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15 September 2009

Early morning in the garden

Click on photos to enlarge them.
In this photo you can see the down pipe Hanno rigged up on the chook house. It collects rainwater from this small roof and runs into a large black bin that sits beside that white iron wall. We then use a bucket to water the garden from the bin. It's not often full but when it is, it saves us 200 litres in the rain tanks and will keep a just rained on garden going for a week.

Hanno has been feeling ill the passed few days so I've been doing his outside chores. It does me good to get out there and do some physical work and to see with a gardener's eye again. The garden is looking good at the moment. It's green and lush and happily, at this stage of the season, there aren't too many bugs. I did see the last of the white cabbage moths searching for a suitable safe haven to lay their eggs, but a quick spray with the garden hose sent them along to another garden.

This is looking towards the creek. Under that line of rain forest trees and darkness, a permanent creek flows. There are horse paddocks on the other side and beyond that - suburbia.

It does me good to wander around the garden, making sure it's all growing as it should. I was out there very early, before the sun was over our tree horizon, so the air was still hovering nicely between the coolness of the fading night and the promise of the coming day. The only noise I could only hear was the call of wild birds, mainly ducks and parrots, as they started flying around, and our chooks gently clucking as they patrolled the back lawn for early morning bugs.

One of the reasons our garden is looking so good right now is that Hanno is meticulous with his garden maintenance, so being the goodly wife I am ;- ) I carried out that task for him while he slept inside. Much of this maintenance is easy and only requires removing the outer damaged and old leaves from lettuces, cabbages and chard. All of them are thrown over the fence and the chook quickly rush over to get the best bits. We grow food for ourselves and the chickens too so they eagerly hang around on the other side of the picket fence peeking through to watch me.

Quince and Quentin, the two new Sussex girls (pictured above in the distance), are learning to eat greens. They didn't recognise them when they arrived, so every day we make sure there are lettuce, chard, cabbage leaves or radish tops for them to peck on and test taste. Chickens are creatures of habit and if you want them to eat green food, you'll need to introduce it to them early on, otherwise they might reject it altogether.

The other part of my maintenance is to remove diseased leaves. In our garden this is mainly powdery mildew which grows on squash, grape and zucchini leaves and wilt on the lower tomato leaves. If you see disease or damaged leaves, always remove them because they'll never renew themselves and improve, and leaving them is an open invitation to bugs that there is a weak plant to attack. BTW, a mix of 10% milk and 90% water sprayed over the leaves most susceptible to powdery mildew, if done when the leaves are still healthy, does help prevent it. If it gets out of hand, it's best to remove all the affected leaves and spray with a weak solution of copper oxychloride (it's organic).

One of the brandywines putting on new fruit.

It's an important part of growing your tomatoes to go around and remove the leaves close to the ground and any that are brown or with brown or yellow spots. Mulch around the tomatoes will stop water and dirt splashing up when you're watering. Soil borne diseases can be hard on tomatoes. Water your tomatoes at the base, not over the leaves. And pick out any new growth coming from the main stem and side branches. You will probably get the best growth if you have one main leader and trim off most of the side shoots, but many people, including us most of the time, don't like removing branches that look productive. I'm doing an experiment this year with the brandywines - we have two growing side by side, one has been trimmed to one main leader, the other left to grow naturally. We'll check later in the season to see which is the most productive.

I love walking through a garden that is flowering - whether they be ornamental flowers or vegetables flowers. Above are green Welsh onions, sent to me by JudiB, still going strong after a number of years, being moved around each year, and after giving away many of them to friends and family. They're the most prolific green onions we've ever grown. Jude, if you're out there, drop me a line. I have something for you.

Zucchinis with their flowers still attached and ready to pick.

Flowering lettuce set against a red cousin in the background.

And marjoram, healthy, strong and flowering after yet another winter. I'll cut this back soon and it will give us another year of fresh herbs for our tomato sauce.

When I finished picking, removing, cutting and throwing, I set about watering the garden before the sun hit it. Above is a small planting of iceberg lettuce, that supermarket lettuce renown for its crisp heart and little taste. Homegrown icebergs are a different kettle of fish altogether. They grow looser here, forming only a soft heart, but the leaves are super crisp and the flavour is superb. It's well worth trying in the home garden if you only know the limp supermarket type. That's the thing about growing organic vegetables in your backyard. Very ordinary varieties develop flavour when grown in good soil enriched with compost and manure. They grow at their natural pace and are not pushed along fast with artificial fertilisers to comply with production schedules. But I bet you already knew that.

