DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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28 January 2014

Sowing seeds for the vegetable garden


Food production in the backyard is a simple activity that takes in a few elements of the simple life philosophy. It helps with debt reduction and saving, it encourages sustainability, self-reliance, organisation and preparedness, it helps with food security and waste (compost) and it is one of the things that will help slow you down. I'm really excited about our new season kitchen garden. A couple of days ago I went through my seed box, identified what new seeds I needed and bought them on Saturday. With the price of fresh food going up all the time I want to make sure we produce as much as we can to eat fresh, and to preserve for later in the year. Apart from rising prices, I'm determined to serve local food on our table as much as I can and if that food comes from our backyard, that's even better. I'm planning to be as thrifty as I can be in the garden this year so I will plant seeds instead of seedlings.  We often buy seedlings from the markets and even though they're a good price, they aren't as thrifty as planting seeds. We resort to seedling because we're rarely ready to plant when we should be, but this year I'm primed up and ready. This year I want to do it right the entire season.


If you have a lot of seeds from previous years and you're unsure about the viability of some of them, you can test to see if they're okay. It will save you sowing the seeds and hoping the'll pop up. Simply take about 10 seeds from the pack you want to test, take three sheets of kitchen paper towel, wet it slightly and pour the seeds onto the wet towel. Wrap both ends in and then roll the towel into a cigar shape. Fold it in two, then put it inside a plastic bag. You don't want the seeds or the towel to dry out. If the seeds are still viable, they will shoot in a few days. Give them about 10 days before you throw them out but if you see little shoots coming out of the end of the seeds, you know the rest of the pack will produce vegetables and are fine to use.


Above are Portuguese cabbage seeds during their test for viability. Unfortunately, after growing the seeds for a few years, they're no longer fertile - they didn't sprout, despite the moist and warm conditions. I received the seeds from a gardener in Melbourne, Andrew (I think) and liked the cabbage a lot. If you're still out there, Andrew, I'd love some more seeds if you have any to spare.



This is our vegetable garden last Sunday morning. It's survived a hot summer, hungry pecking chickens and no attention for two months. It's time to get her ready for the season ahead.



Our precious elder tree has borers and the dry summer has made it drop most of its leaves on the sunny side.  Luckily, new shoots are appearing after the rain and a bit or organic fertiliser. This place is our favoured place to sit in the garden.


Sunday morning I sowed the seeds for our first Sugarloaf cabbage, cauliflower, daikon, curly kale and tomatoes. I also have a cutting from our elder tree in a pot because the elder has borers and we'll have to replace it in the next year or two. I plan on growing all the above as well as peas, beans, onion, lettuce, Japanese spinach, turnips, carrots, swedes, garlic, cucumbers, radish, zucchinis, chillies, strawberries, Welsh onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, herbs and flowers to bring in the bees. I hope to only buy fruit at the market, although we are growing oranges, mandarins (tiny ones in their second year), lemons, youngberries, blueberries, strawberries, loquats, bananas, passionfruit and grapes. I want to buy some thornless raspberries to plant along the front of the new section of the chook house. If we can grow all that consistently, I'll be a very happy woman and we shouldn't have to rely on buying vegetables for a long time.


One of our blueberry bushes is producing well. The others are a different type and I hope they'll give us a good crop later in the year. I know now to cut the blueberries back so I hope that will increase yields in years to come.


The navel orange is full of fruit growing fat and juicy. It's started putting on a lot of new growth too.


The youngberries haven't had enough water over summer but are still producing a small amount of fruit. I'll have to fertilise them soon and provide a good covering of mulch.


Our loquat tree is full of flowers this year. It's the best year it's had for a long time.


This is a crazy mix of grape and passionfruit vines. The passionfruit is already putting on very big fruit this year.

I realised when I was watching Carol Klein's Grow your own Veg on You Tube recently that our growing season here - which is out of kilter with southern Australia's, that we're more in line here with UK and European gardeners. We start planting in March and continue right through until November, when we stop planting but keep harvesting until January or so. We leave the gardens for a couple of months to rest over the hottest months and then get ready to do it all over again. I wonder if there are some gardeners out there who will be starting their gardens up again in March. Would you like to garden along with us?  If so, send two photos in every month and if I can work out how to do it, I'll set up a Pinterest page to show all our gardens together. Are you interested in doing this? Don't send the photos yet. I'll set up the page first and let you know.

Above is our little orchard looking back towards the front of our house. This is Hanno's work shed and our second water tank.
Below: looking towards the chicken run, the picket fence is the side of the garden. Those large trees in the run are a native fig, a pecan and a lemon tree. We've planted a second lemon in the corner of the fence line.

Sowing seeds is the most cost effective forum of vegetable gardening. You'll also have a much bigger range of seeds to choose from.  You have to be more organised and have your seedlings ready to plant at certain times during the year but if you can do that, it's a worthy exercise. In my next post, I'll write about planting seeds and caring for them until they reach the stage when they're planted out in the garden.

