It occurred to me the other day that it has been a while since I’ve updated you on the goings on in our gardens. I write garden as a plural because since the last update (which was approximately twelve months ago…!!) a few things have changed. The biggest change for us is that we’ve joined a local community garden, which has been a great decision for us as it has brought with it loads more space and therefore more options, as well as real sense of being part of a community of like-minded people who are interested and passionate about growing food.
The garden has been around since 2011 and is located on an old disused bowling green. The old invasive Kikuyu turf was ripped up and dozens of garden beds and irrigation were laid out. We’re in the process of building an office on site with cob walls and a mixture of recycled and found materials. Cobbing is not something I was familiar with before joining the garden, it involves mixing clay with straw to make a muddy medium that is then layered on to create walls. I realised when writing this that I’ve not taken any photos of the progress in a while so next time I’m down I will grab a few snaps to share with you.
The garden operates on a sharecropping system which enables more people to garden in the space. Basically instead of long waiting lists for a plot that then becomes your responsibility, we all garden together in the seriously large space. We share responsibility for weeding, pruning, composting and watering. Some have more time to commit than others and it just seems to work. P and I have turned over and planted out a couple of beds with beans, tomatoes, zucchini, spring onion and capsicum and when they start producing other members of the garden are welcome to take the produce. On days when I can’t make it down another member will water, weed and pick out laterals on the tomatoes for me so it’s a great system. As there are a number of tomato beds I imagine there will be a huge glut and plenty to go around (fingers crossed!).
This may seem a little odd to some people but it absolutely works. It means that we can all share in the bounty while experimenting with different crops and ideas that we all get the benefit of. For example, we’ve got two asparagus beds on the go that have just started ferning. This is not something I would have bothered to plant in my own garden as they need more room than we have and will stay in the ground for the foreseeable future, limiting other planting options. We have two big beds on the go at the garden and because we have plenty of room the space is not missed. At harvest time there is so much asparagus to go around it’s ridiculous.
There are a couple of members who have an interest in fruit tree grafting and have put in a number of productive trees including two super productive mulberry trees – a red and a white varietal. I’ve not eaten white mulberries before but they are quite delicious, less tart than the usual red mulberries I am familiar with. I grabbed a bag full of ripe berries over the weekend and made a small batch of white mulberry jam (with a few strawberries thrown in for good measure) which set beautifully and tastes fantastic.
In the beds that we’ve planted out I’ve experimented with a couple of layouts suggested by Lolo Houbein in One Magic Square. The tomatoes, zucchini and capsicum are planted down the centre of the bed and bordered by fast-growing spring onions, basil and marigold to help provide shade for young seedlings and confuse any wayward insects. In the other bed we’ve got a mixture of pole and bush beans with some gorgeous heirloom lettuces and rocket growing in between. Our garden is fiercely organic so there are no sprays or chemicals used other than the occasional drop of seaweed extract or bokashi juice. Because we have such an excellent eco-system of flowers, bees and productive crops bugs just don’t seem to be a problem. We get the occasional caterpillar or aphid nymph but there seems to be a nice balance which is a huge relief.
Our home garden is still going strong, there have been changes there too. I’ll write more about that in a future post.
How is your garden going?