Revitalising the veggie garden

We’ve decided to spend our Easter break renovating the veggie garden. It’s been a bit of a mess lately, and not as productive as we’d like.

The garden before

The garden before

A year or two ago we planted passionfruit to grow up and over the veggie beds to shade them in the hotter weather. The plants grew prolifically but they didn’t fruit. They did, however, send out feral runners from the rootstock that have been coming up all over the place – in the various beds and also in the rose garden, even reaching into the native beds. The passionfruit plants did do the job of shading the beds, but they were very messy. We decided they had to go.

The garden before showing the growth of the passionfruit

The garden before showing the growth of the passionfruit

We’ve also had a big problem with insects and caterpillars devouring our leafy greens. We’ve made the decision to net the beds to protect them. We’ll also make sure to include some shade net as well. That’s going to take some design time. The first thing to do is to clean out the beds.

The passionfruit plants came out first. This was a big job on it’s own. Stephen took care of this over the past couple of weeks.

The first passionfruit plants have gone

The first passionfruit plants have gone

Then we pulled out almost all of the overgrown herbs from the herb spiral. We’re going to plant our herbs in pots.

Work on the chilli spiral begins

Work on the chilli spiral begins

The spiral has now been planted up with transplanted chilli plants.

The chilli spiral

The chilli spiral

We have a lot planned to get done in our garden over the four day break.

Day 1

Next step, I decided that the five raised bed planters needed to be turned so they were all in line and moved over slightly to allow easy access with the wheelbarrow. This involved removing all of the soil from the planters, pulling them up, and moving them.

It also involved digging out most of the star pickets that held the reo mesh that the passionfruit was growing on.

At the beginning of work on Good Friday

At the beginning of work on Good Friday

I shovelled the soil out of the first 2 planters.

Moving soil out of the first two planters

Moving soil out of the first two planters

This was the hardest part of the job, the soil had to be wheelbarrowed out and dumped on a plastic sheet until the planters were moved.

Temporary storage of the garden soil

Temporary storage of the garden soil

While Jet kept an eye out for flies on the soil, and kept the ball close, I moved the planters.

Resituating the first two planters

Resituating the first two planters

Once I’d lined up the first two beds in their new positions I barrowed and shovelled the soil back in.

At the end of work on Good Friday

At the end of work on Good Friday

Day 2

Next I cleaned out and moved the other three planters. This was a bit easier because I was able to just shovel the soil from one planter to the next, and then shovel it back once the planters were lined up. The mulch around the outside of the planters had gradually built up over the years, effectively making the raised beds not quite so raised. This has resulted in the newly moved beds being only about half full of soil. After Easter I’ll order a load of organic garden soil and top them up.

On Easter Saturday after the beds have been moved

On Easter Saturday after the beds have been moved

My final job for the day was to work out how to make the existing irrigation system work with the realigned beds. It took several attempts to realign the poly tube with the flexipipe and sprayers attached, but I think I finally got it all worked out. We won’t know for sure how things will work until the beds are filled and planted. And it may have been easier and faster to redo the irrigation from scratch.

At the end of work on Easter Saturday

At the end of work on Easter Saturday

Jet had fun helping today. She spent the afternoon running around the garden beds and snapping at flies.

Jet watching for flies

Jet watching for flies

While we wait for delivery of the soil we’ll have to put the star pickets back in around the end beds and put the mesh back on top; then do the same over the middle bed. These will act as good support for the netting that we want to put up. We need to make sure the net can be easily opened for access. We also need to be able to give access to pollinators when we grow flowering crops like tomatoes and broad beans, while keeping out the insects like the cabbage moth butterflies. And we want to incorporate shade cloth for summer, though that might need to be an additional layer of net just for the summer.

I’m so glad that we put in a spa bath when we did the bathroom reno. It’s lovely to soak in the tub with some epsom salts and with the jets going. Especially after a day of digging and shovelling in the garden. It might only be regular bath size, but oh what a difference those spa jets make!

Day 3

I woke up this morning thinking about the¬†irrigation and decided to simplify the whole thing. The current arrangement is a mess. We have two irrigation lines going into the veggie garden and because I tried to just reuse what we already had we can’t be sure which line is watering which bed until we give it a try, and chances are they will all be mixed up. We also have lines wrapping back and forth between the beds, with flexipipe coming up and into the beds all along the way. This is going to make walking between the beds a nightmare. The beds are already pretty close together, we don’t need to be tripping over sprinkler lines.

We started the day with a shopping trip for star pickets, another reo panel, and a few irrigation system fixings. We also checked out what’s available in the way of netting. We want something that’s going to stand up to the weather and last for a few years. It looks like we’ll have to go with 50% sun block shademesh. That’s a bit heavier than I wanted but it seems to be the lightest we can get – from Bunnings anyway. There’s no point doing anything about the netting until we have the support framework up and the beds topped up with soil. I know the sizes that it comes in so I can work on a design that will be workable and easy to use. I can also look around for something strong but lighter weight and lower sunblock.

I spent the afternoon reworking the irrigation to the beds – cutting pipe, putting in t-joiners and elbows, and adding flexipipe and sprayers where needed. This is much harder work than it sounds – lots of bending down and trying to force poly tube onto fittings. There was plenty of hot water used to try to soften the tube and make things fit together more easily. It took a few hours but I finally got another part of the job finished and working to our satisfaction.

Finished irrigation

Finished irrigation

Each bed has it’s own line coming off one of the two main lines into the area – the back three beds off one line, the front two beds and the chilli spiral off the other line. The bed lines can easily be swung out of the beds when we need to add soil, or dig the bed over. The main lines across the ground will be covered by mulch and we won’t have to worry about standing on and damaging any fittings.

Day 4

Our day in the garden today started with us ramming in ten star pickets. With the existing two these will make the upright support framework for our netting.

Star pickets to support the netting

Star pickets to support the netting

I did some research on the ‘net last night and found The Veggie Patch. They are based in Western Australia and sell insect netting for veggie gardens online. This is definitely preferable to shadecloth because it’s much lighter and won’t cut out much light through winter, so we’re going with this option. We also discussed our options for the top of our support framework. We were going to go with a flat ‘roof’ supported by three reo panels. We’ve decided against that idea and instead we bought some 25mm poly tube and made a hooped ‘roof’

Poly tube hoops fitted to support the insect netting

Poly tube hoops fitted to support the insect netting

I’ve ordered the netting. I’ll order the soil for the beds tomorrow. Hopefully the soil will arrive in the next couple of days and we can fill the beds and maybe get some planting done over the three day Anzac Day weekend, next weekend. It would also be great if the netting arrived but it’s only a three day week. I don’t think Australia Post will get it here, even if the seller gets it in the mail tomorrow.

Admiring our garden renovations of the past four days

Admiring our garden renovations of the past four days

We’ve realised that we also need to add a horizontal line of poly tube down each side along the top of the star pickets. This will give us something to secure the netting to when we want to lift it for access or to just have the beds open. Another job for next weekend.

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