HOW TO BUILD A GARDEN FROM SCRATCH ??

First determine the physical location of the garden, it's shape and size.

Initially it is best to plant the major plants first, you have to take into account how high the garden is going to be, generally I'm talking about a garden that will end up approximately 6 inches higher, than the ground.

The height to some degree will be determined by the garden edging that you use.
I use continuous edging which is around 4 inches high, you can have a garden tapering back form this edge that could be 8 inches or so high,

Now I plant mostly foliage plants you know palms etc., so when I plant the major plants I either build them up to the same height or just higher than the edging, or if the palm requires more moisture I plant it at or just below ground level, so that it doesn't dry out as quick.

With trees like hardwoods etc they would need to be planted at the height of the edging at least.

Now the compost I use and the newspaper, take around 12 months or more to break down fully. so if you want to plant minor plants like annuals and other smaller fill in plants then you may have to wait this time or :- introduce some good quality garden mix soil into the new garden I will explain this next in starting from scratch.

If you have a very heavy clay soil under the surface then add Gypsum (only use Lime to correct a PH imbalance) in huge quantities before building the top layer, always lay your edging first after planting the major trees.

STARTING FROM SCRATCH :-


Cut the lawn as low as possible (not to ground level exactly) where the garden is going to go, lay your gypsum and then any organic fertiliser, like poultry manure pellets, or poultry manure from the farm (make sure it is matured as fresh poultry manure can burn the roots of young plants) or stable manure from cows or cattle.

Next lay newspaper (this will stop the growth of most grasses and weeds (the only one it won't completely stop is a grass called nut grass that we have here), the news paper needs to be laid about 36 to 42 or so pages thick, in the case of a tabloids you open it up and make it thick enough by adding papers together. I generally lay paper as I lay soil/mulch. Remember to be generous in overlapping the paper.

Over the paper lay :-

1.. if you want to plant smaller plants at this stage, lay your garden mix.

2.. or lay the compost material now.

Don't let the compost or soil sit right up close to the trunks of trees.

Following are some examples of laying vegetable gardens:-

Above is an easy way to get a garden started and is a way that the kids can be involved without too much expense.
These gardens are referred to as sheet mulch gardens, here I have layed mushroom compost to a depth of around 6 to 8"s, you could also start this garden by just using 1 bale of green lucern hay and 1 bale of brown straw/bedding straw.
If using hay and straw lay the newspaper and wet it well, break open the bale of lucern hay, loosen up the biscuits and lay them down, then doing the same with the bedding straw cover the lucern hay with the straw. A bag of mushroom compost and some seedlings, make some holes in the straw put compost in then plant seedlings. This gets the garden underway.
As it breaks down just add more compost etc.

You need to create a weed barrier around the garden up to 1 meter wide will do, lay newspaper cover with wood chip or bark or small stones etc.,. Around the outside of this plant a border of something like lemon grass to create an effective weed barrier.

Now to creating vegetable gardens with edging to a depth of around 8 or 10"s:-

    

I first layed the newspaper (there is some debate about using coloured papers, I spoke to a chemist at an ink manufacturer he told me they use ochres and vegetable dyes in coloured inks), then I built the surround.
Then in go any prunings etc.,. that I may have at the time and any other compostable material.

Next I filled the gardens with mushroom compost but any good organic garden mix or organic compost will do (I found that it was best to compact it lightly by using a nail rake as a stamper, this keeps the natural compaction more controlled).
At this stage I planted my first seeds into the beds.

I covered the grass between the beds with newspaper and 40mm crushed rock to create my weed barriers.

These gardens are still producing well with the addition of my home made composts and some organic compost I bought in, they are absolutely full of earth worms and because they are basically compost gardens I also have good populations of compost worms in the beds.
I bury all scraps that are unsuitable for the compost bins in the gardens, and all the cane toads that I kill are also dug in as fertiliser.

Pretty much everything gets composted into the gardens here, old tissue paper, wrapping paper any material that will break down, I have even collected old hession backed carpet from people and used that under the mulch as a grass/weed killer. This has reduced my waste disposal to little more than 1 supermarket bag per week and this is the plastic wrap and foam trays that sometime can't be avoided at point of purchase.
To date I am using all the newspaper generated by 2 other households who get daily papers, I don't buy dailies just 1 paper per week for me.

