Out front along the southern border of the section is a raised concrete garden beneath the neighbours hedge. When we did our first consultation and initial planning for the garden, it was suggested that this area could be used as a bulk crop bed for vegetables like potatoes and squash. This post talks about some thoughts in planning the bulk crop bed
Considerations in Design
The south side of the garden at the front has a gentle slope down to the north meaning the raised bed is perfectly angled for winter sun. As I observed the garden last year, I was pleased to find it still received several hours of sunlight even in the depths of winter, and seemed to miss the long shadows of large nearby trees.
The only problem wuth summer sun on this bed is that there might be too much of it, so it may not be suitable for young plants with weak root systems.
The concrete edge should act as a heat sink during the day, releasing heat as it got cooler at night, which would potentially benefit tender plants.
However, I will need to be careful of spring frosts in this area. The neighbouring topography is higher and slopes into our garden. The bordering hedge will trap, or at least slow the cold descending air and frost, but therr will likely still be potential for cold air movement across the bed. I’ll need to ensure that I allow that cold air to keep moving down the slope, and not get trapped over my plants.
At the highest point in the garden, this bed is at risk of becoming drier than other parts of the garden if water is allowed to flow away. I may need to consider how I can divert rain fall and capture and hold moisture in the bed. Being long neglected, the soil is fairly poor so building up some fresh organic matter will be the first thing I do to help moisture retention.
The garden sits adjacent to a sloping path at the front. Hence, I am considering how I might divert water runoff into the garden. There is also potential to set up a rainwater collection tank under the eaves of the house and run piping directly into the bed for overflow.
When we moved in, the western end of the bed was covered in an euphorbia. Next to that there were two large unidentified shrubs, a rengarenga and then yet another mass of dreaded agapanthus.
At the eastern end grass had infiltrated under a crooked-but-productive lemon tree and a small harakeke (native flax) sits next to the house. I was happy to leave this area to look after itself for now, and have concentrated efforts on the western side.
The euphorbia is attractive enough when it flowers but it is a rampant self-seeder. It’s also tricky to remove as the milky sap is very irritant, so gloves are necessaary
The shrubs were simple enough to cut out, and although one keeps resprouting, the stumps have been left in situ. The native rengarenga was relocated to the back and the agapanthus was blitzed. This time I used a Baco hand saw, about $12 from Bunnings, to slice through the sticky thick raised root, horizontally and vertically. Then I prised a spade into the cuts and it came away relatively easily – well more easily than previous efforts!
Squashing in an early crop
This left a strip of exposed clay soil at the start of what was becoming a warm spring. With little to nourish the soil with, I threw in some pumpkin seeds I had dried over winter. They were just from a shop bought pumpkin so I wasn’t expecting much. However, they germinated and when they started to show secondary leaves I threw a small handful of what little composted manure I had around them.
With a warm November and December, they quickly grew into a generous tumbling ground cover that provided sufficient shade to minimise weed growth. And last month I harvested a very reasonable crop of gourds, having expended very little effort!
The far western end of the bed has been planted with an Elder tree (Sambucus nigra) at the fence-line to provide a supply of flowers and berries for medicine making. I will underplant this area with species that thrive at the edges of wild areas, such as red clover, mints, geums and meadowsweet. I’m not expecting to disturb the roots of plants in this area too much so I’ve also planted a rhubarb crown near to the elder.
As much of the remaining length of the bed as possible will be turned to perennial or annual crops. The soil where the agapanhtus was cleared was dug deep, then enriched with the contents of a bokashi bucket, seaweed, several bags of compost and manure and then sheet mulched. This is planned to be a permanent bed for asparagus crowns that I will order this winter, for planting in spring.
Distal to this, between the asparagus and the elder, will be used for bulk crops such as potatoes, leeks, winter brassicas and gourds. A slight hiccup in my plan here are the stumps of the shrubs that were cut down. These will make root crops a little tricky in the first few years until they rot or I can do something with them. Since pulling up the pumpkins, I have sown a green crop of Phacelia seeds to keep the ground covered over winter. Phacelia is a green manure crop that is good for over-wintering and provides an early pollen source for bees in early spring
The plan from here is to keep the ground covered until the asparagus crowns arrive, so I’ve planted some winter brassicas and salad, along with my first successful crops of coriander and dill. What a joy to have fresh herbs straight from the garden (and what a saving too!).