"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - August 2013
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Here's to a Mixed Salad!
- Take a Garden for a Test Drive!
- Penny Wise: Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back
- Best of the Vault: Home Grown
- Best of the Forum: Spring is in the Air!
- Best Members' Blog: And Then the SS Way of Life Just Clicked...
- Hidden Gems: Logan Food Gardeners
- Cooking with Mimi: Chilli Con Carne... Make it Light and Fresh With Greens From the Garden
- Claire’s Corner: Cashing in on the Spring Clean
- 50c Indulgences: Acres of Diamonds
- Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Prepping the Patch for Spring
How are you going? Here is your August newsletter. What happened to July you may ask. It is [ducks for cover] still on its way. If you would like to find out what the mysterious new project is, drop in to the Simple Savings Forum where members are busy testing it ahead of the big launch.
We also love receiving your emails and Facebook messages. Here are a few of this month's favourites:
"Just when I think I have read, and tried, every money-saving tip, Simple Savings surprises me once again." (Jayne)
"I've just renewed for another year – keep up the great work." (Anne)
"Just wanted to thank you for all the great tips in the Vault. I needed to buy some new dog flea treatment but thought I'd have a look in the Vault first and found a number of great hints to try – natural and inexpensive. Thank you!" (Lee)
Have a great month!
All the best,
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Here's to a Mixed Salad!
"Good grief, haven’t seen you in gumboots for a while!" Pete stopped in his tracks at the sight of his wife. "What’s the occasion?" "I’m getting out in the garden this weekend. I’ve decided it’s high time we grew more of our own food. Do you know, when I went to Hanna’s yesterday, she was literally just grabbing things out of the garden as we were chatting, then just threw it all together for lunch? I want us to be able to have that too, Pete," Sally explained.
"Hey, no arguments from me!" said Pete. "I think it’s a great idea!" "It will be good to have a project I can really get my teeth into," said Sally. "I’ve got tomato, cucumber, zucchini – even a few seed potatoes to plant!" "Good on you, Love!" Pete grinned. "Would you like me to make you a couple of trellises for your cucumbers and tomatoes to grow up? I’m sure I’ve got some stuff in the shed that might do." "Oh thanks, Love, that would be great!" Sally beamed. She couldn’t wait to get started!
Pete returned a while later with his recycled masterpieces. "Here you go!" he said proudly. "Where have you planted them?" Sally looked around the patch of freshly sown dirt. "Oh heck!" she thought to herself, "I don’t know!" She had been in such an excited hurry to plant everything she forgot to mark each row as she went! Sally took one look at Pete’s excited face and did the only thing she could think of – lie through her teeth. "The cucumbers go over there and the tomatoes there," she pointed randomly. "But I don’t think we’re supposed to put the trellises in yet. We have to wait for the seeds to sprout," she said knowledgeably. "Whatever you say, Sal," Pete smiled. "My wife, a professional gardener! Who would have thought?"
2. Take a Garden for a Test Drive!
Sal might need to work a bit more on her garden know-how, but her enthusiasm is right up there! Sometimes that is the hardest part of any new project; getting motivated. You want to start a garden but the thought of deciding on your patch, making your garden beds, getting manure and deciding what to plant is just too much. It's not that you're not enthusiastic; you just need a bit of inspiration to get you going. Well, we have the perfect way to inspire you – take a garden for a test drive!
Now this doesn't mean putting on camouflage make-up and commando-crawling round your neighbour's pumpkin patch in the middle of the night – because that would be creepy – but we DO have something much more friendly and practical in mind. It's called Community Gardening. A community garden is a garden started and maintained by a group of people who want to share their love of gardening with their community. The first Community Garden started in Melbourne over 30 years ago. Since then, hundreds of groups have found a patch to call their own and started sharing their knowledge with others. Community gardens are a fantastic way to get a bit of dirt under your fingernails and see what all this gardening fuss is about. You don't need to take anything with you but your curiosity, a Thermos and maybe some bickies to share!
