Crop Rotation Plan – Summer 2011-12

Spring is well and truly here and summer is coming up fast.  If you have subscribed to my newsletter you will have received a copy of my crop rotation planner spreadsheet that I use to plan the crops I am going to plant in the coming season and how they will fit into a crop rotation system.  In this post I would like to share my plan for the coming summer.

My summer 2011-12 crop plan

My summer 2011-12 crop plan (click for full size)

As you can see I haven’t necessarily kept to a strict crop rotation program, but it is pretty good!

So if you would like to use a copy of my planner just sign up for my newsletter.  Thanks!

How to Prune Gooseberries

Pruning soft fruit is essential to get the best crop and to minimise pests and diseases.  Gooseberries are no exception.  Following on from my recent text post on pruning redcurrants I have put together a video on how to prune your gooseberries.  This is a job for wintertime when the plants are dormant.  Enjoy!

The Chickens are coming Pt.IV – What breed of chicken?

In our journey into keeping chickens I’ve looked at why keep chickens, where to site your coop and the building of the coop structure. Today I’ll look at the breed of chicken that we went for.

Like many farm animals, chicken breeding has favoured those that are high yielding for intensive farming methods, which is not surprising given this is where most of the demand comes from. However for those looking for backyard chickens, these breeds are not always the best. Yes they may produce large numbers of eggs, but there are other factors to consider.
How family friendly a chicken is was a factor I looked at when I made my choice. Many chicken breeds don’t like to be handled which can be difficult with small children. We made sure our chickens were from a calmer breed. Bantam chickens are supposed to be good in this way, but I felt the eggs were too small with bantams.

Our Barnevelder chickens.

Our Barnevelder chickens.

I also feel that backyard gardeners and smallholders have a responsibility to support genetic diversity, whether that be in choosing vegetables, fruit or livestock. This to me is another reason to choose chicken breeds other than the factory stock birds.

So bearing all these points in mind we decided to go for a breed known as a Barnevelder. They are a medium sized chicken breed originally from Holland that are fairly tolerant of being handled. When they do lay (and ours were slow to get going as they were moulting when we got them) they lay a medium sized egg, up to one per day.

So let me know, what chicken breed(s) have you tried? What were the good and bad points of them? Would you recommend them? Thanks!

Redcurrant pruning success

In my previous post I described how I go about pruning my redcurrants to get the best crop possible. Well it looks like the work has paid off as the number of flowers on the redcurrant bushes is amazing and it looks like I am in for a bumper crop. Take a look at the photo to see what I mean.

Wonderfully abundant redcurrant flowers after this year's pruning.

Wonderfully abundant redcurrant flowers after this year's pruning.

How to Prune Red Currants for a Bumper Crop

Winter is the time to be pruning your red currants to ensure you get the best possible crop for next year. Red currants are a delicious soft fruit that is well worth the effort growing. Like most soft fruit they degrade quickly and transport poorly, so anything you buy commercially is likely to be substandard compared to what you have grown at home. Red currants fruit on established fruiting spurs, and there are certain pruning techniques to support the development of these spurs. We are going to run through these here. If you are someone who prefers to what a video on how this is done, pop on over to my page on pruning gooseberries for a short video. Many of the techniques are very similar. The pruning techniques described here apply to white currants as well, but not black currants as these have different growing and fruiting habits.

Prune for a goblet shape.


After the previous growing season, your currants can look pretty wild.

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Time to start chitting those potatoes


My seed potatoes on the window sill chitting.

My seed potatoes on the window sill chitting.

Wintertime is coming to an end here in Melbourne and it is happening early. It’s just into the start of August here and already the blossom is swelling. According to my usual timeline I won’t be planting my potatoes till September, but given the warmth we’ve had I’m starting to chit mine a bit earlier. For those who aren’t familiar with this, chitting is the process of starting the potatoes off by exposing them to light. This causes shoots to form so by the time you should be planting them outside they already have a head start. You can see, I have mine on the window sill in an old egg box to keep them upright.

So how to you start yours off? Do you chit your potatoes or just pop them in the ground straight away? Let me know by posting a comment below.


How to prune – the fundamentals.

It’s winter here in Melbourne at the moment and for many plants it’s the time of year to be pruning.  This is especially so in the fruit garden.  However good pruning technique is essential to avoid the introduction of disease and to avoid dieback in stems.  While I don’t claim to be an expert, I have put together a short video with what I have found to be essential information on how to prune.  Hope it’s helpful!

So did you find this useful?  Anything else you would like to know?  Write me a comment below and let me know, or share it with your friends.

GIANT or Dwarf – Choose the right apple rootstock

Apples on the tree.

Choosing the right rootstock for your requirements will make your apple tree a welcome part of the garden rather than an nuisance.

When choosing an apple tree for your garden you need to look at which rootstock you want it to grow on.  All apple trees are grafted onto a rootstock.  This means that the fruiting part of the tree at the top is attached to another part that forms the roots – the rootstock – through what is called a graft or join.  This is done because apple trees do not grow true to type from seed.  If you plant the seeds of an apple tree a new variety of apple will grow, most likely one that is small and not very nice to eat.  To ensure you get the apple variety you want, you take a cutting from an existing tree and graft that onto a rootstock.

You could potentially take the cutting from the apple tree and stick it in the ground where it will likely take root and grow.  However the use of certain rootstocks has developed.  This is because the rootstock will often be from a variety of apple that is resistant to diseases and pest.  This helps ensure the tree will be less likely to succumb to those pests and diseases.

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How to Protect Your Plants from Frost

Protecting tender plants from frost is an good skill to have in the garden.  While I think you should grow plants that are suited to your local environment and timed according to the time of year, sometimes it can be worth trying to keep tender plants going.  In this short video I have given a couple of examples about how I am protecting some more tender plants from the cold.  Specifically we look at overwintering an eggplant (aubergine), some capsicums (sweet peppers) and Thai chillies, and lastly some celery (that I planted at the wrong time of year).  Each has different challenges and in the video I present different solutions for each.

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First egg!



Our first egg nestled in the straw.

Our first egg nestled in the straw.

Today we got our first egg from our chickens. If you have been following this blog you will know that I have been writing about getting set up for our chickens. My posts are a bit behind the reality and I haven’t gone into which hens we chose or why, but I just wanted to highlight this milestone. If the chickens keep this up we might just have enough for breakfast by the weekend!