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Our latest adventures out and about..
 
Revisiting Vaughan and Sharon's food garden at Highgate
 
Highgate is a prestigious eastern suburb nestled between Unley Park and Fullarton.
The streets are leafy, the front gardens are manicured.
 
But there’s one house in Highgate overflowing with an amazing abundance of veggies, fruit trees, berries and herbs.  From the back yard, to the front yard, to the footpath, Sharon and Vaughan have planted an entire food forest in their suburban yard: espaliered fruit trees, climbing passionfruit, grape and kiwifruit vines, every kind of vegetable in season, beds full of delicious strawberries and climbing berries, plus edible and healing herbs in the back yard, front yard and out on the footpath!
 
It was last October when Vital Veggies first helped Sharon and Vaughan to remodel their front and back yards into a suburban food forest.  We installed 16 food garden beds (including a herb garden and berry garden), new paving, fruit trees, artificial turf, gravel, 3 compost bins and a movable chook house.
 
The before and after images below show the transformation of their back yard.
Following the huge makeover last year, Sharon and Vaughan enthusiastically took full responsibility for maintaining the gardens, Sharon doing all the planting and Vaughan helping to care for the chooks and the plants. We kept in touch with them, and provided ongoing advice, but they were on their own caring for their food forest now.
 
Despite their enthusiasm, maintaining all those new gardens took more time and effort than they had bargained for.  Keeping up was a challenge, and while Sharon was overseas, the garden fell into ‘slight disrepair’.
Help is on its way!
 
Sharon was keen to get the garden back on track and to do some further renovations to increase the producing capacity of the food garden.
We collaborated to remodel and reinvigorate the food gardens and agreed to take over responsibility for maintaining the gardens, though Sharon would still buy and plant all the veggie seedlings and fruit.
 
To work…
 
During March we spent a few days cleaning up the existing beds, then commenced work on upgrading the food gardens.
 
In the front yard:
 
We transplanted all the strawberries (well over 100 tangled plants) and raised the height of the 2 strawberry beds from 20cm to 60cm.  Veggies are happily thriving in these 2 beds of super soil now.
 
Three small square beds were placed at the end of existing garden beds and new fruit trees have been planted here (fig, pomegranate and apple). We installed posts and trellises to espalier the trees as they grow and Sharon, always keen to fill up a spare space, has already planted some veggies and strawberries at their base. 
In the back yard:
 
We raised the height of the four main garden beds from 40cm to 60cm and filled them up with soil.  Not so far to bend over to plant and pick the veggies now!
The movable chook house was moved to another garden bed and we built another chook house – they now have 6 chickens! 
After they lost a chicken during an Adelaide heat wave, Sally got the job of installing a humidifying system into the chook house to prevent this from happening again.
 
Whoever thought chooks would get air conditioning?
Whoever thought Sally could be so happy on hands and knees inside a smelly chook house?
 
This job is full of surprises!
 
Two of the four main veggie garden beds in the back yard now have chook houses on top and Sharon is collecting 14 eggs a day.
A trellis for every fence
 
Trellises were installed along all the side fences during the major work last year. Growing food vertically and using fences is a clever use of space, so we added another trellis along the back fence in April and planted a row of grape vines.
 
In the front yard the trellis is covered with passionfruit and kiwi fruit vines.  In the back yard the trellises support little fruit trees (including peaches, nectarines and kaffir limes) all being trained and espaliered.  Another trellis across the berry garden allows the climbing vines to be trained upwards into a stunning wall of green leaves and red berries.
If there were an Urban Farmer of the Year award, we’d give first prize to Sharon.
She is passionate about growing all her own food and her back yard and front yard are evidence of what anyone can do (with a little help from Vaughan and us!). 
Her generosity even spilleth over to the footpath where she’s planted herbs and flowers for passers by.
What a gorgeous urban foodscape this is, full of fresh organic eggs, fresh veggies, fresh berries and fruit in season.  A beehive and a hot house are in the pipeline too.  One day we’ll surely arrive at Vaughan and Sharon’s to find a goat or a cow in the back yard!!!
 
The joy of growing and eating luscious and nutritious food is overflowing here in Highgate.
And there are no prizes if you guess what Sharon does in her spare time…
 
Nathan’s Blank Canvas
 
It’s not often we get to design and set up a garden from scratch, especially one where Permaculture design principles are specifically requested.
 
During April, after a month or two of discussions and planning with Nathan, we arrived at his recently built house in Vale Park with loads of equipment, ready to level a corner area for a new rainwater tank and to map and sculpt the contours in his back yard.
Nathan has been studying permaculture in his spare time.  He’s aware of the beauty of working with land formations to achieve harmony and sustainability in an outdoor garden. 
 
