So the first day of the new year has arrived and once again we take a look at what this year has been dedicated to as well as updates from my garden(s)!
1. International year of Light (2015)
Without light life would not have existed. Photosynthesis is the most important chemical reaction that occurs naturally in all green plants and we are reliant on light for the food we produce. The topmost picture represents total photosynthesis of the world by both terrestrial (plants) and aquatic (algae) sources.
|International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies|
I am fairly sure that I don't have to rumble on about this subject as we are all aware of how it touches each part of our everyday lives, from food production, to energy generation as well as medical, science and technological marvels!
2. International year of Soil (2015)
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations is leading the awareness campaign for the education and preservation soil. They have made a cool infographic for easy reference:
|International Year of Soils|
I have also done a set of articles to promote the proper management and conservation of soil fertility in the vegetable garden, please see:
1. Soil structure
Soil profiles and my soil story
Vermicomposting (Earthworm compost)
3. Management practices
Conservation Agriculture (related to Vegetables worth growing as part of the Sustainable, Productive and Economical Vegetable Gardening Series)
Lunar Gardening Revisited & Biodynamics
The garden(s) have gone through quite the upgrade in August 2014. With spring in sight and all its promises of bulk-harvest also predicted a more ominous event: HAIL!
After last year's terror hail storms, one throwing 8 cm monsters had me completely paranoid with visions of a flattened vegetable garden. Luckily we only received the tail end of the storm, but next season we might not be so lucky. During the whole winter I had been brain storming on how to protect the garden from falling ice stones that would still be economical and durable. Hence after some research and calculator exercise we came up with a pretty feasible solution: Shade netting.
You don't need to by full rolls meant for carpools if you have a small garden to cover: we got some off-cuts at an amazing price (R25 per meter on Gumtree unfortunately we only found this after the main garden upgrades so only the pumpkin patch got the benefit of this saving). Shade netting, weather-proof nylon string, wall hooks strong enough to support a boat (LOL!) and some manual weekend labour =
|Main Vegetable Garden Upgrades August 2014|
For the shade netting upgrades we paid about R1000
with the shade netting being the most expensive purchase (R53 per running meter)
We opted to cover the main garden's beds (which are about 80% of our total food production that the hail all-but destroys when it comes down) and the fruit trees (seeing that soft fleshy things and heavenly ice stones don't mix). We used a 20% shade netting which is robust enough to handle the hail and offers some shade to the vegetables during the scolding summer heat. With the anti-hail system in place we upgraded the rain-collection system as well with a purchase of another tank.
It is an absolute gargantuan at 10 000 L! Our first tank at 1000 L is completely dwarfed - the new tank was purchased as our family doesn't trust that the government/municipalities would be able to supply fresh water in the future (many places in South Africa are already having semi-permanent water interruptions without any warning). Therefore the 10 000 L would supply valuable back-up water and can be used for gardening activities in the mean time.
The main garden has gone bonkers since, with the switch to organic liquid feed and conservation agriculture management. I had and explosion of earthworms in the main garden due to my no-tilling system and other critters have swarmed to the garden as the insectary came in nicely this year.
|Main Vegetable Garden December 2014|
To the Pumpkin Patch!!!
So, we basically built a shade-netting greenhouse complete with door (LOL!). Again 20% shade netting offcuts, threading, screws and treated-droppers gives you a vegetable cage with attitude! The top left photo was the cage still under construction and the right is where it has been completed. The brick path did not cost us anything as we had left overs from a previous project. Behind the cage we have an alfalfa patch (the shrubs eaten to ground level by the chickens in the bottom photo), which is about a year old now. We also decided to try our hands at some maize (on the right in the bottom photo) and we planted our large pumpkins in between the maize plants (zucchinis went into the cage).
|Pumpkin Patch Upgrade October 2014|
Tank = 5000 L
|Vegetable Cage October 2014|
The cage cost R 1000 to build, excluding bricks and soil
(Greenhouses this size would easily cost R 20 000+)
The plants love it here and I have strategically placed insect attracting herbs around the cage as well, which has been a huge success seeing that it is swarming with insect activity.
|Pumpkin Patch November 2014|
I apologise for the dark photos - the cage isn't the easiest thing to photograph!
|Vegetable Cage November 2014|
(the un-planted area is an on-going attempt at growing asparagus from seed...)
The upgrades have worked a charm, although my maize and vegetable cage plantings need a bit of revision (too many small/bantam cultivar maize and zucchinis in the cage tend to flatten all plants around them...). Therefore next year I will do more large maize cultivars and the zucchinis are moving outside along with the other squash to the maize plot!
I will likely to a follow up post to this one with the plans and costs of building the cage as well as a few smaller structures should you wish to protect smaller vegetable beds.
Previous related posts:
Want to see what it looked like last year? See: New Year Post & Garden Updates 2014
Want to see what it looked like originally? See: About: This Blog
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