DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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10 August 2016

Our vegetable garden

Before I start today's post I want to thank so many of you for your kind and generous comments.  It really does make blogging a great joy to have feedback - without it it's a one-way conversation.  So thank you for taking the time to comment, it motivates me to continue blogging.

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Although we've cut down on the amount of food we produce in the backyard, it's still an important part of life for us.  Not only for the fresh food it gives but also for the work required to get a seed or seedling to harvest. That work is still interesting and rewarding and it forms part of the framework we live within.



We have a huge garden but only a small portion of it is taken up with food production. The natural soil here is heavy clay but we've been working the garden soil for almost 20 years now and it's as close to perfect as I imagine it could be. The original clay was broken up when we first arrived here and compost, lime and organic matter added, not just once but continuously. When a crop was harvested and the roots removed, Hanno added more nutrients and compost. Over the years that built up to be dark, rich, fertile soil that has given us many kilos of fresh food. We've always had a compost heap, at times we've kept worm farms and we always grow comfrey with which to make a good natural free fertiliser that is as good as any you can buy.



Daikon, butter lettuce and er, weeds. LOL

One of the major parts of our garden are our rainwater tanks. Hanno constructed an excellent water collection system from our house roof and the shed roof. That gives us 15,000 litres of rainwater to use on the garden. If we didn't have those tanks I doubt we'd grow food in the back yard because tap water is so expensive. Luckily we live in an area where the rainfall is between 1500 to 1800mm (60 - 70 inches) a year, that rain falls in heavy showers throughout the year and is followed by mild to hot sunny weather. We never have frosts and our winter temperatures are between 3 - 23C. Most winter days warm up to about 20C, even after a cold night. We used to garden all year but since we cut back, we plant in March and stop planting in November. That gives us and the garden a break of 3 - 4 months over summer when it's hot, humid and there are a lot of insects around.



Another valuable part of our backyard eco-system are the chickens. They provide eggs for the kitchen but also nitrogen-rich manure for the compost. The addition of fresh manure helps the compost decompose and after a couple of months we have the best soil additive we could hope for. And it all comes together simply by adding chook poo to compost - the microorganisms in the compost do all the work for us and help turn kitchen and garden waste into rich, sweet smelling compost.

Hanno planted out more seedlings yesterday. We're currently growing chard, beetroot, spinach, kohl rabi, curly kale, bush beans, climbing beans, Welsh onions, lettuce, daikon radish, bok choi, turnips, parsley, basil, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves, sage, lemon grass, mint, raspberries, blueberries, youngberries, elderberries, Brazilian cherries, lemons, oranges, bananas, loquats and passionfruit. In the bush house I've planted trays of various chillies and heirloom tomato seeds that have just germinated. There are flowers in the vegetable garden too and they help attract the pollinators.


The afternoon sun catches the tangle of Herb Robert and alyssum.
What started out almost 20 years ago to be the chore of modifying hard clay and then planting seed to bring to harvest, has turned into a gentle and pleasurable way to spend time together outside. That garden of ours isn't just a food garden, it provides us with a space to sit and enjoy the fresh air and all the wildlife that visit on foot and fly through.

I wonder what's in your garden this season.

38 comments:

  1. That last paragraph sums up our garden too Rhonda. I looked out the ranch sliders from the couch last Sunday. It was a cold Winter day but the sun was shining on the yellow calendula flowers from a bright blue sky. Just beautiful and spirit lifting!

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  2. Hi Rhonda,

    your chooks look very handsome! I agree the garden provides a lot more benefits than just food, you've reminded me to appreciate mine a bit more. I've currently got a good crops of onions and garlic growing well, and collards and kale. Winters are cold here of course (Armidale) so not much else happening. But will be starting the Spring planting early as overall it's been a mild Winter. The thought of going through my seed box again always makes me excited!

    Have a lovely day everyone,

    Madeleine.x

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  3. We are renting this year in preparation to build but we have garlic, onions, sugar peas, rhubarb, chives, lavender, basil and parsley. I can't wait to be able to have chickens, that will be the highlight of the move to our land.
    I'm not sure if I've ever commented before but I do want to thank you for writing and sharing in this space.

