JULY

11 July 2011 – Joyce & Mike Visit Milkwood

16 July 2011 – Plant Stocktake at Allsun Farm

17th July – Getting Organised at Allsun Farm

18th July – Trainee has been appointed

20th July – Planting lettuces at Allsun

26 July 2011 – More planting at Allsun Farm!

11 July 2011 – Joyce & Mike Visit Milkwood

The Site

The site chosen for the garden is a piece of river flat at the lowest point on the property.

There is a minimum lead time of at least 3 months from planting a seed to harvest so Joyce and Mike decided to take a quick trip to Milkwood so that they could have a look at the garden site, talk to Kirsten and Nick and get straight into planning the garden. The aim was to give the trainee who was going to implement and run the garden a basic plan and planting time table with the hope of being able to be in production by mid to late October.

On the left there is a row of Eucalypts growing along the edge of the creek. On the right is a dam wall. This area has been grazed by sheep and was flooded last summer so it was decided to keep the garden reasonably small at this stage (14 x 30 metres) and locate it as high up on the flood plane as possible.

The Soil

The topsoil (lower right) grades down into a gravelly clay (top left)

Of course we dug a few holes and had a look at the soil – it is an awful lot better than what we started with at Allsun!

After marking out the outline of the garden on the ground we discussed the possibility of getting some pigs onto the area as soon as possible. What better preparation for a vegetable garden.

Chicken Palace

The Chicken Palace

Just up from the river flat was an amazing chicken palace.

I spent the night dreaming about moving it into a sunny spot, throwing plastic over it and converting it into a temporary green house for the early frost tender seedlings.

Further up the hill side is a well appointed shade house.

This is a terrific place for all summer seedling production, however the little mini green house suitable for heat loving tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants is just too small for the number of seedlings that are going to be needed.

Shade house

Mini greenhouse and the much larger shade house

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16 July 2011 – Plant Stocktake at Allsun Farm

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Mike and I used the drive home to Allsun Farm to go over all the ideas that had been thrown up in our talks with Kirsten and Nick.  The biggest hurdle was going to be getting produce ready to pick by the workshop to be held 21,22, 23 October followed closely by a number of workshops throughout November.

The Problem

It is too late for the winter crops – storage crops like pumpkins and all the root vegetables are finished, and winter cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers are starting to bolt.

It is too early for  all the summer super stars. Tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants are not usually starting to ripen until the end of december.

Perennials like asparagus and artichokes need several years to establish themselves  but will be on the menu in 2 or 3 years.

Milkwood has never had a good sized production garden before so there are not hundreds of jars of tomatoes, saurkraut, dill beans or even pickles and jams sitting on the shelves waiting for this lean time in the vegetable fields. This summer bounty should be ready to preserve by February.

The Solution

Work out what was excess to needs at Allsun and get these seedlings up to Milkwood.

Get Kirsten to plant more broadbeans and some dwarf peas in the already established kitchen garden at Milkwood.

Buy some capsicums and eggplants from Bumper Crop Seedlings, a small summer seedling business run by Helen Mitchell at Allsun Farm.

Get started immediately sowing quick growing, frost hardy greens.

Stock Take

So what did we have on hand?

On the 27th April we had grown far too many spring onions so a tray of these was earmarked for Milkwood.

The heat pads are full of trays of eggplants and capsicums planted on 19th June – lots spare.

Heat pad and spring onions

Capsicum & eggplant seedlings germinating on a hot pad inside cold frames at Allsun Farm

The emergence of the first of these tricky, heat lovers is always a really exciting moment but you have to be well set up to get the early start needed for a big crop.

Young capsicum seedlings

Tiny capsicums opening their cotolydons to the sun.

The other vegetable which we had gone overboard with this year is onions. Organic onions are expensive and not always available. They are used in large quantities every day and most people never grow enough. We plan to grow some at Milkwood this year and by June 2012 when next years crop will be sown it will be easier to estimate the total Milkwood requirement.

Onions

Onion seedlings growing in the propegation tunnel at Allsun Farm

Onions Close up

Onion seedlings growing in a deep pot which allows good root development

The market garden at Milkwood is started!

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17th July – Getting Organised at Allsun Farm

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Progress

  • We had established that we already had some seedlings. Helen had been out at Allsun Farm potting up capsicum and eggplant seedlings so they were organised as well.
  • Kirsten agreed to organise a couple of pigs to plough up the area we had marked out as the Market Garden on our visit to Milkwood
  • We agreed to start growing some more seedlings prior to the Milkwood trainee being appointed

The Run Sheet

The next job was to start the run sheet. When you are organising a production vegetable operation you need to decide:

  • just what you want to grow
  • when you want to grow it
  • where you want to grow it
  • what quantity to grow

This can all be worked out with a pile of systems cards a note pad and a spread sheet. The whole process will be detailed in the Organic Market Gardening workshops we are running at Milkwood.  For now Mike and I needed to short circuit the process so that the trainee gardener would be able to hit the ground running.

There is also all the tools and equipment that will be needed – another page in the spread sheet.

The run sheet is now started. It is very much a work in progress and we have worked out a way to allow Kirsten and the trainee to work on it. If it looks like being a useful resource we will organise a downloadable copy at a later date.

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18th July – Trainee has been appointed

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Milkwood had made the decision about who was the trainee appointed to run the market garden on the farm.

I (JW) was sitting at my computer dealing with email when the phone rang – it was Stephen Couling introducing himself as the new trainee at Milkwood. We had a wonderful chat and organised that we would pick him up from the Joel Salatin workshop at Jamberoo on the 2nd of August.

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20th July – Planting lettuces at Allsun

Allsun Farm is capable of growing enough vegetables for about 20 – 25 families for about 9 months of the year. As a first guess for the Milkwood garden (because all the planning was not finalised) we decided to just plant 25% extra whenever we planted here.

Today we were planting lettuces so we planted an extra 2 x 198 seedling trays for Milkwood.

Speedling plug trays are named after the number of holes they have. We have found that 198’s are a good option for a many vegetables.

Lettuces planted in 198 seed trays
Lettuces planted in 198 seed trays

. . . and I hope you are looking at the red paddle pop sticks! At the moment our propagation areas are full of seedlings for Bumper Crop (Helen) us (Allsun) and now Milkwood (Stephen). Sometimes life throws up little surprises –

Coloured Paddle Pop Sticks
Who’d have thought? Coloured paddle pop sticks!

We can now glance around the cold frames and the propagation poly tunnel and immediately identify which seedlings belong to whom!

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26 July 2011 – More planting at Allsun Farm!

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Today we planted another 198 plug tray. Half of it with a frisée style endive (Rhodos) often seen in mesclun mixes and the other half tray with spring onions.

We also decided that it would be a good idea to get some beetroot and silverbeet started. Root crops do not like being transplanted but there is a wonderful bit of gear, originally developed in Holland, that allows you to grow seedlings in little blocks of soil. The blocks are free standing so no plastic and also no stress to the seedlings at plant out time learn more about soil blocks.

soil blocks

We planted:

  • 1/2 tray of Beetroot – Detroit Dark Red, an all time Allsun favourite
  • 1/2 tray of Beetroot – Bull’s Blood which has wonderful dark leaves that can also be put in salad mixes
  • 1/2 tray of Silverbeet – Fordhood, the large white stemmed, dark savoyed leaf variety that is commonly sold in green grocers
  • 1/2 tray of Silverbeet – Ruby Chard a beautiful, tender, red stemmed variety

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