Herein is an exposé of the underlying principles that my good self have concocted within the juicy confines of my fertile brain.
The Story So Far
My old garden was contoured up and down around mounds and terracotta pot watering devices -- olas. For years I mulched it laboriously with grass clippings --and anything else I could find that would rot down -- while planting out such that greenery covered the whole patch. I now can boast a very rich sandy loam underneath with a huge demographic of earth worms.
When I changed my irrigation protocol to a spear pump -- tapping an aquifer 5 metres below -- my gardening needs changed, and now so too has the garden.
The New Template
Aside from roughly leveling the mounds and removing the clay pots from their buried residence, I rejigged the garden into a series of rectangular beds hedged by Vetiver Grass.
To do this I needed a lot of Vetiver slips to plant out. Fortunately I had been dividing my original three clumps for over a year and when I came to harvest I had just enough stock to hedge these new beds.
Since I now was without my clay pots -- which served so well as earthworm hubs, I made a series of worm & kitchen scrap towers and have begun to add one to each bed.
Rather than trounce all over the beds, I'm locating these towers near the hedge line and close to any path. Just reach over, lift the lid and plop plop.I'm assuming that any mixing and spreading will be done by my huge army of proletarian earthworms.
Originally I had a series of aerial lines/cables criss-crossing >2 metres above my garden. These were held up by tall bamboo canes. What I've now done is attach long narrow cutouts of plastic, bamboo or metal trellising and used the combo to train up climbers like beans and squashes.
I think plastic works best -- the coloured square stuff that is so readily available.It is much easier to work with. But I used just any trellising scraps I had to hand.
Rather than build a semi permanent structure all I need do is place a mesh-covered pole next to a climber and let nature take its ladder scaling course. And it doesn't have to be vertical. A true climber will climb any ladder at an angle.
After harvest is completed I can move the bamboo pole and its attached trellis somewhere else if I want.
Since I'm dedicated to mixing my vegetable plantings -- a la a keen polycultural impulse -- the singular narrow trellises allow me to plant climbers among much shorter vegetables.
The associated tweak -- still pending -- is to drop a series of ropes ( likely to be many) from the aerial lines above to support ramblers like tomatoes below -- rather than staking them. I can drop them hither and yon and use them as required.
Just make sure that these lines are not attached too tightly to the plant below as any sway in the lines above may uproot it. You need to allow for 'give'.
I find this aerial method works. The rig may wave to and fro in high winds but there is less chance of collapse despite the weight of greenery attached. Because they are narrow, the rain/watering shadow isn't usually significant.
I prefer to use old hose lines for these aerials.
While I have trimmed all my Vetiver clumps in the past, the supposition is that these hedges can be cut for mulching the beds they contain. I now have a sprinkler system located 1 metre from the ground so all I need do is ensure that the Vetiver is trimmed enough so that it does not obstruct the sprinklers' watering arc.
So far: so good.
As these beds are planted out I get to test my working hypothesis.
I should note that the beds are large and each one --2- 3 metres wide -- is separated from the other by Vetiver hedges. I've cut down on the number of --and space dedicated to -- paths, so I now walk on top of the mulched beds to harvest or pull the occasional weed.
The Vetiver hedges aren't simply boundaries: because their roots run to 2 metres deep they serve as biotic pumps, in the same sense as a clump of tree, drawing up moisture and nutrients which are then recycled at the surface. The Vetiver hedges will also prevent water run off, such that the rain and irrigation seeps directly into the soil below the beds and mulch. The hedgerow in effect creates a basin.
Ditto: wind break.
Vetiver will also protect each bed from vegetative incursions from the bed or pathway next door. They are a barrier, in effect -- top to root toe -- three metres+ tall. (Vetiver if untrimmed will grow to 1.8 metres above ground.Cutting for mulch causes the clump to thicken) .
Once consolidated these hedges will keep the dogs off the beds and protect my plants if the chickens are let out to roam.
My sandy soil has no clay. It really is (or was just) sand -- as in beach sand. Years of adding mulches has changed its carbon quotient. All good. But with the explosion in earthworm numbers I'm wondering that the new slimy stickiness I feel when I handle the now black soil, may be due to the intensity of worm activity. Thats' one very big worm farm.
For those with heavy clay/poor draining soils the same intervention applies -- although you can also build up your beds from the getgo inside the Vetiver boundaries.The Vetiver grass hedge will keep your raised bed in place so there will be no need for edging. For those gardening on sloping land, the Vetiver hedge will prevent erosion and run off on the lower edge of your garden so long as you plant the Vetiver along a contour line.You can level your bed or not -- but leveling is preferable.
Getting Vetiver hedging going: Simple to do. Buy some Vetiver -- I started with three slips. Plant it out and divide it each time the clump reaches 8-12 stems and plant the divisions out. Do the maths. Vetiver like all grasses grows fast.
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