MATERIALS USED:-

Well broken down mushroom compost, organic compost and organic garden mix the plants are growing like crazy

Old roofing iron from the second hand yard and 4 stainless steel screws per garden

Sheep manure with some bedding straw mixed in and vegetable scraps from kitchen.

All and any questions welcomed.

I started the organic garden project mid September 1998, my Edible garden has grown to around 30 Sq Meters. I have used 6.5 Cubic meters of mushroom compost, 1.5 Cubic meters of organic garden soil, 3.5 Cubic meters of organic compost and 600 Litres of Sheep Manure + kitchen scraps, newspaper and garden trimmings.

Following are pictures of a major Top Up in August 2000 after 2 years of use.


Here it can be seen that I have spread garden material shredded a week earlier (I was unable to get it covered as early as I would have liked), with some green material being milk weed and lemon balm. This is going to be covered to a depth of about 6"s with well docomposed mushroom compost. The mushroom compost is by far my favoured product.
This garden will be left now for about 4 weeks I will then plant pumpkins, silver beet and beetroot in the bed.
Note on the left edge of the bed I have removed the garlic chives i will be planting comfry along this edge.

The bed now that all the mushroom compost has been spread, and prior to being mulched with straw.

These are pic's of 1 of 3 beds getting this treatment the other beds will be ready for my summer crop seedling by September, more later

Now more on the materials and depths of materials:-


I use recycled trees (it is not recommended to use chipped pine woods as most if not all contain what is known as vegetable turpentine in their saps and this is toxic to other plants, and can make the soil acid), or shredded trees what ever you know it as, normally this would be purchased from Tree Loppers who trim/cut trees for people, now when you get the material it is the raw product so mulching has not begun, this then means that as the material breaks down it will take nitrogen from the area, this could affect some plants, which will show the characteristic yellowing appearance of lack of nitrogen, this is nothing too serious and can be corrected by the introduction of a nitrogen based fertiliser.
Lay this wood chip material to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, if you are only using chip, if you use the garden soil lay the soil to a depth of 3 to 4 inches and then the chip to a similar depth, remember the top of the garden will not remain at this height once the chip has broken down (6 to 8 inches of chip will break down to around 4 inches in height), this should give you a garden 4 to 6 inches higher that the surrounding ground and the best bit no digging or tilling of the base soil.

After break down you should have an arable very dark humus/soil matter, that will hold moisture and all plants will thrive. this method is based on the permaculture theory, of recycling and adding to improve. this garden will encourage masses of earthworm (another story) activity, and ultimately this activity will assist in conditioning the under soil.

Keeping water conservation in mind the wetter you keep the wood chip the quicker it will break down, but speed is not necessary.

Just something to think about, as filler plant stock plant tomatoes, silverbeet, capsicums etc., around and reap the benefits of fresh produce while everything else grows.

My major plants are generally no higher than 3 foot in plant height, and from this age I have had Golden Cane palms and Caryota Palms to maturity and in flower in as little as 5 years, generally I would say as comparison fast growing palms grow rapidly if I can say that.

I generally would describe my garden and lawn for that matter as a a litter garden (and yet another story).

The best form of fertilizing for plants is foliage feeding, but you need to purchase a good quality marine based or organic formula.

Click HERE to see some close up pic's of how it all goes together, these are not our pic's but supplied by 2 gardening friends - Julian and Elise: (julianandelisestuff@gmail.com).

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City of Boulder/USGS Water Quality Monitoring General Information on Phosphorus: Phosphorus is a nutrient required by all organisms for the basic processes of life.
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The New Farm The New Farm: An odyssey of discover - Roland Bunch describes the process of discovery he and his colleagues went through over the last two decades to identify 5 key principles of sustainable agriculture for the humid tropics.
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GYPSUM Holloway Gypsum & Soil Amendments: Introducing GYPSUM, the one easy solution to your major growing challenges.
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Timber/Metal Treatment LINKS

LANOTEC LANOTEC: Lanotec is a dynamic, innovative, 100% Australian-owned company involved in the manufacture and marketing of a range of naturally based products for use in industry and domestically.
The RIC Good Wood Guide The RIC Good Wood Guide: The ultimate non-toxic timber treatment is not to use any!
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