Orchard planting done

The weather fined up after a night of rain, so we were able to get the last trees in to the orchard. A short trip to the nursery procured the last plum – a satsuma, and the Granny Smith apple and one of the pears from up the hill were dug up and moved down the hill.


The satsuma plum was selected to help pollinate the other three Santa Rosa plums.

The Granny Smith had grown quite big in its two years up the hill, but we had to cut it right back for transplanting. I hadn’t pruned it before, though, so it was getting very rangy and needed a good chopping.

Granny Smith with 3 stakes at the left compared to the (almost invisible) Pink Lady to its right
Looking east from the pear end. This spot is in shade all winter and the ground is very wet.

The final tree count is:

  • 2 BurrĂ© Bosce pears
  • 3 Bartlett pears
  • 1 Josephine pear
  • 3 Santa Rosa plums
  • 1 Satsuma plum
  • 3 Nectared nectarines
  • 1 Van cherry
  • 2 Morello cherry
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 3 Pink Lady apples
  • 1 Fuji apple
  • 2 Royal gala apples
  • 1 almond
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 Lemonade lemon
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 imperial mandarins
  • 1 Tahitian lime
  • 1 Kaffir lime

33 trees! Combined with the trees we put in just for looks (1 Siberian larch, 1 Norway spruce, 1 Himalayan spruce, 1 Indian spruce, 2 maples, 1 claret ashes) we’ve planted a total of 40 trees in the bottom garden.


Boulevard of sticks

We’re on a mission to get all the trees on the orchard level planted while it’s bare-rooted season.

We got three nectarines, another of R’s favourite lunch box items.



We moved the Van cherry from up the hill, where it stood alone and struggled with ants, aphids, pear and cherry slug and nothing to pollinate it.


Behind this guy will be one more plum, for pollination of the three across the way, and one of the other pears that is growing up at the front of the house. The hole is dug on the other side of the old trampoline base to accept the single Granny Smith apple that’s also in the top garden, leaving 2 pears up there.

The vision of a boulevard of trees is coming together, but it will be some years before they’re big enough to have their full effect.


Thar she blows

After the very nice weather of the previous weekend, it was only a matter of time before the universe sought balance.


Many moons ago when we chopped down the dead tree in the front yard, we promised to look after another that was just sprouting nearby.

Little seedling Febryary 2013

But then the wind and a bad position meant that down it came.


This might have clipped the back of the car, but we’d parked in a different spot. Came down about 7:30am, and we can attest that the thump of a tree hitting the ground is a great way to get one leaping out of bed – even a littley like this guy.

3rd and 4th beds plant-ready

Another great weather day lets us complete the third and fourth wicking beds (minus the cladding).

First the drainage pipe is thrown in and connected. We use an adapter on the inside of the tank outlet to size it up for the drainage pipe, and cut the pipe lengthwise at the end to get it over the adapter. A bit of duct tape keeps it in place. A stainless steel screw keeps the filling end of the pipe attached to the side of the IBC.


Then comes 150L of perlite in each one.


Then geotextile …


This was the end of the first 6m piece that we bought. Our initial cuts were a little off, so we ended up about 10cm short. We were able to cut a piece off the long side and drape it over to keep everything in place. Should do the trick.

Then it’s 3 wheelbarrows of dirt in each one, 50L of manure and 100L of vegetable mix to lighten up our clayey soil.


Ready for some little plants! We’ll put onions (spring, brown, leeks) in one and potatoes in the other.

We got all that done in another 4 hours, which included a trip of an hour and a half to get more geotextile, tung oil and vegetable mix/manure. This part of the project probably only needs another hour to fetch and spread some mulch and plant some plants, so it’s a 9 hour total build time and it could theoretically all be done in one day. If all the components were already on-site then two people could certainly make 4 beds in a day (sans cladding), and have some time afterwards for celebratory drinks.

Update: got some more mulch and finished off the ground. No more mud on the boots!


Faster, faster!

Someone local is selling some IBCs, so given that the earthworks for wicking beds 3 and 4 are done, it seemed like a good idea to go and get another IBC.

It’s a bit too exciting to just leave in the driveway, though, so it was chopped in half, plumbing holes drilled and tank outlets fitted, frameworks were built, and the IBC halves carried up to the vege patch.


