Archive for January, 2010

While the cat’s away…

January 31, 2010

We haven’t been updating our blog for some time. Mainly because we haven’t been gardening.

However, it seems that these permaculture principles work, as the following photos will attest to. We haven’t been home since the start of December, and the garden has turned into a full-blown food forest!

Never been watered.....

Whilst we had family & friends (thanks folks) coming to feed the cat, there really was no watering or attention paid to this garden. Over the summer period, they harvested plenty of food, thus ensuring continued food production. Only 1/3 of the beds were watered with weeping hose, set to timers for the allowed watering periods (2 hours twice weekly).

The under-storey of the food forest

There is a theory/practice within permaculture of the food forest; the idea being you have a forest, but where everything is edible. And just like a ‘normal’ forest, the ecology is self-sustaining and self-regulating. The structure is also forest-like, with a canopy and under-storey. Well this is what we have inadvertantly created, and with minimal human intervention over throughout this season, nature has done its own thing.

The pond completely overgrown

In actual fact, there is a micro-climate situation occurring here. On one of the warmer days during Australia Day weekend, I noticed that this dense jungle like area was humid, just like in a forest; other parts of the garden felt completely different. This area was not watered at all. I imagine this also sheltered the house from heat also.

More food jungle

This area is the highest point in the garden – its also the most lush. Amazing what you can do with mulch, quality soil-nurturing techniques, and cramming those plants in. I was concerned that I hadn’t gotten much in to the garden over the spring – how wrong I was. The only planting I managed this season was just before and just after the crazy hot spell we had mid-spring. Other than some mulching and a shipment of soil, there was no work put into¬† the garden at all.

Pumpkins and Tomatoes - never got watered! (can't you tell....)

This zone was completely neglected throughout the entire period. I gave all the plants here a bucket of water each just before Christmas when we dropped in going between OG and EG. There are about a dozen tomato plants and 3 pumpkins. The parsley that grew self-seeded has gone to seed also. We’ll leave it be so that more parsley can grow wild. The pumpkins were also self-seeded. This bed was essentially made from the duck-muck (straw, etc) over the winter period. It is lush, rich, and highly moist. It is also our worm factory. In there somewhere is a compost bin…. and some Belladonna has crept in there also, which of course is pulled out and disposed of carefully (it is a poisonous nightshade weed!)

Another dense food forest area

Where's the house...?... or is it an ancient Mayan ruin?

No, that’s not a dope plant – its a Mexican Marigold. This is a standard permaculture companion plant. I have also deliberately left the remaining leeks and spring onions go to seed for collection (or self-seeding). This area under the two Nectarines were also heavily planted with Swiss Chard – we’ve left that seed too. The capsicums here are only now starting to fruit.

The food forest from the driveway; note the height of sunflowers and Jerusalem Artichoke

When I turned up returning from EG, I was amazed how over-grown everything was, irrespective of being ‘neglected’ over a 6-8 week period. A friend of ours turned up one day, and rang us that night to inform us that “our garden was ruined, that no one was looking after it…” On the contrary, it looked after itself. And there has been only one casualty – my Golden Cluster hops bine that was creeping up outside the bedroom window; it was in a pot and not watered – however the rhizome should still be ok for next season, as the plant hasn’t died, but I have lost all the flowers (bugger!)

Beginning to cut back the urban jungle

I didn’t quite get it in this shot, but the lawn chamomile we planted into the nature-strip has also taken off nicely. Even the small bed in front of the fence took off nicely – there are tomatoes and cucumbers, and plenty of other plants like Evening Primrose, Chinese Jute, and Chinese Bottle Gourd, as well as the ‘good bug’ plants that attract the predator insects.

The grape vine has thankfully done the job that the passionfruit vine used to - covering the fence.

We lost one of our passionfruit vines, but the grape vine that appeared randomly last season has taken over the job of providing fence cover – unfortunately, it also appears to want to take over the whole too! Can’t wait for that pergola…..

Fence pumpkinThis pumpkin began growing between the pickets – we’ve picked it, and its our first for the season, but there’s plenty more. Not sure of the variety, as the seeds were lying loose in the bottom of our seed box – here’s to random veg planting!

Admittedly there has been some rain this summer, and that probably helped alot. And the zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are really only now fruiting, so we didn’t miss much. However, our lovely care-takers Damon, Marinella, and my mum (thanks heaps, folks) harvested plenty while we were gone. And this is the key, because if things aren’t picked then the plant stops producing.

I’m now getting ready to sow seeds for the next season (I am determined to grow a crop of Brussel Sprouts this year!), but whilst the first step is raising seedlings, I have no idea where I’m going to plant anything, because the place is so full of food!

See what happens when humans don’t intervene – a true case of wu wei wu “action through non-action”.