I wonder what everyone here is doing with their gardens. Are you planting a new garden or bedding down for Winter? Either way I'd love to know what you're up to in your garden. Are you trying new things this year or, like Hanno and I, sticking to a selected group of reliables? Are you planting heirlooms? Is your garden organic? What mulch are you using? Do you make your own fertiliser? What stakes do you use for your tomatoes? Are you growing in containers? I'm going to plant up a couple in the next week. But I should end now and get ready for work. There is so much to know and share about gardening, I could keep writing about it all morning. BTW, I'm happy to tell you that Hanno is feeling much better now and is slowly getting back to normal. : - )


  1. Oh no, I hope Hanno is feeling better soon!! Your garden looks wonderful & productive Rhonda. We are winding down the garden season here in the midwest. I am still picking tomatoes & did a late planting of green beans (we'll see how they do). I will miss my fresh veggies and it always makes me sad to put my garden to bed. I know winter is on it's way and I struggle w/ it.I have dubbed 2010 "The Year of the Yard" so there will be lots of planning for next year and that will be fun!!!

    Thanks again Rhonda!
    Central Illinois

  2. So sorry to hear Hanno is not very well and hope he feels better very soon. Love to see your garden and it's looking very good. We are starting to tidy our allotment for the winter months. Number one son has been busy digging over the empty beds. He is such a great help to us as OH has hip problems and can't dig. I've been preparing an area for some raspberry canes, black and redcurrants and a gooseberry bush. These will be planted in November.
    We are going to try some more companion planting next year. We are happy with most of the produce we grew this year but will make some changes on the amounts of each. More greens, beans and onions. Less squash, cucmbers and radish and of course weeds.

  3. Hi Rhonda, Glad Hanno is feeling better. I love your garden, what a joy. Was that curly kale in the first picture. Its my favorite veg but not one that grows well in my garden. I have done very well with beans and tomatoes this year so no complaints. I know I dont often comment but I 'check in' every day and get so much pleasure and information from your blog. Thank you.

    Cheers, Eileen in England.

  4. Fall is just over the horizon, so I'm getting things tidied up for winter. This fall, the front yard becomes the garden -- the sheep are *cutting* the grass and fertilizing, then I am putting in a series of raised beds. It's a new experiment and I'm very excited to see if it works! Best wishes to you and Hanno.

    Susan in NY

  5. Just a little tip about white cabbage moth. You know the white ties that the shops have to tie the slice bread up, well if you put the white ties on the top of sticks,and stack them around the veggie garden ( more the better), you will get less moths, it's all to do with territory, just have to make sure the ties are WHITE.

    I hope Hanno feels better

  6. Your garden is looking so alive. The only thing in my garden that is thriving is my spinach, thankfully.
    Plenty of spinach quiche is in order. Sorry to hear about Hanno, i'm in the same boat. Could you come and help with my chores too?
    Love Melissa

  7. We are in the planning stages of our first vegetable garden. Also trying to revamp the chook house and yard next to the veggie patch. With that in mind I'm trying to read as many of these lovely posts on gardening as I can. Bit of a brain overload!
    Lets just hope my Dad and Nana's green thumbs will guide me from above.

    One question Rhonda, your new Sussex chooks are they from a local breeder? Why I ask is that we are looking for some Sussex girls once the chook house is up and running again. Oh I should say I live in outer northern suburbs of Brisbane.

    Thanks for the great post and lovely pics of your garden, they inspire me to get out there and dig!
    Good to hear that Hanno is on the mend.

    Best wishes

  8. You're garden looks so wonderful. We're a few months behind you in Tasmania. We have radishes, garlic, english spinach, broad beans, peas and rhubarb at the moment. Waiting until November to put in seedlings of beans, corn and tomatoes. Planting sunflowers, raspberry canes and potatoes this week.

    Our garden is all organic, and we use mushroom compost and alpaca poo from nearby farms for mulch. Straw is really rare and expensive here up to $30 a bale! We use worm wee and blood and bone for extra fertilizer. And get all our seeds from Diggers or the Lost Seed which specialize in heirloom varieties.

    I hope Hanno is feeling better soon.

  9. Gute Besserung! :-) I hope he'll feel better soon.

  10. We're busy harvesting the garden here in Colorado. Thanks for the tips on powdery mildew. I'll have to get to work on that tomorrow.

  11. Thanks for all the good wishes for Hanno.

    Lisa, we get our chooks from a lady in Fernvale. Her name is Rhonda Holzknecht 07 54267669. She has most of the Sussex colours.

  12. I hope that Hanno gets to feeling better soon.
    We are in the planning stages of gardening, it's nearly Fall here and we are thinking about next year. It will be the first time we've had a garden at our current home, and the first time in about 10 years in general. I've really missed having one.

