Thursday, June 4, 2015

Reconnecting ...

G'day everyone,

My goodness, I can't believe it's been almost two years to the day since I've made my last post on this blog. A LOT has happened between then but let me quickly get you up to speed. In December of 2013 we were blessed enough purchase our first house, a humble little Queenslander. It is in need of a bit of TLC and we spent our first few months giving the interior a good clean and a lick of paint.

To cut a long story short we are starting to focus more and more of our attention outside (as that's where we love being the most). One of the most exciting parts of this whole journey is that at present we have access to 8.75 acres of land to "farm". We have already made good progress in putting parts of this land to work but I will share more on that in future posts.

You may have noticed that I have renamed the blog from "Wally's Mini Farm - A journey to Self-Sufficiency". I have chosen to do this after doing a lot of thinking, reading and soul searching. We as human beings have been created with a need to belong to, and connect with others. We also live in and rely on the land to provide for a lot of our needs.

It seems as a society, or at least us a family unit, are losing our connection with the land and the communities in which we live. It is for this reason that I have renamed this blog to "Wally's Mini Farm -  A journey to connecting with the land and our community". Don't worry this won't turn into a "rant blog" I will be sharing our practical tips and experiences as we "reconnect"

I hope you will join us in reconnecting too.

Stay tuned

Matt (and the Walter Family)

"The place we call home"

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Spring Update

G'day All,

Sorry it's been a long time between posts. I've been flat out in the garden getting the veggies in for the season. It's really exciting!!! We now have four 2.4m x 4.8m garden beds and they are almost completely filled with seedlings. We spent the last couple months preparing the beds and raising our seedlings.

This year we are trialling a four bed crop rotation system which with beds our size should produce enough veggies to feed 4 people. I will post some more practical details on how it all works soon. I have also recently written a post on asparagus for my sisters blog aka 'The Whimsical Wife'. You can check it out on her blog here

Well hope you enjoy and I will be sure to write some good practical posts in the next week.

Happy gardening


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Herb Spiral

Our garden is progressing well and over the last few weeks we've made some additions, one being a Herb Spiral. It's been something I've been dying to try since I read about it in a Permaculture book.

Essentially it's a garden that spirals up giving you the advantage of vertical space. It also has the added advantage of providing different microclimates for different herbs. The top drains quickly and is dry but the bottom stays moist so you can plant your herbs according to their requirements.

Also you get different microclimates from the way the sun shines on it. The south side is shady, the north side is sunny. The east gets the gentle morning sun but the west gets the scorching afternoon sun. You can use these different microclimates to grow a variety of herbs in the one spot.

We bought blocks from a local brick work at 45c a block and used 80. I am going to add one more layer to the spiral so will use an additional 10 bricks. I filled the spiral with a quality garden soil which cost about $50.

If you are interested in trying it yourself check out the web for some good video tutorials or contact me and I can help answer your questions. Happy Gardening!!!

P.S. I would like to thanks my parents-in-law for their contribution to this garden, especially Nico for helping me build it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tracking and keeping records of what you plant Myfolia

We've recently done some serious planting and seed sowing and to be honest it's hard to remember what we planted and where. It's always hard to remember when things will germinate and what they need to grow effectively. Well, I recently found one website that will do all that and more. It's called and is free to join.

We use the website to keep track of seeds we have in our stash, the seeds we plant, when they would sprout and approximately when our plants are ready for harvest. You can also see what other people in your area are planting and follow what your friends and family on the other side of the world are doing in their gardens.

The website also has the ability to write a journal and keep notes on your gardens, plants ..etc. Because of this it is a great way to keep track of your experiments and document any tips or tricks you pick up on the way. If you are a keen gardener I'd recommend giving it a go. If you do be sure to look for me, wally2511.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

How do I know what to plant and when?

After building our garden beds we are now looking at filling them up with lots of yummy plants. The first question we had was "Well what do we plant?". In the long term we are looking at following a crop rotation scheme that will guide us in providing a years supply of veges and salad for four people. To do this we really need 40 square meters and to start planting in spring.