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  4. I'm living in Blackheath now and the window of a good vegetable growing season is smaller than when I was in Woodford. But I am growing lots of greens!

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  5. I'm just about to wander down the back ramp to "outside", Rhonda. Our main veg garden runs the full length of that back ramp and it's taken some work to get it to be productive. Compost, gypsum, rock dust, seaweed solution are just some of the inputs that were needed to turn what was shale and clay underneath that into some kind of productive soil. I hope that soil will be as friable as your soil in twenty years! There's silverbeet and kale to harvest today, leeks, snow peas that I'm growing in hanging baskets, broccoli florets, lettuce and herbs. The first thing I'll do though is smell the first of my sweet pea blooms. I smile when I go down my back ramp, Rhonda. It's a joy beyond compare! Meg

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    1. I noticed my first sweet pea bud yesterday. Bliss! And yes, I understand that joy.

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  6. I too enjoy your blog, it is so fun and interesting to here about your life half way around the world from me. I didn't realize that confrey was a good fertilizer, I will plant more. I use it for making healing ointment.
    Since we are in the middle of our summer, the garden is producing fairly well, tomatoes coming on. Too hot for lettuce, but will plant some in a week or so to harvest in the fall. Lots of potatoes and onions. Pumpkings and squash coming on. Just froze 23 bags of corn. Peaches, apples and pears will be ready soon. I envy you having citrus fruit, much too cold here.
    I too find my garden to be a place of peace and confort. I have sitting areas scattered through out my yard and garden.
    Keep the posts coming.

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    1. Grandma Zee, I envy your stone fruit. We used to grow peaches but they attracted fruit fly and we had to take them out.

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  7. I love reading about your way of life as it reminds me to slow up. Unfortunately, here in central Tasmania our vicious frosts usually don`t stop till late Nov and start again early April so gardening of necessity is a rush to sow before Christmas and harvest before Easter and get enough root crops and brassicas planted to sit in the garden over winter. So nice to be able to space your growing over the course of the year. But we have had a restful, albeit a very wet, winter and I can`t wait to start sowing seeds in the greenhouse next month and getting another season underway

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  8. Glad to see your Herb Robert is happy there, Rhonda. It is growing everywhere here. We could still get a frost before spring despite this warm weather we are having. I am not quite ready to pack the thermals away yet.

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  9. I love looking at the photos of your garden Rhonda - weeds and all πŸ˜‰ Our spring planting starts soon in SA. We don't have frosts, as we have sea on three sides of our small township. We do have hard clay, which we are continually working on, but we don't use lime, as our soil is very alkaline.
    I have started my cherry tomato seeds already under shelter, and if the season is anything like last year, we should have tomato by Christmas.
    Our garden always has something in it, currently root crops, garlic, Silverbeet, radishes. We have young fruit trees (we have only lived here for 3 years), berry vines, choko, bananas, guavas, rhubarb etc.
    also two elderberries, cuttings from my son's tree.
    Thank you for sharing your garden with us. Xx

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  10. We are having a bit of a drought here in Maine. I don't know the figures, but know we haven't had a good soaking storm since May. Our well is in good shape and my garden is small, but I'm still not watering as thoroughly as my plants would like. The pumpkins and cucumbers were droopy today so I watered them well. I've got beans for drying, and sunflowers for the chickens this winter. My broccoli is about done and the tomatoes are just getting started. About to reseed the chard and spinach for a fall harvest - getting cooler here now. 55*F this morning. Thanks got sharing your garden with us!

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  11. I, too, love to read about your life and gardens. I envy those of you who produce food. I live on a small lot in SW Florida. It is blazing hot and humid. We have
    sand for soil. Lived here for 30 years now. I used to garden (a little) when we lived in Illinois and my children were small. I question whether I could do the physical work required now (age 69). My husband has no interest, so I am afraid it would all be on me!! He is not retired (73) but I am, and loving it. I was home the first 20 years raising a family, worked 28, and now retired...going on 3. I am so grateful to be back to housekeeping and homemaking.

