Garden update: summer solstice 2015

First proper growing season for most of the new plantings.  Apples, pears and passionfruit by far the best performers.  The olives started to show growth after the solstice which is interesting.  The pinkalicous did most of it’s growing from late winter to mid spring while the A4 macadamia showed little growth.  The avocados have been disappointing as has the pineapple guava.

Garden update: winter solstice 2015

Although it’s only been two months since I posted the last update, I wanted to get into the swing of posting the garden updates on the solstices/equinoxes. So, here’s some pics of the garden as of the 21st July 2015.

a4 macadamiaThe Macadamia itself has done very little in the last couple of months which is of some concern. I’m tempted to replace it with a more advanced tree before spring as this seedling is quite young. The natives in this patch have done very well. You can see both the Bidgee Widgee and Running Postman in the foreground of the picture. Less visible are the Inland Pigfaces which have also grown well in the last two months. The Chilean Guava and Goji Berry haven’t grown much.

bacon mac and applesThe Bacon Avocado on the east fence is just starting to form new shoots at the moment. Both apples here are doing well. I’m a little surprised they haven’t shed their leaves yet. The saltbush in the left of the photo has grown vigorously. I’m preparing the soil in the foreground for the bare root apple trees which should arrive in a month or so and will from a row of espaliers.

hojiblanca oliveNot a lot of action in this guild. The Bidgee Widgee is starting to spread its wings but there hasn’t been much growth from either the olive or the other natives.

lisbon lemonAt this time of year, this guild gets only a couple of hours of sun each day and so there also hasn’t been a lot of growth here, although the Rounded Moon Flower has grown a little.

natives sectionThis is the relatively newly planted natives section of the garden near the pond. I’ve got several types of grass, a Wooly Tea Tree, a Hedge Wattle, some Running Postman, Bidgee Widgee, a couple of different peas and a Golden Wattle all in this area. As I didn’t sheet mulch this area, keeping the weeds in check has been the main problem with this area so far.  However, it’s a small area and so not too much effort to keep it under control.olive 1 The first of the Verdale Olives.  Oilves are slow growing and so I don’t expect much from this for a while. Once it has reached a decent height it will get full sun, but at the moment it is mostly shaded at this time of year.  The herbs here have done well, however, and the thyme in particular does not seem to mind the shade. The Lemon Thyme in particular is doing well.

olive 2Also no real action from the olive here. The chives have done well in this area and I’ve added oregano and a couple of extra rosemarys in here. Keeping the weeds down has also been challenge in this area of the garden where there is lots of loamy topsoil.

pineapple guavaThe Pineapple Guava itself has not done a lot in the last couple of months. The Pigfaces have grown well, however, as have the Chocalate Lilies. Some of the small shrubs are starting to move too.

pinkalicious macadamiaNot a lot of growth from the Pinkalicious but the Bidgee Widgee and Yam Daisys have done well in this guild. The Lomandra Longifolio are growing slowly. In the back you can see a flood of Mouse Plants which pretty much exploded as soon as the weather cooled down after summer. I was originally quite worried that they would take over but they seem to be keeping to the fence area and don’t appear to be causing any trouble to the roses or the lemon tree. Will keep monitoring this.

So, that’s the end of the update. I’m hopeful that we’ll start to see some real action by the time the spring equinox comes around.

Pond

As mentioned in the last post, creating a pond has been on my to-do list for quite some time and last weekend I finally got around to doing it.

Here’s a pic of the pond site beforehand.  It’s on the eastern wall between some existing trees and up against the fence which includes the neighbours shed.  It’s therefore got good shelter all round, dappled morning sunlight and full afternoon sunlight:-

pond before picNote that big pile of dirt (actually it’s mostly old concrete).  I had previously had to dig that up from the west fence area in order to plant the apples and macadamia there.  In the end it came in very handy as the base for the pond.  I must say I always get a kick out of finding uses for stuff that’s just lying around.

