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Permablitz #4 Cally's Verge Garden (Dec 2009)

Posted on December 18, 2009 at 9:05 AM

Day 1 - Saturday morning 

The sun was shining and it was going to be a warm day. I woke up strangely keen to make my verge garden - I had three trees waiting to be planted that were about to expire in the heat,and I had decided that the verge would be the best place for them. The area is south facing so shaded by the fence for quite a lot of the day - by the time the trees are tall enough to get above thefence and really blasted by the sun they should be well established.

So I got to work - and if anyone has tried to work seriously-baked Canberra clay, then you'll likely feel my pain. The ground was almost water proof when I started, and as hard as concrete. I started attacking the ground to loosen the surface - I had a small crowbarand a large pick, and of the two, the smaller crowbar was probably more successful. Being on the small side, and blessed with matchstick arms that would make even Popeye's Olive Oil ashamed, I could hardly even lift the large pick! Once I'd made some indentations, I could get some water to stay on the surface long enough to sink in (there's a bit of a slope). Then I'd work a bit more on the surface (probably only to a depth of oneor two inches - it was really hard) and then put some more water on.

Although I was planning to build a bed on top of this area, I thought it would be good to get a bit of moisture into what would become the subsoil - otherwise it might remain an impenetrable barrier to plant roots for quite some time. The thing I've learned about clay soils is that once they are a bit damp (but not saturated) they become moderately workable, so the trick was to get enough water in there to do the most of the hard work for me. That said, the water definitely didn't do all of the hard work - my poor little arms were so sore by Monday Icould hardly move!

The first picture shows the three holes I managed to dig where the trees would go. I filled them up with water to soak into the adjacent soil, and then went inside for a rest and a cuppa...


After the water soaked away, I crow-barred a bit more and then watered the ground again. After a few more hours (and a few more restsand cuppas) the soil had soaked up enough water for me to start adding organic matter to the top. I put in two barrow loads of rotted cow manure,about a garden bag full of old grass clippings, several barrow loads of soil (this I had bought and it was a mix of cow manure, sand and clay), and some mostly rotted vegetable compost from my compost bin. Having mixed it around, I put in a couple of groups of petunias (my Mum always says you shouldplant in threes or fives where possible) that I had bought very cheaply from the Farmers' Market.

Day 2 - Sunday morning

By Sunday morning the area looked like this...



I chose petunias as the colour for this bed not only because they are inexpensive, but also because they are surprisingly droughtand cold tolerant, and should last right through this summer, autumn and winter, and then bloom on to next spring. I also thought it was a good idea to camouflage the herbs I was going to plant - not only to confuse insects, but also any hungry passers by! 

Day 2 - Sunday evening 

Sunday was a really hot day, so took plenty of breaks in between plantings. As I put the plants in, I realised I needed some stepping stones to access all of the plants. Fortunately I have a lot of leftover bitsof garden edging from the previous owner's front garden (which I'm gradually dismantling), so those became the stepping stones. By late on Sunday, the garden was really taking shape, and I even had one of my neighbours applaud when she drove by! The mulch I used was sugar cane mulch - almost too fine on awindy day, but it didn't all blow away and it's doing a good job of keeping the moisture in...




As I am still in the early stages of doing my own garden inside of my fence, it might seem odd to have rushed out into the street already.However, the advantage of this garden is that it's much safer from my puppies,who, little darlings that they are, can sometimes be a little too 'helpful' indigging up and trampling over any newly created garden beds! That said, I can happily report that my fruit trees in the back garden seem to be settling in well, despite the best efforts of my two best friends. And the verge garden is still looking good too, about a week and a half since I planted it. Good thing too, as the whole neighbourhood will be watching ifit fails! But because it's in shade for a fair bit of the day, the bed hasn't needed too much water - I'm only watering it about twice a week at the moment.

This weekend I'll be finishing off the bed - with some more drought tolerant plants at thefar left-hand-side which does get a bit of the hot afternoon sun. Probably some lavender for some low shade and maybe something like 'pig face' or other seaside native plant. And then, at some point, I mean to paint the fence as I'm not really a Mission Brown kind of girl - colour suggestions most welcome...


Categories: Verge garden

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Reply Cally Brennan
4:31 AM on May 28, 2010 
Thanks all for the nice comments and the suggestions for the fence :-) The garden has changed a bit since I posted these photos - I even got a good crop of eggplants from my little verge. Will try to post some more pictures soon!
Cally :-)
Reply Gill
2:04 AM on February 4, 2010 
Well done, Cally!
No wonder you arms were sore on the Monday...I'm surprised you didn't also have a whacking great headache from working so hard in the heat.
Reply Morgyn
5:07 AM on January 27, 2010 
Hi Cally, read your blog about the verge garden. Very brave given the hard soil. How about a blue/lavender colour for the fence - depending on the surrounding colours and the colours in your house? It would contrast with the greygreen of the olive leaves and lavender and any bright pink petunias? It is also a cooling colour. cheers, Morgyn
Reply Toni Kennedy
4:33 AM on January 10, 2010 
Hi Cally, Great to see the pictures as well as reading your blog. Look forward to much more this year.