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30 September 2007

Vegetable gardening

We find the most difficult thing to manage in our garden is the continuity of supply. We go alright for a while, then it all falls apart. Currently the garden looks bare because we thought we still had a bit to go before the warm weather, then all of a sudden it was warm. Pfffft! The seeds weren't even sown! So a couple of weeks ago, I set to sowing seeds in pots and trays and in the garden. Some in the garden are starting to come up and the tray seeds are almost ready to pot on now. But we are having to buy capsicums and tomatoes - ugh. Store bought tomatoes are not good.

Above is an overview of the garden taken yesterday morning. In the first garden (that's a bird feeder that looks like it's in the middle of the garden, but isn't) we have radishes and the last of Hanno's kale. At the end of this garden we've planted Golden Nugget pumpkin. Like most hot weather gardeners, we have water containers everywhere.

This garden has some silverbeet (swiss chard), capsicums (peppers) and bok choy (chinese cabbage). At the end of this garden are carrots, french radishes, beetroot, eggplant, two different lettuces and celery. In the garden behind there are potatoes under straw, a lone pineapple and one of the last cabbages. Oh, and a clump of old fashioned nasturtiums - a yellow one with red splashes. It's been left there so I can collect seeds from it. That row of green, in the next garden behind the potatoes, are blue lake beans. I've just been out watering the garden before the sun hits it and noticed the first of the potatoes are coming up. They're Dutch Creams.

The Richmond Green Apple cucumber is growing nicely with the first flowers just starting to form. This is a delicious old Australian variety that was very popular when I was growing up.

The silverbeet freak. This silverbeet is almost a metre (3') tall. It's the only one in the old crop of silverbeet to grow this high. I wish I could collect seeds from this little beauty but silverbeet never flowers here.

We've harvested cabbages from these bare spaces, just a few remain. Today I'll be pulling out the rest of the English spinach (right-hand corner), which is starting to flower, and will give it to the chooks to eat. They love spinach. In the photo above you can see foodhook zucchini coming up as well as daikon radish at the back and some herbs at the front. Rhonda Gay gave me the seed for the vine on the right. It's some sort of Asian gourd.

Here we have a young group of silverbeet, with bok choy at the top. We use a lot of silverbeet and have it growing year round. Whatever we don't eat, the chooks have. Giving them dark green leaves like silverbeet and spinach gives their egg yolks a dark golden yellow colour. Today, these little babies, and the rest of the leafy vegies, will be getting a drink of worm tea.

This is the potato patch again. It's the only part of our garden we put under straw, as now the drought's in full swing, it's almost impossible to find straw or lucerne hay at a reasonable price. We usually buy about 12 bales of mulch a year, and supplement that with what we grow in the garden, like pigeon pea and lawn clippings. We have one bale left from our last purchase and we're saving that for the potatoes, with a small portion going to the tomatoes I have growing in pots. I have four tomatoes in pots, one Brandywine, an Amish paste and (I think) two Mortgage Lifters. In the aquaponics garden, I have Brandywines, Amish paste and some Sweet Bites. In the bottom of the above photo you can also see Judi B's amazing onions. She has sent them to so many people, I'm sure they must be taking over Australian backyards by now. A quiet revolution. I hope to cut them back today as they're dying down after flowering and have been attacked by aphids. When they do that each year, it's time to transplant them.

Right outside the vegetable garden, along the picket fence, we're growing Sunshine Blue and Rabbit Ears blueberries. They're in full flower now and starting to produce fruit again. It takes blueberries a while to establish here, as our weather is so warm, but each year these bushes get a little bigger and give us more fruit. Small steps.

