D is for Dirt

Or soil, as we call it in Australia, though you would certainly get your hands dirty if you work it.

Most of the trees in my urban orchard are planted in containers, so I don’t have the pleasure of working in the dirt too often.  Previously a car space, the soil is under a slab of cemented gravel so I grow my trees in pots.

In my part of Sydney, near the harbour, we’re on sandstone hills– to keep moisture in the ground and to prevent nutrient run-off can be a battle.  So it’s almost easier in some ways to panzai 盤栽 and follow the Chinese tradition of cultivation in containers.

Nature does it very well here.  You can see giant figs and magnificent angophora (a red ‘gum’ tree) clinging to cliffs in tiny pockets of dirt on the rocky shores surrounding Sydney Harbour.  Their wind sculpted trunks and branches a testament to their struggle against the elements and their tenacity to survival.

In my containers I want my fruit trees to thrive, not just to survive.  For my efforts I want to be rewarded with fruit, so what nature does not provide, I must give – a premium quality potting mix, replenishment of organic matter, nutrients and water –all of which may escape through the drainage holes in the pots; drainage that is vital so that the containers would not become waterlogged and drown the trees.  So watering becomes an art of balance.

That is the price one pays for the desire to replicate nature, in the absence of Dirt.

http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s4072376.htm – a video (4:33) about my urban orchard on ABCTV

About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
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