Thursday, 31 January 2013

January 2013.

This Dwarf Meyer Lemon was transplanted in early spring last year (September in Australia) from a large teracotta pot.  I had found it difficult regulating moisture and pH levels and the plant needed frequent treatment for iron and magnesium deficiency.

Growth in its new Ecobed has been vigorous with no sign of mineral deficiency during the past 6 months, but this has been at the expense of fruit set (only 6 lemons surviving to date compared with 70 last year).

This is probably caused by the heavy prune I gave the plant when it was transplanted, however, the worms may be making the soil a bit too rich in nitrogen favouring rapid vegetative growth at the expense of fruit development.  

Meyer Lemons flower and set fruit continuously, so if things don't improve before next spring, I will add sulphate of potash to the soil to balance things a bit.
The tomatoes are looking strong and are free from pests thanks to the exclusion measures.  Fruit set has been excellent helped by a bit of artificial Buzz pollination using my electric tooth brush.
These composting worms are clearing kitchen and garden waste as fast as I can supply it, and the humus is being distributed to all of the growing area by burrowing earthworms.
This is the first years growth of my summer fruiting Raspberry plant.  No fruit this year but hopefully plenty of second year canes will deliver a good crop next year.  Very little damage in unprotected 40 deg C heat thanks to the continuous water supply from the Ecobin it was planted in.
Mini Cabbage and Cauliflower growing in a tight space fairly happily.  No pests at this stage, and plenty of protection from the hot sun using shadecloth.  The cabbage is forming a solid heart and it looks as though the cauli will flower OK despite being out of season.  I plan to use this light framed ecobed for strawberries next year, and will plant some of my runners when the brassicas are finished.
I have just harvested some nice onions from this ecobed, and made it ready for the next crop in my rotation plan.  I usually follow light feeders such as onions and carrots with legumes.  

Half this bed has been sown with dwarf beans and in April I will sow peas in the other half.  Meanwhile I am growing a crop of lettuce with a mini cabbage and cauliflower in the space allocated for peas.  

This is my first heavy framed ecobed, and harvesting my onions has given me an opportunity to examine what the worms have done.  I am very pleased with what I found.  The worms were everywhere and the soil's structure was excellent.

I could not resist clearing out the worm farm and use the contents as a top dressing (worms and all).  I replaced it with plenty of new worm food and within 2 days the worms had migrated back into the farm and were busy doing what they do best.

I probably will resist disturbing the worms so much in future crop change overs, I think the worms will look after vermicast distribution without my intervention.
Despite my keen interest in Ecobeds, most of my fruit and vegetables come from conventional organic garden beds.  These are slightly raised beds with drip line irrigation in rows 500mm apart.  It works well, but the crops have a much tougher time than those in Ecobeds during Melbourne's hot dry summers. 
My next project is to construct a new heavy framed ecobed to replace one of my 4 conventional beds.  It will be 2.7m long x 1.5m wide and will use a couple of home made worm towers instead of the full width worm farm.  Details to come in my February blog.