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17 March 2009

Vegetable and fruit garden in full swing again

Clicking on these photos will enlarge them.

Autumn, that most favoured of all the seasons, is here, and in my neck of the woods, that means it's growing season. I live in the subtropics, and while Winter temperatures do sometimes drop to zero degrees C at night, the days are usually warm with clear blue skies. March marks the beginning of our new gardening season. We pull out all of summers old crops, build up the soils again with home made compost, manures, worm castings and blood and bone, and start again from scratch. It's a great time of year.

The garden is slowly taking shape. Hanno has planted his crops in small stands of neat rows. Not everything is in yet but it's getting there. On the other side of the garden there is a full garden of potatoes and one empty bed that will be planted up entirely with kale. So let me take you on a visit through my garden to show you what else we're growing this year.

We have four types of tomatoes - the one above is an oxheart, and soon it will be pulled out, but we've also planted Brandywines, Amish paste and Moneymaker. Three different tomatoes for three different uses. The Brandywines for sandwiches, the Amish paste for cooking and the Moneymakers for salads. We also have cherry tomatoes coming up all over the place. Tommy Toe cherry grows wild here and we generally pull then out when we see them, otherwise they take over.

In the photo above we have the newly planted tomatoes at the far end, with sugar loaf cabbages at the front. You can also see a flowering parsley plant that is almost ready to have its seeds collected, and a marigold. While I don't particularly like marigolds, we plant them as a safeguard against nematodes. Flowers play an important role in an organic garden because they attract beneficial insects and some are useful companions. When all the vegetables are in, I'll plant some low growing daisies, in little pockets here and there, and maybe some cosmos or evening primrose.

Here we have a patch in which parsnips seeds have been sown, then corn, bok choi and a lot of lettuce.

We are concentrating on red and brown onions and leeks this year. We've had trouble with onions in the past, but we'll plant them again, with leeks, and maybe some garlic, and hope they grow as well as these green onions, which are perennial Welsh onions. This lot have been going for about five years.

We also grow fruit. Here we have one orange tree (Washington Navel) putting on new growth on one side of the garden, and below, a dwarf navel with ripening oranges. The orange above was pruned earlier in the year, so we know we won't get fruit on it this season but we thought the sacrifice worth it as the tree now looks so healthy. There is time enough for fruit next year.

These bananas were picked just after I took this photo and quite a few of them are now in the kitchen.

Just next to the bananas, we have a lattice full of loofas, although one vine has managed to leap over to the back fence and grow its fruit on top of the fence where the sun will hit it most of the day. Clever plant.

And here below are the lattice loofas almost ready for harvest.

Further over again, passionfruit are growing. We have several vines, these are on the large water tank, just behind the shed. When I see them growing in their green and luscious glory I always think it would be a good idea to make passionfruit butter or cordial, but the truth is we usually eat all of them fresh, straight off the vine, cut in half and scooped out with a spoon.

And just because they followed me all over the backyard while I took my photos, here are Alice and Heather. Heather is a little salmon coloured Faverolles chicken, complete with feathered trousers and a fluffy, puffy face. She's a bossy boots, even though she's probably the smallest of our chooks, she keeps the others on their toes.

No doubt I'll do updates on the garden as it grows, but now it's at my favourite stage - full of promise, healthy and not one grasshopper in sight. I read somewhere recently there has been a huge increase in the sale of vegetable seeds this year. That tells me that a lot more people are taking responsibility for their own food and will try their hand at vegetable gardening. Which brings us all back closer to where we should be - eating fresh vegetables and fruit and looking after ourselves. So if you're a new gardener, I hope you enjoy your garden, learn more than you ever thought you would and reap a bountiful harvest. Happy gardening, everyone.


  1. Good morning Rhonda.. fantastic post! You are lucky to be able to grow tomatoes through winter.. here in the Blue Mts it is too cold.. however I have planted broccoli and brussel sprouts and my peas will be going in soon as will my leeks.
    I have a few questions (hope that is ok):
    1. do you have the dreaded white cabbage moth? if so, what do you do to deter them?
    2. how do you plant the parsnips? any tips?
    3. loofahs: where could I get some seeds, I love the post where you show how to make your own loofahs, I would love to do that for gifts!

    ps. I don't like marigolds either. But love the pot marigolds otherwise known as calendula.

    thanks again for this fantastic post, I am so glad that I tripped into your blog the other day.

