I did a post a couple of years ago on my vegetable garden at the Winter Solstice, and thought I might remedy my longstanding blog-neglect with some pretty pictures.
There are two large productive beds in our backyard. When we started renting this house ten years ago, the vegetable beds were just big brick-edged expanses with no internal definition. We’ve tried lots of things over the years, including banked earth beds, simple peg and board edges and fence paling walkways that turned out to be an earwig paradise. You can see that last configuration in the link at the beginning of the post; the boards in the middle of this photo sit where the path lies in the first picture below.
Those methods had been OK, but I was yearning for a more defined feel and better water retention, not to mention being frustrated at continued foot splinters from board paths – I hate wearing shoes in the garden. Finally we’ve got our act into gear. First Owen laid out the beds in the garden at the Western end of the house, edging them with roof tiles bought from the tip shop.
The little bit of green you can see through the heavy Canberra clay at the bottom left of the path is clover. I chip out everything else that grows on the paths, but clover is such a clever and lovely plant (and so soft and cool underfoot – eventually) that it gets some love. [WRONG! Thanks to Naomi for setting me to rights in the comments. One of the things I love about gardening and cooking is that there is always something to learn. It’s oxalis.]
That one is the “boy garden”. Below is the “girl garden” at the Eastern end of the backyard, edged by me over Winter with roof tiles I picked up from the side of the road supplemented with a few purchased extras to finish the central bed with the little fig tree at it’s centre. My friend Katie has already said that those rounded parts look like “saggy old ladies’ boobs” so don’t feel you need to bring that up.
I’m loving myself sick about the paths which I’ve graded down from the external brick edges so the wheelbarrow can get in smoothly. It’s been hugely handy as we’ve barrowed in a trailer load of mushroom compost and half a trailer load of cow manure over the last couple of weekends.
I was amazed at how easy it was to make curvy beds with tiles. I did a rough outline with the hose of where I wanted the beds to be, and made sure I had the paths wide enough to turn the wheelbarrow (even if sometimes that means going backwards), but other than that I just started with a mattock, spade and a ho mi and kept going in a continuous line until I was done. I had one tile left when I finished and I felt really very happy I hadn’t spent any time at all trying to calculate how many tiles I’d need. It’s not by any means a perfect job, but it’s completely functional and finished in time for Spring planting and that has to count for something.
The current bane of my existence is the couch grass and other evil plants coming from the neighbours on two sides of this bed. I plan to keep re-digging the couch out of the bed at the near left in the photo as runners are coming through under the boundary brick which is four layers deep. I’ve started planting out the edges between the bed and fence with lemon balm, Jerusalem artichoke and sunflowers to choke out the nasties.
Back in the boy garden, it’s the fourth year for the asparagus, and it’s looking pretty freaking awesome. I found two spears bursting through a few days ago and the next day many more – those little white nubs in the foreground included.
The raspberry canes are well settled, seriously well fed and looking great. They’ve started to pop up in the path as you can see at the right of the picture. I don’t know whether it’s worth trying to transplant them back within the bed, so if you’ve done so successfully I would love you to share your expertise.
I’ve had trouble trying to work out how we should have pruned them and whether they are Summer or Summer/Autumn fruiting canes – largely because the fruit tends to get gobbled in the garden and rarely makes it into the house. It took me a very long time to work out that was why they seemed less productive than I’d hoped they’d be.
In general the garden is still looking pretty underplanted overall to my eye, but the stalwarts are in place, glorious rainbow chard (and mizuna, parsnip, radish and garlic)
and three waves of broadbeans (the last in the girl bed)
The potted things are waking up, too – lemongrass
nettles, and the old bath full of bamboo that shades the concrete slab at the front door
Owy has commandeered the kids’ swing set to grow hops which he’ll use in his homebrew
and, at last, I’ve set up a new nursery area under a shade sail