40 comments:

  1. What a beautiful garden, Rhonda! I love the wooden bench, picket fences, and the vines. I would have loved to garden with you but I'm finding it difficult to grow vegetables on my shaded balcony. Perhaps when we have bought our house? Dreaming is free ;-)

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    1. "To every thing there is a season..." Mrs Meagre. Your time for planting will come. In the meantime, learn as much as you can, keep a notebook of good tips and your future wishes, and when your time comes, you'll be ready. xx

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  2. Thank-you Rhonda. You've inspired me to plant more seeds. Last week I planted lettuce seeds from a plant that had gone to seed. Already the little green leaves are popping up from the earth. (I go and check on them every morning!) Much more exciting than buying lettuce from the supermarket.

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  3. Rhonda, I always find that when I try and grow seedlings they die, even when I'm trying to spray twice daily with water, and end up not worrying and just planting direct? How do you plant seedlings and keep them moist?

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    1. The seed raising mix needs to be wet after you sow, han_ysic. I have a tray that I place each seed tray in and the water infuses from the bottom and soaks everything. The water comes up to about half the height of the seed tray - no higher. I leave each try for a couple of hours, then take it out, place it on a shelf in my bush house. From then on, depending on the weather, I water every day. When it's very hot or windy, I water twice a day.

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  4. I'll join you Rhonda. I've been weeding and clearing beds the last week or so, and adding compost and chook poo getting ready for planting. I'm yet to sort my seeds, but will get to that this week hopefully. I joined our very new Community Garden on the weekend, not to have a plot.....although my growing space at home is small, it gives me more than enough to do without going somewhere else....but to support the group and do what I can in other ways....I'm a good funding submission writer. It's also a good way to meet new people, and the organisers live not far from me, so I can just walk up the street to visit or to meetings. The nice thing was they gave me some cuttings from their garden......and a small elder tree! I have it in a pot for now as I sort out where to put it. I was so excited about that, as the leaves and berries are good for fabric dyeing. I see you have your blueberries in a pot, will you leave them there, or plant them out at some stage? Looking forwarding to gardening along with you.

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    1. Good! I'll let you know when I'm ready for photos, Nanette. How lucky your group is to have you - a good submission writer. They are like hen's teeth. Remember that elders can take off and send up suckers so make sure you place it where you can keep it under control.

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    2. Thanks, I will remember that about the elder, that's why I was given a small tree....it was a sucker. I wonder if it will do alright in a pot?

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  5. Oh how I wish I lived near you so we could barter!! :D the garden looks great Rhonda, but down here in the south we are way behind with our season, we haven't even had a tomato ready yet! But they are coming. My hubby loves propagating his own seeds, clever green thumb he is, but I will definately pass on the tips for checking the seeds, genius! Our daughter will love doing this too.
    I'm very proud to say I made my first ever lots of jam on the weekend~strawberry (picked from a local farm) and rhubarb (our own) and stawberry. I think I might be hit by the jam making bug! I've also been researching/reading your archive posts on cleaners and will be implementing washing powder & hand wash in the coming weeks. Thanks again for being such a source of valuable information.
    Warm regards,
    Jan

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  6. Rhonda I am so jealous to see you growing oranges, lemons and bananas. I wish we could grow those fruits here in Canada. We start pretty much everything from seed. Some I start indoors in April then plant in the garden in mid June. The rest get planted directly in the garden in mid June. It is such a savings on our grocery bill.
    Carol

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  7. We are also getting ready to plant our seeds for the new season! I've been sorting through my box as well :) I'm getting excited about the season to come. I'd love to garden along with you Rhonda and Hanno!

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    1. Great - two gardeners have joined. At the very least we'll have three gardens there to look at and watch the progress of. I'll let you know when to send your photos. xx

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  8. Hi Rhonda,
    I just thought I'd mention an Australian company that sells seeds mostly for $1/packet, with free shipping when you buy $5 worth. I've used them before and recommend them. It is far cheaper than buying packets for $3+ at Bunnings.
    http://www.theseedcollection.com.au/

    I'll be planting some herbs and tender greens in the VegTrug shortly. I've finally conceded that it isn't the right set up for fruiting type vegetables. Though we've had some success with zucchini this summer...

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    1. That's a great site, Jay. Thanks for sharing it.

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    2. That it such a deal! I just placed an order! Thanks for sharing Jay. I am also going to start some seeds Rhonda, count me in :)

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  9. Hi Rhonda,
    Yes we too have started our seeds [sorry to copy you hehehe as we live close] We have had a good strike rate this year and the light rain has helped a lot. We also water ours with seaweed solution right from the start and then on intervals when necessary. We find this helps boost them along. My husband is making extra beds for this year as we have fine tuned what we are good at growing and keeping and what we like of course. [and what our chickens like too]. I cant wait for our first batch of tomatoes again [ I just had to buy some and they were just ok] We tried growing some things in old truck tyres and found that the tyres got so hot that the plants burned. The chillis and caps did well as did the mint and lemon balm and comfrey. Its great to try new things. This year I want to get into more propagating. What is a good companion plant for broccoli and cauliflower to help with the grubs? Thanks Rhonda and Hanno love your work!!!!!

