Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Starting over

Spring has arrived a month early, and sent my broccoli heads to flower, rather prematurely. The foraging bees have welcomed the new flowers, but it meant a lot of the hard work I went to, setting up the wicking boxes (1 & 2, and 3) didn't really pay off.

Bye-bye broccoli

I guess that's the problem, setting the wicking boxes underneath, a block retaining wall. As any heat we get, will increase the temperature in the boxes, by quite a bit. Great for winter growing, but not so much for the hotter months. Which is why the early Spring temperatures, have messed with our crops.

We always knew this was going to be a weakness in our design, before we set the wicking boxes under the wall. But we also had plans to mitigate this problem into a growing solution.

Fourth post, just out of shot - avocado, centre

Basically, we're going to construct a trellis, over our vegetable patch, and grow a deciduous vine over it. That way, it should let the sun in, during cold weather, and block the sun, during warmer conditions.

We've already started by setting in the first four posts (above). They're going to be two separate trellises, so we can continue growing the avocado tree, between them. The two raised beds, beside the now pruned avocado tree, should create a nice micro climate for the tree's roots.

They're both raised hugelkultur beds, but I'll write about their construction another time.


In order to get the other four posts in, for our trellis however, it required quite a bit of demolition work, first.

David had to pull down the star-picket trellis, we constructed after Hilltop chicken coop was finished, way back in 2009. So this trellis, has lasted nearly seven years. Well, it mostly survived.

Former trellis - 2009

The sapling trees, we used as a brace between the star pickets, were well and truly rotted out. Perfect hugelkultur material for later. The sapling braces had broken down by the heavy weight of the passionfruit vine, combined with our subtropical conditions, during summer.

The former trellis was easy to say goodbye to. We can always reuse the star pickets, and already have another project in mind. It was the passionfruit vine, which was harder to remove. I don't mean physically hard, it just meant no more passionfruit for the foreseeable future. Not until we find a more suitable location. Six years of production though, then gone!

What's left of the passionfruit vine

Back in it's former days, the passionfruit vine was absolutely prolific. It helped shade the front of the chicken coop from sun, and was a favourite place for small birds to fly to. They helped keep pests under control in our vegetable beds. But there were many bad points, to this location, for our passionfruit vine also.

Passionfruit in the background - July 2012

It was an extremely vigorous grower, and the narrow space it had to inhabit, meant we were constantly pruning it, to keep under control. Constant pruning meant, we got reduced crops, by reducing their flowers. The vine eventually got away on us however, and enveloped the chicken coop for several years.

If we find a more suitable location for passionfruit in the future, it will need ample space to spread out and go wild. The vine, it's flowers, plus the birds and the bees, will be happier for it. So great plant, just the wrong location.

Talking about happy birds though...

Dig in

When David turned over a piece of wood, which had been uncovered from the newly removed vine - our free range chicken, went nuts. It was absolutely covered in Slaters.

To keep the other hens happy, we moved the board into the chicken coop, and they picked off the rest. A lot of our earthworks recently, also revealed quite a few curl grubs. They too, became another source of rich protein for our laying hens. I guess our passionfruit vine was responsible for attracting those too.

Back to work!

In the meantime, we're busy cleaning up our mess, and making way for new infrastructure. It's taken quite a bit of our time, to get this far. We were hoping to have it finished before the hot weather moved in. Sometimes you just have to work with whatever the seasons provide though.

Once built, we'll temporarily use shade cloth on the trellis, before the vine grows across the new structure. We're thinking, grapes and chokos!


  1. I think I planted my brassicas fairly late, Chris. I still haven't got any broccoli ready for picking and such a shame yours bolted. I daresay it is always a bit hotter for you down the hill. We had rain overnight so there will be more weeds to pull out :-)

    1. I'm happy to report, we got that rain you did, too. It's nice when nature does the irrigating for us, isn't it? I'm hoping my cauliflower might be savable, as it hasn't headed yet. Planting your brasicas late, may have just saved them from the hot spell we had recently.

  2. I think the trick with broccoli and also cauliflower (based on my disasters here) is to pick them when you think they are less than ready because if you don't, a heatwave will arrive like clockwork. lol. I'm sorry you lost them as theres nothing like brocolli that survives heat and then gets hit with a bit of chilly air for a day or so. My favorite.

    1. Experience has to count for something! Thanks for sharing yours. I think you just might be right about picking early. There was a point I was going to pick that head early, but told myself to be more patient. I'll know better next time. ;)


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