Monday, August 22, 2011

Makings of a garden

I recently came across a blog post by friend and fellow artist - Nicola Chatham - about her making of a new permaculture garden, her permaculture studies and lots of things she is learning along the way. It made me feel quite nostalgic about the beginnings of my own vegie garden and orchard. So I thought I'd dig out some old photos and look at how much it's grown over the past eight years.

The very first orchard bed, 2003, and a huge pile of organic mix ( and Georgie, one of my chooks at the time). I layered cane mulch, soil, cane mulch, soil and finally mulch again to make the long raised beds. Then a swale was dug along the top contour edge and holes dug only where the fruit trees were to be planted. Our block was part of a dairy farm once, but had never been ploughed, the ground so full of rock that the removal of one revealed the next underneath, this method of raised beds was a lot easier than digging.

Onto the second bed with ground cover planting between the fruit trees of hundreds of cuttings, divisions and seedlings from my previous garden. The hessian staked up was an early windbreak for the young fruit trees.

In 2004, Beds three and four are in and planted, the back bare raised mound was ready to start and beds towards the vegie garden entrance (right) were planted.
2005, centre left Bed 2 and centre right bed 3. Peach tree pretending to be a white bag tree, all in aid of fruit fly free fruit, and yes it was worth the effort.

The garden has been through a few stages as far as the amount of attention I've had to spend on it. The initial two years of setting up beds and swales were intensive and exciting. The next couple of years saw some good growth in the first beds and more new orchard beds being built. Then a couple of years when my artwork picked up, that busy, busy thing took over and so did the weeds. La Nina weather certainly helped this along. But I have to say that designing with permaculture principals in mind made a big difference, the bones of the garden are still there, the swales worked wonderfully in dry years, holding and directing moisture deep to the tree roots, growth accelerated in the wet years. Plants that seemed lost in the weeds, kept on growing and have been 'found' again. The underplanting have changed a lot since they first went in the ground, with a lot more shade now and gradual phasing out of the pioneer pigeon pea, no longer required for a wind break.

2011, looking uphill from the bottom of the orchard.

 I've spent some time over this winter clearing the weeds, mulching and finding plants again, I'm thinking about where the orchard will head in the next few years. For too long I left growth habit up to the plants, not pruning enough. A blog post by professional gardener Chris some time ago reminded me that gardens are created places, they need maintenance and control, so the pruning saw and clippers have been in regular use, bringing in more light where needed, reducing lower branches that created ladders for vine weed and there are a couple of trees that eight years on I realise are just too big for where I planted them....they'll have to go...such is the changing dynamics of a garden. A never ending journey, which I love.

Nicola Chatham has some great tips on starting a permaculture garden and lots more on her blog that's well worth a read.

1 comment:

  1. talk about synchronicity... I attended the first SE biroregion permaculture convergence this past weekend.... met and chatted with david holmgren (what a wonderful human being! and so nice!) .... permaculture - it the only way eh?

    (ps and for further synchronicity - yesterday I was pruning our orchard... and thinking about trees that are getting too big for the little spot they were put into.... about 12 years ago now)

    love your orchard progress pics!