Dollar Diet: Week 18, how to make a sandwich garden

This was the first week in months that I overspent our grocery budget.

Our local supermarket had fish going super-cheap so I grabbed (what, a bunch? A school?) several trays, and failed to factor in other expensive purchases that also had to be made this week, like dishwasher tablets and batteries.  I think I’ve just gotten so used to having lots of wriggle room in the budget thanks to the Dollar Diet that I clearly went a bit overboard.  Oh, and as soon as I got home, feeling contrite about my slight (only a few dollars) overspend, I realised that I’d forgotten a couple of key items.  D’oh.  Oh well, next week I will have to seriously underspend so we get that important wriggle room back again.

D has been hard at work doing manly, D-I-Y stuff around the place.  He resurrected the chicken coop that has been sitting vacant on our property for quite some time.  The previous owner did have some chickens once, but judging by the state of the coop it was clearly some time ago.  The coop is now ready for chickens and we will be adding some feathery friends to our family within the next few weeks.

D and his protege J have finished the fence that cuts off the front yard from the back (to corral my kids), and have completed the design of the gate.  I will post a picture of the finished result later.

I am rather energised about my latest project – creating a ‘sandwich’ vege garden.  I  like gardening but would describe myself as an erratic amateur.  I tend to go through phases of doing heaps in the garden and then ignoring it for several weeks.  It’s been really tricky to do any gardening with my little ones about, but now Chip is crawling and LOVES being outside, it is now possible for me to actually get some gardening done.  The Dollar Diet has the added advantage of making me spend more time at home.  When I feel at a loose end, the garden beckons instead of the shops.  And with the price of produce ever increasing, it makes sense (or cents) to have this as my main hobby.

If you are keen on low-fuss, cheap, working-with-nature gardening I highly recommend a book called Green Urban Living by New Zealander, Janet Luke.  She’s a friggin’ genius, and her book is a treasure trove of information and really, really cool and frugal ideas.  This is my go-to book for all my gardening queries.  Anyway, I got the idea for the sandwich garden – and many other ideas we use on our property – from Janet’s book.

Our home came with a small vege garden.  It’s strangely small considering we have a 1/4 acre section to work with, and is certainly not big enough to keep my family in vegetables.  The garden is also stupidly placed right in a corner which means it is in shadow for several hours a day thanks to the fences.  You can see it here – somewhat depleted due to harvesting some of the plants.  The soil where we are is very sandy, so digging down into it isn’t really the best option.  Raised beds are the way to go.

The original vege garden

The original vege garden

We are blessed to have a lot of land.  Our backyard is really big.  Here’s a shot of it from Sausage’s frugal birthday party this past Summer.  To take the picture below I was not even standing right at the very back of our yard.

Tots in Tawhero Land

Tots in Tawhero Land

I am loath to use up too much of our lovely green space while my kids are little and move at only one speed – FAST.  I like the idea of them having plenty of room for backyard games like cricket. (Once they are older, I have big plans for that space…)  For now, my garden will be up against a fence but at least this one is slatted, and due to its location it will only overshadow the garden at the end of the day.

the new improved location

The new improved location.  See?  Not so much shade

Anyway, I am using the ‘sandwich’ technique to make a raised garden.  I love this method because it’s cheap and lazy.  No digging. You simply put down several layers of newspaper (or something similar) where you want the garden to be, and wet the layers.  This will act like weed matting and will kill any grass or weeds.  Then you add layers of organic matter until you reach the desired height: compost, grass clippings, dead leaves, seaweed, vege scraps etc.  You can use all sorts of materials to edge the garden – rocks, glass bottles, old crockery, you name it.  This is dead easy garden creation.  It’s frugal too as it mostly uses materials you have to hand already, or those that are easily scavenged for free.

First we went to the beach to get some driftwood to use as edging.  There is a particular spot on Whanganui’s Castlecliff Beach where driftwood likes to go to die.

Free wood at Castlecliff Beach

Free wood at Castlecliff Beach

Getting the wood was a joint effort

Getting the wood was a joint effort

Once home, I spaced out the garden and laid down the first layer: newspaper.

Step One

Step One

After giving each layer of newspaper a good soak it was time to add more organic matter on top.

Note to self: organic matter does not include one's children...

Note to self: organic matter does not include one’s children…

We threw on some of our feijoas that were starting to rot, and put on a layer of compost.

Step 2

Step 2

Then it was time for more organic matter.  It’s Autumn here so dead leaves are in abundance.  We’d given our bay tree a haircut so those leaves went on first, followed by leaves from the deciduous trees on our property.  Free mulch, brilliant.DSCN0349

Step Three

Step Three

I did one more layer of compost.

The last step

The last step

This last layer of compost is weed free organic compost from a garden centre which I got for half price ($13 for two bags).  The layers will slowly break up, resulting in rich soil that is perfect for growing veges.

I estimate the whole thing will have taken four hours of labour, and we now have a bigger vege garden in a much improved location with rich soil.  For $13. I am currently growing seedlings which will be ready to transplant into my new garden in a few weeks.  Then, fingers crossed, in a few more weeks we will be munching on lots of home grown winter veg.

I plan on getting more fruit trees (we are fortunate to live in a very temperate climate) and I have plans for more vege gardens.  For instance, our front yard is nowhere near as big as the back, but it is still a decent size and like most people’s it is very underutilized.  I plan to make this my ‘community garden’ and will grow things here to give away to our neighbours and local food bank.  I doubt I will get around to this soon – we still have to sell our second car which is currently residing in said front yard – but this one will be more decorative than my sandwich garden and will therefore require more planning.

Would you try making a sandwich garden?

5 thoughts on “Dollar Diet: Week 18, how to make a sandwich garden

  1. Pingback: Dollar Diet: Week 20, counting the change | Tots in Tawhero

  2. Pingback: Dollar Diet: Week 21 – Simple dinner parties | Tots in Tawhero

  3. Pingback: Dollar Diet: Week 48, off with a roar! | Tots in Tawhero

  4. Pingback: Sandwich Garden update | Tots in Tawhero

  5. Pingback: Dollar Diet: What I have learnt | Tots in Tawhero

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