Tuesday, 21 July 2015

May 2015 Part II - The 'Dirty Hands' part of Clean Food

I think the hardest work of all in a garden is getting a bed ready for its first planting... 

...that and waiting for seedlings to germinate. This is especially true in our case where we're trying to grow garden where previous property owners saw fit to dump builder's rubble.

"Dietes grandiflora or Fairy Iris" by Rojer Wisner
Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
So I planted the top bed a while back and my new seedlings were just about ready to be transplanted, so the time came to start up the second of the top beds. I wish I had taken a photo of this bed before I got hold of it! 

It was also full of rubble - many of the rocks you see making the middle path in the image below, I dug out from under the ground. The swales or mini-terraces on either side were also made out of the builder's rubble I extracted. 

"Rhoeo Tradescantia spathacea" by Tauʻolunga
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
It was full of Dietes grandiflora (Fairy Iris), Chlorophytum comosum (Spider Plant / Hen & Chicken) and Rhoeo spatheca (aka Oyster plant aka Moses in the Cradle) and with a bunch of weeds in between.

I started by taking out the Rhoeo and Dietes plants and ended up replanting them in the front bed that was looking a bit spare. The Dietes is apparently indigenous, and the Rhoeo is referred to as 'naturalised' - and I haven't had a chance to figure out what I'm doing with that front bed yet, so it seemed a good spot!

Hen & Chicken / Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum)
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 
I dug down about a spade deep throughout the whole bed, except for a spot you can't see in the bottom left hand corner - the spot that gets the least sun. I got all the rocks out by hand then used them to make the mini terraces - something I had missed when irrigating in the bed above it. The terraces help to prevent soil from washing away in heavy rain, and help to dam water slightly, and I plant slightly taller plants (like peas) directly in front of the terraces for minimum shade impact on the plants behind them. 
Click on the image above to view a larger image.
I raised the beds slightly by digging soil out from the path. I also spread 4 bags of compost around - it didn't go as far as I'd like, but it will have to do until my own compost is ready. I did this whole bed myself in a day - I felt quite stiff and sore for a couple of days afterwards, but it helped me come to the conclusion that gym would be a waste of time for me! Gardening is a full body workout for sure!

Once the preparation was done I planted this bed with some brassica seedlings that were ready to go - Romanesco Broccoli, Sugarloaf Cabbage, Red Acre Cabbage, Green Sprouting Broccoli, and Chou moullier Kale. I also planted beets and turnips in alternating sections, as well as Greenfeast and Oregon Sugar Pod peas just in front of the terraces, lettuce bordering the path for easy reach and spinach wherever there was a space. Against the wall I planted some red onion seeds and some baby onion plants. In between all of these I put some nasturtiums, marigolds, comfrey and sweet basil.

In the picture below you can see plastic circles on the right - those were lids from polystyrene take away containers with a large hole drilled in them that I placed around the base of each seedling with the name of the type of plant written on it - all those brassicas can get confusing! It worked well until we had uncharacteristically strong wind for two days in a row... But by that time the plastic labels were the least of my worries! It does give you an idea of the spacing I used for the brassicas though.

The full side bed - view from my kitchen window!
Click on the image above to view a larger image.
Anyway, I was so glad to have that second side bed done. In this pic you can also see the herb garden in the top left hand corner. I want to use the little shelf below it for my larger seedlings - like my moringas. You can also see all the Rhoeo plants stacked up on the far left before we were able to transplant them.

In May we also did an overhaul of the bottom garden - the one you have seen most often in the blog so far. That involved cutting down the Natal Fig that was growing into the wall - you can see my gorgeous hubby working on it there - and also weeding the next batch of weed seeds that had come up. As much as it feels like a losing battle sometimes, every batch of weeds seeds that sprout and grow before I've managed to plant, is a batch of weeds that I won't have to pull out later!

The bottom garden.
Click on the image above to view a larger image.
There is still so much to be done in this bottom garden! We need to make some basic terraces, get rid of all the builder's rubble, and the syringas and possibly put some aquaponics / hyrdoponics gutters up on the wall... This whole area is about 500m2 altogether so there really is lots we can do! But, it all takes time and effort and sometimes a bit of cash too. So we are just taking it step by step  - increasing our own capacity as we increase our growing capacity. 

I feel like I haven't said very much in this post - but I think these images serve as important 'before' pics for the 'during' and 'after' pics that are coming soon!


  1. Well done!!! I need to sort myself out and get my garden looking nice! I keep using the excuse "its so small" but really that is just an excuse!

    1. Thanks Laura! I felt a bit silly posting this up, but I think it's so important for people to see the arb bits of gardening and how sometimes you just have to get started even if you can only afford 4 bags of compost - so they don't think it all looks like pinterest! I trust that you are inspired to just start with something small!

  2. Wow.. great read.. you certainly know your stuff.. :)

  3. Gardening is really hard work!!! I have given up with this drought!!

  4. Awesome info!! Thanks so much

  5. I have my own mini veg garden, I adore

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  7. I can't believe you did a whole bed by yourself in one day, definitely super woman! Your garden has given me a bit of inspiration to liven up our own one! :)