Friday, August 28, 2015

Vines for Garden Bed Fencing

Its been a long time between blogs, but my gardening hands have not been resting. I single-handedly built a lasagna (no dig) garden bed a few months ago for our students to learn the importance of different types of gardening and the value of break-down of materials used to create a rich soil full of worms.

This month we finished off the garden by removing the bright orange plastic fencing in favour of a more natural earthly look to tie in with our Steiner Garden along the same side of the street.

The no-dig garden bed started off quite considerably higher. It has been left to sit for the last month or more now to break down naturally, so it has lost some height.

The challenge has been to keep the school children off of it so the bed stays in tact for its very first planting.

A small opening has been left to create a small gateway so that we can access irrigation
and the children can reach all sections.
So we recruited the Steiner people to collect grape vine cuttings from the vineyards around the McLaren Vale wine district, with July being the best month to score a trailer load.

Our garden volunteers joined me to transform our lovely new garden bed with bamboo stakes and a weaving of grape vines. I must say the finished product is just beautiful. Its organic and harmonious in the garden and seems to command respect for trespasses to leave it alone (which is the fear of any school gardener - so many things get stolen or misplaced).

I am very proud of our team effort to get the garden bed looking so natural that it has inspired the teachers to request that we look into further vine weaving projects for the school that the children could also enjoy in their active exploration play. Its all in the planning.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Self Seeding Garden

My garden has become a blessing this season by proving an amazing array of self-seeded plants.

To be honest, I never thought it would really happen, but I had tried to hedge my bets by giving them a lot more time to sit in my garden in seed, well past their usability. No-one likes to be rushed, so I thought maybe the plants in my vegetable garden might like me to back off a little and let them choose their own timing. And boy did it work!!!

I have always had success with the flat leaf parsley self seeding and living with where ever it came up and gardening around it.

This year its not only parsley, but also licorice herb, coriander, land cress and fennel.

I suspect there might be a few more plant species out there too such as tomatoes, but as we are in autumn they really won't take off when winter sets in.

I'm liking this money saving gardening. I could get quite use to this.

Coriander and more amongst the leeks

Licorice herb, parsley amongst the garlic


Part of this success I also put down to using organic loam soil mixed with vegetable potting mix and the use of coconut coir for the first time to improve soil moisture to stop drying out of beds.

I'm a recent convert to using coir in my raised garden beds. In fact, I was trialing it to see if it would be good to use in our primary school's garden as so many of the beds are dust dry. We've been desperate to find a way to keep the soil moist and the plants alive. So I volunteered my garden and now I can see why all the plant nurseries use it.

For a water wise garden, get a block of coir into your soil.

Retails around $16 per block
Simply place in a wheelbarrow, add the recommended amount of water, wait 20 minutes and then pull apart by fluffing around the edges.

You will have the best soil ever in your garden! It really is worth a try.

TIP: Saw the block in half and only do half a block at a time unless you own the world's biggest wheelbarrow.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Chick Update: 1 day old Black Australorps

Now our little chicks are a day old, its off to the brooder box they go.

We made the call by midday that any unhatched eggs were out and the hatched ones were ready to leave the incubator.

Its officially six (6) out of 9 eggs hatched. We have six beautiful and strong personalities to welcome to our family.

With scrupulously clean hands we moved them one by one into the brooder with the heat table (actual brooder), dipping their beak once into their water and once into their chick crumble (food source) to introduce them to their basic necessities.

Then came time for their Mareks vaccinations. I now understand why so many people do not vaccinate their chicks.

  1. They come in enormous batches (doing 125 to 1,000 chicks at a time)
  2. Its expensive for the little we have hatched. (Over $100 for our small batch)
  3. Its a multi-part process to mix the vaccine to become active.
  4. The vaccine has a limited life span of only 2 hours. YES, only 2 hours.
  5. Injecting a chick on the back of the neck is harder than you think, especially if you have never done it before.
  6. Can only be administered on day old chicks.

To learn how to mix and administer the vaccine for Mareks check out:

We put them directly onto newspaper for their first day and sprinkled chick crumble around so that they can get use to their food source before we add any wood shavings. Otherwise they will only peck at the wood shavings and not learn about their food.

The brooder is set fairly low to begin with and will be raised higher as they grow each week.

They are cuteness on legs!

Or you can go for the much clearer picture as to what Black Australorp chicks look like, below. Mine won't stand still for a second for a GOOD picture. :)

via MyPetChicken

We are hatching chickens

Its our first time hatch our own chickens. And these little sweeties are purebred black Australorps.

Its been a tricky slog, first of all using a broody hen which quickly turned into THREE broody hens for only 12 eggs. Made great use of my excessively broody Silver Laced Wyandottes and Light Sussex girls.

As time progressed we lost three (3) eggs.

1. One of my kids accidentally put it into the fridge with the other eggs.
2. One was cracked. Tried to glue it with PVA glue but the hens attacked it and ate the chick's head.

...which prompted us to rescue the eggs and pop them into the new incubator.

3. One went bad! It was oozing a honey-like substance and it stunk out the entire incubator!

Then there were incubator dramas. Mostly all humidity based or rotational.

Day 18 was 'lock down'- no more turning, and the sections were removed so there would be no more movement of the eggs.

On the morning of Day 21, today...they started to hatch.

