State of the Garden

February 5, 2010 at 5:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

After the first decent rain this year, it seems a good time to report on the state of the garden – which is, of course, messy. A much-overdue mowing of the lawn last week in preparation for The Travelling Roadshow Party Part Three means at least we’ve moved on somewhat from utter non-respectability, plus the removal of the mulching pile in the middle of the lawn up to the entertaining area/compost and storage space means you can actually see the backyard at a glance.

The carrots, spring onions and beetroot are merely waiting around for the harvest to finish, the last survivors scattered around. The globe artichokes are finished, and peas were ripped out a while back. The tomatoes, however, are straining at the new set of stakes and ties applied last week in an attempt to stop the hedge of plants from taking over the driveway. We’ve harvested from the Amish Paste and the ‘heirloom surprise mix’. Pumpkins and other curcubits continue feral, with a last minute capture of UFOs (aka oversize green squash) mid-week. And on the weekend we harvested 20kg of potatoes.

The other garden accessory d’jour is some spray paint. It looks like the earthworks will start soon!


Fork-to-fork this week

November 24, 2009 at 5:39 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

With a mix of rain and sun (good) and strong wind (bad), it’s been an increasingly productive week in the garden. We’ve been harvesting

  • broad beans
  • lettuce (trout-spotted)
  • chard
  • arugula
  • celery leaves
  • herbs
  • garlic scapes
  • one trial, way-too-early shallot
  • strawberries

These have emerged from the kitchen as

Warn broad bean salad: Shell, blanch and double pod the beans. They should look like jade beads. Saute shallot and garlic spaces in butter and stir through beans and oregano at the last minute.

Balsamic strawberries: Cut slug bites out of the strawberries, sprinkle with sugar and a good slug of balsamic vinegar. Leave to marinate. Serve with creme fraiche, with a little vanilla essence mixed in, and topped with mint.

Garden Tour IV: back right

November 17, 2009 at 8:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The slope is steeper on this side of the garden, and the terracing will probably be on three levels.  This side of the garden gets the most sun year round. The lower level, closest to the house and at the same level as it, will be a courtyard defined by stone-faced retaining walls. (The wall her may be in two steps with a small bed in between. If so, we’ll put in apples espaliered into a lattice shape). In the courtyard will be a pizza oven and a bench alongside it including a sink (storage space for some wood under the bench). The courtyard will be where potted plants that prefer a warmer climate will be kept – dwarf lemon, bay laurel, maybe a lime or fig, lemongrass, ginger, mint. We’ll recycle bricks from the old retaining walls to pave the courtyard.

view of backyard, looking from top right down towards the house

The middle terrace will be vegetable beds, rectangular and raised for better drainage and easy access. We should be able to fit in six beds to maximise rotation including cover crops. All the way along the fence line (new fence required, preferably one that isn’t falling over) will be more espaliered fruit trees, possibly underplanted with garlic.

view of back right side of garden, looking uphill from the side of the house

The back level, where the breezeblock ‘entertaining area’ is now, will have the current walls removed. Here will be the potting shed with a greenhouse verandah facing north, the chook shed and scratching space (they will be let out to free range sections of the garden only under supervision) and compost bays. I’d like to try growing a passionfruit up the big white wall (neighbours’ garage) and trained mulberry ala josh burne on the front chookyard fenceline.

Garden Tour III: back left

November 17, 2009 at 7:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The backyard is where the more substantial changes are going to happen. The slope here makes it difficult to use the space at this moment (apart from the Hillis Hoist that no longer hoists!). Running around the fenceline is a mix of bamboo and jasmine (which will be removed) and one holly tree (staying permanently) and another unidentified tree at the back fence (going eventually). If we get approval, this side of the yard will be terraced into two levels, divided roughly at the mid point of the yard.

garden view, back left, looking uphill with holly tree and clothesline in foreground

The front half, including the existing holly tree, will be a medieval herb garden in the style of the french parterre. Garden beds will form wheel spokes radiating out from a central water feature, and will be defined by low box hedges. Pathways and surrounding areas will be grassed, making this one of the few concessions to a ‘lawn’. There will be a turf seat backing onto the retaining wall, roses, strawberries, lilies. This area will be a space with a strongly defined aesthetic and limited plant choice, but as the garden section closest to the kitchen it will also be the space for growing day to day requirements for cooking like herbs and salad greens.

The back section will also mix ornamentals with some productive plants. Directly back from the retaining wall will be a trellis made up of T-shapes at either end on fencing wire strung between to support berries. In the damp section next to the wall (shaded permanently by a eucalyptus in a neighbouring yard) will be blueberry bushes. The space will be defined by curves, with a tree in the centre surrounded by a circular bench seat (type of tree still up for discussion, but definitely deciduous). The curving border will be mostly perennial, with stepping stones and odd things to discover scattered through to make it a space to explore. Under the tree will be a non-grass lawn (lawn camomile, lawn thyme etc) and drifts of naturalised bulbs.

