Plot Jottings

Plott Jottings - Ralph & Sam

posted Sep 10, 2009, 12:00 AM by Faye Connors   [ updated Sep 10, 2009, 12:05 AM ]

Garden Experiments in a truck!

Following our successful experiments in roof top gardening and wheelbarrow gardens, Ralph and I decided to up the ante in our experimental (emphasis on mental) gardening trials. This time turning an old truck into a garden and hopefully over time becoming a truck shaped garden with all rust holes, pockets, and gaps growing some wee thing. This is our “ode to peak oil” and a possible use for all cars when the planet has run out of fuel!

We have gardened the truck for just over 12 months now and I will outline the 3 main experimental areas and how the did or did not work

Area 1; the engine area

After removing the bonnet hood, we layered old blankets in the cavity around the engine and other components to create pockets where straw/ poo and potting mix where filled. We also put potting mix in the rust spaces around the window and in other small spaces in the front of the truck.

We planted herbs- calendula, mint, rosemary, parsley, oregano, sage, thyme and nasturtium seeds. Some of the plants survived but did not prosper, most died over the summer. But as we were in Canada for January it did not surprise us. Over the next twelve months we replaced dead plants with experimental strikings of succulents and other hardy plants just to see what grew, mostly we relied on fake plants to provide color and humour!

The engine got one can of water, twice a week.

Conclusion: Failure.

Not enough moisture retaining capacity to support even small shallow rooted plants. Especially over the summer.

Subsequently we have recently pulled everything out and started the process again but this time lining the engine cavity with plastic first and nestling in plastic containers into the bigger holes and planting directly into those as well as filling any other gaps with compost. Hopefully this will hold the moisture for longer allowing the plants to thrive.

We have replanted- mint, chives, chillies, sage, thyme, parsley, marigolds.

Will see how they go?

Area 2; Truck flat tray

In no-dig garden style we lined the existing timber flat tray with cardboard and newspaper, then alternating layers of horse/ chicken/ cow manure and straw. A few potatoes were planted into the mix to help break down the soil. Planting seedlings directly into pockets of potting mix. Over the last 12 months, this mixture has composted down so recently required another few layers of poo and straw.

In the first autumn, we planted strawberries, celery, lavender, rainbow chard, spinach, peas and spring onions. These beds took only 2-3 cans of water twice a week and were reasonably productive. We did not suffer any pest problems and were quite happy with the way this worked with only about 15cm of soil.

We were absent most of winter and did let thing go to seed to then use next time around. The plan for the flat tray is that eventually to have plants there that continually self seed or use plants like herbs and strawberries that we don’t have to continually add to. We also transplanted 2 passionfruit that were not prospering on the fence line and the hope is to train them up over the cab of the truck! Give the truck a hair do!

Our summer crops included strawberries, and self sown spring onions, spaghetti squash and sunflowers. We have recently added celery, broccoli, beetroot, Spanish onions, parsley, oregano, thyme and marigolds.

Conclusion: moderate success

Again inability to hold water is a problem but it seemed to work anyway. It would be good to dig it all up and line with plastic but that job will have to wait. The key to this bed will be to have shallow rooted perennial plants, like strawberries.

Area 3; the Crates

Continuing on with the no-dig/ recycled material theme and on the assumption that the soil at the CG was not particularly good (however, a subsequent soil test proved that theory incorrect, the quality of the soil is in fact quite good but dealing the subsurface limestone quite hard work), we used potato crates to create raised garden beds.

To make these beds we placed bales of straw on the bottom so as we did not have to fill them quite so high and lined the sides with “biscuits” of straw. Most vegies roots only go down between 10-30cm so we were confident the depth would be sufficient. We then alternated the layers of poo and straw and or sawdust and planted directly into pockets of potting mix.

The crates provided protection for the small seedlings to get established and the no-dig method created humus rich composted soil that really held its moisture well. Particularly the crates that used sawdust as the carbon layer.

We planted several generations of brassicas including wombok cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and broadbeans. First generation effectively was wiped but by poor management of cabbage moth, subsequent generations worked amazingly and with a little early management of cabbage moth and then complete neglect over the winter, we had the best crop of broccoli of our entire gardening careers. Our kids fought over who got to eat more broccoli! Management of cabbage moth (which involved picking off the tiny green grubs and squashing them) and plant timing, to avoid the cabbage moth altogether seemed to work well!

Our summer crops with my co-farmers Libby and Lu, consisted of sunflowers, pumpkins, spring onions, calendula, radish, rocket, roly poly carrots, zucchini, peas and beans, (or eating sticks as Gus lovingly calls them) and the “salsa boxes” which has cherry toms, chillies, banana and bell peppers and coriander.

Most crops worked well, despite the heatwave and probably not getting enough water. The crates seemed to protect the plants from the hot northerly winds. The peppers and cherry toms did not fruit at all, the chillies are just starting to fruit now. The pumpkins fruited but the stems shrivelled in the heat leaving small half formed mini pumpkins.

We have just planted another autumn crop of brassicas, Spanish onions and rainbow chard. We have also just filled gaps with spring onion, coriander and rocket seeds.

