Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tassie home

Well hi people where have i been can,t believe its been a few years since my last post. But it has back from my beloved Thailand and once again living in my other place I like to call home Tasmania.

Lot has happened since my last post . Moved back to Tasmania at first renting a small flat for accommodation did that for a year. Started Garden Services Tasmania (GST) a play on the gst tax we have here in Australia.
So back doing what I started doing many years ago in the same State basic gardening for those whom haven,t got the time or expertise.

Whilst I still love gardening I do only a little now of other peoples gardens as I have managed to buy my own piece of paradise after such a long time renting and paying off some one elses mortgage I now can work on my own property.

Having purchased a run down property of a small miners cottage in great disrepair circa 1890s with some two and a half acres of river flats to go with it in the small town of Branxholm North Eastern Tasmania.



 As can be seen by photo it needed a lot of loving when I first acquired it.So there is my project for the next few years or so. I am up to the challenge of course so after my lease ran out in June 2013 I moved to my new abode albeit with draughts a plenty ,possums residing in it and no bathroom facilities or water inside house just a basic shell really and just a bit better than camping at least for the first few weeks.


The property was purchased for a number of reasons one wanting my own place and two wanting to grow vegetables and herbs for sale. As i could see the potential in the house and the land was good for growing things.

Things have progressed rather well in the space of one year I now have bathroom facilities with shower ,toilet etc in a lovely sized bathroom all painted and installed by my self and using recycled materials bought cheaply via my favourite online site Gumtree only buying new if needed.



The bathroom finished was able get onto the other areas of the house have painted the small lounge room installed a wood heater although will have to pull it back out after this winter to refurbish the hearth and get it level is a bit  out of plumb at the moment although functional.
My own bedroom have painted the walls and installed bigger windows on one side and retained the original front windows as i didn,t want to disturb the authenticity of the original building facade.


Again these were second hand windows bought three from a tip shop two i have used in the two bigger bedrooms mine and second one to let more light in and brighten the old house to this end it worked well.Third on will be used in my glass house using second hand windows which i got for free off Gumtree.More on that later as i am still building that and waiting for some extra muscle to place the windows in to my posts . But a good way of using recycled windows for horticulture activities.

My office area is done painted and very functional room with telephone connected which the house didn't have before ,plus some carpet which i got for free off a gardening customer cleaned up it was right at home here. 
Curtains made by myself good thing i know how to use sewing machine watching ex wife and others over the years helped there.

Well that some of the house details more to come but whilst doing Reno still needed to find some way of making a living . Hence a start on Pop,s Garden a concept of growing vegetables and herbs and Asian greens for sale to busy Mums  Chefs and the Restaurant trade growing Heirloom plants and the unusual varieties.
What a challenge herbs grow very well here so do vegetables if i can keep possums out and the wallabies. Climatic conditions have been a learning curve as frosts are severe and wet soil conditions horrendous.So it was a definitely trail and error for the last growing season . Will list some of my success's and failures next post keep tuned Steve Barratt 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weeding

Hi there folks like every one i face the age old problem weeds.No matter how we garden unless we can devote plenty of our valuable time to it those weeds can beat us.

I like most of us have to do other things in my life so i do invite a healthy crops of weeds on occasions.Sometimes too many and it does take me awhile to get back in control but that's gardening.

Now i am one of these people who finds weeding relaxing and not much of a job i don't like so i suspect i subconsciously let them get the upper hand . And i use my hands to pull them out with minimal cultivation maybe a fork to loosen soil a bit. Most of my employees over the years detested weeding and would do other even more smelly jobs or harder jobs to avoid weeding especially by hand.

I've had them go home ,give up the job because of a few weeds ,which i always found amusing as its part of being a gardener.Give them a machine and they were happy and the sprayer was their favourite weapon for weeds. For me the chemical regime always seemed to be a last resort and only for certain areas.

I would use weedicides sparingly and still do around buildings ,hardstand areas,driveways i could justify in my mind and is still the approach i use today.Broad acre areas like lawns i would use selective weedkillers but if you have a regime of regular fertiliser and aeration ,caring for your lawn as if it was a single plant then you get a healthy lawn and less weeds.Because all a lawn is is lots of individual plants grown together.

So weeds what are they ? Usually a plant growing in the wrong place is my definition,and mostly annual ,sometimes perennial and they have been in your soil for maybe years just waiting to rear their heads when you give them the right conditions and you will.

What conditions do we provide well we till the soil,give them water and with a little sun away they go at a fantastic rate. And with our busy lifestyles they soon establish a good crop ,flower ,drop seed all in a matter of weeks and the next crop is already their waiting for similar events.

