Saturday, December 20, 2014

The {partial} Evolution of a Garden...

I was going to try and get you up to date with the garden today, but it's been so sunny and beautiful lately that a whole bunch more has happened, and if I tried to get you up to date, well, this would be a long post indeed. As it is, it's pushing it :)

If you need a reminder of the jungle, you can re-fresh your memory here. (Eeeeek, I just had a look and can't believe it ever used to look like that!!!).

To be honest, I don't even know how we got the garden to the stage it is now. It's amazing (if I may say so). There are lots of little spaces that you can actually get to and lots of little places to plant pretty things and edible things. You no longer have to duck under the rose to get to the bottom half of the garden (and we discovered the frame the rose was climbing on was the frame for one of those double swing seat things! But it was so over grown, you'd never know). You can meander down paths without things grabbing your clothes, you can stop to admire the plants (because you can actually see them) and you can have a conversation with a chook, who will happily run over for some attention.

I thought it might be easier to just show you two sections of garden to start off with, including the vege patch. Time to start clearing this lot then...

Please never buy fennel (and potatoes) and then let it go wild. It's everywhere and the roots are thick and seem to go on for metres... trying to remove it will age you a few years.

Although you'd never know it, this part of the garden was already roughly laid out with hidden paths breaking it up. All of the bricks we've used are bricks that were already here, hiding under weeds, dirt, piles of sticks, lawn... you get the picture.

Just looking at those photos above makes me so excited at how it looks now. I'm glad we were quite naive when it came to tackling this garden, if we had had any idea just how much work it was going to take (and is still currently taking) I'm not sure we would have even started!

Now though, when I wander through my lovely little section, I'm so happy we did tackle it and I'm really glad we tackled it at the pace we have. It's meant ideas could evolve, areas could become functional and beautiful and we would have never have ended up with what we have if we hadn't taken our time with it.

 Snow day!! 
You can see that we managed to clear this entire area before the winter snow fell (who am I kidding, it fell for maybe 2 days max!!) 
And in the background is our mountain, Harbour Cone.

Many thanks have to go to our hard working chooks for their rather vigorous weeding. We opened up their chook run all the way from where their house was, down the right hand side of the garden path, to the bottom behind the bean fence (below). They loved eating all the bugs and weeds, and we got a weeded and tilled garden. Win win. They then slowly got more grumpy at us as we gradually made their run smaller and while it's still not as big as the whole length of garden they had, it's now still much bigger than their initial run was when we got here, and they have a beautiful willow fence that David made for them. Oh, it's so pretty!! But, I'm saving that for the next garden post, so you'll have to wait :)

The bean fence and strawberry patch above was the first bit of garden we raised. The strawberries are little wild white alpine strawberries that we found in various places throughout the garden. We decided to move them and plant them all together for our own little strawberry patch and they are doing really well together.

The pea straw closest to us in the photo is where I planted our garlic bulbs. Upon further research, I shouldn't have planted them anywhere near where beans were going to grow (companion planting rule #1 - beans hate the whole onion/garlic family...yeesh, drama much?) but there was no where else to put them at that stage, and the bulbs really should have been in at the start of winter, as opposed to the end...

We then sectioned off the corner part of the glass houses and proceeded to build a little trench into the dirt for the water to run off. Where the 'red' concrete path ended by the purple glasshouse, water was (and had been for a long time) pooling because the garden wasn't level in that area. It smelt really really bad the day we dug that garden bit up because there was no oxygen getting to the dirt. David dug the trench on an angle, put in some of the spare stones we had from clearing the garden to the left of the purple glass house and then put in a big section of black drainage piping we found behind the house down into it. Then we covered it with more stones, gravel and then dirt. Now we have no more pooling anaerobic water and the paths are nice and level.

Perfect to pop in some raised beds now I reckon...

Look at how pretty those raised beds look! David and his dad built them and they are so awesome! Being able to get around the garden without walking on top of other plants and getting caught in things is really lovely. You should try it.

The paths in between the beds were levelled with dirt, we then put weed matting down and then fine gravel so that we could put the original paving stones back down easily and they wouldn't move.

Spot the chickens (being grumpy because they were no longer allowed this far down...)

 And spot the little Mocha-bee...

Yay, bricks go down...

 Monty inspects and approves the paths. Thank goodness...

Once the bricks were back down, we put sand inbetween, just to be extra sure that they weren't going anywhere, and to brush into any small gaps. Then we put our old carpet and curtains on top of the beds to stop any weeds growing since it was still too early to plant any summer veges, and way to late for winter ones.

We also weed matted and then barked the paths in front of the strawberry/bean garden (and put up chicken wire because neighbourhood cats were using it as a toilet! We've since cat proofed the entire section... no more neighbourhood cats - so far.)

And here it is in the sun, because the sun makes everything look better.

Do you remember when the patch next to the glass house was a mound of dirt and weeds?  Clearing it, weed matting and then pebbling was one of the first major things we did.

We've since planted and barked the rest of the section by the raised beds, but for now, lets move onto the other section that we left open for the chickens, the bit behind the drift wood fence.

It was weedy and you couldn't really get far enough in to see anything (see original garden post), let alone try to collect the hazelnuts from the two rather big hazel trees in there. They would fall to the ground and rot because there was just no way to see them.

So, I had the idea of turning it into a patch of lawn. Easy to care for, easy to harvest fallen hazelnuts, a lovely spot for a picnic and just another nice little section of garden to enjoy.  

Behold below, after the chickens were evicted (you can see where we moved the chicken fence up to the old apple tree in the photo below. That is now the size of their run, so, a lot bigger than what they originally had).

And there's the swing frame I was talking about that went over the path that the rose grew on. It was all out war tackling that climbing rose (which you can see to the right of the photo, now much smaller) but we won...

Once we raked up the little bits of weeds and sticks that the chickens had left that you can see above, we went off to get a trailer load of new garden dirt to fill in some of the uneven surface of that section and to provide a good platform for the grass to take root. 

We then planted our new little lemon tree and sprinkled 'easy mow' grass seeds over the whole thing.

 David raking in the grass seed and our new little lemon tree in the middle.

All finished, now to wait for the grass to grow...

We've heard from several people that the garden used to be amazing. The lady that owned it before the people we purchased it from had owned the house for a number of years. She was an avid gardener and had spent years building up the soil quality. Unfortunately, it was then left to its own devices before we got our hands on it.

I would have loved to have seen the garden when it was in its prime, but hopefully we're getting it back to that stage. And even though it's probably quite different to how it would have looked, damn at least it looks good!!

So, that is the first instalment of the garden evolution. More to come, so much more...

J (& D)


  1. I shall return to re-read and enjoy all this! my congratulations to you both for the amazing job you are doing. I'm not sure about an area of lawn,,,,,,,,? Our second house had six foot high fennel, such a distinctive smell but not much use except for turning the stalks into spears for boy games! All the very best for 2015.

    1. Thanks June!! The lawn really does look great, I promise :) Now that it's popped up. It much easier to care for than a whole heap of weeds :) Our fennel would have been that high too, I don't mind the smell, I actually quite like it, but I don't like it growing everywhere it shouldn't. Hehe. And if you leave a little bit of root, it just pops up again.


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