  13. Hi Rhonda, thanks for the walk around the garden, I could almost hear the birds. Good to hear that Hanno is on the mend.

    We are trying a few new things this year. We have a much deeper mulch than we have had in the past. We are planting some heirlooms vegies. I haven't had a lot of luck raising seeds (but I'll keep at it) so I've been buying seedlings at our produce market. You don't have to buy a whole punnet, you take an empty punnet and then fill it with your selection which is a great idea and a help to beginners such as me. The punnets are returned for recycling and the fellow turns up fortnightly.

  14. Sorry to hear Hanno wasn't feeling well...

    I love your garden Rhonda! Do you have a 'how to' post somewhere that explains how you made your beds? I am in the process of converting my 4'x25' foot beds to raised beds and some hints would be very nice! Perhaps you could talk about this in your forum, if you have the time...


  15. Hope Hanno is feeling better and soon will be able to get back to his outside chores.

    Here in Colorado, I am just waiting for the first frost that will kill off my vegetable garden. I will try to cover the beds so I can save most of it, but sometimes we get one that was not predicted. If I can save them, we usually have nice weather for a while. My tomatoes and zucchini are really producing this year, even my green beans. I have been doing a lot of canning and freezing this summer so we can enjoy them this winter. I tried something new to me, dill pickle zucchini and bread and butter zucchini. Can't wait to try them to see how they taste. If good, I will make more.

    I will be moving 1 of my raised beds this year to put it with the rest of the beds. I will plant onions and garlic in it. Once my veggies are killed by the frost, I will clean out the beds and get them ready for next year by working aged llama poop into the soil.

    This year I covered my tomato raised bed with 4 ml black plastic in March so the soil could be getting warm. When I got ready to plant the tomatoes, I cut a hole just big enough for the tomato plant with a little bit of open space around it. There is a soaker hose under the plastic which runs next to each plant. Not sure if that is why or not, but this seems to be my best year for tomatoes in Colorado. With our cool evenings and short growing time, I have not gotten a very good crop of tomatoes before.

    I put straw in the other beds. Not sure I like it since it started growing and I had to keep getting the grass out of the beds. It does seem to help keep the beds moist though after watering.

    I will miss the fresh veggies this winter, but will enjoy what I have put up from my garden. I will plan what will get planted next spring.

    Thanks for your great blog. It so inspires me and really gives me some good information that I have tried here.


  16. Hi Rhonda, I really love your blog and have a wee read everyday! I live in Christchurch NZ and our gardens are slowly being sown in all brassicas, onions, salad greens and new potatoes. When planting into raised beds have you considered using the 'square foot gardening' method? I can cram heaps into such a small area, suffer no disease and only have to fork over and recompost a small area at a time for replanting. My front garden facing the street is done this way and incorporates herbs and flowers as well. Each year I have the neighbours asking what I'm doing with my garden and it becomes a focal point for a chat with people.
    Best wishes to you both.

  17. Oh I do hope that Hanno is feeling better soon...
    I loved seeing the pictures of your garden and wish that we had more room to garden...
    I am researching square foot gardening and hope to be able to have a nice little garden Ü
    Wishing you a blessed day!

  18. Hi Rhonda,

    Lurker here, coming out to say that I hope Hanno is feeling better soon.

    I've been gradually putting my garden to rest since Labor Day. I'll be interested to know the results of the Brandywine experiment. I just successfully grew two of them for the first time this summer. They were our favorite tomato of the 18 plants I grew. I pulled the last Brandywines off the vines today...

    Love your blog.


  19. Glad to hear that Hanno is on the mend.

    The growing season is winding down here in the UK now, although I have squeezed in some kale plants and salad recently in the hope I can keep everything going for a bit longer.

    I tend to stick to tried and reliable veggies, although I have tried Borlotti beans for the first time this year to put into soups and stews. I tend not to sow F1 varieties and pick plants I know have great flavour, even if they do look a bit odd or I have to fight the pests all season.

    I always grow my tomatoes in containers in the greenhouse and stake them. I clean up the stems at the bottom and usually take off most of the side shoots, but allow one or two to develop over the season. I've always found I get slightly smaller tomatoes but overall the yield is a bit higher.

    My garden is getting there in the non-pesticide stakes. I can't say I'm organic as I fertilise with blood, fish and bone which isn't certified organic. However, I have switched over to an organic slug killer to protect the wildlife in the garden and that works very well.

