Digging in

A really crucial step on our Dreamland implementation schedule was to get the holes prepared in order to plant the larger fruit trees over the winter. We needed the holes dug and filled with a dirt and compost mixture so that the compost could settle so that it wouldn’t burn the trees’ bare roots. But before we could dig the holes, we had a few “minor” landscaping alterations to make...

So two successive weekends at the end of May and in the beginning of June were used to start turning the high level plan into reality – with regards to landscaping and holes for trees, that is.

Dreamland plan

Dreamland plan

The first Friday I made the early trip to Kerr’s hire to get a Vermeer mini-loader with a 4-in-1 bucket to do the landscaping alterations. A lot of time and effort was spent on doing clearing work – removing a large quantity of large shrubs, de-rooting some trees and stumps the tree-clearing guys missed and dumping all kinds of garden rubble in a skip. At first I ordered way too small a skip – it was filled within an hour. The next day they brought me a much larger 8m2 skip – that took at least a day to fill. I also used the Vermeer to dig a large compost hole and filled that with a lot of the compostable shrubs. Then I tackled the massive task to reshape the two “hills” on the property into the shapes we needed.

Vermeer 1

Removing shrubs and landscaping with the Vermeer

After a wonderful night out with some great friends to enjoy local band Salted Fish, Saturday saw me do the early run to Kerr’s to swop the Vermeer for a Wacker Neussen 1404 excavator. This was used to dig out the framework and the filtration hole for the duck pond (more on that in a subsequent post) and I started digging the holes for the trees. On that exhausting non-stop work day I dug 61 holes for trees as well as another massive big compost hole.

Excavator with Markus

Excavating the duck pond

During the following week, I also got more clarity from Scott Tucker of Clear Water Lakes and Ponds on how the regeneration area should work, how deep the pond could and should be, and so on. We were not happy with the regeneration area for the pond, nor the pond depth, so the excavator was booked for the next weekend again. So there was a lot more digging to do.


Minefield of tree holes

As it was a rainy week, so I booked the excavator for the Saturday in order to give the ground some time to dry out. This gave me the Friday to do some planning, and to move some compost into the new holes. The compost guys from Elcho Garden Supplies arrived late, as they had had a break-in at their premises the night before. So I spent the morning clearing debris, clearing the old pond that was there and doing other preparation work. I spread roughly a kilogram of gypsum clay breaker in every hole, followed by a layer of straw mulch. Eventually, at midday my 4.5m3 organic mushroom compost arrived. Then I had to work at a demonic pace to get a big wheelbarrow full in each of the designated fruit tree holes. When I did the holes down the long driveway, I also carted some pavers back to the pond area – making good effective use of the wheelbarrow going both ways – but that gave me no time to rest with an empty wheelbarrow on the way back.

Prepared hole - first layer

First layer of hole preparation

After all the fruit tree holes were completed with a full wheelbarrow of compost, I started at the beginning again, adding a layer of clay soil, another half a wheelbarrow of compost and then another layer of clay soil. I completed 10 holes like that and triumphantly marked them with big orange stakes which I found lying around. Those holes were ready for trees! I can’t believe I polished that 4.5m3 compost in one afternoon.

Although I was dead tired, I couldn’t sleep properly that night as I was excited to complete the digging the next day. In my sleeplessness I planned how I was going to do some pretty complex digging. So early Saturday dawn, with a morning temperature of 4C, I sacrificed a Boardriders Competition – now that had never happened before – to go and pick up my favourite excavator at Kerr’s again. I did that complex digging – roughly as planned. At times this was done with my son’s “help”, but at times I had to work against some quite steep angles, which he didn’t want anything to do with. I must say he helped me a lot to line up the boom with the hole when changing buckets – this particular excavator’s buckets were really hard to change as the pin was really tight and short. As you work the thing, you learn more and more what is possible and how to get the most out of it. So, we completed landscaping, paths, the pond, filtration area, regeneration areas, filled the old pond and dug a further bunch of holes to arrive at a total of 99 holes for trees. (Why didn’t I find one more hole to dig to make it a round number? Well, things just don’t work that way!)

The next weekend we got another 9m2 of organic mushroom compost and mixed it in with the clay soil excavated from holes. Hard manual labour… Now the holes can rest a month before planting time.

Fresh compost

Matt from Elcho delivering fresh mushroom compost

Lessons learnt

  • When it comes to digging equipment, there is nothing like experience to help you do it better – but of course, you can only get that experience by actually doing it. I could have contracted someone to come and do it – they may have taken 2 days instead of 3, but it would have been at more than triple the price. Besides, now I could adjust my designs as I saw what was practical, what was physically doable and what fitted in with our greater plan.
  • It helped a lot having a plan – I could reference the plan to see that all the necessary holes were dug and also to make sure whatever landscaping I did fitted in with the plan.
About martin@muchmoremulch.blog (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

2 Comments on Digging in

  1. Lawrie Droomer // June 13, 2017 at 7:25 pm // Reply

    Hey Bud, I am not surprised with the amount of work you did. The fact that you have the time to also do the blog is quite inspiring! Surf wasn’t that good anyway.

  2. Thanks Lawrie! Glad to hear it wasn’t all that good – you know we all suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out)!

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