Mini Urban Farm Update..

Posted April 26th, 2015 by Rob Bob : )»

Hi there folks.. A bit has happened since the last blog post here on SS so thought I'd give you all a bit of a short tour through the patch to catch you up..

Aquaponics..
A month & a half ago we managed to harvest a couple of very nice sized fish from the aquaponic system..
The largest of the Jade perch was around 1.5kg/3.3lb & the smaller one was around the 800g/1.75lb..

We cooked up the largest fish dressed in a paste made with home grown turmeric, galangal & shallots.. It went down really well with a side of home grown salad..

A few days later I had a very large mishap with the system.. Was showing some folks our large 2+ year old Jade perch & turned off the water flow into the tank so they could get a better look.. I got distracted & moved onto another part of the garden forgeting to turn the water back on.. The next morning I came out to 10 x 1kg+ fish all dead in the tank..
Must say that I was truly upset with myself for making such a basic mistake but it is one I'll never make again..

On the up side, after the fish were buried under a future garden & the tank was scrubbed out, around half the fish from the aquaculture/fish farm were moved into the aquaponic system.. Was very pleased with the size of a few of the fish that were weighed..
One of the goals I had when this system was built was to raise a plate sized fish (500g/1lb) in 12 months.. While the majority of the fish were under that there were quite a few that were over the 500g mark..

The rest of the aquaponic system is powering along.. It has been supplying us with loads of Okinawan spinach, sorrel, flat leafed parsley & kang kong (Chinese water spinach).. Since the last blog I've also added some collards, rice paddy herb, carrots, upland cress, beetroot and some Malabar spinach & mushroom plant, that were given to us by a couple of very generous visitors that came to check out the system & patch, Thanks again Rob & Neil..

The ginger in the aquaponics is also going great guns..
I think it will give us slightly more than the plants out in the soil beds by the look of it.. Seeing how well it's preformed so far has got me thinking I might set a few barrels like these aside just for ginger & galangal production next season..

Dad & I just finished a new stand for a 4th media grow bed that will be home to some celery & other greens..
I was hoping to have it finished by Sunday (today) to show a local Permaculture group coming to have a look at the aquaponic system but ran out of time unfortunately..

It was great to have more folks come through to check out the system.. I do tend to get caught up in the technicalities at times so I hope I haven't scared any of them off the idea of having a go at raising their of fresh fish & produce ;-)


Walk around the soil patch..

The carrots that were just sown out in the previous blog are doing marvellous at the moment..
These were the mix of saved seeds & some that were sent to me by a mate from up north.. So far I've been very impressed with how well Kira's have gone & am really looking forward to using a few in meals..

Not all the other seedlings from the last blog fared as well as the carrots.. We have been hit fairly hard by grasshoppers this season & lost a number of the seedlings to them unfortunately.. I did manage to save the collards, upland cress, okra, most of the cauliflower, broccoli & perpetual spinach but lost the squash, angled luffa & miners lettuce..

Managed to pick up some more cauliflower & broccoli to fill the gaps so not all was lost with 4 of the broccoli making it to a wicking bed in the front yard..
Have started to get a bit of cabbage butterfly caterpillar damage on a few of the brassicas so sprayed them with some BT "organic" caterpillar mix & it looks to have kept them at bay for now.. I hope to have the insect netting repaired & in place over the main beds by next weekend.. I'm also sowing out some more American upland cress' as a bait crop to attract & knock off the cabbage butterfly caterpillars that may decide to feast on the brassicas out the front..

The Dwarf tomatoes that were planted out in the soil patch were only wee babies when the last blog was posted but have shot up well..
None are fruiting yet unlike their sisters in the aquaponics but they have started to set a few flowers..

For those that are interested, at the end of the clip below there is a comparison between the growth of 2 lots of tomatoes that were planted out in the soil & aquaponic beds at the same time..
The plants in the aquaponics now have a few fruit set with more flowers appearing regularly..

