Only 12 months ago a new rental home presented with some raised garden beds. Excited I was, considering growing in pots for the last 5 years was the only choice. This is a picture of me last week (Jan 12th 2017) with bean plants 2.4 metres tall and only 8 weeks old. This article is a chronical of how this came to be.
Here is a 30 second video of the garden at this time. (Jan 2017) There is about 25 square metres of growable soil. Additional to beans we have some corn and pumpikin along with experimentation in peanuts and amaranth. Another video is at end of this article.
However it was not always like this. After moving in 12 months ago, I soon realised that the entire garden bed had been sprayed with weed killer. Everything was dead and a quick call to the real estate agent and a confirmation chat with their handy man revealed that indeed Roundup (Glyphosate) was heavily sprayed so as to avoid manual weed pulling. Here is how the scene looked then.
Even the previous compost area was sprayed.
So after getting over the anger and shock, researching bio-remediation techniques provided some light in this toxic darkness. It quickly became apparent that microbes in the soil are largely responsible for breaking down much of the residual glyphosate left in the soil after an application. There were zero signs of microbial life in this soil – no one had watered for 3 months and glyphosate also acts to kill microbes in the soil – so further research showed that growing plants, watering and mulching would re-establish microbial life in the soil over serveral months. A winter cover crop of teff, buckwheat, chia seed, lentils, chick peas and amaranth was planted and flourished.
Not long before Teff and Amaranth pop up
A valuable cover crop needs security.
During this time “weeds” like dandelion were left to grow and along with the planted buckwheat, served to attracted swarms of bees. I had never seen so many in a winter garden before. Other garden dwellers performed natural insect control.
Even more protection from unwanted pests with Mantis Security Services
A powerful bee attractor and cover crop – buckwheat – even saved some of those amazing tetrahedral seeds for next year.
Some of the winter amaranth developed a most beautiful head. Apparently one head can provide thousands of seeds. This grain contains no gluten and is rich in minerals and makes bloody good pancakes. Have risen to the challenge and planted a summer crop to reach a goal of 100,000 seeds from one plant!
Winter chia seed also attracted lots of bees with these beautiful violet flowers.
So now summer is on the door step and it’s late october in Armidale and we are waiting for an optimal soil temperature of around 18C to plant the bean seeds.
Wanted to maximise the yield per square metre – as only 25square metres is available. Researched how close one can plant the bean seeds to achieve maximum yield. Data showed that best yields were achieved with about 7-10cm between seeds and about 30cm between rows. We pushed it and planted some rows much closer together.
Most of the beans planted were climbers, so we took advantage of this and pushed the height aspect also. Purched some steel construction mesh ($80 per 6 x 2.4 metres), had it cut into four and used this to support our eminant rising bean population.
Still had the pots from the last 5 years, got an old damaged construction fence for nothing and let the beans seeds go wild here as well. Did this also because the soil underneath the pots was in such shockng toxic condition – previous tentants had used this area as a garbage dump. So the pots offered a micro protective environment.
In another area of the garden, mesh was not used as it would have become to claustrophobic. Here low growing bush beans were interplanted with amaranth, peanuts, corn and pumpkin. Some climbing beans were planted very close to the corn and amaranth so that they could climb up these hosts.
Not long before things started to take off. This is late november 2016.
Pot beans took off faster. This is probably because the raised garden bed soil was predominantly clay and damp and probably needed calcium to help floculate. Will tackle this as I keep learning after this season.
That’s it for Part 1.
See a more robust gallery of pictures coming soon.
Part 2 is very exciting. Here is a video teaser.