And finally, here is a view of our house from the garden. You can see our small water tank (5000 litres), the aquaponics system and behind the lattice, is my greenhouse. If you click on this photo to enlarge it, you'll see this is the back verandah of a functional house, not a place for entertainment. Although we did have my 50th birthday party there with about 50 people sitting at tables with flowers and candles glowing in the twilight. Now we're more practical and our home reflects that. You can see a wheelbarrow waiting to carry a load, a disconnected pay TV satellite dish on the roof, some skylights to light rooms with sunlight and not electricity. Just out of sight is a solar hot water system. Look carefully and you'll also see clothes racks for drying when it's raining, plants waiting to be taken inside and fruit and vegies waiting to have seeds collected or to be planted. It's not a pretty site, but it works well for us. Oh, and that window behind the white clothes rack is where I'm now sitting typing this. : )


  1. Thanks for the tour, Rhonda Jean.

    I've never seen silver beet that big!

    Our your potatoes late, or is that normal for your area?

    Regards, Gary

  2. Good morning Gary. We plant potatoes all year so they may be late by "normal" recommendations, but we just put in another lot when the previous potatoes are harvested. We have about 10 kilos of kipflers in the cupboard from our last crop. I would like to dedicate two gardens to potatoes but we don't have the room, so we often have gaps when we need to buy them.

  3. What sort of tomato do you like to plant? I usually plant "Sweet 100" cherry tomato which I can eat like candy all season long. However, I have had year after year of terrible slicing tomatoes... all gritty, bitter, tasteless, mushy.... So, I'm looking for a "new" variety for next spring (USA) and would love to know what works well for you!

  4. I always like looking at the pictures of your garden. it is so green!!

  5. Hello Anon, I tend to stick with the heirloom tomatoes and my favourite is Brandywine Pink. We have always have cherry tomatoes growing too, I usually plant Tommy Toe but they have self seeded everywhere and I'm staying away from them for a couple of years. This year I'm planting an F1 hybrid, Sweet Bite, which is the same as Sweet 100. I know that won't self seed.

    Tomatoes take a fair bit of looking after. I plant the seeds in a tray, then transplant them to their own pot when large enough, then pot them on once more before I plant them out. By that time they've developed a strong root system. When I plant them out, I remove the bottom two leaves and plant up to the leaf node. The tomato will develop more roots all along the buried stem and give more fruit.

    I plant in rich organic soil and add sulphate of potash to the planting hole. I water in with water and seaweed solution. I give them very weak drinks of worm juice every two weeks and make sure I stake them as they grow. If nothing attacks them, with this regime, I get good crops - enough for eating, giving away and for preserving.

  6. Hi Rhonda
    Lovely pictures. I am just planning some new beds - my one big vegie patch is going strong but I have run out of room for the summer veg. and can't see the point of keeping all the lawn (weedy grass) that's left. Are the edges of your beds set deeper than the besser blocks or did you just lay them at ground level and do the no-dig thing? Also do your beds run EW or NS?

  7. hello marg. Thanks. The besser blocks are set in sand in a very shallow border strip, so not dug in at all. None of them has fallen. Then we filled each bed with compost, old chook nests and the rakings from their coup and mixed in with the good soil that was already there. We throw lawn clippings into the chicken coup so they scratch through it, poo on it and turn it into fast semi-compost. We started out with clay ten years ago but it's excellent now. The beds run N-S.

  8. Gosh! Your garden is gorgeous! We are heading into fall here and I am busy trying to move my garden out from under a huge canopy of trees so I can make some kind of shelter to keep the squirrels and raccoons out. I hope my garden will look that fabolous one day!

  9. Everything looks so wonderful! We have a nice bunch of Sunshine Blue blueberries growing, too. We have very hot summers here, and the Sunshine Blue have done well for us. We harvested several quarts this summer.

  10. All it takes is a bit of work, Kamrin, and that never hurt anyone. I'm sure you'll have a great garden one day. : )

    Cheryl, thank you. How many bushes have you planted?

  11. Rhonda it is good to see how my babies are growing and taking over the country.
    Judi B

  12. Rhonda, I remember eating fresh apple cucumbers as a kid and enjoying them neat. The skin is fairly thin and they're very juicy. Yum. And Blueberries: that's got me thinking!

