Ashburton 18 months later
After years of apartment living, Alex and Nicole wanted a house and garden to raise their two girls. Permablitz #168 gave them a good kickstart on the garden in their lovely home in a relatively quiet Ashburton street.
It takes a while for a garden (and the gardeners) to mature so Alex and Nicole are experimenting a lot with plants and where to put them. Artichokes, for example, are growing rather well, but they have realised that these are not their favourite vegetables. A fig tree and other plants that weren’t happy have been transplanted and one of the wicking beds is currently a hospital for the ‘infirm’. Rhubarb wasn’t happy in the back layer of the garden but loves being between the wicking beds.
They decided to make the garden compact, keeping a good sized yard for Rose and Charlotte to play in. The plan makes efficient use of the space, as you would expect with a permaculture design. Alex has expanded to use some free space in the lane behind the official yard for the compost bins.
Plenty of space was left for a grassy children’s play area. Leftover planks from the blitz were used to create a sandpit surrounding the trunk of a beautiful ornamental pear.
The blitz gave them a good start: wicking beds, espaliered apples, herbs and fruit trees. Zucchini loves growing in the wicking beds!
Olive trees are growing on a west wall, with grapes just planted this year. So far only one olive is fruiting, and the grapevines look like they will grow well over the pergola planned for the back of the house.
Alex has added PVC pipes on the verticals in the main veggie bed, for the strawberries, but has had to work on the irrigation system to make it successful.
The soil in the wicking beds turned out not to be the right kind so it has been enriched with compost, including Lucerne for nitrogen. Now the beds are gathering steam and there are lots of zucchini coming along.
Collective Tip: When adding soil to your wicking beds, add as much organic material as you can. One approach is to layer with lucerne/manure/soil/compost – then repeat. One popular tweak is to insert a worm composting tube into the soil portion of the bed. Food scraps can be added to the tube for the worms to process, and the resulting vermipost and worm juice will be distributed throughout the bed keeping the nutrient levels in your soil high. The worms also help to keep the system aerated and therefore prevent the system from going anaerobic.
There are several varieties of avocados (important for pollination), apricots, cherry and plum trees – even two tamarillos acquired from a relative. There are also mulberries, a fig, and hops. Maybe there will be some home brew next year with help from a friend who is already brewing. The nashi pear, beurre Bosc pear and lemon trees are small and will provide much fruit as they grow, although the orange is being taken to the wicking bed infirmary for now. A very healthy passionfruit fruit grows on the back fence and strawberries sit between the espaliered apples. Herbs include lots of lavender and rosemary, Vietnamese mint, thyme, mint and a bay tree.
Nicole is planning to grow more beans and tomatoes, snow peas and other useful vegetables. She considers herself a ‘reluctant’ gardener, having got “sucked in” (her words) by taking pity on parched plants and picking up the hose to water them.
Nicole said they use a lot of herbs from the garden and felt great last night when she was able to make a dish using zucchini fresh from the garden! She can’t wait for the olives to ripen; so far it is a small tree but I did see maybe a dozen olives on it! In time no doubt she’ll have enough to be pressing her own olive oil!
There are benefits for the children, too. Charlotte, the five year old, has been a bit of a picky eater, but has been more adventurous since she has been involved in the process from planting seeds to picking the produce.