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25 November 2008

The organic backyard

I'm not sure what causes it to happen, but every so often we get an influx of new readers. Now is one of those times so I welcome all the new comers, I hope you find information here you can use in your life.

We had a really busy day at the Centre yesterday. I was tired just driving home so when I got here I took a walk through the garden to sharpen myself up. Hanno was still outside pouring buckets of water on plants and generally fine tuning things. We had some wild weather in the past week and it's taken a toll on the garden. Nothing's ruined but there are torn leaves and general wind damage, my large potted elephant ears on the front verandah has fallen off its stake which snapped in the wind.

One of the big changes that has happened since I took you through the garden is that Hanno stripped the tomato bushes growing on the lattice, and then removed the bushes. They were past their prime so they've been replaced with new compost in the soil and new sultana white grape vines. We put the lattice up to help protect our bedroom wall and windows from the harsh western summer sun, the tomatoes were only in for a quick crop before we planted the shade vines. We only plant food or useful plants now so a grape vine that will give us shade and grapes in the summer, and drop its leaves in winter to let in the warm sun is just what we wanted. In the middle of the two grape vines is a yellow banana passionfruit vine that will twirl its way through the grapes. It will be cut back when the grapes lose their leaves.

Replacement tomatoes were planted out a few weeks ago in the vegetable garden, so in this home, where fresh tomatoes are eaten every day, we will not be short of a tomato all through the summer. These are Grosse Lisse, not my favourite tomato, but mighty tasty just the same.

One of the victims of the windy weather was the corn. It's ready to pick now but you can see here that the leaves have been damaged. I'll pick some of this later in the week to have for dinner. Corn is one of those vegetables, peas are the same, that should be eaten as soon as it's picked. The sugars in corn start turning into starch as soon as its picked, so if you want sweet corn, make sure you pick it at the last minute, and have your water boiling when you walk back inside with your corn. If you can't do this, or if you have a lot of corn, blanching and freezing it is the best option. Store it in plastic bags or containers suitable for your family size. Can you see eyes and beaks behind the corn?

My girls came over to see what I was doing! LOL

Out in the front garden, where we planted rosellas last summer, golden nugget pumpkin are growing. These are just the right size for Hanno and I, although that's not the reason we are growing this type of pumpkin. Hanno can't stand pumpkin vines rambling all over the garden, I love that mad aspect of pumpkins. I love that they're untamed and wild and go wherever they want to go. But as I don't mow the lawn and have to cope with mad pumpkins, Hanno didn't want to grow pumpkins again. We compromised with the golden nuggets as they are a bush variety and are well contained within their garden. No mad pumpkins = happy Hanno. Fresh pumpkins from the garden = happy Rhonda. Win/Win.

On the far eastern side of the garden, in full sun, we're now growing luffas. We'll use these in the house for showering and cleaning later in the year and if, as I expect, we have an abundance, I'll sell some with my soap. I've written about a previous crop of luffas and how to clean them here.

Right next to the luffas we are growing bananas. We let the chooks out to free range every day and this, my friends, is what they do to the bananas almost every day. We use the old banana leaves as a mulch and the chooks love to get in there and scratch it out. Hanno, ever patient, rakes it all back in when they go back to their coop.

And for those of you wondering about the lone pineapple, here it is as of yesterday. It's still growing slowly, I doubt now that it will be a Christmas day treat for us. But whenever it's ready to eat, we'll be grateful for it and pleased we planted it.

In the rest of the garden, we have removed the zucchinis and button squash and replaced them with lettuce, bok choi and beans. Beets have been harvested, along with many kilos of tomatoes, capsicum (peppers), leeks, chard, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers and herbs. Ours is a year long garden so there is always work to be done and harvests to gather but eating organic vegetables fresh from the backyard every day makes it all worthwhile.


