Out and About: December 2016

A Glenelg food garden, a Fullarton verggie garden, fruit tree protection, and some ‘professional development’! November was another great month for us.


Sharon’s ‘verggie’ garden at Fullarton

Sally is taking proud ownership for inventing the term ‘verggie garden’! 

It slipped out of her poetic mouth while we were renovating a verge garden at Fullarton in November, along with ‘herbie verge’, ‘fleurggie garden’ (a flower verge) and a few other inspired phrases.

Verge gardens are catching on as popular extensions of front gardens. Progressive local councils including Onkaparinga, Unley and Prospect are no longer preventing residents from utilising the areas in front of their houses for creative green growing spaces. In fact some are actively encouraging it!

Can you imagine walking down an inner suburban street and being able to pick fresh veggies, fruit and herbs from the verges? What a lovely vision! Of course domestic and wild animals will nibble at these accessible green spaces too, but let’s be practical and sensible and wash the food before we use it.

Sharon had already established a lovely verge garden full of flowers and herbs, but she wanted it to provide a bit more for people passing by her house.

Before the renovation this was a herbie, fleurggie verggie garden.

We spoke with the local council to check what was permissible and then went ahead to create Sharon’s vision.

A few challenges had to be overcome: irrigation, cemented areas, uneven levels, but Roger loves a challenge and he never fails to come up with a creative solution.

Roger pondering solutions to levelling the uneven ground beneath the raised beds.

Not wanting to waste any precious plants, Sharon asked us to retain as many of the established flowers and herbs from the original beds as possible. We carefully dug them up with their root balls intact and laid them out on the path. Lucky plants got a surprise when they were transplanted into the new raised beds with our gorgeous organic Vital Veggies soil. One week later we were amazed to see that they were thriving, along with the new chilli and capsicum plants.

In the central bed around the eucalypt tree, new parsley, basil, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon, sage and oregano seedlings are now happily growing and some hidden coriander seeds are sprouting into life underneath the soil surface.

Rocket and mixed heirloom lettuce seeds have been scattered over the rest of the soil and we can’t wait to see these lovely salad greens sprouting and maturing into edible leaves for Sharon’s neighbours.

Roger cleaning up around the finished verggie garden.

Glenelg food garden

This Glenelg house overlooking the Esplanade has a delightful leafy rear patio area, adorned with a canopy of trees, roses, vines and birds. The very high back fence is raised off the street by 2 metres and just inside this fence is the area we agreed would be best for our client’s raised beds.

The side and rear fences where the new garden beds will go.  Behind the pots in the foreground, a large hole will be dug and filled with new soil for growing space-loving food plants such as pumpkins, zucchinis and melons.

The food garden design

After talking over a few design options we settled on a 6 metre long raised bed along the west facing back fence and a smaller bed along the south facing side fence.

South facing walls are not the best for growing food in Adelaide as they get no direct sunlight in winter, but there are some plants that can survive here with the right conditions built into the soil from the start and ongoing biological inputs.

The wooden garden beds had to be 60cm high for 2 reasons:

1) to cater for the tall family and
2) to maximise the depth of soil for the plants’ roots as the beds will be placed on top of slate paving, not on top of soil



We knew the 60cm high beds would be too big and too heavy to transport up the stairs or the small lift so there was no question…they had to be made in situ. The biggest challenge was going to be getting the soil from the rear driveway up to the beds.

But as we all know, Roger loves a challenge!

After pondering some rather creative options, the solution was to use the small lift…and 3 very compact garden wheelbarrows!

We moved in our equipment and started preparing the area ready for the beds.


Pot moving

Our client wasn’t able to move the huge pots herself and surprisingly on first attempt, neither could we! They were massively heavy and had been there for 20 years; the roses in the pots had sent deep tap roots down through the slate paving.

Yet another challenge for Roger!

By sheer luck he remembered some steel pipes that had been left in the truck. After cutting the tap roots, the pots simply needed a straight surface underneath to support them (a piece of timber) and some kind of rolling mechanism (the steel pipes).


We got these huge pots moved, but we’ll have to wait and see if the roses survive with their deep tap roots cut off.

Building the raised beds in the small space was an easy task, but positioning them, that was yet another challenge thanks to the curved back fence and the odd angles of the side fences. 

The rear bed is waiting to have its back side bolted on before being moved against the back the fence. The bed in the foreground can then be shifted into place along the side fence on the left.

Suffice to say we managed to do it.

Beds were positioned, and in an efficient rotation cycle with the 3 new wheelbarrows, the soil was hauled from the driveway, up the garage lift, down a path, around a corner and into the beds. 

Large holes were dug in other parts of the garden and filled with new soil to accommodate some rambling food plants, drip irrigation was connected, and the garden was finished.

One of the mounds, with drip irrigation rings and three plants: a zucchini, a watermelon and a rockmelon.

The finished food garden at Glenelg, just after planting all the seedlings.