How to slow that  process down minimal cultivation methods is a good way ,remove weeds before they flower to reduce that fresh seed, good hygiene around the garden beds and compost those weeds if you know how to make a good compost as the heat from a compost heap will kill those seeds.

Mulch your garden beds therefore reducing light and preserving the texture of soil along with all the bbeneficial micro-organisms in the soil. Water as close to your plants as possible avoid watering the new crop of weeds. Ensure an adequate layer of mulch 4inches is a good depth of mulch and use whats seasonally available straw, lucerne ,pea straw , inorganic mulches are good as well things like gravel ,river stone ,some wood chips  can be long lasting although using some of those u may need to add a bit of fertiliser as these type of mulch can be a little toxic and will depleted reserves of chemicals in the soils .


Another excellent way is plant spacing can help reduce weed competition as it takes light away from seed planting closer is a good trick. Ground covers is an excellent way to reduce weeds as is companion planting lots of good books on that subject at amazon .Marigolds are excellent plant for reducing weed grasses as it has a chemical in plant roots which inhibits growth of grasses as does some acacias .


Of course you can use weedicides like glysophate which is good for killing weeds and will not as far as i know stay in the soil. So would be one of the safest one to use ,but you do need to be careful as if get on any young green parts of a plant you like sorry but it Will die. So u would need to paint it on or if spraying a calm day is required and if a chance of rain forget as it does need six hrs of no rain for effectiveness.


If you resort to chemical use please be responsible user and suit up wear approiate safety gear as even Round up can be dangerous ,it will give you headaches if u breathe in the fumes and worse with long exposure so safety ,safety  don,t spray near waterways or near fish because they will die.


So in summary those weeds can be controlled in various ways as can be seen above but the best is by regularly scratching around in your garden on a daily basis and you like me will enjoy your garden too cheers for now Steve Barratt your web based gardener

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hi and good day from a very hot and sunny Thailand.
We are experiencing some very hot weather of late ,and sort of brings me today's subject , water.

After the annual Songrakon festival which is a Buddhist renewal ceremony and celebrates a new year.
This celebration involves lots of water getting thrown about with gay abandon at each other and usually no one escapes from it unless you lock yourself away for a week .

Although in the tourist areas this can go on for more like two,getting the most dollar i suspect.

While i see all this water been thrown about and people having fun me included ,there is a thought process going on . Where is this water coming from and at what cost to the people .

As those in western countries are charged quite serious dollars now for water as the utility's charges are quite high and depending on where you live can be more than a gallon of petrol.

Along with the restrictions they place in summer time ,so water usage is a major concern of most of us in the western world.

Which brings me to the garden ,how to save water ?  What can we do at a home level to still have the gardens we love and enjoy without increasing water consumption.


One of the critical factors in water usage in the garden is planning.Plant selection is crucial for longevity of plants and at same time reducing our dependence on water.


If one lives in a dry environment such as the dryer states in USA and Australia or where water is a scarce item we need to select local plants that are acclimatised for it.

Cacti ,succulents ,local grasses, local trees which with a plan can offer very attractive solution.  It doesn,t mean you have to have a lunar landscape or a desert theme although they can look real good.

The above example are plants with low water requirements and when planted together as in covering the ground and combined with a good mulch will reduce water.

Ask yourself do you really need a massive lawn area ,reducing that can substantially reduce water consumption ,whilst working as a contractor in Western Australia i was often employed to take out peoples lawns and replace with native plants and a inorganic or organic mulch just so to save money and reduce watering. As most councils in Australia enforce watering restrictions for quite long periods of time.

So  after thinking about your plants ,research other ways of reducing water requirements.

Such as installing your own tanks ,using the grey water from household a very effective way of watering the garden although not the veggie area.These gray water systems are very effective for garden beds and can be done quite cheaply even by yourself if bylaws allow.



Building a new home well you have the ideal opportunity to be very water wise ,as with whats available for inclusion to reduce water is amazing. Build a big underground tank ,place house over it ,driveways where you can place water catchment zones as in storage bladders ,where water will percolate from your driveway. Can have taps and fittings water friendly as in saving water usage.


For those of us whom are stuck with established gardens we need plenty of mulch, dripper watering systems .water deeply with i have eluded to before in previous posts .But is an ideal way of reducing plants dependence on water.And we can all do very easily and best garden practice .

If you have that nice lawn watering in the early hours of the morning is the way to go about 3am .plant out a nice large tree for the lawn area that will help with shading the lawn and any other plantings nearby .