Here’s a pic of the same pile of dirt forming the edge of the pond:-

pond with edgesFrom there, it was simply a matter of laying down the lining.  I had two different types of liner. One was some thin rubber courtesy of my father (who owns a rubber lining business) and the other was some pond liner I picked up at Bunnings.  You just lay the liner in place and hold the edges down with stones, wood etc.

pond with linerNext you fill it with water. The thing to note is to make sure you use rainwater.  If you don’t have rainwater catchments, you can use tapwater but it’s best to leave it sit for about a week in the sun.  The chlorine isn’t good for the plants and animals that will make the pond their home (makes you wonder exactly how good it is for us).

My main goal for the pond is not strictly aesthetic but to attract local native fauna, in particular frogs and birds.  I’ve gone exclusively with local native aquatic plants.  There’s water ribbons which help to oxygenate the water, a couple of different sedges and nardoo.  These are all emergent (they have their roots in the water but extend above the surface) although I understand that water ribbons can be fully submersed in the water and still do their thing.  Around the pond edge I’ve planted some more sedges and rushes as well as Bidgee Widgee, Lomandra Longifolia and Clematis Mycrophylla.  There’s also a Hedge Wattle nearby which should help to attract local fauna.  All these are there with the purpose of providing cover, shelter and food for invertebrates, frogs etc.  Here’s a picture of the first iteration of the pond:-

pond first iteration

Now I just sit back and wait to see how things develop.  Given that we are heading into winter, I don’t expect a lot of activity.  The frog breeding season starts in August but until the surrounding plants have grown enough to provide cover, the site might still be too exposed for frogs to want to risk using the pond.  Time will tell.

16th April 2015 – Photo update

The term used in Edible Forest Gardens to describe the creation of a brand new garden from scratch is Instant Succession.  I guess one of the features of this is that the whole garden undergoes a period of rapid change in the first several years.  That will certainly be true of my yard where the vast majority of the plants are new and will grow to maturity over time.

I’ll be keeping track of progress by photographing the guilds every three months or so (probably sticking to the solstice/equinox just for ease of memory).  The aim of this is track plant growth and also to see how individual guilds are performing eg. do the plants seem to be working together, what problems have been encountered etc.

For this first update, I have several guilds fully planted and several more under construction.  Here’s a photo covering some of the guilds with a description of all the guilds below.

Lisbon Lemon Guild

 

I had originally planted this lemon on the west side of the block but later realised that spot was just what I needed for an avocado. So, I transplanted the lemon a couple of weeks ago.  Seems to be doing ok so far. I’ve surrounded it mainly with Running Postman which is a nitrogen fixer and also a food source for native birds. There’s a Rounded Noon Flower in the top left for some variety and a Gold Dust Wattle in the bottom right which should attract insects and also act as a windbreak.

Hojiblanca Olive Guild

 

As stated in a previous post, the purpose of the olive tree in this location (apart from getting olives!) was as a windbreak to give cover to the macadamias behind. I’ve got another Gold Dust Wattle in the middle right hand side of the picture to help with that. The groundcover here is Bidgee Widgee, a local native that’s good for attracting insects (and thereafter birds). The other plants are small local native shrubs chosen more or less randomly.

Pinkalicious Macadamia Guild

 

The Pinkalicious Macadamia is a semi-dwarf variety which should theoretically reach about 4 or 5 metres high when fully grown.  I’ve positioned it where it will get full sun and it should have plenty of shelter from the wind once the garden has grown up.  In the bottom left of the photo is some more Bidgee Widgee and also several local native Yam Daisy plants which are edible tubers.  To the left and behind the macadamia are some Lomandra Longifolia which are also edible and can be used for basket weaving.  There’s also a couple of Native Raspberry and Mints in there to attract birds plus a few other local native small shrubs chosen more or less at random.

