Sunday, 9 August 2015

Healthy Soil, Healthy Food

Ending of Winter.  Time to prune and tidy up the garden for the Big Spring into Action!  We end up with unsightly heaps like this below.  Bring in the trusty little home gardener Masport mulcher.  It is the Winter gardener's Best Little Helper.  Chews up branches and spits them out in teeny little pieces which can be spread on bare ground as a weed-suppressing mulch, which ultimately breaks down over 9-12 months to feed and condition the soil.

What a mess!
Chewing through the fallout, one branch at a time.
The only downside of this exercise is that our little mulcher takes branches no bigger than 4cm diameter.  And often gets jammed, so I have to wait for the branch to dry out and shrink a bit before I can pull it out and start again, sometimes waiting 2-3 weeks for that process!!
The bigger branches which can't go through the mulcher are chopped up with my electric chainsaw, for firewood.
Smaller branches are chopped to size to keep as kindling for next winter's fires.

Mulch is distributed on cardboard for walkways, or straight on the ground around fruit trees etc.

I leave the mulch to stand for 5 weeks before distributing, as it can leach nitrogen from the soil as it decays.  It works to suppress weeds and over time, fungi decompose the woody chips and help to condition and enrich the soil.  We are also lucky enough to have a local tree chopper guy who dumps fresh wood chip for us when we ask, as we would never be able to produce enough on our own.  We used to have to pay for loads, so this is a truly valuable contact!  If he is in the area, it saves him travelling to dump it.  We both win!!

Before: A mess!  Weeds have overgrown this area of the orchard over winter!

Day 1, halfway weeded.
Day 2, job complete and area is mulched for weed suppression.
Asparagus bed and path weeded for spring growth.  I have been busy!  This area will need mulch too, if I am not to weed it all over again in 2-3 weeks time! 
Untreated sawdust makes a good "floor" in front of the bee hives.  It suppresses the weeds and is soft and spongy to walk on.  Mike occasionally collects a large bag-full from a local woodworker.

Peach tree weeded and pathways mulched.

Bee foraging garden weeded and mulched.  Note how the frosts have killed the grassed area!
All  those weeds and prunings end up returning to the soil as wonderful rich compost!
Time to sort out seeds and plan for a busy sowing season ahead!  Yay!  Love this activity!  A time of planning, renewal and growth.

Compost feeds the crops

A brown seaweed sits in water, steeping out all the goodness.  I use this, highly diluted to feed food crops, also use it concentrated, in the compost bin to help accelerate the decomposition process.  Every couple of weeks, I head down to the harbour and collect a bucket full.
Sea lettuce collected from the shores of our harbour, steeped in water or added directly into the compost bin provides a good source of sea-rich nutrients.  It can be used as a direct mulch on garden beds, however, I do not collect enough at any one time to put this into practice.

The worm farm in the foreground, provides vermicast and worm-wee tea, which is also diluted and fed to hungry growing food crops.

Winter crops fastapproaching harvest.
Celery looking good.  Healthy soil = healthy plants.
The citrus is looking good; lemons, limes, mandarins, grapefruit and oranges all ripening nicely, thanks to healthy soil!

Recently I have enjoyed making a couple of log bug-homes.  It's a simple idea I found on the World Wide Web.  Drill several different gauge holes into a section of log.  Add a hook on the top, some rope and hang it in a tree.  Now I just need to wait and see who takes up residence.  I added a roof of old floor vinyl to protect the top from rain.

I spied this wonderful sight below, while out walking in Katikati.  Someone has used big water bottles with the bottoms cut off, as mini glass houses to protect his/her new seedlings in the veg bed.  Brilliant recycling idea!  Love it!!

And lastly, talking about healthy soil, healthy food..... we are enjoying our smoothies most days - I throw a bunch of garden produce into the blender and whizz away.  Simply deliciously healthy kai!
I freeze fruit when it's in glut, for lean times like in winter - frozen blueberries and cubes of feijoa pulp.  Our one frost-surviving bunch of bananas is slowly ripening in the garden shed, fodder for smoothies over the coming weeks....


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