Our 5 edible patches surround the hen run and one is always fallow for my sweet bantam chickens – 7 at present - to forage in.
Moving them to a new one is always fun: they get to eat new greens and scratch for a myriad insects; I get to plant new vegetables near their happy clucking; they stay near me, the food-lady. But first I dig the newly-fertilised soil (thank you, girls) into raised beds and add mulch – a bit of a waste – as a central path.
Two of my beds now have a more efficient system – and more attractive, too, I think. I’ve heaved some old bluestone blocks – some already on the property from prior owners – and used them as stepping stones. I’ve dug them in to make them firm and safe to walk on. At present I’ve lettuces planted between – a much more efficient use of space, even if planting, with my dodgy knee, is a little more interesting!
The new bed has red kale (`Redbor’ from English Chiltern Seeds), black jack zucchini, red mignonette lettuce, and 2 kinds of purple beans on tripods of paperbark boughs. Self-seeding, to my delight, are mustard greens (with their bronze leaves) and ruby chard (I’ve nearly eliminated all the yellow- and orange-stems of the rainbow chard keeping my favourites, the pinks, from rosé to crimson. I couldn’t have planned a better a better colour scheme if I’d tried – and why shouldn’t the veg patch be pretty, or attractive?) Where will I pop in the cucumbers, grown on into bigger pots? Now there’s a question.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)