Good Earth Uncut
Saturday, 2 July 2016
This Week in the Sustainable Family Food Garden
“Pause, Please, and be Patient; Or Call Me In, First, Before You Plant!”
It's time to plant our open rooted fruit trees here in Tasmania, and ours are at hand already, waiting for the ground to dry, just a little bit more, before we clear the greens, and dig the holes.
There are three new deciduous fruit trees going into our block, this year, and if you have not tackled this task before, I can tell you that you need to allow an hour per tree, for the task, which means a full three hour session will be needed, if you plan to do the job properly, all in the one day.
“But why is he planting more trees?” those of you who who have been to workshops at our our farm, might ask: “Doesn't he have enough already!”
That's a fair question to be putting, and the answer is that even though I have more than sixty fruit trees already growing at the farm - and have as much fruit as I want or need, already, as well as more than sufficient seasonal work at hand, in their pruning, care and picking - one is looking ahead, in the planning, to the still safely distant prospect of a possible retirement from the greater physical commitments to a larger acreage at the farm.
So we are preparing now, in our plantings, for the possible future loss of access to the orchard in the Huon.
It takes five to seven years for most fruit trees to grow and mature towards their first full harvest, so I am making sure - in planting more trees now, in Kingston - that Joanna will have sufficient home grown harvest on hand, at all times, and will not ever have any kind of case for complaint in claiming that she has run right out of home grown fruit to fill her 1600 fowlers jars, and five full cupboards of delightfully tasty, artistic, and colourful preserves!
An old mentor of mine once said that:
“If you do not plan ahead, Paul, then you plan to fail.”
So it pays to plan ahead, in all of your plantings, and if you want the fruit - five to seven years from here - then the time to plant is now.
Plan First , Before You Plant
Do not plant blindly, however.
If you are new to your land, wait a full twelve months, at least, of lessons learned and observations made across a full run of four unfolding seaons, before you plant into the ground.
If you have loose bagged and open rooted trees on hand already, plant them into tubs and barrels, as a short term solution (you will find a column written on that subject, dated early June) while you wait for enough time to pass, to be able to track the way in which the water runs across your land, and where the light is best, for the garden and orchard in winter, or where the glare and heat and drier ground is worst, in mid-summer, as well as working out what the subsoil water seepage drainage lines and soakage issues are etc.
Three Years Pause Before First Tree Plantings
I had waited three years, living and working with this garden, here in Kingston - after first coming to a new setting, situation, soil and micro climate at the site - before planting my first fruit tree at the block.
Jo had planted ten – before we met – and all put into a perfect position for each variety and species that survived (we will not mention the other two) so the heat was on, and I let three full years pass before that first new apricot went into the ground, last winter.
The intervening time was spent slowly becoming familiar with different kinds of water run-off patterns, soil absorption rates, sub-strata drainage lines, varying seasonal light and shade aspects, wind and night-drift and frost exposures, and possible pest impacts before I knew I'd seen enough - across a wide variety of ultra dry and really very wet seasons - to be fully confident in my selection of the very best places to be planting longer term fruiting trees, vines and shrubs.
If you have just come to a whole new block or farm or smaller holding, wait twelve months, at least, before you plant, to give yourself the best chance to see and discover where the best possible places for your trees may lie.
If takes a full five to seven years for the slower growing fruit trees to become established, and ready to supply a mature harvest, and you don't to be waiting for the trees to fruit - across all of that time - only to discover the orchard is standing in water, in a suddenly ultra wet season!
Saved By the Bell
If ever we needed a good example – in our own garden – of the time that it does take for some fruiting varieties to start to bear results for our work, patience and – at times – necessary forbearance, the case of the accidentally discovered Feijoa fruits, this week just gone, is a classic reference point.
A few weeks back – on one of our usual Saturday morning garden walks, discussing tasks for the weekend, as well as future plans for planting – Jo was saying how she was fed up with the five Feijoa bushes she had planted in a reasonably sheltered, warm north eastern corner of our block, eight years earlier.
They were causing no harm, I had thought, and knew that their scarlet flowers were much loved by bees and honeyeaters, and - from my point of view - were much more useful and preferable than the useless, toxic rhododendrons growing up and down the street, so was happy to give them more time.
But Jo was of a different mind.
They had given nothing, in eight years, she declared, and their chance was up: it was time they made way for something more productive planted into the space.