This selection from Amazon books can steer u in the right direction and inspire you as well give you handy tips and hints .


I see many home with no trees and yet a tree will in effect make its own water just by transpiration alone but sadly we don't have those nice big trees in our suburbs much. i suspect councils don,t like them for fear of litigation ,or damage to drains etc but like everything selection is the key.

Well there you have some of my thoughts on water and hopefully give you some ideas to implement as its such a big issue and in time as society's grow will be more so .

If you do happen to have some ground plant a tree or two  and watch it grow year by year and leave its mark on this earth for the future.

P's let me know by way of comment of your problems in the garden and i certainly will answer .



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring what a great time

Hi there fellow gardeners like most of you i guess iv"e been busy in the garden . And with building websites my blog has suffered .But never mind its about enjoying what we do .

So to today's writing is about a joy that spring offers warm days ,plenty of sunshine and from what i see on google + a lot of photographers and people into their gardens are taking snaps of birds,who always seem to herald spring along with the jonquils and flowering bulbs.

I have never been to the States but it seems a lot of Flowering Prunus species are abundant from comments on G+ are anything to go by.We here in Thailand have a spring of sorts as all birds are busy rearing babies and the local chicken population has exploded even in my own yard .


The next door neighbours chook brought her seven chicks over, safer than her place she reckoned so i feed them make sure they got water,the neighbour did let me know though they were his. Got to love the Thais if it was the other way round i,d never see them again.

Well in the garden lets do some work ,trim up all those shrubs as the growth will really explode now ,flowering ones after they finished flowering. Lawns will need some attention a couple of handfuls of sulphate ammonia every six weeks will have them looking good.

Fertilise the shrubs as well ,roses give them some attention a good compost with some old manures will be beneficial there. And when watering remember to do it deep and every two or even better three that way can get plants prepared for summer.

Annuals need to be kept growing quickly for best results and when transplanting nip the tops out with your fingers promotes better growth and liquid teas are good for them. Using a fish emulsion or sea weed type of product best here for some spring specials . Amazon have some very good spring promotions on at the moment in all departments so have included the above link.

The all important veggie garden needs feeding as well .and plant out all your beets,broad beans love em ,cauliflower all your cabbages ,peas etc you might like to try some Chinese kale and some Asian vegetables as well , plant seed of tomatoes under cover ready for planting out when it gets a bit warmer .
Whatever it is you like as vegetables now is a good time to sow seed. If you have seen this blog before you will know i like growing food.

Those who have fruit trees fertilise them too and i know a lot of people grow citrus trees so give them a dose of magnesium for a good boost not a lot though a matchbox full around the drip line of the tree is sufficient. As citrus are heavy feeders better to give all fertiliser to them in small doses and regularly.

Whilst on fruit trees a little pruning can be beneficial especially if one was a bit hard on the tree in your winter prune as the tree would respond by putting on lots of new growth so a little tip pruning is very beneficial.

Try and condition your plants this spring regarding watering and by summer they will survive on that three day regime and save you some money from utilities bills or if they have in the States like have in Australia  water restrictions at least plants will cope.

We all need to save water where we can as it a very limited resource and getting more so each day and expensive . So start planning now and be ahead this summer.

Lastly for those of you whom like reading i have found a nice ebook on landscaping with some good designs and great tips on that subject and organic gardening ,and other subjects in it .From what i have read so far seems a good buy so Click Here! to grab yours.



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Building up the soil

Well hello fellow Gardeners.I like most people have been busy in the garden ,keeping up with the watering is a big job here in my garden. And trying to establish order in the Pitya area (dragon fruit) slowly winning although they do bite and the red ants love me.But i like the fruit so i let them win now and again the plants i mean not the ants.

Anyway enough of my gardening antics , this blog i sort of want to continue with what i was refering in the last blog on vegetables as in having good soil.Gardens and plants need good soil ,i know pretty obvious statement. But how many of us have it me included? We generally get what we are given ,unless we are in a position to have the knowledge and money to aquire the ideal growing soil for our plants.

So we move into a new house or an old one and we have what has been left behind normally by the builder or the last occupier. In the case of a new building that could be and usually is building rubble and all topsoil taken away , leaving behind a hard base of not that good soil structure. The last occupier of a property may have been kinder to our soil and started to improve it if they were gardeners and you are likely to have something reasonable to work with. With both scenarios all is not lost and if we have a plan of attack ,with a goal in mind that good soil structure we wish for can be had.

Having said that lets try and steer you in the right direction. First we need to know what type of soil we have .


