Archive for the ‘Herb Barrels’ Category

Wicking Barrels Construction.

February 3, 2017

I have become aware over recent years of the value of wicking beds but have not been in a position to establish any barrels or beds until this past year.

However, I have now completed my first barrel and it has been in operation successfully for the past year with no wilting despite some very high temperatures.

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For this project I am using some half wine barrels which had been used as large pots at my previous address for growing herbs.

When I emptied these barrels of their soil and moved them they very quickly dried out so they needed to be tightened up before using them again. To tighten them I sat them upside down on a flat concrete base. Using a flat punch I  gently tapped down each ring until they would go down no further starting with the smallest and working down to the largest ring. Once the barrel is again tight I set the rings with a small Tek screw through each ring on opposite sides of the barrel.

The barrel after the rings have been punched down. You can see the amount they have been punched down by the fresher look of the timber.

The barrel after the rings have been punched down. You can see the amount they have been punched down by the fresher look of the timber.

Once the barrels are tight the barrel can be lined with a waterproof material. Pond liner is best but in a pinch heavy builders plastic will do the job. Make sure the tek screws used were short so they did not break through to the inside and can puncture the plastic. If they do come through to the inside then grind them off with an angle grinder before installing the waterproof liner.

 

Barrel is lined with plastic pond liner and then the socked drainage pipe is installed on top of that followed by coarse sand to finish about 30mm above the side drainage hole.

Barrel is lined with plastic pond liner and then the socked drainage pipe is installed on top of that followed by coarse sand to finish about 30mm above the side drainage hole.

On top of the coarse sand use a dividing layer of some sort to separate the garden mix from the wicking sand. In this case I have used sugar cane mulch which transmits water well but others use various forms of weed matting.

Once the barrier is in place just top the remaining 30cm or so with good quality potting soil and you are set to go.

The wicking process is a natural process but only works to around 30cm in garden soils and mixes. Most garden plants and especially vegetables, for which this system is particularly suited in my climate, do very nicely in it.

I recommend that you mulch to surface to reduce evaporation. Once mulched fill the reservoir with water until it runs out of the overflow tube. From this point on you have to decide to wait for the wick to start which will take a few days or to prime the system by watering from above. Either way will work and after that it will keep working until you stop filling the reservoir and the soil dries out.

The best part of this method is that there is no need to water morning and night. Even with fully grown plants using their full water allocation you only need to fill once a week or so. The reason for this is simple. Instead of top watering and gravity dragging the water down and away from the roots leaving them dry, the water rises to the roots as needed keeping conditions ideal for the plant without any water-logging and no evaporation if well mulched.

UPDATE

I started this post a year ago and decided to delay publishing until I could show some results. With a year since the barrels were planted out everything has grown well and the following photo shows how well this lemon grass is doing.

Lemon grass one year after being planted in the wicking barrel. February 2017.

Lemon grass one year after being planted in the wicking barrel. February 2017.

January 2013 in the Food Gardens

February 1, 2013

Harvests

Sweet corn

Sweet Corn harvested for the first time this season. Variety Polaris Hybrid from New Gippsland Seeds.

Tomatoes

Only a few tomatoes and these are the small ones. Plenty of large green tomatoes still to ripen.

Carrots

Nantes carrots but these are only a thin variety and slow to get this size.
Tip Top Carrots are larger but very variable with several bolting to seed before getting to any size.

Strawberries

Strawberries performing to average standard, not breaking any records like they have in the past. Strawberries grown in the herb barrels grew to big leafed plants and the early berries were also large but since then have been no flowers and no fruit. Bedded strawberries are smaller plants but producing much better.

Onions

Onions harvested and all varieties performed well this year.
Spring Onions Winter Ishikura continue to produce.

Cabbage

Wong Bok had only a single plant come to head but that was because they were transplanted and Wong Bok can’t stand being replanted.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers Lebanese and Apple are producing extra well. Every so often you have year when one crop or another goes rampant. This year it is definitely Cucumbers!

Coriander

Coriander is coming to an end and bolting to seed.

Radish

Radish have been done well as they always do.

Apricot

Apricot-Moorpark are nearing the finish of their harvest. Birds have been little trouble this year due to some nesting Goshawks and Chicken Hawks nearby.

Nectarines

Nectarines disappointed again. An average crop was decimated by a heat wave of 45 deg C which seemed to cook the fruit on the tree. Neighbours experienced the same phenomenon with theirs.