  20. Hugs to Hanno, not nice being sick.
    I read your blog every few days and I'm glad the "triffids" are growing well for you I've had to let most of mine fend for themselves and only have about 150 growing well the drought has been hard on them and the rain has missed us.
    Judi B

  21. Hi Rhonda, Thanks for the info about the chook breeder.
    Best wishes

  22. Oh dear, I hope Hanno is feeling better soon. :( Getting sick is no fun.
    Well, here in Canada the Fall season is just starting. We've had quite a cold summer, with about 2 weeks of really hot weather at the most. I'm hoping for a warmer summer next year. We are getting a rotortiller and will be tilling up the garden in a couple weeks, when the ground is a bit colder. Also getting a trailer full of good cow manure to work into it, and any time I have some compost, on it goes! I'm unsure as to buy fertilizer from the store, I don't know much about it. Is it alright to put on the garden?
    We are planting a lot next spring...we need to. I'm going to start my seeds in some tin cans I've been saving, instead of buying the plastic trays from the store. Just another way to pinch a penny! I'm hoping to make some trays one day, but cans with do for now. Anyways, thanks for the helpful post on gardening! These are some of my favorites! Have a spectacular day! :D

  23. PS I was wondering if you have any info on how to keep bunnies out of the garden. My neighbor has a garden, but she said the bunnies are so bad she only grows tomatoes now. :S Do you know of anything that keeps them away?

  24. Thank you for some of the tips you have written about here. I have my two tomato plants that were given me by a co-worker. She had given me four, two survived, and man! have they survived! I had no clue what do do with them, even though I had been sucessful in the past with a small variety of veggies. These tomato plants look like hedge bushes right now and there are just a few very small misshapen tomatoes on them. They are beautiful plants, but they are not doing what they were intended to do! I will have to go through your posts and learn what exactly what I need to do for next year as we are coming into the end of our tomato growing season here.
    The walk though your garden this morning and your tips and pictures gave me peace to start off my day. Thank you!
    I am glad that Hanno is feeling better, continued good health to you both!

  25. So great to see your garden waking up as we're bedding ours down for the winter. We're harvesting leeks and the last of the potatoes and...It's busy.

  26. We're not too far away from preparing our garden for winter. It's still producing green beans, green peppers, and a few cherry tomatoes but all the squash and the eggplant is ready for the compost pile.

    We'll be "ordering" some cow manure from a farmer friend of ours to add to the compost pile. We'll cover it with a tarp to help prepare it for spring.

    Then we will start a new smaller pile next to it for the winter kitchen compost "stuff".

    We learned so much during our first year of raised bed gardening.

    Thanks for all your information and inspiration!

  27. Eileen, yes, it's kale in that photo - Hanno's favourite.

    LOL Melissa, no worries.

    Rose, I'll be doing a seeds to seedlings post very soon.

    Linda, will do.

    Steelkitten, I would guess your blood\fish\bone fertiliser is organic, even if it isn't certified. We use that here and unless there is something added, which they state on the label, it would be organic.

    Judi, please send me your postal address and I'll send you some of that hanging cactus. It's flowering again and I suddenly remembered you asked about it ages ago.

    Courtney, what you're doing with the manure and compost is fabulous. Don't add chemical fertiliser, it's not good for the longterm health of your garden and the manure and compost will give your garden all the fertility it needs. The only way I know of to keep rabbits out is to fence the garden off or to have a dog that is always in the yard.

    Caludia, I think you're giving your tomatoes too much nitrogen fertiliser. That makes the bush grow really well but you don't get many, if any, tomatoes. You don't have to fertilise tomatoes. You should plant them in fertile soil with some sulphate of potash and then just water with seaweed or worm tea while they grow - nothing else.

  28. Thank you for all of the inspiration that you bring us for homemaking. I, for one, am always encouraged by your frequent posts.

    As our gardens wind down here in the US, I am thinking about the mistakes made this year and what I will do differently next time around. I am especially considering what and how much I will plant. I'd like to have specific purposes in mind for herbs and produce.

    Would you consider a post on what you plant in that beautiful garden and how you use it? For example, do you plant dill and cucumbers with the plan to make pickles in the fall? What other herbs do you grow for use with your garden vegetables?

    Thank you for sharing with us. It's sure a blessing.

  29. Oh you are so right to say home grown veggies have so much more flavor! I grew tomato's for the first time this past summer and they are simply the best! None of them have made it into tomato sauce as they get eaten faster than anything. The taste of them just explodes in your mouth. It's wonderful.

  30. Enjoying your blog greatly.
    Photo number 8 is not flowering lettuce, it's a brassica (probably a chinese broccoli or similar)

  31. Can you please tell me why you hang pots upside down on a stick in the garden? I've seen other people do that.
    Thank you

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