The middle garden is on the steepest part of the hill and contained the orchard, terraces, swales, chook pen, zigzag sawdust path, part of the access road to the bottom garden, and two large trees.
Over several months I dug a series of six terraces into the hillside. I was concerned the terraces would lead to greater erosion so I took steps to counter this possibility. I made sure they were not too wide – just wide enough for an access path and a row of trees. I designed them so that they drained backwards and into swales. I built channels to take water coming down the hill into swales or horizontally along the hillside. After disturbing the soil with my digging I encouraged the grass and dandelions to grow back as quickly as possible and I planted grass seed and I added rocks to the terrace wall to increase its structural integrity.
A deep trench was dug from the house, under the road down the east side of the middle garden to the bottom of the bottom garden for electric power, irrigation and to supply water for the ponds. The power would be for lighting and the pumping of water up the hill to the top pond and the top of the waterfall.
In addition to the electric cable, two rural pipes were placed in the trench. One rural pipe split into smaller pipes that went along the terraces to irrigate the fruit trees through drip lines – two to each tree. The other rural pipe supplied water to the ponds and to the bottom garden.
Drip irrigation was selected as the most efficient way of delivering water to the plants. It works by slowly taking a trickle of water to the root zone of plants, drop by drop, reducing evaporation and runoff. As the pressure will vary down a steep slope a series of pressure reduction valves and pressure compensating drippers were used.
I planted dwarfing varieties of fruit trees and where dwarfing varieties were not available planted regular fruit trees and kept them low by regular pruning. They would need to be espaliered, pruned in such a way that they grew along the length of the terrace.
Espaliering is training trees for easier management especially with regards to picking and netting against birds and other pests. Along the terrace above the fruit trees I cut in a pathway wide enough for a wheel barrow access to the trees.
To take advantage of the cold climate I selected deciduous fruit trees which require a long cold spell to set fruit. Dwarf varieties were chosen so that the fruit can be picked easily and nets can be used over the trees to act as a barrier against parrots which are a big problem in Bridgetown.
I calculated how far apart to plant my fruit trees – the horizontal tree spacing. The distance was based on the shape and size of the mature tree and its root system after several seasons of growth and pruning. Most of the trees were planted about 6 metres apart. I calculated how far apart to place my terraces – the vertical tree spacing? I did this by working out the angle of the hill and the angle of the sun at different times of the year and depending on these I calculated out how much light would be getting to the tree. As the hill is south facing a shadow cast over a fruit tree by the hill or other nearby trees would obviously affect growth and productivity.
The steepness of the hill varied throughout the property with the greatest incline at the top of the hill and the least incline towards the bottom. This was taken into consideration when the tree spacing was determined. (See diagram) At the less steep area at the bottom of the garden I decided to build the waterfall and ponds. I reasoned that they would function well here but be more stable than on a very steep hillside. In addition I saw the boundary fence at the end of the garden would be a good place for a row of trees that, when mature would act as a sun trap creating a micro climate for the area around the ponds. The ponds would also help by reflecting sun light into the trees which would bounce back into the area.
Above each tree and at key points down the hillside I dug shallow depressions or channels into the ground to catch water that came down the hill during heavy rains and direct it toward swales, holes dug into the ground which collected the water. The swales vary in size from small ones situated directly above the fruit trees to larger ones at the bottom of the hill where most of the water collects. Some of the swales had pipes built into them to allow water to escape when they become full. The pipes went under the sawdust pathway to prevent the sawdust from being washed off the path and down the hill during heavy rain.
The swales manage water run-off and increase rainwater infiltration. They do this by collecting the rain water and slowly releasing it to the trees or in a more controlled way down the hill. By slowing down the speed of rainwater swales help reduce soil erosion and reduce damage to the path and structures at the bottom of the hill. While most of the channels function to direct water into swales for temporary collection some of the channels slow the water flowing down the hill by taking it down the hill obliquely sideways in a zigzag fashion. By spreading water horizontally across the landscape and along the contour line they also facilitate runoff infiltration into the soil.
A dangerously heavy rainfall may happen only once every five, ten or twenty years. Whatever the frequency it is important that I am prepared for it. When rain falls on my hillside it moves with ease down the access road running down the east side of my garden and from my neighbour’s property which is the shape of a natural valley pointing directly towards my garden. A heavy rain will produce a sizeable body of water coming down the hillside. Reducing water flow and speed may prevent serious damage to the ponds and reduce erosion. Water management involves building infrastructure that slows the speed of water flow, directs it away from vulnerable structures and allow it to safely leave my property.
When I moved into the house a small house was positioned next to a sand pit in the middle of a lawn on the top garden. It had obviously been a child’s cubby house and part of a play area for the previous tenants. It was just big enough for one or two people if they remained seated. I thought it could be useful.
So I partly dismantled it and with the help of a small group of friends moved it to a new location half way down the hill under a tree in the middle garden. Over a few weeks I reassembled it, installed a table and bench and new clear plastic windows. Then I repaired the roof and painted it. I converted into a very small office overlooking the river.
- Plant 1 Apple (Mature Apple)
- Plant 2 Dwarf Lemon
- Plant 3 Dwarf Nectarine
- Plant 4 / Dwarf Lime (Patio’ variety)
- Plant 5 Orange Blood Maltese
- Plant 6 Lime (Red Centred Lime)
- Plant 7 Plum (Mature Plum – old)
- Plant 8 Lemonade
- Plant 9 Cherry (Mature Cherry)
- Plant 10 Fig (Black Genoa variety)
- Plant 11 Passionfruit
- Plant 12 Gooseberry bushes (2)
Row 2 B
- Plant 1 Peach (Trixzie ‘Pixzee’ Dwarf)
- Plant 2 Nectarine (Trixzie ‘Nectazee’)
- Plant 3 Pear (Trixzie ‘Pyvert’ )
- Plant 4 Peach (Valley Red Dwarf)
- Plant 5 Nectarine (Tuscany Dwarf)
- Plant 6 Apple (Trixzie Dwarf Gala)
- Plant 7 Prune
- Plant 8 Mandarin (Hickson)
Row 3 C
- Plant 1 Grape (2 varieties)
- Plant 3 Fig (White Genoa)
- Plant 4 Grapefruit (Sweetie)
- Plant 5 Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
- Plant 6 / Cherry (Trixzie ‘Cherree’)
Row 4 D
- Plant 1 Mulberry
- Plant 2 Gooseberry
- Plant 3 Pear
- Plant 4 Orange Citrus (Sinensis)
- Plant 5 Apricot (Moorpark)
- Plant 6 Plum (Japanese)
- Plant 7 Apple (Dwarf Pink Lady ‘Pinkabelle’)
Row 5 E
- Plant 1 Walnut
- Plant 2 Currant / Red Dutch
- Plant 3 Hazelnut / White American
- Plant 4 Almond
- Plant 5 Hazelnut Lambert variety
- Plant 6 Astro – Bush Plant
Row 6 F
- Plant 1 Olive (Olea europaea)
- Plant 2 Peach
- Plant 3 Redcurrant
- Plant 4 Blackcurrant (Baldwin)
- Plant 5 Blackcurrant (White bud)
- Plant 6 Raspberry (Autumn Fruiting varieties)
- Plant 7 Raspberry (Summer fruiting varieties)