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Our latest adventures out and about… 
 
 
Valley View makeover
 
Arriving at Neil and Sue’s house we lifted the garage door and entered a ‘work-in-progress’ back yard.  Pavers had recently been laid and the excavated soil lay in a mound exactly where the garden beds were to be laid.
Our job was to install two garden beds, end to end making one long bed 6 metres long, install an automatic irrigation system, place a layer of pearl rivers stones around the beds and a border between the stones and the grass area.  We had to level the ground first.
 
Here is the back yard at the start of our day.
Danger was at every step.  Their teenage son hadn’t got around to cleaning up the mountains of dog poop that day (or that week?).  One of the dogs, Fred, is a full sized Great Dane puppy, so you can imagine what we were dodging. 
 
Using the ‘bucket’ attachment of the digger, Roger scooped up the mounds of excess dirt and tipped them elsewhere in the garden. After lowering the bucket to the ground it was quickly levelled by dragged the bucket backwards and forwards over the area. Raking finished off the levelling stage.
We had already assembled the garden beds off site, so it was an easy job to simply place them in position and ensure they were level. 
In the meantime, Brett delivered a 2.5 ton load of Vital Veggies soil to the front driveway.  The digger made it easy to fill the beds with soil, running bucket loads from the front driveway to the beds in the back yard.  We are always grateful when we can use the digger to do most of the hard work.
After the beds were filled with soil and the irrigation system, we finished off the job with Sue’s choice of premium pearl river stones and surrounded them with a timber border.
 
Sally planted all the seedlings and seeds: carrots, beetroot, parsnips, bok choy, lettuces, spinach, rainbow beets, peas, broad beans, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages and brussel sprouts.
Making use of the left over soil, we filled up a few empty ceramic garden pots and planted some thyme, oregano, parsley and coriander in them.
 
Now, we’ve got our fingers crossed that Fred doesn’t get too excited about excavating the new addition to his back yard, or a dog proof fence may be our next job here…
More garden beds for Anglicare Child Care Centre
 
Last month, after installing 2 veggie garden beds for Anglicare Child Care Centre, we had the privilege of helping the children to plant their vegetables.
Two weeks later we were back at Anglicare to ‘foodscape’ some other areas.  A shed at the back of the Centre’s main building was targeted as a potential food growing area, and an existing patch in the play area proved perfect for a berry garden.
 
The back garden bed
 
The site for the back garden bed is partly shaded by neighbouring trees, so we suggested using this site for herbs, bush tucker and some climbing passionfruit vines.
We cleared away the pile of leaves and debris and levelled the patch.
Five holes were dug along the shed: three for cementing in trellis posts and two for growing the passionfruit vines.
After installing the trellis and planting a Red passionfruit and a Black passionfruit, we laid weed control mat over the entire area, put the garden beds in place and filled them with Vital Veggies soil.  The area around the beds was finished off with pebbles.  Irrigation lines were laid and attached to a timer to automate the watering.
In one half of the garden bed, we’ve planted asparagus, celeriac and a selection of herbs.  The other end of the bed will have some bush tucker plants: probably quandongs and munthari (muntries), though getting hold of these plants is proving a challenge.
We’d appreciate readers’ help with this….
 
The Berry garden
 
A few ornamental plants were growing in a sandy soil bed where the proposed berry garden would go, so they were dug up and carefully relocated.
 
After putting the berry garden beds in place, lots of adjusting was required to get the top of the beds level.  The ground and paving below was undulating, making the beds uneven.  Roger did a brilliant job cutting bits off the tops and out of the bottoms of the wooden beds to get them to sit flush on the ground as well as level across the top.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
When it came to filling the berry garden beds with soil we knew the digger couldn’t navigate through the narrow gates so our mechanised wheelbarrow was brought in to shift soil from the back driveway, through a play area and up into the beds.
 
A group of children were enthralled by the action packed performance!
 
They sat in lines and watched as Roger repeatedly came around the corner, up along one side of the bed, across in front of them, down the other side of the bed, up a plank, then whoooooosh, the wheelbarrow tipped a huge bucket load of soil into the bed.
They clapped and cheered every time.
After the beds were filled and the irrigation installed, we set the punnets of berries on top of the soil ready for planting.
We figured the red and yellow raspberries, blackberries and marionberries were a bit prickly for the children to handle, so Sally planted these in the two beds with the trellis.  They’ll climb up the trellis forming a wall of leaves and delicious berries.
Digging holes and planting 17 strawberry plants was entrusted to the children (with a little help from staff).
Permission was granted to play in the dirt…er…I mean SOIL (sorry Roger).
…and just when we thought we’d finished…
 
Nearing the end of the final day at Anglicare we had some left over soil (not dirt) in the back carpark.  Instead of loading it up and taking it back, we approached the Centre’s manager with a proposal to use the soil to plant some grape vines along the driveway side of the back shed.  She agreed!
This meant digging out and replacing the existing soil, digging more holes for the 5 trellis posts and 4 vines with the digger, installing big posts and a wire trellis (quick trip to Bunnings), and extending the irrigation piping along this stretch to water the grapevines.
 
Just when I thought we’d finished and we could pack up all our equipment (and my weary body) suddenly we had a whole new job to start and finish that day!
 
Surprises are a regular part of this lovely job (thanks Roger).
 
 
More kindergartens
 
Nature Play is an international initiative to educate children about the joys of immersion in the natural world.  At Vital Veggies we’re equally passionate about this, and keen to help kindergartens and schools teach children about where their fruit and veggies come from…nature of course.
 
