We are now in year two of what Bill Mollison describes as Phases of Abundance. As it happens, this seems to be quite a naturally occurring process in the evolution of our garden, rather than a step by step following of Uncle Bill’s guidelines. There is of course an inherent kind of logic to it all, which is why I guess it has been broken down consciously into each of the three general phases.
The original mention of this with regards to our garden was in a post I wrote in October 2017. Back then the garden was in the very, very early stages of establishment. We had not yet moved into the house and the garden was only a very modest summer garden to ensure we had something to pick when eventually we did move in later in mid-summer, January 2018. And even then, the garden was a cosmetic treatment to the massive grave of timber, paperwork, green material, old rags and odd pieces of wood from carpentry jobs that lay at the base of it all some several feet down.
So to refresh the mind on the subject. Here is a quick break-down of each of the Three Phases.
Year One: An Abundance of Species (Tillellan 2017/2018)
Lots of plantings in order to find what will grow best at the site and with the conditions.
This is where our garden began from its initial plantings in late 2017 and into and beyond 2018 until the present. There were indeed losses and some great successes. Very few surprises however as what worked at our previous garden (above) tended to work in the new location, if not better, given the slope of the block. It was still a lean year however as we built up seed numbers and had a few casualties due to lack of adequate water until we got that issue solved. Once we were living in the new house there was more consistency and also we had access to the greywater system. The house too was evolving and work was still being carried out.
Starting from scratch again the early garden looked like this. Mainly edible vegetables and greens to get us by a little.
Year Two: An Abundance of Propagation Material (Tillellan 2019)
Some plants won’t survive the transition. Once the plantings that have shown endurance and resilience have started to establish themselves you can then use them to propagate further plants to build the site up. This can be done quite cheaply.
In order to establish the significantly larger sized garden (in comparison to our previous garden area) I had already started various cuttings before we moved. Throughout 2018 it was a matter of critical observation to see which of these plants favoured the new site conditions. The extra slope means more sunlight, but it also comes with sandy, dry, coastal conditions. So far the pioneer plants of sugar cane, canna lily, acacia, arrowroot and even ground covers like pumpkins, chilacayote and watermelons are all doing rather well given the good drainage and full sun for the majority of the day. With adequate water the bananas are doing well too, despite our southern, coastal locale. Extra cuttings of buddleia, geranium and honeysuckle were made as these did well at the other garden and attracted wildlife. The wormwood is doing well too. Withstanding a hot, dry summer with very little water and springing back into fresh, robust life from the first decent rain shower.
What isn’t really openly stated in Bills Mollison’s phases is that we were not only building up our plant material, but also our soil. Given the block was 100% coastal sand I didn’t hesitate to add whatever organic material I could find. Cardboard, paper, old cloth, pruning waste, other garden refuse that would normally go to council stockpiles. I only bought a small quantity of meadow hay because it was delivered at a ridiculous price and was more opportunistic than planned, but aside from that there is too much of a surface to deal with to buy in a great quantity of anything. So it’s a slow process, but I have a few ideas to fast track it over time. In the meantime the pioneer plantings of acacia and tagasaste will ensure a future crop of mulch material, whilst enhancing the soil in the meantime through general leaf and flower fall.
Something to bare in mind is that our animal inputs are pretty low at the moment. We have a number of guinea pigs and rabbits. Yet to come are the chickens. When we add them, from past experience, things will really start to speed up also.
Year Three and on: An Abundance of Yield
From here we build upon the successes of the previous couple of years and await the further establishment of some of the larger trees species as they grow and mature. Vegetables that have been propagated will now hopefully be yielding and would have also hopefully been propagated further to increase quantity.
In anticipation of the further establishment of the garden we have potted fruit trees ready in waiting. From time to time these have been re-potted as necessary. The apples all seem to be doing well and so do the plums. This last summer many of them fruited. In addition we have found apple seedlings growing in various places – the result apple cores that the Little Fellas dutifully discard into the garden mulch.
The added extra to this is aquaculture. In the long term plan there is a reasonably sized pond about mid way up the block. This is probably some years off, but the beginnings of filtering our greywater and irrigating the top of the block are already underway and after a few modifications during summer, are doing really well. I added a bilge pump so that we could hand water with a hose rather than by watering can and I have a low pressure sprinkler which I plan to test in the near future.
Extra notes on planned tree species.
Even various seeds from our kitchen are saved and planted out. I have an ongoing collection of avocado seeds which I have putaside to propagate. These can be quite easily grown in the garden as they sprout from compost piles and even from the garden itself if kitchen scraps have been buried. I have found however that one of the more successful ways to get them started so that I can plant them into pots or in situ without disturbing their delicate tap root too much is with the worm farm. I put them into our worm café set up usually the second tier down just on top of the vermicompost. In this way, as is customary for avocadoes, they send their tap root down first before showing signs of the seed splitting in readiness for stalk growth. Growing them in the worm farm gives them the moisture they need, the warmth and the beneficial microbial activity, plus I can get to them after regular checks, when they are ready. Being that they have a small developing tap root and can easily be plucked out and moved elsewhere.
Our bananas dropped in number a little with the move, but of the remaining half a dozen or so they are looking small, but healthy. After a brief spell in the garden I have transplanted some into large containers for growing out in the courtyard against retaining walls. I am confident that they will thrive in this area.
I was a little unsure about the Chestnuts given the size I have seen some of them grow to over in the vicinity of Denmark. Having seen some other more local examples of trees that have been kept to a workable height I am sure there will be a place in the garden for these up on the slopes. We have a small collection in pots presently.
Tamarillo did well at the other garden and as long as they are given a nice sheltered spot, should do well here also.
Along with the gradual build up of soil on the block as we progress through the phases, the other element that is also building in volume and diversity, is the wildlife. Birds were always present, even when the block was ‘levelled’. They are however spending more and more time in the garden now that there is an abundance of perching sites and food. Skink numbers are building up after many years. A neighbour did say he had been trapping them for years and relocating them to the local golf course, but had stopped doing that. This is a likely reason for having breeding pairs in the garden now. Smaller skink species are ever present as are frogs which are also building in numbers. I have said before that the garden is patrolled by skinks and birds during the day, and a veritable amphibian army at night.