  2. Hi Rhonda!Your gardens are beautiful!
    I am never envious of others for things. I am, however, envious of those who live in a climate where gardening is year-round. I am a happy camper right now, however, because in Minnesota (USA) we are coming into spring. The snow is almost all gone and later today I will see my veggie patch and dream of planting cool weather crops in a few weeks.

  3. Hello Miss R, I know the Blue Mountains well. My sister is the Springwood Florist. We grew up in Sydney.
    1. We have the occasional white moth. We catch them as squash them when we can.
    2. parsnip seeds MUST be fresh, and plant when the soil is still warm. They don't need a lot of nitrogen, plant them after peas or beans if possible. I didn't mean to write parsnip. We have planted turnips. LOL It's too warm for parsnips here.
    3. send me an email - rhondahetzel AT gmail DOT com - with your address and I'll send you some seeds.

  4. Rhonda,

    I just wanted to say first how much I'm enjoying your blog. We are in Los Angeles and so we can garden some what year round as well. Right now is time for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, and beans. Our cabbage, peas, and onions are coming to a finish.

    I also wanted to say I understand your joy of no grasshoppers. Yesterday I was standing on the side of the house talking to my husband and didn't see this grasshopper at first - until he jumped right in front of my face from the house wall to a patio umbrella we have there -- at least two feet away - he was huge. We try to be ever vigilant with grasshoppers and snails as well.

    Again, I enjoyed the pictures of your garden and enjoy reading your blog.


  5. thanks! ooh and I was wishing that you planted turnips.. any tips on those as I am just about to plant...
    and Springwood florist? which one? I know them both :)
    will email you now with my postal addy.. I am off to spotlight today to find myself some cotton to knit dishcloths and also am going to make potholders, you have inspired me! spotlight has a sale today!

  6. Hi Rhonda
    Do you think you may be able to do a post on pruning citrus trees?? I have a few citrus but don't think I am doing them justice in the pruning department.

  7. Wow Rhonda Jean you sure do have alot that grows in Autumn...
    I would love to have a garden like yours but we live on a pretty small lot and it has lots of shade =(
    Someday I hope to have a big garden!
    But I am trying to grow what I can where I can and enjoy what does grow!
    Thanks for being such an encouragement and inspiration!

  8. You have such a Wonderful Garden!

  9. Your garden looks so good:-) I can't imagine being able to grow my own bananas. Also, my loofah seeds came this weekend. Can't wait until it is warm enough to plant them.


  10. I've been following for a little while, a lurker :) and I have to say I love your blog. Thank you for sharing such a beautifully simple and full life with me. Your page is a blessing :)

  11. Just as soon as our tank goes in so will our vegie patch...How I wait??
    I love your garden so fufilling and filling!! lol

  12. Awesome impressive!! I so enjoy reading here...maybe one of these days I will figure out how to do some here. I did purchase one of those upside down bucket things to grow tomatoes in, hanging from something!! I will keep returning to learn!!

  13. What a wonderful peaceful walk through your garden. I always love visiting there. Thank you!
    Somewhere in the last couple of days I read on somebody's blog that our wonderful nation or state or county, I don't remember which has taken it upon themselves (the polititians)to try to pass a bill that would make it illegal to plant our own vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and couldn't get the information down to go back and read it more thoroughly.
    Heaven forbid something like this should pass. (They have done some pretty strange things all in the name of saving us from ourselves)
    If anyone else heard of this or read it, could you pass the word along so I can back and check it out. I want to help stop this if it is indeed true! Thank you!

  14. Hello, Rhonda!
    It's been a while since I've been able to read your blog--we're staying with my in-laws until our house is ready to move in. But I caught up on the posts today, but not the comments.
    Your garden is wonderful looking! I've started receiving my seeds in the mail, and it's very exciting! I can't wait to get my garden started this spring!
    It's been very exciting around here. Our house will be ready to move into this week, so we've been busy cleaning and unpacking, and thinking about ordering chickens, etc. And our baby is due to arrive in 3 short weeks!!
    Hopefully I'll be able to start following your blog more closely this week!
    -Melanie in Canada

  15. Oh my I wish I could garden all year round. But spring is almost here and I am looking forward to working in my garden.
    I enjoyed your post on gardening. Now I am more anxious than ever to get my 'hands in the dirt'.

