By Mark Tupman, Productive Ecology*
As another year of gardening draws to a close at the Ecovillage, residents are still busy planting out rounds of warm season vegetables and herbs – tomatoes, beans, pumpkins, zucchini’s, cucumbers, corn, capsicum, eggplant, chillies, potatoes, basil, etc. The weather has been beautiful over spring, but drier than usual, and summer is upon us, so the window for planting warm season crops is closing. If you’ve got any spots left in your patch, now’s the time to get something, anything, in there, a green manure crop if nothing else.
For those that haven’t got their beds ready yet, the best thing you could probably do now is mulch it thickly (100-200mm) with wood chips or straw, or whatever other organic materials you can get your hands on, and keep it moist. It’s not a bad idea to mix some manure, or some other form of nitrogen in with the mulch, like you would if making compost, so the microbes have a source of protein to go with their carbohydrates. This will not only protect the soil over the hot dry summer but also provide habitat, food and moisture for that all-important microbiology. As they soften up the ground beneath, you should be able to get a garden fork in there and start loosening the soil in preparation for autumn planting.
Many of the veggie patches, in stage one, are now well established and looking great. It’s been such a pleasure to work with these residents over past couple of years and see their skills and gardens flourish. The current gardening group has become very knowledgeable and self-managing now, meeting regularly on Friday morning and helping each other out. They’ve also built some great resources, like, a Johnson Su compost set-up, a seed bank, a small nursery, and most importantly, a wonderful community. Some of these pioneers are now also providing advice to new residents and their Friday gardening group is always open to new residents.
It will be great to see the momentum continue on into subsequent stages as the village grows. We’d like to offer support towards getting more gardens up and running in stages 2 and 3.
To kick things off early in the new year, we’ll be running our free introductory foundation workshops for residents – ‘Growing Organic’ and ‘Patch from Scratch’, so keep an eye out for more information on those. Ecovillage residents from Stage 1 who haven’t had the chance to attend these workshops are welcome to come along.
One thing you can be sure of is that there’ll always be some impressive gardening action to be had in the Ecovillage, so join in and get among it. Otherwise, enjoy the fruits of your labour and have a good break before the next frenzy of activity.
*Former Horticulture Manager at the Witchcliffe Ecovillage, Mark Tupman runs his own horticulture consultancy, Productive Ecology, advising on a myriad gardening subjects and specialising in soil health. Visit www.productivecology.com.au for more information.