  1. I agree with you about eating your own produce there is nothing more divine than going out and picking a cleaning natural strawberry and eating it straight away pure bliss

  2. This is my first comment on any blog, but had to send along a big 'THANK YOU'.

    Your fingerless mittens were exactly the pattern I have been searching for. I made a pair for myself, my first knitted item for myself. Our house gets very cold and I have chronic pain, and my hands become useless in the cold. So I am hoping these will help, I'm sure they will.

    I have learned so much from your blog. I love it, and am learning things I have always wanted to know (making bread, knitting,gardening) Now I am learning and able to teach my little girls.

    Thanks so much,

  3. I do believe I first discovered your blog last year when I had searched for information about loofa's. My search landed me here and I was delighted with what I found (not just about loofa's!).

  4. We too have the problem with the pumpkins every year, I like butternut squash which take over the entire lawn but they drive hubby mad! I will try Golden Nuggets and see if that helps.

  5. I'm jealous of any growing season long enough to grow pineapples... I can't even imagine how good one truly fresh would taste.

  6. Oh yes! the delights of free ranging chooks. When I moved her about 10 months ago, the neat garden beds were full of ornamentals heavily mulched with woodchips.

    A lot of that's gone now converted, or in the process of, to edible gardens, but the area I let the chooks out into still has the old beds. And everyday they scratch it all over the place, and every day, like Hanno, I rake it all back....a harder job right now with my broken wing, but it gives us and the girls...something to do.

    I always enjoy the tours you take us on around your garden, and to see what's growing and how well. More so now, when I can only tend what was already planted, as my plans to build more beds, add more veggies and fruit trees is on hold, but I can plan and dream and enjoy looking at the results of other's hard work.

  7. Hi Rhonda,

    Your Garden looks so fantastic. We have had about 21 kilos of produce out of our garden to date, zucchinis, cucumbers, beans, a few tomatoes, have lost quite a lot of tomatoes to grubs, crooked necked squash, lettuce, strawberries, raspberries.There is nothing quite like eating something that you have produced with your own hand. Thank you for the inspiration you have given me.

    Tracie xx

  8. I've been following your blog for sometime now and I just want to say how much I have been enjoying reading your posts. They are absolutely wonderful! I especially love the pics. :D

    Your garden looks heavenly... And seeing your pineapple plant was really neat. I live near the coast in Oregon so growing Pineapples is out of the question for me!

    One last thing is that I wanted to thank you for all the great knitting and embroidery ideas. I'm a very crafty person and am always on the look out for new ideas. :)

    Thanks again.

  9. As one of your new readers, I would like to thank you very much for renewing my interest in my garden. Last weekend I pickled my cucumbers, and put all my green tomatoes on a windowsill to ripen, like your Pumpkins we had no idea that our Lebanese Cucumbers would need as much space to grow. We have made a lot of mistakes and planted a few out of season vegetables, which are now in the bin, but this is a learning curve for us and with your help and enthusiasm we are loving every moment of it.

    My Husband is recovering from major Heart surgery and he also has Leukemia, so pottering around in the garden is just what the Doctor ordered.

  10. It's been a while since you posted it, but I just tried your recipe for Cranberry Walnut Biscuits. Thank you so much- this recipe not only came out perfectly and makes a delicious cookie (yup- I'm American), it is perfectly sized for my small family. I noticed at the grocery store this week there was an "all natural" cranberry-orange walnut cookie, looking strikingly similar to your recipe, with the addition of a bit of orange rind, I suppose. But the price was $4.59 for a dozen, can you imagine? Thanks once again for all you do.


  11. I'm very glad to see you've survived the storms and floods largely unscathed. My sister is in Brisbane and her driveway was washed away but only one room in the house was flooded. Thankfully that was all.

    It truly is remarkable to see how fast everything grows up north! I can't believe you're harvesting things that seem like they were only planted a month ago. Your efforts continue to inspire.

