6 Jul 2014

garden share collective: july

Zzz.
 
That is the sound of a vegetable garden sleeping. Of not much happening. Because it is winter in Hobart; the days are dark and cold, as is the soil. At this time of the year, I only see my garden on the weekends; after work is out of the question unless I’m carrying a torch! And honestly, I’d rather be inside with the heater and my colourful woolly socks on.
 
Actively growing in my garden right now are three established silverbeet plants, and the row of ten I planted last month, now about a ‘hand’ high (see pic at very bottom). The newer plants need to be watered about twice a week, because we are not getting much rain on my side of the river; nor have there been heavy dews (STOP PRESS: I drafted this during the week, and while it generally holds true, last night we had a massive 35 mls of heavy rain, and it continues on and off today. Bliss! Tanks, buckets, bird baths and puddles are full and everything washed clean). So out comes my pink watering can (and mid-week, the torch) if I want my little forest of kale to flourish:
 
 
The garlic in the growbags continues nicely. I’m taking the healthy condition of the elegantly tapered greenery as a sign of good things happening below the soil.
 
The most significant recent work has been to dig over the beds. I know there are arguments against digging — damaging soil structure the main one — but I like to do it just once a year, to loosen the ground that has been compacted after the summer growing season and to dig in nutritious goodies. And oh what goodies! Dad provided bags of humid, pinkish mushroom compost; dry and finely pulverised chook manure that somehow smelt sweet and chocolately; ash from their recent burn off; and some sheep manure obviously procured straight from the shearing sheds, as evidenced by the occasional tuft of wool. Surely digging these riches right into the soil is beneficial? Especially when we get so little rain, not enough to drive the nutrients down.
 
My friend J came over for a couple of hours one Sunday, bringing with him his mattock, various spades and shovels — and most importantly, his all-male muscles. It took him a mere hour to lift the grass from an area about two metres square and turn over the soil. That would have taken me all day! He also made light work of loosening the existing beds as I distributed the manures and compost. J, thank you so much for doing the heavy work (despite the cold air, dear readers, he worked up a sweat) and bringing my new garden bed dreams a step closer to reality! Summer tomatoes and corn, here we come (J has been promised the first tomatoes).
 
What J uncovered in the new bed — or rather, didn’t uncover — has also cheered me immensely. I was expecting to find a web of roots left from the bay tree we removed recently. I mean, look at what’s in another adjacent bed:

 

I will be lifting this stuff out for months. How could anything else grow in such a tangle? It certainly explains why some of my peas failed miserably last summer.
 
In other areas reclaimed from the lawn, I’ve battled with old building fill — loose rubble, large concrete lumps and other rubbish that is not uncommon beneath suburban lawns (according to J, who shocked me with horror tales from other jobs he’s done). But he hit only one large concrete slab, right near the edge of the new plot. Quite manageable! So I’m off to a promising start, and will probably be able to use this bed this summer rather than spend a season rehabilitating it.
 
Now I just need dad to frame up the new bed and install some raised gangplanks or duckboards between the rows (as dreamt about in a previous Garden Share post), and I’ll be set for spring planting!
 
But until then, the garden will be a quiet. I’m looking forward to being made envious by the other gardeners in our Garden Share Collective this month — all in much warmer, sunnier, more northern, greener, more productive and colourful places! So join me by clicking on the logo in the column at right to see more green thumbs.

28 comments:

  1. Your silverbeet is growing beautifully and good luck to you if you can get garlic to grow, I have had no luck with it at all! I know what you mean about men's labour, they can really do what is so time consuming and painful for us to do, in a tiny amount of time. I agree you do need to enrich your beds and that mushroom compost sounds perfect. It has been a dry winter nearly everywhere so far, but at least you have your pink watering can to cheer up these short winter days. A lovely read E :D

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    1. thank you merryn. in a way, glad to hear it's not just us having a dry winter. the weekend's downpour was lovely, but we may not get that regularly. still, my small tanks are now sufficiently full to last a few months.
      and yes the girly pink watering can is very cheery!

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  2. Excellent work; well done to you and J. I can't wait to hear all about your extended veg growing plans coming into fruition.
    I too find digging in the early stages of establishing a bed really beneficial. But my soil is quite heavy clay, so unless you break it up a bit nothing can really get into it. A light sandy soil may be entirely different.

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    1. heavy clay - ugh, i am very lucky then, bek, in that regard. but i am also lucky i could borrow J to do much if the hard work. digging is hard as i get older!

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  3. I dig, always have, but I prefer to use a fork, as I hate cutting so many worms in half. That way I aerate the soil, as well as digging in and spreading all the extras. But there is no way I would go to the old science of double-digging, where you put away the top layer, dig over the next layer down, and replace (and dig over) the top layer. My current soil is a black sand, ad if I didn't dig to aerate it would be hopeless.

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    1. good morning linda! i thnk it is fairly unanimous then that digging is a necessary thing. i'll use a fork now that it had been broken up and is looser. double digging sounds horrendously hard work (and bit too obsessive for even me).
      i thought though if you cut a worm in half it regenerated into two worms? while i hate to harm such beneficial creatures, would that mean i doubled my worm supply?!