  13. Your garden is wonderful, Rhonda!Thank you for giving us the grand tour - I feel like a special friend every time I visit your blog. Thanks for making me smile.

  14. "It's not a pretty site, but it works well for us."

    Oh, I know what you mean!!!

    But big pockets of pretty in between just the same...


  15. We really enjoyed looking at the pictures of your gardens and house. My husband asked me to click on the pictures to enlarge them. Its the end of one of the hottest and dryest summers on record here. Its been quite a job to keep any plants alive. The drought continues, as fall is usually dry anyway. Thanks, Debbie J.

  16. Ah, lovely. :) I dream of the day when I can have my own garden -- a girl can drem, right? ;) For now, I have to be content with houseplants and some herbs in pots.

    I wonder - how much work does it all take, daily?

  17. I think your house and garden are a "pretty site." It is the scenes of working, practical people that touch me the most.

    I, too, have buckets to catch the rain, a wheel barrow and compost pile in my backyard - in full view of the neighbors. These are my tools to live a better life. So far in my urban neighborhood I am the only one to live like this. But I have hope.

    The neighbors are fascinated with the grapes growing along the back fence so I told them to help themselves. The people that stop to ask where I get my plants have all been offered seedlings next spring.

    I love your blog and thank you for sharing so much of yourself. It gives me hope.

    Jennifer in Chicago

  18. I love pictures of your lush green garden, so neat and efficient looking.

    We have dry shade, lots of beautiful trees, but it's difficult to grow much.

    I can't wait to see your recipes and dishes with your fresh veggies and fruit.

  19. Thank you, thank you for the tomato advice! I will print that out and keep it for next planting season.

    We are moving out of our cookie-cutter neighborhood here in the States to a home where we can have freedom outside our home. For instance, here we are not "allowed" to: hang our clothes out to dry, have a vegetable garden (they must be planted out of sight within mulched flower beds), build anything without permission, have any kind of outdoor animal, etc...

    We must, by "code": have the *right* number of bushes, get all plantings pre-approved by a board of directors, keep our outdoor lights on all night long, use chemicals on our lawn, water our lawn often to keep it perfect, not have any containers outside, etc... We call it the Nazi Neighborhood. I don't know if you have these awful neighborhood associations there in Australia, but they are everywhere here in the USA.

    Just looking at how self-sufficient your home/yard is really is the most inspiring thing to my husband and me. Thank you for being transparent and SO VERY helpful!

    God bless,

  20. Lisa j, yeah, those cucumbers are delicious.

    lisa, I love your visits and comments too. : )

    wildside, it's beautiful to me but I'm aware that most people would not think it was pretty.

    debbie, hot and dry weather garden can push you to the edge. Do you have some water tanks or large container harvesting water from your roof? Our tanks have made the biggest difference to how we garden. I hope the drought breaks soon there and I wish you and your husband the best with your gardens.

    anna, we spend about 30 minutes per day in the garden - that's either watering, looking, weeding and enjoying. every so often, we spend a half day there planting, moving, putting up trellises, tying up plants, fertilising etc.

    jennifer, I loved reading about the generosity of others. Well done. I hope your neighbours learn from your wonderful example.

    Hi alexandra, thank you. I will be putting recipes in my ebook that I hope to have ready in December. : )

    KH, it's incredible to me that a democratic country would allow such restrictions on personal freedom. You are much better off out of that neighbourhood. There is a wonderful home waiting for you and your husband where you can exercise your freedoms just as Hanno and I do. Good luck with your move. : )

  21. Just to inform your international readers, not everyone lives in such a neighborhood in the U.S. I would never choose to do so (& it is most certainly a choice, not something we Americans are "made to do"). Such neighborhoods exist to keep a certain appearance and class of people living there (hence, all the rules). Not that they are fair rules, however, they are not unknown to potential buyers I am sure.

  22. how is planting a vegetable garden helpful to our earth?


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