DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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20 August 2013

This year's garden - small and productive

Our vegetable garden is getting there. It's been slow this year. Hanno had several health set backs and is still consulting specialists - he has an appointment today. But through it all he's kept the garden going. Some days he'd do some weeding, some days he'd just water what was growing but in the past few weeks his strength and drive have returned and the vegetable garden has moved ahead.





The main crop, the one we're both sweating on, is the garlic. I used garlic in today's main meal and we're down to one and a half heads left of last year's harvest. If it lasts another two weeks, the new crop will come in just in time. We're picking strawberries at the moment. Big, red, juicy organic strawberries.  It's one of the fruits that tastes so much better having been grown in the back yard, rather than in a field with thousands of others. If you have no room to grow fruit trees at your place, strawberries may be within your reach. They grow well in the garden but also love to be grown in containers, hanging baskets and plumber's pipe with holes cut in the side. If you're never grown fruit before, find two or three virus-free strawberry plants, plant them into rich soil, give them full sun and stand back. Hopefully, you'll be rewarded for your efforts.

The constant guardians - Lulubelle and Mary.
Daikon, wombok and tomato, with kale in the background.

I doubt we'll grow potatoes in this year, but that's okay, they'll be there for us again next year. I asked Hanno the other day how long he wants to keep the vegetable garden going and said he's happy to work on it for another few years. But we're making changes to make the work easier when we can. Recently we bought a compost tumbler; it's supposed to make a batch of compost in about six weeks. We move the tumbler with a handle so there is no shovelling to turn the heap over. It seems like a step in the right direction.


Daikon and beetroot.

At the moment we're growing, bok choi, daikon, wombok, green beans, beetroot, rainbow chard, silverbeet, tomatoes, garlic, strawberries, chillies, corn, kale, cucumbers, lettuce, parsley - curly and flat leaf, Welsh onions, leeks and last year's solo eggplant is flowering again. We have two capsicum/pepper plants from last season that look healthy but have no leaves. I'll cut them back and see what happens. Hoepfully, they'll spring back to life again for us. I've planted sweet peas and a Buddleia in pots at the front of the garden and hopefully, they'll bring in the bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Bok choi.



Right now is a good time to grow vegetables in our region. There are few bugs around, the air is warm enough to encourage growth, but not humid, which brings powdery mildew and its cousins. So we'll be content with this smaller garden for now and shop at the local market when we need to. I hope you've discovered the joys of vegetable gardening. It is one of life's true gifts to get your hands into soil and connect with nature.

What fresh feasts will be on your table this season?

44 comments:

  1. I love your tumbling compost bin, we would have liked one but chose normal ones this time around. I think you are correct in adapting your garden to your age needs. I hope we can continue growing our few vegetables in our raised beds, it saves us some money. The thought of having to buy every single thing in the future is a little worrying due to the cost it is now.We had our first home grown strawberries (in containers) this year. Not many, maybe a lb or two but they were lovely. Currently enjoying our blueberries, looking forward to autumn raspberries and the very first few blackberries.

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  2. Your vegetables look wonderful, well done Hanno. We are still too cold for the crops you mention but we have our winter veg growing- spinach, kale, broad beans, brassicas and herbs. We will start seeds at the end of August - tomatoe, peppers, beans, squash and corn. Potatoes will go in this year again.

    Rhonda, what does Hanno use for mulch?

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    1. He uses bales of hay or straw. We buy as many bales as we can and store them in the shed to use during the year.

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  3. Rhonda your veggie garden always looks so healthy and productive. In Melbourne it is so cold at the moment that I am struggling to get anything to grow well despite improving soil etc. Next winter I am going to try plastic bed covers to see if that helps. Michelle

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    1. Michelle, plastic isn't good on the garden. It will keep the rain out and drive away the worms. A better alternative is to cover the beds with a good thick layer of straw or hay. It keeps the soil well insulated and when it breaks down you can dig it in to add more organic matter to the soil.

