Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Open Home - Sunday 18 October

Sustainable Living in Spreydon
The October open home in Spreydon was a great success, with over fifty people turning up to learn more about Elvira’s productive orchard and no-dig vegetable beds. Having a relatively large section – just under 1000m2 – has enabled Elvira to devote a large area of her garden to food production, while still allowing space for a wide border of native trees and shrubs. “When I bought it, the house was a ‘handyman’s dream’ and the garden was a big area of grass with a few new trees (tags still on them) planted strategically”, says Elvira. Twenty years later large native trees create a lush evergreen backdrop, contrasting beautifully with deciduous fruit trees and berry crops. Close to the house two large vegetable beds and a small glasshouse provide the family with year round produce.

No-Dig Yes-Mulch
To maintain the health and productivity of her trees, berries and vegetable beds, Elvira regularly mulches with compost, sheep manure and leaf mould. “I use a thick layer of leaves, mainly oak, which I collect from a kindergarten, parks and Church Square, Addington”. No organic matter leaves the property, old plants and weeds are either chopped up and left on the garden as mulch or are composted in a heap along with kitchen waste. Any prunings too woody to be applied directly are piled up at the back of the shed and left to slowly decompose.

To get seedlings off to a good start Elvira usually throws a small handful of compost, Zoodoo, sheep pellets or worm compost into the planting hole. Homemade seaweed brew also helps to boost growth and keep plants healthy. “I also dig in bokashi from time to time and have found it is great for brassicas’, says Elvira.

Tree Health
As well as regularly mulching her fruit and nut trees with compost, Elvira also underplants them with calendula and nasturtiums. Elvira successfully grows a diverse range of fruit and nut trees – peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, walnuts, hazelnuts, citrus and feijoas – as well as grapes, currants and berries. Mulching and companion planting keeps her plants free of disease. However, last year one of her ‘Gravenstein’ apples got a white fungus for the first time, so any tips on how to combat this would be much appreciated. She is currently trying a baking soda spray and has heard that diluted milk can also be used to combat fungal diseases.

Water Recycling
Elvira also showed just how easy recycling water can be. You don’t need a fancy grey water system, or even a network of pipes. Elvira simply places a large bowl in her kitchen sink to collect waste water which she then empties into the garden. “If you only use a small amount of detergent (Ecostore brand) you can safely use the dishwater to water plants”.

Plant Sale
Inspired by the popularity of Diana’s honey and grapes at her open home in March, committee members potted up a range of seedlings for sale on the day. There was an interesting array of plants on offer; purple sprouting broccoli, Argentinean tomatoes, lettuce ‘marvel of the four seasons’, to name but a few. The seedlings sold quickly and the sale proved to be a great fundraiser.

A big thanks to Elvira Dommisse for hosting the day’s event, a great afternoon was had by all.

Posted by Charlotte McHaffie