GARDEN NOTES : FEBRUARY 2014

Perhaps the most difficult time of Lynedoch’s gardening year is now passing.  For the four months of November through February we entered a potentially productive time, coming into spring and summer.   Unfortunately, it coincides with extended School and Institute holidays, a time of no “community work” to provide the labour necessary to maintain the garden in good order, and a season when local demand for the Garden’s produce is at its lowest.   Moreover, what we had sown and planted in October was under serious threat from weeds which we didn’t have time to combat.  But we watered …. and watered those beds that had not been overtaken by weeds, in order to maintain our spinach, our follow-through winter cabbage, continuing carrots, and some mixed lettuce.    Regrettably, our large planting of butternut (from compost volunteer seedlings) could not compete with the weeds or with other vegetable demands for irrigation.  Our finely planted leeks disappeared beneath a carpet of healthy weeds, as did some successive sowings of carrots, and a new bed of spinach.  .

And so we welcomed the beginning of a new academic session, with the availability of many hands in the soil, and the prospect of local horticultural reform, with reclaimed beds, and renewed resolve, and  new seasonal veggies to follow.  The turnaround is now in process.  The older beds are once again recognisable.  The overgrown Nursery beds have been cleared for fresh planting.  Tomatoes, bringals, peppers have been freed-up to flourish.  We even discovered some very presentable cucumbers in the depths of the Nursery.  We are replanting the leeks and spring onions that have been lost to sight.  We continue to harvest carrots and spinach.   We have recommenced successive sowings of lettuce.  We harvested the last of our impressive cabbages from our deep-litter compost bed.  Sweet potatoes now occupy three beds.  Two pockets of potatoes stand- by for planting.  Most proudly, we harvested a dozen pumpkins from the compost patch, presently displayed in the Green Cafe.  We await cleared beds to sow turnip and beetroot and final plantings of beans.  In the Nursery we are sowing trays of cabbage, kale, broccoli, and fennel to plant out in May.

The largest area of the garden now awaits cultivation – these are the linear beds in the would-be olive orchard which remain overgrown.  The most efficient means would be to hire a rotovator, rip the weeds, and disturb the wild-life, including contemplative gardeners.    This is unlikely.  We would rather wait for successive “community work” sessions to deliver the changes needed.  However, we are exploring a more fundamental option, which is to install an irrigation system which could greatly extend cultivation and relieve gardeners of the full-time commitment to manual watering for extended periods of the growing year.  The main consequence would be to ensure the fullest use of the ground available for growing vegetables, and a more effective deployment of gardeners’ skills.  We have 20 linear beds (each 25m x 3m) in the “second garden”.  We are looking to begin introducing irrigation to a number of these to test feasibility and outcomes.

Within the next month, there will be some disturbance to the wetland area with the construction of a service road along the railway.   The Vertically Integrated Wetland will be decommissioned, to be replaced by a new Constructed Wetland in the area of our ponds.  This will encroach marginally on a couple of our lower beds, but will enhance that area with a wider range of vegetation than is currently there.  We will remove and replant the Wilgerbaum (Salix mucronata) which have grown so well there and which we have used as root-stock to plant other areas of wetland within the Woodland.

One possible consequence of the introduction of the Constructed Wetland may be an increase in wild-life.  The presence of a shallow surface wetland should attract birds and frogs (and other interested living species…).  Over the hot holiday period it was surprising to see a Blue Crane in the grasses in front of the SI on more than one occasion.   We look out for his/her return in quieter moments.   Most recently, a tiny Tree Frog was seen in the Vegetable Garden on one of our volunteer shrubs.   A small – even microcosmic – delight.               And a reclusive Chameleon was spotted in the School’s Zen Garden on a clump of Riet – verkleurmannetjie indeed!

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