Frankston – 2 years later
The sign at the front door says “Spoiled rotten pets live here”. It should read “coddled plants thrive here”! Both front and back yards are lush with growth, in spite of the dryness all around – there is corn as tall as me, and tomatoes and squash are overflowing their beds. It’s just so bountiful!
When I participated in her blitz back in late 2016, the yard looked like a standard suburban lawn, complete with the usual weedy areas and some areas that she had started to work on herself. Also, as so frequently happens, the design took over, so the work planned needed a follow-up blitz a week or so later.
The standout for me was the African Keyhole bed, which was built up using a decorative array of bricks in a circle, with an opening (keyhole) so that a person can step in to dump vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, etc. into the wire basket in the centre for composting. No further work is necessary as the composted goodness seeps into the earth around it to nourish whatever is planted there.
What doesn’t go into this basket mostly goes to the very happy chooks, who get their exercise in a large run at the back and along one side of the property, and supply Bronnie with eggs in return. Even her eight-year-old hen still lays!
Most of what was done over the blitz periods have worked, with some adjustment needed. Bronnie had to re-make the African Keyhole bed as we had simply turned over the underlying sod, expecting it to die and decompose, but kikuyu had other ideas. It seemed to be completely indestructible so she had to remove it. Ideally this should have originally been sheet mulched with thick cardboard or at least 8 sheets of newspaper over the turned and weeded sod area.
The greenhouse is fairly empty at this time of year but a very happy passionfruit vine has seeded itself and is already halfway up the side. Bronnie is having some trouble with seedlings that go only so far, then die. Mel, who came with me, suggested using an inexpensive potting mix with perlite and vermiculite as a growing medium as the larger granules support and encourage root growth in the tiny plants. This might help her make more use of the greenhouse.
The wide variety of plantings speaks to Bronnie’s interest in unusual plants as well as her desire to feed herself. When something pops up in unplanned places, it stays, as it would in the wild. This helps prevent the soil from becoming depleted in areas from only growing one type of thing. The approach also attracts beneficial insects, and also acts as a form of companion planting.
The front yard is largely fruit based, with small (so far) fruit trees, including peach and mulberry, a banana plant that has already spawned a pup, strawberries, midyim berries and a fig. Close to the house are roses, cosmos, red dahlias and other decorative flowers. This is not solely for cosmetic reasons (although Bronnie does like the colour!) but also because she was unsure about the soil quality.
If you’re not sure about your soil quality, you can get it tested. If you live in Australia you can get your soil tested by the VegeSafe program at Macquarie University. The service is free for domestic and community garden soils, but why not make a small donation to support the program continuing its great work.
The main work is in the back, where you will find walking onions, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, apple cucumbers, and so on. Some are directly in the ground, others in raised beds, including one she finished recently, building it of pallets and filling it with branches and twigs, prunings, soil and compost as a variation on the hugel.
Most of the berries grow here – raspberries, blackberries, loganberries and tayberries.
The pond contains perpetual basil and a pond plant a bit like duckweed, but it makes a useful addition to the compost.
Bronnie’s two dogs have plenty of space to run about and the cat has found her afternoon hidey-hole near the greenhouse.
The two Permablitzes of October 2016 got a lot of the hard work done and did a wonderful job of kick-starting the garden for Bronnie. Since then, Bronnie has continued with the forward momentum and has expanded the work to cover her yard in edibles and ornamentals. It truly looks like great place to live!