Since we only have 23 square meters (which is enough for two people mind you) and are starting in Autumn we decided to stick in a Autumn/Winter crop. To guide us in what to plant we have found a handy little website called We picked Australia - Temperate as our climate zone and then picked the things we mostly eat.

To reward our hard work we went to Bunnings and grabbed a few seedlings to give us a head start. But to save money we are raising all our plants from seed so I sourced a years supply from I have sown some of the seeds directly into the garden beds and the others I am raising in our heated propagator.

If you are interested in knowing what to plant there are a few good resources available. I would recommend the following:
Gardenate (smartphone app available)
Gardening Australia Vegie Guide (smartphone app available)
Diggers Tips

Below is a list of what we have currently planted to date:

Bean 'Roc d'Or'
Beetroot 'Detroit 2 Organic'
Beetroot 'Diggers mixed heirloom'
Broccoli 'Green sprouting calabrese'
Brussels sprout 'Long Island Improved'
Carrot 'Heirloom Mix'
Carrot 'Majestic Red'
Carrot 'Topweight'
Cauliflower 'Mini white'
Chard 'Bright Lights'
Chinese cabbage 'Pak Choi'
Common foxglove 'Foxy mix'
Corn 'miracle F1'
Cucumber 'Spacemaster'
Eastern purple coneflower 'Purple'
Florence fennel
Garlic 'Italian White'
Kale 'Dwarf blue curled'
Kale 'Nero di toscana'
Kangaroo Paw 'Mixed Colours'
Leaf lettuce 'Amish deer tongue'
Leaf lettuce 'Salad Bowl Red & Green Mixed'
Lettuce 'Diggers Heirloom Mix'
Pea 'Early crop massey'
Rocket 'Pronto'
Romaine lettuce 'Baby Cos'
Salad mix 'Asian Baby Leaf'
Sea holly
Silverbeet 'Swiss chard'
Snap pea 'Stringless sugar snap'
Spinach 'Bloomsdale'
Spinach 'English Medania'
Sweet Annie
Sweet corn

Monday, February 25, 2013

Garden Beds - Sheet Mulch vs Traditional

We recently have been given a green light to put down some vegetable garden beds in the house we are renting. I've been doing lots of reading over the past month on different ways to approach creating garden beds and had plenty of ideas. The two main ones that kept popping up were Sheet Mulch (also known as No Dig) and the Traditional garden beds.

Sheet Mulch beds consist of several layers of different materials that you put down to create what is essentially a very large compost heap. The bed is generally built directly on top of the grass which is smothered by the sheet layer of cardboard or newspaper.

The Traditional garden bed is the one that most of us are familiar with. It usually involves digging up the layer of grass, turning the soil and often importing more soil to fill up the raised garden bed. The soil in the bed is generally turned yearly and a lot of labour goes into digging to make sure the soil is well aerated and fertile.

Matt preparing the traditional garden bed
Because we are initially doing two garden beds I decided to do one of each to see how they compare. Both beds will be raised garden beds built from untreated Australian hardwood. They measure 2.4m x 4.8m which will give us roughly 11.5 square meters per bed. According to some of the books I have read 10 square meters is enough to provide all the greens and vegetables for one person over the course of one year. So a total of 23 square meters should feed my wife, our soon to arrive baby and myself .

Below is the procedure I used to make the two different garden beds.

1. Lay out the timber to position the garden bed and assembled the bed.
  • Make sure the long sides of your beds face north/south to get maximum sun exposure
  • Position the bed somewhere it will get at least 6-8 hours of full sun in winter and summer.
  • Place it close to the house so it is easy to get to or else it will get neglected.

2. Prepare ground beneath the bed.
Forking the Soil/Grass
  • Dig up the layer of grass and weeds. I skipped this step because I am going to use 1 layer of cardboard to suffocate them. This will save me time and save my lower back (I'm getting old).
  • Generally you would double dig (refer to article here) the soil if you weren't doing a raised garden bed. Because I was raising my garden bed and importing soil I didn't double dig but I did use a garden fork to put holes into the ground. This improves the soils ability to hold air and water.
  • Add any soil amendments. I put down a layer of gypsum and blood and bone. The Gypsum will help soften the bottom layer of soil and the blood and bone will help activate the worms and microbes.
  • Water the bottom layer well.

