We've started planting! Our vegetable season has begun and will continue right through from now till December, when it will be too hot for us and the vegetables, and there will be too many bugs. We've start off with our cold weather only crops - red cabbage, sugarloaf cabbage, cauliflower and I still have to sow seeds for brussel sprouts. We also have seedlings for marigolds, snow peas, tomatoes and lettuce, and seeds for beans, telephone peas, radishes, Portuguese cabbage, cucumbers, turnips, squash, silverbeet and a few others I've forgotten now. We have to buy kale seedlings and potatoes and we have a sprouting sweet potato that will go in near the chook house.
This year, I have something new that I've wanted for a long time. It's a potting box (above). I lose so much potting mix when I plant, so I drew a diagram and asked Hanno to make it for me. Naturally it's made with recycled materials - this is the perfect project for using up what's in the shed - this time he used some old floor boards. Now I can fill the box with potting soil and quickly fill my seedling trays and pots with none falling to the ground. It's much faster because I just scoop the soil in to the waiting trays.
I do my seed sowing in a greenhouse Hanno built for me many, many years ago. It a simple construction of a stone floor, shade cloth and benches. In there, I do my sowing, potting on, I keep the worm farm and orchids, as well as any cuttings I have growing. It's the ideal place to keep sick plants, or those that are in need of protection from the sun, heat or wind. The stone floor helps create a cool, moist atmosphere. When I leave any of my plants in there, as long as there is ample rain, they grow like wildfire. I have bins full of potting mix and seed raising mix and it's quite close to a water tank for easy watering. It's the ideal working spot.
There is something very satisfying about sowing seeds. It's an exercise in optimism - that these little seeds will break through their case and send up shoots that will survive long enough to fulfil their purpose - the production of vegetables. And planting seedings give you an instant understanding of what the garden will look like soon and how you'll help fill your food requirements over the coming months.
We had the family over for lunch yesterday but before they arrived, Hanno started cleaning up the vegetable gardens and planted the first seedlings. The photo above shows what it looks like today. All that green in the garden beds are weeds that will have to be pulled out. There are a few things left from last year - the herbs (out of view) and a corner full of yarrow, as well as perpetual leeks and some tomatoes.
There is also a paw-paw/papaya with ripening fruit, a bay tree and a full Washington navel orange tree in the vegetable garden too. The oranges will be ready for eating around June and it looks like we'll have enough for eating and juicing this year. Freshly squeezed orange juice, particularly from freshly picked organic oranges, is my favourite drink of all time. I am looking forward to that.
We hope to pack in enough vegetables to cover all our needs, except for onions, which for some reason won't grow here. The price of vegetables is very high now, so we'll save some money if we can grow instead of buy what we need. To be truthful though, the reason we grow vegetables is to productively use the land we live on, to fill our days with meaningful work, to eat high quality, fresh, organic food, to keep heirloom vegetable seed stocks turning over and healthy, and to eat varieties of vegetables that have long disappeared from the shelves of supermarkets. Supermarkets specialise in vegetables that travel well, that are uniform in size and colour and have been grown quickly, usually with the help of chemical fertilisers. To eat a tomato that tastes like a tomato, to mash the best potato you've ever mashed, to pick a snap pea that snaps, those vegetables, my friends, must be grown in your backyard, picked at exactly the right time and brought inside to be cooked for the table that evening, or preserved or frozen for future meals.
Happy gardening everyone!