I decided that our small terrace beds needed a makeover as they just haven’t been working that well. While they ticked a lot of the Permaculture boxes in their location and access to sun and water it hasn’t been easy to access the back corners which has restricted what could be grown in them. What I’ll show you is how we transformed something fairly ordinary into something extraordinarily simple in no time or cost at all. All you need is a little bit of imagination.
I didn’t have a simple solution to our terrace bed problem but as the existing beds were made of stone I figured it was easier to just build on the base structure rather than dismantling it and starting again. We use sandstone a lot at our place firstly because it’s our local stone and we have access to quite a bit of it on our land. We also have a wonderful assistant who happens to be a whizz working with stone and he goes by the name of Uncle Robot, that’s my big brother Robert. We also live adjacent to the bush in Sydney (that’s ‘forest’ for those of you in the northern hemisphere!) which is a harbour for termites. So using stone where possible is a preference given that termites don’t like stone.
One morning when I was out walking the dogs, I came across a large pile of old hardwood fence palings stacked on the verge. I got thinking, as you do, that I could use those palings to increase the height of the small terrace beds. Knowing too well that those palings wouldn’t be there for long, I decided to back track and speak to the fence builder who happened to be on site. He was able to confirm that the palings were hardwood which are also more termite resistant but he also mentioned that the skip bin would be arriving within the next couple of hours.
Even though I hadn’t finalised a plan of how I was going to use them, I figured it was best to grab them while we could and worry about the design details later. They could always be cut up and used for fire wood if nothing else.
So the next morning we stacked up the back of Luke’s ute (‘pickup’ for those of you in the US and Canada!) and headed out to collect our booty.
It took a while to get our son Luke into gear but eventually he built three separate boxes and we’re very happy with the outcome. The whole area has been transformed into a keyhole system with greater access and better height. And better still didn’t cost a cent.
To chook-proof them (that’s ‘chicken’ for all of those not familiar with Australian vernacular!) I decided we would insert a small piece of PVC pipe in each corner, also collected from the local kerbside. The pipe acts as a sheath for a long piece of conduit which supports bird-safe netting and this stops our chooks from eating everything in sight and also prevents the dreaded white cabbage moth from eating out our brassicas throughout the winter months. I only wish I’d have thought of this idea before as I’ve discovered inserting the tubes is much easier at the construction stage rather than retrofitting.
We also decided to insert a worm tube into the middle of the largest bed. We already had a small collection of pre-loved clay pipes and the boys cut a few slots in the sides with an angle grinder which allow the worms to move in and out of the pipe. The idea is that they move into the pipe to feed on kitchen scraps we drop through the top of the pipe and then move out into the garden to strut their stuff and do what worms do. As worms are light-sensitive, a clay saucer seals the top and is only removed to insert more food. What a cheap and simple in-situ solution to worm farming!
The end result of our terrace bed makeover is three very productive beds and while they’re on the small side, they are functional, accessible and jam packed with all the goodness worms bring to your soil.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we’re continuing to expand this side of the garden and with Uncle Robot back on deck after a short hiatus, things are starting to move along nicely. We’re already loving what we’re seeing and will be sure to keep you posted as things progress.
Stay tuned for my next post on….the best ever toasted muesli (or ‘granola’ for all you aliens out there!)