Our small urban farm plot of about 250m2 gross area and 160m2 bed area started just under 6 months ago in December 2018. Its now early June 2019, start of winter in our sub tropical climate.
The organic and biodynamic methods we use to manage the garden and its design have all contributed to its amazing productivity. I wanted to share with you how its going.
You can see my past blog from January 2019 with a full description of what we did to create the urban farm plot and planned to do in managing it. This blog is about our progress since January. There is also a photo gallery below that captures the garden space from start to now.
Brief recap of starting process
After clearing off the grass in December, using a rotary hoe to loosen soil, re-mineralising soil, creating paths and lifting path soil to create bed depth, we then planted a green manure crop in beds 1 to 7. Bed 8- 9 had a heavy layer of our biodynamic compost and we planted seasonal veg straight into them. The green manure crop took 2 months to flower, we then cut it down and layered the matter on the garden bed (did not turn soil), then covered it with mulch. This was left for 1 month and we then began planting out beds 1- 7 and new planting in beds 8-9. That planting commenced in early April, basically 8 weeks before this blog
Planting and results
Bed 8-9 – Composted beds at start
- In late December we planted zucchinis, spring onions, bananas and comfrey in bed 9 and in bed 8 snake beans, cucumbers, perennial spinach, rocket and lettuces. The leafy plants all had a shade structure over them. From planting, all crops grew very quickly and by late January we commenced harvesting beans, leafies, cucumbers and zucchinis. During February we had a full month of 35c days, so shade on the leafies worked wonders.
- By early April, we had harvested about 120kg of produce from these two 15m long beds. Between April and June, the snake beans and perennial spinach kept producing, bananas growing huge, pumpkins taking over bed 9 between broad beans that were planted in May. Leaks, climbing beans and rocket planted in bed 8 and harvesting continues. At least another 30kg from this space from April to mid June.
Beds 1 – 7 – Green manure crop beds
- Planting of veg, herbs and flowers commenced in early April with a huge variety of crops planted in a rotation pattern where I split beds at 7.5m and thus had 16 beds to play with (bed 9 is treated as a perennial bed). I use a rotation of leaf, flower, fruit and root and mix companions in with those.
- Most of the crops have grown incredibly well in the 2 months from planting. You can see from the pictures. The ones that have not grown as well as others are:
- Carrots – soil is too rich for them at present so I will move to next rotation and wait for nitrogen in soil to ease off.
- Snow peas – a bit slow but I planted them a too early, they are expanding well now
- Bush beans – soil too rich for them so I replace with next rotation cycle which is root crops
- Red onions – a bit slow because of heat but coming on well now.
- The crops that have done exceptionally well and we have harvested at least another 150kg of produce from them are: all leafy plants (15 different crops), cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis., spring onions, sugar snap peas, beetroot, all the herbs (6 crops) and edible flowers (10 crops)
- The slower crops like garlic, leeks and red onions are growing well but will take more time to be ready. Our strawberry bed of 7.5m with 60 plants and leek companions has all plants covered with flowers and small strawbs which should be ready for harvesting in the next few weeks
- I am now moving into our winter rotation cycle and planting cooler season crops when spaces occur after harvesting, for example, where beetroots have been pulled out of a root bed, I replace them with lettuce as leaf is the next cycle and where beans not working in a fruit bed, I am pulling out and planting root crops (beetroot, leeks and onions) as root follows fruit.
Observations and reflections
- We had no insect or disease issues in the garden up until the last week when some of the leafies, which are getting past their use by date, have aphids coming in for them. This is OK and I am letting that process complete.
- Soil profile is wonderful and its holding moisture very well
- We have harvested about 300kg of produce from all beds since start and our target is 1000kg for the year, I think we will achieve it.
- Drainage design has worked well and sun levels are perfect, especially for cooler times, so my fruiting crops are thriving even though night temps were close to zero last week
- Our fortnightly application of biodynamic soil and plant preparations have given strength and vitality to the urban farm plot. I have now reduced this to monthly and will reduce to bi monthly in the next 3 months as the living process in the soil further strengthens.
- Bird families are spending a lot of time in the garden now, which is great and none of them are destructive
- We have managed to eradicate the nut grass using biodynamic nut grass peppers, just as we had planned with 4 applications over succeeding full moons.
- Every crop we have planted and every biodynamic soil preparation used has been done on the most ideal planetary days according to the biodynamic calendar
- The garden is a wonderful teaching space and I’ve already had 7 workshops in the garden with another 9 to go this year
- We are supplying veg to our family and my daughter’s family who live on the property, so that it is 8 people. We still have a lot of surplus and now quite a number of people are buying boxes of this wonderful biodynamic food from us.
- The flavour of the food is exquisite and this is to be expected in a well run biodynamic garden, since biodynamic methods balance both physical and non-physical aspects of life.
- And most importantly, I have a sitting space at the top of the garden for contemplation. I feel my regular meditation and contemplation in the garden aids greatly in the quality of what happens in this beautiful space.
Experience our urban farm plot for yourself and learn the methods I have used at one of our workshops. Next biodynamic workshop is on 20-21 July.
Authored by Peter Kearney – www.myfoodgarden.com.au