Around 50 cloves of garlic have been planted out into the patch this season..
I have popped in 5 of our "volunteer" Glen Large garlic from last season along with some Red Creole & Silver Skin varieties.. The 5 Glen large went into a bed in the main patch with the 2 other varieties going into wicking barrels..
As we live in a warmer climate I like to chill down (vernalise) the cloves for 3-4 weeks before they go into the ground.. This process tricks them into thinking they have been through a cold winter & I've found they perform a lot better, grows more vigorously & gives us larger bulbs/cloves come harvest time..

The Tahitian lime tree has been a great producer for us over summer..
At the moment we're taking around 10 fruit off the tree a week.. Many have made it into juices with a few going into Bianca's work as giveaways..

While walking the patch today Bianca came across a praying mantis egg sack or ootheca on the lime tree..
Have seen a huge increase in the amounts of praying mantis over the warmer month so am hoping these little fellers will help keep a few pests at bay.. Have found a few on the other citrus like the Kaffir lime in the picture above..

7 pouches of potatoes have been planted out up the side of the house this week.. Luckily here in Subtropical SE Queensland we are able to plant out spuds twice a year, Spring & Autumn.. This position was chosen as it faces North & will receive the Winter sun..
This time round I've used 10 store bought potatoes in 5 pouches & 6 of our own home grown purple Congo potatoes in another 2 pouches.. I know many folks suggest you should use certified seed potatoes as there is a chance you could be introducing diseases into your soil with store bought produce.. As I only grow in containers & not the garden beds I'm not too concerned about this. If you're concerned about introducing diseases into your patch you'd be better off sticking to certified disease free seed potatoes from reputable suppliers I think..

These spuds were left to "chit" or sprout in the pantry for about 8 weeks to give them a bit of a head start before planting out..

All but the strongest looking eyes were removed from the potatoes & they were popped on top of 150mm/6" of compost with the growth points facing up.. The pouches were then filled until the sprouts were covered with 50mm/2" of compost.. Once the greenery gets to be about 200mm/8" high more compost will be added to encourage spuds to form along the stem..

Some folks like to cut up their seed potatoes so that they have an "eye" or growth point on each piece to increase the amount of plants they grow from a single potato.. Once cut into sections they are left for a while until the wounds have healed before planting out.. I've found that method doesn't work well for us here.. Not sure if it's due to our warmer climate or something I'm doing wrong though ;-)

Hopefully we'll get a half decent amount of spuds from these by the end of winter..

One plant we are really looking forward to trying is the ripe fruit from the tromboncino zucchini..
It looks very similar to a butternut pumpkin/squash & have been told that it has a very similar flavour but not quite as sweet.. We have had a bit of a taste of one of the ½ ripe fruits after the swollen end was stung by Queensland fruit flies..
We ended up using the main section of the fruit in a few curries even though it didn't have the strongest of flavours.. I couldn't see any point in composting it just because it was a bit "green"..
The young fruit are said to taste & have a texture very much like zucchini but all the newer fruit we've had come through have been stung before I could bag them up.. Am hoping that with the weather now cooling down any new fruit that sets will be safe from the QLD fruit flies & we can try them ourselves..

The poor old banana plant got battered in a storm & the "branch" with the fruit ended up laying down..
Didn't do the best job at propping it up & think I killed off the stem completely..
The bananas had to be cut from the plant a bit early & I don't think they had developed fully & were a tad small..

The bunch was hung up under the house for 8 days before the first fruit started to look ready.. Surprisingly though, the rest of the hands started to colour up overnight & it didn't take long for the majority of them to be consumed.. I did leave one hand aside to see how long they would still be edible & was rather surprised that while the skin looked black on the outside the fruit itself was still very tasty after another week & a half, much longer than a store bought fruit.. Am not sure though if this is due to the variety or the fact that the fruit was harvested prematurely from the plant..

Another harvest we've had from the front patch was the sweet corn..
While the corn hasn't done fantastically well for us here this season we have enjoyed the small harvests.. This lot was left on the plants a week too long I think by the look of the slightly dimples kernels but still tasted great when cooked up..

So there you go folks, there's a bit of a brief update on how things are going in the patch mid way through Autumn.. Hope you enjoyed the wader through the garden & are having fun tending your own no matter how large or small it is..
Have a great one,
Rob..

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April 2012

October 2011