The Gardens of Chiconia 14

It’s beautiful autumn weather, much cooler, and we’ve spent most of the day in the back yard getting sweaty.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m planning three or four metre-square raised beds, to make sure my vegies don’t rot with their feet in too much water during the Wet. We’re basing the raised beds on IBCs, those white plastic cubes with an aluminium cage around them. They have a tap in the bottom to let out excess water, they’re lightweight, and will keep out excess water if the back yard should flood.

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.07.09 PM

This is what we started with at 10am today. A riot of lush, sappy vegetation and weedy grass surrounding the three pods we’ve acquired (for free, I might add!).

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.07.54 PMHaving shifted the first pod out of the way, we had a fairly tedious hour or so of chipping up the grass, roots and weeds and disposing of them, since I don’t yet have a composting system. Down went firstly weed retardant, then weed matting, and then a layer of bark chips. Of course, the wind picked up and the weed matting started to fight back, hence the stones in corners.

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.07.37 PMThen we decapitated the first pod with an angle grinder and an old saw. The angle grinder dealt with the aluminium frame and the saw with the plastic. The top of the metal cage is also being kept to form a frame for shade cloth and insect netting. If I’m going to spend time and energy cultivating vegies, I don’t want my efforts to be reaped by the grasshoppers before I get a look in. The pod is now waist high, perfect for working in. I’ll have to make the edge safe, as there’s a lot of sharp metal points and edges, but I think some high density foam insulating tubing will do the job.

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.08.27 PM

Here’s how it’ll work. The bamboo canes in the corners are 1.80m (about 6ft) tall. Visualise that top frame draped in insect netting with a roof of shade cloth. I can lift the netting aside to work in the raised bed. The top of the frame is high enough that I can grow quite tall things, like broccoli, if I want to. The two rear stakes are cable tied to the fence to give more stability. The crossbars of the plastic top fit over the top of the frame and the top can be fixed in place if necessary to protect the vegies from torrential rain. A sort of vegiebrella… We have the pods slightly sloping downhill on one side, towards the drain tap, in case we need to let excess water out.

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.08.42 PMWe spent a bit of time to-ing and fro-ing this afternoon, since cutting the frame chewed up the angle grinder disks at an alarming rate and we had to get more. And we couldn’t get all the bark chips we wanted in one go, so a bit of time was wasted. But we’ll be back out there tomorrow. Ideally we’ll get both the other pods done, but even if it’s only one, it’s a good start.

Once they’re in position, we need some fist-sized stones to put in the bottom for drainage. On top of that will go tightly packed flakes of lucerne (alfalfa) hay, which will rot down over time and provide good nitrogen. On top of that, a layer of blood and bone, and then organic compost/soil mix. This will bring the planting level up to about a handswidth from the top edge. This year, it’s going to be seedlings. I haven’t got any seeds going because we were never sure when we were going to be able to get this done. And of course, I still need to organise the planting medium. So I’ll bite the bullet and pay the extra. Next year, though…

And then finally, finally, I can get my vegies going…

**Just a final thought. If you’re in a cold climate, these pods will keep the soil warmer than the ground in a frost, and you can drape the frame in clear plastic and/or horticultural fleece to create a warmer microclimate for an extended growing period.**

15 thoughts on “The Gardens of Chiconia 14

  1. tialys says:

    Great idea – I will pass it on to the gardener in our house which is not me! I am a ‘sitter in garden’ enjoying the view made possible by another’s hard work although I will float around with a pair of secateurs from time to time making it look as if I vaguely know what I’m doing.

    • katechiconi says:

      Every gardener needs an appreciative audience, so you’re fulfilling a vital role. The Husband is similar, but his favourite pastime is dealing out death to the grasshoppers, who have been in plague proportions recently. He’s also willing to do the heavy lifting, which is very handy!

  2. Those are the beginnings of veggie palaces!

    • katechiconi says:

      It looks elaborate, but is a hell of a lot cheaper than building a raised bed, and the frame will let me exclude all the x&@?#! insect life around here which plays havoc with growing anything juicy and tender. Like vegies. I’m going to start with three, and see how I do, and if it works out, I’ll try and squeeze in a couple more, but the space is tiny…

      • We call our back fence the Russian Front. You can kill the snails, but millions more keep coming over that fence from the neighbour’s backyard.

      • katechiconi says:

        I had that problem in NSW, but here it’s definitely grasshoppers, and the bloody gorgeous butterflies laying eggs on my avocado tree and big black hairy caterpillars munching their way through the baby leaves… Hence the Colditz-like arrangement for the future crops.

  3. dayphoto says:

    How really interesting…I always find it fun to see what is happening out in the garden world all around the world!!!


  4. Kirsten says:

    Very industrious 🙂

  5. EllaDee says:

    I showed the G.O. your garden posts #14 & #15, and he’s most taken with your use of IBCs for vege garden beds. We were going to buy a couple for Taylors Arm for water storage-transport if things get dire with the rainwater tanks, and now it looks like we’ll be buying several more, rather than buying the corrugated iron vege beds, or building them. The G.O.’s taken a print out of this post to work with him, so he can study it some more! So thank you, I doubt we would have never thought of this otherwise 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      If you like, I can email what we did and send you more photos? The IBCs come with different tubing cages, some with narrow section, some with wider, some round. Get the largest you can, as this will let you put in the bamboo canes to make the framework over the top. The ones we used had been for either truck wash or AddBlue, neither of which is toxic to plants, although you want to wash the truck wash one out well. You just nip off the top section, cage, plastic and all, with a large angle grinder, and then smooth the sharp edges of the tubing. I’ll be putting some insulating foam tubing over the top edge to protect myself when I’m reaching over. The biggest advantage is that you can open or close the tap to release or conserve water. K 🙂

      • EllaDee says:

        Thank you. It’s a truly brilliant option with numerous advantages. I think the G.O. got the gist of it but I’ll let you know if he needs more info 🙂

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