9 March 2008

Planting the new vegie garden

After quite a few weeks of busyness and flapping around here and there, I’m finally back to some kind of normal. It’s good to be at home, knowing I have the time to do what I want without thoughts of other things that need attention. I was supposed to be out today visiting a friend but she cancelled at the last minute so I have a lovely day at home ahead of me.

The garden is behind where it should be at this point. Generally it’s planted up in the first week of March but this year, with both Hanno and I being ill, moving the Neighbourhood Centre, and all that involved, and various other little bits and pieces, we have only prepared two beds and planted a handful of squash and tomatoes. We’ll get to work on the garden today.

I went to visit Frances at Green Harvest on Friday and bought a few packets of seeds, so with what we already have here, we are set to start off our main vegetable plantings for the year. This is an important time for us. What we sow now will be feeding us during the year, right up till about November when we will modify the garden slightly for summer crops. We have to get it right and we have to care for the plants as they grow, otherwise it’s a lot of hard work for nothing but a few straggling beans and squash. If we put in the right kind of work, however, those seeds will turn into the most delicious and healthy organic food.

I find the beginning of the new season garden both the most exciting time and the most mundane. There is a world of possibilities out there in the empty beds but seeing bare soil with no growth is very uninspiring. However, once those seeds start germinating, and when we start planting seedlings raised in the bush house, things start falling into shape. Tiny shoots emerge and add colour to the garden, we add structure with climbing frames, planted herb pots and stakes and it’s away. What was once a bare space starts looking like it could become something. Wait a couple of short weeks and beans vines start creeping up the trellis, cucumber and tomato flowers start forming, bees buzz around pollinating as they go, wasps fly in, lady bugs look like tiny oranges moving around and before we know it the first Chinese cabbage is being picked and another season of backyard food is there for the picking.

Our plantings this year are all open pollinated seeds, they include: Lacinato kale, lazy housewife beans, Oregon sugar snowpeas, Brandywine, Roma and Moneymaker tomatoes, Dutch Cream potatoes, country pumpkin, yellow button squash, bush cucumbers, sugarloaf cabbage, silverbeet – colour mix, capsicum (peppers) chilli, Nantes carrots, Tall Utah celery, Darwin lettuce, Welsh onions, radishes, parsley, thyme, oregano, bay and chives. I am looking forward to our seed swap because I might pick up a few other seeds that I could add to our regular mix. Sharon will announce the swap in the next week or so.

We try to stay within budget for our yearly plantings. I put aside $30 a month for the garden and have $75 in my kitty to spend on everything we'll use. It's a bit of a stretch from year to year trying to buy everything we need but more often than not we do it.

Last week we picked up 80 kgs (175lb) of composted cow manure from a local farm, we are still searching for cheap straw for mulch, I have enough worm castings to sink a ship and I have comfrey fertiliser brewing. We are set. If Hanno is well enough we’ll work in the garden together today. If he’s still sick, I’ll do a few things to start us off. I still have seeds to collect from our flowering celery, I have a harvest of rosellas to pick and the citrus need their March feed. Passionfruit and choko vines need to be cut back and I’ll spray the citrus with Eco oil. They’re all small jobs but each is important in its own way.

Our fruit this year is almost the same as last year. We’re growing lemons, oranges, pink grapefruit, bananas, passionfruit, grapes, loquats, avocado, red paw paw (papaya), blueberries, peaches and nectarines. It seems a lot, and while we get a lot of lemons and passionfruit, the others are still growing to a reasonable size and therefore put more energy into growing rather than producing a lot of fruit. Gardening is about time – it’s more about seasons and years than it is about days and weeks, so we need to be patient with the fruit. I write that to remind myself rather than anyone else. ;- )

Oh, I am also growing vanilla orchids. I always forget to write that, but while they’re very healthy I don’t have them in the right situation to flower, so no orchids or vanilla pods yet. I should concentrate on them more and try to get them to flower. There is nothing better in a cake than fresh vanilla bean.

While many of my country
women and men will be putting their gardens to bed for the winter, now is a time of abundance here in the subtropics, and I know that Spring is almost here for all our Northern Hemisphere gardeners. I wonder who has their garden planned and seeds purchased. I'd be very interested to read about your plans if you care to share them.


  1. We are moving in two months and have to re-think all our gardening plans.

    We will be going from zone 3 to zone 7, so a whole world of plant possibilities will open up!

    Since we won't get to our new home until mid-May, I think our first year of gardening will be bed-building and soil-enhancing.

    Hopefully we will have a few containers of tomatoes and things to enjoy though.