I was gazing at the trunks, even as she spoke – and saw nothing but many hours of hard grunt work in the cutting down and especially in the mining out the stumps and roots – for when you dig out an old fruit tree or bush, you need to expose and remove out all of the wood of the main roots, as rotting roots are a major risk of fungal attack upon the new root systems of any new trees or shrubs that are put into the place from which the previous fruiting specimens were removed.
So I changed the subject, swiftly, and bought a few weeks of time which proved to be the saving of those plants, and of my labours!
Those Feijoa's must have heard Jo's comments, for on our next walk, Bingo!
Bending down to snatch out a sprig of pink flowering fumitory weed - about to flower and set seed - there I spotted, littered all around the ground beneath the bushes, a basketful of feijoa fruits that had been camouflaged superbly by the identical green colouring they shared with the low hanging foliage of their mother plants.
The rest, as they say, “is history”, a story recorded in the accompanying video which documents my first ever taste of the wonderful scent and flavour of a home grown Tasmanian Feijoa, an experience which - I can assure you – is just wonderful!
Essential Fruit Tree Positioning Fro Multiple Gains in the Poultry Yards
There is another important reason to pause before you start to plant your trees.
Fruiting trees and shrubs and berry vines will play a really important role in providing home grown food and fodder for your poultry flocks, and you need to know where your poultry runs and fodder yards and forage plants are all going to go, before you work the fruiting trees into your broader plans for the integrated flocks and family food garden.
It is worth waiting, if only to make sure you have your fruit trees sited to their best advantage, with relation to your poultry flocks, as the chooks love nothing better than to range around beneath the trees, in summer, picking up the wind-fallen fruits and overripe offerings which have been missed across the busy harvest.
If you can integrate your fruit tree plantings with the flocks, the fowls will then play an important role in helping to keep your orchard and fruit tree espaliers and copses free of pests and mould and disease.
Before you plant then, make sure you have planned the larger dynamic poultry garden driven integrated system, one in which your trees are shading the birds in summer even as they are supplying fruit for the fowls, when you are tired of picking, and one in which the chooks – in return - will clean up the weeds and fruit and breeding grounds for pests beneath the trees.
There is much to plan around, when working fruit tree plantings into an integrated poultry garden system.
Trees That Shade the Summer Poultry Sheds: Not Sheds That Shade The Fruiting Trees!
How many times have I seen, when called in for a “please fix it” consult - after the trees have been planted, and after the poultry sheds have been built - that the trees are blocking out the essential, lay inducing, waking morning light for the fowls, in spring, but are not protecting the flocks in summer, where the sheds are shading the fruit, and the trees are not shading the sheds or yards!
There are many smaller, subtle, complex planning factors to consider when mixing food garden beds needing maximum spring and winter light exposure, efficient approach lines for paths and work spaces, sheds and runs and poultry pens, yards and fodder trees and windbreaks and forage grounds, fruit trees, worm farm, compost slopes, sun angles, soil, slope, wind exposure, shade impacts, and drainage lines.
A Year Can Save a Major Mistake, But Two or Three Years of Patience Will Save Much More!
You need to give yourself sufficient time to get to know your new site, to clear your mind and develop your plans, to get them right, before you start to “claim” your block.
A year is barely sufficient.
Waiting two to three years before you plant a significant number of trees, and before you build any larger garden sheds or permanent stock or poultry structures, is advisable.
We are all going to make a few inevitable mistakes, when starting out for the first time with a dream of growing our own organic food and in keeping our first family flocks.
Making many small mistakes is the best way to learn, and must be expected, and loved and lived: it's the bigger, much more time and cash expensive errors – those which come through rushing in too swiftly, and which we can avoid so easily - that are the big budget and heart breakers for so many couples who have moved from town and onto the land.
If only a bit more time and patience is taken with the rush to plonk and plant and fence and build, so much totally avoidable wasted cash and anguish can be avoided.
If You Must Rush, A Consult Can Save Much Waste: But Only If You Call Me In First!
If you can't wait - because too many lost years are already behind a long awaited retirement dream - or because of your nature and personality: if you are the type who you just needs to get stuck in, immediately, then, please, call me down to your site, for a consult, before you have built one too many expensive errors, or have planted more than a dozen most costly mistakes!
I've done a lot design work, in the last thirty years, for those needing to fix up their big mistakes, after they have been all too far well built, in the wrong place, or way too well loved and planted, in the wrong ground!
It would be nice – occasionally – to be called in at the start, in fair time to be able help good people make those better choices and decisions which will get most out of their budget, as well as from their dreams.
