Month: April 2011

Fighting off tree roots

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When establishing our raised garden beds, I had thought this would proof us against issues in the soil, including the impact of neighbouring trees. How wrong we were. The camphor laurel has proven to be very vigorous, and when I turned over the soil in the bottom two beds, I found feeder roots coming up through the bottom of the bed. No wonder the plants weren’t growing properly!

No choice but to take drastic action (short of cutting down the noxious tree itself).

Digging out the soil from the garden bed (1.5 tonnes in total)

The starting point was to fully dig out the garden bed, which was no small task, as there’s 1.5 tonnes of soil by a previous calculation.

A layer of bark mulch to create a low nitrogen zone

Having dug the bed down the level of the original gravel, I laid down a layer of bark mulch. This is something that I saw on Gardening Australia, where the nitrogen draw-down of the mulch rotting creates a low nitrogen layer. This should help to discourage or deflect the tree roots. (This is the experimental bit, I hope it works!)

Multiple layers of weed mat goes in

Multiple overlapping sheets of weed mat should then form an impervious barrier to the roots, at least to some degree.

Old carpet to protect the weed mat

With the gardening in mind, I’d scavenged some old carpet from the side of the road. This was laid in to protect the weed mat against garden tools, and to provide an additional layer of proofing against roots. (And yes, I’m aware of the debate about whether carpet should be used or not for these purposes; in the end I decided that more was better than less when it came to roots.)

The finished bed, ready for planting

Getting 1.5 tonnes of soil back into the bed was my final workout. Having read that roots breaking down release toxins, I carefully removed the camphor laurel roots when refilling the bed, which slowed the whole process down.

Hopefully that’s all fixed now, and I can get back to growing vegetables!



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Who says you can’t grow bananas in Sydney?

Out the back of our house, in the convent, the local Tongan community planted a row of banana trees along the railway line. They’re not lavished with any love, so they struggle to fruit in the Sydney climate. But the photo above shows that good things come to those who wait.

We took a few bananas for eating (yum!), a couple more for freezing (banana cake), and then gave the rest to the sisters in the convent. Good timing, considering that bananas are upwards of $12/kg in the shops at the moment. Food security in action…

PS. this is what was left after the possums took their fill. You have to be quick, even in the inner city!

Autumn seedlings are in the ground

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Purple sprouting broccoli seedling

We’ve had more luck with our seed raising this year, and last week I transplanted a whole pile of seedlings out into the garden. The beds are looking pretty bare at the moment, but we have a huge crop ahead of us:

  • Carrots
  • Silverbeets
  • Turnips
  • Snow peas
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Peas
  • Leeks
  • Beetroots
  • Spring onions
    • green
    • red
  • Kale
    • green
    • tuscan black
    • red russian
  • Broccoli
    • purple sprouting
    • di cicco
    • romanesco
    • chinese (broccolini)
  • Cabbages
    • mini
    • chinese
    • red
    • sugarloaf

That should keep us going for a while! This time around, I’ve avoided mass planting, and have instead mixed everything together (except the root vegetables). Hopefully I’ve got the spacing right, but only time will tell…