Space savers : growing lettuce in hanging baskets.

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Here at Franger Farm, we are lucky to have a very large suburban block of an acre in size. A large amount of it, however, can’t be easily cultivated because it’s steeply sloping or covered in bush, we are also very enthusiastic veg growers and still find ourselves running out of space. Many of you will have much less space than us, but you can make use of the space under your eaves by planting hanging baskets with lettuce.

Water storage crystals will stop your basket drying out.

Water storage crystals will stop your basket drying out.

First, select a large hanging basket with a liner, the larger the basket, the better, as it won’t dry out as quickly, always a potential problem for pots and baskets. To help your basket retain water even more efficiently, you can add some water storage crystals. These swell up with water when they are wet and then release it into soil if it starts to dry out.

Plant with a mixture  of seedlings and seeds.

Plant with a mixture of seedlings and seeds.

Your baskets will be more productive if you add a pelletized manure to the potting mix, along with the crystals, when you plant them up. To give your baskets a really long productive time, you can plant them with a mixture of seedlings and seeds. As your seedlings are nearly used up, your grown from seed lettuce should be ready to harvest.

Hang close to the kitchen.

Hang close to the kitchen.

Once your basket is planted, water in well and then hang on a sturdy hook. You could make life really easy for yourself and hang the basket right outside your kitchen so that you can grab lettuce quickly, whenever you need it.

Fresh lettuce.

Fresh lettuce.

Give this simple idea a go, you’ll love having fresh lettuce right outside your door without having to find any extra space for it.

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How to freeze fresh peas and beans.

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It’s so easy to freeze your home grown peas and beans to use all year round. So, if you have a glut, or even if you’ve bought a large amount of fresh peas and beans, here’s how to deal with them.

Wash and shell your peas.

Wash and shell your peas.

Begin by first washing and then shelling your peas, don’t freeze any that are not perfect. It’s best to begin this process as soon as you pick your peas to make sure that you freeze them when their flavour is at it’s best.

Peas ready for blanching.

Peas ready for blanching.

Once you have shelled all your peas, you need to prepare a pan of boiling water and a bowl with ice water in it. Put the peas into the boiling water and blanch for no longer than two minutes. Drain the peas and immediately transfer into the bowl of ice water. This cools them quickly and stops them from cooking any further. You should leave them in the ice water for a further two minutes.

Bag the peas for freezing.

Bag the peas for freezing.

Drain the peas again and put them in sealable or zip lock freezer bags. Don’t be tempted to over fill the bags, they will freeze better if they can be spread out flat in the freezer with the peas separated. If possible, use the quick freeze function on your freezer, the faster they are frozen, the better they will taste when they are cooked. Once they are completely frozen, they no longer need to lay flat and can be stored in your freezer as normal, ready for use throughout the year, as tasty as the day they were picked!

Growing veg in bales

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Ever wanted to give a bale garden a go? Don’t know where to start? It’s easy, we’ll show you how.

Select the bales, uses as few or as many as you like.

Select the bales, uses as few or as many as you like.

The first step is to purchase the bales you’ll be using, straw is best as there are fewer weed seeds in it, it is possible to use hay, just be prepared to pull out the grass as it grows. You can use as many bales as you wish, use just one if you don’t have the space for more.

Condition your bales to get them ready for planting.

Condition your bales to get them ready for planting.

Once you have arranged your bales on a firm bit of ground, they need to be ‘conditioned’ ready for planting. In order for your veg to grow, the bales need to begin breaking down so that the nutrients in them are available for the plants to take up. Conditioning your bales can be a lengthy process of watering your bales, adding manure and waiting until they start to break down, however, we have a super fast, Franger Farm, cheaty method that works just as well.

Thoroughly soak the bales, then add a good amount of chicken manure to the top of the bales and water in well. Next, add at least an inch thick layer of potting compost to the top of the bales and water again. You are now ready to plant your seeds.

Seeds germinating on the bales.

Seeds germinating on the bales.

Using the potting compost means that the seeds have something to get started in while the chicken manure aids the breakdown of the bales as the plants mature. It’s essential that you don’t let your bales dry out, they need to be kept wet so that the breakdown continues inside. After a few weeks, the bales will begin to feel soft and you will be able to push your hand into them easily.