Peaches

Peaches are doing very nicely and will soon be ready to pick.

Peach Tree 130129

The freestone peach in the old shop orchard loaded for its first big crop. Had a few last year but this is ridiculous.

Peach Tree closeup 130129

Freestone Peach in the Old Shop Orchard 2013

This tree had at least 300 fruit removed at an early stage and still one of the branches is straining with the load. Will have to thin fruit more aggressively next year.

This tree had at least 300 fruit removed at an early stage and still one of the branches is straining with the load. Will have to thin fruit more aggressively next year.

Pears

The pear tree in the Old Shop Orchard is just starting to produce. There are a few nice pears of very good size on there now (see photo below) and the leaves are dark green and showing very little evidence of lime induced chlorosis. The EDDHA is definitely working. The renovated pear in the Kiosk yard has also been treated with EDDHA and is responding well. It is multi branched at the moment but carries no fruit.

Pear Tree in the Old Shop Orchard looking strong and coming on well. It has been pruned in the Dave Wilson Nursery style.

Pear Tree in the Old Shop Orchard looking strong and coming on well. It has been pruned in the Dave Wilson Nursery style.

The same pear tree showing some nice fruit for the first time this year.

The same pear tree showing some nice fruit for the first time this year.

Showing the size of the fruit on this pear with another 2-3 months before picking.

Showing the size of the fruit on this pear with another 2-3 months before picking.

Grapes

All the table grapes have gone ahead well this year. The Thompson Seedless which is 20 years old is the best it has ever been and loaded with big bunches of sweet tasty grapes. This was also treated to the Dave Wilson Nurseries regime and responded well.

The youngest vine is the Black Beauty Seedless which is till only a baby but produce a few small bunches. The berries are as black as the ace of spades and the sweetest of all my grapes. It would like to get a bit more water but being in the carpark that is a difficult proposition. May have to look into a tree drain.

The third vine around the verandah is the Flame seedless. That is what I planted in any case but the fruit is white and elongated so is probably a Century Seedless. There is a distinct flavour difference from the Thompson Seedless and its berries are much larger. Being a young vine the bunches are still only small at this stage but next year could be a good one.

Thompson Seedless with some fruit bags. These were to save the fruit from the birds but the hawks have taken care of that. In fact the bags overheat the fruit on hot days and the bunches cook and are ruined. This was an experiment that I won't be repeating.

Thompson Seedless with some fruit bags. These were to save the fruit from the birds but the hawks have taken care of that. In fact the bags overheat the fruit on hot days and the bunches cook and are ruined. This was an experiment that I won’t be repeating.

Another view of the same Thompson Seedless.

Another view of the same Thompson Seedless.

Flame seedless growing along the verandah wall.

Flame seedless growing along the verandah wall.

Black Beauty on the verandah wall facing the car park.

Black Beauty on the verandah wall facing the car park.

Apple

Apples are doing well this year. Actually most fruit is doing well. The red delicious were scorched a bit during the two 45C days we had in January. Some of the fruit had brown patches where they were burnt. These have been removed to help the best ones go ahead. The tree was thinned twice according to the Dave Wilson Nursery method and that system certainly works.

The Granny Smith apple was treated in the same way and also has a good crop. It fruit is not yet as big since it is about 6 weeks later.

The Lady William baby has made some headway but is still trying to establish itself well. It is being espaliered on the outside of the grower yard.

Red Delicious apple in the Growers yard. It is loaded with masses of fruit even after thinning according to the Dave Wilson Nursery method.

Red Delicious apple in the Growers yard. It is loaded with masses of fruit even after thinning according to the Dave Wilson Nursery method.

 

Closer view of the red delicious fruit.

Closer view of the red delicious fruit. Some lime induced chlorosis is evident and the tree will need a dose of EDDHA.

Pistachios

The pistachio trees are also doing well. Both trees are loaded with their biggest crop ever. Last year’s crop was a disappointment as they never opened properly. It seems that although nuts develop they do not open if the kernel is not present which happens if pollination has gone astray. Therefore, this year I have sample the growing nut and checked the contents for a kernel. Everyone tested has a strongly developing kernel so they should split open properly when ripe in about March.

Pistachio tree, one of two females, outside the pullet house loaded with nuts.

