Out and About November-December 2017


Myrtle Bank Food Garden and Native Garden

Do you live in a block of units? Take heart…your small garden space can be productive too! 

After many years in Eden Hills, Nancy had moved into a small strata title unit in mid-2017. The garden spaces around the unit had been planted out and ‘tissied up’ with decorative bushes before she bought it, but once Nancy moved in, she sought permission to renovate the decorative gardens into productive ones. Once she got permission, she contacted us for help with her project.


The rear courtyard garden

Here are the before and after images of what we did with Nancy’s small courtyard space at the rear of her unit.
View towards back BEFORE View towards back AFTER
View towards front BEFORE View towards front AFTER


We came up with a simple solution of 2 garden beds for the small back courtyard area of the unit: an L-shaped bed on the south side of the courtyard plus a garden bed with an inserted strawberry bed in front of the rainwater tanks on the north side, both of them 80cm high to make harvesting easier for Nancy.

That still left enough room in the compact courtyard for her outdoor table and chairs, and the clothesline!


Work starts

After ‘gifting’ the decorative plants to one of Nancy’s family members, we levelled the ground, laid the irrigation lines and put down 2 rows of pavers along the fence, providing a walkway for Nancy to access the bed from both sides. 

Here you can see the row of paving along the fence, the irrigation lines and one garden bed already in place, forming the end of the L-shape design.

The L-shaped bed was constructed on site, put in place between the pavers and the existing concrete lip and filled with soil before starting on the second bed.  Work went smoothly.

The L-shaped bed is now in place and planted out.

Roger constructing the second bed under the carport. Note the space in the centre of the timber panels…this is where the protruding strawberry bed will be inserted.

The second bed, completed and planted out. The two end stakes support the bean netting and the two central stakes are supporting baby tomato plants.

Front garden areas

With the two courtyard garden beds completed, we turned out attention to the front yard.

Nancy wanted two areas renovated. Firstly, the entire front lawn area was to be removed and replaced with a native garden – we were quite surprised that the strata committee approved this!!!

Second, the side garden along the driveway with the decorative bushes was to be replanted with fruit trees and blueberries.

Here are images of Nancy’s front garden before the renovation:

The perfectly manicured front lawn area Bushes along the driveway

The side driveway

It didn’t take much to renovate this side area. The existing small bushes were still very young and were again uplifted and ‘gifted’ to a family member. We removed the top layer of bark chips then dug holes with the digger for the fruit trees and blueberry bushes. 

Sally digging out extra loose soil from the holes.

We filled the fruit tree holes with our Vital Veggies soil and the blueberry holes with acidic (Azalea) soil. Sally laid the irrigation lines, planted out the trees and bushes and re-covered the area with bark chips.

Funny, it didn’t look much different to the original garden, but the important difference is that the new side garden will provide Nancy with loads of delicious and healthy fresh fruit and berries over the coming years.

The finished side garden with two citrus trees and six baby blueberry bushes.

The front native garden

Our favourite motto ‘GROW FOOD, NOT LAWN’ had to be put aside for this one. As a lover of the Australian bush, Nancy wanted to replace her lawn with a native garden, not a food garden. We would not normally plant out native gardens unless they are native FOOD gardens, but we made an exception for Nancy because the rest of her garden was being renovated to grow food.

Roger does love ripping out lawns though  :)

Check out our Facebook page for a video of Roger digging up Nancy’s lawn.

After ridding the area of all the Kikuyu, we planned out the design of the garden and set about recontouring the soil.

This native garden design allows for an arc of plants around the perimeter with a semi circular sawdust path enclosing a seated area by the house.

Even though native plants don’t need much water they do need some, so we laid drip irrigation circles where each plant would be situated. They’ll each get a regular but minimal drip dose of water, just enough to keep them happy.

With the plants nestled into their holes, 2 loads of bark chips were spread over the area and the sawdust path carefully contoured to finish off the front garden perfectly.

Finished and just planted. 

The row of Westringia along the front fenceline will grow up to between 1 – 2
metres high and provide some privacy, but they won’t block Nancy’s lovely view to the park across the road. Other natives we planted include Grevillia Gaudichaudi, Red Kangaroo Paw and Leptospermum (Tea Tree). Nancy is going to plant some more of her favourite natives in the coming months.


BRAVO TO NANCY for going against the grain and saying NO to the water-thirsty lawns that dominate our suburban front gardens. We are all grateful to the strata title committee for allowing her to remodel her front yard. Already it has attracted a number of positive comments about how lovely a native garden can be in stark contrast to the surrounding vista of ubiquitous green lawns.


Now if only we could convince more people to convert their flat, front lawns into beautifully  vibrant and flourishing organic fruit and vegetable gardens….what a vision of positive change. 

Aldinga Beach Garden Beds

It’s a bit of a trek from Adelaide down to Aldinga Beach but what a lovely trek it is! And even more lovely when we arrive on the esplanade.

Even Brett in our soil delivery truck took a moment out to admire the serenity and the ocean view!

Paul had already cleared a space in his back yard ready for us when we arrived.  This job was quite a simple one: install two hardwood garden beds with irrigation.

Committed to completing it in two and a half days before Paul and his partner went away, we were on a timeline and had to work hard and fast over a couple of very long, hot days.

Paul’s back yard area where the garden beds will go.

Karri Hardwood beds

Constructing hardwood garden beds is so much more difficult and time-consuming than constructing softwood beds. 

The timber is not called ‘hardwood’ for nothing!

Screws and bolts have to have pre-drilled holes, multiple clamps must be used to put corners together, and all corners and joins need reinforcing with preformed steel plates to strengthen the construction so it matches the long life of the timber.

