The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. - Aldo Leopold


Monday, March 14, 2011

The WA Seed Saver Collective

This is definitely one of my passions and one of the things sadly lacking in WA. There are lots of small gardening groups around the place, Organic Association, Permaculture, Gardeners Circles, various Horticulture Association groups, community gardens and school gardens around but they are largely unconnected, and there certainly is no common WA seed and plant gene bank.

I will put in some significant effort to establish a core group to manage and grow this collective, it needs to be both flexible, bountiful and freely available in seeds for the beginner grower and beginner savers, and organised, diligent and technical if we wish to effectual save cross pollinating heirlooms and old WA family varieties and add worth the the wider Seed Savers Australia system.
Given PermacultureWest has some very helpful people and relationships already the WA Seed Saver Collective will have a home under the Associations community wide umbrella.

We where toying with Seeds of PAWA but that play on words is gone with the new look rebadging of PAWA to PermacultureWest. So the hunt is on for a new name. I will call it Plant Hope for short, and while that clashes with my blog, the two will travel similar paths this year so that doesn't matter.

Here are a few of the draft Seed Saving Sheets, and members sheets. Membership will be free at this point but there will be some kind of give and take agreement and record kept. While beginners are expected to do lots of taking at the start, a well organised group would use beginners to save, one type of Kale or Brocolli, as they wont have 5-6 varieties of each like more experienced growers. Hence a new grower can be asked to grow one type of brasicca (and anything else) and we can hope that the seed that is collected should be pure.
Anyway the sheets, I would love feedback at any point, I realise that some of the tittle, annual, perennial dont match, that are space saving until I find the right words or remove them.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Soil pH and how to Test it.

Just a short note on why you should start your gardening with soil pH test. You might even want to do this before you buy the house if gardening is going to be a big part of your relocation.

I was doing a pH test as part of a site and client review for a future Permablitz in Caramar, it might be a local blitz as part of the Northern APEs or we might widen it as a mail out invite to the wider Permablitz mail list. Anyway as well as interviewing the 'client', photographing and looking over the site I grabbed soil representative soil to do a pH test. I do this because the range of Perth Coastal Sands pH is huge, my backyard is around 8.5pH (very alkaline) and some swampy sulfate sands can be 4pH. Clearly this vastly impacts what treatment is required for the soil before any plants should be considered or planted. While we cant change the whole body of the soil in the yard, we can do at least three things, where possible choose plants naturally suited to the pH range, adjust the local soil in the tree (holes) and fertilise accordingly, and adjust and control or buy in the soil we intend to to the heavy vegetable gardening in.

Why is pH so important, this picture show the mineral availabilities to plants at varying pH's. Borrowed Amanda's pic from Daley's Forum. Thanks.

Back to the samples, well out came the standard close enough is good enough garden shop pH kit.

Thankfully Erika's soil sample was a great pH as you can see by the card and indicated colour on the soil.

While the soil is certainly lacking clay content (bentonite - water holding), organic matter and fertility it is at least a good pH to start with. pH is a sliding exponential scale that is the more the pH is above or below 7 the harder it is to bring it back to that point. Simply adding compost, clay and manure to what is still the majority sandy base will not correct mineral imbalances in pH's outside 6-7.5. Organic matter 'buffers' pH but doesn't effectively change it, generally the pH will decrease slowly with continual compost and manure feeding.

Now while I have the kit out, time to look at the pH of my more neglected beds, These have never received sulfur or iron sulfate to address the alkalinity, consequently things dont grow that well in those wicking beds. I was hoping after a year or adding sheep manure and growing plants that I might see 8 ish......

Bugger that purples so bright my daughter would love it. looking closer to 9 than 8. To address this is a major issue, and if I dint not have wicking beds (closed nutrient/water systems) I dont think I could, without physically replacing 70% of the soil. Given the wicking beds can hold my sulfur treatments instead of having them leach away every time I water I shall have a crack at reducing this pH and setting up the soil again and report my findings.

One things for sure elevate pH will not sort itself out magically.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Weekend in the Garden

Enjoying the long weekend in the quite and peace of our garden, but it wasn't all rest. Much seed saving and plant propagation to be done.

Strawberries are always popular, millions of runners, they are like rats fleeing a sinking ship I wanted lots for the School Garden so I have let them go for it this year.

I will keep the Hokawase to increase my stock, it is by far the best flavour Strawb I have. Thanks Brad !

School garden seed trays to sell at the Fair for the PnC.

Some Bush Beans from the School Garden. Now the kids can plant their own seeds.

Carrot Seeds, I was a bit slack so these will be a cross of Purple Dragon, and Royal Chantenay.
That is 1/3 of each type and 1/3 new random stuff, isn't it exciting.

Mini Chocolate Capsicum from Diggers Collection

I think Alex misunderstood me calling them good little seed savers.
Watch out the Seed Sabres are out.

Finally picked the New Guinea Bean at our Permaculture Northern APEs meeting, thankfully it was full of seeds, so plenty for everyone next year.

Back on Deck at the Plant Ark

It has been a long time between post. Luckily I didn't really get started the first time. The PermacultureWest site has a community blog feed now which is a great way to get local content out and about. The trick is finding that content. To bridge the gap and force me to document my journey, musings and typo's I will set a side some time to do something for myself and anyone interested in following.

So whats been taking up my time, other than the three wonderful girls, rebuilding and improving the permaculture association, and supporting various school and community gardens has kept me busy.

With the long weekend kept free of garden/permaculture events and volunteering we had a rare family weekend in the garden and planting cuttings and seeds for the Newborough School fair on the 16th April. Unfortunately I will be in Ballingup for the Small Farms Field day, but my wife the trooper will get her hands dirty for the day managing the School stall.

My passion at the moment is starting a seed saving collective for WA involving various associations, schools and community gardens and of course private collectors and growers. There is plenty of support and interest its just a case of getting something to a critical mass with information, seed saving sheets, a few people nuts about seeds to carry a generally introductory level general members. I have purchased some seed saving workshop bowls, sieves and will start the most important part of any seed saving group, find the people and train and encourage them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Wicking Bed Post on Aussie Living Simply Forum

Have a look at the post and then check out the forum its a great Aussie one.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lots of Newborough School Garden planning but not much in my own yard

Spent most my free hours today looking up grants and possible sponsors for the school garden.

Finished the Wicking Bed for the strawberries. Added 2 self seeded Borage plants given the commonly held belief that they improve flavour/vigor of strawbs I cant verify that myself yet. Also transplanted the big patch of Sun Rose (succulent)back beside the Strawberries as they seemed to companion well, with the bees coming down to the sun rose flowers and then on to the strawb flowers. Transplanted a large Thai basil in the bed as the soil in its pot was never very good.
Unfortunately the strawberries were bearing decent size/shape strawberries for the first time this year before I dug them up, but I doubt that will continue given the shock.
Something to remember is that Strawberry flowers need to have lots of different sections of the flower all pollinated to get properly formed fruit. If you have munted looking strawberries that is likely to bee the cause :)

Strawberries Type/number
Red Gauntlet/8
Fragoo (pink flower)/2

Turnip Rooted Parsley finally germinating. 3-4 weeks.

Harvesting this week:
The odd strawberry.
Lots of Comfrey and Kale for the chooks green food.
5 Eggs a day from the chooks
Sweet potato vine tips as a spinach substitute, and kale, watercress, Malabar Spinach and broad bean plant tips for salad.