Monday, April 29, 2013

Garden gone awry

 Red flowers of pineapple sage

One of the hardest daily aspects of this pregnancy, has been avoiding the garden. Nearly all of our garden is contained on a slope, or requires walking up a slope to reach flat land. In the six years we've lived here, I've only taken one serious spill down a slope. It was my own fault (a miscalculation) but when you're pregnant, any kind of fall down a slope can be potentially harmful.

So I did the right thing and only visited the immediate areas around the house, or waited for David to be home - that way, he could support me down the harder to access areas. Pregnancy is only for nine months though, so we've made do.

But oh, how I have missed the garden...truly...I stare at it through our windows, or from afar outside, and make all these plans in my head. I think about what I will do first, when I can run around and get tangled in the jungle again!

A heron, spied through our window

The plans aren't just in my head though, I'm working on putting them on paper. I'm not talking about placing a fruit tree here and a garden hedge there (the haphazard way I'm used to planning) rather I've got a full blueprint of stages of earthworks, remedial plant repairs and then permanent plantings - as I'm designing this system to maintain itself once it matures. We need a reliable garden, not just one that performs when the weather is being nice.

Kent pumpkin

I guess I tired of lamenting a lack of rain and fertility, because of where we live. Every year our growing plans are thwarted because we live in an environment of extremes. This year, it was our beloved Kent pumpkins; which have always produced a crop religiously - come rain or extreme heat! This year we got one!

 A gift

We were generously given a box of pumpkins by one of David's work colleagues, but I have to say - they tasted of nothing. I've made several batches of pumpkin soup, and not even the slow cooked chicken-stock, made it taste of anything remotely like pumpkin. Roasted, it still tasted like pale mush. It was that bland, it could easily be confused for choko! Which I have to say, even our choko's (growing over the chicken coop) had more flavour this year.

 I wish choko tasted like pumpkin - we'd be set!

We managed to produce a Ute load of chokos, sweet potatoes and a single pumpkin in our growing season. That's what haphazard planning can achieve, and we've taken our chances with that system long enough. Thankfully, I've done quite a bit of research as my bump has grown, and I can't wait to put that knowledge to use in the garden.

I'll explain the specifics once my diagrams are complete. I'm a visual aid learner, and need them to explain better. We're going to concentrate our efforts however, on the immediate areas around the house, and the land on the edges. If you're familiar with permaculture, this is often referred to as zone 1 & 2.

The key areas within these zones will address:

1. Capturing water run-off from the road and storing it in the soil.

2. Modifying how we manage the chickens.

3. Removing structures which aren't using the land to its maximum potential.

4. Implementing simple (non electronic) technology to boost soil fertility.

5. Reducing our energy demands on fossil fuels.

6. Stacking layers of natural energies/inputs, to support the environment.

It doesn't sound like a plan for growing better vegetables (where did I mention a veggie patch?) but they are the underlying issues we need to address first, that will ultimately resolve our problems with growing anything on our land.

I'm giving a generous time frame of 2-5 years to implement the new design, but it will probably take 10 years to be fully mature. I'm hoping to learn a lot from the process. In the six years of experimentation to date, we've already learned what doesn't necessarily work in our extremes - and that money thrown at a problem, doesn't necessarily solve it either.

Time we spend in the garden though, well that's always free. We're the avid experimenters - only this time, we're going to work within an integrated design.

It won't be long until winter arrives, which means a new baby and time frolicking/working in the garden again. Both things, I'm very much looking forward to!


  1. Oh Chris, I so understand! When I had cancer I had to stay out of the sun and of course couldn't do the hard work. It was entirely up to Garry. He did a good job but I missed the actual experience. You are doing something very exciting though-besides having a sweet baby:). Planning on paper!

    I can't wait to see what you come up with!

  2. I suspected you could seriously relate! It's strange knowing you can't do those activities which bring such peace, and yet, it's just outside your door. I never realised how MUCH therapy gardening was for me, until I had to do without it.

    I'm so glad you got to see your garden again - cancer is another thing entirely. The sun is a beautiful place to stand underneath, health permitting of course - especially in your own garden space. There is something so "zen" about it. I love hearing the bees buzzing around the flowers, and I know the world is turning as it should.

  3. I agree about the therapeutic benefit of gardening. It seriously took its toll on me to not be out there involved in it. Our P.D. designer told us that in the next year they will be starting a more formal group/training thing here. I told her that the one thing about that is that I could not go work on other peoples land because I can barely work on mine. She said, "Well, you can cook for the crowd right?" Sure. But that makes me feel detached. Its gardening or bust! Lol.

    You will be gardening soon enough. Your baby will be alongside being lulled to sleep by the warmth of the sun and the sound of nature. Time flies pretty fast thank God!


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