Saturday, July 17, 2010

My other obsession

Of course I need another obsession...

Oh well, regardless of my apparent inability to say no to time-consuming volunteer activities, there's always space in my schedule for gardening. This blog post might well be appropriate on our house-building blog, Lookout31, but gardening for me - and the establishment of our garden on our block of land - is a necessary form of personal creativity. One of the hardest things about moving to Australia was giving up on my allotment garden in Bristol. After darling daughter was born I was ill and couldn't walk properly and my mother had suddenly died. The allotment garden was a solace, and I spent many hours pottering around in my 6ft x 4ft shed, fending off the cold with a thermos flask of tea and a few chocolate biscuits.

I dug out terraces, often with husband's help, and ended up with over 20 terraces on a 1-in-4 slope of almost solid clay. I planted gooseberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, plums, damsons, apples, pears, asparagus, artichokes and rhubarb, and rotated potatoes, leeks, onions, cabbages, cauliflowers, brussel sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, parsnips and beetroot. I even had a polytunnel for the tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs! The beds were edged with marigolds and sweet peas, and I grew all sorts of odds and ends in pots and spare bits of soil.

I didn't think I'd get the chance to put in a proper vegetable garden for a while but this week we've had a digger in to prepare the ground for the fencing contractor, and on the way past he spent a couple of hours flattening out a pad for the chook house and a larger pad for the veggies just down the hill - both with a fabulous ocean view! This picture gives you a (very) rough schematic diagram.

The whole block of land is ex-banana farm, albeit forty years ago. Couch grass runs rampant along with rainforest re-growth plants like tobacco bush and lantana, but the soil is good: a lovely dark loam over red, red clay. We'll have to use raised beds to avoid arsenic contamination in root crops but nevertheless it is such a contrast to what I've had before.

I spent a couple of very happy hours this afternoon with my measuring tape and some bamboo stakes, working out the space and drawing up possible layouts on a piece of scrappy, muddy paper. The length of the string running from out of the picture at the right hand side, up and left to the corner is 11 metres, and the strings running diagonally from left to right are both 7.2 metres. These 7.2m strings run exactly south-west (on the left) to north-east (on the right), which isn't a bad orientation for a vegetable garden. The patch will get morning sun all year round and through the afternoon later in the year, and none of the harsh westerly heat of summer but I'll have to ensure that I don't plant big plants infront of small plants and thereby shade them out.

I'm planning five beds, each 7.2m long and 1.5m wide with 0.75m between them. This will allow me to run a four-bed rotation system with a 5th bed for perennials, flowers and a smaller patch for darling daughter. There will be enough room to get a wheelbarrow around the place, plus the irregular shape of the bed gives me some odd corners for compost bins and storage, and the smaller triangular raised bed will also fit perennials, a water tank and possibly even a fruit tree or two. I can't tell you how much fun I'm having thinking about it, reading my gardening books and anticipating eating the produce! And I'll be able to let go of my frustrations again, hoeing, weeding, mulching, pruning... lots to look forward to.


Fiona said...

I'd love to have a cottage garden ... but my back says no!!

Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Ooh! Proper gardening!

In case you don't already know...wild tobacco, while stinking to high heaven, is a good source of potassium(for plants, not you!) and composts well. And lantana, run through a mulcher/shredder makes a lovely, light mulch.
Both much better solutions than the Council's "poison it" edict!

ronnie said...

ooooo girlfriend - you are talking my language!

I love the garden - i call my time I spend there my 'working meditation' - so many things are worked out while working the spade....

and I love walking around imagining future possibilities - although its hard work - its the sort of work that is so satisfying on all levels that you come away refreshed and full of zesty energy (and in our case - full of fruit and vege)

here's our plot in case you hadn't spied it.....

I look forward to your tales of yummies and other delights

Printed Material said...

By the sounds of things, this is not an obsession - it is a passion! Sounds absolutely great and I'm amazed at how organised it all is so far given everything else that you have to focus on. We had an allotment when we lived in St George in Bristol. Great places but nothing beats growing your own on your own turf. Enjoy. Lesley

Snippety Gibbet said...

That sounds wonderful. I am no gardener but I love digging in the dirt. The neighbors always offer up their tiller, but I refuse. That sweaty labor is something I find satisfying. Good luck with the garden. jan


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