    Regards, Marilyn

  12. Hi Rhonda - Congratulations on being listed in the 'Top 100 Blogs That Will Inspire You To Be A Better Person'!

  13. I have enjoyed your blog so much, it has inspired me to think more of being self sufficient. I have done some canning and homemade jams for gifts and have begun to sew again. I have hopes for a little gardening next spring. (I'm in the US)

    I had to comment on your airedales. We have our first and he is such great company for we empty nesters!! We call him a clown in a dog suit. We work together at a family business and he goes with us everyday. They are not very common in the states. He is the best at greeting our customers ---a big favorite. We now have people who stop just to see him. Will you be getting another airedale?

    Thanks for your good works.

    West Virginia

  14. You mentioned selling your soap, do you sell anything online? I believe you were thinking of selling on etsy at one time?

    I love your garden 'tours' too Rhonda, it always cheers me to see your photos, thanks for sharing. You and Hanno make a great team!

  15. I just went back to look at your post on loufas and soap, and even though I read that post lasy year, I must say, that is a gorgeous gift. I'm fascinated by the loufas, I had no idea what they looked like. I can't wait to actually have a yard so I can have a garden like yours!
    (minus the banana and pineapple. I don't think those would do well in Northern California!)

  16. I also found your blog while searching for information about luffah sponges. I read it everyday now and really enjoy every topic! I live north of Boston, so no garden for the next few months but I will enjoy reading about yours and dream that I will have the best garden ever next summer. I grew my luffah in a bucket and only got two usable fruit. We enjoyed it so much, we will definately grow more. you can see my luffah here


    Thank you for sharing your adventure.

  17. I'm sending you over some traffic.
    Trust you don't mind.

  18. The graden is looking lovely as well as productive Rhonda.

    I suspect the influx of new readers may come from a mention in the Sunday Times in WA. (I don't read it, but I recall a comment from a day or so ago that mentions it). I have been reading your blog for ages, and only occasionally leave a comment, but always appreciate your words of wisdom.

    My husband would just KILL to have such a productive garden and a semi-retired wife! Unfortunately (NOT!) I am recently qualified as a midwife and hope to work for the next 20 years!

    We do however have quite a productive little garden in our inner city house, and are awaiting the peaches, apricots and plums, as well as currently eating salad greens, tomatoes, silverbeet, swiss chard, herbs, chillies and other delights that keep him so entranced. We recently gave up the chooks after 9 years, as we like to travel a bit, and it was too hard to find someone to look after them.

    Keep up the good work, the two of you.

  19. I always appreciate the pictures you take of your garden. It was 25F when I got up this morning. I like the change of the seasons, but I sure miss my garden. Take care, from Donna J.

  20. Rhonda, your Hanno and my Andrew would have a fun conversation about mad pumpkins running riot. Last year was the first pumpkin season (courtesy of the golden nuggets) where we haven't had to draw up a Versailles style treaty to allow the pumpkins to keep living. Lisa x

  21. Thanks for the updated tour of your garden, it is a sight for these sore eyes. It is -7 C here and the only green is the frozen grass. :-) Good luck with the pinapple...

  22. Love your blog, not sure how I found it, but glad I did, I grow loofa too. I had a pineapple growing but lost it. Here it has to come in side in winter. Love the chickens, I have chickens too. At the moment I have 7 roosters, a couple get to go live at my daddys home.

  23. Sorry...the influx of visitors may be my fault. I love your blog and tell everyone I know to go and visit. I think you are an awesome gardner, canner, etc. So I singing your praise all over the place. Take care and have a great Thanksgiving.

  24. was just talking to my mom the other night - she has the green thumb not me alas... but has concentrated on flowers and the like and just recently started planting corn and taro and other local fruits. last night she mentioned she wants to start on fruit and other food plants that are useful...and i was telling her about your garden and your tomatoes because she mentioned that tomatoes are really hard...i myself do not have a green thumb but reading your blog has inspired me to do something...maybe help HER out with what i find in your blog - thank you so much for sharing your life and garden with us! Bee

  25. Hi Rhonda
    I was still having a giggle over the mittens then thought this is most probably a good idea maybe make an oblong piece that can be sewn into the sides and cover the knuckles also this would make the rice bag a little bigger and easier to sew and cover a greater area on the back of tne hand.

