Let your garden work with you

12 May 2008

Here we are, just a couple of crazy kids, about to set off to pick up our chooks on Saturday.

I didn’t want to garden yesterday. I was tired, I could see everything growing well, what was the point! Well, the point was that if we want to eat food from our backyard everyday, we need to put the work in to make it happen. So I employed one of my many mind tactics to get myself to the place I needed to be. I told myself it wasn’t work, I was securing our future food. That did it, I was back in action. I really love gardening, but there are days, I’m sure you all have them, when I can’t be bothered. However, if we want food from our garden, we need to give it constant care. Oh, it will produce vegetables with a minimum of work, but it won’t fulfil its potential. Prime quality vegetables need work.

If you’re not prepared, or unable, to give it the time it needs, your garden will probably be a disappointment to you. If you're just starting out, small steps are essential. Make sure you've got the time and energy to look after the garden you plant. Start small and add to it each year. And make sure you build up your soil with organic matter each year as well. Adding compost and worm castings, or allowing straw mulch to break down into the garden each year, will add to your garden's fertility. It's much easier to get good results from fertile soil.

Menu plan and work out what you enjoy eating and then plant according to your tastes, not what’s currently in fashion. Make sure that you, or someone in your family, will eat every single thing that is planted in the vegetable garden. A productive vegetable garden can be a very beautiful thing but if you plant for anything other than eating what you grow, you might as well be growing flowers. And on that note, grow flowers - things like nasturtiums, yarrow, Queen Anne's Lace will not only look beautiful but will also attract beneficial insects to your garden. Bees, world-wide, are in trouble and need all the help we can give them. A healthy and productive vegetable garden in their foraging area might be just the help they need in your area.

You need to be thinking about how to manage your crops to get the best from them. Check what is ready to pick right now and plan for what should be picked soon. This is a constant juggling act. What to eat fresh and what to preserve for later? We had some freshly picked silverbeet last night for dinner but there is still a lot out there. Hanno will pick some of it today to go into the freezer. That will keep some in the garden for picking later in the week and allow the plants to put on new growth after the leaves have been picked. We'll have a continuing supply of fresh young leaves instead of allowing the leaves to grow old, and then pick them. If you have a long growing season, don't forget to sow your follow up seeds so you have a non-stop supply of veggies.

Plant heirloom seeds, not the general type of every-day seeds that you can buy in the supermarket. If you’re going to the trouble of planting, watering, fertilising and weeding, you need to get something special out of it. If you plant the same tomatoes that you buy at the supermarket, you just get fresh supermarket tomatoes. If you plant something like a Brandywine, a German Johnson or a Oxheart, you get a tomato you’ll remember for a long time.

Supplement what is in your stockpile with what is fresh in the garden. That way you end up with excellent nutritious food at the lowest price. Stir fried vegetables with rice, spicy pumpkin soup with hot bread, vegetable and barley soup with herb dumplings, semi-dried tomato and spinach tart, roast pumpkin risotto and colcannon and salmon rissoles are all favourites in our home.

Above all else, enjoy your time in the garden. Enjoy being the provider of food and nourishment for your family and yourself. Enjoy being an independent spirit. Don't let others dictate what you eat. If you have a liking for Darwin lettuce, Turk's Turban pumpkin, Lazy Housewife beans, black tomatoes, organic oranges or whatever else, grow them yourself instead of hoping you'll see them in a shop. Most of the things commonly grown in a backyard would never be sold in a shop and if they were, they'd be very expensive. Being independent will mean you will grow what you like to eat, when you want to eat it and you'll put it on your plate for a fraction of the cost that top quality organic produce would cost you at the supermarket or farmers market.


  1. What kind eyes Your husband has. You look a happy couple! Cherrie

  2. Lovely photo of you and Hanno! And great post about growing your own, too. Here's to another great week.

  3. That's such a beautiful photo of the both of you :)
    This was a great post...so true. I think as we "learn" our gardens, it lends an awareness and a natural rhythm to our days...

  4. Completely off the subject Rhonda,
    On a previous blog entry you mentioned making a cowl scarf, can you tell me how many stitches you used to make one. Its just what I will need tomorrow for the haircut I an getting. Going really short again, not really great for Tassie weather
    Rachel R

  5. You guys look so happy and comfortable together. What a lovely photo. It really warmed my heart. :)

    I need to be a bit more consistent with my garden. I've been really happy with how well it's doing for a beginner. But I'm nowhere close to feeding ourselves from it exclusively. :)

  6. I tend to fall down on the planning front. I think I need a sign by the front and back doors reminding me that when I pull something out I need to put something in.