Besides the warm fuzzies you get from being part of a community group, community gardening is a perfect way to try out gardening for yourself. It is a fantastic way to meet gardening gurus who can guide you and teach you about gardening first-hand. Community gardens are perfect if you're renting, living in a unit or just don't have the space or ideal spot for a garden. They are wonderful if you are concerned about the upfront expense of building your own garden beds, which can be quite expensive. If time is an issue in your life, community gardening is a perfect way for you to get a bit greener without worrying about fitting planting, watering and maintenance into your busy schedule.
Community gardens are a fantastic resource for first time gardeners who want to learn more. Not only will you have new green friends to help you on your way, many community gardens have workshops and special events where you can pick up even more knowledge. Throw in the possibility of seed-sharing and making new friends – well, it's just a bit irresistible isn't it!
To find community gardens near you, just Google 'community garden' and your location – many are run by councils, community groups, co-ops and so on and it may take a bit of 'digging'. Ask around as well. Can't find one? Start your own: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s3592912.htm
3. Penny Wise: Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back
Wow, I can't believe it's already been a whole month since we moved house! I have to admit, reaching the month milestone was a fantastic feeling. I guess my confidence is still a little shaky from the bank debacle - and there are always people out there who think you are doomed to fail. For the first month I was so terrified I was going to run out of money, I almost had a panic attack every time I spent anything. I lost count of the sleepless nights I had, worrying how I was going to pay this and that. Finally I plucked up courage to check my bank balance and almost fell over to discover I had a lot more money in there than I thought. What a profound lesson Penny - if you don't spend anything it actually stays in your account! Not bad, especially after both my boys' birthdays falling in the same month too!
For a couple of days I was on Cloud Nine. I was a home owner, a she-warrior, a financial whiz! Not only had I got through the first month, I even had savings! I allowed myself to get a little complacent, took the boys out for the day and bought Ali some new shoes, which was a big mistake because the very next day - BANG - in just two bills I was $3000 down. I thought that my legal costs had automatically been taken out by my solicitor at the time of settlement. They hadn't so it was a big shock to receive a bill for more than $1400 that I now had to find! In addition, when I checked my bank balance on the 14th of the month, I believed that my first mortgage payment had already come out on the 8th as was originally scheduled, so it came as another big shock to realise that it hadn't. The bank had moved my payment date to the 26th of the month without telling me. All of a sudden things were not looking quite so rosy - and there were still so many bills coming up!
So, as successful as the first month was, the second is going to be an even tougher challenge. The boys are great, they understand how it is. For the first time I'm really seeing the value of No Spend Month on a personal level and this is what we are going to have to do. I am so, so happy that I have all my Simple Savings skills to help me because it's these that are going to get us through and I am looking forward to making the most of them. I'm very fortunate that I have taken over a garden already full of food, with more to come and this is going to be a huge help. Currently I have lettuces, silverbeet, carrots, strawberries, tamarillos, oranges, lemons, lemonades, mandarins and enough parsley and rosemary to give to the whole town! Ali has always been interested in growing things. When he was tiny he grew tomatoes which were so delicious my friends used to pay him for them! But that was a long time ago and now he has taken on the position of Chief Gardener for the three of us, we both have a lot of learning to do! I'm looking forward to it - if only it would stop raining!
There are plenty of areas we can still improve, such as power. Being the hippy I am, I try and keep the lights off as much as possible once the dinner dishes are done and rely on my salt lamps for lighting at night instead. I've no idea how much it saves but it FEELS more economical! Plus they add a wonderful cosy feel to our little house at night that somehow brings us all together. Liam used to sit upstairs in his room all night but now we all hang out in the lounge together talking and laughing and watching movies and it's lovely. But I need to stop leaving the TV on as background noise to 'keep me company' when I'm working during the day! And getting washing dry in the weather conditions we've had since we moved is pretty much impossible. I've honestly managed to get no more than two or three loads dry naturally in the last five weeks! So frustrating having to use the dryer all the time, not to mention expensive. At the last house I used clothes horses with great success but this house is too compact to use more than just one small one without being a very risky fire hazard! It doesn't help that the washing line isn't in the best place, being stuck down the side of the house where no sunlight seems to reach. Things just HANG there, day after day! In the end I got fed up and bought a length of washing line and strung it up in a better place. Now it just needs to stop raining!