In winter we will add more broccoli, potatoes and garlic. Also need to add more peas, beans and broad beans.

We always try to companion plant and include a useful flowering plant to attract bees and butterflies. Calendulas and marigolds do this well. I also try to rotate the crops so each season a different thing is grown in a different box.

Plot Jottings - Paula (March 2009)

posted Sep 9, 2009, 11:58 PM by Faye Connors   [ updated Sep 10, 2009, 12:10 AM ]

There has been ablsolutely no planning or forethought, completely adhock!!!

To prepare my bed I put some posts in to put up a make shift chook run and put my chooks in with the plan that they would eat and scratch up the couch and fertilise my plot for me. Day one all going well, chooks happy and me exhausted from making the darn thing. Day two, murder in community arts garden!!!! One chook eaten by a fox and the other traumatised and continued unsuccessful therapy for post traumatic stress disorder until her death 4 weeks ago, RIP Lucy.

Plan B, I made garden edging with bricks (which I planned to concrete in but never got around to). I followed a permaculture principle with a keyhole design to maximize garden edge and access from paths.

I then put newspaper down, about 50 pages thick, followed by chicken manure, horse poo blood and bone topped with a layer of compost to plant into and then mulched with pea straw.

My first year I put in eggplant and tomatoes, these were all late and looked fabulous for the first crop, lots of leaves and flowers but of course completely wasted as they were too late to set fruit. Lesson, no matter how pretty it looks, if it's never going to fruit and feed you then it's a waste of water.

My next plan was to grow a huge amount of garlic that I would not normally give space to at home. I planted probably 15 to 20 Heads (about 100 little bulbs) most of these were bought from diggers and grew pathetically despite TLC. Crop harvest 6 miserably small bulbs!

The other side of the plot I put in onions. I planted probably 2 punnets of seedlings and then replanted every couple of weeks with new ones to replace the ones that died until I had a full bed of thriving onions, so in total I probably planted 4 punnets of onions. This has been one real success. However, the dilemma of when to harvest! My onions never died down as the books described, no mine started to make flowers. I thought I'd better pull them up then and what a crop! I have my porch at home full of hanging plaited onions!! What I have learnt since is not to get too excited about onions and feed them as they will become all leaf and won't die down ( so chook poo, horse poo, blood and bone and litres of seasol and Charlie carp were very, very wrong and totally unnecessary) and the onions won't store well.

I also had luck with shallots too, which basically grew themselves. I bought the bulbs from diggers and put them in my highly fertilized garden plot and watered and seasoled my way to very healthy shallots, alas they were too over fed and could not be stored, although we ate a huge amount of shallots and had lots to give away.

Spring, was my plan to grow pumpkins which were growing happily until the recent heat wave. I also planted some salad potatoes I came across in Daylesford which I planted in January; they were also doing a fabulous growing effort until the 47 degree days. I was away for a month over that heat wave and the fantastic midwives of the "midwife row" Liz and Jo did their best to salvage what they could. The potatoes and the pumpkins despite looking like they were totally dead have been resuscitated since the weather has cooled off and may even give me a crop if I'm lucky.

My next plan is to put some broad beans in next week.

Yes there are no dates as I have no system or planning I just bung in what takes my fancy at the time and hope. However I think what I will now do is follow a little of Judy's experience and at least keep a diary of what I'm doing so I don't make the same blunders in following years.

Plot Jottings - Kirsty

posted Sep 9, 2009, 11:57 PM by Faye Connors

Kirsty’s plot

I had a magnificent crop of seed sewn coriander through winter that kept me and the street in high supply for a month or more. Also had months of heavy cropping broccoli and some very vigorous to give away proportions spinach. Also had two lovely boxes of leaks, again giveaway proportions. And of course loads of silverbeet and beetroot. All of these through winter, along with two boxes of garlic planted june and four boxes spuds, half planted in may (! or even earlier, maybe march/april, Jackie French told me to do it!) the rest in july I think.

The May lot got fried by the frosts in July, so I planted a crop of broad beans over the top, harvested them and chopped them in as mulch only to find the spuds resprouting. These spuds were Kipflers and I got a lovely big harvest in Jan/ Feb. The other boxes, which I hadn't watered much, produced less: russet burbanks (very yummy) and something else I cant remember, these were from official seed spuds but they each produced maybe 3 each, so not a great success. So the spuds I left in the ground till we were ready to eat them which I discovered worked very well, and the garlic I pulled round summer solstice, about a third to half big purple heads, and the rest smaller.

I only planted one fresh summer bed, of eggplant and capsicum as we were to be away over the hols and unable to water. This bed got good but sometimes patchy watering, and the eggplants went crazy, am still eating them and giving them away. They were the small lebanese ones.


On reflection, I think I'd approach summer in a similar way again, but really build up the soil, wet it, cover with newspaper and mulch to percolate quietly in all beds that I haven't put a green crop into or planted. This way all non productive beds are fallow, resting and feeding up for the next growth season...

Plot Jottings - Michael

posted Sep 9, 2009, 11:55 PM by Faye Connors

Michael’s Plot

 Did not keep planting dates (apart from tomatoes which were planted last of all) .