Signs were apparent at breakfast but they held off on coming out until the kids got home from school, with the first two popping out in the 4pm hour.

There are big breaks between hatchings and we are still awaiting the remainder to hatch as I type this. (My hubby wants to show off the pictures at work!)

Tomorrow morning we will be vaccinating them. I think we might have an all-nighter on our hands to maintain the correct humidity (65-75%). The kettle is regularly on. And kitchen paper towels are on-hand. No opening the incubator until they are all hatched in the morning.

Our first two hatched black Australorp chicks. Black beak and Pink beak.

We are completely in love with them all.

This is better than TV! This is ADDICTIVE!!!

If you are hatching eggs too, we would love to hear from you and any tips you can share.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Eggplants: What a difference a soil makes

This is my first year of growing Eggplants and I have discovered just how easy they are to grow. But the curious situation in my garden is that even though all the plants are the same age from the same punnet, they are at two very different levels of growth.

Its amazing what a difference a soil type makes.

The plants in the planter was given fresh potting mix while the smaller plants have been planted after a crop of leeks with minimal rest time to that bed. There was some digging through of potting mix and chicken manure, but it hasn't produced the growth like that of the planter. Wow!

I'm using a potting mix that is especially for Vegetables and Herbs containing a wetting agent.

And speaking of potting mix, I've been on top of my potted fruit trees this year keeping them hydrated with Wetta Soil watered in.

Since adding the Wetta Soil the Naval Orange tree has sprouted some surprise new growth, growing oranges as well as sprouted some new orange blossoms.

How are your soils coping this summer?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Banana Coconut Bread

Too many ripe bananas in the fruit bowl?
Need a gluten-free recipe?
Need a little more fiber in your diet?
A cake for a sugar-free diet?
This delicious recipe covers it all.

This cake not only surprises on taste, but its a remarkably healthy alternative.

Banana Coconut Bread


12-14 dates, seeded and chopped
3 bananas, mashed
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbspn chia seeds
1 Tbspn brown rice protein
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp bi-carb soda
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup brown or white rice flour


  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
  2. Line or grease a loaf tin.
  3. In a medium sized bow, mix melted coconut oil with vanilla, eggs, mash bananas, dates and bi-carb.
  4. Add shredded coconut, chia seeds, brown rice protein and rice flower. Mix through well with a whisk.
  5. Pour into the prepared loaf tin.
  6. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Test the centre with a skewer to see if it comes out clean before removing from the oven.
  7. Let loaf sit in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Coconut Oil, Bananas, Dates, Bi-Carb

To that is then added the Shredded Coconut, Chia Seeds, Brown Rice Protein and Rice Flour.

Lined loaf tin - baked at 180ºC for 50 minutes

Very yummy! Even sugary cake addicts will love this as a change.

Food that Magically Regrows Itself

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Naked Ladies OR How To Have a Pink Garden in Summer

My garden has suddenly turned pink. Blushing from all this sunshine with pink hollyhocks, a rose generosa bush rose and the most amazing flower grown from bulb, Naked Ladies.

Naked Ladies flower just before Autumn, and are also known as Amaryllis (Amaryllis Belladonna) or even Lady Belladonna.

Amaryllis are sometimes mistakenly called Easter Lilies.

They are special because the leaves and the flowers do not appear together at the same time.

And their fragrance is really something else. Its one of those aromas that leave you curious as to whether you like it or not. Some even say it is apricot like. I remember talc powders given to me as child in the 1980s that smelt just like these flowers. It is completely reminiscent.

Amaryllis love hot and dry conditions, just perfect for the South Australian climate. These bulbs are the true survivors. No bad seasons ever seem to knock them off!

Plant the bulbs in early summer time when the bulb is dormant, just before flowering. The bulbs have a habit of clumping over the years.

The first year or two they may not flower after being transplanted as they have a reputation for being a little temperamental. Once established, they come back year after year.

They also reproduce through the flowers. After each flowering season they go to seed which then expel small juicy round bulbs that scatter themselves a little further a field in the garden. They do sprout well in the next leafy season, although much smaller than the established larger bulbs.

I have never found them to be invasive in my garden. I like to plant them in sections of my garden that go bare over summer. Even mulch doesn't keep them down. They love to pop up when they are ready, to give your garden a pink make-over.

Guillot Rosa Generosa Bush Rose

Pink Hollyhock

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Jigsaw: Adelaide Botanic Gardens ground cover

preview150 pieceGround Cover Garden Try my latest jigsaw. Adelaide Botanic Gardens ground cover. 150 pieces.

Lotus Pond at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens

In January, under the summer sun the Nelbumbo Pond at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens springs to life with the most beautiful lotus flowers.

These beautiful flowering plants are commonly known as Sacred Lotus, or by its botanical name of Nelbumo nucifera.

According to the Botanic Gardens of South Australia
The sacred lotus has an amazing ability to regulate the temperature of its flowers, similar to humans and other warm-blooded animals. His team discovered that the lotus flowers maintained a temperature of 30-35°C, even when the air temperature dropped to 10°C. The belief is that this occurs so the lotus can attract coldblooded insect for pollination.

The sacred lotus is the national flower of India and Vietnam and different parts of the plant are used in cooking throughout Asia. As well as being used in teas, garnishes, soups and herbal medicines, lotus seed paste is also a key ingredient in mooncake, the famous Chinese sweet treat.