And then there's the age old issue of me just being plain old disorganised. I dread to think how much this dastardly trait has cost me over the years - but I have found something that helps! I had an epiphany at 4.30 the other morning while lying awake convincing myself I had no money. I was wondering how to remind myself how not to forget something important in the morning and it dawned on me - why didn't I download a free shopping list app for my phone? Surely there had to be one? Quite a lot more than one I discovered! I just chose one from NZ supermarket Pak and Save and this works really well for me. Because I'm never without my phone I can instantly add things as I remember them, no more forgetting to write things down or going out and leaving my shopping list still on the fridge! But a great bonus I've found is that not only does it stop me forgetting what IS important, it also helps me to evaluate what ISN'T important. Every time I have to make a trip to town now, I consult my phone list to ensure I'm making the most of my trip - and nine times out of ten I end up wiping off items that I thought were important at the time but on revisiting them, realise they actually aren't important at all!
So I guess you can say I'm trying my best and hopefully my best will keep on getting better. Oh, before I go I must show you one saving I'm rather proud of! Our town has a great 'Buy, Sell, Swap' group on Facebook, which I keep a close eye on. I was looking for a small table to go by the front door but didn't want to spend too much. Then a few days ago I saw a rusty old style telephone table come up. I wouldn't normally have looked twice at it, but something in the way the seller said 'Would look brilliant if it was done up!' made me perk up my ears. The table was only $12 but for me it was a risky purchase. I am the world's least arty-crafty person and the chances of this project going horribly wrong were extremely high! Still, I figured it was pretty hard for this potential piece of scrap to look much worse than it already did, so I handed over $12 and went ferreting in the shed for a can of black spray paint I knew I had. And whaddya know, it WORKED! In just one hour, I had transformed it into something I absolutely loved! Even Liam, who on seeing it said 'What the hell did you buy that for?' saw the new improved version and said 'Wow, that looks awesome, Mum!' Praise indeed from my cynical teen!
Here it is before:
I reckon that was $12 very well spent! But even so, that was before I was $3000 down. Now the pressure is really on to save harder than I ever have before!
4. Best of the Vault: Home Grown
Watching something grow is magic, and you don't have to be a Greenfingers OR a magician to make it happen! There are some wonderfully easy ways to get some greenery into your life so why not try some of the tips we've 'weeded' out of the Vault!
Grow your own herbal teas
I am saving heaps on delicious herbal teas by growing what I need to make my own! I love drinking herbal teas but I have found over time they can be quite costly, and more expensive than normal black tea. A closer look at my favourite tea bags revealed that all that is in them is dried herbs! So I planted a few of my favourite herbs in the garden, dry them, and use them in boiling water to make my own herbal teas. Here's how I make some of my favourites:
Chamomile Tea -
Pick the flowers of the chamomile plant, about two tablespoons, and infuse them in a mug of boiling water for five minutes. Strain into a mug and enjoy!
Peppermint Tea -
Pick about two tablespoons of peppermint leaves, and infuse them in a mug of boiling water for five minutes. Strain into a mug - delicious!
This same process applies to all fresh herbs that you would normally have in herbal tea. If you prefer to dry your herbs after picking them, use only half a tablespoon of the dried herbs. So much cheaper than bought tea bags and far more rewarding too!
Grow your garlic
You know how expensive garlic is! Do you know that you can have enough garlic for the year if you follow this method? Buy a whole garlic bulb cluster from the supermarket, place it in a glass and fill till it covers half the bulb, wait four days for it to show a green shoot, break it up into individual cloves and plant in your garden. Wait till it falls over and you can even leave it in the ground till you want to use it. Saves you so much money. You can dry it, preserve it in brine or add it to your favourite preserves.
Shallots that last a whole year
I now buy only one bunch of shallots (spring onions, scallions) a year. As soon as I buy a bunch, I cut about 2.5 cm from the bottom of the bunch - the part with the roots on it. I then plant the roots either in the garden or in a couple of pots, and just snip off as much as I need for my fried rice, garnish curls and so on. They need very little water and will keep on growing throughout the whole year.
