Monday, March 15, 2010

L'Orto! - The Veggie Garden

I hope to start work at the new job in 3 weeks' time.  3 weeks to keep myself busy without a salary...  Time to plant a veggie garden!
Before you ask, I've never done a garden of any kind before, but they say ignorance is bliss, so I wasn't going to let my ignorance stop me trying.  The veggie garden isn't at our house in Auckland, but at Ross' parents' large plot in Warkworth.  They've been planning a veggie garden for a while, so it'll be a help to them too.
To clue myself in before all the dirt and digging, I did a little web research.  What I read convinced me that raised beds are the way to go.

The plot: :it doesn't look like much now, but it's gonna be great

Raised beds, my research tells me:
  • help to protect the plants by keeping path and bed separate
  • deter rabbits
  • are easier to reach and less back-breaking
  • deter weeds
  • give the gardener control over soil and water
They're also ready quicker (despite the set-up work to make a raised bed, ordinary soil should be left for months longer after tilling and improving) and I've never been a patient person.

Here's what I did:
  1. What plants?  I found out what would grow in Warkworth (it's subtropical) during autumn and winter.  With input from my veggie-eating customers (i.e. Ross' parents!) I settled on broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, beet, onion, spring onion, leek, garlic, carrot and parsnip.  There were a surprising number of other possibilities too.  I'll be doing some from seed and some from bought seedlings.
  2. Layout?  Raised beds should be no more than 1.2m wide with access on both sides do you can always reach your plants!  Also, some plants go well together - onions like strawberries and beets for example!  Generally it's good to keep plant families in blocks so when you rotate crops next year, you can easily avoid putting the same kind of plant in one area twice.  I had great fun planning this in's free trial - they colour code the plant families and also space the plants for you correctly.
  3. How?  Raised beds can be constructed out of many materials.  But when you've just arrived in a country, you don't have a lot of scrap wood or brick lying around.  Freecycle has some good stuff, and lots of greenie points, but not having tools to cut wood to size, etc. I decided to get cheap planks from thw wonderful Bunnings.  I tried to get untreated wood, because treated wood seeps chemicals into your veggies, and I'm painstakingly rubbing raw linseed oil into it to protect it from moisture.  It won't last for centuries, but it should last a few years.  I also got galvanised nails and some short pointy posts to attach the planks to.
  4. What soil?  Ross' first question was what are you going to fill raised beds with?  But, I discovered, it's a bit like making compost - you can use lots of waste materials to layer up your bed - no need to dig or fork out lots of cash.  I just have to layer "brown" carbon materials like newspaper with "green" nitrogen materials like grass clippings.  I bought a couple of bags of compost to put around my seedlings, and one of lucerne/pea hay, which is supposed to do wonders for plants, but the rest will all be recycled material.  The best bit is that washed seaweed is great for plants, and we're just half a km from the beach, so I'm now washing bucketloads of the stuff.
  5. What about the bunnies?  Stumbling block number 1.  I hadn't thought of rabbit control.  In theory, they should be discouraged by the height of the beds, but I'm not convinced this will be enough.  So I've started making a rabbit-proof fence.  This involves digging a foot-deep trench and burying the mesh underground as well as 3 feet above ground.  I'm down about half a foot and now have blisters.  Will get back to the fence tomorrow.
Bladderwrack type stuff - washing off the salt in a bucket

So that's where I'm at now.  Still got plenty of wood to oil, and plenty of trench to dig, but still enthusiastic.

6 planks oiled, too many to go!

I look forward to hearing your comments, even if you think I'm a nut (as I've already been told!).

In Italiano!: L'Orto
Con una pausa di 3 settimane prima di iniziare il mio nuovo lavoro, ho deciso di fare un orto nel terreno dei genitori di Ross.  Non lo mai fatto, pero' non mi scoraggio!    Dalle mie ricerche su internet, ho capito che ci sono certi vantaggi di un orto rialzato con muretti di legna o mattoni.  Limitano il danno dai conigli e riduce gli erbacci, e sono piu' comodi di lavorare.  Ho deciso di fare un orto di questo tipo con tavole economiche di legna.  Sto impregnando la legna con olio di lino - protegge la legna dall'umidita', ma non contamina le verdure.  Pero', ci metto molto tempo!
Mi piace molto la programma per la progettazione da - i colori ti dicono di che famiglia sono le piante che ti aiuta con la rotazione delle colture.
Ho deciso di piantare verdure che approfitano dell'inverno mite in questo clima subtropicale: i broccoli, i cavolfiori, i porri, le cipolle, l'aglio, le rape rosse, gli spinaci, le carote e le pastinache.
Il terriccio si puo' fare con tante materiali riciclati, ho scoperto - con strati alternati di materiali secche (es. i vecchi giornali) e materiali umide (es. erba tagliata).  Posso anche utilizare l'algae dal mare - a solo 1 km dalla casa.  Sto lavando un mucchio!
Fammi sapere che ne pensi con un commento!

1 comment:

  1. heh. Yes you are a nut... good job though! Sounds like alot of hard work to me, but i'm sure very rewarding! x