Danni & Dale from next door popped over the other day with some veggie scraps and a big bone for Butch, and were eager to take up my offer of helping them start a veggie patch. We organised for me to pop around today at 1300.
Before I went around, I loaded up the wheelbarrow full of mulch from last weeks chicken run cleanup, a bucket of compost, two tomato seedlings, and a shovel! Just as I was about to leave, Kim and Ben decided to tag along. The more the merrier, and Kim said she would take the photos, which was fine by me.
The area that Dale had chosen for the patch was perfect. It was just outside the kitchen door, a border was in place, and the bed was about 10 sqm in size. Dale started pulling some weeds out, while I checked the condition of the soil.
It had a a fair bit of organic matter in it, but was bone dry down to about 20cm. At 20cm there the soil was damp, and had a few worms as well. It looked fairly promising.
Once the weeds were all sorted, Dale begun to level out the bed, just roughly, so that the water wouldn’t pool in one place.
Then I sprinkled some compost on top of the small area that we decided to plant out first. I suggested that we start out small first, and as they begun to have a few successes, then expand the planting area as they grew in confidence.
It was our allocated watering day, so I don’t think we broke many rules by watering at 1400 instead. As these keen gardeners didn’t have a hose, I went and got mine out of the front yard, and gave the bed a good soaking to see if it would absorb the water. Unfortunately, because the soil was so dry, it began to repel the water.
Only the top cm was absorbing, so I asked Dale to dig the soil over as I kept watering. We eventually got the water to soak in, so it was on to the next step.
I now put the two bamboo stakes in the ground, and then showed Dale how to plant the tomatoes. Dig a hole and bung them in!
I then put the mulch over the top and then wet it all down gain. The soil was starting to absorb a lot more of the water now, so things were looking OK. There was enough dry chook poo in the straw, so that we did not have to worry about nitrogen draw-down when the straw started to rot. I explained all of this to Dale, and told him about the miracle of mulch. I told him how the mulch acts as a barrier to evaporation, and helps keep the weeds from germinating. It also rots after a while and adds nutrients to the soil.
I then popped home and grabbed a packet of lettuce seeds, and showed Dale how to scrape back the mulch, dig a small, shallow trench, and plant the seeds. Then I simply covered the seeds with the soil and reapplied the mulch.
Here are the proud owners of a new veggie patch.
Danni was so excited, that she asked me heaps of questions about what else they could plant. I suggested cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini, and a few more tomatoes. I also recommended that they either make or buy a compost bin so that they will be able to improve the soil, a 20m hose and a spray nozzle, a metal rake, a bag of dynamic lifter, a bale of sugarcane mulch and another bucket for the other shower. I believe that Danni was going to rush over to Bunnings as quick as a flash. I said to give me a yell when they got back, and I would help out again.
At about 1600, they returned from Bunnings with all the things on the list, and I helped them plant out all of the veggie seedlings, and Dale and I put the compost bin together. It was a square one that you bolt together, and it looks sturdy enough. I will check on them again in a week or so.
They are a lovely couple and it was fun helping them to start their very own vegetable patch. I wish you all the best, and remember, I am only just over the fence if you need any advice.