Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Kids in the garden | Painting

Alannah likes to work in the garden with Dadda. Last weekend, I set her up with her easel, paints and chalk in the sunshine. Close to him, but not too close...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Is there a tipping point?

Is there a size tipping point from fruit garden to orchard? Regardless, I am calling this area our orchard. It has taken many hours of hard slog to render it free from the roots of the old fig tree [non-fruiting except for lorikeet and bat fodder]. My guess is it was a Port Jackson fig. The root system is massive, and extensive. Less so now that our slave-gang has attacked it with his mattock, and his axe, and his chain-saw!

I was astounded to see the extensive footings for what is a most unremarkable front fence, but which indicates the slope that lay upon the block in its original state. Taken together with the tier-ing of the rear garden, the block must have sloped by many feet to the south-east as it ran down to Middle Harbour via a catchment of small creeks still visible in the area. Look at this fence - more like a brick retaining-wall. There are seven courses of brick above the surface, and I can see six courses already below the surface. The fig roots that riddled this area have been severed, and there is enough loam and space to plant fruit trees directly into the ground.

For a computer network engineer, said slave has created a terrific 'bed' for our trees: a mandarin, a lime, and a lemon. The rocks has been reused from the original landscaping for gardenias. Indeed, the only new materials we have brought in are the raised beds themselves. Everything else is recycled. I have enough compost ready to go to fertilise the orchard AND one of the raised beds, and hope to have this spread by mid-May.

Now specifically what trees do I contemplate:
  • a Satsuma Mandarin
  • a Tahitian Lime, and
  • a Eureka Lemon.
They will get us started. I already have two olives and a Black Genoa Fig. I think one of the olives is for the high-jump, and into its large pot will go the BG Fig. I need to upgrade its feeding. I now have three empty large pots from which I removed murrayas as I already have a hedge of murraya along the front of the house. Into these pots will go a cumquat and two grafted Nelly Kelly Black passionfruit - once I have determined what I will trail them over! And got yet another hair-brained scheme through the management!

Monday, 22 April 2013

The hiatus of generational living

The general pace of construction has come off the boil not through lack of application, but due to wild and woolly weather these last two weekends, resulting in squelchy soil, and useless working conditions. An autumn bug that took out all three generations did not help either! However, two garden beds are now in situ and Darren has both an axe and a chain-saw with which to whittle away the massive roots of the old fig tree.

The large bed is 1300mm wide, by 2200mm long by 820mm high. The smaller bed only differs in that it is 400mm high. Both are 'Birdies' from Bunnings and the colour is 'Paperbark'. The large one was $297 and the smaller one $199.

Darren has tried poisoning the oleander along the side fence, but only part is dieing. There are three 'stumps' to grub out along that fence-line as yet to make way for a narrow [500mm] bed for climbing beans and peas.

See how the roots have entwined the water meter. We are not sure, but think the meter was there first. That piece shall remain, but the OTHER side of the trunk will have the roots cut back. If they can be removed, all to the good, to make way for planting of fruit trees directly into the soil. If not, then we place the trees into large pots that are then placed above the offending roots. Tninking fig, two avocadoes, and a lime would be a good mix. Perhaps, a mandarin. Shall see what space allows. The compost is ready for the large bed.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Kids in the garden | Marking the territory

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Three weekends into the big vege garden project, the first of the garden beds was up. It was time to mark out territory for the second.

It's a complex task.

Daddy measured the dimensions and placed the rope. Alannah went to move the rope. Daddy resisted.

"No sto-op, sto-op," said Alannah. "I will be just one minute and I will do this and then I will come back, ok?"

Daddy, sensing the battle was lost, re-measured and staked the corner. Alannah carefully piled dirt on the tip of the stake.

And eventually...

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The territory marked, the digging and chopping began again. Much soil had to be moved from the new site to the existing garden bed. Handful by handful, shovelful by shovelful.