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    1. I grew up in SW FL! (I live in west central FL now, near Tampa.) I hear you, the soil down there isn't great. I understand that if you're very near the coast, the salt air can be problematic as well. If you want to garden a little, but don't want to do the major physical work, maybe a few plants in pots? We're trying a new-to-us plant, an Everglades tomato (a friend in the Keys gave us a couple seedlings), that is supposed to do very well in the heat and humidity, and supposedly will grow anywhere and produce a ton of fruit--might be one to try for you?

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  12. I have a very small garden, but am happy with it. Some ever-bearing strawberries, many tomatoes and one watermelon plant! I hope I can keep it protected when it gets cold, because I'm not sure it'll be ready before then. Oh, and a pepper plant in a pot. :)
    Your photos are lovely - your flowers are so pretty.

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  13. My husband and I just took a few minutes tonight to look over the seeds we have and to place a small seed order to supplement our stash. Time to start getting the beds ready for our fall garden. We take a break in the summer here as well--it's too hot for the plants (and for us!) and the bugs and weeds are too much to battle. So we take a break, doing only the maintenance necessary outside, and come back to it in the fall. It's still hot and humid right now, but getting ready for the garden reminds me that it will get pleasant again, we just have to hang in there. :)

    We had our peach season here already, but next week I'm picking up a half-bushel of Georgia peaches, planning to do some canning and freezing, and also eating as many fresh as we can stand.

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  14. Your garden looks amazing, I was glad to see the odd weed, it means mine isnt as bad as I thought. I love all your flowers. Thanks for sharing, Guida

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  15. Our garden is so so this year. Since it hubby and I we been talking about adding some berries and fruit trees.
    Today for dinner we picked some zucchini.
    Coffee is on

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  16. Here in NE Texas the garden is usually burned up in August and I've had to throw up my hands and let it go. But this I'm still harvesting heavily from it daily - tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, green beans, sweet peppers, summer squash and zucchini are included in almost every daily harvest basket. But lately I've had an odd die-off happening: one day the entire row of sweet pepper plants is healthy & perky, the next day one of the plants stands with limp leaves hugging the plant. Within a day or so the stems brown & die. Maybe a mole attacking from underground? I've never seen any evidence of moles and the plants still appear to be firmly rooted in the soil but I can't imagine what else it could be. Such a puzzle! Thanks for taking us on a stroll through your beautiful garden, Rhonda!

    ~Taylor-Made Homestead
    Texas

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  17. I have enjoyed the walk around your garden. I had a huge harvest of turmeric recently. This week I am harvesting kale, silver beet, kohl rabi, broccoli, thyme, parsley, red veined sorrel. Planting zucchini and another sowing of broccoli and silver beet. Just in my little allotment, 16 square metres.

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  18. Not garden related, Rhonda. But, I wanted to let you know that I've finally swapped from Morning Fresh dishwashing liquid to the Eco variety that you use. I was struggling with eczema on my 'cleaning hand' and over the years, that hand now looks significantly older- at the ripe old age of 30! I've been using it for a couple of weeks now and my hand is no longer red raw and burning! Still dry but I can manage that. Thank you, Jade

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    1. That's great news, Jade. Eco Store have great products so I'm really pleased the dish liquid is working well for you.

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  19. Thank you for the walk round your garden I always love to see what people are growing around the world. My garden is producing a small amount for us as it always does. It is not very big but we use the space wisely and grow only what can cope with our cool summer temperatures (similar to your Autumn/Winter it would seem). I about to start some late summer sowing as occasionally I can extend our growing season into late autumn using the warmth of the polytunnel, some years it works others it doesn't but that is what gardening is all about isn't it, giving it a go!

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  20. Your vege garden Rhonda and yard looks very inviting and happy. Our vege garden is a little sad atm consisting of a few herbs and a great selection of weeds. Comfrey looks interesting, I shall check it out. We do have lemons and mandarins though. We have a great green house which the Veges loved last season. I'm not a good gardener but my husband has a green thumb and I enjoy picking cooking and eating what he has grown. So I am an encouraging at least.

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  21. Foodwise I only have 2 pots of sugar snap peas in my garden at the moment, I've scaled right back as I choose to focus on other things for a while. I'm dreaming of not having to work outside the home, and instead homeschooling my son which would include lots of gardening lessons (for both of us as I don't have a green thumb!).I love that you derive so much joy and comfort from your lovely garden.

