Garden design widths

kale-bed3

When designing your garden it’s handy to know what are good measurements for the vegetable bed width and path width. Both will depend on your available space and the design shape you wish to use.

The ideal width of your bed will be if you can reach to the centre of the the bed from all sides. A good rule of thumb for a ground level bed is 1.2 metres.

The best width for a path will need to be able to accommodate a wheelbarrow. If you are designing for a school or aged care facility you may want to make sure a wheelchair can be used on the path. 90cm to a metre is a good width.

What is a herb spiral?

Herb Spiral Northey St

I have been lucky to come across two herb spirals in the last month. Herbs that need good drainage are planted at the top of the raised garden bed. Plants which need good sunlight are planted on the side that receives the most sunlight and shade loving plants are planted on the other side.

herb-spiral-northey

Northey Street City Farm herb spiral

The first herb spiral was at Northey Street City Farm. It is approximately 1 metre high by 3 metres wide with three different levels for herbs. The top level is well drained and drier, while the bottom level is moister and cool. Different plants are planted on different levels depending on their needs.

Raised spiral gardens offer a range of micro-climates to meet the habitat needs of different plants. Raised spiral gardens are also very space efficient, and conserve water. A herb spiral can add detail to an otherwise flat or boring landscape.

Herb Spiral Qld Plant Expo

Queensland Plant Expo herb spiral

The herb spiral at the Queensland Plant Expo was smaller and probably a better size for most suburban backyards. It had only two levels and the spiral was made with stones to define the different areas. You can see they have used straw mulching to keep the weeds away.

Herbs for a herb spiral

Herbs that prefer moist conditions (plant these near the bottom of the spiral facing the morning sun):

  • Bergamot
  • Borage
  • Coriander
  • Cress
  • French tarragon
  • Ginger
  • Lebanese Cress (in a pot)
  • Lemon balm
  • Mint (in a pot)
  • Mushroom plant
  • Parsley
  • Rocket
  • Vietnamese mint (in a pot)
  • Watercress

Herbs that prefer / handle drier conditions (plant facing the summer sun and on top of the spiral):

  • Garlic chives
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Society garlic
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow

Smart Permaculture Design by Jenny Allen

No-dig Gardening by Esther Deans

no dig gardening

Esther Deans’ book on “No-dig Gardening and Leaves of Life” has inspired many vegetable gardens with her no-dig gardening method.

She says “A garden without digging comprises rectangular beds raised above ground level, formed with old pieces of hard board, small concrete clip bricks or anything to hold the rich organic moisture in place.” Esther recommends selecting a sunny spot and watering lightly after each layer.

Here are her step-by-step instructions on how to create a no-dig garden:

  1. Build a box with boards or bricks
  2. A layer of newspaper 1/2 cm thick
  3. Pads of lucerne hay
  4. Sprinkle on a dusting of organic fertilizer
  5. Cover with about 20cm of loose straw
  6. Sprinkle this layer with some fertilizer
  7. Tip a circle of rich compost 10cm deep and about 45cm across where seeds are to be planted.

No-Dig Gardening and Leaves of Life – by Esther Deans

Esther says that the most important thing about a no-dig garden is just that – don’t dig it. She says “Earthworms do a wonderful job of cultivating the soil and do not like to be disturbed.”

Costa talks a whole lot of rubbish at The Queensland Garden Expo

Costa, Emma

The highlight of The Queensland Garden Expo was meeting Costa Georgiadis, host of ABC’s Gardening Australia. We were lucky enough to have front row seats while we listed to him talk about “What a load of rubbish Resources. Why compost, creativity and collaboration is the health insurance we all need to subscribe to”.

Costa showed us photos of a garbage audit he had done at primary school and explained to the kids (and the audience) the importance of recycling our waste. He urged us to change our perspective on rubbish, and start to call it waste, and also to start to think about it as a resource. More than half of our waste is food, which can be converted into compost and then it can be used as an input into improving our soil. The compost feeds the plants which in turn feed us. “If we look after our soil, it will look after us”, he said.

Costa then showed us the following video:

Plastic State of Mind (Empire State of Mind Parody)

We enjoyed our time visiting all the stalls and buying some heritage seeds at The Queensland Garden Expo. You’d be spoilt for choice if you were wanting to buy seeds, plants and gardening products.

Plastic Free July

Did you know it was plastic free July? What will you do this month to creatively convert your rubbish into a resource?

Moving to a new garden – The vegetable plot

Guest post by Dee Young

After 24 years of struggling to grow a variety of plants in an area of impoverished sandy soil, thinly covering bedrock of sandstone, I looked forward to enjoying a better relationship with my new garden. This is situated on an ancient flood plain that has a rich, thick layer of dark, alluvial soil over a heavier clay base.