3. Fill raised garden bed with soil.
  • Make sure you select a good weed free soil that will drain well. I went to a local nursery and purchase a premium sandy loam that had several rotted manures and blood and bone added to it.

4. Water the bed, plant and mulch
  • Make sure you get the bed a good soaking before you plant out and mulch the bed.
  • I will be using a 50-70 mm layer of sugar cane mulch. Other options are lucerne and straw but make sure you get seed free or else you will be growing more weeds and straw than actual veges.
The completed Traditional garden bed.

1. Lay out the timber to position the garden bed and assembled the bed.
Manure Layer
  • This is the same as the Traditional garden bed.

2.  Put down a manure/nitrogen layer (optional)
  • I put down a layer of horse manure on top of the grass to attract worms and microbes up into my bed. This is placed directly on top of the weeds and grass.
  • Water the ground and manure well.

3. Put down a sheet (cardboard/newspaper) layer.
Cardboard Layer
  • Lay newspaper or cardboard on top of the manure and grass. Make sure you don't use glossy pages and remove all plastic and staples.
  • Don't leave any gaps or else the weeds/grass can grow up through your bed.
  • Use about 4-6 layers of newspaper or 1 layer of cardboard.
  • Water the layer well.

4. Put down a nitrogen layer.
Grass Clippings
  • I put down a small amount of manure and a 50 mm layer of fresh grass clippings.
  • Water down well.

5. Put down a carbon layer.
  • On top of the grass and manure I put down a 50 mm layer of sugar cane mulch. You could use shredded paper, dry brown leaves ...etc.
  • Water down well.

Unbroken down Compost
6. Put down a nitrogen layer
  • Next I lay down a thick layer of semi broken down compost.This will help introduce lots of worms and microbes to the garden. You could use kitchen scraps.
  • Water down well.

7. Put down a carbon layer.
  • This is the same as step 5. 

8. Put down a layer of soil (optional).
Sugar Cane Mulch Layer
  • Because I wanted to plant the garden out in the next few weeks I put down a 20-30 mm layer of soil.
  • Water down well.

9. Put down a mulch layer.
  • Lastly I lay down a 70 mm thick layer of sugar cane mulch. As discussed in the traditional gardens mulch layer you can use other things like lucerne or straw but try and get seed free mulches.
  • Water down well.
  • Adding the Mulch Layer
  • If you didn't add a soil layer and want to plant out simply pull the mulch apart to form a hole and fill with a little bit of soil. Then you can plant your seedlings or seeds into that soil.

Important Notes on the Sheet Mulch bed
The whole idea of this bed is to create your own rich soil by combining the nitrogen and carbon layers together. The different components will be broken down by worms, microbes, fungi ...etc which in turns creates a very rich soil. Because this process can take some time the beds won't reach their maximum performance for 2-3 years. But as time progress you should see things accelerate fairly quickly.

What are we trying to achieve

These days self sufficiency means a lot of things and I think there are many different areas and levels of self sufficiency. For example you could be self sufficient in terms of your water and waste by using a tank and onsite septic system. I think at the outset of our journey it is important to break our journey into steps and define our initial goal for "Self Sufficiency".

Our short term goal is to grow and live off most of our own vegetables, salad greens and herbs. We hope to only have to buy veges, salad greens and herbs that won't grow in our climate/garden. This will mean that our garden will feed us (Hester, Myself and our baby-to-be) and that we will feed our garden using resources from our garden (chook poo, kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, prunings, spent plants ... etc).

In order to achieve our goal we will be using many different ideas from "Organic Gardening" and "Permaculture". I hope that this journal/blog will be a place for people to get ideas and see that eating fresh and healthy food is achievable  even for the every day person. I am hopeful that we will reach our goal so keep an eye on our progress and if give some of the ideas a go yourself.

Our heirloom lettuces from a spring harvest