Is it a clay based soil ,this is important as it affects drainage ,water holding capacity of soil,micro-organisms in the soil ,nutrient availability,and can be a airless soil environment making our soil sour.How do we find out ? Go and dig up a bit of soil moisten it and play with it see if you can form a plasticene type of shape with it as in rolling it out etc. Is it cold and feel silky to touch ,if it can form a shape well and when droppped hold that shape then most likely be a clay based soil.No matter we can still work with it in fact i personally prefer a soil of this nature as some  plants we love actually do well in these type of soil with a bit of help in the drainage department. Roses love these soils as long as no wet feet. Also can get a good cation exchange of nutrients from clay soils.I know we all curse a clay based soil but it,s a good base to work with . Yes its hard work and it does take some time to amend its properties .The best way to fix over a period of time is organic matter,ie compost and lots of it . Can also add a coarse sand initially for a one season solution again would need lots , and you can incorparate about two cupfuls of Gypsum per sqare metre/yard for some benefits as well.If you  do any soil amendment i would do for the whole garden bed and not just where you are digging a hole for a plant ,because once that plant gets to the hard clay 1 dead plant.As i commented  in veggie post slightly damp soil is the way to work with clay soils especially.And clay soils are usually akaline Ph of 9 is not uncommon and the addition of organic matter and limil can sweeten that. I will cover Ph range in another post.


 Now we have the other extreme sandy soils.Gutless water hungry ,very free draining and very low in nutrients Also wettability of a sandy soil can be very frustrating.Which would call on using wetting agents to retain moisture ie dishwashing liquids,low in phosphate though. Technically called surfactants i believe and orginally idea came from Western Australia. Whom have pretty much  sandy soils to contend with. And Ph range of 7to 8.5 is most common although can be more .I have experience with these type of soils and they are a real pain. Can be remedied but like our clay soils require  lots of organic matter and manures even clay pellets can be added to these soils .Of course they do have a couple of good points easy to work with as in being a light soil and if you are doing organic enrichment of these types they respond very quickly to improvemenet as its a warmer soil to get those micro - orgasims working for you.


Now we arrive at what we want in a soil structure  Sandy loam an ideal soil for us gardeners hard to find in most developed areas. In rural situations can be a bit easier to come across .especially on river flats .bottom of hillsides and i am generalising here. But if you think about it logically its where its most likely to occur. With the seasons that nature provides topsoil is washed of the hillsides and ends up on lower valleys etc.
So if you are on those wide open plains under some mountains or hills you more than likely have some good soil to play with. This soil is rich with organic matter and alive with micro-organisms ideal plant growing environment. This type has a healthy Ph range normally can be exceptions depending on what rock is underlying it,but generally in the range of 5.5 to 7.5 and readily amends to soil improvements.

So there you have it some hints on soil types ,things to maybe consider when purchase your next property or as a guide to what you have already got. My next post i will cover Ph what is ideal and what to do if not.

Any questions or comments love to hear from you Steve Barratt web based gardener

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vegetable Patch

Well hello there folks Me again and this post i will blog about my favourite subject vegetables. I like a lot of gardeners of my vintage have a veggie patch and can come from having to grow ones own in our early childhood days or at least our Parents . Mine was certainly from parental interest ,anyway that doesn,t matter ,because the motives are still the same ,saving money,having good fresh produce and healthy for us too and the enjoyment of growing our own. For me its always been vegetables didn,t really get into flowers and shrubs and things only as a way of earning an income. I never seen the sense in putting flowers in my gardens always had to be something you could eat ,that said of course you can eat a lot of flowers too. So where do we start.

 1. A good sunny spot and sheltered from winds is a good idea, vegetables need sun. As do most plants of course but because vegetables are in the main plants which we want to grow very well sunshine is needed. Along with good drainage and lots of humus in the soil,organic matter. We nurture our soils in the veggie patch and build them up over time ,so don,t be too stressed if your first attempts are scrawny veggies. Because time is on our side do things slowly methodicaly and you wil be rewarded

2. Ideally our soil should be free draining , friable with plenty of organic matter. If not we can amend soils to suit our ideal growing conditions by adding whats required. A ph near as Ph 7 would be perfect but not always acheiveable and i have dound a range of 5.5 to 6.5 good for most vegetables ,some exceptions like potatoes whom don,t mind a lower ph in fact it can be a good thing for disease protection. Most of what i just said you gardeners will have already worked out which works for you.

