Saturday, 30 September 2017

Fertile Gardening

Yesterday's Permie workshop was informative and practical. We all visited Ranui Community Garden and Buffie showed us what we can do with soil. Ron also showed us different tools we can use. We can double dig, broadfork, or try lasagna gardening. I'm choosing lasagna gardening because digging up clay is not fun. I also want to save my back.

Ingredients for lasagna gardening - suggested layering -

food scraps
coffee fluff
coffee grounds
green clippings
chicken manure
coffee sacks
potting mix
rock dust
green manure

Make sure you layer each with green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) and it will break down if you have worm workers mixing the layers.

We also learned about intercropping, companion plants, guilds, planting by the moon, crop rotation, pollination insectaries, green manures, seed saving and other fascinating garden stuff. We then designed for the community garden according to a specific brief.

Some gardening tips to share for those new and not so new.

* If you making garden beds, make them only so wide so you can reach with your hands from both sides. You don't want to a garden that you need to step into compacting the soil to reach plants in the middle. If making raised beds, there's no maximum depth but 35 cm at least can be deep enough for a decent crop. I've seen beds waist high at other gardens but that's for elderly who can't bend down. If you can afford a truckload of soil fine but you can fill the bottom  with firewood or other organic material or have a false bottom.
* Plant fruit trees with wide enough spacing between, say 5 metres between each tree when fully grown, so  you can plant in between. They are small when you first plant them but you can plant a fast growing nitrogen fixer in between, then cull the nitrogen fixer once the fruit trees become established.
* Nitrogen fixers are those of the legume family - peas, beans, clover, kowhai, acacia, even gorse. Their roots have nitrogen fixing nodules that are beneficial to the soil and plants around them.
* Don't plant from the same family in beds year after year, practice crop rotation to prevent build up of pests and diseases.
* Mix flowers and herbs with your veges, the flowers and herbs will attract beneficial insects and repel pest ones.
* Orient your beds to north to get the most sun, grow taller plants, trees and shelterbelts to the south.
* Top soil will naturally accumulate down a slope or bank where you will find the deepest and richest soil. It will also retain the most water and be the most optimum at the keyline - which is the point where the soil is moist but not so damp it's a bog.
* You can make your own seed raising mix, using one part compost, one part top soil and one part river sand, mix it through a sieve to get a fine tilth. It's important to mix in a bit of your own garden soil so newly sown seedlings you may transplant  can adjust to the conditions of your garden, they may get a shock if they are coddled at a warm nursery and then transplanted to a totally foreign environment with cold clay soil!

My other tip is, try and stay awake after lunch when learning at an all-day workshop because I may have missed something.

On the Dream Garden front, I have now redesigned the deck area to extend the space out to the garden. I wonder if I present this idea to my dad, whether he will accept or reject it. All it needs is the railing to come down and a side ramp with two landings to be built on the side, so it can also be wheelchair/bicycle/wheelbarrow friendly and have planting beds and seating with space for my bbq or firepit. Never know, it might happen one day, as the house just got painted. Dad paid the neighbour to do it when my brother just said he would get a round tuit last December. He never got this round tuit. While he did clip the hedges he also left a bit of a mess in one of the garden beds full of buxus clippings. If he was working for my company he would be audited and failed! Nevermind, how can you fire someone who just did it for free?