Isn’t it weird that when you are a gardener, you actually have to prepare for the most amazing season of all? Our preparation is two fold, tidying up for Sustainable House Day, and getting ready for the onslaught of growth that is the Spring time garden.
So far, most of this preparation has consisted of weeding, sheet mulching and a general pre-spring clean. Weeding to ensure that the fruit trees in the front orchard have the best possible chance at developing the very best fruit for our family, and mulching to ensure good moisture retention in the soil.
Here is what we have managed to do so far.
This bed holds two olive trees that I planted in Autumn. They are now well established due to all the winter rain we have had, and are ready to put on the spring flush of growth. The bed also has some lucerne which is resprouting, and there were many, many weeds which have mostly been pulled out.
What we do next is to sheet mulch. Sheet mulching is easy, and keeps the Cooch and Kikuyu grass at bay for over a year.
We lay down layers of newspaper which we wet to keep in place. About two to three pages think.
Then we lay down thick cardboard. Here is an example of some cardboard saved from my two recent solar panels.
With my diggers knees on, I had to get down on all fours to lay this stuff in the bed. Those knee pads are the best investment ever!
As you can see, this is a bit like a patchwork quilt in the making. Ripping bits of cardboard to fit all those fiddly places around trees and shrubs.
Then we re-hydrate the mulch. I prefer to use coconut husks, because it contains no dyes like most barks and wood chips you can purchase from landscaping stores, and it breaks down quickly to form a fantastic soil. The worms just love it, and every bed I have uses it in has the darkest, richest soil that plants love to grow in. The only problem is that it comes from Sri Lanka, and I cannot find a local source. Sustainable to be using a by-product of the coconut industry, but the transportation miles are massive.
The mulch comes in compressed blocks, and one block expands to two wheelbarrow loads, which is quite impressive.
This bed was covered in golden oxalis (soursobs), and were sucking the moisture out of the soil. As the peach and nectarine trees in this bed are now bursting into blossom, it was well worth the effort.
Here is the bed near the front gate that was absolutely covered in invasive grasses. It took me over three hours to remove as much of the grass and roots as I could, hopefully making a dent it its growth prospects over the warmer months. Some may ask why I just didn’t spray the grass with Glyphosate, which is the key ingredient in Roundup and Zero. Well, I don’t use that stuff on my property because it is very nasty stuff, and not only does not kill Kikuyu very well, it leaches into the soil and kills just about everything else including the soil biota, mycorrhizal fungi (which is beneficial for tree growth), and earthworms. Soil without these things is just dust and not good for growing anything of substance in a sustainable manner and without the massive need for artificial fertilizers.
So that is what we did yesterday. Two beds complete with another four to go, but not half as weed infested, and they don’t need to be sheet mulched with paper and cardboard.
The two site supervisors didn’t even break into a sweat! At least they could have handed me the spade when I need it.
Today we did some weeding around the pool, cleaned up the garage area, and had a photo shoot for a newspaper article that will be run in the Melton Weekly the week before Sustainable House Day. A few photographs around the garden with Solar panels and greenhouse in the background, and a few in the rain of me holding Edwina Chicken in front of Cluckingham Palace.
Then it down came the freezing cold rain, and that was that. Inside to have a rest and read a book.
More fun in the garden tomorrow, as I going to be planting up Tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, and sundry other summer crops in punnets and put them in the greenhouse to germinate. Ben will be giving me a hand as part of his gardening lesson for the day. Should be great fun, planting with my son, and teaching him all the tricks and tips that I have learnt.
Rock on Spring! Are you preparing you garden yet?
I’ve never tried coconut husk as mulch, but it looks great! Where do you get it from? So far my spring garden prep has been re-doing my garden paths of sugar can straw so I can access my edible plants amongst the ornamentals and indoor sowing of seeds, but hopefully the weather this weekend will allow for the planting some apple step-overs.
Gavin Webber says
Hi Bek, I bought it from Bunnings. It is not cheap, at $14 a block, but it covers a big area.
P.S. Nice blog. I added it to the blog roll.
Well done, Gavin, your garden looks great. The mulch we use comes from our local ‘tree cutter’. We just let him know how much we need and he delivers when his team have chopped a tree that will produce good mulch. He never just gives us ‘rubbish’and charges about $50 forabout 4 cubic metres – that’s a lot of mulch! It might be worth your while checking if you could do this in your area.This tree mulch looks great and eventually breaks down nicely.
Gavin Webber says
Cheers Veronique. I had given that option some consideration, however the last load of tree mulch that I received was full of contaminants, so I kind of shied away from it this time.
L from 500m2 in Sydney says
That oxalis – drives me mental! Do you have much luck irradicating it with sheet mulching? It loves my cultivated garden beds over winter, and the lucerne mulch I’m using doesn’t seem to be working sufficiently to smother it.
Gavin Webber says
I agree L, oxalis is a curse. Sheet mulching helps to keep it in check, so next year it shouldn’t be half as bad.
Just been to CERES in Brunswick where I bought my apple trees, a peach (all dwarf), a mulberry, lemon (can’t take our amazing lemon when we move sadly), a cherry and 4 sultana grape vines bare rooted and they’ve got 50% off too. My tomatoes have all sprouted but still only got their cotyledon leaves so awaiting them to grow their first real leaves before repotting them out of their egg carton cradles. I’ve got onion seeds sprouting, radishes and rocket popping up overnight and 2 children absolutely itching to “do more digging”. As soon as we move I will be building my raised beds and planting out all our veggies. Hoping to be able to harvest enough to feed the family for at least most of the year.
Gavin Webber says
CERES is a great place, and has the best nursery. It is the only one I know that focuses specifically on growing your own food!
Found a great little weeding tip. I have one of those floor steaming mops which is a great way to clean your floors without any extra chemicals. If you take off the mopping pad and put on a piece of flywire instead you can drive it across the garden beds and paths and steam the weeds to death. Makes the place smell like cooked spinach but it really kills the weeds and saves your back as well. I also save copper wire from electrical cable and wrap a little bit around scraps of wood to make a snail proof border for the new seedlings.