Monday, 12 November 2012

Green 'n growing

My veggie garden is rocking - a combination of this cooler weather and my anti-bird system, I think.

I set up my veggie garden in mid-September and there have been many 'opportunities for learning' since.

Within two weeks of planting the first seedlings were looking promising. I'd made my own little seed 'sachets' to protect the seed and little germinating seedling and it seemed to work but had its pitfalls. Some of the weaker germinators seemed to battle to get their roots through if the sachet hadn't sufficiently dissolved. I wasn't very impressed with my 'back-up' seed trays where not much germinated except the sunflowers and spinach (actually, it's Swiss Chard). The idea behind the tray was that I could replace anything that didn't grow in the garden with seedlings from the tray. So, I planted more seeds in the tray and in the garden.

Then, things were looking good by early/mid-October and then I had a bird attack. They ate the lovely fresh little leaves off the baby spinach plants and really messed up my cherry tomato plants. So, I built and anti-bird system with a plastic mesh cover and CDs.

Then, I set up another tray - currently mostly the leafy stuff is up - not yet big enough to be transplanted. Also, my heritage seeds arrived from Living Seeds. I planted two seeds from each of the six varieties of tomatoes (most are cherry tomato varieties with two medium sized tomato varieties) and two peas. The peas came up first and I transplanted them yesterday - they've got another part of the garden, not the veggie bed. I think there are five tomato seedlings that have come up. I'll only move these when they're bigger. The interesting thing is that two were up within say 10 days and like more than 20 days after planting suddenly others have come up, even of the same variety!

And this is a strange thing with the second tray. There are some seedlings coming up now and I planted them like 30 days ago! They should have been up two weeks ago already. Maybe waiting for the right conditions?

This is quite exciting... I transplanted this cherry tomato plant yesterday from another bed. Last season I bought a high-yield cherry tomato pot plant from a nursery. It is one of those designed to go on your kitchen windowsill. I planted it in the garden and it didn't like that. I left the cherry tomatoes that were on it to rot so the seeds would go into the ground. Some little plants came up but then died in winter. This guy came up of his own accord and it has a little flower already.
My system worked and my plants are doing well. Some of the tomato plants really, really battled to recover but are now doing much better. I've transplanted two from the tray to replace the ones that just didn't make it. I think there were two spinach plants that I transplanted and three sunflowers.

This poor little tomato plant (foreground) really got nailed by the bird. It has one leaf now (it was nothing more than a little stick after the attack) and I hope it will make it. Determined little fellow.
Very sturdy sunflower plant. That's a cherry tomato to his right and another sunflower plant in the background.
The damaged spinach plants have new leaves and the butter lettuce is flourishing. Not much happening with the red lettuce (none germinated in the garden and only one in the tray, which I'll transplant when it is stronger and bigger) nor the crisp lettuce (haven't seen one germinating).

Lovely lookin' lettuce

If you put one seed in front of the stick and one behind it you should get two plants eh? How come I have four? Maybe earlier planted seeds germinating in the current cooler weather?
Green! Green! I can see green! My mom bought me some eggplant seedling this weekend. I've put them at the front of the bed where other stuff (catnip and red lettuce) hasn't come up.
Heritage pea variety - freshly transplanted from my tray. They're getting their climbing tendrils already. I planted two seeds and two came up - one a bit before the other. I hope they handle the travel to their new home - complete with trellis.
Just over a week ago I set up more 'trays'. I'm using toilet roll holders and egg boxes. The thing is that I think I should get one plant from one seed - at least a 90% seedling success rate. And it hasn't been so. My dad, who has pretty green fingers, says that you're meant to scatter the seeds, let them germinate and then thin the seedlings later (this is how seedling companies do it). What a waste! So my current system aims to look at seedling yield as I've put in two seeds per 'slot'.

The other thing is that I thought that I was being too harsh on my germinating seeds. The trays are outside and exposed to the elements. Sure, they're being kept moist but they're in the sun, which is probably too much for them. My new trays are undercover and in the shade and the results are showing. Just over a week in and I've got more little baby seedlings coming up than I had with my previous trays.

I gave up mountain bike orienteering to go to a permaculture talk last Sunday. It was a complete waste of time. The guy, Jamie Stephens, looks like a gardening version of Kingsley Holgate. It seems like he has done incredible things with permaculture gardens in KZN but his presentation was unstructured and a bit of scare tactic (earth running out of agricultural resources, population growth over our life time, agriculture in tropical areas can only be sustained by ground for three years). The first half was spent convincing us why we should grow our own sustainable veg gardens (surely if you pay to come to a talk that promises to teach you "how to create your own permaculture garden" you're already the converted?).

The second half was a little more interesting about the range of plants that should be included in a permaculture garden (about eight or nine categories) but I'm none the wiser as to what to do for my 5m x 1.5m bed... I knew more from Wikipedia before I went to the talk (I did write to the talk organiser about the presentation not delivering what had been promised in the talk promotional information but he hasn't replied a week later). Oh, but if I paid R1,400 and went to the workshop that was this past weekend I may have learned what the talk promised I would... I'll stick to reading the web.

So, I'm kinda learning as I go.

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