  16. What a beautiful garden. The pictures were making my mouth water. I can't wait to start mine!

  17. Rhonda,
    I always enjoy looking at what you have in your garden. I think it's so awesome to be able to grow bananas in your yard. I have to buy mine at the grocery store and they are frightfully pricey in the winter! I'm busy making sure all of my garden beds are ready for planting and hope to plant peas and onions this week. Maybe some radishes and carrots...some of the lettuce that went to seed last fall have been growing in one of the beds! I'm on the lookout for snails this year...last year they wiped out most of the main garden and they are not invited to the feast this year!! LOL Have a good week.
    Hugs, Aunt Bea

  18. Oh I would so love to try one of your bananas. I picked my very first strawberry I ever have grown.It was amazing! The flavor was so intense!

  19. What a beautiful garden! I am as green with envy as could possibly ever be!

    Please keep up your inspirational posts.

  20. Hi Rhonda, from South Africa, where we are going into Autumn, as well! I love your blog, and am inspired by it daily. Do you mind telling me how big your property is? I would love to live your lifestyle, but feel too cramped in the suburbs of Johannesburg to do so!

  21. you have an absolutely wonderful garden - i think my husband is rather envious. i have been enjoying your blog for some time now - we are trying to establish a veggie garden and i've taken up preserving and the likes. can i ask where about you live? some of the plants you have suggest a tropical climate???

  22. Your garden looks amazing, am only in the first stages here of a new vegetable part (a little jealous LOL), Love the idea of useing big bricks for raised gardens.

  23. WOnderful post Rhonda. I have a question about perennial Welsh onions. How do they come up again as I imagine you pull the whole plant when you harvest or do you let one or two go to seed?


  24. Hi Rhonda. Are you in a fruit fly area? Do they attack your tomatoes? My Dad lives in Qld, and the only type of tomato the fruit fly didn't attack in his veggie patch were cherry tomatoes.

  25. I love passion fruit! I used to eat those when I was a kid and now I could rarely find them. If I could, I buy a lot like a week of supply

  26. Wow what a great veggy garden! Your posts are truly inspiring Rhonda, thankyou! This will be my first proper year of growing vegetables and alot of that is your inspiration! It is just starting to warm up here in the UK so I have been out and bought more seeds last week. I have sprouting seeds on the windowsills inside keeping me gowing until the veg patch starts!!!!!

  27. Thankyou for another inspiring post and fantastic photos. Honestly, it just makes me want to pack up and move next door to you :)

    My vegie beds have been a little neglected for the last couple of months, but I am now armed with a worm wee mixture and will build them all up for winter planting!

    Can I ask, how do you keep the grass out of your beds? Is it meticulous mowing, whippersnipping? I have been advised to use a paint brush and spot the grass with roundup. I am just a little hesitant!!


  28. Thank you for a tour of your garden! We love it! If only you lived closer to our hemisphere and we could swap veggies! We grow some lovely chard, kale, turnip greens, okra, and watercress!!!

    We get wild parsnips and eat them cooked with sugar and butter -- like turnips.


  29. Great post Rhonda, I got my first veg patch going this last weekend. I don't know if I planted my garlic out too late. I guess time will tell!

    Also, I got myself 6 hens a month ago, so I'm really going for this now! All inspired by you Rhonda :-)

    I wanted to add, to those of you in the UK - have you seen that programme that's been on Monday nights called Grow Your Own Drugs? Its about using plants as remedies. The chap says, quite rightly, that the pharmaceutical companies have robbed us of the knowledge we used to have only a few generations ago of how to use plants to cure common ailments, and he wants to give us back that knowledge. The presenter is a botanist, who trained at Kew Gardens in London. He also loves Pot Marigolds. Apparently they're not named Pot Marigolds because you grow them in pots - its because they were so commonly used in cooking and are really good for you! He has a section on the BBC website which should be easy enough to find, if anybody wants to know more.

