Especially with the trees still being so young at Dreamland, we have an excellent opportunity to grow vegetables in the open areas that are still in full sun. Parts of Dreamland are designed as a savanna-scape anyway, in order for us to grow some annual crops as part of the forest. So we covered some biggish open areas with mushroom compost and weed mat way back in the spring, in preparation for phase 2 planting. Great was my excitement when we earmarked a big area around two apricot treelets for new no-dig vegetable beds.
One of the many things I learnt in my recent PDC course was that the no-dig beds needed enough nitrogen sources too. I have always added manure and compost to our beds, but as food for the plants – I have been blissfully unaware of the carbon-nitrogen aspects. This importance of nitrogen sources is also echoed in Gaia’s Garden, which I am working through at the moment. So the bottom layers, on top of the mushroom compost that was there already, were Lucerne mulch, then our phase 1 compost and then chicken manure.
Next was the layer of straw, which was a bit rough. I first tried chopping it up, but the chipper together with the strong wind blew it all out of the wheelbarrow and all over the place, so I settled for the heavy strands – in theory it should all decompose over time anyway. Then we topped it with our phase 2 compost, which is much darker and richer. I thought we had quite a pile, but it quickly disappeared. In one of the beds I had to mix in some more of the mushroom compost we had left.
Unfortunately as Dreamland works now, we cannot yet fence off the entire area for rabbits, so we have to fence off individual areas as we work with them. Maybe this will be useful in future for chook-management too?
Luckily we don’t have many possums!
And in this dry climate, we have to irrigate – in fact it hasn’t rained properly for more than a month, so the soil is as dry as parchment. At Dreamland I’m experimenting with spray irrigation, and it worked reasonably well in our phase 1 beds. We find in our raised beds at Homeland that the holes in the drip irrigation are too far apart. It’s OK for biggish plants like tomatoes and peas, but it doesn’t work well for crops that you want to plant more intensely closer together.
Finally our no-dig no-walk beds were all ready and in the top photo Patricia has been planting lettuce, beetroot, kale, cauliflower, union and borage all mixed together in one bed and broccoli, coriander, peas, carrot, lettuce and beetroot in the other. She has an interesting approach sowing in-situ using a thin layer of organic planting mix on top of whatever is in the bed. So far this approach has been working very well.
It was great applying the practical skills we learnt in our PDC course. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out. Nitrogen sources are a must!
You never have enough compost! Even with our stepped-up composting processes – more about that later – we will probably need to cart in more compost soon again.