PARSNIP” these were grown from seed (Yates hollow crown winter pick) sown in a 6mm trench. thinned out when shoots are about 25mm and again at 1cm.


CARROT” again sown from seed(Yates all seasons) procedure is the same as for parsnip.


BEETROOT” these were grown from seedlings purchased from  (van-loons nursery) veggie patch beetroot.

When picked my wife took over and used the following recipe:   3 beetroots, teaspoon of salt simmer till tender, approximately 1 hour. Remove skin and slice and place in mixture of 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon sugar 6 peppercorns and ¼ pint vinegar. they were beautiful.


ONION” Brown Spanish seedlings from (van-loons) again I was very pleased with the crop. I did lose a few initially.


CHERRY TOMATOES”  “Oasis” sweet bite toms(van-loons) planted on Grand Final day. I was not happy with this variety, at first they were sweet and juicy but after a time the skins became very tuff and were not good. Was this because they did not get enough water? Can someone advise me on this!

Plot Jottings - Chris & Judy

posted Sep 9, 2009, 11:51 PM by Faye Connors   [ updated Dec 6, 2009, 12:02 PM ]

Judy and Chris’s Plot

Plot Preparation

Dug out all the weeds (and the limestone!) . Added horse and sheep manure and Blood and Bone. Watered seedlings in with Seasol. Added water crystals when planting. Following another plot holders lead, we used plastic milk containers as green houses for seedlings.

Plot Planning

Began a 4 rotating bed system in September with the spring planting based on Peter Cundalls plot (see Gardening Australia website)

Watering and Rescue

Learnt lots from Matt from Van Loon’s Garden Centre about being water wise. Pea straw as mulch and bales as a wind break worked really well.

Harvested all root veg before the very hot days – to save water and make plot manageable in heat.

Rigged up shade out of old white sheets and stakes on those 45 deg days. Managed to salvage tomatoes and zucchinis.

Beetroot – planted seedlings 1st March, picked 1st beetroots end April

Second punnet of seedlings planted 23rd September. Harvest from 1st Dec until mid January. Delicious roasted or grated raw in a salad sandwich.

Silverbeet – planted seedlings (Van Loons) 1st March, began harvest end of March and continuously until end August. Lots to give away.

Parsley – planted seedlings of Curly Leaf and Italian 1st March, began harvest end March and continuously until August

Chives – planted clumps from home – 1st March, harvested over several months

Spring Onions – Planted 1st March, harvested continuously from April until August – a few at a time. Planted more seedlings on13th September and again in early February.

Leeks -planted seedlings 1st March, began harvest 1st July

Snow Peas – sowed seeds (Yates Chinese Snow Peas) mid March and late March, harvest 10th July- end August. Next seeds planted on trellis on 19th September – this crop not as prolific.

Carrots – sowed seeds Nantes organic – Fothergills on 2nd May– no success

Planted more seeds on 13th September and some on seed tape, began harvesting baby carrots 22 Dec until end Jan. Didn’t thin the seedlings.

Garlic – planted bulbs in mid March, harvested in November. Used organic garlic cloves from Elvis Parsley and some Russian garlic given to me by a friend. Each clove formed a clump. Harvested about 40 clumps which, after drying in a cardboard box, I plaited and have stored in the garage on a frame. Delicious roasted whole with zucchinis, peppers and onions.

Coriander – sowed seeds (Mr Fothergill Organic Coriander for Leaf) 1st June, began harvest July until September. Plenty to give away.

Potatoes - Seed potatoes from Diggers - 8 Desiree, 8 Pink Eye. Sprinkle of Potash at planting and again after plants appeared. Covered with compost and pea straw. Mounded up as they grew. January – progressively dug up Desiree spuds as needed. 26th Jan – Dug up Pink Eye – some green due to light getting in. Need more mounding next year. Stored in cardboard box with layers of newspaper between. (Planted 8 Nicola at home in old rubbish bins with holes drilled in the bottom. Some potatoes but not as successful as those in the plot in size or quantity.)

Rhubarb – planted a crown given to me by a friend in August, harvesting stems in January and continuously.

Bush Beans – seeds (Yates Dwarf stringless Pioneer Beans)sown 23rd September into plot. Not as successful as sowing in punnet and transplanting into milk container. (Sowed 8 seeds in punnet every few weeks and had a continuous supply of beans at home )

Zucchini- 9th November – planted a punnet of Gold Rush zucchinis- 2 per hole. Used potash. Hugely productive through January and February. Delicious barbequed with garlic olive oil.

Tomatoes – bought a punnet of red and yellow cherry tomatoes from Van Loons on 9th October which I potted up into 6 inch pots. Staked plants but did not prune, foliage provides fruit protection on hot days. Pinch of potash, Seasol as growing. Planted them out on 1st November. Lots of pea straw. Started to harvest after Christmas and continuously over Jan and Feb. Very productive.

Capsicums – not a success. Overrun by rampant tomatoes, burnt on the hot days. Sacrificed to save water.

(Grew a bush tomato plant from Van Loons at home which was very productive. Will grow more next year in pots as no staking required and good in the wind).

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