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  4. Oh boy, I want that stuff that is going into your garden! I have organic amendment envy! ha ha ... Sounds fantastic and your garden will love you for it. I'm like you, I hate digging, loathe it actually. But when I have to I will. I use a broad fork which is fantastic to use and less damaging to the soil life. Love reading your blog!

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    1. hey frogpond,*I* envy my garden! it sounds delicious doesn't it?!
      maybe i need to get a better fork... i call mine "the spaghetti fork" because while it is light (good for me, i'm not really very brawny) the tines bend - like cooked spaghetti - at the slightest resistance! i like the sound of a broad fork - shall investigate.
      and thank you for your lovely words :-)

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  5. Great progress! I love the peaceful quiet time that Winter brings to the garden so that we can all get a rest :-)

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    1. i have to say kyrstie that i agree - it seems more in tune with the seasons for us all to have a rest right now, garden and gardeners.

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  6. e, I was so interested to learn what vegies sound like when they are sleeping. This is always such an educational read! Your little garden sounds very happy and productive, and your ode to your delicious soil quite lyrical. I am afraid that doubling your worm population by cutting them in half is an urban myth though. They just die. Although if you just cut the tail tip off, I believe they can live to squirm another day.

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    1. oh dear about the worms. oh, jo, now i really am very upset. while i never intentionally chopped worms to achieve a bigger population (gosh, that would be callous), i thought .... oh, i am quite distressed now at what i may have done. oh dear. i'm sorry, wormies!

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  7. I approve of a wee dig every now and then. Not just for the sake of it, but to put some nutritious stuff down into the soil. Sounds like your soil will be super-fortified for next summer. Have you been buried in seed catalogs, in front of your heater in your colourful wooly socks?

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    1. not seed catalogs sue, but lovely library books full of pretty flowers! they get me thru the dark days - dreams of spring gardens. more sweet williams, some zinnias this year, and ageratums. pretty pinks and oranges and purples.
      our philosophies on digging are the same then :-)

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  8. Hee hee I love the image of your garden snoring away happily for winter! You don't sound as if your snoozing though with all that digging going on! Your spring veges are going to love your scrumptious soil :-)

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    1. well, J did most of the digging :-) i had a girly dig afterwards...
      and that is the plan, sarah! i hope it pays off in the warmer months!

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  9. Your garden looks happy and busy despite the cold! I must dig the goodies into my soil too...I cannot help myself. I love the exercise and surely it is good for the soil? All of the bits provided by your Dad sound like perfect nutrients. Happy gardening x

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    1. thank you jane. the garden share has been very valuable this month, for hearing fellow gardeners' views and experience on the digging topic. i'm really heartened by everyone's responses.

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  10. An entertaining read as always e :)
    Love the zzzz. Silverbeets are looking good. And good on you for getting some muscled help to dig new beds! Plenty of time to get them ready for summer plantings. Meanwhile I hope you're enjoying a little break from the garden work yourself.
    I dig over my beds too, generally before springtime plantings really. That's when I add manures and the like, then I tend to neglect them until the following year, and just plant instead.

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    1. hi jacqui - thank you :-)
      i know my strengths and digging up lawn for new garden beds is not one of them! i'm very lucky J agreed to help, and made such light work of the task.
      it's good hearing that you also do a dig over - and i like your honesty about your neglect, it's very reassuring!

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  11. My old garden used to be near a maple tree and I was forever digging roots out of the garden. It was such a pain. It also had some fill dirt in it, but not as bad as yours. Digging was hard with lots of rocks and the occasional brick and glass. My new garden is so easy though. I marvel every time I put a shovel into it. It was just subsoil when we bought the place so we had to landscape it. We had them put in some really nice dirt and a foot deep (30cm). I feel so spoiled now.

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    1. thanks for sharing your horror story daphne, and welcome to dig in. glass! that would be dangerous. i can understand the luxury you must feel every time you're in your new deep garden beds!

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  12. 35ml of rain - impressive your kale and silverbeet will love it. Winter time for you must be so relaxing. I am a big believer in chook poo and mushroom compost, we do it to improve our soil between plantings. Great for conditioning the soil and holding the moisture.

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    1. ah, you have given me the science behind it liz! it's good to replenish the nutrients, and water retention will be a big bonus.
      not sure when we'll get that much rain again, but it was good while it lasted :-)

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  13. Lucky you having such a wonderful friend, I'm very envious! I'm glad the new bed looks promising, it's really hard word when you have to battle the soil. I hope your week takes a turn for the better at work. CJ xx

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  14. good morning CJ! yes i'm very lucky. and i am off to a really promising start with the new bed, so i really just have to decide what will go in there: tomatoes or corn? (i'm leaning towards the tomatoes...).

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  15. Hi Elizabeth, how lovely you have such a nice friend to come and help you with the veggie patch. I agree with you I'd rather be in at night with the heater on and some warm socks, it's really cold here in Melbourne as well!

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    1. great minds (and cold toes) think alike, Catherine! I am very fortunate - full-on digging like this really is not my strong point anymore!

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I've had to turn word-verification back on - the robot-spammers are loving my orange pudding too much at the moment! I hope you understand - and I hope you'll still leave a comment at Dig In. I love hearing your thoughts, knowing someone is reading, and will always reply. Unless you're a robot-spammer.