Shallots range in price from just under $1.00 up to $2.79. I used to buy one bunch at least every fortnight. Sometimes you can pick up a limp bunch from the reduced grocery section for around $0.30c. Plant the roots of these as soon as possible.
Tips for summer garden savings
I'm trying to grow more food this summer, here are a few of the things I'm doing to help save money along the way:
Instead of buying expensive packets of seed and plants, I used saved seeds from last year to propagate runner beans, dwarf beans, chillies and tomatoes. I planted them in recycled trays from last year using a small bag of seed raising mix.
A tip I got from a gardening blog - soak blue peas (green peas) in water for 24 hours. Fill a wide shallow tray with potting mix and sprinkle over the soaked seeds then cover with a layer of seed raising mix. Pea shoots will grow within days. Then, just cut them off with scissors as you need them in stir-fries, salads and so on.
Use stems from shop-bought watercress and ong choi (an Asian vegie) to propagate new plants in pots. They grow very fast and are delicious in stir-fries and soups.
Buy $1.00 or $1.50 six-packs of lettuce every three or four weeks and plant them. You will have a constant supply of lettuce for the entire summer for about $1.00 a week. Snip off the leaves as you need them. Even if you don't have a garden, you can grow lettuces in pots, grow bags or hanging baskets. It's even cheaper if you propagate your own from seeds!
Recycle containers whenever you can. I make grow bags out of old rice bags.
5. Best of the Forum: Spring is in the Air!
Spring is here! This beautiful time of the year brings beautiful weather and with it, new life – so get out there and start enjoying nature at her best! Here are some great discussions about getting 'green' this time of the year...
It's cheap and easy mulch available to everyone – here are some tips.
Don't do a 'Sally' – know what is where!
Simple Savings members have answers for everything!
Some more community garden ideas.
6. Best Members' Blog: And Then the SS Way of Life Just Clicked...
One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.
This month's winner is Tinker for her blog on finally 'getting it'!
I came to SS a few years ago with around $28k in personal debt that my DH and I had carelessly accumulated. After reading this site and seeing how far people could stretch their money I went like a bull at a gate to lower our debt. Whilst this started working (went from $28k to $8k) the mindset in our household hadn't changed so we were inevitably on our way back to a downward spiral. I fell off the wagon and we put another $5k on the credit card and added $5k to our personal loan for renovations. Oh, and bought a $1k lounge on interest free.
I could never figure out why we couldn't get ahead - ridiculous I know. There we were with expensive take away in our hands, surrounded by new furniture and brochures for holidays we couldn't afford in front of us saying, "How are we going to pay the rates?"
I had my DD and through cabin fever, boredom, wanting to expand my mind from "What time did I last feed? What time is it now? When was the last time I showered?" I ordered a copy of the Tightwad Gazette. WOW. What a fantastic read. It changed my whole way of thinking about money. I then read books like "The Story of Stuff" and "G Magazine" and started to change my way of thinking in regards to the environment and consumerism. After my brain going into overdrive with excitement and motivation I jumped back onto SS and got hooked on the threads that KEEP me inspired on a daily basis.
We have been living differently for around a month now and I don't feel deprived - I feel inspired. I love to look for things second hand now before we buy anything new. Why put more pressure on the earth's resources for new things, put old things in landfill and waste money when you can pick up beautiful things second hand if you wait/search for the right thing? Just recently my second hand list comprised of dresses, kids’ clothes, dining table and chairs and a beautiful hutch. I wanted a feature wall of photos so I went to the op shop and purchased a bunch of frames in different shapes and sizes and came home and sprayed them all with black spray paint, put pics in them and hung them in a jumbled pattern on the wall. It looks amazing and only cost me around $20 for 13 frames that cover a good chunk of the wall.
I also want our kids to grow up appreciating things. I did a big cull of my DD's toys and will take the overflow to the op shop. DD3 hasn't even noticed the cull. She had so many toys it was out of control - 99% given to her from family and not us. I have stressed to people that I want this Christmas to be a simple one. It's insane in my eyes to give a 3yr old bags and bags of presents. She will be opening one and already looking at what's next. That isn't how it should be. I want her to appreciate every present she receives. I have a feeling I have my work cut out for me on this one.
