Since I've seriously begun to zero in on what I want, the sense of what I'm doing becomes clearer -- at least to me.
My template is mixed vegetable gardening -- cropping a large number of different vegetables in the same space.
To do this in the sub tropics and be imbued with the design logic of cottage gardening isn't a straight forward exercise because I'm growing a lot of unknowns. If I was simply planting standard kitchen garden fare I'd have some idea of what any one plant will or should do, but when you chase an eclectic mix of exotics --with many of them being vines -- the medley is sure to be a surprise.
In the traditional cottage garden, you layer and mix the plants by height. But in our warmer climate such certainties are undermined because of my preference for climbers, creepers, ramblers and tubers. I'm not into look -- despite the flowers -- so much as cohabitation. Planting and growing is about pushing and exploring the envelope.
En route you lose some of your soldiers...
But with each success -- and with each disaster -- the garden speaks to you.
Let us not presume that I am in control. Nor am I so smug to answer in the affirmative the question, "are we there yet?" The truth is that I have no real idea where I'm going.
It's improvisation -- a layering of what seems to be a succession of good ideas at the time.
This means I don't so much have one garden but several. Last year's. Last season's. Last month's. This week's...
While I've pursued many projects in this kitchen garden in way of experimentation, the overriding handicap of building it on sterile sand has forced me to be relentless in pursuit of moisture. If I had my time again, I'd start off differently by digging long trenches and filling them with manures before building the garden beds on top. Hindsight is useful like that, but once you are away you make the best out of what you've got....5 years later on.
But I keep returning to past activities and tweaking and re-applying them. Of late I've seriously gone back to harnessing my garden paths as mulch sponges. I keep layering paper and cardboard on the paths and throwing cut stuff on top, so that they become squishy. I may walk along each path only occasionally so it's not as though they're thoroughfares for traffic.
The irony is that rather than build up the beds, I dug down the paths. In sand you can do that.
While there is no pressing drainage need warranting raised beds -- I'm thinking that I should revisit the option. I'm not planning to raise the beds so much as add mounds to them.This is a Melanesian gardening habit, and the logic is beginning to register with me.
If I add mounds to the beds -- knolls -- I increase my ground surface area, and engineer an inclined plain down which plants can tumble or ramble without necessarily wallowing in damp. I'm finding that many of the plants I'm growing don't so so well on a flat surface. I've also worked out that if I locate a terracotta watering pot in the core of the knoll (like a volcano's vent) I can more efficiently irrigate the knoll than I would be able to do a flat garden bed.
According to the above graphic, this works. It works on paper....
So, in a sense, I'm thinking of raising up my terracotta pots as though they've been elevated by a wave of soil -- upon which they'll float.
I hate to say this as it seems bizarre, but my experience with mound gardening, thus far, suggests that plants have more choices. They can go up or down. Drink by going deeper or chasing the falling contour of the soil surface. Fruiting bodies resting on the sides of each knoll are less prone to fungal infection and rotting. Inside -- within the knoll/mound -- there is more room for tubers to grow and/or go deeper.And like a box of choclates, you can invest your knoll with different centres: rotting wood, manures, kitchen scraps, dead and buried cane toads.
While the mounds will work by dint of contour design alone, the embedded terracotta pots make for a stunning hardware addition. As a centerpiece, the pots' moisture offerings are more accessible to more plants so that their irrigating area increases.
The troughs between the knolls also serve to collect water as they function as gulleys. And running the length of each bed are the moisture retaining mulch sponge paths.
Now all I have to do is find -- or make -- the 'soil' to make these knolls happen....in places they have not existed before.One garden bed at a time.