My wife and I have long dreamed of being able to walk outside at any time of the day or night and pick a passionfruit or pull up a sweet potato, go inside and prepare a healthy, colorful vegetarian meal — with all the subtle flavors that don’t seem to exist in commercially grown food.
Wherever we have lived, whether in a small apartment or out on a large, hilltop property, we have always been drawn to the world of gardening — well, at least in theory. The thought of growing delicious, fresh and chemical-free veggies and fruit in the back yard, or even in pots on the patio, holds much appeal.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we are competent gardeners. We may turn out to have “green thumbs”, but we just haven’t had much of a chance to try our hand at nurturing plants from seed to fruition. We have tried before, but something always seems to halt our plans before we really get started.
The last place we were living in was a duplex. We met the owner before taking the place and moving in. “Oh yes, you’re welcome to put in a veggie garden wherever you want. Go for it,” we were told. So after a couple of months and a hundred bucks or so, we had a nice little no-dig vegetable patch strewn along the front and side fences. We had tied together lengths of shade cloth and hung them from the fence to protect the young plants from the scorching heat of the Australian summer.
We thought to ourselves “this all seems to be coming along quite nicely (except for a few more bugs than we had expected!!)”. This was until the landlord drove past the house one day and said “I want the front yard returned to lawn.” Well, there was not much attraction to staying on at that place anymore, so we decided to just let the garden run down and the landlord’s lawn grow back, and of course, look for another place to live.
We were very fortunate to come across our new place — it is in the very northern and picturesque end of New South Wales, Australia, about 15 minutes drive from the Gold Coast. We are now in an old two-bedroom home which has been renovated, set on 17 acres in a valley and we have big plans for an organic garden.
We found the source of a crystal-clear spring on the property, which feeds a trickling stream. We decided it would be great to siphon this water to the back of the house, where we have our future garden planned. So now we have, on tap, a constant supply of spring water traveling a hundred yards over a small hill to an area behind the house, delivering about 2 liters of that precious fluid every minute. We have just acquired a 200-liter header tank that we will siphon into, and whenever this fills, we will release the water through a drip system to cover the garden (and reduce the workload!).
We may turn out to have “green thumbs”, but we just haven’t had much of a chance to try our hand at nurturing plants from seed to fruition.
There is only one drawback — the dirt is clay — quite heavy clay, in fact. So, it’s going to be back to the no-dig veggie garden idea again! At least this way we won’t really have any weeding to contend with. We have started lining the sides of the garden with bamboo (although most types of wood, tin, or even chicken wire would do the job) to keep everything in place. Near the house there are massive clumps of bamboo that have been growing there for decades. We measured one piece of bamboo at nearly 70 feet long and 6 inches thick! This will do nicely for the edges for now. It may break down a lot quicker than hardwood, but it’s free and we don’t have much of an income.
We have bought a variety of non-hybrid seeds to plant. Non-hybrid seeds will reproduce true to form, whereas hybrids cannot be relied upon. So our veggie garden will hopefully be growing well from generation to generation, without us having to buy any more seeds. All we have to do now is put some hay down where we want our garden, cover this with a good six inches or more of organic soil mix (which we will have to buy), put some more hay on top and set up the watering system. Sounds like a lot of work and it probably will be! It will be rewarding though, and once set up should be a lot less work than a regular garden.
The reason we are writing all of this is to try and encourage would-be gardeners of all descriptions to give gardening a try themselves, and to learn and grow with us as we try to establish an attractive and productive garden. Our plan is to master the art of growing healthy fruit and veggies organically, and to pass on the things we learn — what we find works, and what we find doesn’t, as well as any other bits and pieces of useful and interesting info we come across.
We’d like to talk about the principles of organic and no-dig gardening, (which, by the way, can even be set up on a slab of concrete!). We hope to learn about easy, useful, colorful and fun things to grow, and about composting, raising seeds, etc., etc. And we hope you will find our notes on this fun and encouraging and learn along with us, as our garden grows.
And for those of you who do want to grow along with us, don’t worry, a garden doesn’t have to be big, complex or elaborate — it can simply be a couple of potted plants on the back veranda. A good friend of ours recently started a potted plant veggie garden on his front porch and it is coming along exceptionally well (and it looks fantastic too!).
At any stage of our gardening adventure, passersby who would like to come see how our patch of veggies is doing — or maybe give us some helpful hints — are more than welcome to drop in for a chat. Just send us an email (Click here), so we can give you directions on how to find our place along the goat track.
David and Sarndra