Tag Archives: Trees & plants

How trees interact with rain

I caught a glimpse of something small and magical in the trickle of first rain and how a small fig tree catches and redirects the rain to efficiently distribute such a precious resource. It’s incredible to imagine the full interaction of water on earth, taken up into clouds, and cycled down into the soil, roots and fungi, into rivers and lakes, out to sea and back up into the clouds again. How the pattern of bark and shape of leaf plays its part.

This small tiny observation on a tiny water trickle, led me into lots of reading about how this connects to the bigger patterns of weather stemfall, interception, throughfall in ecological and permaculture thinking.

This is why observing the tiniest of interactions is all about learning.

Blink or pass too quickly by the tree and you miss a world of understanding.

It’s not a perfect video, but I captured it on my phone:

(there’s no audio)

(and if you want to read about it, see 6.6 How a tree interacts with rain in Permaculture A Designers’ Manual by Bill Mollison)

Project mulberry begins

In my latest adventures in frugal gardening, I scavenged some mulberry tree cuttings via Facebook (thanks Deb & Udo!) to try growing a new tree. This is an experiment for me as I have never really ventured down the propagation path much in gardening.  I’m sure based on these photographs, seasoned experts at this sort of thing will chortle heartily at my technique in trying to create a new plant life from an old one. Mulberry trees are apparently very easy to grow from cuttings, and although it’s a slower method to receiving fruit from the tree, there is always the delight of being able to keep silkworms.

However, this experiment strikes me as a really cool learning experience for my little 4.5 year old sponge-brained daughter. We’ve grown plenty of stuff from seed so she is aware of how plants grow, and that trees drop seeds, but when some trees drop branches, new life can begin too, and I don’t think I’ve ever mention this to her. So I explained what we were going to do and said I needed her help.

I explained what we doing in terms of creating ‘children’ from the ‘parent tree’ and that it was a bit like Stick Man and the family tree. (Stick Man is one of our favourite stories – an excellent book by Julia Donaldson of Gruffalo fame).

She filled the pots with soil and helped me decide which branches to cut off.

She then dipped them in water, dipped them into rooting powder and stuck them into the pots.

Sticks in pots - hoping to grow into mulberry treesHere they are (no laughing seasoned experts!) We only did 5, as little nearly-one-year old has a limited patience with anything he can’t eat, but I plan to do more over the coming days, maybe with a few different techniques to see what works. Sprouting in a bowl of water before planting could be one option.



Tree planting day

Update- June 2008
Plans are underway in my head to organise a planting this year to add grasses and ground covers to the site. The trees that were planted are looking really great and I’ll add a photograph here very soon to show their growth in the last two years.

Update- April 2007
Even with the harsh meanness of this past summer, we have estimated roughly a 50% survival rate of the tree plantings without any supplemental watering. This is really very very good and shows how well all our helpers planted them.

Richard and Angela’s tree planting day

Saturday 12th August 2006

Saturday 12th August turned out be a beautiful sunny spring day, perfect for releasing some trees into the wild.

Early on the planting day

Our faithful volunteers arrived, shovels in hands probably wondering why we had chosen not to mention that the planting site was just short of Himalayan altitudes, as hinted at below.

Ok, so it’s wasn’t that bad, but after 3.5 hours I was glad the sun was setting and we could get onto flat ground. It looks like we planted about 120 trees which is brilliant.

It was really cool to see something happen so quickly on the farm. Usually, Richard and I work for hours and see nothing. Having some friends mad enough to give up their Saturday for an afternoon on the slopes with shovel in hand and a fair bit of crawling around was fantastic. It is truly humbling.

Surely Richard and I owe them all a day of hard gardening at their places in return, so thanks go out to: Roxanne, Sarah, Zoe, Craig and Graham for all their hard work and for giving up their Saturday.

Molly and Elf also flap and ear and wave a paw in friendly greetings to Molly & Stanley, their new dog friends.

We finished off the evening with a campfire at which a few family and friends with handy excuses to pop in after the planting arrived, but that was nice. We know Saturdays are really precious so we are even more humbled that people sacrificed theirs for the sake of planting some trees or coming up for the campfire. As I’m writing, there is a good downpour of rain outside so I think all will be well in the new forest.

The only energetic task of the night was leaving the fire to rummage around in the dark for adequate toasting sticks. My favourite quote overhead on the night was “Marshmallows are a food group”. See, it’s true, campfires always bring out the inner philospher in people. Rumour was that a certain folk band might turn up to play a tune or two, but this was not to be, so since everyone was too weary to object, it seemed only right to subject everyone to my crappy compilation cd’s, who needs a subwoofer when you have a steel barn to amplify your tunes!

Reports from my sources suggest that the campfire was a particularly well stoked one, its smokey molecules lingering on fibre and hair for days. Hmmm….

But … surely that’s what farm life is all about, getting dirty and smelly and eating charcoal for dinner.

Quince and melons

plantingOver the weekend we added a quince tree to the orchard that Richard picked up for a bargain at the local charity auction.

I must admit to not knowing too much about the humble ancient quince, but after doing a bit of research I’m quite excited about it’s future fruiting and potential jars of home grown marmalade and other quincey things.

I also received some free melon seeds from Diggers late last week. The thought of the water it might take to grow large melons had meant I’d never really considered them for our place as we have to be a little careful being just on rainwater. However I was excited to find out that these are small heirloom melons called Hao-gen, originating from Hungary. They are sometimes called Israeli melons because of the popularity of them there.  Sometimes the chance to grow something new just comes from the opportunity of pure availability like this – so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

We just harvested our first few delicious snow peas today too —mmmmmm.