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Saturday, 6 April 2013

How NOT to landscape

The area, having been defined by the removal of grass, is readied for the raised beds. Hopefully, there will be 5 beds, two large, two small, and a long skinny bed for climbing vegetables, over there, along the fence where the ladders are.

In 2010-2011, the previous owners had cut down a massive fig tree, the trunk of which still dominates this area, both above and below ground. The roots are think and entwined around the roots of other plants. Darren continually encounters trees and bushes cut off at ground level and removed no further. Most frustrating.

Over near the brick wall can be seen the buttress roots of the fig. We have issues with how to accommodate this. However, note that the soil is loamy, rather than predominantly sand or clay. And, we should have enough to fill all the beds that we install, especially after we add compost and manure.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Tangled in runners and roots

It is a satisfying shape, isn't it? A hyperbola, methinks. Although geometry is not my forte, nor ever was since the first half of the '60s when I wrestled with Mathematics II, and settled for General Maths, the clayton's variety. This geometric curve will be edged with a concrete mowing strip to stop those pesky runners.

The decision about raised garden beds now needed to be fleshed out. I had envisaged timber, or brick, but mentally baulked at the impertinence of colourbonded steel, even though I saw them at every turn. They were so ... so ... unnatural! I envisaged utility AND beauty. A place to sit and contemplate and watch the word go by. But colourbonds were value for money, and had longevity. And won the day.

When all this was but a gleam in my eye, Kirsten had insisted on a plan - to scale. So, I drew one up, based on beds 1.0m in width. Two beds to be 2.5m in length, and two more to be 1.5m in length. In addition, there was to eventually be a trellis bed, 500m wide, and 3.5m long. However, colourbond only did 2.6 x 1.3, so close-enough, we all agreed. But the height was 810mm rather than 510mm. Reduces bending - tick. Plenty of depth for root veggies - tick. Child friendly - nope. Capable of taking a teeppeed-tomato structure - nope.

The area looks like a good rake would get it over the line.

I did not factor in sinking the bed into the soil, and all the roots of the fig tree that lurked beneath the surface.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Kids in the garden | Wiggerly Woo

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Each day of the Easter long weekend, they dug in the front garden. Grass gave way to earth.  Earth gave way to long tangles of tree roots.

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And the roots gave way to worms that wriggled and writhed in her fingers.

Bless ABC's cotton socks for scheduling its gardening theme on Playschool last week. She danced and sang Wiggerly Woo on the newly turned soil.

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Hard yakka begins

The soil beneath is alive with worms - a good sign!

The thinking, and the hand-wringing had to stop. Had to be replaced by action. 'Money where mouth is' time - use a spade and slice through the thick runners of grass, making Hansel's curve a reality.

All this is really just a boy-excuse to visit Bunnings and stock up the shed. One mattock-purchase later, it is on for young and old as, like a surgeon with a scalpel, Darren slices the grass layer away. It is carted down to the backyard, in part to repair damage done by brush turkeys, which could equally have been wrought by the three massive deciduous trees that provide summer respite.

Although much grass is removed, the patch remaining is like a gathering place

Bird's eye view

Facing north, with east on the right

It wasn't until I outlined the lawn that would remain with Hansel-pebbles, that I had any confidence that I was heading in an okay direction.

By this stage, I had removed the original line of sandstone rocks that indicated the end of grass, beginning of garden, moved eight Gardenia plants to the rear garden, and sawed down a Camellia Japonica.

But it is that line of white pebbles that sealed the design. It leaves a front lawn, just perfect in shape and size: it can accommodate chairs for tippling adults, a cubby-house for rowdy youngsters, still with space for cartwheels, and musical performances. What more could one ask of a front garden? Why on earth leave a front garden for 'show' when all this is possible?

And over there, in the NE corner of the block, is sufficient space for a slew of raised veggie beds, including fruit trees, and a rain-water tank.

Come along with us, as we develop an ordinary suburban block into a green-grocer's delight.
The perspective comes from the windows of the family room on the second floor