving the bed to make some room :)»

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us on our "Bits Out the Back" Facebook page..
Have a great one All...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to plant broccoli & other brassicas..

Was blown away by how well the broccoli & cauliflower did last year after trying this simple technique.. I came across this method of planting out brassicas last year & was very pleased with the results.. The plants that were planted in loose soil only did fair to average so decided to plant them all into firm soil this season.. 

Updates on how the plants all go will be included in the Autumn & Winter walk around clips..

For more regular updates & pictures from the patch come visit us  Bits Out the Back
onFace Book

Have a great one All...

: )»

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Root Knot Nematodes & their control..

Root Knot Nematode..

Over the past few years we have seen an increased level of root knot nematode infestation in the veggie patch.. This is due to poor crop rotations, spreading contaminated soil through transplanting & reusing old soil in new beds.. There are some plant varieties, especially in the Fabaceae family that includes peas & beans, have root nodules.. These are caused by a beneficial bacteria, called rhizobia, that form a symbiotic relationship with the plants helping them to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil..

Root knot nematodes are microscopic parasitic worms that burrow into the roots of your plants.. Once inside the root system the plant cells grow around the parasite creating the telltale galls that can be found on the plants roots.. The nematodes continue to feed off the plant robbing it of nutrients, mate then disperse its eggs in the surrounding soil.. I think we are lucky as the wicking beds are a standalone sealed growing system so if we can get on top of them they shouldn’t reoccur, as long as we don’t spread contaminated soils & make more of an effort to clean garden tools between using them in multiple beds..

Detecting them can sometimes be rather difficult & generally it’s too late when you do.. I have found that our plants start off looking healthy but then the growth rates start to slow.. I have noticed that the leaves start to look off colour (yellowing) with fruiting plants, like cucumbers & tomatoes, & they have less fruit set than normal.. I have now learned to gently dig around the roots of the plants I suspect of infection to see if there are any galls present on the roots..  If left undiagnosed & untreated it can lead to the death of the plant..

There are a number of ways to treat these little pests.. 
The easiest way to try & keep them at bay would be to have a nice rich soil made up of plenty of organic matter that will encourage not only healthy plant growth but also beneficial nematodes into the garden.. These beneficial guys will happily feed on their root knot relatives.. Couple this with good crop rotation of susceptible plant varieties (bean, lettuce, tomato, capsicum/pepper, eggplant, strawberry, cucumber, pumpkin, squash, melons, celery, ginger, beetroot, garlic, sweet potato, potato, carrot) & the risk of infection will be reduced.. 

Some plants, like marigolds & mustard, release compounds from their roots which affect nematodes.. Companion planting with these plants in garden beds can aid in deterring an attack on your plants however, once the beds are infested it is probably better to plant these as a green manure crop.. One suggestion I have read is to let mustard or marigolds grow until they are about 450mm/1½’ tall then dig it through the soil.. They then start to break down, not only adding beneficial organic matter to the soil but also releasing compounds toxic to the nematodes into the soil.. 

I have found that the quickest & easiest way to control nematodes is through the use of a molasses water mix recommended by the late, great Colin Campbell from “Gardening Australia”.. We have applied this mix to a few beds/barrels & have been blown away but the way the plants have reacted.. We had an infested wicking barrel that was home to some extremely gnarly looking beetroot as well as a very sad & stunted warrigal greens plant.. 

Once the beetroot were all removed, 2 cups/500ml of the molasses mixture was poured over the barrel & a okra was planted.. The results were visible I under a week with the warrigal greens pushing out new growth & flowers after a few months of next to no growth what so ever.. The okra has grown into the largest plant we have, unlike its stunted relatives that were planted into beds I have since found to be infested..

Here is Colin Campbell nematode recipe..
500ml/2cups molasses to 2L/½gal of water (1:4)
Mix well & apply to 1½M/yard² of garden bed..
I have spot watered some capsicum plants in an infected bed & found that they reacted very positively by sending out lush new growth & setting a 2nd, larger round of fruit.. 

Neem is another control method that has had a long history in India for the use on nematodes, as well as other plant eating insects.. I have tried using a neem oil preparation on a couple of beds in the past but unfortunately it didn’t do the job due to the low concentration rate used.. So I will save posting on that until I have it sorted out & have better results to report..

I have read in a few places on the internet that molasses can have a detrimental effect on soil flora & fauna but I have found the opposite to be the case in our beds..  All the beds treated have rewarded us with healthy, productive plants.. I have no formal horticultural training & don’t consider myself to be an expert, so I encourage everyone to look into it for yourself..
All I can do is share my own observations & the results of trialling different techniques within our own garden.. If your garden is suffering from nematodes, give it a go and let me know what worked best for you..   

Have a great one..

You can also visit our garden on Face Book & You Tube..

Some helpful reference links..