It will be a while before we can get the land we need to make Little Dragon Homestead a reality. In the meantime we've started on a few ways to work up to it. Probably the easiest thing is the compost heap. By saving our veggie peelings, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells and other organic kitchen waste, and then dumping it in a pile in the backyard, not only do we save it from going to landfill, but can use it on the garden when it breaks down. The heap may need to be moved, as it doesn't get much sun, so doesn't get very warm. Also we haven't had much access to 'brown matter,' like dried leaves or straw, so far. This sort of organic matter would be great for keeping the heap from becoming too damp. This is good stuff to learn before going to a larger scale or when designing the layout of the homestead later. The next step is to make an inexpensive worm farm! There was a great segment on this on ABC's Gardening Australia episode this week. See the transcript here.
This year will be our first go at a veggie patch. We're going to use the raised row method as described by Old World Garden Farms in their fantastic blog. The soil where we are is practically non-existent. Rocks, sand and weeds is a pretty apt description of the backyard (despite the apparent health of the apricot tree). The method described above is like building a raised bed, except that it's a bit cheaper because you don't need edges, and you only need enough topsoil to make the mounds. I'm planning to only try growing a few varieties, as we haven't set out a lot of room for the veggie patch at this stage. Mostly there will be tomatoes, basil, onions, garlic, corn, carrots, potatoes and pumpkins. The pic below shows the first stage of preparation which is basically to cover the area with black builders plastic to kill any grass/ weeds before building the rows and planting straight into them in spring. I'm hoping to have enough of most of the above to can lots of pasta sauce, as pasta is a staple at our place.
Working with what you've already got is probably the easiest way to garden. We're lucky to already have an apricot tree well established in the yard when this house was purchased. In the last couple of years I've learned how to make jam with the apricots. It's an incredibly rewarding thing to do. Last year I tried to oven- dry some apricot halves, but it didn't work particularly well. Maybe the next project should be a solar dryer?