The Pumpkin Patch
Gardening is all about experimentation to me. Perhaps it is more about my lack of motivation to do any research before poking in a seed or planting a cutting, but I am enthralled by the results that very little prior preparation and planning can still produce.
After a recent tour of a friend’s wonderful acreage with organic vegie garden I learnt that one of the best things to control weeds is the planting of running vegetable plants such as pumpkins. He had a wonderful crop of robust Blue and Kent pumpkins running mad around the bases of his stands of banana trees. They seemed to be cohabiting quite well and there certainly didn’t seem to be a weed in sight.
Taking this information on board I thought the perfect place to employ this technique was one of the car tyre retaining walls (oh so attractive!) which was both eroding and constantly overgrown with weeds.
We have a number of vegetarian friends (as I may well have previously mentioned) and so I constantly make a big tray of feta, pumpkin and spinach quiche. Every time I peel and deseed a store bought pumpkin I scoop the seeds into a container to allow them to dry out in the kitchen. So I had plenty of seeds to propagate in some shallow trays, which soon produced about a dozen healthy butternut pumpkin plants.
I know well about caging my vegies when you have free ranging chooks, so after planting the seedlings at the bottom of the tyre wall (thinking they would climb UP it), I put a frame over the plants, covered it with chicken wire and the chookies were not impressed. From then on the weather was bad and good and wet and bad and eventually with little help from me the plants took off. And “took off” is exactly what they did… in the wrong direction. As I watched the plants grow and send out tendrils strangling the “mother of millions” or “cobbler’s pegs” as I had instructed them to do, I also noticed that they were heading downwards towards Brent’s workshop and across the driveway leading to it. So the tyre hill was still covered in weeds, eroding and UGLY! The best part is that even though they didn’t GO where I wanted, they did DO what I wanted them to do and we were happy to receive about a dozen lovely little butternut pumpkins which were quickly turned into quiche and so on and so on.
Okay so we live an learn. Back to the original premise. The top of the tyre wall unfortunately was not retained in any way. It is the top of the walkway and goes off on a steep slope towards the shed. So the new idea was to retain a boxed plot at the top of the hill, plants some new seedlings and hope that they would have no choice but to cascade down and give the desired end result.
Projects like this really do excite me. I am even more chuffed when I tell my husband and he asks “how can I help?” rather than telling me it is a ludicrous idea. So we cut some boards from some rubbish timber lying around. He helped me run some stakes into the bank to support their weight and we cut some triangle shapes to enclose the ends. We ended up with a box about two metres long and half a metre wide.
I weeded the area as best I could with a little help from the curious chooks, and then it was my job to back fill it with soil. So I hooked up the trailer to the mower and took it through the gate (closing it behind me) and down to the compost heap.
Each shovel full was teaming with worms which was quite encouraging and I was secretly hoping the curious chooks wouldn’t come down and see what I was doing and get in the way. I shoveled and shoveled until the trailer was full (no mean feat) and then drove it up to the yard and as close as I could to the walk path which was still a few metres away from the planter box. Then shovel by shovel I walked all the soil to the box only to discover it was going to take at least another trailer full to come close to filling it!
Back again to the compost heap, more hard work, back up to the walk path, and guess who is in the planter box eating all the worms? There is nothing like a fresh pile of dirt or a heap of garden mulch to get chooks excited!
After I finished shoveling in the dirt I shoed the chooks away to plant the seedlings and cover them with mulch. In quite a hurry I caged the new plants behind a mesh fence and gave them a drink to help them settle in.
Weeks have passed. Much rain has fallen. The only problem with the location of the pumpkin patch is that at the top of the hill is it doesnt get as much sun as at the bottom of the hill. The plants are growing and I havent lost one yet but they arent really growing very fast. I should also mention that it is now winter so maybe that has something to do with it. Experimentation. Live and learn.