Monday, February 11, 2019

Dennis's garden, February 2019, with street library

I find it more difficult to photograph and report on my garden, compared to Helen's garden. In part because it lives inside my head, in part because when I look at it I see flaws, in part because it is crowded on a flat space and on troublesome poor soil on a fast draining base. I seek to photograph a broad view, which is difficult because it is crowded. And then I realise that the broad view is not the point in much of my garden, with microclimates and microdetail and art.

I have taken some photos early this morning, after 7.

This begins with the street library we installed yesterday morning. It is located in a private shady space. The passer-by can browse without being observed from the house.

View from across the street, early morning.
This is Dwight's library, he sits ready for consultations.
He is as you will see a zebra, or some kind of zebra.
He has borrowed from me a hat I bought in the Porta Portese market in Rome in 2011.
The hat was many decades old when I bought it. 
The passing parade is of all ages, though it is a quiet street.
The chairs, like most things these days, come with Terms and Conditions.
These are inscribed on little stickers:
"sit at own risk".
I claim the brevity prize for terms and conditions.

Near the street library, see first photo, is a hugel bed. You will see from this link
Here I have used a modern technique of putting black plastic film over the raised bed. The bed contains stick prunings, lawn clippings which the contract mower who mows my neighbour's grass is pleased to dump in my yard, horse stable manure and straw, obtained from nearby, plus lots of water and some air. The black plastic ensures heat and retains moisture. 

This mound has dropped 20 or 30cm since the heap was established about 20 days ago as the contents decompose. Because the larger limbs of wood in these heaps decompose slowly and tip the carbon-nitrogen balance towards carbon, you have to keep adding manures and other nitrogen rich materials, including fresh green grass, to get the balance right. If you plant seedlings into a bed with inadequate nitrogen, the soil will suck the nitrogen out and the plant will fail. Also, any compost based bed like this, with limited ingredients, is likely to lack micronutrient minerals, so you must add some of those. (In regular compost, addition of shredded colour-printed paper will provide some mineral micro needs.) 

A hugelbed 20 days old. In this location, deep shade, near the street, some decorative planting will follow,
perhaps taken from the mini rainforest area at the back of the house.
You will see that my front yard is different from the rest of the street.
We now use a battery mower for small grass areas. 
There is a lot of literature on the web about the carbon impact of mowing grass. Cop this:
Mowing the 40 million acres of lawn in the United States requires over 800 million gallons of gas every year. That means we’re spewing 16 billion pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere when we cut grass. Experts estimate that another 17 million gallons of gas are spilled annually while refilling lawn mowers. The infamous Exxon Valdez spill, by comparison, was just under 11 million gallons. Source
With a hot and humid summer there have been more mowers than mosquitos around here. The lawn-rich streetscape leads on to home where master bedrooms face the street, over lawns, necessitating curtains for privacy. Here, by contrast, are early morning views from our front bedroom through woodland.



This area was protected enough for bowerbirds in 2017, see the blog.
The drought conditions of 2018 severely reduced hide for them, 
just a few sentimentalists drop in to sing a bit.

The front yard has been extremely hot in the past year, 
advantageous for guavas and some herbs and well established orange trees.

bananas are recovered from drought stress.
New plantings of tamarillos and rosellas are doing well so far.
The pipes into the ground are to enable watering at root level rather than surface watering
that may encourage roots upwards to die when it's hot and dry.

guava, rosemary, wild fennel. I have abandoned use of onion in the kitchen in favour of fennel.

The mirror supports the ego of the blue wren who loves to dance in front of it.
To the right a larger and smaller jaboticaba.
These have been in the ground for a decade. They have appreciated the heat and humidity of this summer.
I knew that they would take a long time to fruit,.
Some years after planting, looking at a discussion of how difficult it is to grow these in Australia,
a Brazilian voice entered and said they grow best in the sandy banks of the Amazon.
So I wait for results and add water!

Navel orange crop developing

A niche. A geranium in a pot, to catch the drip from an air conditioner. Dead headed recently.

The backyard is densely planted. Here is the entrance. 


These photos are as one walks

The ladies who hitherto kept watch at the front door have retreated to a private space, adjacent to...