So this is my first ever blog and it feels great to write this all down. I really feel like I've turned a corner personally and I'm feeling quite chuffed. Thank you SS land :)
Well done Tinker – keep up the great work! You can read more of our members' blogs here.
7. Hidden Gems: Logan Food Gardeners
Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members source the best deals in their area. This month's Hidden Gem is Logan Food Gardeners as nominated by Julie Faint.
As part of the Logan Food Gardeners' online community group, you can go to Crop Swapping Groups which happen every couple of months. This is where members get together and either purchase or swap home grown produce. It's brilliant as you can collect fresh home grown produce and also off-load surplus produce that you've grown. There are similar groups in all capital cities and membership to most of them is free.
A good tip is to price fresh produce realistically and also be prepared to swap items, and check what items each Crop Swap sells before you go.
Well done Julie on locating such a fantastic hidden gem and thanks so much for sharing.
8. Cooking with Mimi: Chilli Con Carne... Make it Light and Fresh With Greens From the Garden
It's almost that time of year when we put aside the warming dishes we've enjoyed through winter and embrace the fresh, crisp salads of spring.
But just before we do, I've made over our favourite Mexican meal and lightened it up with fresh herbs and crunchy green vegies. This is served without corn chips, rice or sour cream, making it a health conscious alternative to the usual Mexican fare.
Herbs and vegies like capsicum, chilli, and tomatoes are easy for even the garden novice to grow, and this dish makes good use of these and a couple of other herby favourites, so plant a few kitchen garden basics and you're off and running!
Mimi's Fresh and Green Chilli Con Carne
- Cooking spray
- 1kg mince (any kind)
- 1 red capsicum, deseeded and chopped
- 2 onions, peeled and chopped
- 6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 tin beans or bean mix, drained and rinsed until it stops frothing
- 2 large red chillis, deseeded and sliced finely
- 3-4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 beef stock cubes
- 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp smoky paprika
- 1 1/2 cups water
- A handful of snow peas or green beans, topped and tailed
- A couple of stalks of fresh coriander
Spray a large frying pan or wok with the cooking spray and heat over a medium-hot hotplate.
Once hot, add your diced onions, stirring for a minute or two until they turn translucent. Add your mince to the pan. Break it up with a spoon and brown it well.
Remove the pan from the hotplate, and drain the liquids and fat carefully. Return it to the heat.
Add all of the other ingredients except for the snow peas and fresh coriander. Don't be frightened of the cocoa. It adds colour and a depth of flavour in much the same way as fish sauce to Thai food, or anchovies to Italian. It won't make your chilli taste like chocolate, I promise! Just make sure it's unsweetened cocoa and not drinking chocolate.
Stir well to combine and reduce the heat to very low. Allow the chilli con carne to simmer, until most of the liquid has disappeared. Stir regularly to prevent it sticking to the pan.
Taste test and add salt and pepper if you wish.
Serve in bowls, garnished with the snow peas or green beans.
Absolutely delicious and a real taste of spring.
You can discover more of Mimi's creations on the Simple Savings Facebook page.
9. Claire’s Corner: Cashing in on the Spring Clean
Dear Summer… I know that last time we spoke I was all like ‘Leave me alone, you’re smothering me. I need a change. It’s not you, it’s me.’ But I’m sorry. Truly I am. Come back, I’ve changed, I’m cold… I miss you! I just want to feel your warm embrace once more!
Ha. Ever have one of ‘those’ winters when you promise that no matter how hot it gets this summer, you’ll love every moment of it and not complain once about it being too hot! We had an absolute corker last summer. But it really did get too hot with the green hillsides turning brown and the poor animals all desperate for water. By March we were all complaining. However, after standing at the bus-stop in the rain day-in-day-out (and forgetting my umbrella far too often), I am ready to ditch my jacket, boots and wintery scarves to feel the sunshine on my face again!
Every time I walk past my kayak (which sits outside, woefully unused) I get wonderful flashbacks of being out on the water last summer (I kayaked for the first time ever in my life about this time last year… and was hooked!). I can’t wait to get into it again. But we’ve decided we need to get a second kayak (a double) for hubby and daughter. Unfortunately, as the trees round here refuse to grow money, we’ve had to put our thinking caps on about how to raise the funds. But after another weekend of lecturing the kids about cleaning their rooms, it came to me. Time for a spring clean/sell off!