    I'm chuffed because he uses lavender in a lot of his preparations, and I've got two enormous bushes of it in my garden I've wanted to use for years but not really known what to do with them! Look for his recipe for lavender bath bombs :-)

    Blessings all x

  30. Wow, look at those passionfruits! I'm so jealous they grow in your backyard, I love them. My mother had a big plant with lots of flowers, but they never got to bearing fruit unfortunately. I guess the climate here isn't warm enough.
    Those tomatoes look good too! Happy gardening. :-)


  31. Just wanted to say I thouroughly enjoyed your garden tour. How nice that you can grow so many different fruits and vegetables.

  32. Hello Ms. Rhonda,
    I stumbled on your blog yesterday, oh my, it's wonderful. I went home last night and tried you furniture polish, ended up polishing all my kitchen cabinets. Your garden is awesome, and I'm so excited to get mine going. I live in Kentucky, U.S.A., and planting season is quickly approaching. I'm going to prepare my gardens at the begining of April, and plant soon after. It's still a bit cold here, although temptures may reach in 70's today. Do you know where I may find loofahs here? I looked in my seed catalog, but haven't found yet. Thanks again for your post, you are definately an encouagment to get busy!

    Blessings, from Linda @ Kindlelight Blessings

  33. Rhonda,
    What are some of the ways that you use kale? I'd like to use it more but have little experience with it. All I've ever done with it, is add it to my smoothies.
    Donna G in New Mexico

  34. Rhonda,

    You inspire and inform so beautifully. A thousand Thank-You's for being so generous with your knowledge and experience...yet again.


  35. Good afternoon.

    Thanks for posting the wonderful photos of your gardens. We are going to be building some raised beds in our yard this year and you have given me some great ideas.

    Thank you!


  36. Your garden is an inspiration to me, so beautifu and so peaceful. I am very grateful I found your blog today (while at work) and after my classes tonight I plan to sit down and really enjoy before I retire for the night. Thanks

  37. BEAUTIFUL gardens you have! We are finally beginning to get some (very faintly) spring-like weather here in Oregon after an unusually cold period for this time of year, and I can't wait to plant.

    I canned Amish pastes from our garden this last summer, and they have been great. Hope you enjoy yours! kristin

  38. Hi Sandra, only someone who gardens with grasshoppers truly knows the joy of not having them. ; - ] Enjoy your season.

    Caroline, I've written it on my list. I'll try to do it next week.

    Melanie, what an exciting time of change for you. I wish you the best with the birth of your baby and with the move. It's good you're close to family so they can help when you need them too.

    Donetta, the bananas are absolutely delicious. The variety we grow are called Lady Fingers.

    Linda we live in a semi-rural area in the hinterland of the beach, which is about 10 kilometres away, as the crow flies. Our block is about one acre with a strip of remnant rainforest and a creek as the back boundary.

    Hi Levin and Emily, we live in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast.

    Margaret, the welsh onions form clumps. During the growing season, we cut off the tops of some of them and transplant the bases. They then start forming more clumps. As long as we keep a few for propagation, we can keep these delicious onions going all year.

    Hi Gavin, yes, we do live in a fruit fly zone, in fact that is why we removed both our peach tree and our nectarine tree - they drew in fruit fly from the neighbourhood. We knew that if we continued to grow that fruit, it would continue to attract fruit fly, they would establish in the soil here and we'd never be able to grow tomatoes.

    Sandy, if you and the others who want to live near me moved in, we would have the best, most productive and harmonious little village you could imagine. Hanno whipper snips around the bricks and also pulls weeds by hand. NEVER EVER use Roundup/glysophate, it's a terrible chemical that will stay in your soil for years.

    Good luck with the chooks and garden, Fifi.

    Donna, Hanno loves kale boiled with smoked sausage and pork. It's an old tradtional German dish that he MUST have a few times every winter. The Germans know kale as Gr√ľnkohl, if you google that, you'll find some good recipes.

  39. What a wonderful garden! I am jealous of alot of your fruits as we are in too cold of a climate but I am especially jealous of your loofahs! After reading your post how to harvest them, I would love to be able to grow and use them as you do!


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