Castoffs Make an Instant Trellis
I have been thinking about how to build a trellis for the climbing plants I want to grow. Plants like cucumber, climbing beans, some Asian climbing plants and maybe some gourds.
I needed a fairly strong trellis and was thinking that a sheet of concrete reinforcing wire might just do the trick. They are about 6 x 3 metres with 20 x 20 cm squares.
Well, low and behold the concretors doing the driveway on the new house two doors up left some reo and steel in the block next door that is for sale. They didn’t return to get it and the owner had to organise its removal. So I grabbed a sheet before the steel merchant took it.
All the original blocks around me are the quintessential Australian quarter acre blocks or just over 1000 sqm. As they get subdivided and new houses built, the new owners usually put in a new fence. The old fences
have water pipe as their top rail and I have managed to collect a few lengths.The next task was to use the water pipe as uprights. I purchased a star picket driver from The Shade Centre for around $40 and using a step ladder was able to get high enough to drive the three lengths of water pipe around 1.5 mtrs into the ground.
Using gal tie wire I wired the reo to the water pipe uprights and voila, instant trellis. I know the reo will get quite rusty over time, but it will last a few years, and in that time I will figure out the best location for the future trellis.
I have been collecting cardboard for quite a while and used it to cover all the grass below the trellis and covered the cardboard with about 30cm of compost.
The final touch was installing the dripper line. Now all I need to do is plant.
Gardening is a learning curve and the best way to get better at it is to keep doing it and try and keep some records so you can look back and see what works at what time of year. You will get failures along the way, but they are one step in finding out what grows well in your area, what insects cause the most damage and experiments in trying to overcome them.
These little suckers (in the literal sense of the word) are up there with cane toads and white cabbage butterfly as a pest that causes me to think of genocide. When you see your hard work devastated by a pest, you start to understand why the majority of farmers and gardeners turn to chemicals to rid them of the problem.
In the picture above you can see all the aphids on the Wombok growing in the wicking bed. I have sprayed them with a mixtrure of dishwashing liquid and grapeseed oil. Many sites recommend a horticultural oil, which is quite expensive. I have found that olive oil, canola oil or any cooking oil that is in the cupboard seems to do ok.
Horticultural Oil is a petroleum derivative. That’s why it is more expensive. Though with the price of oil below $50 a barrel, maybe it will become less expensive. But somehow, eating produce that has been sprayed with petroleum oil doesn’t really appeal to me.
Aphid Infestation Crop Loss
While spraying, I figured I was wasteing my time and the infestation was that bad that the only cure was to remove the infested plants. I ended up keeping two Wombok that weren’t as badly affected to see if the spraying worked. The rest went to the compost heap.
Not all Doom and Gloom
As you can see there are still plenty of vegetables left. It would appear that aphids are sweettooths, and don’t find the produce that is more on the bitter side palatable. The spinach, endive and minutina weren’t touched. Some would say that the aphids have good taste, as I would have said when I was a kid. But as it happens my taste has changed over the years and I am pleased to find non aphid infested produce.
I can also verify that aphids don’t infest broad beans. Another vegetable that wasn’t on my favourite list as a child.
Another vegetable we use in soups and sometimes a stir fry is Garland Chrysanthemum. It is used a lot in Taiwan and I bought the seeds at an Asian grocer in Sunnybank. They are easy to grow and the aphids leave them alone.
The lady of the house likes these so much they have all been picked.
Gardening is not always beer and skittles. But whenever you get a problem, you have a chance to use your problem solving abilities.
I have re-learned that I am not ruthless enough in the garden. Whenever I plant seeds, I find it very difficult to thin them out. I am often transplanting them or letting them all grow. This was the case with the Womboks, cabbages and cauliflowers in the wicking bed. Having them too close together has meant that the aphids have found it easy to move from one plant to the other and it is difficult to inspect the plants.
The bright side is, with the Womboks gone, there is now more room for some more of the Garland Chrysanthemum. They will be planted with good separation and culled if too close together.
I planted some Black Russian Tomatoes in the wicking bed and showed how to tie them up and prune them. These are some very strong tomato vines.
This vine has one set of roots and two laterals that I have tied with string to the overhead wire. As the vine grows, I wind it around the string and prune any more laterals that grow.
This is the other tomato in the wicking bed. The photo doesn’t show it well but the stem on these tomatoes are about 25mm (1″) thick. They are like a tree. Tomatoes have formed on the lower trusses and laterals are trying to grow on the ends of the trusses. They are vigorous vines.
I overplanted the wicking bed a little, but everything seems to be growing gangbusters. It is good to see a brassica without caterpillar damage from the white cabbage moths. I am overblessed with them in this location.
In between the tomato and the cabbage are French beans. I planted six in the wicking bed and more outside. Although some are getting smothered by the cabbages, I was able to pick 1/2 a kilo from them today. They are producing beans better in this location than out in the garden.
Like most things, gardening is a learning curve. One of the best things you can learn to do is keep a diary and record what you did and the results. It makes your life much easier next year when you decide when and what to plant.
In the picture above you can see broad beans over 2 metres high. I have been nipping the tips from them to stop their growth in height but they still seem to be getting taller. As a result, they are lodging, that’s farm speak for falling over.
These beans were planted in early April around the 12th. I can now see that I planted too early. I went back through some scrappy notes I had made and found that in 2013 I planted broad beans in mid May. I couldn’t find any notes for 2014.
I am getting some beans from the crop, but nowhere near what I expected. There will be about five kilos of beans harvested, but for the area taken and the size of the plants there should be ten times more.
To give you and idea, we are still using broad beans frozen from last years crop in soups and stews. This year I planted 20 bean seeds and this year 40. Timing is the difference between the harvest from last year and this year.
Next year will be different. I will take good notes and stagger the planting and plant 6 beans every two weeks from mid April. I will mark each group and keep a record of how they grow and the harvest. I will have growing broad beans down pat for my location in Brisbane.
I will also be quite ruthless with nipping the top out of the plants so they don’t grow so high. Just when they are starting to set beans, the late winter – early spring winds appear. Even though I had the beans supported, they still lodged in the wind.