Garden Tour II: front right

November 17, 2009 at 7:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More work has gone into the right side of the front garden. Though in winter most of this side is shaded by the house for the bulk of the day, the higher angle of the sun and longer afternoons mean that the vegetables we’ve trialled here (potatoes, carrot, radish, lettuce, peas, tomato) have been doing very well.

front right of garden, showing part of house, quince tree and tea tree

The tea tree on the front verge will remain, and we will leave the grass to the front of it as a parking spot. The verge behind the tree heading back up the lane can become another space for native plants. Along the front boundary, we are planning a hedge (clipped into cloud shapes) of native mintbush.

The quince tree is remaining, and we’re debating a formal, Moorish influenced planting of native plants in the centre vs a border along the driveway and the path, and more vegetables in middle of the space. One consideration is that the front windows look down onto this space, so defined shapes viewed from above are part of the design considerations.


Garden Tour I: front left

November 3, 2009 at 9:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Welcome to the brief tour around the current and imagined future garden. We’re starting in the front yard, which is cut in half (well more like 40-60) by a concrete driveway going into the garage. The yard has an old and slightly sagging concrete retaining wall around it, and a wooden fence on either side. The soil is clay, including some large chunks that seem to be the remnants of the excavation when building the house.

The front left section was orginally overgrown with bamboo, jasmine and cottoneaster – most of which has since been cut down but the stumps and roots still need to be removed. It is mostly shaded in the morning, but gets sun in the afternoon (moreso in summer). It currently looks like this:

view of front yard and left side are of the garden, featuring fenceline, grass and succulent's bed

You can see up against the house is a bed of succulents – we plan to offload these soon. Hopefully the oil tank for the heater will go in the next few years as well, opening the view from the kitchen further.

Currently, we’re still in the early stages of planning this space. There will be a fence and gate between front and back yard. It will mostly probably be used for the formal native garden, with tree ferns at the lowest part of the yard underplanted with native violets. A pond for frog and bird habitat, maybe. With the succulents and tank gone there may be space for an espaliered tree or vine in that space, otherwise I’m also strongly tempted by a magnolia for the sense of beauty and relief as winter ends.






A Few Months In Tasmania

June 14, 2009 at 8:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This is a slight jump from Canada. I’m now in Tasmania, have been here for a few months, and in the New Old House for about one month. 

I’m using the blog as a garden diary for the moment, in the absence of a suitable paper version.

May Roundup:

  • Top garden bed – garlic, celery and spinach seedlings. The garlic started coming in about two weeks, and more are still appearing. The seedlings have been attacked by snails and are growing slowly in cold weather.
  • Lemon (meyer) tree and blueberries (blue rose and birgitta) in pots. Planted, still alive.

June Roundup:

  • Middle garden bed – broad beans (aquadulce, crimson flowered, early long pod) still not up at two weeks. Bed improved with dolomite, and blood and bone.
  • Lower garden bed – jerusalem artichokes, rocket (wild, arugula apollo), pak choy.
  • Black currant and strawberry (temptation) in pots.

Location 1: Vancouver

August 21, 2008 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As I’m about to leave Vancouver for the island, I’ve got time for a quick summary post about my first stop. I like Vancouver for big reasons – the amazing mountains lining the horizons, fantastic museums and art galleries, quirky little shops – and small – a easily navigatable public transport system, readily available coffee, more sunshine than rain.

I’ve put a few more photos up at my Flickr account.

D-Day minus five

August 11, 2008 at 6:21 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Five days until I leave, and what seems like an ever-growing list of things to do before that happens.  I’m doing better on the mechanical chores than the ones requiring thought: the box room is almost full to overflowing with a disproportionate amount of books to clothes and other objects; I’ve done a trial pack and if abducted tonight by aliens who wanted to beam me directly to Canada, I’d probably cope; what remains to be done is less inspiring things like tax returns, thesis corrections, unit revision suggestions, selection criteria. My sudden attempt to watch all of the Gilmore Girls before leaving makes some sense in this context.

Nonetheless, plans are afoot, lists have been made, and eventually I will tick off everything that needs ticking.

News from nowhere

June 17, 2008 at 10:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The nowhere of the moment is geographically Perth, Western Australia. It will soon be Adelaide, and later, Canada. But the nowhere is, of course, metaphorical as well. I’m slowly relinquishing my institutional identity for some time out to discover where and what else I could be.

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