    My tip is to plant a few different varieties of the same thing, even if you can't find out how long they all take to fruit, different varieties all tend to fruit at different times (and heirlooms tend to fruit gradually rather than all at once). If you have three different varieties of hairloom tomatoes, you tend to have a long season of tomato-eating.

  7. Rhonda

    How far apart do you plant your Heirloom tomatoes? Do have different tomatoes in each bed?

    Great picture of you both:)



  8. What a handsome couple the pair of you make. It's heartwarming to me to see couples stay together when it seems you hear of divorces every day. Nice to see that part of simple life can be to learn to adjust to one another as well and new simpler way of life. Thank you.

  9. Hi Rhonda Jean :) That is a precious picture! What a lovely couple...

    Thank you for the gardening encouragement! We are all so excited about our garden this year. My sweeties especially have worked their hearts into that rich clay :)

    I'm a little late but so wanted to wish you a Happy Mother's Day and send a hug. Have a lovely week! Love, Q

  10. I love your birdhouse! We just got bat boxes!! Here in Georgia, we have more bugs than we know what to do with and any help we can get for them is welcomed.

    Isn't picking out chickens a blast? We love going and deciding which of the little darlings will make the journey back home with us and be spoiled. Our chickens come up and sit in our laps when we are outside. They are our babies and we enjoy spoiling them.

    Another amazing post, Rhonda. When will your book be in the shops?? :)


  11. I would love to grow our vegetables, but my husband has a very busy job and i have chronical fatigue syndrome. But we do grow some of our own food. We have a few fruittrees (prume and pears) and a blackberrie. And we have herbs in our garden, such as parsley, sage, oregano, mint. In my house i needed new plants. And now i have some beautiful herbs as chinese chives, rosemary, basel, mint.
    We have plans to move to another house. There we will grow more herbs and plants to make tea of, and plants for medical help, and plants for bees.
    A few days ago i made tomatosoup and it was so lovely to take all the herbs i needed out of our garden :)

    Annikka (from Holland, where it is now warm and shiny weather, the weather i love most)

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  13. Great photo!!

    I love your garden too.

    Do you know of any websites or could you point me in the right direction of any info on seed saving?



  14. Libby - in Australia see: http://www.seedsavers.net/ - there's little flags at the top left for other countries.

    And and international site is: http://www.seedsave.org/

    Rhonda, a lovely photo! I have also had to push myself into the garden or planting trees at times, but in the long run it's more than worth it.

    Some of your favourite meals are some of ours, too. :)

  15. I love your picture. You are such an attractive couple. One of the reasons we began our bee keeping this year was because of the lack of honey bees. We now have 12,000 honey bees in our backyard. They checked the hive out Thursday and the queen is laying eggs and honey is being stored already. I can't wait to get our two gardens in so they can have play time. Let's hope that the temps here stay up now. Our last frost day is the 15th.

  16. That picture is beautiful... what a wonderful couple you two make! :)
    I wanted to tell you also, thank you soooo much for this inspiring blog. I enjoy all of your posts very much.
    You bless me more than you know! Have a wonderful day, or rather where you are... a wonderful tomorrow!

  17. Rhonda, thanks for the small steps reminder. We're planning to start our first garden in a couple of months, when we move into our permanent home. So my dear husband wants us to get some chooks and a milking goat right away, in addition to the garden. Now, considering the fact that none of us ever had a garden or lived in a rural area before, this would be a bit too much I think!

    And thank you so much for the inspiration. Can't wait getting up to my elbows in dirt. ;-)

  18. This is wonderful advice! Thank you! It's nice to hear that even expert gardeners get the "I don't feel like its"

  19. What a lovely photograph of a beautiful couple. You both look so comfortable being with each other. Spring is officially here at my place, but the temperature outside tonight is a very chilly 36degrees. I have at least 48 tomato plants sitting on my counter awaiting a place in the garden. By the weekend the temp should be up in the seventies so plan to get lots planted. Great post...also waiting for your book to be published.
    Blessings, Aunt Bea

  20. Just wanted to say you two have great skin! Wow! Great photo. You must have that framed.

    That must be the only close up pic I've ever seen of Hanno on your blog. Tell him I think he's still a looker! :D




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