This week I will be trying to get a few trays of seeds started for spring;  lettuces,  heirloom capsicum, coriander, dragon tongue beans, rainbow silverbeet and I’ll give okra another go this year. I’d really like it grow as it seems impossible to buy it anywhere.

Supersize me

Everyone knows that strange phenomena of selecting a Christmas tree. You pick one, get it back to your house, wrestle it inside and realise it is a little bigger than you first thought.

As we have countless hundreds of trees, Richard tends to harvest a branch from a pine tree to be our much loved Christmas tree.. This year we picked what we considered to be a small branch from a 15 metre pine tree. It took us about 5 minutes to select and collect our branch from ‘Winter Gully’. Two seconds with a saw, onto our car roof and a few minutes later, into the house. The thing is, that it looked smaller than last years … until we got it into the house …

the large tree

No, that’s not an optical illusion, it’s approximately 5 metres tall.
I wonder if you get giant presents from Santa with a giant christmas tree ….

Heirloom vegetables …

This is just too much for one evening online. I have found a fantastic source of heirloom vegetables in Australia. I have joined the club (called Diggers) and ordered:-

DRAGONS TONGUE BEAN – a climbing bean with purple stripey bits
TOMATO BLACK RUSSIAN – gothic tomatoes, blood red/black
CAPSICUM SWEET CHOCOLATE – a deep brown capsicum
CARROT, 3 COLOUR PURPLE – purple carrots

These are vegetables how they originally were before we gave in to mass supermarket shelf selection. These seeds are also around the same price as shop bought seeds but you get less per packet. We always have hundreds of excess seeds from commercially bought packets so this is about quality and not quantity.

I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight with the promise of patchouli and heirloom seeds on their way to me, and my future permaculture learning day …


No, it’s not one of Harry Potter’s spells, Pogostemon cablin is the patchouli plant. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to order these as they are only $6 each, but I have finally have some wee smelly plants on their way in the post.

The leaves are beautiful and very aromatic in that special intoxicating patchouli way. http://www.herbalistics.com.au/shop/popup_image.php?pID=163

I don’t know why these plants are so difficult to find, but I’ve found out that you can also grow new plants from cuttings. Who knows, perhaps this could be the start of my patchouli farm????

My reason for growing them is just for the loveliness of picking off fresh patchouli leaves to put in my cuboards and drawers. I currently put in sticks of incense which tends to make a bit of a mess with the powerdy crumbs!

Also, patchouli scented clothing and linen is just another way of bringing that little bit of India to this part of the world. Mmmm …

I can’t wait for my four little plants. I hope they like their new home.

Vegetable patch – the sequel

Having hired a rotary hoe last spring and removing all of the sheaok roots strangling our inherited vegetable patch, we thought that we had cracked the dry soil issue. At the end of the summer though we found the trusty sheoaks and their spaghetti roots had returned to the vegetable patch and we were back where we had begun. Also that fact that at times we had to irrigate with saline bore water down there pointed a big finger to the fact that it just wasn’t the right spot. We gave it a go though.

So, this spring we decided to abandon that vegetable patch and make it a general orchard area instead, which is currently a work in progress.

In the meantime, we spent a Sunday siting and building our new vegetable bed which can be seen below. In a few weeks time we have a week off work which will see the planting of the new patch taking place.

In terms of siting this one, we think this has the classic attributes of a promising patch:-

a) handy to the kitchen for that last minute tomato or okra
b) west facing – morning and late late afternoon summer sun
c) rainwater supply
d) a nice view of the summer sunsets over the sea to make growing and harvesting just that bit more special

Being quite near gum trees we might have to compete with a few intrusive roots in future, but it will be nothing compared to the sheoak situation.

veg patch

I also had today off work this week which I spent planting seeds for the site.

Sown in trays (listed in order of germination)

-10 days
Radish (Long Scarlet)
Italian tomatoes
Cabbage (Sugarloaf)

10+ days

Capsicum pepper
Okra (please grow, this is so hard to buy here and I miss it!)
Radicchio (Palia Rossa)
Chilli Pepper
Carrot (Early Nantes)
Beetroot (Detroit Red Globe)
Pak Choi

and for good luck …
Sunflowers (to attract the birds away from the vegetables)

to be sown direct ….
Pumpkin (Golden nugget)
Mini sweet corn
Courgette/Zucchini (yellow variety)
Climbing beans (purple king)
Climbing peas
Chinese snow peas
Online (Californian Red)
Lettuce (Lollo Rossa)
Lettuce (Green Mignonette)
Lettuce (Green Cos)

Tree planting day

On Saturday 12th August 2006 it’s our tree planting day when some friends are coming along to help us plant 200+ native seedlings that we raised from seeds over the past year through Trees for Life.

Although planting can be hard work, hopefully the campfire and sausages afterwards will refuel everyone.

National Tree Day is organised by Planet Ark and our one little afternoon of planting has been registered with Planet Ark towards the Tree Day efforts. Our small group are contributing to the achievement of hopefully planting the 10 millionth tree this year as part of the Tree Day scheme.

Watch the progress on the Tree planting Day page

You can always get to this page from the menu on the left side of this page. We’ll post photographs of the day there. Everyone who found better things to do with their Saturday (like relaxing) can see what fun they missed out on and those who planted can see the fruit of their labour as the trees grow – we’ll keep adding photographs throughout the year.

If anyone knows an influential meteorologist, we are welcoming donations of rain after Saturday. 😉