Sunday, March 18, 2018

My ten most useful garden tools

I have just got back from my weekend markets. Whew, the weekend was a total write off, I didn't even make back my stall fees let alone any of the other costs. Well, that is the lottery that is selling at markets.
The weather was so windy that all the stallholders had to use one arm to hold down there marquees (even with weights on) while trying to use the other to deal with their customers and money etc. By the time the wind came up it was too late for most to pack up, but some down the side streets that the wind was blowing down strongest had no choice, they had to go or their marquees would have been destroyed. Anyway, next month has to be better.

This posts article is on the tools I use most on my farm. I do use some others occasionally too. With a home garden I imagine that most people would not need so many.
Most of my work is done by hand so I don't have a tractor, though I do have a quadbike and trailer for carting mulch, lime and various other things.

My Ten Most Used Tools

 Bean planter

This bean and pea planter is just the thing so I don't have to get down on my knees on cold and damp ground. You just walk and pop beans in as you go. The wiry looking thing at the bottom serves both as a measurer and as you walk it presses on the ground and opens the tool to drop the bean into the hole.

I have a larger one for planting broad beans and garlic cloves in autumn.


When I have a lot of beds to dig I use the rotary hoe but if I only have one or two the broadfork does a reasonable quick and easy job. It is much faster and easier than using a spade.

I get mine made by my local metal fabricator to my specs, and it does a great job. It is also useful for digging garlic.
 Hand hoe

I get these little hand hoes also made by my metal fabricator using steel pipe covered with rubber hose and the blade is part of a tractor mower.

The blade is sharpened on all sides and it perfect for precise weeding, especially weeding out taprooted weeds like capeweed because the blade s sharp enough to cut through the roots easily. Capeweed it very difficult to weed by hand.
The handle is about 40cm long.

Long handled hoe

This is a heavy duty hoe also made by my metal fabricator with a blade cut out of a plough disc. The shape of the disc makes this hoe blade very strong.
It is sharp and the shape makes it great not only for hoeing hard weeds but also for chipping. And it has a point on the opposite end of the blade for making seed rows.

 Sharp knife

A knife is indispensible. It is used for cutting open fertiliser bags to cutting pumpkins and melons to get the seed out.

Even though I like to have at least two of each tool I have more knives as I am always carting them about and leaving them places like in my van, and home in the hothouses, so I have to have a few to be able to find one when I need it.


Of course, after digging a bed, then adding any lime or fertiliser to it I have to rake it to make a nice even bed, and after seeding it I rake lightly again to cover the seed.

Rotary hoe

This is my most work saving tool. As I have a few hundred beds to dig in spring I couldn't do them all in time using hand tools.

This old rotary hoe is so reliable and does a great job.


Where would anyone be without a handy pair of secateurs. Mine get used mostly for harvesting seed from most crops.

I also tend to leave these everywhere so I only buy cheap ones and have many lying around.

Used for everything from digging post holes (though I do also have a post hole digger), to digging spuds and the occasional small bed.
I also have a shovel (it has a wider mouth than a spade) to shovel lime and mulch.

Stirrup hoe

These have a moving head that cuts small weeds just under the soil surface.
These are great for cleaning up between beds just as small weeds are emerging. It is not good for established weeds but it does a quick job when you use in in light soil in autumn especially when capeweed seedlings are coming up in their millions..

Other tools I have on hand are a garden fork for digging spuds and garlic, and a couple of sprayers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Adding more information. Gardening forums.

I have decided that my blog is getting too boring so I am going to be writing about more issues and giving more information each post. A couple of people have mentioned to me that they read my blog to get info on when to plant certain vegetables in this area so I will be adding that down the bottom of each post.
I will start off as usual with some pics of what is happening on the farm and adding more to my posts below that. I hope you enjoy it.

 My Arracacha has been enjoying the milder weather lately and have put on a lot of growth.
I really hope someone with a small commercial market garden takes this plant up as part of their mix in the future as the tuberous roots are delicious.

We will be getting two hot days later this coming week but I think the plants are large enough now not to need the shadecloth pulled back over them now.
 My few little cotton plants have fat bolls on them now. They have had a hard time of it and the plants are small but they have been flowering well and I will get some seed for next year.

I am going to grow a couple more colours of cotton next year - green and brown. Should be interesting.

The 'Round of Hungary' are bearing like crazy. This is an amazingly productive variety. The fruits are also tender and juicy, one of my favourites.

10 great vegetable and gardening forums, in no particular order of preference.