What to Sow and Plant and Garden Tasks
Time For First Peas and Pink Eye Potatoes in Sheltered Sites
We're in July, and after six weeks rain, and cold and wet, at last the ground is dry – or at least it's drying out enough, in many places, this weekend - for the first post-solstice sowings of pink eye potatoes, peas and broad beans drilled into lighter soils and into warmer, better drained sites and situations.
Early potatoes must be set shallow, into warm grey soils and lighter loams, in frost free sites and protected pockets only, for outdoor winter sowings.
Use no mulch, no straw or hay, not for winter and early spring sown potato crops.
The Tree-Tray Method of Starting Spuds Indoors
Early potato crops can be started indoors also: sown into fruit boxes, low cut barrels, and into deeper trays and tubs for later transfer into outdoor settings, using a tree-tray method of enticing them to grow longer root runs that can then be laid out into sand and composttrenches, early to mid spring.
I will describe how to do this, in detail, next week.
Garden Greens and Salad Plants
You can sow, also, outdoors now, in-situ crops of the garden greens and salad plant listed below, but only into north exposed, open raised beds and onto elevated banks, or into outdoor, sun basking, planter boxes, beds, drums and barrels.
As ever, you will need to adjust all suggested sowing and planting timings to suit your local setting.
One always needs to be guided, as well, by the site and situation variable relative soil warmth, drainage, tilth and moisture levels of our own individual garden micro-climates, as well as by the hours of direct sun exposure - or of mid-winter shade being cast - for each different bed and setting in each slightly different part of the garden.
In Open Raised Beds, Outside, Or Into Large Boxes, Barrels and Tubs, Sow:
* Garden peas only into full NW arc to NE arc shade free, full sun, super drained sites with sandy soils or structured medium, with rows sown to run on a North to South axis;
*Broad beans in blocks of three to six parallel rows, also on a north – south axis;
*Oats, grey peas and strawberry clover; or black mustard and oats, into resting poultry yards. Lime the muddy yards, broadcast the seed, cover with enough triple washed potting sand to just cover the seed.
Plant, or divide and replant into fresh ground:
*Crowns of rhubarb and asparagus, sets of shallots, potato onions, tree onions, welch onions, chives.
*Open rooted grapes, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries, youngberries, silvanberries, thornless blackberry, strawberries, blueberries.
*Hazlenut (filberts), walnut, chestnut, mulberry, fig, Japanese plum, European plum, damson, apricot, cherry, peach, nectarine, apple, pear, quince, crabapple. pomegranate.
*Comfrey, lovage, lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, catmint, penny royal, bergamot, oregano.
Sow Indoors, or in a Heated Greenhouse or Glasshouse
Finer Seed (less than 3 mm) Into Seed Trays or Containers, Seed Larger Than 3 mm Only into Tubs and Pots:
For transplanting out into the Garden, in August and September, sow seed now of:
*White, Red and Brown Globe and Torpedo Onions, Spring Onions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Leeks and Shallots.
*Broccoli, Curly Kale and Red Russian Kale, and Drumhead Cabbage.
*Silver Beet, Rainbow Chard, English Spinach, Perpetual Leaf, Dutch, or Snake Leaf Spinach (as it is variously known) plus Warrigal Greens, or New Zealand Spinach
For Growing and Harvest Indoors, or For Transplanting Outside in Late Winter and Spring, Sow Seed of:
*Mizuna, Early Mibuna (Dento Yasai) Hon Tsai Tai, Tatsoi, Komatsuna (Mustard Spinach), Shungiku (Japanese Edible Chrysanthemum) Pak Choi, Bok Choi, Wasabi, Wombok (Chinese Cabbage) and Choy Sum.
*Cos Lettuce, Red and Green Oak Leaf and Mignonette Lettuce, plus Winter Triumph Iceburg Lettuce.
*Cress, Red Leaf Mustard, Rocket and Parsley into tubs and boxes indoors for in-situ growing.
Next Week: Paul's exciting new mashes for poultry.
See the short videos on the Good Earth Uncut Members Facebook Group on sprouting grains for poultry, pigs and cattle to be posted on Saturday morning.
This Week with the Poultry Flock
Micro Yards and Pocket Pens
Part Two: Micro Pens As Multi Function Yards and Hoods For Garden Flocks and Farm Settings
Last week I outlined and described the concept and use of a lightweight, easy shift, garden poultry micro-yard method designed of adding an extra level of easily adapted, highly flexible, five-minute- yard to yard switching of our fowls from patch to patch of open garden bed, lawn or urban meadow.
Such micro-yards can be as quite compact, part-day only occupation units of small one to two square meters in ground area – for a single person lifting and shifting – or as large, all day or whole weekend occupation yards of up eight square meters in ground area.
