Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Kitchen Garden

Here is a bit about an ongoing project that has been keeping us out of mischief lately.

Now that the front garden is planted, thriving and no longer an embarrassing eyesore, we turned our attention to the back garden.  Now that area was looking pretty bad.  By the time we moved in last year the grass was waist high and by the time my mother visited a few weeks later I had simply smothered the long grass with all the old curtains from the house (pure linen from Liberty of London but brown, floral and well past their use-by date), newspaper and cardboard. 

There was method in this madness.  The soil in this part of the world is some of the most gutless and nutrient poor in the world.  Imagine trying to garden on a beach and you'll get the idea.  This wasn't an issue in the front garden because there we planted local natives but out the back we wanted to grow food.  The first job was therefore to create soil.  This we did by piling yet more free tree pruner mulch on top of the curtains/newspaper/cardboard to kill the grass and help it to decompose.  We also added whatever other organic matter we could to the soil including the contents of our Bokashi buckets, used coffee grounds which I collect from a great new local cafe (yes, another one!) and finally after hunting for a year for some, many bales of pea straw.  I've also discovered some amazing stuff called Sand Remedy which is a combination of powdered clay and minerals which helps sandy soils retain water and prevents the depletion of nutrients.  Quite a long process when really all I wanted to do was stick some plants in the ground.

The other complicating factor is that our neighbourhood is still on septic tanks. We knew this was likely to change soon but in the meantime we didn't want to do anything that would bust the existing system, such as plant fruit trees in the wrong place.  It also means that whatever work we do there may need to be dug up when the new sewerage system goes in. So nothing is permanent, just placed on the ground so it can be moved at a later date. After a visit from the Dunny Doctor I knew where to plant and where not to plant.  As of yesterday this is how it is looking.

We simply reused materials that were already on the property including the old water tank as a woodshed, an old shed that was right down the back of the garden to house the garden tools, a friend's gifted firewood stash to make climbing frame teepees (the timber is jarrah) and various old pavers and roof tiles used to make paths and edge the beds.

The garden looks quite bare in those pics but it is already producing a fair amount of food. We have basil, coriander, mint, rosemary, Thai basil, rocket, curly parsley, flat leaf parsley, chives, spring onions, spinach, silverbeet, five types of lettuce, strawberries, Tahitian lime, lemon, feijoa, butter beans, French beans, peas, peppers, chillies, pumpkin, courgettes, cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, lemongrass, various other things I have forgotten and also a whole bunch of flowering plants to attract beneficial insects.

It is obviously still a work in progress and we have a long way to go but given that this was our starting point

we have also come quite a long way.

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