The block of land we live on in Grindelwald is a little over 2000 square metres. That’s a lot of garden to tend (a tad more than the 342 square metre, mostly paved block we lived on in South Hurstville)! The original owner/builder was also an avid gardener and apparently spent most of his time in the garden, so there are many large, beautiful trees all along the boundary line (meaning you can hardly see any neighbouring houses – that’s the treeline in the pic above, with the little lookout down the road in the distance), landscaped hedges and the occasional surprise patch of bulbs that flower in spring. I’m very thankful for his efforts that have created such a lovely place. It’s a very pleasant garden, but not a hugely productive one. The fashion for growing food plants has probably taken off a lot more in landscaping in recent years (though of course it’s a way of life to some people, not a fashion at all) and I wonder if that person was planting the garden today, whether he would have planted more food plants, or whether he just didn’t want that sort of garden. There is an apple tree and a lime tree, though, so that’s something.
Parts of it were rather overgrown when we first moved in; all the areas that needed to look ship shape for selling had been tended to, but the far end of the garden was overgrown with thistles, long grass and prickly blackberry canes (from which I harvested a very pleasing crop and made some delicious jam). I started clearing in spring but it was a bit of a losing battle, and once I’d uncovered the apple tree I kind of ran out of puff and left the bulk of the thistles and blackberries alone. Unfortunately the local wildlife decimated the apple crop before we had a chance to sample them (though there is a fantastic orchard down the road that has the most delicious apples and pears for $2 a kilo, and I’m more than happy to buy from them).
The main thing that I want to do something with is the large lawn in the backyard. The perimeter is well planted out, but this huge expanse of grass seems like such a wasted opportunity. I visited the Diggers Club’s Heronswood garden late last year, fell in love with their vegetable parterre and their stunning herb garden, and wanted to dig up my lawn and fill it with food plants (see below – if you’re ever on the Mornington Peninsula and you enjoy gardens, Heronswood is well worth a visit! It’s very inspiring but also just a lovely place to wander around in). But I don’t want to just fill the space with rectangular beds – I want to do something beautiful as well as productive. As we walked around Heronswood and I said “ooh I want to do that! And that! And that!” I listened to my wise friend Jasmine (who makes a living from growing things in far north Queensland), who said not to rush. A garden is a long-term and ever-changing project, and being new to Tasmania, we would have to get used to the seasons and learn what can grow in this climate. So I took her advice and decided to just sit with the garden for a year and see what it does each season before I start hacking into it too much. I keep dreaming and drawing and thinking about what I could do with it if time, energy and money were no object.
One area I’ve gotten stuck into without waiting though is an area near the back door where I want to put in raised beds for a kitchen garden. It had a huge hedge and as soon as my friend Lucy saw it, she grimaced and said “you’ll want to get rid of that, it’s an evil plant”. Yes, it was hedging quite admirably but it also suckers like something out of Little Shop of Horrors and was starting to take over. Lucy and I started to hack into it, but it’s been a massive job and neither of us has a boundless store of energy, so even though we made good progress at during summer, we didn’t get around to poisoning it and the plant has already started sprouting again from the bits of branch and trunk left in the ground. That thing wants to live.
While I’ve been waiting for some design work to come in (I’d blocked out time for a project but the client wasn’t quite ready for me to start), rather than sitting around twiddling my thumbs, I have been making a bit more progress on the clearing in the last week. Lucy came over, measured the space and is helping me plan my little kitchen garden. Well, not so little – it’s going to have two 1 metre-wide beds going for 9 metres with a 1 metre path in the middle! We’ll put up posts and make a sort of walk-in cage so I don’t have to net the beds to keep the pests away (rabbits, possums and pademelons will make short work of anything edible). I will have to save up a bit for the materials, because it’s going to be a big project, but Lucy and I are excited. We may stage it a bit rather than doing it all in one go. Hopefully by spring I’ll be able to plant something, even if all the beds aren’t finished.
Here are the chickens delighting in finding things in the newly dug up soil and roots this afternoon: