DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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26 February 2014

Starting the vegetable garden

I miss our garden when it's not growing. At the end of our main season in November, I really feel like a break because I'm over watering, tending, harvesting and the rest of it. But then December, January and February come and go and I start missing the garden. I don't like paying high prices for inferior vegetables, I can never find anywhere near the freshness that we're used to and I start longing for the garden to be there again - fresh and available, right at our back door.

Head gardener Hanno.

These are unripe black passionfruit.

The time is right to plant again and the signs are already good. Our passionfruit vines are holding big juicy passions and we've had the best season ever for blueberries. I think it's going to be a good year in the garden. But things have changed out there. The chook house has been renovated and enlarged and that took a small area out of the garden. Hanno has put up a very strong climbing frame on the new chook wall and I expect that will help our vines grow during winter because the heat of the sun will hit the vines from both sides.




I started sowing seeds a few weeks ago and almost all of them are growing well, although the daikons didn't germinate and the granny's bonnets took 28 days to come up! That's a long time here, usually our seeds take only a few days when the days are so warm but like parsley, the granny's bonnets like to take their time. I have half a tray of curly kale because we grow for ourselves and the chickens. The more green vegies they eat, the darker yellow their yolks become. If you're a new gardener, I recommend curly kale to you. It's very hardy. They're at their best as a winter vegetable but will keep going in the heat as well. It's the best flavoured kale in our opinion and beats the dark kale hands down for versatility. This year, I'm trying Japanese spinach. Has anyone tried that? I've only sown six seeds at the moment because I have so many other leaves on the go, but I'm looking forward to test tasting it.

 Still growing in the garden now - pumpkin a few silverbeet and some beetroot.

Chillies and a few other herbs - pineapple sage, thyme, parsley, sage, Welsh onions.

And another bucket of lemons waiting to be juiced.

I have three types of tomato - our self sown large cherry tomato that comes up every year sure as eggs, the French Rouge de Marmande and Amish paste. The seeds collected from our flat leaf parsley have germinated well and I have about 50 plants now. I'll share those with Sunny when she comes home. I have a nice selection of Sugarloaf cabbage and mini cauliflowers, magenta silver beet, Warrigal greens, pak choi, cucumbers, sweet potato, potatoes, about fifty garlics from last year's crop, calendulas - for ointments and oil, sprouting broccoli, brown onions, and peas, beans and sweet peas will be planted as seeds, along with many other root vegetables, directly into the ground. I've taken cuttings from the elder tree and that will be planted when it's ready, we brought another passionfruit vine that will be planted on the new trellis and I have a two year old avocado, grown from a seed, ready to pot on. There is certainly plenty of work to be done.


We've been building up our supplies recently and every time Hanno goes to the produce store or hardware, he brings home bags of cow manure and sugar cane mulch. Yesterday afternoon, when I took my photos, he'd just finished planting the kumquat tree that Shane and Sarndra gave us. Now I just have to wait for the other beds to be prepared and then planting will start. Once again, we'll be set up here to provide ourselves with plenty of fresh food. It makes me feel good to be alive.

We're both excited about the possibilities this growing season is presenting us with. We both have a new leash on life and feel thankful that we can do this work and provide for ourselves. It's going to be a good year here at the Hetzel homestead. What are your plans for the garden this year?

I've set up the page at Pinterest for us to share our garden photos and I'm really looking forward to seeing what you're all doing out there. You'll need a Pinterest account to join in but it's easy and quick to join up. If you want to post your photos, please email me your email address and I'll add you as someone who can post on the Down to Earth community account. We'll limit the photos to two at a time, but please update your photos as the ear progresses. And don't forget to identify yourself and write something about your climate and garden when you add your photos.  It will be great to see all the gardens and to share what we're doing with photos.


26 comments:

  1. I can imagine the excitement you feel at the prospect of gardening again. We had a terrible summer in Victoria, with no rain and heatwaves to contend with, and my garden looks terrible. The weather is beginning to change though and there is promise in the air. I'm starting to feel excited about the winter garden! I love seeing photos of your garden. Have fun planting!