Nathan’s house straddles the Torrens Linear Park so the area is uneven.
Water overflow enters Nathan’s back yard from the northern end and after rain, a naturally formed creek runs through the centre of the yard.  To incorporate this natural occurrence into the design, a pond is planned for the northern end.  Water overflow will enter the pond and the overflow from the pond will trickle out and wind around the yard’s contours and leave at the southern end. 
 
A larger pond is planned for the southern end of the yard to accommodate water overflow from the house gutters.
 
Our job was to lay the foundations for Nathan’s permaculture garden.
 
We started by removing some enormous tree roots, then levelling, compacting and spreading dolomite over one corner of the yard ready for the giant rainwater tank.
  
Then we dug out the 32 holes for the fruit trees and trellis posts, filling the tree holes with our super soil.  The digger came in so handy for this job.  We used it to pull up tree roots, move tons of soil, dig tree holes and excavate large areas where the ponds will go.  
We also constructed a retaining wall made of concrete sleepers at the southern boundary, which now forms one side of the larger pond.
 
Next we mapped out and built up the swale (contour) lines for Nathan.  All the tree holes follow these lines and so does the little overflow creek that will run through the yard.
Uh oh…the rain is coming…
 
The job took three full days and on the final day, it was forecast to rain in the afternoon. 
Soil would become mud.
You can imagine how hard we worked in the morning to finish the job early. We didn't even stop for lunch!
Then it rained…our clothes got drenched, our shoes caked up sludge and Sally was working on her hands and knees (again) carving contours in the mud.
It’s over to Nathan now
 
We’ve prepared the land.  Nathan now has a big job ahead of building his dream garden, a permaculture food forest complete with 2 ponds, in the middle of suburbia.
We’ll keep in touch with Nathan and watch how his project progresses.
We hope he’ll allow us to feature his garden in a future newsletter once it’s completed.
 
All the best with it Nathan….
 
Dean and Melanie’s Chicken Management System
 
Dean and Mel’s chooks are hilarious, we could watch their antics for hours.  There are 7 chooks now, but two of them are new so they haven’t started laying yet.
 
Towards the end of April we removed the old temporary chook fencing in the fruit orchard and installed a more ‘people friendly’ Chicken Management System.  This clever combination of fences and magnetic gates allows us to direct the chooks into a particular section of the fruit orchard for a period a time.  We’ve constructed 5 fenced sections and will rotate the chooks into a new section weekly, allowing each area 4 weeks to recover from the chooks’ fossicking, digging and trampling.  The system also provides easy access in and out of each section, so that Dean and Mel can readily pick all the ripening fruit and veggies from their orchard.
The Home Living Expo
 
Over the ANZAC weekend in April, Vital Veggies showcased at the Sunday Mail Home Living Expo, Wayville Showgrounds.
 
Roger, Sally and Marion spent 3 days chatting to people about growing their own food and handing out information and leaflets to visitors.  Roger terrorised a number of children with his cooking pot full of soil and writhing worms!
 
We were really inspired by all the people who already have veggie gardens, as well as all those we spoke to who want one.  We had lots of lovely conversations.
 
Thanks (and welcome) to everyone who signed up at the Home Living Expo to receive our monthly newsletter.  We hope you enjoy reading it.
Servicing Updates
 
There are many gardens that we regularly service and help to maintain and here’s an update on two of them.
 
Tony and Nicole’s Multi-Terraced Food Forest
 
We finished Tony and Nicole’s food forest at Skye in February and have been lucky enough to visit fortnightly to look after it. Being so close to the bushland they do have to contend with snakes, koalas, kangaroos and kookaburras (amongst other bushy tailed little marsupials!)
 
Nicole sent us a photo of a kookaburra, feasting at his favourite ‘salad bar’…
Their multi-terraced gardens are still a work in progress.   New lawn has just been installed on the first two levels and they’ve ordered a beautiful fountain for the middle level. (Thanks for the images Nicole)
Two surprises in Dean and Melanie’s Food Forest
 
Last week Roger removed the first water chestnuts from the water garden we installed at Dean and Melanie’s place in Stonyfell.  Water chestnuts need to dry out for 3 weeks before they can be harvested.
Planting soybeans around tomato plants helps to fix nitrogen back into the soil and when we pulled up a couple of the soybean plants at Dean and Mel’s last week we were amazed to see the nitrogen nodules so clearly attached to the plant’s roots!
Really we have no need for artificial additives in our veggie gardens or in our food.  Nature provides everything needed to build healthy soil and healthy bodies, we just need to reclaim the knowledge of how to work with nature then realign our practices to honour and live this wisdom.
 
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