Spring into the garden

weeping cherry blossom

The weeping cherry blossoms are abuzz with bees

It’s the fourth week of Spring and it’s finally safe to say that winter is now behind us. The bee hive is buzzing, there are flower buds opening everywhere around the garden and the goats are shedding their winter coats.

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The back vegetable garden late September

Even though we’ve had plenty of rain in the last month, the increased temperatures heading into summer will mean the ground can quickly dry out. Now is the time to get your vegetable beds mulched using pea straw, straw, sugarcane mulch or if you can afford it, lucerne hay, which will also feed your vegetables as it breaks down.

september- potatoes

The potatoes which were planted mid August are growing strongly and have been hilled up with soil and then mulched with pea straw.

september- garlic

I don’t usually mulch the garlic, but the soil in this bed dries out quickly (thanks to our gum trees) so I’ve given them a light cover with pea straw.

september- brassicas

The brassica bed with Tuscan kale, Red Russian kale, broccoli and cauliflowers will hopefully mature before the Cabbage White butterflies emerge and lay their eggs on the leaves, so won’t need netting. 

I love the start of Spring when vegetables nursed through the Winter start to mature. We’ve been feasting on asparagus the last few weeks, both green and purple. If you haven’t grown asparagus before, have a go, the two year wait before harvesting is worth the many productive years that follow of the best tasting, freshest asparagus you’ll ever eat.

September- broadbeans

The broad beans are worth growing just for their flowers delightful scent and the leafy tips of the plants make a wonderful addition to a spring salad.

Broad beans and snow peas are starting to pod too and we’ve eaten the broccoli and cauliflowers with a succession planting maturing soon. There’s plenty of kale, silverbeet, spinach and red chard and the endive is ready to be lightly steamed and mashed with potatoes (it’s a Dutch thing-don’t knock it until you try it!)

oranges

Planted at the top of the driveway in a our best sunny spot, the oranges and grapefruit are thriving and we are juicing and eating citrus galore. Our citrus trees love the spent straw from the goats pen as a mulch.

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True-blue wildlife

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The bower of the male Satin bower bird at my work in 2012 

Hidden in a small clearing, between the bushes at the bottom of the vegetable garden at my work is a bower from the Satin Bower bird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus). These birds are commonly seen in our vegetable garden, feeding on scraps in the compost heaps, tearing the ends of our lettuces and silverbeet and hopefully eating a few of our insect pests while they are at it!

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The male Satin Bower bird (photo credit: Australian Museum)

Satin bower birds are about 30cm in size and are found along most of the east and south-east coast of Australia. The immature males and the female birds are both olive green in colour with a cream-brown scalloping on their chest and brown wings and tail and will often live in small flocks. The mature male obtains his beautiful glossy blue-black plumage between the ages of five and seven and defends his own territory. Males then build and decorate a bower as a courtship arena to attract the females during the breeding season which starts in early spring.

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The bower of a younger male which also includes yellow objects such as wattle flowers, dried onion skins and yellow leaves. When doing his courtship display to impress the female bower bird, the male was dancing with some yellow wattle in his beak. (Photo from the vegetable garden in 2017)

The bower is build on the ground and consists of two parallel walls of sticks decorated with bright blue objects, younger males also use yellow objects as decoration. The Bower bird at my work has used blue baling twine, feathers, bottle tops, a pen, clothes pegs, a blue cookie cutter and blue foil wrappers to decorate his bower. He would have performed an elaborate dance while carrying one of these blue objects in his bill near the bower to attract a female early in spring.

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A female or immature male Satin Bower bird 

If the female is impressed enough with his efforts, mating takes place in the bower. The female lays upto 3 eggs in a nest loosely built of sticks in a bush or tree about 10-15m off the ground somewhere nearby. She cares for the young on her own as the male will go on to mate with numerous other females.

It’s worth retaining native habitat on your land wherever you can do so, to ensure that these amazing birds and other Australian wildlife species can survive and continue to fascinate future generations.