The key to guerrilla gardening is to be indifferent to the survival of any one plant, while remaining passionate about the success of the garden as a whole.
In the year since I last blogged about our guerrilla gardening along the railway line, there has been plenty of progress, and a fair share of setbacks.
First the challenges:
- The railways folks decided to replace the electricity substation right next to the garden, leading to trucks being squeezed down the pedestrian pathway, crushing a pile of plants. (Their reworking of the security fence also killed off a bunch more.)
- Pretty much all of the groundcovers were wiped out by the big hailstorm.
- Local kids keep stealing the stakes used to hold the plant guards.
- Plants are randomly damaged, by dogs or passing people.
- Some plants simply don’t survive the harsh conditions.
But the good news:
- The garden has been progressively extended, and it’s now 10+ metres in length.
- The more established plants are now growing strongly, including all the acacias and callistomons.
- I’ve grown most of the plants from cuttings, so the cost has been minimal.
- Surprisingly few plants have been stolen.
The key is to keep planting each weekend, to replace the 2-3 plants that are damaged, and to then get slightly ahead. Over a year, this makes a big difference, and the pace should progressively increase.
I’ve had plenty of great comments from the locals, and it’s an enjoyable challenge. While it’s still early days, I think I’ve proved that one person can have an impact.
What can you do in your local area? :-)
When I came across the idea of straw bale gardens, it seemed like the perfect way of getting greater productivity out of the guerrilla-gardened food forest out the back.
As can be seen in the photo above, the garden didn’t work out well in practice. There were two main reasons: the hailstorm, which wiped out most plants; and the local birds who ate the rest.
I had a second attempt by planting a new round of seedlings, but we were then deep into winter.
So I decided to call it quits — but this is where straw bale gardens deliver their second benefit — by providing free mulch to spread around the garden.
It was easy to break off ‘cakes’ of the straw, and to layer them around the fruit trees. Fifteen minutes of work, and it was all done.
Of course, the chickens thought this was great! So within a day, they’d re-spread the hay so it was evenly covering everything. With a bit of rain, this is all breaking down nicely.
The idea of straw bale gardens remains sound, even if the first attempt was a dud. So I’m going to give it another go, this time earlier in the season. I’ll report back…
Winter brings a respite from many beekeeping-related activities, but it also provides an opportunity to make some preparations for the season to come.
For me, this includes creating some custom beehive bases, that form the basis of new bait hives. These are empty boxes that hopefully attract bee swarms, rather than them ending up in roof cavities, inside walls or inside ventillation grills.
The bait hive is created by taking the special base, then adding two hive boxes on top, and then capping it out with a flat lid.
This season I’m planning on scattering these throughout a bunch of locations in the Inner West, saving me the effort of constantly chasing bee swarms. Wish me luck!
The Lewisham House blog has been very quiet in recent months. This was due to my mother, Andrea, suddenly passing away at the end of April. At the age of 67, we had no warning, and were expecting to have her with us for many decades yet.
Mum and I had a shared passion for gardening, swapping produce, seeds, and assistance. Her large apartment had a wrap-around balcony on all four sides, packed with hundreds of plants of every type.
One of the challenges was to find a home for these plants. This ultimately turned into an opportunity for her gardening passion to live on.
Her fruit trees went into the guerrilla gardened food forest out the back. The natives went into the guerrilla gardened strip alongside the railway station. And the rainforest plants created an instant jungle behind our back fence, shown above.
It’s nice to think that these will live productively for many years, tended as carefully as she would have…
With our first good crop of apples this year, there have been plenty of apple-based recipes. This includes a delightful apple and marmalade cake from River Cottage: Fruit every day!, plenty of apple crumbles, apple pies, and the like.
Still, two people (even with friends) can’t easily get through four buckets of apples. So onto preserving!
I started by creating some jars of apple and mint jelly, using a recipe from Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2.
The apples are cooked down whole, pips and all, until soft. The pulp is then strained through a muslin cloth (or equivalent) over night. The resulting liquid (thick with pectin) is then cooked with sugar until it sets (this took a bit of convincing!). The result is a light jelly with an enjoyable hint of mint — perfect for roast lamb!
I then moved onto apple sauce. I hunted through my collection of cookbooks, and Canning for a new generation had the simplest and easiest recipe (most of the other ones involved whole days of cooking down the fruit!).
Again, the fruit is cooked whole until soft. It was then passed through my passata machine, which separated out all the pips and skin. The pulp is heated until boiling, and then put into mason jars. These are processed in hot water until properly sterilised.
The final preserve was a straightforward fruit wedges in syrup, using instructions out of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This was the quickest process of all: peel and core the fruit, and cook briefly in a light syrup. Then jar and process in a hot water bath for 20mins.
I’m pleased with my collection of apple preserves, and I’m looking forward to using them throughout the cold winter days to come :-)
We were glad to make it back before the storm hit. As the sky darkened, rain started sheeting down. We were watching through our back windows when — look — it’s hail! How exciting is that!
The hail kept coming in, pea sized, but overwhelming in numbers. Before long, the ground was white, as if it was a European winter scene.
And then — water — it’s leaking! — and then pouring! into the house through the ceiling. Damn!
It was the ice piling up on the flat roof, and causing the water to flow up, over the flashings and into the ceiling. Up I went onto the roof in the middle of the storm, with a stiff-bristle broom.
For 30mins I swept the hail into piles, away from the flashings and other vulnerable points. The roof simply wasn’t designed for this, and anywhere it could get in, it did.
By the time I came back down, water was still pouring through the light fittings, and we’d been plunged into darkness. Thankfully the ceiling held, unlike some of our neighbours, who had their gyprock ceilings collapse on them while watching TV.
The garden suffered badly. While the big trees were stripped of leaves, the smaller natives shrugged it all off. The vege patch and herbs, however, were destroyed. Pounded into the ground, until a mush.
Some will recover, but some won’t. There goes much of our winter crops…
The life of an urban farmer isn’t an easy one. They say this was a once-in-40-year storm. Considering we’d suffered a once-in-a-decade superstorm (600mm over 48 hours) earlier in the same week, I’m not putting money on it…