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  2. Hi Rhonda, ah I totally get the longing for a new season to begin. My garden has lain bare resting up since November also. In the hot tropics of Townsville I still have another month to go. I still have my herbs and fruit trees but I miss the everyday pottering in a veggie patch. Xo

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  3. I am still organising my beds....sheet mulched empty spaces on the newish one at the back, I already have a few annuals in it and some herbs...tulsi basil planted around my Buddha, and other fragrant herbs along the back boundary, where there's a space for the dog to walk and greet people as they go along the lane.....she'll brush on these herbs and smell nice, and some will help with fleas. part of this area will be for my dyer's garden, and the rest will be a mix of small natives and some veggies....it gets the western sun, so I'm trying to provide shade and climate zones so I can have a bit of everything. I'm very lucky too, as I can just drive out along the road in any direction and pick up a huge bale of sugar cane mulch for a couple of dollars.....dog and I do this drive regularly. No seeds in yet, but it's farmer's market day today, and there's a local organic seedling stall so I think I'll pick up some leafy greens so I feel like I've made a start. Where did you originally source your Rouge de Marmand tomato from ? I'll get a couple of pics onto Pinterest later today....not much to see yet, but a beginning.

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    1. I got the tomato seeds from Green Harvest. :- ) Looking forward to seeing your garden, Nanette.

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  4. I come to your site when I feel like visiting a grandma - I get a cuppa tea and have a look at your beautiful pictures and posts, calming and giving me advice and you don't even know it. Thank you for being a wise elder in my life Rhonda - you nourish my soul : ) bless x x

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  5. I am sharing your excitement about getting our garden under way again...except ours will be our Spring and Summer garden! Here in northwest Florida we have had a very cold winter and even though the past several days have been lovely my husband Don tells me another freeze is due for later this week. He has been outside getting set up. We bought a Meyer lemon tree this week and some seeds for me to start inside and some to sow outside. I can hardly wait...Blessings to you and Hanno. Carolyn

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  6. You are always so well organised! I really can't wait to see your garden growing, you guys grow such an amazing garden each year :) I love the curly kale too!

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  7. I cannot WAIT to garden. The winter this year in NJ has been like one we have not seen in quite some time with lots of snow and freezing temperatures.
    We belong to a CSA so this year I am only going to attempt zucchini and dill because I am going to finally have a flower garden! Eventually, as my son gets older, I hope to have a nice combo of flowers and veggies to grow, but right now, going with mostly flowers and herbs.

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    1. I'm growing lots of flowers to entice the bees back this year. Good luck with your planting.

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  8. I thought it is summer in Australia now. My question is why can't you plant in December... is it too hot?
    I live in Alberta, Canada and I can plant at the end of May and the first frost date is September 19 for our area. Not much time for gardening but I always try.

    Thanks
    Janet

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    1. We could plant then if we wanted to. We can produce food all year here but we like to have a break and to escape the hot weather and the many bugs of summer.

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  9. I have been planting greens in half wine barrel tubs near our back door. Four different types of lettuce, spinach, celery and we have parsley and spring onions growing as well as different herbs. I currently have sweet pea seeds soaking and I am ordering more. Our veggie garden has been 'resting' for a while, but we are close to getting out there again and turning the soil over. Some rain first would be very helpful as it is dry here at the moment. Happy gardening. xxoo

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    1. It's very dry here too, Julie. Good luck with your garden this year,

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  10. Oh it's so exciting isn't it Rhonda, I can't wait to get my veggies under way too. Have sown seed of cabbage, tomato and lettuce indoors ready to plant out in my raised bed in March (which is nearly now!) and I already have celery out there which I planted up last year in pots from stubs saved from some that I bought for cooking. Amazingly, the stubs grew and survived outdoors all winter so I just had to bung them into the raised bed and they're growing away again now. The raised bed is covered with one of those plastic mesh carrot fly screens, so I'll get the carrot seed in soon as well, and some beetroot and anything else I can fit in. Mange tout peas will be grown in an old dustbin and runner beans in another one. And courgettes will be amongs the garden shrubs and flowers wherever they will fit. Parsley is also growing thickly amongst the flower beds, I've found it makes a great ground cover instead of having bare spaces with weeds and just sows itself every year. In fact mine had just gone on growing all year round which is lovely. Glad to see that you are still taking the Elder cuttings, they take so easily don't they?

