Taking advantage of a brief respite from the rain yesterday, we headed to the farm to do some cultivating. The difference between weeding and cultivating is that weeding involves physically removing established weeds from the soil, whereas cultivating pre-empts the weeds – getting them when they’re young and only just germinating. This saves a lot of time and effort if you can get on top of it (and stay on top!). By cultivating lightly using special hoes (such as Eliot Coleman’s ‘collinear hoe’), you minimise soil disturbance, preventing even more weed seeds from being exposed to the sun and air and thus germinating. The alternative is a lot more work, either using larger, heavier chipping hoes to cut out the established weeds, or pulling them by hand. No matter how good you are at setting up a good cultivating routine, there is the inevitable hand pulling to do, but frequent, shallow cultivation definitely makes things easier.
While we were there, we also started laying out the benches for washing and bagging our produce, and were paid an over-the-fence visit from no less than four Italian paesani offering tips about how to remedy our disappearing fennel dilemma (the verdict: install some rat traps near the fennel and see what they catch!).
Tatsoi and bok choi taking off.
Nat and Brett discuss the finer points of bench design
Cultivating using the collinear hoe (left) for beds and wheel hoe (right) for paths.
A few words of advice from the Italian neighbours
Thanks to the beautiful weather we’ve had – a combination of lots of rain with sunny days in between, we were able to plant out into perfect soil (even if we did need to wear gumboots and raincoats!). We don’t have the irrigation system set up yet, so are still dependent on the rain to water the seedlings in, which so far has gone in our favour. The first planting marks a momentous beginning to what we hope will be a long and fruitful adventure in urban farming in Adelaide.
The first lettuces in the ground
Many hands make light work on planting day
Oliver lending a helping hand
A few more rows to go!
Happy rows of vegetables
By using Eliot Coleman’s system of production (a big thanks to Joyce and Michael from Allsun farm and Di Bickford from Bickleigh Vale Farm for teaching us the ways of the force), we hope to achieve high yields from the small space we’ve got, maximising the potential of this land for providing fresh, local vegetables straight from the suburbs.
As we grow all our seedlings off-site in my backyard (only 5km away, but still!), we need to somehow get them to the farm, ready to plant out. Enter the old dutch trailer:
A trailer full of seedlings isn’t a common sight round these parts!
All loaded up and ready to go.
One thing I didn’t take into account was the effect of bouncy suspension on fragile soil blocks – luckily we only had a few casualties, and the rest made the brief journey to the farm intact – I’ll have to think of some workaround for next time though…
The original soil of this block was already quite fertile, thanks to the fact (as a neighbour pointed out) that it is on the Sturt River floodplain, and quite likely was occupied by market gardens in the earlier part of the 20th century, before surburbia encroached on this land. A generous addition of compost, some organic fertiliser, some gypsum, rock phosphate, and rock dust (all certified organic), and a lot of hard work in shaping the beds, and hey presto! A vacant block turned into a productive, edible landscape, nestled in amongst the surrounding houses. Can’t wait to see what it grows!
Marking out the beds, while Steven tries to take a photo of the willy wagtail.
Nice neat beds, ready for planting.
Finished gates (thanks Brett!) and fertile soil