Tuesday, 19 June 2012

First year in this garden ~ looking back on a season of plenty

We've been in this place for year now, and now that we are back in the dim chill of winter it seems a good time to reflect on what has been achieved.  It's been a lot of work but it's been good.  I've written about the setting-up process in a number of previous articles, so won't repeat myself here, but rather share such progress as has been made since then.  Those previous articles can be found by following the link at the foot of this article.

The border immediately behind the house has been a great success:
It has cheered up the look of that area no end.  The irises flowered vigorously, which surprised me as they had been unceremoniously dug up from their previous home and left in crates for at least a couple of months.  The two big roses also came away well, but I forgot to photograph them.

Late in the autumn I manured and mulched the whole border, so that with the advent of spring it should come away strongly!

The vegetable garden has done us proud:
This took a lot of work initially as I had to laboriously dig up strips of lawn a foot at a time.  The reward has been an excellent source of vegies, almost from the word go.  I've dug in plenty of manure and kitchen scraps as supply and vacancy of various patches of earth have made this possible.  Here is what it looked like in November last year:

That's rhubarb in the foreground, then silverbeet at the left and then lots of potatoes.  The potatoes have been especially good value: I paid $20 for seed potatoes, and we're been eating them for seven months!  We did have some trouble with wire worm, but it didn't last, and I wonder if their life cycle simply moved on.  They are the larvae of the 'click' beetle.  I might write about this separately.  Anyway, we got masses of potatoes!

The carrots and parsnips came late in the growing season simply because it took me time to get their bed ready!  This photo is from January, when the carrots were little more than thinnings:

In due course they have thickened up well and continue to provide sweet and tender veg of a good size.  There are still plenty in the ground until we're ready for them.  There they are at the right:

That photo was taken in March.  By that time I'd harvested most of the potatoes which had been planted in a big double row on the left.  In their place you can see my second planting of silver beet and some rows of rocket and various herbs.

Below is the vege garden photographed along its other side.  My little cat Louisa, came to regard the carrot and parsnip bed as her particular fort.  It was just the right height and density for the perfect look-out and ambush post!  The broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower at the right, surprised me by doing very well.  The only flop I had was with the beetroot, which I simply didn't soak long enough before planting, or sow thickly enough. 

The idea of leaving strips of lawn intact between the beds has been fairly successful.  For one thing it meant I didn't have to dig up the entire lawn, and for another it saves the gardener from getting muddy feet when gardening or picking vegies.  On the minus side, the edges were a bit tedious to keep trimmed.  However, I'm glad I did it that way.  

The pumpkins went in much too late.  I planted them in late November, which was optimistic to say the least, but nothing venture nothing win, and I did get a few, but not enough to pay for the cost of the plants versus the price of pumpkins in the shops.  Of course on the plus side of that equation I knew they were organic and that the carbon footprint was negligible!

By the time I got to considering where to plant the pumpkins I had run out of room in the vegie garden on the middle terrace, so planted them up on the top one...

Getting the top terrace established:
Just as with the vegie terrace this started out being nothing more than an uneven and hard-to-mow patch of lawn.  Setting it up to my own satisfaction took much longer and was harder work than I expected.  In the two photos below you can see it the way it was originally:

One tree, a lemon-wood which had been poorly cut back, stands more or less in the middle of it.  The ridges of its roots made mowing around it both difficult and unsatisfactory.  I decided to work with rather than against that, and set about converting the main root area into garden.  I gradually removed the lawn grass and added a major amount of compost.  Those who have viewed earlier articles about my former garden may well see something familiar about that pile of rocks.  Yes, I brought them with me, which is just as well, because that particular garden bed in their earlier home has since been done away with and filled in.  It was a days work just to fetch them from along the peninsula so I wasn't about to leave them for someone else to dump under a hedge!  In their present position I formed a simple mound on which I placed the bird  bath.

Forming a nice edge around the renga renga which you can see above in the middle distance, had taken time and effort.  I had planted the renga renga straight into the lawn as I was sure of its position, but then had to come back to it and make the rest of the border work.  Lawn turf isn't nearly as easy to deal with as it looks:

The plot under the lemon wood gradually took shape:

Here you can see it from the other side of the tree ready to be planted up:

My pumpkin seedlings are in - attended by the ever helpful Louisa:

The photograph below shows the bed as seen from the next terrace.  The tree roots on that side were still clearly visible at the time.  Since then I have added several barrow-loads of earth, but the whole area will benefit from more.  Not only does it need more coverage but also more feeding as it will have been very depleted by the tree over the years.  This will help the tree as well.  Next spring, when I distribute the nicely rotted-down compost heap I'll be putting a lot onto it.  That's our cat Bonnie, sitting in the edge of the garden next to the catnip plant and amidst the rocket and strawberries.  Those are peonies in the foreground - I didn't have anywhere else to plant them! 

The peony appeared to be very happy with its new home producing some lovely blooms:

Over in the far corner behind the garden seat I had planted some fairly large plants straight into the lawn, and then put off doing anything more about getting that border established.  The top corner is very wet and much of the ground there was heavy and overgrown - not inviting!  However, when I finally set to work it didn't take all that long, but, just as I expected, it was heavy going:

Under the fern in the far corner I came across an unusually large spider.  Although I was a bit startled at first I admired her soft stripy back.  She obliged me by staying still for long enough for me to take her photograph:

I'm a great believer in mulch:
Mulch discourages weeds, keeps the surface of the ground workable, and in summer keeps in moisture.  I've been told it needs to be four to six inches thick to be effective.  I have found that even a fairly sparse covering helps to some degree.

In the late autumn I mulched much of the garden.  The mulch used was from a timber mill where big heaps of shavings accumulate from the milling of untreated pine.  We were permitted to fill the back of our car with as many sacks as it would hold for $5 a load.  It was surprising how much we packed in!

You can see the consistency of the mulch better in the image below.  It's not perfect but it keeps the weeds back to some degree and keeps the surface of the earth easy to work with. 

 What a different place the garden is now from when we moved here:

During the winter months I'm pretty much leaving it to its own devices:
This gives the garden time to settle in and pursue it's own processes undisturbed.  Working in it in the spring will be a pleasure rather than the big project it was in this first season. 

The garden has become a place to find comfort and relax:
Looking at these photos and thinking about what it is that has changed the most, even more than the appearance of it, I'd have to say that it's the mood of the place.  It now feels as if it nestles into the hillside, rather than being just a mown set of exposed terraces.  Even in winter, now that it's largely in hibernation, it feels full of life in a way that it didn't before and which is not strained at all.  Before I came along and tickled around with it it felt not only dormant but unconscious.  Now it feels more like an entity in its own right, almost like a friend; certainly it's a place to be comfortable in.

I love gardening for many reasons:
I love the sense of lively growth and expansion that is part of a garden that has been nurtured and well cared for, even when its weedy.  I love how it is always full of surprises, most of them happy ones.  So in the quiet, cold winter months I look back with satisfaction and forward to spring, in the same way as one looks forward to meeting up with an old friend - with a sense of pleasure.  

Meanwhile, my garden rests.  I am grateful for all the lovely food and flowers, and the happy hours spent pottering about in it.  I'm glad of the garden and glad to be able to work in it, and to know how to.  
I share my achievements with others to offer ideas and encouragement:
Quite a number of people have helped me reach this level of capability and also my own years of practice in a range of very different gardens.  This is what motivates me to share what I have learned and achieved here, in the hope that it will be a source of ideas and encouragement for others.

I've written a whole series of articles about 'how to' aspects of gardening.  For those who are interested in reading these and other gardening articles they can be found by following the link below.  
Happy gardening!

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