For the first two beds, it took just under a month to go from receiving the IBC to having plants planted. This time we’re expecting it to take closer to 3 days, or about 12 hours in total. We spent 4 hours of that today, which included fetching both the IBC and the perlite. We had one hiccup, where the legs on one of the new frameworks were 3cm too long due to misremembering the measurement, but otherwise everything proceeded very smoothly. It’s much easier when you’ve done it once already!

Bed 1 last side

The fourth and final side of shou sugi ban cladding has gone onto wicking bed 1.

We had to put an extender on the stand pipe so that it was long enough to extend outside the cladding. This necessitated some of the water being emptied out. For the next beds, it will be better to make one side of cladding first before filling the bed so that all the water doesn’t leak out when the stand pipe is screwed back in.


With the last side of cladding on, the whole thing can be screwed together securely. There’s a screw going from each piece of cladding into each leg at the bottom. At the top, the two long sides are screwed into the ends of the two short sides making the whole thing as solid as a rock.


For this first bed all that is left to do is to put a shelf around the top to protect the end-grain of the cladding. While we’re there, we’ll also put another piece down the inside to cover the white geotextile a bit.

Fourth wicking bed footing

Two great weather days in a row means that a lot gets done! With the third wicking bed footing done it didn’t look like much was needed to get the fourth footing in, too.


It took all day, of course, but now all is in readiness to construct the next two wicking beds. We have the plumbing and some wood to make the stands; we just need to get another IBC and some more perlite.



Third wicking bed footing

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, so work could continue on the vege patch, with the ground levelled and footing bricks positioned for the third wicking bed.

The dirt is being carted down to the driveway, as it’s the only place to put it for the minute. Most of it will go back into the beds once they’re in place.

I tend to dig back into the hill, and as I go I tend to go just a bit deeper than level, so the level at the back ends up lower than the level at the front. with the first two beds, this has ended up with a spot at the back that collects all the rain and it’s pretty much a constant puddle. I’ve tried to manage it a bit better this time, with a level check at the halfway point.

New brick footings, all lined up. The beds will all be exactly 90cm from one another, leaving enough room to move between them.

Some dirt went back in to make it nice and level.

The outside of the footings makes a 103x126cm rectangle

I’ve noticed that one of the bricks is slipping out from under the second wicking bed, perhaps because the ground underneath wasn’t perfectly level or properly compacted. Efforts were made to properly tamp down the ground under the bricks this time.

Also did a giant trip around the hardware stores trying to get an extension piece for the water level tubing, so that the little stand pipe will be outside the cladding – the last side of bed 1 can’t be clad until that’s sorted out. We had to change the elbow to double female and we found an 80mm, 20mm diameter riser that will do the trick.

Plums and cherries

It’s now bare-rooted tree season, and we’ve got a few more to put in down in the orchard. We’re going to move the Granny Smith apple and the Van cherry from the front yard down there, but that still leaves about 11 slots for more trees. We were in Emerald so we decided to stop and get some more today: 3 Santa Rosa plums and 2 Morello cherries.



These plums are R’s favourite for his lunch box: he’ll choose these over any other fruit that’s on offer.

The most-western of the new plums is actually sitting pretty much on top of one of the big rocks that couldn’t be moved earlier. I expect its roots to find their way around the rocks, but it will be an interesting experiment to see how it fares compared to the other two.

New plum is pretty much sandwiched between the two rocks at the back



The two cherries go on the sunward side as they’re shorter and won’t shade the apples on the other side of the row.

We can get three more trees straight away for the northern row, but the others on the southern row will require the earthwork to be completed on the trampoline base. There’s still a pile of sticky compost there that needs a home.

Wicking bed success

When we planted the wicking beds back at the beginning of June, we popped a couple of leftover seedlings in the ground nearby, to see how the growth differed. 6 weeks on and the difference is marked. The ones in the ground have barely moved while the ones in the wicking beds are healthy and vigorous – about twice the height.

We lost three lettuces during transplanting, but that still leaves us with 32 good plants which I reckon we’ll be able to start harvesting come September.


We have three out of four sides of bed 1 clad, and we’ve started digging and levelling the earth for beds 3 and 4. Of course, the digging is going very slowly as the weather is totally crap and the ground is saturated.

The other benefit of the wicking beds is that when it’s really bucketing down the plants aren’t even getting wet feet. The water drains through and leaks out the overflow pipe, and the optimal level is always maintained without intervention.