Two new greenhouses, doors open in the summer heat. 
A separate blog entry sometime, about what we are doing here.

been adding items over a few weeks. Home grown from seed or cutting

The black plastic compost bins are the mainstay of our composting. Very little organic material leaves the property.
The kitchen mantra has been for many years chook, dog, compost, garbage. This bin, #1, was full of mixed compost a few weeks ago.
With heat and moisture and air it has composted away and collapsed, see below. 
New input materials being put in compost bin #2. 
Next we lift this bin #1 away, off the compost, to place elsewhere
and use the new soil from bin #1 where it is or spread elsewhere in the garden.
Then we cover bin #2 with grass clippings and leave it to rot and commence filling bin #1 again.
This process much faster in the heat of summer, if there is enough moisture.
In the kitchen, we have of course a bin for organic scraps.
To this I add lots of paper and cardboard package material, torn up.
I also add water hot from boiling eggs or cooking pasta etc:
heat energy to begin the breakdown of scraps, the unravelling of paper fibres...
and add rich moisture when the kitchen bin contents are upended into the outside bin..

As discussed above, this bin #1 was full to the lid with mixed scraps and a top layer of lawn clippings.
The lawn clippings protect from flies, also they rot pretty quickly. They assist the rot of more coarse wastes just below by assisting in heat and moisture retention.

Immediately adjacent to that industrial site is this sit-out area.

Wild fennel, fig, arrowroot, custard apple, wattle, sage
This photo to draw attention to the rather murdered state of the wattle.
This tree is more than ten years old.
It is pruned at least twice a year.
Pruning yields nitrogenous leaf material for compost and mulch
and whenever you prune the top a comparable amount of tree dies underground
releasing carbon to the soil and most importantly nitrogen fixed by bacterial nodules
on the roots of wattles.
There is also a crop of tasty amber oozing from the trunk.

Some more photos as I wander




A Christmas gift of a bug and bee house. For solitary bees.
We are currently preparing more bee houses.

There are two little chook runs, this house currently unoccupied, the soil resting.

the dense foliage on the right is of a custard apple.
It lives between the nutrient sources of chicken run and wattle.
So it has little reason to get stressed and produce fruit.
I may soon give it some encouragement with a few whacks with a stick to the trunk.

The fig is pruned back very hard in winter, grows swiftly into a summer canopy
... and produces fruit, for which we compete with birds.
looking back towards the house, blurry-eyed

look up to Bangalow palms and bananas

Walk on past the rhubarb to the mandarin tree and the currently occupied chook run

Some emphasis on art with the mini, very-mini, rainforest space outside the back bedroom










This is a (wrongly focused) photo from inside the back bedroom.

I then accidentally took this next photo from same spot, looking down. Pleased about colours.






Two vines have died in the heat, foreground, but others below (no photo today) are jumping in the new light and rain.


just another workspace or two










Monday, January 7, 2019

A shiny look a year later

How nice to be able to record the state of Helen's garden, now become an engine in its own life.

The past year was tough with months of drought but spring and now summer have brought good rain. We have developed a pattern in the past month of spending Friday evening and Saturday morning here. My physical limitations significant but able to use iPad for some photos. Also able to manage the battery powered Stihl chainsaw bought for Helen's birthday.

Here are some photos. One of the developments of the past year has been the completion of a retail building across the street, that robs not just parking but also the view of the ranges. You will see that Helen's establishment of a front hedge preserves some privacy.

So the view from the bedroom at 6.30am now includes cars and building but less of the distant view.

In the foreground, the beginning of training a quince into a circle.


These next show how the front garden becomes a food forest, and also shows the industrious gardener.

The wild fennel is valuable in the kitchen. The woody stalks are valuable as mulch.

constant mulching and cutting dumping in gardens in the backyard yields soil eventually, Quality soil. Here transferred to a garden in the front to cover roots recently exposed by heavy rain.
Because this was then mulched well, a storm (65mm) in the afternoon did not wash soil away.

A considerable slope in the front garden. Swales and plantings on the contours.
Here is info on larger scale swales.




7am in a country town... getting busy!

