Starting a kitchen garden…and then the dogs happened

So last weekend’s project included starting a kitchen garden. I’ve been growing herbs such as basil, coriander and parsley in pots over the years but haven’t expanded beyond that. Lately I’ve been reading about permaculture and my mind has been dreaming of big things and enterprises. But I’ve been encouraged by family to just start small. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms would say it’s just about taking one step.

We are currently renting a house so we’re cautious about how much we invest into gardening without a long-term plan to stay in the house. Recently my sister-in-law and her partner have been doing a garden redevelopment and no longer needed their garden box so they gave it to us. Yay. There is some space between an existing lemon tree and mandarin tree in our backyard where the garden box seemed to fix nicely.

We decided we wouldn’t fill the box entirely with soil partly because of cost but mostly we needed some way to keep out our two curly coated black retrievers. The soil beneath the garden box has lots of rocks and roots in it so removing it was one of our first tasks after breaking up the ground with a rake. We then added a bag of soil to the box and let it rest for a week. We then added two bags of chicken manure to the soil and worked it through. A gardening friend tells me having good soil is really important for vegetable gardening.

We then planted our vegetables we picked up from our local gardening conglomerate. We had purchased:

  • tray of lettuce
  • tray of spinach
  • tray of silverbeet
  • basil
  • tray of tomatoes
  • my gardening friend had also given me fennel, italian parsley, lemon thyme and oregano.
garden box
From back row to front: Lettuce, spinach and silverbeet. On the far right we’ve planted basil, oregano and fennel

My gardening friend had recommended I put sugarcane around the plants to help the soil retain the moisture. We decided to leave the front panel out of the garden box to give the plants enough sun but protect it from the dogs with some wire. (I was not sure it was going to keep the dogs out). Tim watered the plants and then we were satisfied with our Saturday afternoon gardening efforts.


On Sunday morning we went to church, did our grocery shopping and stopped into our local gardening conglomerate. Whilst preparing lunch in the kitchen Tim went outside to look in the garden box. As I was preparing lunch I looked out our screen door to the patio area where I noticed Tim standing with his ashen face. His hands were on his face and he just said ‘I’m so sorry’. At first I didn’t know what he was talking about and then I realised what he was saying. The dogs had managed to get into the garden!! ‘It’s probably best if you don’t look,’ he said.


All our work undone. The highly secure fence not so secure. We got on our hands and starting turning up soil to see if any plants were able to be rescued. We were able to save a lot of plants and we replanted the garden box and added the front panel and put the wire over the top of the box (like I had wanted in the first place!)


Despite the setback we still did some further gardening out the front of the house (and out of the dogs’ sight). We had planted a rosemary tree a couple of months ago which we left there and transplanted some strawberry plants from a pot to the ground.

So we are eagerly hopeful our efforts will be rewarded with some crops in 6-8 weeks time. We’ll keep you posted.

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