Tag Archives: The Diary

Week 1 in the Milkwood Market Garden – 2 Sep 11

So here I am back at Milkwood – I did my Permaculture Design Certificate here in October 2009 – and I’ve hit the ground running.  It is Friday evening – we arrived here lunchtime on Tuesday – and I have still not unpacked !  And it has been hugely enjoyable.

The Garden before cultivating - and minus the pigs...

Joyce Wilkie and Michael Plane, along with Matthew who helps out at Allsun, and I left Gundaroo at dawn on Tuesday.  Arriving here we had a swift lunch under the tree by the Woolshed and then took the Cultivator down to the OMG where 2 pigs had done …. well not a lot really. But the cultivator soon ripped into the virgin soil and in short order it was well churned up.

Matthew with cultivator

We spend a bit of time laying out the outline of the garden within the fenced area – we had planned for 28 beds in 2 blocks of 14 with a path down the middle of the two blocks.

Then it was down to work making beds : a bed is 1 metre wide in total – 700mm of cultivated bed and 300mm of path.  This is a really efficient bed width – an average height person can straddle the bed for working on it…. you can get quite yoga- like about gardening throwing in the odd Trigunasana in between weeding, planting, seeding …. but I digress. Sorry.

Mike and Matthew using a Broad-fork to lift the soil and aerate it prior to weeding

4 beds were prepared (weeded and de-stoned and raked and raised into flattened mounds) and fed with compost, pelleted chicken manure, dolomite and a good rock-dust of assorted essential minerals.

And that was pretty much it by sunset.  The next day was planting stuff grown early at Allsun – Endive, Spring Onions, Mesclun salads (lettuces) and Pak Choi. And suddenly it was time for Joyce, Mike and Matthew to return to Gundaroo.

Since they left on Wednesday afternoon I have prepared another 2 beds, planted out Rocket (seedlings and direct seeded into a bed) and sown Cima di Rapa.  I have also created row-covers for 4 beds which is a slight luxury for these hardier plants, but it was a first go and provides night-shelter for the newly-planted seedlings.

Meanwhile, back on the farm/Milkwood Permaculture a course (Food Forest/Forest Garden) has started and I spent yesterday afternoon in Mudgee on errands (buying a new rake), more Rocket seeds and collecting a course participant.

By the end of today, Friday, and thus the end of the week, the new Milkwood Organic Market Garden looks like this :

The Garden at evening....

Just the beginning – but a good start. Watch this space for our weekly reports on progress.



Filed under Garden Diary, Planting, Stephen Couling

Wednesday 31 August – Starting the Market Garden at Milkwood

When we loaded up our truck and trailer last Monday we did think that our poor old VW Transporter was going to be working well over the limit of a 1 tonne ute. First of all there was the walk-behind tractor fitted with a reciprocating spader. This is an amazing bit of kit that is so much kinder to the soil than a rotary hoe. Then there was all the seedlings (well they didn’t all fit in and quite a lot will be going to Milkwood in a couple of weeks time!). Irrigation fittings – rolls of drip hose, fittings, sprinkler head – you name it –  were stacked around the spader. Then there was the tools. Stephens new tool kit plus everything we thought we would need to get a few beds made and planted in a day. Bags of potting mix, cocopeat blocks, luggage and finally four bodies were squeezed in and we were off.

And her we are arriving at the Milkwood woolshed!

ruck arrives
We arrive at Milkwood

The rest of our time at Milkwood was spent getting things set up and a few seedlings into the ground.

Mathew spades the area
The pigs had done a reasonable job scruffing up the ground, Matthew uses a reciprocating spader to finish the job and turn in all the pig manure.
Spading CU
Matthew on the spader, Stephen and Mike talking about layout
First stringlines
The string lines are set up and the first bed broadforked
Compost goes on the beds
Compost goes on the beds
First bed ready to plant
First bed ready to plant
Matthew working up a fine tilth for direct seeding
Matthew working up a fine tilth ready for direct seeding
First seedlings in the ground
First seedlings planted
Baby Pak Choi seedlings in soil blocks

Baby Pak Choi seedlings in soil blocks

Baby Pak Choi in the ground

Baby Pak Choi in the ground

Over to Stephen

The Milkwood Market garden is now in Stephen's capable hands and he will be doing the diary enteries from here on in.


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Sunday 21st August – pictures from Allsun Farm

Stephen broadforking

Stephen using a broadford to open up the ground for a new garden bed

raking a bed

Stephen puts the final touch on a bed he is getting ready for onions

planting lettuces

Planting lettuces in a polytunnel at Allsun Farm

Stephen moving an electric net fence

Stephen picking up the electric netting fence

Collecting eggs

Collecting eggs



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Wednesday 17th August – Stephen at Allsun Farm

Stephen has only been at Allsun Farm for 8 days  – phew! We have covered a huge amount of ground with him and we too have planted broad beans.

So what have we covered so far?

  • Laying hens – our dawn to dusk work force who weed, clean up bugs and lay wonderful eggs
  • transforming derelict weedy beds into fertile ground using a mower or scythe and a reciprocating spader on a two wheeled horticultural tractor
  • building beds that are fully prepared ready to plant
  • planning what we want to grow, when we need to plant it, in what quantity and in which bed
  • growing seedlings in pots, plug trays and soil blocks
  • weeding both by hand and using long handled hoes and wheel hoes
  • picking

Tomorrow we pick again and we will also get round to transplanting lettuces and spring onions into garden beds. We will in less than two weeks have covered the whole cycle needed to grow vegetables commercially. From here on in it will simply be refining techniques and practice. Market gardening is a balance of craftmenship and detailed planning – we will post some pictures asap – now it’s off to bed!