    I love looking at your pictures of green growing things. We are still buried under snow here!

  2. Hello Rhonda,

    You live and learn - I am Welsh - born and bred and a native Welsh speaker - but to my shame I didn't know what a Welsh onion was! (I think I've figured out it is the same as a spring onion). I don't garden but enjoy gardening books and television programmes (I use them in the same way people use the Antiques Roadshow - i.e. to relax). One day I will actually garden but I feel I have almost too much to learn. That's probably just an excuse and I should just "dig in". I do have a wormery though! They are like pets now!


  3. Rhonda, I've just been out surveying our almost empty garden beds on this delicious autumn morning. Our tomatoes are still producing a lot of fruit, but you can see the plants are flagging and in 2 or 3 weeks, we'll pull them up and prepare the bed for it's rotational winter crop.

    I've planted out nantes carrots, all-year lettuce & rocket - from seeds. I have chinese cabbage seedlings in tubes which should be ready to transplant in another few weeks.

    The winter peas are looking healthy - planted about 3 weeks ago. Next to them are the sick and sad borlotti bean experiment. I'm going to pull them out this evening and have another go.

    The zucchini & cucumber are still fruiting. The luffah hasn't flourished and I'm fairly sure it hasn't flowered. The last of our leeks are still standing and we have 6 lettuce nearly ready for eating.

    I've cut back the oregano, parsley & rosemary, and what I don't get from the basil plants before first frost will be lost.

    On the fruit trees, we have pears (just a handful) and quite a few apples. We also have almonds but none of these are really ready yet.

    On the kitchen bench are squash, zucchini & pumpkin waiting to have their seeds saved.

    So that's our garden story.

  4. I think I saw some grass underneath all the snow and ice we have here. Hardly earth shattering garden news but a sign that Spring is perhaps contemplating arriving?

    I wanted to know you know Rhonda that I've nominated you for the You Cheer Me Up Award. Feel free to stop by to see the details.

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean :) The joy you find in your gardening shines brightly through as you share about it! What fun to read :)

    We are gearing up for our summer garden - so exciting! My dh and Miss M plan it all and have such fun. We will grow tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, etc...

    A little less on the canning and preserving this year, though, because the new baby is due in June, and we'll all have our hands full.

    Love to you! Q

  6. I love reading about your garden when it is snowing here.

    I am doing my first raised bed this spring. It will be 6 X 6 with a trellis on the back for green beans. I am also going to try tomatoes. :)

    And I am planting my first apple tree too! :)

  7. Hi Rhonda Jean,

    I am just writing up my post on my new seeds and popped over to visit you while flickr was loading my pics - low and behold I see your seeds from Green Harvest! I bought mine online of course, great service and speedy delivery!

    I am intrigued by your vanilla orchid and wondered if you could do a bit more on it one day - ie how to grow it, best place for it, how long til flowering and pods...also how do you use a fresh vanilla bean for cakes? I have only ever used essence...

    Thanks, it was another lovely visit!


  8. I've only just started growing veggies for the very first time, but you can read about my planting adventures in this post from my blog:http://ruralaspirations.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/veggie-tales-were-planting/

  9. oops. sorry. URL is too long. click on my name to link to my blog and then scroll down to the March 1st post, called "Veggie Tales...".

  10. I just love your blog. I love all of your pics. I can't wait to start my garden.

  11. You are so inspiring to me! I, too, am looking forward to more from you regarding the vanilla orchid!

  12. HI Rhonda - I am just waiting for it to cool down enough for me to go down to the community garden to plant out my carrots and onions. These have been soaking in some damp compost and seaweed since yesterday. I read somewhere that it can work well to mix these seeds up - as the onions germinate a little quicker - so you know you are on the right track, and they gobble up any extra nutrients in the soil - which stops the carrots forking. (apparently!)

    I have beetroot, kale and cabbage seedings coming along in the glass house. These seedlings should be right to be planted out perhaps next weekend.

    Thre is also a box of onions seedlings and leek seedlings coming along nicely too. Once these are big enough, I will plant them our too - They are taking a while, so I might end up cheating with some bought onions seedlings as well - just to be sure.

    At home I am waiting for the BRANDYWINES to finish (no rush!) so I can clear out that space for parsely, cabbages, beetroot and lettuces.


  13. Spring is coming, it's definitely getting lighter in the evenings (and mornings...) and there are a few brave crocuses coming up, as well as some crazy plants that are budding. It's extremely early this year.

