The first project was literally to change two vegetable beds around. Why on this earth would we do such a crazy labour-intensive exercise? Well, there was a sound reason for the madness. Since inception, the first two beds from the front have always been mixed perennial herb beds, the idea being not only to have culinary herbs growing, but also to establish a more permanent habitat for beneficial bugs and insects – so, in other words, a bit of permanent diversity. The second bed has become so overgrown, I don’t think the beneficials could make each other out anymore. Besides, there was a more pressing need. The third bed from the back has become so dry due to the school’s Eucalyptus trees that are rudely and persistently spreading their roots deeper and deeper under our vegetable beds. Year on year we see the next bed in line from the back go drier. The bed right at the back used to have thriving berries, but last year I resorted to plant Lucerne there, which with its deep roots can hopefully make a living there. But it’s not thriving yet…
Anyway, so this project entailed swopping the quite hardy herbs (like lavender, rosemary, some thyme, a big lemon myrtle, a curry plant and a few other bits and pieces) from the front to the back and then re-doing the front bed as a fresh new no-dig bed for spring planting. So not only does it move the vegetables into a new and more productive bed, but it also spreads the diversity further into the vegetable garden.
Overcrowded herb bed before – and while being re-done
Two of the long beds on the side still hadn’t been redone as no-dig beds, so they were emptied onto the stockpile (I wonder what we are going to do with all that dead dirt?) and they have now been redone as no-dig beds. Same story as before – layers of mulch, straw, compost, Lucerne, compost, straw, compost. In these beds we’ve planted tomato seedlings – they should do well in the rich no-dig media.
I didn’t take any photos – it’s the same process as we did here.
Chop and drop
I think one of the reasons that our vegetable garden beds’ soil eventually became dead was that even though we never dug in them or compacted them, we also never replenished them properly either. So over time the heavy feeders just depleted the soil of all its energy, minerals and eventually all life. We usually removed the plants – roots and all, composted them and then put the compost on top – but I think they need the nutrients in the soil and not only on top. This winter we had some nice winter vegetables – broccoli, kale, cabbage and some spring onions – growing in the new no-dig beds (together with some grass due to some bad compost – grrrrr).
Those brassicas are all heavy feeders, so this time round we didn’t remove them and compost them, as before. We literally chopped them up in small pieces and covered them with compost and planted right into that. The objective is that they will decompose in situ and replenish the soil.
I know we shouldn’t plant one heavy feeder after the other, but we needed space for more tomatoes. I’m hoping if we take it easy after the tomatoes, the bed will recover based on the all the organic material we’ve dropped in there.
Before, chopped and covered
Anyway, so our spring planting is coming on nicely. I starting writing this a while ago – as we speak, most of these beds are growing nicely – we’ve already started staking tomotoes!