A few weeks later.

A few weeks later.

All you need to do from now on is keep your bales well watered and they will provide you with a wonderful harvest of veg.

Fantastic harvest from our bale garden.

Fantastic harvest from our bale garden.

We have been able to get a second harvest from our bales, although here in Australia, we have very mild winters and a long growing season, if your bales are covered in several feet of snow over the winter, you probably won’t be able to use them again.
Once you have finished planting in your bales, you can use them as mulch on your garden or add them to your compost.
You can get so much out of a few bales of straw, why not experiment with this instant garden bed in your backyard.

Take a photo tour of Franger Farm : how we’re homesteading on our suburban acre.

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For the last five years, we’ve been slowly turning our suburban backyard into a miniature farm on a journey towards a more self sufficient life. here’s a quick photo tour to show you exactly what can be done in suburbia if you’re striving for a sustainable lifestyle.

Seasonal vegetables

Seasonal vegetables

Growing fruit and veg.

Spring harvest

Spring harvest

We grow most of the vegetables we eat and quite a bit of fruit, especially in the summer months. We have numerous veggie beds around the backyard, one is completely given over to the production of potatoes, the others rotate with seasonal veg.

One of the large backyard veggie beds.

One of the large backyard veggie beds.

 

Some of the first fruit trees we planted are now giving us nice crops of fruit, we’ve added more trees most years, some of these have yet to start bearing fruit, trees are a long term project.

 

We grow some soft fruits, we have a thriving strawberry patch, which we have finally found a way of keeping the weeds and the birds out, we also grow blueberries and raspberries.

Blueberries.

Blueberries.

The strawberry patch.

The strawberry patch.

We plant some purchased seedlings, but most of the veg we grow is started from seed in our greenhouse.

The greenhouse.

The greenhouse.

Keeping chickens.

Franger Farm chooks.

Franger Farm chooks.

The chickens are essential to our backyard farming project. As well as giving us a supply of fresh eggs, they eat our kitchen scraps, weeds and give us chook manure which we use to fertilize our veggie beds and fruit trees. The straw bedding from the chicken coops also goes back on the garden bed as mulch. our chooks produce enough eggs for us to sell extras to our friends, which covers the cost of their feed.

Reggie the rooster.

Reggie the rooster.

we have a rooster ‘Reggie’, so our eggs are fertile, and we’ve begun raising our own chicks. We also have a broody hen sitting on some eggs at the moment, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that she manages to hatch something soon.

Our latest batch of 'chooklets'

Our latest batch of ‘chooklets’

 

Rabbits.

 

Although our rabbits ‘Mushroom and Garlic’ are pets, they work hard for us. They are devourers of vegetable scraps and producers of much poo, which can be added to our growing beds without needing to be composted or aged in any way.

Mushroom and Garlic.

Mushroom and Garlic.

Worms.
We have two worm farms that we use to process our kitchen scraps. In return, they give us worm castings and worm wee, both of which can be used as fertilizer on our vegetables.

 

Our worm farms

Our worm farms

Pest control.

 

Snickers, farm cat.

Snickers, farm cat.

Let’s not forget another hardworking member of our team ‘Snickers’ the cat. He found a home with us after the family that owned him felt unable to cope with his hunting habit. Let’s just say that he a perfect fit for us and will kill any pesky critter that has the nerve to venture near our veg or our chook runs!

 

The  Micro Farmer.
The Micro Farmer gets involved in all the chores on Franger Farm, from collecting eggs and feeding chickens, looking after the chicks and rabbits to planting in the greenhouse and weeding the veggie beds. He loves to be outside, which is were he spends most of his time when he’s not at school.

The micro farmer, hard at work.

The micro farmer, hard at work.

Anyone can have a micro farm in their backyard, it’s just a matter of scaling it to fit. You can make use of the paved areas around your house by adding raised beds. Try hanging baskets filled with lettuce or tomatoes under the eaves, grow a passion fruit or grape vine on the pergola. The possibilities are endless, your imagination is the only limit!

Herb beds at the back of the house.

Herb beds at the back of the house.