Getting back into the garden

It’s one week until the Easter holidays and I am absolutely busting to get back into the yard and get some work done. The last few months have seen very little happen as the usual summer heat brings my efforts to a standstill.

The recent combination of rain and high temperatures have seen an explosion in growth in the fruit and nut trees and with an uncharacteristic break in the weather last weekend I finally managed to get out with the whipper snipper and slash back the 6 foot high grasses and weeds that have established themselves throughout the summer.

When I first planted the garden I tried hard to suppress the weed growth but my position was changed by some of the local Waru permaculture gurus who convinced me that the grow and slash method would build up my soil at a far greater rate. This really seems to have been the case especially since a lot of the weeds that are mixed in are legumes and are adding nitrogen back into the soil. The lemon grass and other varieties grow out of control during the hot weather so that when I slash it all in preparation for the cooler months I end up with a thick layer of mulch on the ground to start the growing season with.

I took a load of garbage to the dump the other week and did my usual check out of the recycling area to see if there was anything that would be useful in the garden. To my joy I nabbed two brand new fibreglass bathtubs for $10 each. they still had their delivery plastic on them and when I took them home and removed the plastic I found them to be flawless. This is the forth time that I have found brand new bathtubs at the dump and I really wish I knew which business keeps throwing them out. If they let me know I would even come and pick them up and pay them for the privilege. It must be something to do with them being last seasons models or something but seriously do people really replace their bathtubs seasonally? Who would care if a bathtub doesn’t have the latest aerodynamic fins just stick a lower price on it! Anyway it works out well for the aquaponic beds and I have enough now to seek out Lynn's advice about using bathtubs to make some wicking beds this year.

The aquaponics has been a rollercoaster ride the last few months with one of my industrial air pumps seizing up after two years of flawless performance. I needed to send the pump in for servicing and was running the large tank just on the emergency backup aeration system.  After a couple of days I was noticing that because I wasn’t mixing the air flow right through from the bottom of the tank like the big pump does, it was causing all of the fish to gather in the top half of the tank. I gave it some thought and finally decided that it was time for a large scale harvest and freezing session especially since a lot of the fish were starting to hit the 2 kg mark.

The number of fish was ridiculous, I gave a washing basket full to my neighbour and then started crating the rest to my parents house where my dad and I worked into the night to gut and scale them. I wish I had gotten some photos but I was wet and mucky from the beginning to end. I will take some of the bags of Jade Perch out of the chest freezer and grab some photos later.

Some of the fish that mum cooked up with a marinara sauce almost tasted like Barramundi though we found that I had let a lot of them grow much too big. The best tasting ones were plate sized and the really large ones were not nearly as nice. I am using one of my IBC containers as a liquid fertilizer container and find that I can put all of the fish waste into it without any serious smell escaping. This container is also good for holding buckets of cane toad bodies that I collect up and down the street and any other material that can’t go into compost but will dilute down in water. I have been putting this water onto the Asparagus and fruit trees and the results have been explosive.

Although it was a pain at the time, the air pump failing turned out to be a god send as my main fish tank suffered damage during the cyclonic winds we had causing it to drain and killing the remaining few fish I had. I was ok with that as we had harvested so many prior to the incident and I now find myself able to do some work on the tanks that I have wanted to for sometime. I made a lot of mistakes when I first put in the tanks and intend to correct these before restocking.

The big green tank is going to be removed and the base redone in concrete rather then crusher dust, I will be plumbing in through tank aerators rather then feeding in air lines from the top and will raise the fibreglass beds by a couple of feet so that the auto-syphons can work reliably. I also need to fit a better sump to one of the AP systems and build a covered deck over them. One of my neighbours told me that they regularly saw predatory birds diving down to my vastly overstocked 7000 litre tank and then taking off with jade perch. There were so many fish in there that I didn’t worry to much as it was just thinning the load for me.

 Greg Rutter

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