Backyard Transformation - Part One
How do you get from dying grass to thriving food?
After several months staring at our new backyard, it was finally time to figure it out.
I painted an outline of our future garden bed on the grass and booked a mini excavator to dig up the kikuyu, knowing it was too big and too hard to do it by hand. We’re in a new estate in west Lake Macquarie and the ground is a mixture of clay and building rubbish.
When the machine arrived I was a bundle of excitement. Six hours later, staring at bare earth and a big pile of dirt and grass, I landed with a thud in “what the heck have I done?” After a crisis call to HOGS secretary Barb for guidance, I got to work spreading coffee grounds, dolomite lime and gypsum. I watered then covered as much as I could (only a third!) with the carpet off-cuts and cardboard I had.
A week later, approximately 30 minutes after I’d finally collected enough cardboard to cover the whole bed, I watched an episode of Gardening Australia and decided to plant a green manure crop. Up came the cardboard! What followed was two days of rock and stick picking, removing the building waste and compacted clay rubble so I could finally see the soil underneath.
I decided on a split strategy for the U-shaped bed: * The right hand side is home to the pile of dirt and grass and we’re gradually sorting through it, discarding the grass in the green bin (I’m not giving that kikuyu a chance) and returning the soil to the garden bed. * On the left hand side I dug a series of trenches and am burying kitchen scraps, keeping it covered with carpet. There’s also a large hole dug by machine, filling with compost and awaiting a citrus tree. * Along the back, I planted a green manure crop of mung beans, buckwheat and millet then covered it in WhoFlungDung compost/mulch. I used some of the rocks to make circular beds for three climbing roses that had been patiently waiting to go in the ground. After a week, a handful of mung beans poked their heads up. After 11 days we had some glorious rain and the next morning there were mung beans and buckwheat everywhere! I had grave concerns for the millet but another 24 hours passed and its slender blades started showing through. A few days later, with more rain falling and several bare patches in the green manure crop, I decided to broadcast a second lot of seed. Working in gum boots and misty rain, I covered it with a thin layer of garden soil. Lying in bed that night I suddenly had a startling thought. “What if the rain washes the top soil away and exposes the seeds?” The next morning I looked out the back door to see way too much colour in the garden bed and it wasn’t green growth. The mung bean and buckwheat seeds were lying conspicuously on the surface.
Closer inspection later that day revealed they had already begun to germinate, swelling with the rain and poking out their tails. It was a delight to see the magic happening out in the open.
I had previously been concerned that my layer of mulch on the original seeds was too thick, thus the bare patches. Now the layer covering the second round of seeds is nonexistent. Let’s see what nature does next!