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  22. you have an amazing garden rhonda, always looks as though it has always been
    am slowly getting into my garden too. lots of work ahead of me & one day hopefully it will be as beautiful as yours :))
    thanx for sharing

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    1. Thanks Selina. I'm sure your garden will look beautiful too when it's productive.

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  23. Rhonda, as a mom of 2 littles busy all day to care for our home and family, I rarely take time to comment... forgive me;) I have adored your blog for a few years and have learned so much!
    We just moved to New Mexico from the east coast USA and are learning about a whole new climate! Just when I started getting the gardening thing figured out haha. Please know that you have taught me how to love my home FOR my family and my self in a powerful way. I found your blog shortly after my mother passed away suddenly in 2010... you look amazingly similar to her... and the huge void she left was softened a bit. Unbeknownst to you☺ thank you. Blessings.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Sarah. It's made my day. xx

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  24. Always enjoy checking in to see what is happening in your garden. I envy your water tanks for garden water.....I need to think more about cutting costs there somehow. The vege in my container garden that I am really enjoying this summer is Mizuno....a Japanese green with a light mustard flavor....can use it raw and cooked and so easy to grow. Thank you for all the inspiration you give to us readers of your blog.

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    1. oops typo....make that Mizuna with an A

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  25. Well I do keep up with your blog but seldom comment. I can see how having comments would make it much more interesting for you.

    We have a lovely cloudy, showery day here in southern Indiana. Makes a great excuse to stay inside rather than being out in the hot humid air working on the flower beds. Lots of rain this summer so everything is green and growing (especially the weeds). Your comment on the fertilizer available from comfrey reminded me that I first heard about it's benefits from you. I have made the liquid fertilizer since then and have a bucket in the potting shed right now fermenting. It works great and it's so nice to get it for free. Thanks a lot for the information.

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  26. Rhonda your garden is looking lovely and summery! Your chooks look very pretty!
    We have English spinach and silver beet growing at the moment. Our Nellie Kelly Blueberry is out in pretty flowers, we are keeping it in a large pot.
    I really enjoy reading your blog every week and now have all your books which I'm always referring to. I hope you and Hanno are keeping well.

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  27. Hello Rhonda,
    I don't believe I have ever commented before. You have a wonderful site here, I check every day to see what is new. I have bought your books and enjoyed them greatly as well. Just wanted to say thank you and let you know you have fans out here, even if we are quiet. ;). The best part of your writing is your pace of life and viewpoint. Your graceful viewpoint of life and an acceptance of fitting into the world is really a wonderful thing to read. The pace of your day is an inspiration to me, so often people keep pressing to do more and more, rather than seeing what is happening in the current moment. Thank you again for reminding me to pay attention to the current moment.

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  28. You have such a lovely garden. It has such a nice balance, and the productive parts are what make it the most beautiful! You also give me hope... my family and I bought our first house a year ago and it has a nice big backyard. But it has terrible sandy soil, low in organic matter and full of sand burrs. I guess I just need to add lots and lots of compost. =)

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    1. Thank you. Compost will correct sandy soil so I encourage you to start. When we had a backyard full of clay, we started growing by adding compost to the garden beds - they were slightly raised - and then we removed the soil in the spots we wanted to plant in. Then we'd plant and fill in with compost instead of replacing the soil. That worked really well and we grew from the first year onwards. Eventually, after about five years, we had fairly good soil in those garden beds and it's just continued to improve.

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  29. You have a beautiful garden Rhonda. We have just a small veggie patch in suburban Sydney, and a few years ago I would have described myself as having a black thumb, but year by year I'm learning and our small patch is producing more and more for us. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  30. Hi Rhonda, what lovely images you share (both words and photos!) of your garden space. I followed your blog for years and just thought I'd drop in again. We are at the beginning of the spectrum you speak of, having a completely bare section that this week will hopefully get the first of it's fruit trees planted in our little orchard. It's winter still in NZ and I have to wait at least a month before I can plant any seedlings. I'm kind of hanging out for fresh food from the garden!

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Thank you for your comment today. I love reading your opinions and thoughts. We have built up a wonderfully diverse community here that I'm very proud to be a part of.

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