Thursday, August 28, 2008

My father's garden

My father's garden is an example of what you can achieve with organic growing methods even if you have the worst possible soil. Situated on an ancient sand dune left over from a time in the ancient past when large parts of northern Europe were covered by sea, my family has been feeding the soil with whatever organic material was at hand - with great success.

The land has been in the family for many generations. My great-grandparents ran a large flock of hens at the beginning of the 20th century which significantly helped boost soil fertility. The land was then left without cultivation until my parents moved there over 35 years ago.

After clearing out a lot of rubbish (including an old car that somebody had buried) my father set out to create a beautiful productive wilderness. As part of that process he used to get large piles of horse manure and other organic matter delivered from people who more often than not were rather glad to get rid of it.

On a number of occasions and to the great embarrassment of my mother, these valuable deliveries co-incided with significant family events, so that extended family and friends were greated with steaming piles of manure on the front lawn!

Even to this day, many of my parents' neighbours offload their tree clippings, dead leaf matter and other wonderful soil food at my parents'.

Add to that mix a good deal of work and that most wonderful of all ingredients, copious rain, and you can not only feed yourself, but your whole neighbourhood as well. And there is no need for artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides!

I am trying to re-create a little bit of that paradise here in my patch in NSW. I am still working on my soil - dealing not with sand, but with solid clay. Luckily, the recipe for success is the same - add plenty of organic matter and keep mulching!

Unfortunately, though, we only get a fraction of the rain my father's garden is blessed with. Working with less water is a challenge, and one that I will again tackle as we go into spring and summer this year.


  1. Thanks for sharing those lovely photos of your father's garden Chervil. Gardening with a limited water supply is a different proposition I'm sure and breaking up ugly clay soil is backbreaking work.

  2. We are just starting with our new patch. We plan to leave the lawn at the back, but have cleared all of the front. The area in front of our new fence is council reserve, so we plan to do something simple. Water is only fairly reliable in winter and based on last summer, with hardly any shade, we will have to be creative about how to go about building a productive garden that doesn't need a lot of watering.

    Your families garden is an inspiration for many.