Billie bites story of the big dig day

Guest blogger Sarah Alley takes us through the big dig day. You can also check out a video here:

When your own back-yard fails, embrace the community

It may be the weather, Billie tampering with our tiny seedlings, or it could be my lack of skills and experience. Either way, our little vegetable and herb garden is refusing to play ball.

Just when I thought I was going to have to give up gardening until the spring and plunge back into buying herbs, a wonderful new neighbour has arrived on the scene. The new Waverley Park Communal Garden has came along at just the right time.

Billie and I donned our new gumboots on the weekend and walked around the corner with the stroller basket full of gardening equipment, and freshly cooked food for the working bee shared lunch ( I made my Super Patties with Tofu, Brown Rice and Walnuts, which went down a treat).

Thanks to the group that petitioned Waverley Council for permission to build four large no-dig gardens at the edge of the park. The council even came to the party with generous donations of equipment and the commissioning of local artist Emma Anna to produce a fabulous sign (see pic above) to explain what these great big shiny rain tanks are doing plonked on the grass.

One of the four raised gardens, with it’s own underground reservoir attached to pipe

Billie had a ball all morning playing with exciting toys she doesn’t have at home – scooters, ride-on cars, and felt-tip pens. A family from across the road had brought it all over, and a couple of mothers even turned it into a mini-creche  –  allowing me to get into the gardening knowing Billie was happily collecting sticks and pine cones in a trolley.

I learned much about how to make a very good raised garden. Tip number one: You need A LOT OF GOOD SOIL. These beds are actually the same width and length as the one we built at home. But about ten times deeper.

We also built a rather complicated water reservoir system, which I was assured isn’t that complex and is actually fairly essential in a warm country with water shortages. I guess being community gardens they need to be able to survive without daily watering in the summer holidays.

Basically, we dug a shallow hole the exact size of the metal tank we were to place on top for the raised bed.

We then lined it with plastic – like you would for a fish pond – and then placed a layer of gravel evenly over the hole.

Then a plastic pipe with holes drilled along its length was placed on top, with the pipe’s end sticking out of the ground. Gravel was then used to completely cover the pipe (except the bit sticking out of the ground, which is where we will feed water and worm fertiliser into the mini reservoir under the garden).

Billie learns how to create a ‘wicking’ from gravel to separate the plants and the soil etc from the water reservoir

We next laid a plastic weed cloth, some hessian sack as it was lying around, and then a whole lot of nice organic dirt.

Next we built up layers of straw and rich compost (they had a particularly nice one made of bio char).

We finished with a layer of straw and a good water. Seedlings were about to be planted when Billie and I headed home for her sleep.

A fabulous, educational and inspiring morning. We’ll be back for the monthly working bees and of course we’ll poke our heads in on the way to the playground each week. Looking forward to grabbing a bit of parsley on our way past.

So what’s wrong in my own back-yard? I can’t even blame the soil – or lack of – as I have transplanted my silver beet seedlings into pots of potting mix, and sowed basil and parsley seeds straight into pots. But weeks later all we have are tiny seedlings, going nowhere, except into Billie’s mitts. I have healthy leafy aubergine plants with no eggplants, and pepper plants producing tiny stunted capsicums. Oh well – the solution is just around the corner at Sustainability Street Bondi Junction, St Mary’s Street.

While we get gardening on Sustainability Street, Billie picks up a four-wheeled bad habit
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