30 September 2007

Vegetable gardening

We find the most difficult thing to manage in our garden is the continuity of supply. We go alright for a while, then it all falls apart. Currently the garden looks bare because we thought we still had a bit to go before the warm weather, then all of a sudden it was warm. Pfffft! The seeds weren't even sown! So a couple of weeks ago, I set to sowing seeds in pots and trays and in the garden. Some in the garden are starting to come up and the tray seeds are almost ready to pot on now. But we are having to buy capsicums and tomatoes - ugh. Store bought tomatoes are not good.

Above is an overview of the garden taken yesterday morning. In the first garden (that's a bird feeder that looks like it's in the middle of the garden, but isn't) we have radishes and the last of Hanno's kale. At the end of this garden we've planted Golden Nugget pumpkin. Like most hot weather gardeners, we have water containers everywhere.

This garden has some silverbeet (swiss chard), capsicums (peppers) and bok choy (chinese cabbage). At the end of this garden are carrots, french radishes, beetroot, eggplant, two different lettuces and celery. In the garden behind there are potatoes under straw, a lone pineapple and one of the last cabbages. Oh, and a clump of old fashioned nasturtiums - a yellow one with red splashes. It's been left there so I can collect seeds from it. That row of green, in the next garden behind the potatoes, are blue lake beans. I've just been out watering the garden before the sun hits it and noticed the first of the potatoes are coming up. They're Dutch Creams.

The Richmond Green Apple cucumber is growing nicely with the first flowers just starting to form. This is a delicious old Australian variety that was very popular when I was growing up.

The silverbeet freak. This silverbeet is almost a metre (3') tall. It's the only one in the old crop of silverbeet to grow this high. I wish I could collect seeds from this little beauty but silverbeet never flowers here.

We've harvested cabbages from these bare spaces, just a few remain. Today I'll be pulling out the rest of the English spinach (right-hand corner), which is starting to flower, and will give it to the chooks to eat. They love spinach. In the photo above you can see foodhook zucchini coming up as well as daikon radish at the back and some herbs at the front. Rhonda Gay gave me the seed for the vine on the right. It's some sort of Asian gourd.

Here we have a young group of silverbeet, with bok choy at the top. We use a lot of silverbeet and have it growing year round. Whatever we don't eat, the chooks have. Giving them dark green leaves like silverbeet and spinach gives their egg yolks a dark golden yellow colour. Today, these little babies, and the rest of the leafy vegies, will be getting a drink of worm tea.

This is the potato patch again. It's the only part of our garden we put under straw, as now the drought's in full swing, it's almost impossible to find straw or lucerne hay at a reasonable price. We usually buy about 12 bales of mulch a year, and supplement that with what we grow in the garden, like pigeon pea and lawn clippings. We have one bale left from our last purchase and we're saving that for the potatoes, with a small portion going to the tomatoes I have growing in pots. I have four tomatoes in pots, one Brandywine, an Amish paste and (I think) two Mortgage Lifters. In the aquaponics garden, I have Brandywines, Amish paste and some Sweet Bites. In the bottom of the above photo you can also see Judi B's amazing onions. She has sent them to so many people, I'm sure they must be taking over Australian backyards by now. A quiet revolution. I hope to cut them back today as they're dying down after flowering and have been attacked by aphids. When they do that each year, it's time to transplant them.

Right outside the vegetable garden, along the picket fence, we're growing Sunshine Blue and Rabbit Ears blueberries. They're in full flower now and starting to produce fruit again. It takes blueberries a while to establish here, as our weather is so warm, but each year these bushes get a little bigger and give us more fruit. Small steps.

And finally, here is a view of our house from the garden. You can see our small water tank (5000 litres), the aquaponics system and behind the lattice, is my greenhouse. If you click on this photo to enlarge it, you'll see this is the back verandah of a functional house, not a place for entertainment. Although we did have my 50th birthday party there with about 50 people sitting at tables with flowers and candles glowing in the twilight. Now we're more practical and our home reflects that. You can see a wheelbarrow waiting to carry a load, a disconnected pay TV satellite dish on the roof, some skylights to light rooms with sunlight and not electricity. Just out of sight is a solar hot water system. Look carefully and you'll also see clothes racks for drying when it's raining, plants waiting to be taken inside and fruit and vegies waiting to have seeds collected or to be planted. It's not a pretty site, but it works well for us. Oh, and that window behind the white clothes rack is where I'm now sitting typing this. : )

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