I was recently interviewed about my edible garden. As parts of the interview were edited to fit it into a quick story, I have decided to publish the whole interview on my blog. Over the next view weeks I will take you through a quick gardening 101. Last week I shared about the trend of “The Organic Home Garden” You read about that here.
Q:What are some great summer veggies?
For the beginner gardener spring is the perfect time to start experimenting. It is the season of abundance.
Easy summer veggies include
- Lettuce of all kinds
- All kinds of your favourite herbs
- Pumpkin if you have the space
- Silver beet
All these plants are great for beginners. You start to sow your summer vegetables in spring after the last frost.
By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
I love the principle of “produce no waste” simply because it sets a challenge, but also because in a permaculture setting it is a classic example of closing a loop. Instead of stealing resources from another ecosystem and depleting that system you use everything you have on site to its fullest capacity.
From food crop, to kitchen scraps, into the compost bin, then back out into the garden as compost to feed your crops.
Another way of reusing kitchen scraps is feeding it to the chickens, who produce poop, which can be made into a compost tea to go onto the garden beds.
Do you compost or have a worm farm? In what ways can you be more mindful of your waste?
Apply self regulation & accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
A self regulating system has the ability to look after itself and is the ideal in permaculture design. This design is seen in forest gardens, in which work is minimised by planting ground covers to reduce weeds, nitrogen fixers to replace fertilisers and perennial and self-seeding plants to reduce annual plantings.
Planting and designing your garden in this manner mimics nature. You are creating an eco-system in your own back yard. When you work WITH nature and not AGAINST it, all of a sudden gardening becomes so much easier and instead of seeing problems, you start seeing healthy, natural solutions.
I have applied this principle in my garden underneath my apple trees. I have planted several herbacaous ground covers to minize weeds from popping up. I have also planted Nasturtiums to keep the moisture in the soil and the weeds out. They also function as a pest deterrent. They happen to be a great companion plant for apple trees. And they are delicious in a salad!
What can you plant in your garden that has more than 1 function?
Obtain a Yield.
Well, that would certainly be a nice idea after all the hard work you put into designing your garden and planting all your seeds and seedlings, plants, trees, shrubs and bushes.
Obtaining a yield in your garden only comes with careful planning and of course trial and error.
One way to obtain a yield is by staggering your seed sowing. I sow seeds every 3 to 4 weeks in order to have food all months of the year. There is no point in sowing broccoli seeds only ones and then having 30 plants maturing all at the same time.
Another way to obtain a yield is when you share with other permaculturist/gardeners in your neighbourhood. If you are great at growing tomatoes and your neighbour excels at zucchinis, why not swap?
A great idea, when planning your edible garden is to make a planting calendar. By doing this you can assure you won’t starve to death when winter comes around!
When I bought my raspberry canes I made sure I bought many different varieties. I want raspberries for 5 months of the year, not just for 2 months. The same goes for citrus trees, different varieties fruit at different times of the year. Planning is key!
How have you planned your garden design?
Catching and storing energy may have never been something you have busied yourself with. Don’t worry, I was the same.
One day I woke up and smelled the roses and thought, wouldn’t it be nice to lower my energy bill every quarter? Of course it would be and so we purchased a 4KW solar system and had it pitched unto our roof. Our bill is now significantly reduced. So much so, I no longer cry when it arrives.
Having solar panels or a water tank is an obvious way to catch and store energy. I don’t have a water tank so especially in summer I catch the shower water in a bucket and pour it over the garden beds or pour it in the washing machine. It’s nice to use it twice! I did carry out a water audit to determine how much water we as a family of 5 use. I called up the water company and the lady on the phone was immensely impressed by the lack of our water usage. Being European, I was taught to wash yourself by the basin with a wash cloth in the morning. This practice saves us 5X 10 min. showers, not every day, but a couple of times a week.
Another way of storing and catching energy on my property is through the windows on the North side of my house. In autumn and winter, when it is cold outside I use the heat of the sun that shines on my windows to heat up the kitchen area, BEFORE turning on the heater and using energy.
In summer to keep the north side cool I am growing a deciduous vine. In summer this vine gives lots of shade, keeping away the heat of the sun, whilst in winter it will let warm sun rays through the windows to heat up my living space.
How can you use the principle of cathing & storing energy to your own life?
In my garden I use Permaculture principles, because it makes perfect sense to me.
There are 12 permaculture principles in total. In my garden design and when I garden I always have these principles in the forefront of my mind and as much as possible apply them.
You can do the same in your garden. So, let me explain to you the 12 principles starting with number 1
Observe & Interact
Take a close look at your site, grab a chair, a notebook and a pen and write down what you see. This give you a great opportunity to relax and connect with nature. Something most of us don’t often get a chance to do.
While you sit in your garden relaxed, connected with nature and taking nice deep breaths, I want you to observe the patterns you can see.
Where does the sun rise and set? Through which parts of your garden does the wind travel most, which area gets the most sun in winter and the most sun in summer? Are there areas that need wind protection, or protection from the harsh sun? What kind of wildlife lives in my yard. Are there bees?? Birds, butterflies, frogs? How can I attract wildlife if none are present? Do I look at a plant and call it a weed or do I look at plant and call it a medicinal herb? Which “medicinal herbs” are most prominent in your garden? Do some research on them and find out what they are and how you can use them.
What patterns do you observe in your garden? Do you have an edible garden?
