An Experiment or Two in the Garden

Despite the lack of writing on the blog things have been chugging along busily as ever here at Haven.

At the moment I have two experiments on the go. The first involves carrots and bananas. I have been having trouble getting my carrots to grow of late. The hot frizzle weather means that once they sprout they are inevitably burnt by the sun or, being so humid, they get root rot and die. As anyone who has tried growing carrots from bought seedlings knows, the process of transplanting them usually leads to misshapen, under developed carrots, which aren’t worth the money you paid for them. So, what to do?
I regularly read a blog called The Witches Kitchen by Linda Woodrow. Her book The Permaculture Home Garden was given to me as a gift from a very good friend and was a great introduction to permaculture. In highschool that friend and I had dreams of having a little cafe where all things for sale were grown from our permaculture garden out the back 🙂 Not much has changed since then 😉
Anyway, on her blog Linda talked about using homemade pots from banana leaves and I thought “what a great idea!” So, last weekend I set about making some ‘rustic’ (ie bodgy looking) pots.

freshly harvested banana leaf being cut for pots

The great thing about these is that you can plant the pot and all straight in the garden and not have to disturb the roots when planting them.

finished pot waiting to be filled

Hopefully the banana leaves will break down, providing nutrient and you end up with happy carrots. I figured its worth a try. My seeds have now sprouted and after a thinning or two will be going into the garden, giving us sweet carrots after a frost or two 😉

lots of banana pots

carrot seedlings

My second experiment is also Linda Woodrow inspired. When I first read her book, The Permaculture Home Garden, I was enthused by the ideas of the mandala/chook dome garden. This site here: Mandala Systems gives you some information on what I’m talking about. I even constructed a mini chook dome and made a mini-mandala system in our backyard in Brisbane.

my young chook dome construction 'helpers'

the beginnings of my mini mandala system

But it was short lived as I felt the chickens were to cooped (ha ha) up and I really didn’t have the amount of input needed to keep them happy.

my Brissie hens in their chook dome

Fast forward to now and I have a much bigger garden system. With four beds I am able to have at least one out of producing mode each season. The top bed, the one which was first cleared and planted out last year, is in need of a rest as well as some good soil building. Most of the mulch used on the garden is hay which has been in the chicken house and yard. This works great but it is a pain to have to lug it all down to the garden. At the moment, because of our wild dog problem, the chickens have been kept in the pen and not allowed to free range. So, I decided to make the top bed into a temporary chook run. The girls can eat the caterpillar riddled kale and bok choi, munch on the spent parsley and celery and eat all the weeds and other plants that have gone to seed. They can scratch through the dirt, fertilize it nicely and mix through a good amount of mulch meanwhile having a change in scenery and saving me doing all that work instead of them.
As I mentioned in my previous post, anything I build at the moment is done so using found objects. So, reusing chicken wire and posts from my old garden fence and sheepish’s fence, along with a tarp, some netting used for crops, I came up with this.

a bit bodgy looking - but does the job

view into the chook run

The girls settled in well,

ooh - so much to eat!

although two of my adopted hens, Coenak the punk chicken and a black hen, who we have since named Houdini, were unhappy with the laying conditions (the catcher off the push mower) and would escape each day racing up to the chook house to lay their egg and then racing back to try to break back in – it was hilarious to watch. I have since plugged up the holes and extended the run to take in the entire bed, as the cucumber vine has finally finished.

the shanty chook run

The girls are doing their job well

the garden bed after 2 weeks of chicken treatment

and I am hoping in a few weeks time to move them onto the next bed and then begin planting in my freshly cleared garden ready for the winter crops. The girls will then move back to the chicken yard once the temperatures start to drop until the frosts have passed, in the hope that they will continue laying if sleeping in their hay bail insulated house. Time will tell.


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