Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Recap and lessons learnt
We didn't really have an idea of how much manure and straw we would need, but as it turned out we needed more than we got. Ideally, we would have liked to have had the heap at least 30cm deep, but it's probably more around 20-25cm deep. As we will need to keep adding to the heap as the potatoes poke up through the top, we're going to need to get much more straw and manure. Total depth will need to be 50-60cm.
While we like growing our own food for the joy of it and also to grow varieties you can't get commercially, we also like to look at the cost breakdown of growing our own vs buying from the local fruit & veg store. For reference, the rough costs:
- 8 bags of cow manure - $44, will need more so add another 10 bags @ $55
- 3 bales of sugar cane mulch - $36, will need more so add another 3 bales @ $36
- 10m roll of chicken wire - $25
- Seed potatoes - $22
- Grow bags - $13
That's a total of ~$230. If we have good yields, that will be ~1kg per plant, so 30kg of spuds. Current spud prices are ~$2-3/kg for bog standard spuds, and ~$4-5 for "gourmet" varieties, so we could grow maybe $90-110 worth of spuds.
However, much of the costs are because we're starting a bed from scratch, which we won't need to do in future seasons as this bed will become part of the rotation. Next season, we will only need maybe 1/4-1/3 of the straw and manure and can use potatoes from this crop as seed tubers for the next (providing no diseases strike the patch). Next year, we could only be looking at ~$50 on materials for $90-110 worth of spuds. We're also not going to get varieties like the Royal Blue or Cranberry Red at the local fruit & veg.In terms of time, the whole exercise took the two of us from around 10am to 3pm (with an hour break in the middle for lunch). The absence of digging meant that than heaviest labour was really moving the bags of manure and strewing them over the bed.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
From reading some of our gardening books, I took a guess that this could be a fungal problem. A bit of googling later and I believe we have powdery mildew, which can affect plants like snow peas and is probably the result of my late afternoon watering, a few humid evenings and the way the lower parts of the snow peas are dense in foliage which restricts air movement.
I had a look for some organic options to deal with powdery mildew and found a few home remedies. The main one is a milk spray, which is 1 part full-cream milk to 10 parts water. Unfortunately, I didn't have any milk, so I decided to try another recipe, which used 7 teaspoons of bicarb soda, in a bucket of water with enough soap to make a lather. I mixed this up and put it in a little spray bottle.
The other advice on powdery mildew was to remove the worst affected parts of the plants. I removed most of the lower sections of the snow peas. This will also help air circulation around the plants. The lower halves looked a little naked, but I hope it will help. The rest of the foliage was sprayed with the bicarb & soap spray. I did this in the afternoon once the patch was in shade. I've also made a note to be careful watering in the afternoon. While I water at ground level, the spray tends to wet the bottom 10cm of the plant.
The other thing I did notice on the snow peas, which clued me in to the fact that it might be a fungal problem, was the presence of a number of yellow and black ladybirds. I remember from doing my first year biology bug project that these ladybirds feed on fungus. A quick look on the CSIRO entomology website and I found these little ladybirds are Illeis galbula and feed almost exclusively on powdery mildew. Definitely good bugs to have in your garden.
A few days later and the spray seems to have stopped the powdery mildew from worsening or spreading further. I think I'll leave the plants for a bit to see how they go and let the ladybirds feast on the remains.