    I don't have a garden but I'm thinking about trying to grow some herbs or maybe even tomatoes on my sunny side windowsills.

  14. I just harvested 20kg of various potatoes today and cleared out the corn beds. We are all set for our autumn/ winter planting. I have planted carrots, kohlrabi, endive, broadbeans. Next will be snow peas and some brassicas.

    My pumpkins(except for the Golden nuggets) didn't perform too well this year,I think as a result of poor pollination. No luffas either. Just growth, no 'fruit'.

    I will be incorporating some summer compost to the newly cleared beds to give them a boost.

    The seed swap sounds like a good idea.

  15. It's a bit 'stop, go' here is France. We've had a really mild winter - the Lilly of the Valley have already produced flower spikes, traditionally they flower on the 1st May so are about a month early.

    I'm itching to get out there and get seeding done but there is still time for a cold spell, and we did have a snow flurry this week. Rain and wind forecast for the comming week so ground preparation will stop too.

    Thank you for letting us drop by your garden. I too would love to hear more about the vanilla orchid. I've never done well with orchids, so am experimenting with other flavourings such as lavender sugar, which I really liked on strawberries.


  16. It's still a bit too cold to start planting here. Maybe in a few weeks it will be safe.

    This week I was lucky enough to see some archive arial photos of my house taken in 1972. It was originally built as staff accommodation for the 'big house' next door and all the gardeners lived here. It was fantastic to see the layout of the original gardens. I discovered there used to be a huge vegetable bed at the front that is now all lawn. I'd never have thought of trying to grow veg there. It gave me lots of ideas for the future :)

  17. I cannot believe it - here we are beginning to think about the garden saison and you harvest!
    I will read next time more of your posts.

  18. I'm just waiting for the summer garden to finish - another few weeks still of tomatoes, cucumbers,egg plant, beetroot, carrots, zucchini, capsicums, corn & pumpkin.

    Then I am working on my soil in front garden & planning to put it into fruit trees.

    Seeds have grown in containers ready to plant out in autumn garden.

    Busy cooking up all the tomatoes to use over winter.

    I too am looking forward to reading more about your vanilla plant.

    Love Leanne NZ

  19. I'm hoping to have tomatoes, cucumber, salad leaves, courgette, potatoes, carrots and spring onions in pots and containers as I have done in previous years. We didn't do well last year because of so much rain, hoping for better conditions for us all this year!

    I've also earmarked a sunny border for a herb garden and I'll be working on that this year. I'll be planting lots of lavender as well as kitchen herbs.

    Its interesting reading how others are doing in various places in the world :)

  20. I forgot to say that I'm in south west England :)

  21. I thought I'd share this link from Nature Moms Blog . There are some other nifty posts there to if anyone wants to browse it.

    Recycling “Stuff” for Your Garden

  22. We have an allotment now we have moved from our house into a sheltered housing complex, neither of us could live without a garden of some description. I moved some precious plants from the house garden up to a special bed and the rest is turned over to fruit and veg.

    We have one lot of potao's in and I tied in the raspberries last week. We grow winter and summer onions, garlic, cabbage, carrots, beans drying, green and french, lettuce tomaots, cabbage, calebrease, leeks, cauliflower,spinich, salad leaves,celariac, strawberries, rasps, rhubarb, tayberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, gooseberries lots of different herbs and lavender which I dry for scented bags for putting inbetween bedlinen.

    I also plant up hanging baskets and large pots with bedding plants, we spend a couple os days a week on the allotment during the summer, I take our lunch with us and we have a small picnic stove up there to boil a kettle and make tea............

    The soil is clay and had laid fallow for about 8 years, we had it rotovated and harrowed, then split it into deep beds separated by woodchip paths, they were then double dug before we planted our first crops. We have had problems with weeds, but keep a check on them and regular hoeing keeps them under control. We plant potao's to help break up the soil, save all our kitchen waste and compost it, at the end of the summer we spread the compost on the soil and let the worms take it down, several of the beds are covered with black plastic to keep the weeds down and warm the soil for early planting. We do not dig the beds now just plant down into the soil. After 3 years all the beds have been dug and composted, we got a load of horse manure which is rotting down ready to spread, spring is here and we have beetroot, lettuce and parsley sprouting on the window sill in the kitchen, they will be planted under cloches when we go away in a couple of week. We hope to have the rest of the potato's in then as well.

    We bring celariac and lettuce back from our holidays in France, they will go in when we get back i the ,iddle of May.

    Last year we had some 20lbs of strawberries........we had sun and heat just when we needed it a a bumper crop from the few plants we had.


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