Such larger yards would be designed for level site use and relocation, on wheels - for one person handling - or can be designed with a curved prow, or upward sloping ski skid, at one end, for short distance “drag and shift” shunts by two persons..
These pocket sized poultry forage yards provide us with a lightweight, instant shift, highly portable forage system which is perfect for the urban flock being kept within a family food garden system.
Different Sizes, Functions and Fits
I have - across the years - designed many various types and shape of micro yard for various clients, all created suit different kinds of climate, site and setting all across Australia, as well as in England, Germany, and the United States.
They can be designed to be always rain covered or open netted space that can be covered within minutes by rain proof shields or shadecloth, so the space may be made both rainsafe and windproof, being used as either litter floored spaces or foraging green hoods that keep the chooks in, and the raptors out.
Coming in quick change forms, to suit different functions, such micro yards are the perfect, highly adaptable, multi use “all spaces and places” poultry flock forage distribution answer for the smaller scale, more intensively managed, highly adaptable fodder and forage approaches which must be adopted on the urban farm, to make the best possible, fully sustainable use of every odd smaller part of the garden and piece of land on the block.
Micro-Yards as Broody Pens and Secure Rearing Hoods For Younger Stock on Farms and Smallholdings
The micro yard can play an important role as well on smallholdings and farms, and is particularly well adapted – on larger land areas – for use with broody hens and chicks, and in raising young turkey poults and guinea fowl keets in more secure, predator fenced, food garden areas set closer to the home.
Even though our adult flocks of poultry, geese, ducks and turkeys may have access to a larger acreage on the farm and smallholding, the more secure, homestead focused, immediately adjacent areas of daily passage in and around the home are the prime sites for setting hens, waterfowl and game birds, and for rearing broods of younger stock.
The ground around and between our food gardens, sheds, small orchards and working areas of the farm are of premium value for the rearing of young, more vulnerable stock, but in many cases the broken nature of that space does not allow us to fit larger fixed netted runs and yards in and around the outbuildings, lawns, gardens and paths.
Portable pens with attachable\detachable switching yards are one way of making a more flexible, adaptable, seasonally shifting use of such premium, close observation, daily working areas of the farm, so do not dismiss their value, if you are keeping larger flocks, on bigger acres.
A Variety of Possible Frame and Covering Materials
You can build such yards out of recycled lightweight metal section recovered and converted from old trampolines, garden gates and tent frames, from recycled poly pipe, from lighter grades of hardwood timber and structural pine, or a combination of any of those materials, but if you are designing something that is to be lifted or dragged, by one person, then you need to keep the materials as light as possible.
The prototype “ultra light” run that we are using at Kingston was built as demonstrator “single lift and shift” purpose, made from a combination of poly-pipe arches screwed to a rectangular hardwood frame, putting all the weight where you want it, at the bottom, and not up top
It is a unit which that I can pull around with one arm, one that is so light I am able to pick it up with my left hand as I reach inside to grab a pullet with my right, unassisted. These instant daylight access features are essential - for small space areas with just poultry flap food access - if I happen so see something amiss, which needs immediate checking, while moving through the garden and past the pen.
Heavier Mesh and “Latch and Lock” Fittings Needed For Bush Settings
While the ultra lightweight, nylon netted “ultra light” version featured in the photos and videos is fine for urban areas free of quoll or raptor issues, a second model will be built slightly heavier - for use at the farm as a single shift “birds in the bush” model - one using heavy gauge 10 mm galvanised mesh and featuring an attaching frame that can be latched and locked onto the side of the pen, sitting flush: to make it quoll and cat proof.
We don't have quoll or feral cat issues in our part of Kingston, so the lightweight, timber base and 25 mm poly pipe arched, nylon netted, two square meter run is as a simple “push and pull” non lockable fit against the eastern end of our relocatable pullet pen.
There it has been used by the Huon Blues and single Silver Barnevelder as a morning sun yard, through the late autumn, and all winter, from the day that the pullets were brought up from the farm, in April.
The micro-yard has also served another function: the vital need of dividing the foraging space for problem free new-flock integration.
Micro Yards Can Provide Alternative Forage Spaces Where Birds From Separate Clutches Are Being Integrated
Having an extra daylight forage space available has enabled us to provide a second, safe, escape and settling area for the two Huon Blue pullets which were brought in to join the other two Blues, and the Silver Barnevelder, when the birds were first integrated, to form our little, city-based, garden forage pullet flock for the 2016 – 2017 spring and summer laying season.