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  4. Oh Rhonda your garden looks just fantastic, what do you mulch with?

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  5. Your garden is an inspiration, Rhonda. I love going out each morning to check for any new blossom or sign of growth. I'm just a beginner, but we'll have lettuce, spinach, strawberries and tomatoes on our table this spring.

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  6. We also have a compost tumbler and I wonder why it took so long for us to finally decide to do it - it's wonderful! I love the pictures of your garden Rhonda, and I'm glad Hanno is starting to get back into his routine as well. It sounds like all is well in your world, which is as it should be!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

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  7. A great selection of plants for a beginner's garden, Stephanie. Enjoy the fruits of your labour.

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  8. I've downsized mine a lot too Rhonda. Mainly because of the amount of work, it's just me, and I want to do other things in my day than just garden. But also so I could fence the area from chooks and puppy. We have a wonderful farmer's market every week, or I can drive out along the road in any direction and buy from farm stalls, so I don't have to rely on supermarket produce if I'm not growing it. It's the satisfaction though of having your hands in the soil and nurturing things along, being able to wander out and pick. I'm growing a lot in containers, raised at the back on besser blocks so I can fit more in, and with the trellis I just put along the fence, I have a few hanging baskets of strawberries, and have tried garlic in them too this year...they seem to be doing ok. Lots of spring onions and greens, potatoes, beans and tomatoes. I want to start some capsicum this week. I also bought some kankong seeds so will see how this goes. I don't compost any more, I put some good soil in the bottom of the container, add a layer of kitchen scraps and dried chook poo, and then fill it up with soil......seems to be working.

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  9. Rhonda,
    I always admire your beautiful straight rows of veggies. I tend to scatter seeds and grow my veggies quite thickly, then keep cutting off the leaves as they get big enough. We have lots of bugs up here in the tropics and this seems to fool the bugs a little! I also got a tumbling composter and am now trying to work out a sequence as you have to load it all at once, instead of adding to it as I used to do to my standing bin. That now sits in the corner storing my already completed compost. I just posted some yummy lunch recipes filled with veggies from my garden! We seem to be following the same themes - I guess it is that time of year! I always find your posts so interesting, thanks for all you do for the blogging community!

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    1. They start out straight but then we plant whatever we can into every open bit of soil as the vegetables are harvested. I think it's wise to work your garden in the way you've found it works for you, and not so much by the conventional "wisdom" found in gardening magazines. Happy harvests!

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  10. That is a lovely garden... good job!

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  11. The garden looks great! Hanno you'll love the compost tumbler, we've had one for several years and it's excellent.

    We've made the decision to get a gardener in to do some of the heavy work. Tony's arthritis has slowed him up a bit, he can still do the heavy work (and wants to to keep flexibility), but it's taking him ages in the bit of the weekend he's got available. I can help with the gardening but can't take on any more with the shop and house on my plate. We talked it over and decided to get a guy who's going to dig the soil deep, remove any onion weed, create furrows and heavily mulch.

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  12. Hi Rhonda, the garden looks beautiful. Its sad to think you may only grow vegetable for a few more years. An elderly friend of mine garden profusely still thanks to raised garden beds. He has purchased the ones made of corrugated metal (like water tanks) not commercially but by finding a local person who makes then to your requirements in his back yard. It is more expensive than other options but they are a perfect height and maintenance free, maybe they could be an option for you and Hanno to keep you going xxBrenda

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  13. We don't have a lot in our vegie plot at the moment as I didn't have a lot of time for planting earlier in the year. The few things we do have are a still productive eggplant 'tree', spring onion from last year that is just about to seed, and artichoke. We had 3 lonely clumps of artichoke last spring which died back (as it does) during summer after producing it's amazing flower heads. Now we have at least 5 or 6 clumps of artichoke from each of the original plants. Artichoke is officially my favourite vegetable just because of the beautiful flowers that form from the vegetable, they are a sight to behold. Sincerely, Rebecca (Apeltree)

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  14. I get so excited seeing all those home grown veggies...we have tried garlic for the first time this year and I pulled one out yesterday to check on them and it's only little but hopefully soon they will be ready. They are in the veggie patch that gets the least amount sun and they are all leaning to the left reaching for it which does look quite funny including the 4 sunflowers we have planted. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

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  15. Your garden is lovely :) Do you grow everything from seeds?

