Helen moved to Crafers in the Adelaide hills 26 years ago (1991) and took us through the long process of preparing and planting her dream garden.
The house block was hilly, rocky, narrow, and too small to enable a vegetable garden to be successfully established. The spaces around the house were all unsuitable for vegetables because of the lack of available sunlight. In 2011, Helen managed to negotiate with her neighbour to purchase a narrow (yet again) strip of land at the end of her existing house block, and then began the long process of clearing the tangle of brambles, weeds and some of the old dead tree remains, and planning the garden layout.
The block was on the side of a hill, and the soil turned out to be full of (hidden) rocks. Undeterred, Helen stockpiled all the uncovered rocks, and in the process of building the garden path structure, used every one of the uncovered rocks for shoring up the adjacent terraced beds. An interesting feature of Helen's garden paths is that they in many respects they follow the land contours, and so very gentle gradients are involved, making the garden navigable by older or infirm people. As she says - she regards this feature as an insurance for her old age - ensuring that she'll still be able to work (or just walk) in her garden for many more years! The paths themselves then dictated the shapes and size of all the garden beds. About 70 square metres of rock wall were built.
Huge amounts of blackberries were dug up, and where necessary, poisoned with "Roundup", and old trees and bushes were removed.
Quite small areas were planted initially - with only one bed being tackled each year. Chicken manure was combined with the soil, and straw mulch added for the first crop of tomatoes.
Some "fruit bramble" areas were added (Helen discussed the need to espalier these, using horizontal growing canes tied to a support frame so that vertical fruiting shoots were encouraged.)
Talked about growing perennial chillies (Var. Rococo) Sounds like a good choice for (almost) year round fruit! Grows a big range of tomatoes, and prefers the smaller fruit varieties because of their tendency to mature earlier, whereas the larger (Beefsteak for instance) is more likely to fail to fully ripen in the hills areas.
She uses and recommends "Vege Net" to protect from birds, heavy rain, frost and hail, and winds. She uses it on her tomatoes to protect against sun scald.
Most of her garden is watered using miniscape drip piping, with automatic controllers. Some with single runs, and others set up as a grid over the complete bed. In the interest of minimising blockages, she recommends use of "Flush valves" and "Vacuum breakers" to stop ingress of grit into the fine capillaries when the system is switched off.
Helen's larger tomatoes are supported by 100mm square mesh sheet bent into a 2M high tube. Escaping shoots are tucked back in to the mesh system, and no tying is used.
Over the ensuing years, with continual mulching and fertilising, the productivity go each bed has improved. We understand that the complete new garden area is now full of veggies and productive trees.