Roger is using 5 clamps to hold this corner in place while the bugle batten screws go in.

Not only is hardwood more difficult to work with, it’s impossible for two people to safely carry one side of a 3 metre garden bed - especially one that’s three planks high and weighing 100kg – even for Super Sally and Hercules Roger!

For this reason, we always make the raised beds on site and in the spot where they will be placed.

One bed is finished and filled with Vital Veggies soil; the next bed is under construction.

Everyone agrees that hardwood beds are very handsome so they are well worth the extra effort. Not only do they look strong, with an expected life of 50 years, they will probably outlast their owners. The red colour of the timber will fade to an elegant silver grey within 6 months as they settle into their new home.

While we were constructing the beds, Paul bought a few varieties of
chillies from the ‘chilli man’ down the road. Sally brought a couple of healthy biodynamic eggplant and tomato plants she had grown from seed and the new veggie was on it’s way.  

When Paul gets back from holidays, he will finally begin his dream of planting out and caring for his own productive veggie garden – a great thing to do in retirement, but why wait that long?

Our imposing hardwood beds make the newly planted seedlings look tiny, but in a couple of months, the tomatoes will have climbed to the top of their stakes and Paul will have two beds overflowing with a profusion of colourful, organic, summer veggies.

Urban Food Production workshop
During October, Roger and Sally took part in the SA Urban Food Production workshop put on by the SA Ag Institute at the Wayville Showgrounds, a gathering of people involved in urban horticulture.
The list of presenters was exceptional:

Dr. Richard Stirzaker, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Agriculture, and Food
Prof Mark Howden, Director, Climate Change Institute, ANU
Tim Marshall, TM Organics, Organic Farming Consultant
Prof Mike Keller, Dean, School of Agriculture Food and Wine, UA

Dr. Peter Hayman, Science Leader, Climate Adaptation, PIRSA-SARDI
Jon Lamb, JLC, Gardening Communicator
Georgia Pollard, Urban Agriculture Scientist,
Ph.D. Candidate UniSA
And a few other special guests also took part in the discussions:
Sandy Pitcher, Chief Executive, DEWNR
Christy Spiers, Urban Sustainability Officer, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges
Aaron Harrison, Education Coordinator, Botanic Gardens of South Australia
The big questions being 
addressed on the day were:
  • Can we feed the world with urban food production?
  • Why do people choose to grow their own food?
  • Will we grow our own food in a hotter and water-constrained Adelaide?
  • Is organic production the only safe way to produce food at home?
Dr. Richard Stirzaker spoke passionately and eloquently and gave us a few food facts for thought such as:
  • To grow a calorie of food, you need 1 litre of water – so for our average 3,000 calories per day, we are using 3,000 litres of water a day.
  • On average, each person in the world has 50m x 50m of usable land.Use it wisely cautions Richard.
  • One-quarter of the vegetables in the world are grown on farmlets (areas of less than 20 hectares)
  • The year 2010 was a world milestone.This was when the world population flip happened when more people lived in cities than in the country.
Richard lamented (and we agreed) that the kitchen garden program currently running in our Schools focuses a lot more on the kitchen (cooking) than the garden (growing veggies). 
Sad but true.

So, of course, we had to buy Richard’s fantastic book at morning tea  :)
The book starts with a personal account of Richard’s own fruit and vegetable garden, exploring the 'how and why' questions about the way things grow, before moving on to stories about soil, rivers, aquifers, and irrigation. The book closes with a brief history of agriculture, how the world feeds itself today and how to think through some of the big conundrums of modern food production.
For more information -
Georgia Pollard, a
PhD candidate at UniSA spoke about her Edible Gardens project, an initiative of UniSA. She has compiled some interesting data on urban food growing in Adelaide, why people are doing it and what benefits they gain.
The first step of this project has been a comprehensive online survey asking food gardeners of South Australia about their gardens,
 motivations and challenges and to estimate how much water, time and money they invest into their food gardens.
For us, an interesting outcome of Georgia’s survey data so far is the reasons people grow their own food:
Topping the list is the quality of the fresh food they get from their gardens (compared to what they can buy)
Next is the enjoyment they get from growing veggies.
Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, the third reason is reconnecting with nature.
Fourth is to save money
Fifth is the social connection (eg. sharing produce and experiences with family,
friends, and community)
If you have a food garden and you’d like to participate in the survey, follow this link:
Prof. Mark Howden made us aware that we are now growing food in a hotter world and must find ways of adapting. He said with Australia now importing more fruit and vegetables than it is exporting, our country is LESS food secure, giving us as individuals more reason to grow food in our
back yards.
It was a fantastic workshop. We would love to see not only more people speaking about the importance of growing food in
back yards, but more people actually DOING IT and policy makers taking notice because our urban food growing spaces are rapidly declining.
Sunday Mail Home Show

Participation at the October Home Show was less about business promotion for Vital Veggies and more about making people aware of the importance of growing their own food.
Roger presenting a talk about growing food to visitors at the Home Show.
We gave away lots of packets of seeds, talked to visitors about the joys and challenges of growing food, offered advice, got children to put their hands into a bucket of tiger worms and connected with many people who are growing veggies or planning veggie gardens.
Roger and Kim Syrus chatting to visitors at the Home Show.
Thanks to all those people who visited our display and signed up for our regular newsletter – we hope you enjoy this edition.
And thanks to Kim Syrus for joining us on Friday and Saturday to help spread the Vital Veggies message around.
By the way, if you haven’t already seen our TV food gardening segments with Kim Syrus on Outdoors Indoors (Channel 9 at 4.30pm on Sundays) you can view them on our website here:
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