This is a very simple, but very handsome little food garden now. The left garden bed is planted out with strawberries at the front and spinach at the back with a few companion herbs in between. Climbing beans have been planted along the entire back edge of the other bed and we expect they will grow quickly up the brush fence. Four different varieties of tomato will climb up their long stakes, and there are also eggplants, capsicums, chillies, lettuces, bok choy, spring onions, beetroot, carrots, parsnips and lots of companion herbs and flowers, all adding to the biodiversity and visual beauty of the food garden. 

Already it is a joy to behold, and we look forward to watching it mature and produce!


Possums and birds, be gone!

How heartbreaking when you plant a new fruit tree and excitedly watch it grow, bud and flower in its first season, only to have the birds steal that first precious crop!

Not any more.

This year many of our clients opted for covering their trees with hoops and black netting. The trees are trimmed back a little first – we often recommend this anyway to keep them at a manageable height so you can easily pick the fruit.

We then construct the hoops: for single trees we make cross hoops; for a row of trees we make a tunnel.

Bird netting (black is preferable) is then thrown over, and cable tied to the vertical posts.

Keeping the trees trimmed is the only maintenance required. Access is simply by lifting the netting and walking inside to pick the sweet juicy fruit as it ripens.

This innovation also protects the fruit against possums, cats, koalas and other wildlife…

Roger lifting the bird netting over the hoop structure with a broom.

And here is the result: an abundant tree full of beautiful biodynamic ‘Fireball’ apricots, unblemished, and ready for picking:

Workshops and biodynamic field days
We were out and about at events a little more than usual in November. Roger participated in two of the three field days organised by Biodynamics Agriculture Australia, then we both attended a workshop about Edible and Sustainable urban gardening put on by Adelaide Sustainable Network and the Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board.
Biodynamic Field Days
Biodynamic Agriculture Australia Ltd bravely presented three South Australia field days between 10 - 13 November. They were hosted by the owners of two vineyard/wineries, an apple and cherry orchard and a small self-sufficiency farm.
Roger wasn’t able to attend the first field day at Paxton Wines – he was out servicing gardens that day.
He eagerly participated in and contributed to the other two field days and like everyone else, was struck by the vibrancy of these places. On biodynamic properties, there is always a noticeable atmosphere of ‘naturalness’, and of accentuated colour. Something special is felt, a subtle energetic vibrancy, and it is unexplainable.
The second of the three field days, was held at Kym Green’s family owned cherry and apple orchard at Lenswood. Although the day was cold, wet and windy, a good number of people turned up to hear Kym speak about his biodynamic practices and experiences.
The beautiful Barossa Valley played host to the next field day, which consisted of a half day morning session at Smallfry Wines followed by an afternoon session at Jembella, a delightful self-sufficient biodynamic farm in Angaston. 
From left: Roger Carthew (Chair of BAA and owner of Vital Veggies); Kym Green (Elimatta Orchards); and Sally Fennessy (Jembella self sufficient biodynamic farm)
Roger came away feeling very proud to be part of the biodynamics movement and even more inspired and convinced about the efficacy of biodynamic practices. For people who want to grow the very best food possible, the next step on from organic growing is biodynamics and here in South Australia, we have a flourishing community of biodynamic growers.
If you would like to read a detailed account of the field days written by John Hodgkinson, you’ll find it in Issue 109 of Newsleaf, published by Biodynamics Agriculture Australia (BAA):
Or email me at with a request for a copy of John’s article and I’ll send it to you.
Edible Adelaide: the future of urban food growing
Roger and Sally spent half a day at a presentation put on by Adelaide Sustainability Connect.
We listened to two very different speakers: Henk de Zeeuw talked about the challenges and successes he has encountered worldwide building sustainable and resilient urban food systems, and Debra Solomon talked about food forests and her project called Urbaniahoeve, which means ‘the city as our farm’.
URBANIAHOEVE and the Foodscape Schilderswijk team celebrate their first year of public space urban agriculture in the Hague’s Schilderswijk. Nearly 50 fruit trees, hundreds of berry bushes, herbs rhubarb, artichokes, cover crops and bee-attractors are now beginning to thrive in formerly under-programmed monocultures of grass.

A wide range of people from government and private organisations as well as interested individuals attended the Edible Adelaide workshop. All of us passionate about growing food in urban environments.

This is the driving force behind Vital Veggies and we do our bit by helping people grow food in their back yards. We met others at the workshop who had set up community food spaces, or run organic farms and markets, or who recycle leftover food to charities, or organise food swaps, and many more….implementing urban sustainability in their particular area of interest and expertise.                                       

Group brainstorming followed the two presentations – lots of ideas were thrown around the room and written onto post it notes which were then collated. But time ran out very quickly.

Although we felt the workshop was way too short and much more could have been achieved with an extra couple of hours, it hopefully provided some useful contacts and ideas for the organisers.

We wholeheartedly commend the organisers for their proactive consultation with urban food growers. The workshop on 23 November brought together people from diverse fields, all enthusiastic about sharing ideas to move urban food growing forward into the forefront of government policy. Vital Veggies are keen to work with co-organisers of the workshop, the Urban Sustainability team from Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, to assist more people to participate in the urban food growing movement in Adelaide.

To slightly paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi:  We must BE the change we want to see in the world.

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