The main activity for this period was to prepare the holes for the fruiting and other native trees. However, while preparing the holes, a couple of necessary side-projects also took place. One of these was to mix existing soil, obtained from digging the holes, with compost and putting it back into the holes.
Terraces to secret garden
Another one was to shape the remaining mounts of soil as a terraced herb garden on either side of a path serving as an entrance into a secluded space we decided to call “The Secret Garden”.
Initially I was thinking about using sleepers to layer the terraces, but Patricia came up with the bright idea to use natural logs instead of neatly cut sleepers. Natural logs will fit in better with the edible forest theme, and it is also a better use of natural resources than pre-cut and bought sleepers – and besides, that will be much better on the budget too. Having mulched all but two of the trees we removed, we had very few logs available. So we turned to our friends for recommendations.
Narelle, a good friend of Patricia, answered and said we could pick up a few dead logs from their nature plot out in Anakie. She recommended taking a good chain saw along, but all excited I rushed there early on a beautiful autumn morning to collect logs in the bush. Great was my dismay when I realised I couldn’t lift the logs as they were too long and my little hand saw and trimmer just wasn’t going to make any impact… So I returned home and made my way back again armed with Gaë’s petrol chain saw this time (why ever did I buy an electric one way back when?) to retrieve a good collection of logs. Gaë’s saw desperately needs a service so I spent more time re-starting the saw than cutting. We still got a good log harvest this time!
Now I could use the logs and shape terraces either side of the Secret Garden entrance. As I moved soil to the tree holes, I created the shape and mixed in some compost simultaneously. We’re really looking forward to planting these with herbs and small edible shrubs in the spring season!
The garden to the side of the access driveway looked like a war zone after the tree removal and digging operations. Tree stumps, dead bushes, uneven heaps of mulch, tree stump grinds and heaps of dirt all over the place. It was hard to distinguish between the heaps prepared for the new trees and the heaps of rubbish in-between.
So as another side project, I took dead bushes back to the compost holes, rubbish to a separate dump heap, raked mulch and used the old heaps to build the new holes – just making good effective use of walking back and forth by doing jobs both ways! Lastly I levelled the edge and re-laid the edging timber we had to take apart to get the digger in there. Now we’re ready to plant avocados!
Holes for trees
After quite a few man-days of wheelbarrowing a ton of compost (OK 18m3 of compost) and what feels like a ton of dirt, we finally have 101 holes for trees or large shrubs prepared – each dug out to at least 50-60cm deep (in our hard clay soil), and each with at least 2 wheelbarrows of organic mushroom compost mixed into the dirt and most of them with a little “dam” edge built around them from the excess dirt.
Now the holes need to “rest” for 2 weeks or so, allowing the compost to settle and for the soil and compost to mix, for earthworms to start doing their work and so on. We’ll turn the heaps in about 2 weeks’ time and then have them settle for another 2 weeks before it is planting time!
The most fun part of the preparation was drawing up a planting plan. Based on our initial plan, we first studied which types of trees were available from Pete the Permie, where we get all our bare root trees. Next we drew up a detailed planting plan by walking the area, considering sun, water, airflow, shades, tress shapes, sizes and requirements, as well as the effects of nearby plants and trees. Over the course of a few site walks, we slowly built up a tree wish list, with some notes where we can accept alternatives, should Pete for example recommend something more suitable for our area or climate.