But, should you think this an easy task, I must disappoint you as, even though the soil is potentially rich, it has been neglected for years and allowed to fall into disrepair structurally and nutritionally and in places the clay sub-soil is evident.

Unlike the sandy soil, however, this can be remedied with good, deep digging to break up and aerate the soil, whilst removing unwanted plants and their root systems.
I began with the abandoned vegetable plot behind the shed.

dee-abandoned-plot

After digging and weeding and before re-planting, I forked in plenty of well decayed cow manure, which helps break up any clay deposits and makes the soil friable.

The presence of many, large, healthy earthworms as I dug indicated an ideal growing pH of 6 – 7.5, therefore, after planting I was sparing with the gypsum (calcium and sulphur). A light application on the surface of the soil adds minerals for the plants and penetrates the clay particles to loosen the soil structure in compacted soils.

Finally, I added a good handful of pelletised complete fertilizer all over the planted area, which will break down over time to release nutrients into the soil.

dee-newly-planted

The lettuce, capsicum, tomato and yellow button squash plants have now been in the ground for 3 weeks and I am delighted with their progress. I picked lettuce leaves for a salad today.

dee-growing-well

So far, so good, I have rediscovered the joy of gardening, which is, essentially, seeing one’s plants thrive.

Written by Dee Young

A lazy dog’s day

dash

I’ve been meaning to post a new photo of our wonderful dog, Dash, to show you how much healthier she is looking from when we first got her. She’s a dachshund kelpie cross. Her favourite activity is still chasing lizards in the backyard. Fortunately there are plenty of hidey holes for them and they get out of the way quickly enough. She’s also still eating a raw diet from Jenny at The Complete Pet Company. If only our dinner was so easy!

Matt planted a white sapote next to the other one near the stump. Talking of which, after 5 years the ugly stump is really starting to break down. Matt has been putting the grass clippings in the centre and it heats up nicely making a sort of compost pile. Matt kicked it and one of the sides came away. The ants absolutely love the stump and it’s almost hidden by native grasses.

We cleared the vegetable beds and found some sweet potatoes we weren’t expecting. We’re regretting ever putting mint in, as it has overtaken the top bed. All four beds have sunk and really need a top up.

We bought some open-pollinated broccoli, cauliflower and kale from Edible Landscapes Nursery, Northey Street City Farm. However, they are too small to plant out just yet so we’ll keep them protected from the elements for a few weeks.

Waiting for rain

hose-tmba

We have unfortunately not had any decent rain for two and half months. Last week it was overcast with big gray clouds and we were hoping that it would fall in our backyard, but the most we got was 3mm on Saturday. Recently we have had beautiful Spring days with the hot sun beaming down.

I’ve been wanting to plant some more seedlings into the garden beds but I’m postponing that until we do have a decent soaking. Mainly because our water tank is now dry. Matt decided to empty it, as he thought that might help clean it out. Also the garage roof has collected lots of dirt from the nearby vacant block of land.

Fortunately most of the plantings in our garden are based around tropical or native plants, which survive through periods of hot and dry weather. Even the native grasses are starting to look a bit weary, and the grass is starting to brown in parts.

Only a handful of the bulbs that I planted have come up.

Book reviews: Oriental vegetables

I borrowed the following two books on oriental vegetables out from the library. Both books have a entry for each vegetable, which includes use, characteristics, climate, site and soil, cultivation, sowing, planting, pest and diseases, storage and choice of variety.

oriental-veg-larkcom

Oriental Vegetables: The Complete Guide for the Gardening Cook by Joy Larkcom – is a comprehensive reference book. The Telegraph even calls Joy the queen of the kitchen garden. The vegetables are illustrated as line drawings. Based on 10 years of research, it features a cornucopia of crops: a whole new world of vegetables that includes hardy leafy mustards, komatsuna, Chinese yams, lablab beans, Japanese pumpkin and water bamboo. The book is written for an British climate, so the growing information charts list only temperate and warm (subtropical) climates. The book provides over 50 of her own delicious recipes. Look for the revised edition.

Oriental Vegetables: How To Identify, Grow and Use by Waters, Morgan and Geary – sorts the vegetables by classification, and includes Chinese cabbage, Chinese mustards, other brassicas, other leafy vegetables, legumes, root crops, onions, cucurbits and mushrooms. It also has illustrated line drawings and is written for an Australian climate. Snap it up if you can find one. It’s a gem.

The Essential Urban Farmer

In this indispensable guide, Farm City author Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal share their experience as successful urban farmers and provide practical blueprints-complete with rich visual material-for novice and experienced growers looking to bring the principles of ethical food to the city streets. The Essential Urban Farmer guides readers from day one to market day, advising on how to find the perfect site, design a landscape, and cultivate crops. For anyone who has ever grown herbs on windowsills, or tomatoes on fire escapes, this is an invaluable volume with the potential to change our menus, our health, and our cities forever.

Resources