Howdy folks! The 20th of October 2014 marks the date of my previous post nearly a year ago. Much has happened since then!
One of the biggest changes we have experienced since moving to Atamai, is the expansion of our efforts in the vegetable garden. It has been no trivial exercise going from small “square foot” gardens in our city house in Christchurch, to our current vege garden of approximately 80m2. Last year we managed to successfully grow approximately 40m2 and we are doubling that this year, all going well. We have adopted (for now) a rotation system from Kay Baxter at Koanga Institute in the North Island. This system divides the garden into 4 equally sized sections that each consist of legumes/nitrogen fixers, heavy feeders and 2 sections for grains. The grains are there to build up carbonaceous material that will be used for the compost, and at the same time getting some grains for our consumption and for future planting. Our bulk grains are still sourced externally. Below you can see that we created the planting beds directly in the ground, as this was the most efficient for our large area and limited funds.
Each section consists of 3x 3m trenches that were dug out about 300mm deep. This was filled with mature two year old organic compost that we purchased in bulk. The idea of using trenches was to concentrate and store any water that was falling on the land into the the areas where the planting was going to be done. Our summers are certainly very dry, and we found that this was a very strategic thing to do. The compost was necessary because the topsoil on our land was fairly deficient in its humic content. As we dive deeper into gardening knowledge, we are learning how important the soil structure and its associated life forms are to the plants that grow in it.
The result from our efforts last year are shown below:
Our chosen grain selection was wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn, amaranth, sorghum and millet. The grains had no problem growing in our climatic conditions, but needed to be protected from the birds. We used some roofing wire mesh, alkathene pipe, waratahs and bird netting to create an enclosure and it seemed to work pretty well.
We were later to find out the intricacies of harvesting, threshing and winnowing the grain - but will have to leave that for another post. Overall we were pleased with our efforts despite being newbies to this area, we love learning new things, particularly when it feeds us!