Garden Share Collective – November 2013

Tomatoes | she cooks, she gardens

It’s time for the Garden Share Collective again, I’ve missed the last couple because time has gotten the better of me, but wanted to make the effort for this one as we’ve had so much going on.


This month has been a busy one for us, with lots of changes taking place in our little garden, the biggest being the removal of the huge gum tree in the back corner of the garden.

I’ve written before about this tree, it was an absolute monster at nearly 25 metres high. Our garden, while big enough for our needs, is on the small side. It never made sense to me why anyone would plant such a massive a tree in such a small space. Suffice to say, we tolerated it for as long as possible but when it started to crack and show signs of deterioration we decided it was time for it to come out. It was a bittersweet decision as it was a lovely tree and the local wildlife loved it, but it was just so inappropriate for a small inner-city backyard.

So it came out last week, you can see from the pics above and below it made quite a huge dent in our garden. Before the boys came in to cut her down, we had to basically dig up the entire garden around the base of the tree, and move them to a safer spot for a couple of days to improve access to the site. On the whole most things survived but there were a few casualties, like my kale plants and a couple of tender herbs which did not like being transported.

The difference it has made to our garden has been immense. Aside from light, the biggest hassle was the depletion of nutrients and water from the soil. In digging up the garden we noted that the soil, which is regularly tended to, looked and felt a bit like beach sand. To try and replenish it we dug through compost, cow manure and added some lime to try and sweeten the soil. We also added some coir to help with water retention as we move into the warmer months, and dug through a lot of the sugarcane mulch I’d added in the previous months. The result is a really nice looking soil, which I hope will continue to improve as time wears on.

Improving the soil

We’d thought long and hard about what we would do once the tree was out and decided to make the most of the light-filled space by planting edibles. We’d like to plant another tree in the same spot, but one that is more appropriate. We’re pretty keen to put in a fruit tree, but remain undecided about what type. Our back garden has become a mix of hardy natives and ornamentals, interspersed with edibles and we figure if we’re going to put in another tree it should at least be productive. I quite like the idea of these apple trees, because they are tall and thin and hopefully won’t take up too much space, while still providing some cover and greenery to block out the neighbours roof. P really wants an orange tree, which would also be lovely but possibly a little slow-growing. An option I’m toying with at the moment is to have a go espaliering a couple of citrus on either side of the fence, though updating both fences is on the cards at the moment so that might have to wait. This garden has given me lots to think about, and I’d love to hear your ideas too.


In the meantime, I’ve planted out a range of summer veg including a few tomatoes, a capsicum and a couple of chilies. I’ve also got a zucchini, a small pumpkin and a delicata squash on the go. I’ve never had success with pumpkin before, so fingers crossed that this one works. I’ve also got some basil and other herbs and next to go in will be some flowers like calendula and marigold to help deter pests.

Tomato | she cooks, she gardens

Out the front my tomatoes are starting to flower and set fruit. I’ve got a range of heirlooms in, including a rare red and black tomato from the Diggers Club which I’m really excited about.

To do.

Mulching is on the list of things I want to get done as soon as possible. Other than that it will be upkeep and helping everything settle back in to their improved home.

How is your garden going?


  • Linda says:

    Hi Erin,
    Sounds good – if it was me I would go with citrus espaliered, but that is me. One good, older gardener next to us tried Ballerina, and pulled it out. It was something like it flowered too early for here (we are a similar latitude), and there were no bees around to pollinate. Not sure I have seen anyone growing them successfully in the south. Any thoughts, anyone?
    Love the rest of your garden

    • Erin B says:

      Great advice, thanks Linda – that’s a shame about the apple (always too good to be true, hey?!) but good to know. I’m definitely keen to get something longlasting, getting that out gum out what hard enough, I’d hate to have to do it again with the replacement. 🙂

  • removing a tree, esp one that birds and wildlife love, is such a hard decision, but you really do need to be sensible. esp if it risks threatening your safety. your new garden plantings and pathway already look fabulous; in time, you won;t even miss that big ol’ tree!
    i’ll go and check out that persian garden link – though i’m sure it will make me very envious!

  • Gustoso says:

    The Persian garden is very inspirational isn’t it? I love espaliered trees, but we don’t have tall fences for it!

  • We moved to our current home from a 2 acre STEEP block covered in gums and Blackwoods. I could not grow anything. They had totally destroyed the soil. I think that is the reason I am so excited by my current garden space! I know how fortunate I am to be blessed with a rich productive soil. You will notice a huge difference Erin now that the tree has been removed. Have fun choosing which fruit tree to plant. I love an espaliered fruit tree they are so beautiful.

  • your soil is looking very healthy now and nutrient rich! It wont be long before your plants take off 🙂

  • I love espaliered trees.
    We’ve espaliered a fig tree in the past.
    Gave our backyard a very meditterean feel!
    Look forward to seeing what you decide to do.

  • Paul says:

    Hi Erin.
    You can’t beat fruit trees, for beauty and bearing. If you are feeling adventurous, try planting two similar trees in the same hole, or a short distance apart. That’s what I have done. If you want a fruit that will make you feel a little decadent, try a prune tree. Robe de Sargeant, or d’argen. You won’t believe how sweet these fruits can be.

  • We recently removed a huge tree from our yard too. We felt awful doing it but it has made such a difference. I vote apple tree. I was going to get an orange tree then mum reminded me that oranges are always quite cheap to buy (even organic) so I went with lime.
    Can’t wait to see the garden next month when you’ve planted out all the spare space!

  • Taking that gum tree out has made a huge difference to the space you now have to play with. I have found that below all gum trees the soil is very acidic and can never really grow food under them very well. I love the idea of growing an apple tree only because its something that I can’t grow. Look forward to seeing your heirloom tomatoes when they start to fruit.

  • jeanie says:

    Doesn’t it make a difference? We took out four trees a few years ago, and then gave a bottle brush a big prune last year and the difference is definitely worth it – you do occasionally get consequences you weren’t expecting also…

  • It looks much better without the tree. We’re in a similar situation in our rental unit. The backyard is dominated by and useless because a few too many oversized trees. We have managed to strewn a range of pots around the yard to capture what light there is to grow edibles.