Pistachio tree, one of two females, outside the pullet house loaded with nuts.

Feijoa

Last year we had the best crop of Feijoas ever. They are a long way from ripening yet but they have set fruit fairly well and the tree is growing nicely.

Avocado

The avocado trees have grown well since installing the taller shade surrounds. One has grown out of the top already. Another is getting to the top while the Reed is having some difficulty moving ahead after doing well later in the season. It may grow best during winter so we shall wait and see.

The Bacon set some fruit this year but all dropped off, probably due to poor pollination and the trees are only young. The largest fruit fell of in January measuring 50mm by 35mm. The others dropped off earlier. This is the best we have done with them so far. Maybe next year.

Avocado garden with the avocado on the left beginning to grow out the top, the one in the centre had the fruit this year and the end one is falling behind.

Avocado garden with the avocado on the left beginning to grow out the top, the one in the centre had the fruit this year and the end one is falling behind.

 

Plantings

  1. Sweetcorn- Sentinel from New Gippsland. The last planting for this season.
  2. Cucumber- Continental from Yates against a trellis in Bed 3.
  3. Beans- Veense Climbing from New Gippsland against a trellis in Bed 3.
  4. Carrot- Manchester Table from Yates in Bed 3.
  5. Carrot- Majestic Red from Yates in Bed 3.
  6. Cabbage- Vertus Savoy, Purple Savoy, Sugar Loaf, Coronet Green, Wong Bok
  7. Leek- Autumn Giant
  8. Lettuce- Oakleaf Green, Oakleaf Red, Iceberg
  9. Broccoli- Marathon
  10. Brussels Sprouts – Cyrus Hybrid

Bed Preparations

  1. Bed 8 has been a heavy soil and very new bed. It had a green manure crop of Bio-mustard growing for the past couple of months and that was dug in with poultry manure, cow manure, shredded paper and cardboard, superphosphate and gypsum. It was then covered with cereal straw to await planting after the bed has matured a bit and will be used for crops in autumn.
  2. Bed 2 was used for the garlic and onions during winter and spring into summer. Since the onion harvest it has been dug over and had compost, cow manure, poultry manure and superphosphate added. It will have a net tunnel installed over it and then be planted with winter brassicas.

 

Garden Update September Week 1

September 6, 2011

Father’s Day weekend and last match of the 2011 AFL football season, well, for the crows anyway! Maybe they will win this weekend and make it 8 wins for the season.

Unfortunately the crows were murdered by the West Coast Eagles and that’s that!

Work continued on painting the verandah ceiling, now to the area outside the rumpus room. Looks really bright and lifts the area nicely.

That is me painting the verandah outside the Rumpus Room

A nice bright ceiling to the verandah!

Now that the verandah is starting to look more impressive I thought I would renovate the old kitchen table we had used under the verandah. It was quite rickety and has extension leaves that always threatened to collapse, although they never did. I braced the main frame at the bottom with a piece of meranti 5in x 1.5in which served well as a footrest also. I then removed some of the hinges from the extension leaves and fitted two pine 42mm x 19mm supports the full length of the table by screwing through the 19mm side and gluing to give maximum strength. This has strengthened the leaves and improved overall stability. With the table now nicely serviceable I went a step further and started to apply some Feast Watson Outdoor Furniture Oil ‘Hardwood’ colour to the table top. Stopped there, ran out of time, and wanted to see if it came up well because the table had previously been varnished. I sanded the surface back with an orbital sander before oiling.

The Rickety kitchen table is now a partly refurbished verandah table.

In the vegie garden I decided to dig up a couple of potato plants that had died back. I was pretty sure there would be no potatoes because they hardly grew any size at all and had succumbed to fungal attack and died, never flowered I am sure. The potatoes were a couple of Desiree reds saved from my 2010 crop in the southern beds.  Out of the row 5m long only 2 plants grew, as they had been planted too early in the season. The plan was to simply replant the row with some new seed potatoes. However, I was astounded at what I found under the ground. For failed plants they produced a mass of 3 kg of good-sized potatoes, larger than tennis balls and almost as round. This spurred me on to continue with spuds a little further. Next to these two plants a row of Kipfler potatoes were planted at the same time. Although these did not germinate either when planted, now they have now all sprouted and are strong plants. To avoid the damping off with fungal rot of my earlier crops I have started a spraying programme with copper spray and baiting for snails, who love potato plants. I have now mounded up the row of Kipflers and will check their progress.