  26. Hi Rhonda
    Thank you for the walk through your garden - I love to see all your things growing! My fav. thing when I get home from work is to check out my veggie patch & see how everything is growing, what seeds are popping up & what is nearly ready to pick ! Simple joys !!

  27. Hello Rhonda! I found your site through Google Reader's "Top Recommendations" a month or so ago.

    I am enjoying reading it and finding some tips about living frugally and naturally. You give such a peaceful, calming feeling with your posts.

    I find it fascinating to read blogs from so very far away - I live in a Detroit, Michigan, USA suburb. I can't even imagine growing a pineapple in my backyard! Right now my kitchen garden, which I only started this past summer, is covered in frost and a bit of snow with more to come, so I am only dreaming of next year. It helps to look at your beautiful green pictures.

    Keep up the good work!

  28. Just wanted to let you know that there is something going on with the other blog it isn't updating! Didn't know who to let know so I thought I would let you know.

  29. Hi Rhonda
    I am one of the newcomers to your blog having only found it a couple of weeks ago. I am especially inspired by your garden having recently moved to a little house with a large garden which is currently lawned I am looking forward to starting to grow my own food.

  30. Oh thank you for this post! I dragged my sick body out of bed this morning and was sitting enjoying a hot honey drink looking out the window at the barren Canadian winter landscape and when I read your blog it lifted my spirits and now I feel that the kiddies and I can tackle the day!

    Thanks so much!

  31. Thanks for another tour around your garden, Rhonda - it looks fabulous!

    I know you'll enjoy your grape vines. We love ours - they are so pretty, shadowy, and produce delicious grapes. The only problem we find is that they attract rather nasty wasps.

  32. I love having my own garden and chickens. This morning it was 20 degrees, brrrrrr....your pictures warmed me up and made me want to take a trip "down under".

  33. Your one sentence about growing only what is useful was a bit of a wakeup call for me. You're absolutely right... why use that precious space for useless plants? I'll keep that in mind as I plan a vacant garden space next to the house.

  34. Rhonda I wish to thank you re heads up from growing potatoes in tyres.

    I will be removing the tyres asap.

    Love Leanne NZ

  35. I made the amazing, wonderful, oh-so-lovely, lemon butter over the week-end and we are loving it! Thank you!!! Our 7 year old daughter's method of putting lemon butter on her roll is to butter the top AND the sides. Leave no surface uncovered. Thank you for taking the time to keep your blog always a joy to read. Deb in the Pacific Northwest

  36. Am oooowwwwwowwing at the pineapple :o) big grins here!
    Theres nothing like pottering outside after a stressy day,reconnecting,slowing the head,lifting the heart,its the secret to a happy life I quite believe
    GTM xx x

  37. Thanks for the welcome. I was an intermittent reader of your blog for a while and am now reading you more regularly. Your blog is lovely, and there is always something interesting or helpful here.

  38. I recently stumbled onto your blog. What wonderful resources! Thank you!
    I would love a year long garden but really don't know if thats possible in North Eastern PA. I was wondering if there was anything I can grow in the winter? (I have planted winter onions and garlic to be harvested in the spring). I am new to the gardening side of things and loving every minute of it. if you know of anything and have a minute my email address is

  39. Hi There

    Discovered your blog recently and am loving it. Especially relevant as I live on the northside of Brisbane and am slowly but surely turning my suburban backyard sustainable :D

    I have a couple of pineapples planted that I got from Northey Street Farm. They are looking fine and healthy. I was wondering how long you had your's in before it produced a pineapple?


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