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    1. I've never found companion planting to be very effective here, Mary-ann. We pick off the grubs and eggs if we see them. If they get out of control, we use Dipel - it's an organic bacterial spray.

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  10. A short time ago I inventory my seeds...Had them in two categories, plenty of seed and low ones. I still have a few mounds of snow in my yard.
    Notice a few of my spring bulbs in yard.
    Majority of our garden actual goes in mid may. Last year we gave away lot of produce to different people and to our local food bank.

    Coffee is on

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  11. Here we pretty much plant after mid-May, unless we use water walls or row covers. I hope to get back into gardening this summer -I've missed it dearly - and last summer our farmer's market closed because of sales tax restrictions - so no fresh veggies for us!-(

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  12. Thanks for the reminder to test older seeds. I would have been sorely disappointed when it came time to plant them only to find out half of them were unusable! Love your garden & looking forward to seeing pictures in the future! Best wishes from America.

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  13. Hello, I´m portuguese, living in Portugal, I can send you some portuguese cabbage seeds, but can you be mere specific or show me what cabbage is? We have a lot......

    Regards

    Celia

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    1. Hi Celia. It's couve tronchuda I'm after but I think I've found a local source. Australia has very strict quarantine laws and if you posted seeds, I doubt they'd get through customs. Thanks for your generous offer.

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  14. I'm still trying to fathom the various parts of your garden in relation to the house etc, do you have a sort of aerial map of the place that we could see?

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    1. Sue, there is only the google map which I don't want to add for obvious reasons. Our block is dog leg shape - straight down from the road and at the block's half-way point, it moves towards the left. The house sits in the middle of the plot, the garden is directly behind the house on the right side and Hanno's shed and the orchard are on the left boundary fence.

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  15. Thank you so much for posting your garden development. It is exciting and keeps my mind off of -10 this morning with snow and ice everywhere.

    Peace be with you,
    Dee

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  16. Very inspiring , Rhonda . Your garden is coping well with the heat , and I am so envious of your blueberries.

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  17. If I can figure out hoe to post to Pinterest I will. In Oklahoma, USA, we sow roots and peas in feb, cold crops in march and summer veg may 1st.

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    1. Hi Lynn, I think I can create a combined page where we can all sit side by side. I'll let you know later.

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  18. Hi Rhonda
    I have just joined the forum and am determined to be less of a lurker this year, on your blog and at the forum ;-) So I would love to join your garden picture group. I live in Melbourne and we still have an abundant summer garden (even after a week of over 40 deg C temperatures!) but I also grow a lot in winter because the season is very gentle and we get such abundance. In the next week I will be planning the winter garden and would love to share my journey.
    I will keep an eye out for when you have the page organised.
    Thanks
    Kate

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    1. Looking forward to seeing your garden, Kate. I hope to get the page sorted soon.

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  19. I so would like to start gardening, but have never done it before and feel very intimidated. Posts like this help to inspire me. I even drew up the never to buy my first seeds yesterday :-)

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    1. It's like all new skills, you learn, do, remember, then do it again. We can help you in those early stages. Are you a member of the forum? If not, join up and you can ask questions whenever you like.

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  20. Hi Rhonda, is there anywhere that I can sign up for notifications of new posts on your blog? I have looked on the side bar, but can't seem to find it. Have been away from reading while I travel the path of PTSD and am back ready to live simply and beautifully once again. ~Robyn

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    1. Good to see you back, Miss Robyn. Since the google feeder died, I've been using http://feedly.com/. You open an account and drop the blogs you read into it. It will then give you a list of your blogs when they publish.

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  21. I felt so encouraged by your blog Rhonda. Currently I have many punnets full of seeds and in 3 days the cabbage/kale/cauli /.winter sprouting broccoli were all popping through the seed raising mix!!
    We only moved to this property 8 weeks ago and we have spent up to 16 hours a day getting it established with LOTS of watering seeing we are in the Summer season here. I thought at the time to plan my Autumn/Winter garden since we missed out on Spring with having a couple of moves/ Christmas/ daughter's wedding all in the space of 6 weeks!!
    We are already harvesting zucchini/ apple cucumbers/ lettuce/ a couple of tomatoes/strawberries and the corn is getting bigger cobs by the day and the potatoes look wonderful. It has been VERY satisfying to get all that done in a short period of time and now I can sit back a bit and look at the veg growing and the 6 flower beds we established flowering and looking beautiful
    Karen - NZ

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  22. Hi Rhonda, this post was really interesting - especially about how to check whether seeds are still viable. I've toyed with vegetable gardens in the past, but have never really followed through it until the recently. My summer garden was only a moderate success, however, and I've been wondering if it was partly because the seeds I used were too old or just generally no good anymore. Now I can check the seeds I have in the cupboard, before I work on my winter garden! :)

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  23. Hi Rhonda, I live in the southeastern part of the United States. Typically, we garden April through November. I would love to join in posting pictures of my garden, as well as see others. I'll check back to see what you've decided.

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  24. Hi Rhonda, I look forward to joining you in the garden planting for March. I am a novice gardener and will follow your advice on what to plant but will start stocking up on seeds so that I am ready to go! :)

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