I would never be so bold as to try and define what gardening means to people. Its meaning is as diverse and curious as the people who practice it. My favourite take on it is that horticulture is the science yet gardening is the art.I have created gardens professionally both public and private, from the design stage to completion of construction and through to maintenance. I have been involved in starting community and school gardens as well as working on bush regeneration projects. I have also worked on large vineyards, orchards, market gardens and have even had a stint on a flower farm. These have all been great experiences where I have learnt a lot about growing and tending to plants, but If I am to be honest I would have to admit that nothing comes close to the feeling of gardening in your own space and working on your own projects. The Ancient Persians referred to their gardens as Para Disa and to me my garden is like a small piece of paradise.
Two winters ago I was in a flat with a garden that was a whopping 20 metres square and although the conditions were cramped the garden was very productive. There was also a large concrete area which I reclaimed parts of by piling up vegetation gathered from around the neighbourhood like leaves, grass clippings and prunings.
These were active compost piles and I am impatient, so I planted them out with potatoes while they broke down and then followed up with French beans in the summer. There was also the small army of container plants that always seem to follow the renting gardener from place to place. They are usually grown in anything and everything from old recycling bins, colanders, teapots, baths and of course the broken wheelbarrow. In a small garden every piece of earth becomes very precious and if you’re trying to be productive you tend to rotate your crops a lot quicker. For example, normally I would dig up my summer crop of potatoes as I need them but in a small garden they come out all at once to make room for a crop of carrots or beans. I have found that gardening in a small site forces you to solve space issues in unusual ways, and you begin to appreciate that having space is a beautiful thing.
So around 16 months ago my partner Joi and I entered the scary world of home ownership. We had both spent the last decade moving around from place to place and project to project so it is curious that we got a house, a first car and had a wonderful baby girl, Eden, all in the last 12 months.
The block size is 730 square metres and is a long rectangle which runs from north to south and receives all day sun for most of the year. This can tend to bake the garden which last season’s crop of French beans will attest to. The house is situated on the front of the block so there is a good amount of usable garden space out the back. The site slopes down towards the front but a couple of retaining walls terrace the site rather well.
The back fence borders a Council Reserve that boasts two massive eucalypts which are a big part of the appeal of place. The soil is a beautiful milk chocolate clay loam (classy Lindt rather than Nestle) and is around 30cm deep with a light clay base. Although there is a lot of shaly rock it is relatively easy to dig if you have a crow bar and the right attitude . The panoramic view takes in Mt Wellington, Lost World and the Derwent River. My first impressions of the place other than a great aspect and soil was of a land overflowing with shoddy half baked projects and poorly laid cement.
There were also a number of environmental factors to take into account. Now in Hobart we get some pretty good frosts and this garden is no exception. Come May, even the hardiest tomato is burnt to a crisp. When it comes to the winds, we are protected from the sea breeze from the south but get hammered by the westerlies off the mountain. In fact last spring I sowed my zucchini seeds, they got to around 15cm and looked wonderful, then one afternoon the wind started in a rather violent manner and the next day the whole bed was wiped clean. The two combined can sometimes make you ponder the question of whether pulling out that weed is more important than losing a finger or two to frostbite.
We have seen a full set of seasons here and I’ve got to say I am not bored with it yet. I don’t want to sound greedy but now that I have a garden of my own I can’t help thinking how much fun a couple of acres would be.
Next Time – Garden Map Fever