The row of Kipfler potatoes next to the Greenfeats Peas in Bed 1.

The newest patch of strawberries are looking a bit stressed. Pamela and I dug up some new plants from last year’s runners and transplanted them to a new bed in bed 8. Unfortunately they are not doing well and I suspect they have been allowed to dry out a bit too much. I decided to install their soaker system that I use throughout the vegie garden. Once installed they were given a good watering and picked up almost instantly. The soil drying out always catches me out here. The weather remains cool and you think that plants are going well but the rain has stayed away for a few weeks now and the soil is fairly dry. The same situation has occurred in other years so I must add August watering startup to my 2012 planner to avoid the element of surprise next year.

The new strawberry bed in Bed 8 next to the Dry Garden

Inspected the Raspberry beds and see that there is activity with new suckers and last years canes budding up. Still need to set up their trellis and irrigation.

Raspberry Bed with the first signs of spring growth, not very obvious right now

The newest perennial flowers are showing signs of stress so I watered them with the watering can. That seems to do them well enough for a week.

Newly planted Cistus showed signs of stress and were given a small amount of water

Tulips are budding up but only short stems. I wonder if that is because they were planted late or if they are a poor variety. The Diggers free tulips were planted earlier and they have produced longer stems. When the opportunity presents itself I want to get Tulipa Whitallii from Lambley. I have a lot of confidence in Lambley products at this stage. Not one of the plants I purchased from them has died and all are doing very well! I expect their bulbs will be as successful.

Yorktown tulips flowered very low in the vase of the leaves. Not very showy.

Diggers Tulip is growing on a longer stem than the Yorktown tulips

In the North Perennial Garden the Oyster Plant is doing beautifully and I can see at least 5 flower spikes coming. I thought it was going to take several years for our first flowers but we have some in our first year.

The moved Impatiens with the Oyster plant between it and the palm. Note the Day lilies to the right behind the jonquils.

The plant has now spread so wide that it has half covered my Impatiens which looks like it is trying to run away. So I decided to pull out my Comfrey which are dormant at the moment and will move them to the herb spot in the South Perennial Garden. I dug out the Impatiens and put it further to the front at the edge where the Comfrey were removed. Although it will probably stress a bit for a week or two I hope it will be looking nice again for christmas.

The day lilies in the North Perennial Bed are looking very vigorous and exciting. I  now there is at least one orange coloured one but the rest are a  mystery. Sweet Peas in the same bed are also looking very strong and beginning to show some flower buds but as yet there are no flowers. Daffodils flowered only poorly and were another disappointment. Bulbs came from Diggers and another of their less than successful plants. When the tops die back I will move them to the dry garden and see how they go there. The Rhubarb in this bed came from Kangaroo Island, Liz and Scott, and are also poor. They are growing fine but threw up so many flowers that I was for ever breaking them off. I have ordered a new thick stalk variety from New Gippsland Seed Farm and hope they will behave better. When they are established I will pull the others out. Alstroemeria is moving and expanding but no flowers at the moment. The Mother’s Day Chrysanthemum has died back and not showing signs of resprouting from the base. Dusty Miller is sending up tall flower spikes after sitting there doing very little for the past year or so. Will be interesting to see how it comes up. Clivia are flowering sporadically but they look like taking another year to settle in. Agapanthus look strong but not flowering yet. Elephant ears bulbs did not flower this year but leaves look strong and the same story for the Nerines. I suspect this bed may too wet for them to set flowers in the bulbs but the real test for these will be a comparison with those planted in the dry garden next season. Wild Irises have just started to throw out a few flowers. The Bay tree is budding up and looks like it will move soon. Bearded irises that are left in this garden look healthy but I suspect they may not flower either this year, garden is probably too wet in this area. I will check them against those in the dry garden.

The herb barrels have grown well over the past year and need some work. Unfortunately they were not used as I expected so this year I will change things around, not physically with the barrels but how they are planted. I planted some pansies in one empty one at the end of autumn and they are flowering beautifully.

Herb barrels with Pansies flowering in the barrel nearest the road.

Tom helped with rotary hoeing this weekend. Bed 1A and 1B were hoed as was Bed 8 ready for some early spring plantings. In bed 1A beside the Greenfeast Peas I will plant the latest Kipfler seed potatoes and bed 8 will probably have some of the sweetcorn beds.

