Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Our Gardening Journey

Serious gardening started as rehabilitation after our eldest son became a paraplegic as a result of a motor bike accident in Switzerland, this then changed over the years to become an all encompassing passion.
Judy and Ian's one-acre Birkdale property is themed as a 'giving garden' where tropical fruit trees and vegetables thrive and supply the household with a constant supply of food.
There is not one day in the year where they cannot go out and pick something to eat.
Over seventy fruit and nut trees flourish (over 40 different varieties) and provide shade for an impressive collection of sub tropical plants.
The original soil was scraped and sold by the developer and all that was left was heavy clay, so much work has been done to transform the clay into a rich growing medium, it's been years of hard work bringing in soil, mulching and composting, but the end result has been well worth the effort.
The garden reflects Ian and Judy’s changing 'plant passions' with a range of plants as varied from day lily’s to gingers and bromeliads.
The garden design has never been planned, it has evolved over the years, they believe a good garden is always changing and evolving.
There's always something new to see in the garden as Ian and Judy are always seeking to do better and always on the lookout for new, unusual and rare plants.
This garden is a true 'Gardeners Garden'; built by passionate 'plants people', hard work and always having to work to a small budget.
Ian and Judy share their passion for gardening and do all the work themselves.
The garden remains healthy and productive all year round thanks to Ian and Judy using 'smart sustainable gardening' practices, these include using kelp fertilizers, composting worms, two native beehives, mulching, large composting areas and collected rainwater.
In order to battle the years of drought Ian and Judy have had to purchase seven rainwater tanks storing a total of 107,000 litres of rain water, without this we would not have the garden we have now.
All vegetable scraps go to the compost worms, all green material is shredded then composted in three large areas and the garden is kept mulched with over 160 bales of sugar cane mulch every year.
Ian and Judy have learnt over the years which are the right plants to grow, yes they have made mistakes but like all good gardeners have learnt from them.
They are both very happy to spend all day in the garden, believing the garden is their one acre piece of paradise.
They have made a financial and physical commitment to have a beautiful yet sustainable garden and intend to keep up the challenge.
Our biggest thrill was in 2009 to win ‘Gardening Australia’s’ ‘Golden Trowel’.
Gardening has made a big difference to Ian and Judy’s life; they also try and promote gardening through opening their garden to the public, giving regular power point presentations (three different ones at the moment) to garden clubs, and promoting gardening in schools as well as hosting many bus trips through the garden.
Ian is constantly updating his three internet sites (over 100,000 people from over a 100 countries have seen/read about the garden through  Ian’s blogs).
Ian and Judy have raised over $30,000 for charity through the past eleven garden openings and raised a further $3500 through a recent Charity ‘Open Garden’ enabling an eight year old local boy with Cerebral Palsy purchase a special walker.
Gardening and our four Grandchildren have given life a meaning that was not there previously.
Ian and Judy have now got over their son’s accident as he has done really well representing Australia in disabled water ski-ing and wheelchair basketball sports and most importantly has given them two beautiful grand children.
We no longer think of him as disabled as he has so much strength of character and a will to make the best out of life. In fact he put’s many able bodied to shame.
The accident that left Scott in wheelchair was a turning point in their lives, which saw them turn to their garden for solace.
What was a healing and nurturing time for them has now turning into a life time passion and has given them an oasis for all the family and many visitors to enjoy.
Ian and Judy now really enjoy their present life, sure it’s hard work but its enjoyable work and they are at their happiest working in the garden and meeting so many fellow gardeners.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Manure and Compost

I love manure, the older and smellier the better.
The odour is a gardener’s delight.

I am lucky as there is a stable just down the road and I can fill up a trailer any time for $10.00, it’s hard work shovelling especially if it’s a bit wet and tends to make a bit of a mess inside the car after finished, wife loves the smell ‘’I think not’.
I do not put it on the Garden pure, but mix with lawn clippings and waste I have put through the Greenfield Shredder.
The Greenfield shredder is probably the most useful piece of equipment that I have, it shreds just about everything and never clogs up. I have learnt that about the only thing not to put in are the fibrous plants like gingers and heliconias.

My ideal compost consists of manure, lawn clippings, shredded material, crusher dust, urea and blood and bone.
Leave for a few months and you end up with great compost.
I do not turn the heap over as my heaps tend to be too big and also I do not have the space to put the turned over material, doing it my way just takes a little while longer to compost.
Instead of turning the heap over I place 90mm storm-water pipes both horizontally and vertically within the compost heap with lots of holes drilled into them and a cover over the ends.
While it’s not as quick as turning the heap over it does let the air in to circulate and accelerates the composting process.
I do not put the vegetable scraps on the heap as we have two large areas where we breed compost worms, so all the household scraps go to feed the worms, no meat or fish of course.

You realise the value of composting when you think back to what our soil was like initially, where the developers had scraped and sold all the topsoil on our estate leaving only a clay top.
Our soil is now a rich dark loam that grows many tropical plants, thanks to many years of composting and mulching.