    Since I am renting, my garden is all in containers, but my radishes and mustard greens are doing well :)

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    Replies
    1. We use both seeds and seedlings. It varies depending on time and availability.

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  16. g'day rhonda & hanno
    just had to comment on your wonderful deliciously looking garden, well done hanno & glad you are starting to feel more like your old self
    my gardens have gone to the wayside a little as there is just so much to do & with this crazy weather we are having here (8c - 22c one day & then 18c - 30c the next!) the plants & wildlife here seem to be getting a tad confused, its almost storm weather in some parts, which are usual for summer not winter. however i am enjoying the early warm weather
    love your blogs so inspirational
    thanx

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  17. Hi Rhonda,

    Your garden looks fantastic! Love the speckly chook. My Dad just digs a hole for compost, he throws whatever scraps he and Mum have each day into and covers it with dirt. Whens it's full he moves to another spot. It seems to work really well for him. They moved into their home in 1952, the soil was really sandy and they have over the years turned it into the most beautiful garden. Dad frets badly in the rainy weather and he can't get much done. Mind you, he is 86! Isn't the weather just perfect at the moment, warm days and sunny! My mandarin tree has lots of flowers, hoping to get our first fruit this year. Best wishes, Kathryn xo

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  18. I'm itching to get out into the garden to my new veggie patch. It's all ready to go, and I have the seeds, but it's still too cold here to plant - we are still having big-ish frosts, and last night it snowed just up the road!

    I do have seeds germinating in the green house, but they are taking their own sweet time - germinating, then sitting there not getting much bigger, so I think they are also keen for some warm sunshine to kick start them, just like me :-)

    This year (my first) I'm trying for lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, peas, spinach, broccoli, and some strawberries (yum, yum). I may try for some potatoes, but I've never grown them before so it will be a bit of an experiment.

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  19. Your garden looks lovely. Everything is so lush. Mine is definitely at the end of its life. I grew garlic for the first time this year and just last week harvested 21 heads. I am so pleased as I know the flavour of those 21 heads will be unlike anything one buys in the grocery store.

    Enjoy your week. Carla

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  20. Rhonda, have you and Hanno considered the corrugated iron raised beds. We have set out place up for our old age and have about 20 raised beds made from recycled old corrugated iron water tanks that have been cut into semi circles and most of them are 90cm high so no bending. It takes the back ache out of our vegie gardening. We also have 40cm high ones for tall produce like tomatoes, corn, and artichokes.

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  21. Hi Rhonda. I have just finished reading Down to Earth from cover to covet and loved it. I am 56 and used to do so many of the things you wrote about. Like many people I slowly gave them up as I found life got busier as my children grew and I returned to work full time. Now they have grown and left home I have been yearning to return to those slower and more meaningful ways and your book was just what I needed! Small steps at the moment but the spring veggies are in, the dish cloths have been knitted and the laundry detergent is ready for the next loaf of washing. Thank you for re-kindling my love of the simpler life. Kerry

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  22. Your garden is gearing up and our garden, though producing tubs and tubs of produce, is nearing the end of the season. Hopefully, I have 5 more weeks of frost free nights to keep it going and then I will put it to bed for the winter. Right now I am picking loads of grape and slicer tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and zucchinis and just finished up our crop of broccoli. The broccoli was a bit of a disaster this year with insect troubles galore. But, that's the life of a gardener, yes? Success with one veg, troubles with another. I've been canning salsa, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and whole tomatoes and made a huge batch of roasted tomato soup for the freezer. We froze about 40, 3 cup bags of sweet corn and I've made a couple large batches of freezer cucumbers. It's a lot of work but I do enjoy the whole process. Take care!
    Kristina