When I started keeping chickens in my back yard I bought 6 ISA Brown hens. I did not know much about chickens then, so I bought what was easily available. Most people with backyard chickens keep ISA Brown hens, becasue they are such great layers, right?? I don’t think so, anymore…
Here is what I learned over the years about the ISA Brown laying hen:
- They are a hybrid bird, created in a laboratory in France by a company called the Institute de Selection Animale. I don’t eat laboratory made food, so I have decided I don’t want to own laboratory chickens either!
- This French company owns the rights to this bird, which means that you are not legally allowed to breed them. Not that this is possible anyway, because the formula for these birds are a closely guarded secret. Kind of like the secret ingredient in Coco Cola or KFC, which are both junk as well 😉 It also sounds awfully familiar to Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta who own and control a huge part of the food supply by genetically manipulating seeds, rendering them infertile and forcing farmers to solely rely upon these companies for new seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. This practice has forced many farmers into bankruptcy. Anything that is a closely guarded secret when it comes to food, seeds or animals should be considered suspicious and it needs your further attention and research before investing in it. Since when did we humans create (made out of nothing) anything, anyway? Everything was already created by the Master at the beginning of time…..He does not keep any secrets from us.
- The Institute of Selection of Animale, merged with Merck Pharmaceuticals in 1997. I do not trust the integrity of (P)harmaceuticals all that much. They are very profit driven with not much regard for human health care. I guess I.S.A and Merck suit each other well. I feel like a hypocrite having ISA Brown hens and supporting Big Pharma……
- The ISA Brown hens lay for approximately 16-18 months of their life ONLY. After that the health of the bird declines and no eggs are produced.
- ISA’s are specifically bred for commercial operations. In other words, they are BATTERY HENS. If you decide to buy these chickens, you ARE supporting the commercial poultry industry. Since you are thinking of buying chickens, or already have them, I know that you believe in free range chickens and eggs. Free range backyard ISA Browns are an oxymoron……
- ISA’s rely on a high protein layer pellet, which you must purchase in order for them to lay. What is in those pellets??Most likely GMO corn, GMO soy and a variety of other grains. Although these pellets do not look like grains at all! Now you are not only supporting, the commercial poultry industry (battery hens), but also Big Pharma and Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta……..
Here are plenty of reasons to buy a pure bred chicken
- Pure breeds lay CONSISTENTLY for 5 years!
- Pure breeds do not need to rely on high protein layer pellets.
- Pure breeds love your kitchen scraps and whole grains in the form of a scratch mix. If your scratch mix contains corn, make sure it is Australian corn. If it is imported, it will most likely be GMO corn.
- Let your chickens free range. They get loads of protein from grubs in your garden. Free ranging will also increase the quality of your eggs.
- Keeping a pure bred is like growing Heirloom seeds. By doing so you support and increase bio diversity or genetic variety. The less genetic variety exists, the smaller the chance that your chickens or vegetables will be able to fight off disease.
- Having a variety of pure breeds looks very pretty too 😉
Pekin Bantam sooo cute!
How and where do I buy REAL chickens? I am glad you asked. There are several ways of acquiring some interesting and beautiful varieties and they are no more expensive than the ISA Brown.
- You can incubate fertilized eggs at home. Fertilized eggs can be bought on sites such as Gumtree. If you are in my neck of the woods, North Western Sydney I can refer you to Kathryn Stedman from http://thehomegrowncountrylife.blogspot.com.au
- Kathryn has been breeding Araucanas for years and has an amazing set up on her property. She sells fertilized eggs for the incubating enthusiast or chicks for those who don’t own an incubator. Her chickens are gorgeous and lay blue-green shelled eggs! It’s a sure treat for the eye. For inquiries you can contact Kathryn on 0433247695
- Another reputable breeder is Shahid from http://www.shahidpermaculture.com/ Shahid is a permaculture enthusiast. Apart from growing a vast variety of organic fruit trees and vegetables, he also breeds his own fish as well as his own chickens. Shahid has a vast knowledge of all things permaculture. His main breeds are Rhode Island Reds and the Australorps. For inquiries I refer you to his website: http://www.shahidpermaculture.com/
Now that you are fully informed by the truth of it all, I trust that you will be able to make an informed decision.
Mulching is such a simple thing to do, so easy and so rewarding. In fact there are only benefits to mulching your gardens. But when I drive through the country side and look at all the bare farm land, I wonder why those farmers don’t bother protecting their soil from the elements.
Mulching protects the soil from the damaging effects of wind, sun and water. Mulches have so many function and a lot of benefits. Let’s have a look at some of these;
- They prevent evaporation of the moisture in your soil. Especially helpful in summer.
- They absorb water on the surface and hold it there until it has time to be absorbed.
- Mulches reduce erosion from gravity, wind and water.
- they keep your soil warm in winter and cool in the extreme summer heat.
- They suppress weeds, which also robs the soil of water.
- Mulches supply nutrients and organic matter to soils.
- Mulches are one way of using up your garden surplus. (lawn clippings, newspaper)
I sometimes use sugar cane mulch, which is a fantastic product. But because I have chickens I use the lucerne hay they have been pooping on for weeks and I scoop the whole thing onto my patch. Full of nutrients for my garden.
At the moment I am in the process of growing the Lucerne grass in my chicken pen, because not only do my chickens love it, it also can be cut and used as mulch and when I grow it myself it’s free. Who doesn’t love that?
So, go out into your patch and give a bit off dress up. Your vegetables will love it!