Friday 21 December 2012

Humble beginings - Vegetable Patch

I have just moved into a new place in Canberra, Australia.
The house is typical of the area and built around 1974/5. So it is about 37 years old, solidly built, but in need of some TLC and some "modernisation". The previous own did a quick and dirty budget style makeover which included a new deck at the back and a re-fit of the kitchen. Both of those need re-doing and will be the subject of future postings.The whole house is in need of a paint both inside and out.
I have a nice big garden which is also in serious need of TLC.
The property has been rented out for almost 10 years, to the same tenants, as far as I can tell with only minor repairs being done. They were good tenants but the garden is surviving rather than flourishing.
To cut a long story short, I moved in on December 10 with the intention to redecorate what I can, renovate what I can, get experts in when I cannot and get the house and garden looking presentable again.
I really enjoy growing and eating my own produce so getting some vegetables and herbs growing was a priority. Canberra has a short hot summer and thus it is already almost too late to get some of the summer crops in, certainly to grow from seeds, so I have had to buy seedlings to get some things established.
Also with a tight deadline, I had only 10 days in total here before heading off for 2 weeks, I didn't have much opportunity to prepare the garden beds and the garden has to compete with other top priorities like fixing leaking taps and cleaning out junk and the work on the house.
There is an area that has been previously used for vegetables. It faces North, to maximise the sunlight, it has been cultivated in the past so it is easy to dig. It is also covered in weeds and dominated by a medium sized tree which provides too much early morning shade.When I investigated the area I found the soil to be dry, basically dust, and contaminated with rocks and waste building materials. Not a very good start, it needs a solid digging over, the larger material sieving out and lots of organic matter going back in. All jobs for another time.

I am standing in the Vegetable patch, it is the area in the foreground before the pathway.
I started watering and had my first set back. The soil is so poor that the water barely penetrates the soil. I have now been watering 3 times a day for a week and I can still take a hand trowel dig it in and find dry soil at the bottom of the hole.
At my local weekend market I bought a range of seedlings to put in to the ground. These included Tomatoes and Chilli, plus a variety of herbs including Thyme, Basil, Oregano, French Tarragon and Chives. I then rigged up a watering system and a timer on the tap. By the time I go away I should be able to leave the watering to the timer so that I come back to healthy looking plants.

 Once the watering system was in place I found some areas that were getting watered but did not have any plants. I have thrown some Sunflower, Coriander and Sweet Corn seeds in those places - just in case.
It is a very small beggining, but in the new year I will have the opportunity to clear the weeds and start to condition the soil and get some organic material into it. By the time I am preparing to plant the winter crop I hope to have a much better vegetable garden that can really start producing some nice food.