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  23. Your garden is so lovely. About all we've got left are jalapeno peppers--they are loving the heat here (108 yesterday!). I struggle with a summer garden, as I just can't get motivated to tend to it when it's still so hot even in the early mornings/just before dark. I'm still learning what works for me and our not-so-sunny-but HOT yard. We're enjoying the bounty from the local farms, though!
    Heather in California

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  24. Your garden looks fabulous. We're planning on growing our own next year. We have a small portion of the garden which is currently overgrown with some wild flowers and weeds. Great for the butterflies and bees but a bit of an eyesore.

    We're not huge gardeners but we're warming to the idea of growing a few vegetables. There's so many lovely bloggers who are growing their own, either in their back gardens, patios or allotments. You and others are inspiring me and the hubstar to turn our thumbs from black to green.

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  25. Our lovely neighbor has been keeping up in cucumbers. :) They're so delicious that my daughter and I usually eat them all up the same day she brings them.

    Since our new apartment dwellings don't have a space for a garden, I am in the process of starting a herb garden in the kitchen. I have to get a bag of soil next time I go shopping and then I'm set. :)

    Have a lovely day,
    - Kristin

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  26. Your garden looks lovely. I have kale envy! I love kale but we live on massive boulders that don't allow for much gardening. We are looking at putting in raised beds to solve the problem. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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  27. We are about to get ready for autumn this next few weeks or so; I had potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, crooknecks and herbs this season.

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  28. We have a composter that you turn as well and it is the best thing ever. Your gardens are beautiful and I agree with others who have suggested raised beds. The best is you can make them as high as you need. I have included a link with some pix. http://www.houzz.com/high-raised-bed-gardens
    Sure some of them are professionally done, but you and Hanno are so savvy and can make them look just as beautiful and without breaking the bank.Cheers!

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  29. wow , what a wonderful looking vegetable plot , if mine looks half as good as yours next year I will be happy , moving here at the end of April I missed out on a lot of the preparation , I planted some potatoes and onions and have been told I can plant some leeks now , but want to plant lots more next year, Eileen.

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  30. I really enjoyed this post. We got a tumbler composted a couple years ago. We like it even though it took a while longer than they said. With putting new things in all the time the older things naturally break down first. The draw back we found was no worms!! Since the tumbler sits off the ground the worms can't get in [but the ants still find a way! :) }. If you were to add worms the tumbler will be too hot and they cannot snuggle down into the cooler dirt as you tumble and mess that up for them. Yes, setting the hose connections higher and the beds higher will help as we grow older..also having an edge on some of them to be able to sit on and lean into the bed might be nice too. I do so hope we can garden on and on. To not have some place to 'play in the dirt' sounds too sad. :) Perhaps having the beds far enough apart for very easily walking between when we redesign areas would help too. Now a few of our beds are tight between them and if we get wobbly in our walking later the added inches would assist us to navigate the areas more easily and safely. Also now some walk ways are too tight to get the wheelbarrow down. I have a few pots with holes in them at several different locations to hold hand tools in the garden so I don't have to walk too far to get a tool. We also put some shade cloth in a few areas over the beds and have frames in the boxes. Those are welded frames with a stake coming up high {high enough to have enough length in the ground to secure it and enough height to walk under it] at each box corner and they all connect at top making like an open rectangle ceiling. You can put shade cloth on over the box using the top of the frame and also the top frame is there to help the tomato plant that get over the 5'+ tomato cages. The tomatoes rest on the top of the top bar. All our boxes have these metal corner and top parts and we can also put the shade cloth between them so a walkway is shaded or on top of a box..which ever we want that year. Am I making any sense so you understand how they look? I hope so. We have found these corner posts and the top railing also help to hold onto when we have to at times walk into the beds to keep us steady on the uneven dirt. We are trying to improve on design and function too so we can garden for as many years as possible. We have installed another bench too so we can sit and relax between jobs in 2 places. I am so glad you are helping us think ahead too into our future so we can stay as independent as we can and in our own homes. Your posts and ideas are for every age and culture and we all find what works best. The flow of ideas is refreshing and stimulates our minds and hearts. It is so fun to come here and see what others are doing and thinking. I am still hoping that your first book will become available in America. Surly they know there is a market here don't they??? :-) I take it your second book will add a bit of different things so we realllllly want the first one too! Please publisher...try to agree to let all of us world wide have this great book!!! ...and in the Real book state. I am not a Kindle type!!1 :-) Sarah

