Author Archives: Elizabeth LiketheQueen

Getting your garden through a Perth summer

It’s hot, isn’t it?  And dry. Very, very dry.    Yup, that’ll be summer and even though we know it’s coming, it’s still rather a shock when it hits.

Fortunately there’s a lot you can do to help your garden withstand the season.

IMG_1637  Let’s assume you’ve already done some work on your soil.  If you’re on clay, you’ll want to have dug in lots of compost, gypsum to help break down the clay, and manure.  The good thing about clay is that it tends not to repel water in the same way sand does, but once it dries out, you’re dealing with rock.  If you haven’t improved your clay by now, leave it til there’s decent rain.

If you’re on sand, you should still be able to dig it, but you’ll find water runs straight through it and no matter how many watering cans you empty onto a patch, the sand remains dry.  Not good for plants.  You’ll want to work on a smallish patch at a time, digging in Soil Solver/Sand Remedy, compost, manure and a wetting agent all at once.  It’s expensive, but worth it.

IMG_1638

When you’re planting your garden, keep your plants grouped according to their watering needs.  Some areas of your garden will need daily soaking, but others might cope happily with once-a-week attention.

Make good use of trees for gentle dappled shade – plants labels that say full sun, rarely mean Western Australian full sun.  If you can shelter smaller plants, especially veg from the blistering afternoon rays, you’ll still get a decent crop.  Deciduous fruit trees are particularly good for this.

Likewise shadecloth can mean the difference between scorched earth and a harvest.  The nurseries use white or beige year-round, but darker stuff is good for the nastiest of summer so long as you take it down as things cool off.

IMG_1639

Lastly – mulch.  And more mulch.  Pea straw is excellent so long as it you can stop it from blowing away, and you get bonus peas.  If you use chipped up trees, put manure down first as the chip mulch will leach away lots of nitrogen from the soil, and that’s what you need for lush leaf growth.  Be careful of find sawdust as it can set hard.  Coffee grounds won’t stop a lot of evaporation but they will make snails and slugs think twice about snacking on your seedlings.  Stay away from black jungle mulch (the black is artificial, sometimes provided by petrochemicals), choose coconut fibre for choice.

And of course, choose your species wisely.  Tomatoes, capsicum, silverbeet, pumpkins, squash and melons thrive in summer.  Wait until it cools off before you put in your potatoes, leeks, onions, herbs, cabbages, caulis, peas and lettuces.

And autumn isn’t too far away…

Kitchen Gardeners’ Society November meet: Bees in the backyard

There were lots of us who wanted to talk about bees at the November Kitchen Gardeners’ Society meet.  And it is a fascinating subject.

Penny and Shane invited us all to their lovely, shiny new house where they have put in enormous amounts of work in establishing a garden before summer proper hits.  They have wonderful plans for bees and chooks and already have their fruit trees in.  It’s going to be a gorgeous, edible, shady and fragrant garden.

Rob, who first appeared at the August meet, and who is a man of many talents, offered to take us through setting up a bee hive in suburbia.  Which we did, but with many digressions and whimsical meanderings of conversation.

We were all so entranced that no-one remembered to take photographs.  Sorry about that.

However, here’s what you need to know:

  • Bee keeping starts off expensively – a hive, bees, bee suits, smoker and assorted paraphernalia will set you back in the order of $600, but this stuff lasts a long, long time and the benefits do outweigh the costs.
  • A jar of honey goes a long way to mollifying a sceptical neighbour.
  • The American hive tool is rubbish, make sure you get an Australian one.
  • You must harvest your honey (or, as Rob says: rob the hive) or the bees will seriously consider decamping and there’s not much you can do once they’ve gone.
  • Your veg patch will thank you, although the bees won’t make much different to your tomato pollination – this you can achieve by a vigorous watering or a gentle shake.
  • Suburban honey is really interesting as the bees range up to five kilometres and collect from whatever is flowering.
  • Conventional wisdom has it that paler bees are less aggressive than darker bees, but this is not necessarily the case.  Be careful around bees.

We”ll probably run another bee workshop next year.  December’s workshop will be on summerproofing your garden, and it’s at Dave and Joan’s place.  Watch your email for the address, and if you’re not on our mailing list, you’ll miss out!

Chooks in the backyard OR back to Sunnyside Up

Chooks, it seems, are inspiring.

After the great success of TTG’s waste reduction initiation, the Sunnyside Up project, and by popular demand, the Kitchen Gardeners’ Society was delighted to present Chooks in the backyard.

Generously hosted by Flo, Tristan and Tim, along with Sian, Tim and Olive, lots more Kitchen Gardeners are now busily constructing poultry palaces and deciding whether to buy free range pullets or rescue battery hens.

IMG_1513Veterinarian Barb (seen here cuddling one of Flo, Tristan and Tim’s chooks) took us through basic chook care.

She covered good nutrition, chook psychology, basic physiology, some common sickness and afflictions of chooks and their basic veterinary care.

We had lots of discussion, talking through experience and concerns, and sharing chook stories.

It is important to know what your local council regulations and expectations are and how to comply.

IMG_1511Here’s Rebecca who just loves chooks.

Her super power is that she can catch any chook, no matter how determined said chook is not to be caught.

It’s very impressive.

It’s also important to manage your neighbours.  We talked about the various ways to deal with people who might think chooks are noisy or smelly or attract vermin.

Half-a-dozen free range eggs will usually get you a fair hearing – a cake baked with your lovely, free range eggs might be even more effective!

IMG_1514Here’s Olive showing us her chooks in her much smaller back garden.

Olive and her parents, Sian and Tim, were part of the Sunnyside Up project and were delighted to show us their chook house with its viewing window and gorgeous artwork on the outside.

Since that workshop lots of people have lamented not being able to attend, so the Kitchen Gardeners will be running another one next year.

Meanwhile there are two more workshops for the year, November’s is Bees in the Backyard, and December’s is Summer Veg Gardening.  If you’re not on the mailing list, please do subscribe to TTG’s newsletter so you don’t miss out.

For those who wanted the jammy fruit cake recipe, it’s here.