A4 Macadamia Guild

 

The A4 Macadamia is a full size tree that could get up to 10 metres high at maturity.  It seemed fitting to give this centre stage in the garden given my love of macadamias and also because it will need full sun to do well in the Werribee climate.  This guild turned out quite large.  In the bottom left is a Chilean Guava that I got from Digger’s.  It’s a small shrub with edible fruit.  In the top right is a Goji Berry which was a random purchase. I’ve never actually tried Goji Berries!  The rest are all native and local native.  In the centre bottom is an Austral-Tobacco plant.  There’s several Running Postman and Inland Pigface (a succulent which is almost entirely edible but which is prized for the flower which apparently tastes something like raspberry).   There’s a few local native saltbushes and a Correa Alba which should all attract local birds and insects.  At the back are some Common Tussock Grass.

Pineapple Guava Guild

 

In hindsight, I probably would have preferred a dwarf apple in this spot, but Pineapple Guava are damn tasty so I’m not going to change it now.  There’s several more Inland Pigface in this guild.  Off to the right of the picture are about 10 Chocolate Lilies just to add some colour. The flower also has a beautiful chocolatey scent (hence the name). There’s a local native Hop bush at the back which I look forward to incorporating into my homebrewing.  Other plants are local native small shrubs to attract local fauna.

Julienne Pear Guild

 

The Julienne Pear will get up to about 7 metres tall at maturity. I had thought about an avocado in this space but it does tend to get a little less than full sun so decided against that.  In the front is a Lemon Verbenna which has grown vigorously and whose leaves make a beautiful tea.  To the left of that is an Agastache which adds some nice colour.  In the bottom right is a Lavender.  There’s a couple of Acacias and Banksias in there, several more Running Postmans and Inland Pigfaces and a random Raspberry that I picked up over to the right. (Note: the bricks here are to stop birds digging at the roots of the plants. I’m not entirely sure why they decided to go for these plants.  Fortunately they haven’t tried the same trick with the new plants elsewhere in the garden).

Those are the guilds completed to this point.  The following are the major trees that are in but whose guilds haven’t been finished.

Packham’s Triumph Pear

 

The Packham’s Triumph and Julienne should pollinate each other.  I was originally going to espalier this but then thought it would be good to let it grow to full size at the back of the yard where it should help to provide some summer shade but also allow sun through to the greenhouse in winter time.

Pink Lady Apple

 

I planted the apple in December which probably wasn’t the greatest time.  Luckily we had a very mild summer. After a shaky start, the Pink Lady has done well.  I aim to let this grow to full size.

Crimson Crisp Apple

The Crimson Crisp has done the best of the three apples I’ve planted so far.  Again, I’ll aim to let this grow to full size.

Dwarf Gala Apple

 

The Dwarf Gala did have a hard time at the start but came through summer ok.  I’ll espalier this one along with several other apples that I’ll plant as bare root stock in winter.  You might be thinking – that’s a hell of a lot of apples and pears – and you’re right.  Fear not, I aim to put them to good use in the making of some (hopefully) delicious ciders!

Bacon Avocado

 

The avocados and macadamias are more marginal in the southern climate so I’ve placed them in the yard to give them the most favourable conditions. For some reason, anything I’ve planted in this area of the garden has grown beautifully (you can still see the pumpkins that almost ready to harvest).  I guess that is because it is an area sheltered from the wind which gets morning sun and later afternoon shade.  In theory, this is ideal for the avocado so fingers crossed that it grows up big and strong.

Hass Avocado

 

I’ve located the Hass underneath the giant peppercorn tree at the back of the yard. It’s got shelter from southerly and westerly winds and the peppercorn also provides afternoon shade in mid summer as well as free mulch from falling leaves and small fruits.  The Hass and Bacon cultivars fruit at opposite times of the year so I can theoretically get fruit most of the year which would be excellent given that I eat avocado pretty much every day.

Nectarine

 

This was a random find that I planted as bare root stock last winter. As such, I can’t remember its name.  It’s done quite nicely indeed over spring and summer.  Looking forward to some very tasty nectarines in a couple of years!

Cavendish Banana

 

Another little experiment here.  Don’t expect great yields from a banana this far south, but who knows?  In this corner, the plant has good wind protection and plenty of sunshine.  Unlike the other trees, I can, in theory, be getting fruit from this next summer.

