A very shitty Winter. That’s what we asked for. Last Winter was so warm and dry that the weather made a turn for the worst towards the start of Spring and messed up the entire growing season. Nationwide, production are about 2 weeks late, some are hammered by fungal disease (surprisingly Bio Dynamic winegrowers that I spoke to at the conference escaped from the onslaught of Botrytis!). Some conventional winegrowers resort to harvesting their grapes before the brix level reaches the usual 24 minimum. Now I know what goes into a bottle of $7.99 wine at Pack&Slave, not so much different from a bottle of Coke really.

What to do when its all wet and cold outside?

I put more 200L drums to good use since I’ve already filled up the compost bin on the right. The one in the middle is the worm farm sitting on a rusted old chair with the cushion removed. I was totally inspired by Su from Glendhu Station, she has worm farm all over the garden utilizing all kinds of container she can get hold of, the basin of a washing machine, the back of a pickup truck, the usual old tires, a swimming pool! That shows me how easy it could be done, I will feed them with pony poo and possums and mice and the occasional weeds. The drum has got small holes drilled along the side of it for ventilation and also at the bottom for worm juice to flow out in the rain into a bucket. Vermicast, I believe is a lot more potent that compost, they cost more to buy from the garden centers as well, so to be able to produce a huge volume easily in my own backyard is super! To the left will be the liquid manure drum. It will use only the refreshing water from the sky, and I will only be filling it with Bio Dynamic weeds, and some other good stuff. Willow leafs and tender shoots will be a good addition to the manure to possibly introduce plant growth hormones (traditionally willow water is used as an organic form of rooting agent). In the long run I seek to reduce reliance on store bought seaweed and fish fertilizers.

My BD weeds has their own corner. From bottom, Yarrow, German Chamomile, Dandelion and Valerian. Stinging nettles are growing all over the place for easy harvesting as well!

I am now reading Koanga Garden Guide by Kay Baxter. It is the best garden guide I have read so far, nothing else comes as near to it, I like her humble and frank honesty, highly practical and yet informative. Not to put a halo on her head though, I believe every grower out there has got bits of knowledge that is not known in the wider circle, therefore, it is totally essential to keep gathering information and picking the brain of others. If money is never enough, then knowledge is certainly in the never. One bit of useful information I lifted from her book is about the color of chicken eggs. Heavy breeds lay brown eggs while light breeds lay white eggs. I immediately text-ed my family and friends and advise them to get white eggs if they are not buying organic eggs. It matters a lot especially in my country when you don’t really know to what extend conventional farmers will go to boost the meat production of their heavy breeds. This also led to the realization that even if we are not growers of everything, we should seek to understand how the food stuff that we consume are grown so that we can make the smarter choice even when not buying organic. Our ignorance will eventually lead to our downfall.

The minus 3 degree Celcius definitely sent the marigolds under the cloche packing. But the mustards are still there in my tucker patch, much to my dismay. Minus 3 is supposed to be their winter kill threshold, why are they still alive?! We had another minus 3 this morning, I can’t wait to see a minus 5. The mustards are starting to crowd out the blue lupins, I am now deliberating whether I should go in and thin it down.

Just look at how hard the frost is with the icy spikes forming on the mustard leafs!

Behold the ultimate bird-proofing kit! These are 19mm hex, 900mm wide wire mesh. Cut to length and folded in half so that they form an A-tent over the rows. I am not sure if they will be blown away from the wind or not but I have pins in place ready for that. They will be able to protect the plants until they are about 30cm high. However, if birds are your main problem and you can’t do anything about them, try broad beans instead of peas, the birds don’t seem to touch them at all.

Inside the house, the herbs pot are still infested with aphids despite numerous attempts to check them with neem oil. I am going to spray the neem oil on a different rhythm to see if I get a different effect. I have also sown wheat grass and barley grass! My super soul food is coming soon. One third barley grass and two third wheat grass through the juicer, the healthiest shot in the world.

Come back next week and we’ll find out what’s new at the Orchard Cottage!

*I also had my first success in asexual plant propagation with the rooting of a basil mint cutting! Cheers~