Our garden is unruly. It has strong bones but has suffered from years of inattention and, at some point, an overly optimistic owner. Now that the inside of the (now not so) new house is kind of under control and the weather has turned, it’s time to move outside. We’ve decided to focus on our back yard first and move onto the front when the back is under control.
The most noticeable thing about our yard is that we have far too many trees planted far too close together (for example, two ashes within 1.5 meters of an oak). Nothing is particularly healthy, pretty much everything is struggling for light, and all of our fruit trees need a good prune. I’m finding it challenging because we’re reinterpreting someone else’s vision – trying to keep the good ideas and get rid of the rest so the remaining plants can thrive.
We have cherry, plum, apple, peach, orange and loquat trees, along with a few more unidentified citrus trees. I have miniature nectarines, lemons and cumquats in pots on our back verandah. We’re going to need to learn to prune, and also basic fruit tree husbandry. And work out how to get away with not spraying, if possible.
Both our front and back yards have been overrun by Blue Periwinkle (Vinca major) which is a declared weed in the Australian Capital Territory. I’ve been advised by a horticulturalist that the best way to get rid of it is to pull it up by hand and then poison the young plants when it tries to come back. I’m not a fan of glyphosate, but I’m willing to give it a go if it means I can get rid of the Vinca and get the yard back to a healthy, balanced state. It’s really hard work and hard to dispose of because of its declared weed status – we don’t have enough space to make ‘weed soup’ out of it.
Since we have moved in we’ve cut down lots of trees (both weeds and trees which were growing up into the wires – thanks, Dad!), demolished a shed and removed a mosquito-infested drowning hazard (otherwise known as a poorly situated pond). We’re still in the process of cutting down the timber for burning in our slow combustion stove next year and we still need to get most of the pond’s concrete off to the tip.
Over the last week, while the weather’s been beautiful, I’ve bitten the bullet and re-established a vegetable patch. It’s a bit of a gamble in terms of sunlight as we’ve so many big fruit trees and they don’t have leaves yet, but I think I’ve picked a patch of soil which will get 5-6 hours of direct sun a day. I’ve dug through some compost and fertilizer along with some water crystals, and added a bag of mulch.
Elena, Hugo and I went to the nursery to pick out some seedlings, but I must admit that wrangling a toddler and a pram through the place didn’t leave me too much brain power for thinking about plants!
I feel like we’ve ended up with a real mix of plants, but I’m hopeful. We’ve planted out tomatoes, dwarf yellow beans (yellow is Elena’s favourite colour at the moment), Lebanese cucumbers, strawberries, basil and rocket. I’ve also planted some silverbeet and green onion seeds. It’s an ambitious list. There are some little annuals in there too for Elena.
And from now on, I’ve decided that Mondays are Vinca day. I’m going to try and pull some out for an hour each Monday, as well as doing away with anything that has popped up in the previously cleared areas.
I have plans for a small herb garden, a hedge along the back fence, and eventually a chicken coop over the old shed’s slab (and the run under the apple and cherry trees so the chooks have lots of fun stuff to scratch).
It’s a big task, but I think we’re up to it. I’ll keep you updated!