Saturday, September 30, 2006

Garden work

I've been spending every spare moment on the food part of the garden with my big fork, carving off chunks of the hill and reshaping it into raised beds. The soil is going to need a lot of compost and organic matter to change it from hard, light brown lumps, into something fertile.

Some little girls from the housing estate next door came to chat, and they observed to me, "You are a hardworking person". I wondered guiltily if they would say the same thing if they saw me hard at work on a few drinks afterwards.

There is a distinct raised bed in the making on the left. That pile of weeds will have to be processed into compost and returned to the soil.

The same raised bed with the chicken-cage fence next to it, moved from the old allotment.

Another view

I wish this hole were on our property but in fact it's the new pond at H's school. It doesn't have a liner but it holds the water well. This is just rainwater, with nothing else added. The soil looks similar to ours, so I think I'll only have to dig a hole, and we'll have a pond. Something about this size, outside my office window would be perfect.

School 'biotope'. Looks like a 'pond' to me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Garden planning

I do like little pots of water plants

Okay, this post is going to be a flight of gardening fancy.

The whole plot will be fenced with some sort of green barrier. Besides solar panels and water butts, Matsuyama apparently gives generous subsidies for hedges (it's good to have a builder who tells you these things). I favour dwarf bamboo of some clumping variety, as opposed to one that runs, but nobody believes such a thing exists. Research is required. Besides being hardy, bamboo would furnish me with useful canes for other garden functions.

The area around the house is going to be turf of some sort, maybe with bunnies on it to keep it short. More research required here.

I'm thinking of a screen of fruit trees between the leisure garden and the vegetable plot. Candidates include various citrus trees bearing fruit at different times during the winter; sweet chestnut; olives; and blueberries. I would like a fig tree near my office window so I can enjoy its scent, but I'm assured that the roots would burrow into the foundations. According to my friend and permaculture adviser Takatsuki-san, the fig should be banished to my uncle's plot up the hill that is bounded on all sides by concrete.

I've been loitering around various allotments over quite a wide area, eyeing up other people's plots. No doubt I've been taken for a potential tomato and eggplant thief. One allotment owner actually asked me quite abruptly what my business was, looking at his rows. (Actually though, I did discover that allotment-fancying is quite a pastime among the 40-60 set in Japan. In front of a particularly well-kept plot in Dogo, I spent several minutes with another admirer of vegetables discussing what a fine garden this was.) Pictures of the Dogo allotment below. The bamboo fencing and seat were particularly stylish touches.

The man had some real wizardry with integrating his shrubs and his climbers:

So now my task is reproduce this sort of thing on our patch. To this end I took my big fork and began levelling the useless hill at the far end of our land. After about 3 hours of forking, I had got this far:

This is maybe one fifth of the task I suppose. It should be a nice feature when it's done. After my forking it felt really good to get into the onsen on the way home.

This corner of my favourite brewery in Dogo is the sort of thing I'd like to aim for; interesting pots full of carefully tended greenery, some of it herbal or edible. Actually, they could have taken things a bit further, with bigger pots and some taller plants.

Inspecting the ground - a boring matter

Before deciding on the right kind of foundation, it's necessary to drive a spike into the soil and find out how hard it is. So a young man with a pile-driving/drilling machine with his trousers not on properly came by and drilled holes in each corner of the floor plan and one in the middle.

On many building sites apparently, you can drill down about 6 metres before you hit rock. In our case, rock was hit at about 4 metres, which is a good sort of sign. Since our land is a little scraping off a large mountain, this is not really surprising. Many people choose low lying land that is just accumulated silt.

However, although the ground in general was quite hard, there was a bit of a soft spot in a middle layer at one of the corners. So the hole company recommended that instead of a footing foundation (a kind of buried wall essentially), we have a slab foundation that will be resistant to sinking in one place. This will be a little more expensive, but we have budgeted for it.

This inspecting the ground was supposed to have been something of an event, and I was urged to make haste on the way, lest we arrive late and miss something. But as somebody who has spent a good deal of time inspecting the ground in one way or another, I knew that it's not something to get excited about. In fact, it can be quite a boring matter.