Our new netted veggie patch

It's been on the wish list since we moved in but there has been so much else to do in the garden that I have only just got around to making a veggie garden.

The patch is 3m x 3m and is covered with an arched tunnel net to protect our plants from chickens, blackbirds, possums and anything else that wants to steal our yummy veggies.

Step 1 - clearing the grass and weeds

The patch is built mostly over where there was a previous veggie patch and partly over some of our "lawn". It was much harder than I thought it would be to dig all of the grass and weeds out of the patch.

The girls were constantly there helping me and grabbing all of the juicy worms that I kept digging up. They are quick and not that bright so a few times they were lucky they didn't get a garden fork through them.

Wherever possible, I dug the grass up in blocks and used it to fill in the holes where we had tree stumps removed earlier in the year. There were about six of these around the yard and when they were all full I moved grass to some of the bare patches that had until recently been covered with leaves. Here is one of the patches - clearly visible now but these should mostly be pretty hard to find in a month or so.

While I was doing all of the digging there was quite an unpleasant smell, like dog food, coming from somewhere. It lasted for days and I assumed it was the neighbours' festering swimming pool but eventually Miranda worked out that it was the pear tree. It's kind of pretty but produces small, grainy pears that aren't particularly edible.

Step 2 - adding in the compost

I added in the contents of two compost bins - probably close to 500 litres of compost - and the ash from the fireplace. One of the compost bins was mostly grass and leaves and had been airing for about six months. The other was mostly kitchen waste and was still in the bin.

I had lots of help adding and mixing the compost. Sofia wanted to find the worms...

...and the girls were there to mix it all in and eat the bugs.


Step 3 - building the chicken proof cage

There are many different designs on the internet and I'm not convinced that they all work. We settled on arches of poly pipe with a bird net stretched over the top. We haven't gone with any chicken wire around the base at this stage as we don't have wallabies in our backyard - and have only once seen one in our front yard.

We had a plan that we found on the web for netted tunnels using poly pipe and adapted this to our site. The plan had an arch every two metres but our patch was three metres long so we put one every 1.5 metres. I cleared rubbish and grass from around the patch, then added the three star droppers on each side. The ground is reasonably level along the sides but isn't level between the two sides, so it was important to get the droppers on each side level. We decided it didn't matter if the two sides weren't quite level with each other. First I got two droppers level (almost).

Then I used a long piece of wood as a guide to where the third dropper needed to be, then checked that it was close enough afterwards

Once everything was in place, putting the arches and net up was the easy part. First we had to cut the pipe into six metre lengths.

Then the arches went up (there are no photos of this process as photographer Miranda was helping). It's pretty simple though - just slide the poly pipe over the dropper on each side and pull it down as far as it will go and make sure the arches look roughly even. Then hop up on a ladder for a better view of how the arches are sitting. They were all pretty level with each other and form a nice tunnel shape for the net.

The net was just as easy. We used a 10m x 10m net which is a little too big but the next size down would have been too small. We laid the net down in front of the arches then pulled it over the first one.

The net easily unfurled as I pulled it over the other two arches and down to the ground at the back. It was even easier than it looks.

We put a few bricks around the base to make sure it doesn't blow away. Originally we had planned for the berries (along the right side of the patch in this picture) to be outside of the net but as we tried to put the net between the arches and the net it seemed easier to just put the net outside the berries and this way they are also protected. Now it's almost ready to go with just a bit more tidying up and pegging down of the net required.

Step 4 - plant it and watch it grow

The plan for this year is just to get some stuff growing as we are a bit late and disorganised, and then give some more thought to what we grow next year. Hopefully this weekend we'll get onto it...

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