Feeding the Beds & our Bellies..

Posted July 14th, 2013 by Rob Bob : )»

Feeding the beds for Spring...
Made a bit of a head start on getting the main beds ready for the warmer seasons crops this week.. After trying this method on a few beds for the cool season crops & being pleased with the results, I thought I would use it on the larger beds..
It is a very basic no dig method where the soil is fed from the top using manures, compost & mulches.. This also makes it a very economical way to build up nutrients in the soil, as you just can't beat bagged manure for the price.. Feeding the beds this way is thought to be better for the different micro organisms that live in the soil as they are left undisturbed.. When soil is tilled & left bare you can risk losing valuable soil/nutrients from wind & water erosion which is never a good thing when trying to to build up fertile beds.. The layers of compost & mulches on the surface provide food for worms & helps to reduce evaporation of moisture from the soil as well.. It also means I don't need to do my back in again digging all the goodies into the soil.. But that's not the real reason.. Honest ; )»
For this bed I thought I would go with straight horse manure topped with cane mulch.. Other fertilisers, like worm castings & compost, will be added when the seedlings are planted out & will give them an extra boost..
The horse manure we have been buying comes in 2 different "grades".. We have the choice of stable scrapings, containing a lot of sawdust/shavings, or straight manure that is collected from the yards.. This time we bought the straight manure & was very happy to see some healthy looking mushrooms growing in a few of the bags.. To me that's an indication that there is a healthy level of micro organisms, like bacteria & fungus, in there that will help in breaking the manure down into plant available nutrients..
I would have liked to run over the manure with the lawn mower to mulch it up quickly but it just wasn't to be.. The bags are being stored in the open & have unfortunately soaked up a bit of moisture from the rain.. Screening can be a bit time consuming but I think it's worth it in the end, as it allows the manure to break down faster on the garden beds, releasing its nutrients quicker..
I decided to start off at the end of the large wicking bed.. The few weeds from the area were pulled & fed to the chooks.. The "Market" chilli plant was also cut back to just above the lowest point of new growth, so think it will really appreciate the feed.. The manure went straight on top of the left over mulch from the previous crop & was laid about 75-100mm thick..
While weeding the bed I noticed that the worm population wasn't as dense as I would have liked, so thought it best to add some more.. A few small handfuls collected from the worm barrels under the lime tree, along with any small cocoons that could be found were spread over the top of the manure.. Am sure that they will be most happy with all that fresh food & start to multiply quick smart..
The top of the manure was then covered with a layer of mulch about 75-100mm thick to help keep the moisture in.. It also helps to suppress any weeds that might shoot from seeds that are nearly always present in the manure..
I'm waiting for the broccoli at the other end of the bed to finish being harvested, before I give it the same treatment but with one added extra.. Biochar will be added at that time.. I've got a 25 litre bag of it and because it needs to be activated before being used, (shall blog on that when it happens), I decided to wait so I can use it all at once..

Getting the most from your veggies & patch...
Making the most of what we grow has been something we have always strived to do.. When we first started to garden at the last house, we were not very adventurous & only grew what I call the "meat & 3 veg" veggies.. Peas were grown for the fruit, broccoli for the heads & beetroot for the root.. All the veggie "scraps" like leaves & stems went to the chooks or into the compost heap.. We didn't know any better because that is how veggies were prepared for us when we were young..
Over the past 10 or so years our tastes & wallet have led us to explore different veggies, as well as alternate uses for bits of veggies we would normally toss to the worms or chooks.. It started off small by buying fresh whole beetroots & adding the leaves to salads, while the roots were roasted the next night.. The stem & leaves of cauliflower & broccoli started to be added to stir fries, at first to bulk out the meals & save some money..
Later it dawned on us, that we were doing our bodies a favour by eating more vegetables.. We have taken this further & are now looking at other ways we can prepare the plants we are already growing..
Green manure crops like peas can have their growing tips snipped off then added to salads.. We add the new growth on sweet potato vines to stir fries & fried quinoa dishes.. The stems & leaves of the broccoli & caulies have been added to veggie smoothies for breakfast & morning snacks.. Brassica, pea & bean flowers are also a great addition to salads & have the added bonus of being jam packed with nutrients.. We were rather pleased with the flavour of the wing bean flowers we tried this season as they had a slight mushroom flavour.. We are really looking forward to using the turmeric leaves to cook with as well.. We plan on wrapping some fresh harvested whole Jade perch in the leaves before putting them in the steamer.. It is said to add a nice flavour to the fish.. Pumpkin leaves are another green I have been told about but am actually yet to try.. When I do so I shall be sharing how it went..
I think being able to get as much food from the patch as you can by trying to utilise normally unused portions of the plants is a great way to stretch the weekly shopping budget & save you a few $$ while providing you with healthy nutrient rich foods.. While it may not make a huge difference all at once to your bottom line, over time the savings will add up..

Update clips..

Have posted 2 walk around clip if anyone feels like a wander through the front & back veggie gardens..
Was most happy to harvest our first sizable amount of food from the hay bale beds.. Am really hanging out to try the tigerella tomatoes a fellow SS'er shared with us..

Was planning to get some of that kale planted out today but had to get a few other jobs done instead.. Shouldn't take long to get the beds sorted & plants in during the week though..

A few of the pickings...

We are sadly coming to the end of round 2 of the cauliflower harvest this week..
The cauliflower in the pic were in the hay bale bed in the front yard.. They bolted to flower quickly so have a feeling that the bales were not firm or rich enough for them to grow to their full potential.. Still tasted great though ; )» I have some more cauli seedlings to go out but think they will bolt to flower by the time the heads start to form..
2 of the broccoli plants in the hoop house are still pumping out the side shoots.. Is a bit strange that only 2 of that batch have though while the other gave us next to nothing..
The second planting of broccoli has started to be harvested this week.. I think this will be the last of the large heads for this season.. The seedlings I have will be used for seed saving purposes, as I think it will be too hot by the time they are ready.. The snow peas are still giving us a few pods every other day but most have been left on the plants so we can save some seeds to share around..
Salads are still being picked.. Loving the celery & surprised it has produced for as long as it has.. They have been the best producing of all the aquaponic plants & I think it is due to them being progressively picked.. Some friends gave us some "Chinese celery" seeds recently that will be planted out into coco peat pellets for out next aquaponic celery crop..

That's about it for this week.. Was planning to go out & screen some more manure for the beds today but the bags got a bit wet with the rain this morning so that didn't happen.. It was good weather for walking the fish though..
Have a great one all..
Rob..

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