3. Wind can be a big factor i the veggie garden ,so reducing it is always a good idea. Wind can evapourate moisture from the ground very quickly and also bring in weeds and pests.You do need some airflow but gentle is preferred and reducing this is achievable easy. You could put up a hessian screen or shade cloth ,grow a living hedge although they can harbour pests especially over the winter months.So choose carefully there, fruit tres epsalired can be a good wind break if you havent a lot of room.

 4. So now we have our veggie area what to do first , Clear of all weeds mow ,burn if allowed remove by hand or just simply dig them in . Me i would dig them in as once you turn over the soil with your manual soil inverter ( ie spade, fork ) you will get lots more weeds anyway from the thousands of seed in the soil. Add your, manures and probaly some lime in fact if in the States right now i would let my ground get all the climatic conditions that mother nature can throw at this time of year.As i am in Thailland i not get any of that cold really cold conditions which is a pity because i believe it benefits the soil.And we are just coming out of what Thais call winter.

 5. Cultivate the soil to a depth of 12 inches by hand or machine lay out your beds into four feet by four feet plots and about six of these so u can practise crop rotation which is a good practise for plant hygiene,less diseases that way.Have paths between them enough for wheel barrows etc. The paths you can make by taking the soil from where you are having paths and throw back onto gardenbeds thereby raising them and better also for drainage. Give consideration to watering when laying out beds i like some drip type of irigation ,or a simple butterfly sprinkler is the way i do it. Once the tilth of the soil is a nice crumbly texture is time to plant ,when culitivating try and do when there is some moisture in the soil so as not to ruin soil structure.

 6. Plant out your favourite veggies and look after them well . Don,t plant out everything at once spread it out over a three week span and small manageable crops is the way to go. Otherwise you will be disappointed with the results.Feed them on a regular basis once a fortnight with a good liquid feriliser and you,ll have veggies you are proud of. Well there you have it some tips on the veggie patch and until next week i will say cheers.If you at any time have some questions about a specific subject please don,t hesitate to ask ,or leave a comment thanking you Steve Barratt

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hi there fellow gardeners Steve Barratt here with some tips and advice related to gardening.

Over the coming months and years i will endeavour to pass on my knowledge of gardening with weekly insights . To problems you may have ,current trends in gardening, hints on design processes for that Landscaping project. Educational  lessons in text format and short video clips. Where i will show you how to do Things like .

  1. Propagation from seed, cuttings , division , some simple methods for bulbs etc.
  2. Some budding techniques , some basic grafting , Fruit tree pruning.
  3. Mix up your own organic sprays , for those pesky pests and the right time do spray .
  4. Some good lawn tips for a healthy turf.
  5. Vegetable gardening my favourite , tips and companion planting to produce those rich organic crops.
  6. And some personal recommendations of products and some great books.as well,  tools and the care of the same.
From the list above you can get an idea of what i am about . So just to fill you in a bit more i will outline a brief history on myself.  I have been gardening since the age of nine or ten by first growing vegetables in the family back yard. Got the interest off my dad whom used to have a beautiful vegetable garden ,i can remember the vegies he grew and he,d feed them by having a 44 gallon drum filled with water and horse manure bag inside the drum. didn,t half stink but vegies didn,t mind. Its funny now when i look back as he my Dad doesn,t grow vegies now and didn,t grow them anymore once we moved from that house,make a note and ask him one day

Anyway i did and have kept it up all these years ,and i started  growing seedlings to sell when i was thirteen growing them in the back had a 1/4 acre of vegies back then all dug by hand too.When i left school i started work in a nursery a retail one . Which was run by two very good Nursery men and they taught me a good deal about propagation one of my favourite areas of gardening.Also plants mainly English types which is okay in Tasmania where i lived.Also spent some time in a wholesale seedling production nursery run by a Family which is still in operation Today.

So my interest in gardening as a whole has been shaped by some good people and i have taken it further by going to college and getting Qualified in Horticulture. Twenty years of Landscaping and General gardening  as a Contractor for myself . Also have worked in Local Government in the Parks and Garden area.

Have taught at Adult Education in the area of propagation ,and spoken at various garden clubs and been Past Vice President of Tasmanian Herb Growers Ass, a founding member.Have done a three year trail on growing Water chestnuts with some good results . Iv,e gardened in Tasmania ,Victoria , West Australia and now reside in Thailand where i have just under two acres of garden.

Well there you have it folks a little more information for you and some food for thought on the questions which you may have i will do my best to answer.
You can also join me on Google + and participate in my gardening circle or follow my other blog at www.gardening.dinstudio.com

I look forward to helping you gardeners in what ever way i can Thanking you Steve Barratt .