Verdale Olive Trees

 

I love olives, hence I went for three trees which might have been a little excessive in hindsight.  Anyway, the theme for this area is mini-Mediterranean Garden.  I’ve got rosemary, sage, lavender, thyme and chives around the olives which should take care of my herb needs in the kitchen.  In this position on the east of the property, the olives get full sun all year.

Golden Wattle

 

It’s been my goal from the start to create a garden that was also attractive to local fauna. I’ve tried to achieve that mostly by planting local native plants in the shrub and groundcover layers, however, birds in particular are mainly drawn to trees.  Thus, I’ve kept space for two local native trees which border on the area i’ve set aside for a small pond (more on that in later posts).  In picture is a Golden Wattle, which also happens to be Australia’s floral emblem.  It’s a small but very attractive tree that will also add some nice colour to the garden.

Wooly Tea Tree

 

With the addition of the pond, I’m hoping to attract frogs to the garden and frogs like a dense habitat with gives them protection from predators.  The Wooly Tea Tree will form the southern border of the pond.  It’s a nice dense, small tree that should also attract food for the frogs in the way of insects.

So, that’s all for an epic post!  Luckily, I’m almost done with the tree planting.  I’ve got apples, almonds and grapes coming as bare root stock in winter and that will be all.  Until then, the next task for the garden is the pond, including a small retaining wall.  More on that in later posts.

Planting a guild

In this post I’ll show some photos outlining the basic approach I’ve taken to the planting of guilds.  (Note: all of this is taken pretty much straight out of the method outlined in Edible Forest Gardens).

Here’s my initial sketch of the Hojiblanca Olive patch.  It outlines the rough locations of both the main tree and the surrounding plants.  As you can probably tell, it’s an incomplete diagram but fits the basic strategy I explained in a previous post whereby the supporting plants are local natives.

This Olive patch is located at the northernmost area of my backyard which is the area where both cold winter and hot summer northerlies blow through.  Thus, the olive is part of my overall strategy to mitigate the effects of those winds on the macadamia trees which are now directly south of the olive.  I expect the olive to do much of the windbreaking but I will also put some dense medium local shrubs around it to add further blocking power.  I also put a Lisbon Lemon in here as well. Although lemons don’t generally like a lot of wind, this placement was a compromise on my part and I’m hoping the wind won’t take too much of a toll on the lemon tree.  In any case, it will help to block more of the wind which will assist the macadamia.

Here I have staked out the final positions for both the olive and the lemon.

I made the mistake when planting the Julienne Pear of thinking that I could bluff this step but I’m now paying a heavy weeding price.  There’s no denying it, digging up grass is hard work, especially if you want to retain the topsoil most of which is still attached to the grass when you dig up a clump.  This section took a good two and a half hours straight to complete.

First to go in is the Hojiblanca Olive tree.  The soil in this part of the garden is quite rocky with little topsoil.  Will be interesting to see how the olive handles this.  In theory, it should be ok.

Next is the sheet mulching. Once again, I paid a price on the Pear tree for skimping on this step. I recommend thick cardboard with lots of overlap at the edges.  This should give me a year or so of protection from weeds and whatever is left of the grass during which time it’s to be hoped that the local natives and the olive have established themselves and will crowd out any undesirables.

Mulch goes on top of the cardboard.  Note that you can add manure/mulch/compost below the sheet mulch layer if you want. For my Julienne Pear I put down some lucerne hay and manure and then put the cardboard on top. For the olive I decided to experiment and forego this step.

Fast forward to the finish. The Lisbon Lemon is in with some manure and compost below the cardboard layer to give it a helping hand. You can also make out the first lot of local natives. Running Postman is a groundcover that’s reputed to be a nitrogen fixer and is also a food source for Honeyeaters.  I’ve planted that around the lemon.  There’s also a Tree Violet near the fence on the left that is just out of shot.  I’ll add a couple of other dense shrubs in here and that should provide a nice windbreak for the macadamias behind, not to mention some tasty olives and lemons as well.