Secrets of Turning a Unused Spa Into a Vegetable Paradise

1 Dec

A while ago we realised that our gorgeous big Leopard Tree was strangling the underground pipes around our inground spa. The options were to dig up all the concrete, attack the roots and replace the damaged pipes, or forget about having a spa. We figured that the tree was here long before us and provides us with fantastic shade in summer, so the spa lost out.

With that decision made, it was a case of what to do with it? Fill it in? This seemed like a permanent solution, and as we don’t intend to stay here forever, so we decided to create a temporary solution which will not only enable future owners of the property to resurrect the spa if they wish to, but gives us a wonderful vegetable garden. Yes, we built on top.

First we drained the spa and covered it with heavy timber sleepers – leaving small gaps in between. Then we coverd the slats with carpet and positioned the circular corrugated iron “fence” on top. Then came the laborious task of filling it up. Our new bed is in the back corner of our sloping block, and we have no vehicular access, so it was hundreds of trips up the steps carrying buckets of straw, soil and manure.

When it was full, and we’d topped it up a couple more times after heavy rains compacted the soil, it was time to plant. We purchased a cute little Black Russian tomato seedling from the Mt Gravatt farmers markets and planted it right in the middle. Within a few weeks it had skyrocketed into a giant. We continued to add extensions to the stake until we realised we’d never reach any fruit – so it was time for some lateral thinking – literally! So my resourceful husband crafted a couple of tepee structures and placed these either side to train and support the heavy laterals and trusses.

And still it kept on growing! We were astounded by it’s prolific growth, so one day we lifted the cover off the steps at the front of the spa and peered underneath, and sure enough, our tomato plant had it’s roots dangling in the water which has accumulated in the spa after each rain. Now this water as you can imagine is rich with all the nutrients which have leached down through the carpet and through the timber gaps. What we have accidentally created is a type of hydroponic raised garden bed! We’ve now purchased a little electric pump which we use to pump this gorgeous mixture back onto the raised bed and into the surrounding garden beds and everything is growing like crazy and looking just gorgeous.

raised garden bed

The huge Black Russian Tomato Plant takes over our raised garden bed

We’ve added a small ornamental windmill which generates a soft breeze and circulates air around the plant which in turn helps keeps the leaves dry and reduce the incidence of disease.

We’ve also added some lettuce, spring onions, basil and bok choy and peppers. It so wonderful to nip out and pick our dinner just before we eat it.

Now let me tell you, those Black Russian tomatoes are to die for. We’ve given many away to friends and they all agree that they’re full of flavour, juicy and don’t leave that slight acidic aftertaste in your mouth like the tasteless hybrid varieties you get in the supermarkets. They are wonderful on toast for breakfast and in salad rolls and hamburgers because they hold their shape and juices without making the bread soggy.

So here’s cheers to our wonderful raised / hydroponic garden bed. Long may it continue to nurture gorgeous home grown tomatoes and other veggies!