No dig gardening & sorting out the tomatoes..

Posted September 29th, 2013 by Rob Bob : )»

No dig potato barrel...
After making a few small no dig beds this year I thought a no dig barrel was on the cards to try & grow a few spuds in.. No dig beds/gardens are based on the stacking of different organic materials on top of each other.. The different layers then slowly compost down releasing nutrients for plants to take up.. The bed I have seen set up had organic matter constantly added in the form of mulches, compost & manures to help increase its fertility.. The bed was set up on very compacted rocky ground & over time the ground beneath slowly began to transform into great looking rich humus as beneficial micro organisms, fungus & worms moved in.. I think it is a great method of gardening & one I would like to try on a more suitable piece of land in the future but for now will be trying it out in a wicking bed..
Planted out 2 lots of potatoes this week in 2 different spots in the yard using the above no dig method.. The first were popped back into the re-worked no dig bed out the front & the second going into a barrel out the back under the Tahitian lime tree..
The barrel already had a load of holes in the base & was really easy to set up.. I started off with a recently harvested worm barrel that had a thin layer of castings & worms left in the base..
The castings still had loads of composting worms in it which will help to break down the layers of manure & straw into more plant available nutrients.. Compost would do just as well I think but as I have a fair amount of castings on hand I thought I would give that a shot..
Over the top of the castings I added a 10-15cm layer of lucerne/alfalfa hay, then the same amount again of broken up horse manure..
Each layer was also well watered to help keep the barrel nice & moist as the hay & manure were both rather dry.. On top of the manure layer a couple of handfuls (about a cups worth) of CBM organic fertiliser (Chicken compost, Blood 'n' bone & Minerals) were added..
The potatoes that we have had chitting (letting shoots grow) under the house were then positioned on top of the manure layer with the sprouts pointing up..
They were then covered with another layer of hay.. A 5cm layer of worms & castings was then spread on top before another load of horse manure was added.. Another bonus of adding all the worms is that once the plants are harvested all the bedding turns back into a worm farm again :)»
To finish it off another layer of hay was added.. The contents of barrel will fall over the coming weeks so it will be topped up with layers of manure & hay once the shoots make an appearance at the surface..
We now have 2 no dig lots on the go with another 2 wicking barrels with spuds in them that have already sprouted.. Another no dig barrel will be set up in a few more weeks time so we can try to continually harvest some spuds over the summer months..

Setting up the tomato beds...
The problem I have when growing tomatoes is trying to keep them off the ground & tied up properly.. One issue with the wicking beds is that you can't drive stakes into the base, which can limit the way that plants can be grown.. Previously with the tomatoes I have tied them with twine to the battens in the hoop house.. This is quite hash on the plants & tends to damage the stems a bit.. I decided to take the plunge & forked out for some plant clips after seeing them used by a few people with great results.. The clips set me back about 12¢ each, are UV stabilised & reusable so well worth the investment I think.. They can be used on plants like beans, cucumbers & tomatoes that could do with a bit of extra support..
The way they work is that they have small jaws in the hinge section of the clip that when closed, lock onto the twine.. This leaves a fairly large opening for the branch or vine to sit in without restricting how thick it can grow..
For the main crop of tomatoes in the hoop house the battens were rearranged so they are running down the centre of the beds.. One length of hay bale twine per plant was then attached to the battens at regular intervals.. I hope to get the first of the Black Russian plants into the bed on the right this week & some KY1s into the bed on the left by next weekend..
I have already started to use the clips on the KY1 tomato that is growing in the aquaponics & am most pleased at how much easier they are to work with compared with trying to tie the plant up with stockings..

Aquaponic update...
I have been very impressed with the amount of growth in the system over the past few weeks..
It helps that the weather has warmed up so the fish have started to feed a bit more vigorously & are providing more nutrients to help the system along :)»
The celery, warrigal greens, strawberries & kang kong are all being harvested regularly at the moment & hope to be roasting the first of the beetroots tonight to go with a pork roast..
Am really looking forward to our first aquaponic tomatoes as well :)»
Posted a clip on YT as well for anyone that feels like a wander around the system..

That's it for this week's blog.. Think I might even be able to squeeze in some ginger planting before the day is done if I get a wriggle on ;)»
Hope you all had a chance to get some dirt under your fingernails this weekend & have a great week..
Rob :)»

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