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    1. Sarah, we use shade tunnels sometimes. There are so many things you can do to modify climate. For your ants - try smearing the legs of the tumbler with vaseline. Ants won't cross it. It might work. I'll be signing a contract for world rights to my first book very soon. I'm not sure what that means in terms of the USA though. When I know more, I'll tell you.

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  31. Hi Rhonda, Alexia here from the Lockyer Valley workshop. I am in Italy at the moment for my husband's brother's wedding and enjoying soaking up this wonderful culture. What we have noticed (in the parts we have seen anyhow) is the distinct lack of big supermarket chains but rather small fruit & vege carts everywhere. We bought some strawberries in Florence today & they were beautiful. We've also noticed that most houses have some sort of vege patch growing. Obviously, they don't rely as heavily on supermarkets as growing your own & fresh food stalls are the norm. It has inspired me to do more of my own food growing when I get home. Hopefully I can get my vege patch to look as healthy as yours.

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    1. Hello Alexia I so envy you. I LOVE the Italian culture. They really know how to get the best from family, home and garden. Enjoy your holiday. My congratulations to the happy couple.

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  32. I was feeling so blue today and just seeing your beautiful pictures and great post made me feel so much better. I am a religious lurker :) and thank goodness God places wonderful people all over the world to make the rest of us smile. I'm a country girl living in NYC and all the noise and buildings get to me sometimes and looking at your pictures is just so peaceful. Thank you!!!

    Sandra from NYC

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  33. I found your blog today via a search for making your own vinegar. I am so delighted! I am a homemaker in the US with grown children, and am delighted that both my children and their spouses are interested in skills and hobbies surrounding the home. We are all enjoying gardening, my daughter and daughter-in-law as well as their children are learning to sew and do handiwork, preserve food, and are raising chickens. I will be sharing your blog with them as it appears you have a wealth of information on so many wonderful things! I hope to be making your ginger beer recipe soon, and am really interested in trying the soap process as well. I'll be back to check out more soon. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

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  34. Your garden looks so healthy! I'm only just getting back into the swing of it and planning out my summer veggies. Pretty excited by the soil I have created over the past couple of seasons composting and mulching.
    Hope Hanno is ok.
    x
    Megan

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    1. Hi Megan! Yes, the soil doesn't take too long to get bak to a good condition. We're all fine here. I hope you and yours are too.

      Rhonda xx

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  35. Kathy in Utah, USAAugust 30, 2013 12:55 am

    Hi, Rhonda. I love this post. I fret about so much useless stuff, and hope to emulate your philosophy of "it's all good." My husband and i are both on medical retirement, but he makes it possible for me to garden in raised boxes. He's an engineer, and worked out a trade with the marketer to help him develop an automatic watering device for the boxes in exchange for the boxes and supplies. Everything is set up for me, so all i have to do is plant, fill the water tanks, tend, and harvest. I can do it at my own speed, and it's been wonderful. We both enjoy the organic garden and the produce. It seems "alive" and so flavorful. An added benefit is that we both feel healthier with pure food in our bodies. We hope to have a couple of chickens next year. I've always sewed and done handwork, so making dish- and facecloths is my project indoors. I'm also learning to quilt, and i love it. Making our bread as much as possible is an added plus. I'm slow, but it's all so satisfying--food for the soul. XXOO!

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