My youngest is at that age where she now has toys and books that are far too young for her, but they’ve been so well-loved that it’s hard to let them go! But I also realise we’re never going to read ‘My First Ballet Class’ again, and that she no longer has an interest in that pony set that she used to love. It also occurred to me, while I was watching hubby do the usual grapple with the swing set as he mowed the lawns, that the kids haven’t actually used the swing set in years! We’ve just become so used to seeing all this ‘stuff’ around, that we forget that we don’t really need it anymore! But there will be someone out there who is looking for a terrific swing/monkey bar set in excellent condition, and there will be a little girl who loves reading about ballet. So this weekend, I’ll be photographing and writing ads for all our ‘loved, but no longer needed stuff’, in an effort to bulk out our ‘kayak account’.
Yep, I love spring. There’s just something about all that new growth and birdsong that makes you realise that there’s a sunny light at the end of the winter tunnel! I’m also chomping at the bit to get my gardening gloves on and transform my boggy, overgrown gardens and get the lawns looking decent again. Although, to be fair, this winter I did manage to keep my vegie garden in business. I planted it out with my favourite greens (silverbeet, spinach and spring onions). And I tried something totally new – kale. It seems to be the latest ‘superfood’ in all the mags, plus my Weight Watchers leader raves about it (oh, 9.3kg down since March by the way… not bad eh?). So I popped a few punnets in and away it went! And I love it! My fave is kale chips – just a little oil and salt on the leaves and bake for about 20 minutes. Even my fussiest child loves them! And considering it costs around $5.00 for a bunch of 4-5 leaves at the supermarket, I’m pretty jolly pleased with kale-growing self!
I even managed to keep a little salad garden going over winter. Rather than plant in the ground, I used some medium-sized plastic pots that had been sitting under the house from years gone by. They’re brilliant – I can move them around in the sun, and it’s much easier to keep the snails out. I’m going to plant four or five pots of salad greens this summer, we go through bags of it and it’s just so expensive. I’m also planning to plant tomato plants, some green beans and some potatoes as soon as summer stops sulking and comes back (I love you summer!). There’s nothing more delicious than home-grown beans and spuds with just a little butter and a nice slice or two of ham!
Summer is going to be so surprised with me when it finally arrives! Can’t wait!
10. 50c Indulgences: Acres of Diamonds
Our Indulgences under 50c thread theme for August has been ‘Acres of Diamonds’. It's about things we have around us, right under our noses that are just wonderful and so helpful or useful and we don't even know it! We covered at least one discovery every day and saw lots of things through fresh eyes. I love turning something ordinary into something fantastic and useful, all for pennies. For an enormous list of inspirational ideas, take a look through the thread and mine some diamonds of your own!
To get us going I'm going to take a look at frames. Many of us have old picture frames lying around unused. I like the old ornate ones but rustic ones are also lovely. Sometimes you'll find them in the shed, missing glass or backing. I have found lots in op shops or discarded by someone. They are so useful I never fail to grab them! My recent project has been to turn them into blackboards - I love blackboards! You can write something inspirational on them, use them to help get organised or just have them as part of your décor. They also make fantastic gifts. I have painted blackboard paint straight over glass or a hideous painting!
Inspiration boards or photo displays are another lovely idea. Why not put your favourite images where you can enjoy them every day? An empty frame is easy to turn into an inspiration board. This one I filled with small chicken wire and use little pegs to hold my pictures on. I found this frame, painted it and tacked in the wire myself. It has given me so much joy.
A nice frame becomes a tray so easily – trays are so handy! I did this one (below) filling it with pretty things and adding handles from the hardware store. These make lovely gifts as you can personalise them with photos or mementos. A tray on your coffee table or dressing table holds your bits and pieces and looks great.
I hope you will find some inspiration for using ordinary things in extraordinary ways and come and join us all next month when we will continue with our ways to make life lovely for a few pennies, or our favourite - free!
You can drop in and join Annabel, Helen and the Under 50c Army.
11. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Prepping the Patch for Spring
Home-made seed raising mix for some early spring sowings
I decided to save a bit of coin and make up some seed raising mix for the seedlings that were going in. As the soil from most of the garden beds could potentially contain the nematode beasties, mentioned below in the blog, I decided to use some soil mix left over from the asparagus barrels. Asparagus are not affected by the nematodes so have left a lot of the soil aside for this purpose.
As there were a lot of roots and pebbles in the mix I thought it best to make up a small makeshift screen to remove them. To add some nutrient and water holding capacity to the soil I decided to add some compressed coconut coir/coco peat. Compost or worm castings would work just as well. Unfortunately both of ours are full of various vegie seeds and we wouldn't really know if the plants we are growing would be what we actually planted. To hydrate the coco peat I used water from the solids filter in the aquaponics so there would be some added fishy nutrients in there. In the past I have used compost/wormcast teas and liquid seaweed/fish emulsions to hydrate the coco peat and found it worked really well.
To make up the seed raising mix I added one part hydrated coco peat and two parts screened soil then mixed it together well. I think this will be a great blend for the seeds that will be going into them. The seeds I decided to plant out this weekend included some small white egg eggplants, bulls horn capsicum, some black Russian, KY1, Tigerella and some mini yellow egg tomatoes. These will sit in a tray that will have a bit of water added to the base of it every few days to keep them well hydrated.
It has been a while since I have sown carrots so thought I better put a few rows down. Four rows were sown into the top two beds in the patch yesterday, three rows of the mixed colour heirloom (below) in the top bed and one row of the Kuroda short carrot in the next.
As they are such small seeds I decided to sow them directly on top of the beds then sprinkle some moist coconut coir/peat over them to help keep them damp. Two more rows will be sown when these have sprouted their second sets of leaves. Two rows of beetroot shall be planted out tomorrow hopefully. I hope to have a continual supply of carrots and beetroot from now on by planting out a couple of rows every few weeks. Hope to have the rest of the warm month crops seeds organised and ready to go over the next few weeks. Couldn't help myself and put in another order with a small seed company this morning that will hopefully contain a few interesting varieties ;)»
Nuking the nematodes
I have mentioned in previous blogs that we have a few beds infested with root knot nematodes. They are not a problem in all parts of Australia but are rather 'fond' of our warm subtropical climate. The nematodes burrow into the root of your plants creating the knobbly galls you only see once it is pulled from the ground. They stay holed up in there feeding off the nutrients and providing nothing in return.
Once they mate, the female will release her eggs to hatch on the outside of the root for the process to start all over again. These little pests have destroyed more than their fair share of crops for us and I have tried a few different methods of controlling them but none have worked terribly well. I have finally decided to heed the advice of more experienced gardeners and plant out French marigolds along with some mustard greens to try and eradicate them. Both plants contain chemical constituents that are toxic to the nematodes once they are released into the soil. The best way to do this is to grow the plants to about 30cm in height then chop them up and dig the green mulch through the soil. As the plant matter decomposes they release their chemicals, Alph terthional for the French marigolds and the mustard releases the chemical that gives it its kick, Allyl isothiocyanate.
Another bonus with using this 'chop and dig' method is that it will also help add organic matter back into the soil which I think the compost worms in there will love. So far I have only dug through the marigolds in one place. The mustard in the bed down the back needs another week of growth I think. By the end of the week I hope to have cleared out another bed and planted some 'Stinking Rodger'. This is also a member of the marigold family and was gifted to us by a generous local, thanks Deb :)» Jerry Colby-Williams (Gardening Australia) recommended its use for controlling root knot nematodes on his Facebook page so thought I'd give it a crack. It is known as Black Mint in some parts of South America and used as a culinary herb. I have seen a recipe for Black Mint sauce that I wouldn't mind trying, so will be saving some for the kitchen.
Hope you have all had a great weekend in the patch and managed to get some dirt under your nails ;)»
Have a great one all.
12. Goodbye For Now
Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for August 2013 and we hope you have enjoyed it. Don't forget to think about starting a garden or get involved in a community garden. It doesn't matter where you live, there is always a way to get some more green into your life!
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Till next time...
All the best,