We have started a food garden. In our backyard, in amongst the flowers, shrubs and trees, we have planted rocket, coriander, mustard leaf, spinach, radishes, yellow baby marrow, tomatoes of all kinds, beetroot, onions, leeks, beans and peas. This is part of a desire to become more self sustaining, reduce our consumer footprint as well as our impact on landfills.
Matthew never does anything half measure so he deep dived into understanding all about permaculture, the benefits of plant diversity and soil quality. “It all starts with the soil.” he said with a sage nod. “We need to improve the quality of the soil.”
“Farmers who are mimicking nature reduce their inputs and labor while their quality of life increases exponentially.”
-Ray Archuleta, USDA Soil Scientist
The garden is a living experiment where everything can regenerate. The key theme of what he read was that we should copy what Nature does. That means lots of diversity. Matthew was also keen to see the plants in seed and grow them from these rather than buying seedlings off the shelf. Have you ever seen lettuce or rocket in flower? (see photo above) We hadn’t until now. These beauties have gifted us enough seeds to plant fields of soft butter lettuce and spicy rocket.
The most important thing we’ve learnt (note the royal “We” – Matthew has done all the research here) is to stop digging and turning the soil over. This kills and upsets the delicate balance of organisms that like doing things in the cool and dark, below the soil’s surface. The digging is left to the worms. We stopped walking where we plant and stopped planting where we walk, creating a lovely lattice of beds and paths, everything repurposed from what we already had, including sections of swimming pool fence.
We worked to improve the soil quality by doing a variety of things: we added rock dust which contains minerals that are slowly broken down and made available for the plants to use. We make use of our own compost from the mountain of cuttings, leaves, and grass that the garden gifts us so profusely. The rock dust, worm castings, and bokashi are mixed in with the compost. Effective microorganisms, bought in bulk from a supplier in the next suburb, are sprayed on the soil. Lastly the soil is covered in newspaper, lucerne and straw, all of which help keep in the moisture as they create more nutrients. Sounds like a lot of work? We have Tony to help and it is all done in stages. Slowly. Mindfully. Like Nature.
For us the proof of the (vegetable) pudding is in the eating. The leaves, fruits and roots gifted to us from the garden are delicious, tasty and juicy. Even though it is still early days, it would seem that the fruits (pun intended) of our gardening labours are paying off. It has created such interest that we’ve been asked to share our experience. We’re even thinking of putting together a fun Saturday morning workshop for those interested.
Why are we telling you all of this? One of our five pillars at 5th Place is Nourishing and it is World Food Day. Sustaining our food resources is a concern for all of us and all of us can do something about it.
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