Observing the way the two lots of pullets mixed and melded – a process which has taken six weeks to complete – has shown quite clearly how you need to provide two separate, 95% walled off, distinctly different forage areas for the birds, when you are bringing hens, from two different clutches, together, for the first time.
You Need To Provide Safe Retreat Areas For The New Flock Additions To Settle
I was always confident that the two pullets would make their place, as they were ten days older and 5 to 10% larger than two of the three three other pullets, but even so, they were to be found hiding out in the micro yard, on many days, in the first three weeks - getting as far away from the dominant, larger, still bossy and pecky alpha female ruling the roost, among the other sub unit of three birds.
On some days you would find the three boss pullets occupying the micro yard, while the two outsiders stayed inside (if you get my drift!) but on other days they would be doing it all the other way around.
It was not until weeks four and five weeks had passed that I began to see all five birds now happily hanging out together in one of the two optional spaces available, and now that the two pullets have begun to lay, they have moved up to rankings two and three in the pecking order now that a proper flock structure and ranking has been formed.
Using The Micro Yard As An Open Weather Litter Yard
The micro yard which the pullets have been using - most often upon on a clear sunny morning - is not a green grassed run or crop planted fodder yard, as described last week, in part one of this four part piece.
It is a portable, micro managed, open weather, lateral poultry litter and composting yard to which a daily supply of “cut and carry” forage greens are bought from the garden, for the fowls.
The micro yard is less than two square meters in total forage area, but the birds have another four square meters of litter available in their pen, giving each of the five fowls, in total, just on 1.2 square meters of litter to work, and on top of that, soon they will have their garden “runner tunnels” which I will describe in a coming column.
Next week, In Part 3:
Using Micro Yards as Easily Renewed and Refreshed Litter Systems Renewed with Just An Hours Work.
This Week In The Poultry Grounds
Suntrap Tanks, Dustbath Drums and Basking Barrels For The Winter Flock
Old 200 gallon raintanks, wine and brewer's barrels, and 44 gallon drums can be cut in half and recycled as dual purpose sun-trap tanks, sun-basking barrels and weatherproof dust-baths for the winter, using a super dry fresh soft-fall pine bark mix as the basking and dust-bathing medium, inside the barrel.
The anti-bacterial, anti-intestinal worm action of the highly resinous and aromatic pinebark makes an ideal crossover medium between yard litter and dustbathing mix, but you need to keep a bagged supply of (within six weeks trucked ) resin-fresh, dry, extra sifted pinebark mulch, under cover, in a shed, if you wish to supply a replacement litter that is immediately useful, attractive and purpose-useful, for the flock.
Sieving The Mulch For Dustbathing Purposes
To sieve or sift the mulch used as a dustbathing medium, shovel it onto an old wire, 8 mm octagonal mesh, stretched bed frame, or onto a raised (600 mm high) stand supported, purpose built, 10 mm wide, heavy gauge galvanized mesh, one meter square, heavy-duty compost sieve and sifting frame.
The usual particle size range of better quality soft-fall pine-bark mulch is between 1 to 10 mm - on average - for 80 to 90%% of the material, but around 10 to 20 % of it will vary between 10 and 20 mm in size, and we need to sieve these larger pieces out, for its use as a dust-bathing medium.
If you have only wet supplies of soft-fall pine-bark on hand, don't fret: it will take a few days to dry out, once under cover, or in the tank and barrel halves but - by the end of a week containing a few sunny days - it will be sufficiently dried out, on top, for the fowls to start using it.
Then - once the hens begin to dust and fluff up and spread out the litter - the damper material underneath will be brought to the surface, and aired, and baked, and will soon dry out.
Elevate the Tank and Barrel Ends For Greater Sun Admission
If you have the open end of the barrel or drum pointing to the north east, north or north west, and elevate the open end slightly – raising the bottom lip by 5 to 10 degrees, so that the low angled winter sun can penetrate right down into the back of the vessel - you will have provided a very warm, sun catching, rainproof winter sun-basking and dust-bathing vessel for the flock.
It is one which can be moved from fresh place to place, and yard to yard, as the flock is taken through the months of May to September, every year.
Then - when winter is but a heat-hazed memory, and the summer glare is baking one's brain - at dusk, move the portable tank and barrel dust-bathes into a cooler, shaded, but always raptor safe and secure place.
Remember to empty and wash out each vessel - before replacing the pine-bark medium with fresh, all sifted material - every six to eight weeks, and between each move to a new site.
Our Beautiful Barnevelder Roosters at the Farm this Week