It is nearly a year since we set up our veggie garden, later years, more time and available resources led us to put in a veggie garden to not only supplement our food chain but educate our children and in some cases my wife and I.
It was in fact worms that encouraged the idea of a veggie garden, what it should be constructed with and where. In the high ground of the central highlands around Orange NSW where we live, this summer as everywhere in Australia experienced a heat wave, working in the mining industry all my life right across Australia it reminded me of long days and nights in our semi arid regions.
Worms are a major factor in the preservation of healthy soil, if we have so many and good soil surely we are half way there. What is gratifyingly surprising is experiments with our veggie garden have yielded big harvest and we haven’t watered mature plants at all. We purchased a lovely property on half an acre in a quiet town near Orange. The property was previously owned by an avid gardener that liked trees, shrubs and flowers. Everywhere you dug up a border or garden bed worms abounded. During dryer times an obvious green belt of tall fast growing grass exists on the back lawn, fed by the overflow soaks from the septic system, there are so many worms in this area it is surprising, around ten per shovel full.
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We planned a pond and waterfall in the front yard under some mature trees on an incline, these trees had been shading and dropping leaves on the topsoil below for some fifteen years, the topsoil was rank with worms. I thought it was a shame to bury this resource below water features so we decided to transfer the topsoil to a veggie garden over top of the septic soaks on the rear lawn. I thought the mix of healthy topsoil and grey water may yield growth results from what I had studied as I have never been a veggie gardener. I calculated the volume of available topsoil, this gave us an area of ten metres by four metres around three hundred millimetres deep, we boarded up the proposed area on the lawn and began to transfer the topsoil by hand. This was a steady process by shovel and wheelbarrow and my age suddenly became evident.
The veggie garden area looked grand and we watered it for some time to keep the worms close to the surface, we also dug in leaf mulch from the autumn’s progress towards winter. I studied possible winter crops and we planted several different veggies with varied success, the big winner was snow peas, they leapt out of the ground in masses and crawled across the ground tanking up over half the patch, we had snow peas coming out of our ears and relatives and locals benefitted.
Spring time we planted three different types of potato, strawberries and two tomato plants just to see what would work. Whilst seedlings we watered them, the potatoes took some time to appear and the tomatoes and strawberries barely look to survive. The potatoes gradually grew and grew and grew, the harvest lasted us for weeks, they were all delicious and the most successful were Sebago. The tomatoes I had given up on and stopped watering them, they suddenly sprang from their short leafy stems to massive plants that grew across the strawberries and killed them. One long Roma tomato and one Round tomato the species I have forgotten its name, have grown to such a size I can’t believe it. We are harvesting two or three kilo per day and have had to resort to making tomato chutney or waste many even though we give many away. I had not expected such results, especially without watering the crop. The tomatoes continue to expand and produce fresh flowers and fruit
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We have learnt a big lesson, we need a growing frame and have erected one about two metres high and four metres long, we transferred it from a garden bed on the edge of the property that the x owner tells me they grew sweet peas up in the spring and summer. A robust piece of engineering made of galvanised tubing and heavy square fencing wire. This will accommodate vertical growth and stop the plants from spreading along the ground over top of adjacent crop.
The effort has been well worth it, we will expand crop planting for winter and spring and no doubt find out more about what our soil and environment will favour. Our observations regarding the water soak reducing the need to water crop once the plants have established themselves is a great success. The most gratifying point is all the family are involved.
Have you got a veggie garden at home? What is your favourite thing about it?