Pamela got stuck into the Canna beds in the South Perennial Bed on Sunday. We are a bit late cutting them down to the ground, should be done in June but there hasn’t been much movement yet so it should be OK. Canna can’t be shredded with a cheap shredder, it just clogs up, so the stalks will be manually chopped then added to the cold compost heap, which seems to be working well as it reduces a fair amount each week. I will start a new one in Summer and close this one up for the next year or so.

Pamela chopped down the Cannas to make room for this year's flowers

Phillip helped out by emptying and screening the compost tumbler. It had a fair amount of woody material not composted so that will be added to the next batch. The screened compost he put into the spare wheelie bin ready for the next bed being ready.

Cut the first batch of asparagus on Sunday and made some cream of asparagus soup – delicious. Gave the patch a good watering and it looks like we may get a good result this season. The 1-year-old crowns are still in the foam tub but these will be planted out this month.

Asparagus bed jus beginning to produce.

Wash Tub Herb Barrel

August 24, 2010

This planter was established last year. Planted with Basil, Apple Mint and Parsley. Basil has died back, parsley doing well and mint spreading through tub.

Wash Tub Herb Barrel 23rd August 2010.

Herb Barrel No.1

August 24, 2010

Update of plants in Herb Barrel Number 1. Aloe Vera plant from Edwin’s, Roman Strawberry and a dormant Comfrey plant and an heirloom Rhubarb. The dormant plants are only being held in this barrel and will planted in the final location once they show signs of growth.

Herb barrel No.1 on 23rd August 2010.

Greek Oregano in Herb Barrel

August 24, 2010

Planted out perennial Greek Oregano purchased from Diggers Club. Planted into the herb barrel second from the house verandah.

Perennial Greek Oregano in Herb Barrel 23rd August 2010.

Roman Strawberry 9th August 2010

August 9, 2010

Roman Strawberry

Roman Strawberry

Roman Strawberry planted out today in the wine barrel nearest to the house. This was a free gift from Digger Club.

‘Roman’ is a very attractive ever-bearer variety with dark green leaves, long flower trusses with large, semi-double, apple-blossom pink flowers and deep red fruits. It’s attractiveness and productivity combined with an open plant habit and vigorous growth makes it an excellent choice for hanging baskets. Growing strawberries in hanging baskets is also an ideal way to keep the slugs off the fruit!

Herb Barrels 8th July 2010

August 6, 2010

Completed construction of Herb Barrel Garden. I wanted to have raised tuns for kitchen herbs accessible from the kitchen without having to get muddy. The barrels are positioned so their tops are at about waist height and fully accessible from the concrete path through the front door.  There were at least 2 sizes of barrels available,  one large and one small although either would have served the purpose. I opted for the larger size with 780mm diameter at the top. Their construction was of oak timber and had been previously used by Southcorp Wines to age their red wines in South Australia. The barrels were manufactured in France and this is stamped on the bottom of the barrels. They are a fine piece of art in themselves.

Before I was able to construct the stand they were kept full of water to keep them watertight. When the time came to prepare them for the herb garden I drilled 6 holes in the base each 25mm in diameter to allow good drainage. I covered these holes with some old shade cloth and gravel to a depth of 50mm. On top of that I placed my home made potting mix. I didn’t want to use commercial mixes because only premium soil had the characteristics I wanted and that was going to cost more than than the barrels. I made up my own mix using garden soil from my vege garden, composted cow manure, aged horse manure and home made compost. I mixed these together in a garden bed first with my rotary hoe, allowed it to age for a couple of weeks.

I enlisted the help of Phillip, my sixteen year old son, then filled the barrels to within 50mm of the rim. As I was filling the barrels I incorporated Easy Wetta water storage crystals to ensure they wouldn’t dry out in our summer heat in February. Wine barrels will collapse if they are allowed to dry out so the soil needs to be kept moist. There is sufficient mass of soil and enough water crystals to maintain this symbiotic relationship. We shall record progress of the tubs as we go. I expect to plant them out in Spring.

Herb Barrels before filling with soil. At this stage they are half full of water to keep them watertight.

The stand was made from basic materials found around our farm. I used 4 old railway sleepers supported at the correct height by concrete breeze blocks. I levelled the first blocks placed on the ground. You could adjust the height to whatever suited you best.


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