I am very excited this week because I have just had the wires and poles put in so that I can espalier citrus trees. I have never espaliered anything in my life so it will be a challenge to make sure I don’t cut the wrong branches off. I have planted an orange tree, a lemonade tree and a lemon tree between four poles with strawberries beneath and verbenas behind. It is a way of maximising the fruit and minimising the space which is an issue for me as I have a small block. I have no idea whether oranges will ripen in southern Tasmania but I have had success with a Tahitian lime (in a pot next to a brick wall) so you never know.
I embarked on this experiment as part of my plan to have an edible garden on a relatively small block in the suburbs. But I wanted a lovely restful garden, as well as one which provides food and habitat for native birds and animals and has fragrance as well. So the challenge is to have a garden that looks like a lovely space to be enjoyed whilst being very productive.
I am fully aware that edible and habitat are actually contradictory, made more so when the resident brush possum got to my apricots before I did but nevertheless it is worth a try. I really want chooks as well but I am away too much to look after them.
All these ideas about designing a garden with edible plants and creating habitat are a work in progress and a collaboration between a wonderful Cygnet based garden designer Catherine Shields and myself. I didn’t want you to think that I am a gardening guru… far from it! I know what I want and Catherine helps me achieve it. For example she worked out what is needed for seed eaters as opposed to nectar feeders as well as what attracts butterflies or provides habitat for lizards and importantly what would grow on my block amongst the food plants. I would have just gone on planting bits and pieces, here and there on a trial and error basis.
I also rely on advice from people who have grown vegetables all their lives. I ran into Tasmanian gardening legend David Stephens at the Hobart farmers’ market and was delighted when he explained that the reason my broccoli was bolting to seed was that I had planted it at the wrong time of the year. I needed to plant it now for the spring, not in the late spring for the summer when the warm weather sends it straight to seed. That’s one of the wonderful things about gardening, you meet great people who love nature and food and who are generous with advice. I’m hoping for a great crop of broccoli as a result.