This hedge produces red flowers.
...shaped a week ago with electric hedge trimmer, already doing its best to look ragged.

a peak into a citrus forest
This began with two strands tied together, much as that quince above

Yes, mosaics on steps

The shade cloth has been adjusted since this photo.
The plants underneath growing quickly. Rosellas — the plants not the birds.  

Yes, a bay and and an olive tree and a feijoa bush visible beyond. 
The rubber tree centre left will have its top taken off, the bare trunk will provide a place to host a micro-bat home (I can't make them for this price for two).The rosella hedge will not be high, I said.
No, she said, there will be citrus trees in the mulch behind.
Aha, the permaculture principle of yield per square metre rather than yield per plant.
And with that she went to say good morning to Cory Gated, the giraffe.


Loganberries are difficult here. In hot days the fruit boils, but if you can catch them at the right moment...
This is hedge to the right of the car above. Drive-in picking.

A view of the back back yard, featuring a wattle, see movie.
For Helen's birthday, for Helen's garden, a new Stihl MSA 120C, battery powered chainsaw. I can do this work, though briefly. No need to be more than briefly when it's easy to use, clean and you don't have to mess about with mixing fuel and only using fresh fuel...

I'd not used a chainsaw for a year. So failed to anticipate that torsion in the weight of first couple of limbs of this wattle would jam to the chain so easily. Lots of rain, heavy limbs.

We will not remove much more of this wattle, it serves a great purpose in the garden, generally not understood. Acacias are pioneers, they grow swiftly. Like legumes they have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots. But unlike legumes, which lower pH, these acacias raise pH, valuable in most Australian soils. The tree recovers from hard pruning well. Every time you prune the top, a comparable amount of root dies, releasing carbon and nitrogen. And as the roots grow,  they mine the soil, open it up for less vigorous plants. A multifunction plant.

This light chainsaw makes light work. To have an arborist in would mean having the whole tree whacked and a huge mess of the valuable pruned material gone. But with the saw on hand, easy to prune part of it at a time and review.

At the end of the movie see why it was good to prune early morning, see the 1pm storm.


With the circular device on the left, easy to adjust the chain. And the instruction book is very clear.

To clean, I used kitchen paper and a basting brush...
I'll get a small round bristle paint brush, which will clean the screw holes better.

My chain saw rules remain:
clean wood, sharp chain
right fuel mixed (now well charged battery)
Only when weather is right and ground is clear.
Only when feeling very well.
Only one tank, or less...
... replaced by 'only one battery charge'.
And now no need to deal with leftover fuel mix, going stale.
Wattles, next generation
These require boiling water or scratching to open them to germinate.
In nature, in Australia, many seeds like this await bushfire to open their pod or shell,
to grow in the wealth of the ashes on soil (raised pH, carbon and potassium).

This view back towards that wattle: from left, banana, tap/sink with mosaic, lemongrass, very productive custarnd apple hiding nashi tree, wild fennel and on the right  pomegranate hidden by comfrey and sulking. Everything likes to pop up from the mulch under the clothes line.

Farm people, as seen from laundry door facing clothes line.
Rosemary, lemongrass, custard apple ... and Ralph.

Flowers on the custard apple. 
For your imagination! You can't see that the green tank collects water from the invisible house roof, connected also to another tank doing the same behind the camera. Nor can you see the pump that is inside that tank down there, that pumps to a tank up the hill, out of sight, at the back fence, with pipes then to gravity feed to taps in front and back garden.
 These two photos show the mass of fallen material from wattle (which I had chopped up variously, some longer pieces for edging here and there, finer material for mulch. The second photo shows that most of it did not have to be moved far. The large leafed tree is a guava.


it's not a python, it's the scarf I took off before using the chain saw.

Down the end here, in front of shed, rosemary hedge converted to a rosemary tree, making space for a seedling passionfruit.


Blue space, Corina's spade, with spoodle, mosaics, bananas, fine legs, gardener eating.
Down the end, tamarillos, still struggling from decision to plant them on south side of fence.
I brought a kitchen knife to remove most of the bananas as should after fruiting.
"No don't reduce it to two, they shade the pool.
I've just filled the pool and it's a hiding place for the big lizards."


Near 9am, time for me to make coffee!
I do not stink of chainsaw fuel and I do not have to change clothes.