Saturday, October 8, 2016

an inventory

We occupy a suburban lot, of a size conventional around here in about 1990. In the satellite view, we are seen to have more tree cover than most neighbours. We have the red roof, with solar panels. The massive tree in the garden to the north is a eucalypt, remorselessly growing and increasingly over shading our back garden in winter when the sun angles in from the north (we are in the southern hemisphere). An issue in this country is vulnerability to fire in areas of bushland. Fire is an especially serious risk in forests with high oil content, such as our eucalypt forests or pine forests in California. Our suburban food forest is of trees more likely to be fire retardand.

 Just outside the white roof coloured back veranda space is a shock of green colour. A couple of years ago I had planted a reluctant seedling passionfruit, something that emerged from a friend's compost. Then I moved the chicken run, just two hens, to that area.
The single passionfruit vine, visible from outer space, the big green blob, overshadows much of the chook run, providing hundred of fruit per year. But these vines only live a few years. So the most important important thing in a food-productive garden is the planning of succession. What to grow for how long, what to succeed what? When to plant new passionfruit, to ensure that when one dies, others will be near fruiting maturity. How to allow for the fact that not all things planted, not all thrive... and at the other end of the spectrum, the problem that the very very happy plant may not feel the urge to reproduce, to produce fruit and seeds. In ortobiologicale vernacular Italian, such a plant may be called a vagabondo and a farmer might bash the tree with a hammer to scare it into reproduction.
screenshot from wikipedia
In a modern office, serious people might draw Gantt charts to decide what needs to be done in what order. In my permaculture garden, there is more the task of saying "where the hell is there some space for this?" but with an eye for sun and shadow, for neighbouring plants and the way they will grow.
I recently planted in the backyard a yellow guava, a nashi pear and a tamarillo near each other. In a suntrap. Adjacent to a non-fruitful peach that in summer is allowed to protect a north facing window. The tamarillo is very close to the guava, but will race past it, overshadow it, for several years, and then die. The guava can be pruned to something of a delicious hedge beside a path. The nashi - a nijisseiki, or Twentieth Century Nashi - is a dwarf tree, fruit will remain within hand reach and will be relatively easy to check for pests. There is long historical agreement that the footsteps or the shadow of the farmer is the best fertiliser.

That long prologue is a way into saying that an inventory of a garden is an inventory of the impermanent, of the constant changing, the hugely pleasant place of surprises. And an inventory of the food productive plants in the garden is a terribly diminished perspective in a garden filled with other plants which are there for the eye and the spirit and the birds and bees, without which no fruit. And much less pleasure.

Anyway, let's get to lists

Front garden, intense sun, high winds at times, history as clapped out dairy pasture, weak soil on hard pan caused probably by superphosphate use and heavy bovine traffic, underlain by hundreds of feet of fast draining sandstone and conglomerate. I add volcanic rock dust, manures, compost teas, compost, mulch and trace elements and with old pvc or terracotta pipe lengths do much of the watering direct to a foot or more underground, with some of the manure and rock dust in the pipe for solution.

  • Guava, small red intense fruit, one mature, two immature.
  • Pear, Ya, dwarf - a Chinese variety for pollination of the Nashi in the backyard.
  • Jaboticaba, two, aged 8, still very small. Perhaps too far from the Amazon...
  • White Sapote, tall, eight years old, still fruitless
  • Oranges, large valencia and navel, heavy bearing, currently covered in blossom.
  • Tahitian lime x2. Young, but have already produced fruit and second season fruit set has taken place.
  • Bananas, two stands, different varieties. Currently leaves shredded by spring winds. Neither fruited yet. In this front garden it is taking time to get soils rich and with very porous rock under, hard to keep moisture in the root zone. These are thirsty heavy feeders. But they look good!
  • Cape Gooseberry, several plants, young
  • Pepinos, now fruiting heavily.
  • Pitanga, very small, unkillable. A gift I have tried to allow to die but which won't die. This must be why it's regarded as a pest here.
  • Arrowroot, quite elegant in a corner, but look at the work to process it
  • Passionfruit struggle in the front yard, interesting soil and microclimate differences. 
  • Strawberries, potatoes. 
  • Rosemary, bush basil, thyme, sage, nasturtiums, rocket, lettuce chives, mints, curry leaf.
  • Namoi Woolly Pod Vetch, twining everywhere as ground cover, easily snatched and grazed by hand for use immediately as high nitrogen mulch around trees or given to chooks. 

Back garden, more inspected and worked than front garden, some valuable heat trap areas. Soil improves faster. Hens on a length of the boundary, reducing snail and other unwanted presences. Some areas more shaded for part of the day.
Layering, see pepinos.
This is a classy cute
style of doing it, from wikipedia.
I just drop an old brick
on part of the plant near the ground
and leave for a month or three.

  • Espaliered Lisbon lemon. 
  • Passionfruit gone mad, roots under hens.
  • chives, nasturtiums, marjoram, eggs, mints, Greek celery, yarrow, fennel, rocket, bay, spring onions, spinach, garlic.
  • Fig, vigorous, fruitful, hard pruned.
  • Custard apple, totters through winter.
  • Bananas two stands. Fruitful: flowers appear in heat of summer, fruit may take a year to ripen into short ladyfinger type bananas, with intense flavour.
  • strawberries
  • Asparagus which seem to be eaten by hens at the moment.
  • Rhubarb, vigorous, need good feeding. The dark colour when temperature under about 25 degrees, summer crops may be insipid, but they are grown on east side of house, scant afternoon light. 
  • Water chestnuts
  • Raspberries, not thriving.
  • Pepino, young, from layering of plants in front yard. 
  • Quince not yet productive, intended also as summer shade for part of house. 
  • Wampi, royal fruit of Thailand. Elegant but maybe homesick...