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Wednesday 10th August 2011 – we have a bed plan :-))

The planting schedule was easy. Many years ago we created a system of planting cards based on years of diary keeping at Allsun Farm. It is conservative but hey that means it works and will certainly work at Milkwood.

Planting Cards

Planting cards for the Milkwood Market Garden

These cards not only act as a run sheet they also end up being a garden diary and yes computers and spread sheets are wonderful but when you are in the garden doing stuff with dirty hands then a bunch of hard copy printed cards are just amazing. You can download your own blank printable copy by clicking here.

You then have to work out just what you want to plant and in the case of a garden that is going to supply the needs of the Milkwood kitchen then this is a lot of different vegetables and fruit.  Eliot Coleman in his wonderful book ‘The New Organic Grower’ taught us just how to plan a diverse, productive, healthy vegetable production system and I would really recommend his chapter on rotations. Very few people actually tackle the rotation game that he describes but we have done it many times and are now pretty confident about the process. In order to kick start the garden at Milkwood we have done the planning while Stephen the new trainee is away at the snow. What we want is to present him and Kirsten & Nick with a ‘fait accompli’. Maybe not the final solution to vegetable growing at Milkwood but certainly a good first stab at the  iterative process that will gradually become the Milkwood garden plan.

After determining the timeing you then need a bed plan. The plan for the market garden was done as a spread sheet (lots of modular beds all the same size). What we didn’t have was a plan for the kitchen garden. I  made do with some notes and photos that I took when we first visited the site so the following plan includes a bit of poetic license!

Mud map of Milkwood kitchen garden

Mud map of Milkwood kitchen garden

Then it was a lot of coloured systems filing cards, a big table, paper, paper clips and pens voilà . . .

Organising the Milkwood Market Garden Bed Plan

Organising the Milkwood Market Garden Bed Plan

Time now for a night off. When you push yourself to do this kind of planning and finally come up with a plan of what to plant, where and exactly how much, you remove a huge, stressful, uncertainty factor and can then get on with growing stuff.


The baby pak choi that Stephen planted only 6 days ago are now germinating – hurray!

Questions for Kirsten & Nick from Joyce

  1. Can you please post the size of the fenced area?
  2. Have the pigs arrived to plough up the proposed vegetable area?
  3. Please post some pictures when they are happily working the ground.


Filed under Garden Diary, Growing, Joyce Wilkie, Planning, Planting

Sunday 7th August 2011 – Allsun Farm update


The last few days have been very hectic, here at Allsun we have been cramming in planting seedlings, getting up to speed with weeding and hoeing. We have also talked non stop about what to grow, when to grow it and how much to plant. I think all three of us have spinning brains. Stephen has been dreaming about spread sheets, I (JW) have been stressing about how we are going to transport all the seedlings we have planted to Milkwood and Mike is concerned that all the planning is not yet in place.

The reality is that we have only had Stephen here for 3 days and we have actually covered a lot of ground with him. He left yesterday for a week at the snow which gives me a few days to really nut out the field plan and planting schedule so I am busy at our dining room table surrounded by piles of system filing cards, note pads, random jottings and my laptop.


Both the beetroot and the silverbeet (planted 26/7) started germinating today.

beetroot germinating
Beetroot seeds germinate.

All other seedlings looking good.

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Wednesday 3 August – Stephen plants more seeds

Tour of the farm

We all leapt out of bed early, talked vegetables over breakfast and then went down to the production garden to do our early morning chores. Stephen adores our laying hens. Talks endlessly to them as we fill up their food troughs, top up their water and collect and then grade the eggs.

Back at the house we had a look at the seedlings and then sat down for an intensive planning session around the topic of just what should we have ready for harvesting in late October.

Fast Growing Annuals

  • lettuces
  • endives
  • English spinach
  • rocket
  • baby pak choi
  • silverbeet
  • cima di rapa (edible turnip flowers)
  • spring onions
  • basil
  • coriander
  • baby fennel

Slower Growing Annuals

  • peas
  • broadbeans (already planted at Milkwood)
  • Fresh green garlic stems (already planted at Milkwood)
  • beetroot and beetroot greens
  • parsley


These need to be established at Milkwood if they are not already there and may take a few years to reach picking size

  • perennial herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano, chives, garlic chives, bay . . . )
  • asparagus
  • globe artichokes
  • rhubarb

In future years this list will be supplemented by bottled tomatoes, saurkraut and various pickles and jams so extra plants of these vegetables have to be built into the garden plan for mid summer/autumn production

Seedling Work

After lunch we got to work making up potting mixes and soil blocks ready to start planting some of the vegetables listed above.

Here are the ingredients that we use in our propegation mixes:

  • Sieved compost – we buy in mushroom compost from the farm down the other end of our road if we don’t have enough of our own
  • worm castings – we have large worm bins that are used to process all the green waste from a café that we sell to plus all our own kitchen waste
  • sharp river sand  – paving sand can be substituted but avoid really fine sand
  • coco peat – a renewable resource with a neutral pH (you can expand the blocks very quickly if you use really hot water!)

Here are the ratios that we are using at the moment:

Potting Mix

2 parts mushroom compost, 1 part worm castings, 1 part coco peat, 1 part sand

Soil Blocking Mix

2 parts mushroom compost, 1 part worm castings, 2 part coco peat, 1 part sand

What we planted

  • 42 x 100 mm pots with asparagus
  • 143 blocks (one bread tray)  of English spinach
  • 143 blocks (one bread tray) of baby green stemmed pak choi

Stephen with a tray full of 100 mm pots planted with asparagus

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