Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A trip to the Capital

We've just had a long weekend. A time which tradition has long dictated that all able bodied persons from inland locations should flock to the seaside to spend goodly sums of money supporting regional economies.  Well, we decided to return the favour and spend a part of our weekend in our nation's capital, Canberra.  There were two main reasons - the Australian National Botanic Gardens and the annual flower festival known as Floriade (billed as the biggest flower festival in Australia).

I'm not usually a big fan of flowers.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-flowers.  I like them, but I've never gardened with flowers in mind - other than for their bird and insect attracting features.  Even so, I could still appreciate the beauty of the displays. I had lots of photos from the trip - I've imposed a quota to keep the post small(ish).
Tulip beds
Another tulip bed
A tulip
Botanic Gardens:
The Botanic Gardens are a little more my taste.  They're a place you can always find a little pocket of tranquility - even though you're quite close to the city.  Again, I've imposed a photo quota - only three allowed.
Brittle Gums in the Proteaceae section
Rainforest walk
Rock garden
We weren't the only ones enjoying the sun

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Watering solution: Capillary beds

Spending a lot of time working away from home as I do I needed a simple and cheap solution to one of last year's problems - how to water my seedlings.  I decided to make capillary beds as it seemed the least complicated solution to the problem.

I tried a couple of different designs.  The first was simply a dish-towel draped into a bucket of water, however, I couldn't get consistent distribution of water across the seedling area which was next to the bucket - I think the breeze dried the cloth faster than the capillary action could replenish the water.

The second design again used a dish-towel, but this time I draped it over a flat piece of plastic and sat it in a tray just above the water level.  This worked somewhat better than the first design, particularly when I added a little extra cloth to provide greater thickness to the capillary mat.  However, evaporation again made the watering inconsistent, drying the mat out faster than it could be replenished.

Thankfully, it was third time lucky.  The latest design works a treat, plus it was simple and cheap to make.

I used:

  •  a 35 litre under-bed storage container with a lid (on special for $8 at the hardware store)
  • an old towel (few dollars from a second hand store)
  • a Stanley knife (a sharp hobby knife)
  • a blow-torch (if needed)
The lid of the storage container proved to be quite brittle and was prone to shattering and/or cracking when I tried to cut it where the towel was to be placed.  This is where careful use of the blow-torch came in.  I used the torch to heat the area to be cut until it was soft and pliable and then cut the now soft plastic material, making an inch-wide slot at both ends of the lid.  Take care not to burn the plastic - you want it just warm enough to cut.  Heat the plastic in stages if necessary.  The finished result is pictured below (hopefully you can see the slot running the width of the lid):

Inch-wide slot (highlighted) with towel ready for insertion
I then fed each end of the towel into the appropriate slot in the lid, put the now towel-covered lid in place, filled the storage container with water (the hose easily fits through the one inch slot) and then placed the newly-filled seed trays on top.

Finished capillary bed
The beds have worked marvelously.  I made three of them and they've all got little seedlings sprouting up through the propagation mix.  I've had no problems with them drying out while I've been away at work.

With hindsight - if I had been able to find them on special I'd have used different storage containers - the much lower 20 litre ones would've worked just as well and have about the same surface area for the seed trays.  I'd also have looked for a container with a more pliable lid - it'd have made cutting the slots a lot easier and I'd have been able to avoid using the blow-torch. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Before and After - magic of organic material

Well, winter is finally over and spring has brought me out of hibernation.  What better way to open up a new posting season with a little piece on the joy of Bokashi :)  Well, it's really just a demonstration of what organic matter can do for your soil so you can stop rolling your eyes and muttering "Not again!".

Back in April I posted a rather dull documentary post on the first stage of improving a few of my garden beds with a combination of green manures and organic material (click link here if you want to refresh your memory).

Well, it's now six months later and time for an update.  Rather than post yet another long and rambling wall of text I've decided to say it with before and after pictures (well, pictures and mime - you'll not be able to see the mime of course, but trust me, I'm doing it :)

Soil before: April 2010
Soil after: September 2010
You can see why I am so looking forward to this growing season.

For those interested, my original post on bokashi composting is here.