I notice things and think of ways to make them maintenance free where possible.
Which brought my attention the this following project.A key hole garden bed that was unlevel,very poor access and a border that needed alot of maintenance.After some discussion with the staff at the farm and a design brain storm we decided to put our rock wall building skill we used on the Glass House Garden to good use again.
We were going to need rocks,so we fired up the old Komatsu and loaded some rocks into our truck.We were looking for rocks that were large enough with a flat face and hopefully a flat bottom.We needed about 3 truck loads most hand picked.We also went to town to get sand and cement.Ending up we needed 10 bags of cement and a meter of sand.Relatively inexpensive,about $3.50 a bag and $40.00 for the sand.All our rocks are free and we have wwoofers for all the hard work,ha ha.
We disassembled the old border of the garden which was made from clay tiles.Not really working that well in this application as they weren't really retaining the soil.The shape was also running down a slope and so too the dirt behind the border making the tiles collapse.
Next we dug a trench for the rocks to sit in so they wouldn't slip from the bottom.As we were going to level the garden,the end of the wall was going to be raised 1 meter to give easy access without bending.The design also will make the paths wider for access and reachable at arms length from anywhere you stand.Very ergonomically friendly and no need to stand on the soil.
I used my string line bubble level to determine the wall height and pegged out the area.Things started to look a lot bigger than we had anticipated but we progressed.In went the largest rocks to marry in with an existing boulder formation and to take up some bulk height.Foundation rocks should be solid as possible to avoid movement of rocks that will be positioned higher.Selection of rocks is critical to get a nice display face and a firm footing.This is one thing I had to explain to Toshi several times.He just put any old rock down and hoped for the best.I explained that if he was going to carry a heavy rock for placement,make it count so he wouldn't have to move it again.Work smart not hard.Toshi is blood type 'O'.The joke here is that people with blood type 'O' forget easy or they don't really care about the end result.I'm working on him.
Lots and lots of small rock were needed to fill gaps behind the foundation rock and to make level platforms for the second,third and so on layers.We mixed cement, 3 sand to 1 cement for our morter a used it to set rocks into position for strength and to fill any gaps.Slowly the wall was taking shape.We had all hands on deck gathering rocks,mixing cement and placing rocks to get the job completed on schedule.It was starting to look really good and worth the effort.A good amount of effort now and a lot less later is the plan.
When we finally completed the wall,the garden bed needed topping up with soil and compost so we scoured the farm for some good soil and put in 2 truck loads.
Next we had to put in areas to walk that we could reach the garden bed center from anywhere in the garden.We have a heap of timber blocks about 30cm X 20cm which were perfect for the design.We dug them in so they are same height as the soil with about 100mm gap between each.Previously the old paths were at ground level,but making them at bed level we gain more surface area for plant.A trick I picked up from a colleague mate Cam Wilson.On ya Cam.Now we can access anywhere in the garden easily,not compact the soil and once everything is grown we can sit in amongst the beautiful herbs.
Next we mulched heavily with straw and put in 120 vegetables and herbs that will companion each other.The main veg being lettuce,we companioned it with cucumber,dill,basil,beans,oregano and strawberries.There are so many more things in there as well.
The last thing to do was make a set of stepping blocks onto a rocky outcrop and fill the gaps between the blocks with vegetation to stabilize them.
The pond that the garden is near will reflect the suns heat and warm the garden so we will be able to grow warmer climate plans for longer when it get cooler.Mediterranean type herds like thyme,oregano and basil have been planted on the south facing wall to capture the heat from the rocks and tall herbs have been positioned so they will protect the lettuces from the hot summer sun.
A really good job buy all involved and I am happy with the finished result.It suits the rocky outcrop at the pond like it was meant to be there.
Here is a diagram and plant list for a garden.Change the plants to suit your own area.Don't be afraid to experiment.Have fun,live a little.
A. Snap peas, pole-type 'Sugar Snap', 1 seed packet
B. Edible flowers (calendulas, pansies, violas)
C. Cabbage, 'Ruby Perfection', 6 plants
D. Cauliflower, 'Amazing', 9 plants
E. Spinach, 'Tyee', 6 plants
F. Garlic, 'Chesnok Red' and 'Spanish Roja'
G. Broccoli, 'Premium Crop', 8 plants, and Romanesco, 12 plants
H. Mustard, 'Giant Red', 6 plants, and 'Green Wave', 3 plants
I. Carrots, 'Babette' and 'Bolero', 1 seed packet each
J. Onions, 'Walla Walla Sweet'
K. Radishes, 'Cherry Belle' and 'Crimson Giant', 1 seed packet each
L. Swiss chard, 'Rainbow', 9 plants, and 'Ruby', 2 plants
M. Kale, 'Winterbor', 6 plants
N. Lettuce, curly endive, 'Dark Lollo Rossa', 'Lollo Rossa', 'Sierra', and 'Tom Thumb', 6 plants each
O. Ornamental kale, 26 plants
P. Herbs (assorted)