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    1. It sounds like your well and truly organised. Good luck with your garden this year.
      It looks like we've got borer in the original elder tree. Those cuttings will replace it one day. I also took eight blueberry cuttings yesterday. I have my fingers crossed for them.

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  11. Our wet English veggie garden has been having a rest for the months of winter. Hopefully we can soon start sowing seeds.

    How wonderful to have a lemon tree in your garden!

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  12. I love how creative you are! Unfortunately I don't have a garden, but I have been looking into maybe growing some herbs and chillies in my window sill for some fresh home grown supplies :) It is difficult to find something that can handle the lack of sunlight though, as it is quite cloudy here in Glasgow most of the time. Do you happen to have any suggestions? :) I hope you, Hanno and the chickens are all doing well :) It looks so harmonious at your side of the world :) x J

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    1. Jules, most herbs need a lot of sunlight. Maybe you could do some sprouting instead, you'll need seeds but they don't need sunlight. Also, here we can buy a small box called a mushroom farm. It's full of mushroom compost and mushroom fungus. It likes dark conditions. That might be another option for you.

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  13. We are over in Australia from the UK for a month whilst my husband is on a lecture tour. Personally I am quite happy not to go home at all.... :) We were in Melbourne last week and went down to St Kilda and spent some time in the wonderful Veg Out Community Garden. We have plenty of allotments in the UK but Veg Out was something quite different. It was somewhere where people not only grew food and flowers but where people like us could spend time chilling out. Gardens are so much more than just places where we grow stuff.

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    1. We have some great community gardens here. If you're in Brisbane, check out the Northey Street Farm, it's just outside the city. I hope you enjoy your time here.

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  14. Rhonda, I am simply blown away by what you and Hanno manage to grow in a suburban back yard, albeit a large back yard! Like so many other Aussies the hot dry weather has all but destroyed everything except the native eucalypts, melaleucas and acacias in our yard. I had herbs in pots doing beautifully until November - all dead now. And the chooks have dug up all the bulbs that have been flowering every year. I quit! No, once we get part of the yard fenced off for the chooks, and if we get some rain to moisten the soil, I guess I'll start again..

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    1. Never give up, Gina. I know you're stronger than that. Find some manures and compost and get some organic matter into that soil. Fence out the chooks, they will destroy everything. When you plant, mulch everything. That will help keep the moisture in the soil and when it breaks down it will add to the soil for next year. I know you can do it.

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    2. I've just seen this - thank you so much for your encouraging reply, Rhonda - it means a lot to me, coming from you :-)

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  15. oh reading one of your posts always inspires me, as another reader said I always feel after reading one of your posts that I have sat down to chat with a friend over a cup of tea. Yes I would like permission to pin some photos on pintrest - I will e-mail you. I like the idea you have of posting what area you are gardening in along with the photos.

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  16. I am thoroughly enjoying harvesting from my garden at the moment but harvesting is all I'm doing in my 7 th month of pregnancy. I'm glad I set it up though before summer. The great news is that my renting days are soon to be over and my family have purchased a house on half an acre in a semi rural area of Victoria. Baby is due in May so I'll be taking small slow steps to build up our veggie garden. I look forward to lots of thinking, dreaming and planning while looking after new baby and 2 other little trackers! X

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  17. Yes, it's very exciting to start a new growing season off. We had our garden ploughed last week in temps of 24C (done with horse and plough - so delightfully quaint here in BG) and then 2 days of snow this week, so quite challenging. This weekend we hope to plant our early spuds, leeks, carrots, lettuce, salad onions (which I have never had any success with, but I will keep on trying), raddishes, beetroot. My windowsills are full of germinated tender veggies and flowers. Yup, feels pretty good.

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