  1. Homegrown Goodness:  A great forum especially for those interested in amateur vegetable breeding
  2. My Folia:  An all purpose forum, come garden organiser, come gardener social media website. Use the site to plan and keep track of your garden plantings, and chat with other gardeners in your country or around the world in various groups.
  3. Tomatoville: for tomato growing enthusiasts
  4. Daves Garden forums:  heaps of forums for every gardening interest
  5. The helpful gardener forums:  great for beginners. It is a pity that this forum is not more popular.
  6. Garden Web:  very popular forums but cumbersome to use.
  7. Facebook:   You can find many niche and local gardening groups on FB, including many popular permaculture groups.
  8.  a very popular site for permaculturalists.
  9. Ozgrow:  a gardening forum for Australians
  10. All things plants:  I haven't used it but it seems active. 

Of course, there are other forums and it is worth searching around for others that cater to a particular interest but the above list is a good start.

What to grow and do this month in this area:

  • This is the last month to get your root crops, and brassicas in (both seed or seedlings) before it gets too cold for them to mature over the winter.
  • Garlic can also be planted now or April. I like to get mine in early.
  • As you pull out your summer vegetables place straw or other mulch on any empty beds that you will not be using over the winter and let the rain rot it down ready for spring. Don't put straw over the beds that you will be planting any winter green manure crops in as pest insects and snails will build up in it and eat your emerging seedlings.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Things are slowing down

With most of the summer crops harvested, what little there was of them, I am able to have a bit of a rest now. I do have a couple of melon beds ripening and a pumpkin, as well as the capsicums, but it won't take long to do them.

 With Autumn here the chufa is just starting to die off now. in another, probably three weeks, I will be able to pull them up. I have five varieties growing this year.

They all did pretty well so it will be interesting to see how they perform, and the differences.

I got busy with the ride on and mulched all the corn that died in the heat wave. As soon as it looks like we will be getting some rain I will dig it in.
I will be planting some broad beans in here next month, or when it is a bit damper.

Last year I planted diploid potatoes and they did very well in the heat, flowering, producing seed pods and tuberising.

This year I have tetraploides in and they just hate the heat. They are only just starting to tuberise and flower after we have had ten days of milder temps, and none of the flowers are setting.
Hopefully they will have enough time when the weather cools down next month to set at least a few flowers.

A few days ago I went out in the morning and saw a flock of rainbow parakeets on my sorghum. During the night it was very windy and blew the bird netting off the plants, and the birds had stripped the lot.
There were still a couple of covered plants but the birds had ripped holes in the netting to get to the seed heads.

There are still a couple of heads with seed on them left so I have wrapped them tightly in insect netting to keep the parrots off and I hope it will be enough because I don't have any of that seed left, and I am not sure it can be found anywhere else in the country. I can't pick these heads yet as they are not mature enough to ripen the seed after picking.

Next year I will put up permanent bird netting for the sorghum. I think that if it is well above the seed they parrots won't bother trying to get through it.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

New bulbs, seed trays and more

I have been working hard getting beds ready and planting the winter veg. I decided to put in a few brassicas just in case it is a dry one, but no big deal if the winter and spring is wet and I lose them as I have plenty of seed.

 I decided to buy $120 worth of bulbs to plant in the front yard of our house. My mother is really annoyed at how bare it is and weedy so we have decided on bulbs that die down so at least we get some time to weed it before they come on again.

There is everything from double daffodils to Freesias, to Dutch crocus to sparaxis and some others to make a bright spring display.

As they grow and get crowded I will replant some of the best over at the seed farm in a couple of beds for some supplemental income in the future.

A few months ago I bought this mesh rack to dry small amounts of seed indoors. It is great.

On sunny days I can just take a rack or two out to dry on the verandah if I need to or place it in front of the air conditioner when needed. I don't know how I coped without it, well, yes I do - I used to have plates of seed spread all around the kitchen. Now they are all in one place.

It makes drying small amounts so easy and neat. I think I might buy a couple more for next year.

The mesh is fine enough that I can just spread out seed on them as it is, like corn, melons or pumpkin.

At last the giant tomatillos 'Plaza Latina' are ripening. They are so late this year, and the plants didn't do well due to the low night temps up til Jan.

I love these. The flavour is mild but still good enough for all tomatillo uses, and everyone is amazed by the size of them - pity they don't produce many seeds. Again I will only get enough seed to put into a few packets for the markets, not enough to sell in bulk.

I have been thinking lately of ways to expand my income without making too much extra work. I think I would like to try dried flowers as I have the roof space in the old shearing shed on the property to hang them, and slatted floors for extra drying space. I just can't find any info to check out if there is an actual market for them though. next week I might talk to a couple of florists to find out their opinions.
I thought I might like to put a few beds into fresh flowers like calla lilies (I love the pretty hybrids), gladioli, and zinnias, but again, I have to see if the market is there and it might be far too expensive to transport them to the nearest markets/florists.

Lots to think about.