Near the end of June we helped 2 kindergartens to revive their food gardens, and created a new veggie garden for one of our existing kindergarten clients.
 
North Haven Kindergarten
 
Like many kindergartens, North Haven had an established veggie garden, but staff had found it takes more than just enthusiasm to grow great veggies.  Specialised knowledge and dedicated time are also needed.
 
It took half an hour for Roger to transform North Haven Kindy’s existing garden patch.
It went from this:
To this:
The new veggie garden, freshly planted by the children: Peas, Broad Beans, Cauliflower, Broccolette, Carrots, Parsley, Rocket, Onions, Spinach, Kale, Silverbeet and Romanesco Broccoli
 
Not far from the patch were two galvanised garden beds containing a few struggling strawberry plants and veggies.  We dug out the top layer of soil, carefully removing the strawberries, filled the beds with a layer of our special soil, then replanted the strawberries into the first bed. 
 
The children got to plant veggies in the second bed: orange and purple carrots, a mixture of heirloom beetroots, some bok choy and lettuces.
Netley Kindergarten
 
It was my first visit to Netley Kindergarten and it was inspiring.  Natural play spaces are everywhere. Not only do they have wicking veggie garden beds, but also a herb garden, a mud patch, a digging patch, cubby trees and climbing trees, a camp kitchen, an interactive butterfly garden trail and a chicken run with 4 chooks (Rosy, Bluey, Sparkles and Rainbow).
Another gorgeous area has recently been created and landscaped with a small creek and a fire pit.  Native plants and bush foods are now growing here along with sheoaks.
According to KidSafeWA, mud, sand, water, leaves, sticks, pine cones and gum nuts can help to stimulate children’s immune systems as well as their imaginations.
 
The soil in the garden beds looked richly organic on the top, but under the thin top layer it was very sandy so the veggies weren’t growing as well as they should.  We were asked to help out.
We started with the 2 larger galvanised iron garden beds, replacing the top layer with 20cm of mineral rich Vital Veggies soil.  The 2 smaller beds will have to come later as they have baby carrots and broad beans growing in them now.
 
After filling, we laid out the vegetable seedlings on the soil, ready for the children to plant. They’ll have a great time digging the holes, planting the seedlings, watching them grow, then eating their vegetables.
 
We’re really excited about returning fortnightly to Netley Kindergarten and helping them realise their vision of providing rich, nature based play and learning opportunities for the children.
 

Fulham Park Kindergarten
 

Fulham Kindy already has a thriving veggie garden that we service fortnightly.  We’ve had our eye on an adjacent garden bed for a while which has historically housed ornamentals.  Finally, because of the success of the first veggie garden, we got the go ahead to relocate the ornamentals, replace the soil in this second bed and plant more veggies!!!
 
Well it turned into a performance piece!
 
As we started digging out the soil, kids lined up at the window inside the kindy, noses pressed to the glass, jostling for a good viewing spot.  The teachers decided to put rows of chairs outside for the children to watch the ‘performance’.
As I took the photo I overheard in the crowd:
"When I grow up I want to be a gardener!"
"Me too!"
"I want to be a gardener too!"
"When I grow up I'm going to be a gardener and my name is going to be Roger!"
 
 Here is the finished bed with some vegetable seedlings placed ready for the kids to plant.
One end will be devoted to luscious strawberries
Biodynamics Field Day
 
Kym Green kindly hosted a Biodynamics Field Day at his Lenswood orchards on Saturday 27 June.  We spent the morning with about 25 other people - wine makers, organic farmers, composters, gardeners - listening and sharing information and stories. Hugh Lovell, internationally regarded biodynamicist and biochemist was also on hand to speak about soil fertility and biodynamic preparations.
“ People think that biodynamics is all about taking your clothes off and running through the orchard” said Kym.  We all knew better – it was far too cold for that!.  Many of us were there because we’d been startled by the extraordinary results achieved with biodynamic preparations and practices.  Kym was no exception and his unrivalled apples and cherries are proof that growing food biodynamically is worthwhile.
 
Roger shared his knowledge about the importance of water quality in food growing, explaining how the magnetic Water Devices and the Flowform works.  Flowforms replicate the natural action of water as it flows down a ravine. Water devices replicate both the “ravine” effect as well as imparting of a millivolt charge to the water, helping plants produce greater yields.
Kym’s passion and dedication to biodynamics is inspiring.  It’s been a 10 year experiment for him.  Going against the accepted farming practices of neighbours, peers and even his father, Kym has succeeded in building an exceptional biodynamic orchard that thrives on his communion with and deep understanding of his trees.  
One section of Kym’s orchard has 20 year old apple trees that are still producing amazing crops of gorgeous fruit.  His cherries are the size of walnuts and so full of flavour that the sensation almost takes your breath away.
 
Kym spoke about how he prunes the trees, how he uses radionics to determine what preparations they need each day, male and female branches, biological pest control, the use of ormes, and much much more.  Hugh Lovell described entrophy and syntrophy, and provided information on the biological, physical and chemical evidence backing biodynamics.
Kym will soon be retiring as chair of Biodynamics Agriculture Australia (BAA), a position he’s held for the past year.  As a Board member of BAA and a close friend of Kym’s, Roger will miss Kym’s wise, gentle and compassionate leadership of this organisation.
 
Thank you so much Kym for sharing your passion and knowledge with us all on Saturday.
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