AWOL goes “Grass Roots”.

Apologies all that I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like, I’ve been pursuing my OTHER passion… gardening.

I’ve been a keen gardener for as long as I can remember, recent years however have seen me move home too frequently to enjoy the fruits of my endeavours both figuratively and literally.

My current address looks like being quite permanent and that can only mean one thing…work.

I moved into my current premises back in May, while I was a little despondent at how much there was to be done, I quickly embraced the potential of the block and set about making the necessary improvements.

It’s a fairly standard suburban block, a little under a quarter acre, fairly heavy soil, a few established deciduous trees in the back yard, a couple of eucalyptus in the front, allover a good start.

I soon discovered that the ash tree (from which the previous tenants had generously left the fallen leaves) made an excellent source of ready mulch.

I smothered out a patch of weeds and planted a pouch of broad beans.

They are looking fantastic now, when spring comes I’m waiting to see them take off -rocket like- until the summer heat reigns them in.

I’ve used an old twin strip concrete driveway to provide a natural barrier for my asparagus plot which went in over the weekend.

While I didn’t eradicate all the perennial weeds (it’s too big a job to do by hand) I will smother the survivors out with newspaper next winter when the asparagus is asleep.

A few handfuls of lime is a boon to asparagus, and it’s important to resist the temptation to pick the first crop to allow the crowns to become established.

I’ve used strategically located lemon, lime (Tahitian) and a Washington navel orange to shield the avocado from frost (it rolls in like waves on the ocean), avocados need protection for the first four years or so, after that they are pretty hardy as long as they aren’t allowed to dry out too much.

My first herb bed has a number of nursery-bred cultivars, tri-coloured sage, golden marjoram, chocolate mint etc. All of these can be raised from seed in the interests of frugality but I love the colours and the taste is indiscernible.

Incidentally, French tarragon (artemesia dranunculis) -the only type worth bothering with- CAN’T be grown from seed, it must be propagated by division, which for most people means a trip to the nursery.

My second herb bed has been turned over and is waiting to be weeded, I may take the soft option and smother it out with newspaper. It will contain at least one other mint variety and depending on availability, a few other things I haven’t decided on yet.

One word of note however, herbs like to be “grown hard” without excessive fertiliser or molly-coddling.

Spoil them at the expense of flavour I find.

I “obtained” a few raspberry canes -a gift, or payment for labour exchange, take your pick- and have planted them in the shade of a tree in a north facing aspect.

Raspberries are originally woodland species, they like a good dappled light and do well with protection from the baking Australian afternoon sun.

Bare rooted varieties are available, cut the canes back to the first or second bud and erect a trellis to restrict their spread.

A smattering of nasturtiums should provide an edible means of smothering out the weeds in that particular area.

I’ve selected a nice sunny spot as a pumpkin patch, I’ve dug it over and the soil appears quite good (albeit too rocky for much cultivation), so Kikuyu eradicated (why oh why was that stuff ever allowed into the country?) it should provide a nice bit of visual interest in the heat of summer.

I’ll improve the soil hopefully in the next twelve months with compost and manure and have a go at growing some watermelons next year.

A note on manure, a lot of people I notice tend to go to the racing stables for horse manure, do so if you wish but be aware that the copious amounts of worming medicines they give those frail thoroughbreds remains active in their manure-and in your soil.

I’ve heard anecdotal accounts of ALL worms in a bed being wiped out for a full two years after an application of horse manure.

A better bet is to raise your own manure…with poultry (no, not literally your OWN manure, that’s illegal).

The front yard provides quite a different set of challenges, hard clay, some of the most compacted, impoverished soils I have ever seen, full shade in winter, (probably) full sun in summer.

A landscaper’s nightmare.

Local natives to the rescue! A trip down to the Wandoo nursery (on the Howlong road, part of the Wonga wetlands rehabilitation project) set me up with all the local natives I needed for under $50.00!

So far (touch wood) I haven’t lost one and they are all looking well.

I few leftovers from Planet Ark’s National Tree Day rounded out the blend and the site is starting to look like a wonderful “faux wilderness“.

It’s a little like having a national park on my doorstep…literally.

If you haven’t already it’s worth giving some thought to providing a sanctuary area for native species such as birds, reptiles, insects, frogs and so on.

With encroaching development, toe-holds for native wildlife is going to become increasingly important for the survival of many species. 

A quick look outside might lead one to think there’s not much going on at soil level, you’d be right, for the gardener on the other hand, it’s one of the busiest times of the year.

About alburywodongaonline

Hi I'm Jack Stone (a pseudonym), I'm a long-time Albury resident and I think it's a great place to live and work. I have a strong interest in local events and media and I started this site because I think a different perspective is often needed when reporting local news. I take a keen interest in local politics, as well as what's going on at the state and federal level, I'm also a supporter of social justice issues, the envirionment and the need for people to have a say in the events that effect their lives. I'm a fan of the Border Bandits and I'd love to see both teams take the flag this year, and next year, and maybe the one after that too.
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6 Responses to AWOL goes “Grass Roots”.

  1. Greg Naylor says:

    Jack, when we get together at the end of the month, I will have some garlic seedlings for you (from leftover bulbs not pulled last Xmas. I might even have some French Shallots for you too.

  2. Great Greg, I do have some garlic shooting at the minuite, I have no idea about the type though, there are a couple of hundred varieties of garlic in cultivation I believe.

    French shallots? are they the same as eschallots?, the ones I am thinking of are a small member of the onion family, golden in colour and with a mild garlic aroma.
    They retail for around $40.00 per kilo if you are lucky enough to find them actually on sale so yeah I’d be happy to grab a few if you have them to spare.

  3. Greg Naylor says:

    Yeah – they are the ones. They are otherwise known as dividing onions. You plant a clove and get about ten bulbs growing in its place. Beautiful flavour – no onion bite!

  4. Sounds great, I’ve seen Jamie Oliver cooking with them on the telly (along with his very sad looking home grown manky carrots) but they are too hard to get from the supermarket so I never tried them myself.

  5. Glad to see the garden is coming along! Gotten over the aversion to digging yet? 🙂

  6. No I still dislike digging, although during the winter it’s a good way to get warm and having the soil actually wet for the first time in a long while is a help also.

    I’ve dug four beds which I think is commendable, but I still have around five vegetable plots to go.

    I may chicken out and apply the “no-dig” principle by smothering the weeds with newspaper though.

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