Mid-week report – end of Week 2

So here we are again with the mid-week report – a bit more detail this time – hope you enjoy it .


As this is a new garden we have had to put in a watering system.  At the site there is a main pipeline that runs from the top dam down to the creek.  To create an irrigation system in the garden we have taken two spur lines off this main – one for the future propagation house and one to feed the drip irrigation lines, sprinklers and hoses.  For the latter we have installed 3 taps, one at each end of the two blocks of rows and one at the end of the middle path.

The pipline for the irrigation system - useful tip - put a layer of gravel on top of your pipeline just under the surface - then when you go looking for it in future you only have to look for the gravel. Good news eh ? (who has lost a pipeline "well I am sure we put it in somewhere around here " !)

For both spurs we have installed a gate valve which will be the main cut-off.  Our OMG lies in the main frost hollow of Milkwood Permaculture.  Each gate valve sits in a bucket of straw to protect it from frost action, and these gates are shut at the end of each day or after each irrigation.  The two taps supplying water to the drip irrigation system also have an air-pressure release valve.  This little devise shuts when water pressure enters the pipe, and as soon as water pressure drops when the tap is turned off, the valve releases allowing air into the pipe (and thus the drip lines) to prevent back-pressure from drawing dirt into the drip lines.  Clever, no ?

Tap for irrigation system - the pressure release valve is the grey attachment to the left of the tap. At the bottom is a gate valve which sits in a bucket of hay - frost protection

The cost of materials will be included in our Budget for setting up the OMG.

We have tested the rate of flow of water very simply by timing how long the hose takes to fill a 10L bucket of water – it took 100secs on the spray setting (which is the one I use to water the rows until I have set up the drip irrigation system – it is a gentle setting).  Thus we can say that our  hose delivers 1L every 10 seconds/6L a minute/360L and hour.  Not a good idea to accidentally leave it on !

The next task it to make up the manifolds for the drip-irrigation system – more on that in another posting.

Soil testing

As all gardeners know soil pH (which stands for ‘Parts of Hydrogen’) is an essential indicator for plant health.  The ideal level for growing vegetables is a reading of between 6 and 7.  How is this got you may ask ?  A simple kit is available from most good gardening shops/garden centres and involves taking a sample, applying a purple liquid to the sample, mixing it around to make a small slurry and then applying a white powder.  Wait one minute and Hey Presto! it has changed colour which you compare with the helpful chart in the Soil Testing Kit to give you your pH reading.

We took 12 samples across the growing area and found remarkably consistent readings of between 5.5 and 7.5.  And what does this mean, you might ask ….. the higher the number the more alkaline the soil which is better for growing vegetables, but note … there are some flowers and native plants that thrive in more acid soils.

We did have one reading of 8 – but this was from one of our prepared beds to which we had applied a sprinkling of Dolomite (limestone dust) which has raised the pH.  We expect great veggies from these beds !

(A useful summary of optimum soil health is given on page 107 of Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Gardener.)

Bed Preparation

There are 28 rows of beds divided into 2 blocks. Each bed is 14 metres long and 1 metre wide allowing for a cultivated growing strip of 700mm and a path of 300mm as used at Allsun Farm following the Eliot Coleman model.

As we showed you in a previous posting, the ground had been (sort of) worked over by our two borrowed pigs.  It was then further worked over by the Reciprocating Spader. This engine has blades attached to a cam shaft which move up and down and imitate very well the spading actions of the gardener.  It does not dig down to deep which is great as we don’t want to bring sub-soil to the surface – our sub-soil is quite thick river clay in some parts.

We have then used a measuring stick (steel, 1 metre long marked at 700mm for the bed-width) and plumber’s line to mark out the bed sites.  Then down to digging out the rocks and roots and raking the residue into beds with raised sides.  We then applied 4 x 10L buckets of commercially produced compost (we are about to start a windrow composting operation which will provide compost in future), half a bucket of K-Tech (pelleted chicken poo with a few other tasty plant food elements mixed in), a handful of Dolomite (limestone dust to make the slightly acid soil more alkaline) and some Magic Rock Dust (ground rock powder with a host of trace elements needed for plant health.  Our virgin soil is getting a good boost !

We have one of those really old bed-frame here with a wire mesh mattress support which is ideal for sifting soil and getting out the rocks and roots.  We used this for one bed and I have to say that although it was a bit slower, it did produce a very fine tilth.  But in the end I decided that it removed too much organic matter for our beds.  In future I will use it if the bed is going to be seeded directly but for the first crop I would really like as much organic matter in there as possible.  The soil had a tendency to clay so having larger stones in should will not matter overmuch.

The old bed-frame - just slightly wider than our beds (great) and it does a fine job of sifting out rocks and roots... leaving a very fine tilth.

So at the end of last week we had 10 beds prepared with the following crops :

Endive, Rocket, Beetroot, Spring Onions and Pak Choi all brought on as seedlings at Allsun Farm.

Rocket (large leaf), Cima di Rapa (we call it Sprouting Turnip – it is a favorite Italian vegetable), Garlic (for eating green and as cloves) and Spinach sown as seeds.

So there we are – we progress! And as I write the Cima di Rapa and Rocket is already sprouting.

The weather is good – cold nights with frost in the garden.  It does lie in a frosty hollow, but as trees shade the garden in the morning the sun is not shining on frosted leaves.  When this happens it can cause leaf death as the cells warm too fast.  At the end of last week we had rain – quite good falls too – and more over the weekend.  Let us hope this pattern continues…..

Until next weekend – bye for now.


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Filed under Garden Diary, Growing, Nutrients, Planting, Stephen Couling

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