Summer in the garden

6 January 2009

Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

It may seem strange to our northern hemisphere gardeners, and even to some in southern Australia, but summer is a time of low production in our garden. In fact, it's our worst time. This summer is fairly mild and we've only had a few very hot days so we have kept the lettuce going. That is usually the first to turn to seed. In the photo above you can see one small garden full of wax beans, bok choi, cucumbers, green onions, parsley, oregano, marjoram and yarrow. Almost everything else has been eaten and it's too early to plant our main crop.

Hanno decided to put up one of his shade tunnels to protect the seedling lettuce, silverbeet (chard) and cucumber. This is a very good protection from the sun and the heavy rain we get at this time of the year. November to March is our storm season and we can expect anything from hail to strong winds at any period in those months. Generally the storms will be on the afternoon of a hot day. The heat builds up during the day and in the afternoon, the thunder and lightning rolls in, we get torrential rain for 30 minutes, then all is quiet, and cooler.

Hanno has planted the cucumbers at the entrances to the tunnel to entice the bees to pollinate. Just behind the shade tunnel, on the other side, bush beans have been planted. The shade tunnels just slide over some small star pickets so they're easy to put up and remove.

The metal cucumber trellis at both ends are recycled greeting card holders from our shop. In fact, many materials we use in the garden are off cuts or someone else's throw aways.

Here, and in the top photo, we have more recycled metal in the form of concrete reinforcing steel that Hanno has secured with a metal star peg for the cucumbers to climb up. Garden construction can be very simple indeed.

We had to buy fruit and vegetables from the market this week. We've still got a couple of our own tomatoes but we bought a bag of tomatoes, some peaches, pineapples, bananas (ours are not ripe yet), onions, cucumbers, celery, garlic and carrots. I'm looking forward to our major planting in March, because soon after that we'll have vegetables galore in our backyard again. I'll start sowing some of our seeds at the end of January and take a lot of photos so it can be a subject of discussion at our kitchen table.

And for those of you who said you've missed seeing the chickens, I haven't taken any photos since this one just before Christmas.

And for good measure, THE pineapple as of yesterday afternoon. It's reached a nice size but it's not ripe yet. I'm going to give it another three weeks. I have four other pineapple tops to plant our when this one is ready. We'll be planting them in the front garden this year so they don't hold up vegetable production during their two year growth period.

As we are looking forward to March, I'm sure many other gardeners are too. And I know you'll all be looking through your seed catalogues and probably putting your orders in. The planning of a garden is such a joy. I hope there are many new gardeners this year. Don't worry that you have no experience, if you have some space, you are half way there. I'm sure we'll have a lot of gardening discussions around the kitchen table during the year, so if your inexperience is stopping you, don't let it. Work out what you want to plant - and don't go overboard in the first year, and I'm sure we can get you through it.

Just before I go, I'd like to point you in the direction of the long thread, the most wonderful craft blog. Today Ellen has listed 100 tutorial posts from all over the web - all from 2008. I've looked at some of them and I just know the entire list will be fabulous. While you're there, if you have small children, take a look at yesterday's post on the tooth fairy cushion. It's so cute. : - )


  1. You are giving me Spring Fever! We are in the dead of winter and nothing is growing! It's a good time to dream about those perfectly manicured, weed free gardens we will have in the Spring. LOL!

  2. love the pineapple plant - it is the only time I have seen one on the scrub and not in a supermarket! Thanks...

    How is your book submission coming along? Is it a pleasant process or are you finding it work?

  3. Your garden is so lovely! I can not wait to have a house with a yard. I am sure my husband is too, our little porch gets so full of plants in the spring!

  4. Good morning Rhonda,
    The Garden still looks good, we harvested our peaches last weekend, the ones on the way to ripening were full of grubs they were being hammered by Fruit Fly, so we picked them just before they were ripe and stewed them up and put them in the freezer, they are yummy, we will be eating peached till june or even later.

    Have a great day

    Tracie xx

  5. Hi Rhonda and Hanno. I to am in the process of shade clothing my garden I have an abundance of recycled shade cloth and star pickets.
    We do a little every day and I am about to start a planting frenzy.
    I still visit you every day and am still learning.
    Hugs to you and Hanno
    The other Rhonda

  6. Oh I do just love popping by when I see you have anew post up.
    My vegie patch is alittle way off as Hubby needs the time to prepaare the area first but we sure have the space now...6acres of it! Woo hooo!
    As we are in victorias central Highlands and get hot summers andsnow in winter it'll be interesting to see how different our growing will be as to where we used to live.
    Love comming by though to see what you are up to and of course to see your girls....I love chooks!

  7. Love, love, love the pics of your garden! In Minnesota, USA we are perusing seed catalogs and dreaming of spring. It is so nice to look at garden pictures online when it is -9 degrees outside. Thank you again, Rhonda, for lifting my spirits.

  8. Just recently discovered your blog, and I'm loving it! You write with such an inspiring, optimistic voice. Such a beautiful garden - nice work. I've also already clicked over to the long thread and it is indeed a fabulous crafty post, so thank you for that as well.

  9. Hi Rhonda,I live alittle further north than you,not too far !and we have for the first time,put shade cloth up .seems to have helped,the plants arnt struggling now,and actually growing !yay !!I have ordered a large amount of seed from eden seeds,and cant wait for them to arrive !You said you plant in march,so I guess you will start seed raising in February,is this right? I have always gardened,but this year I want to have a constant supply,so need to get the timing right.Thanks for all the terrific info in the blog,you help more than you relise,I have been reading for a year,and this is my first comment.and there would be plenty more like me.have a super duper day.Karen.

  10. Hello Rhonda,

    I've been meaning to post about your lovely gardens for some time now.

    With 3+ feet of snow on the ground today one of these pictures would make a nice photo for my desk top as inspiration while I'm looking through all the seed catalogs for our garden this coming year.

    I'm also looking forward to reading all about your seed starting. I used to start seeds for the garden all the time but haven't in the past few years and for some strange reason I feel I need to relearn this skill...I'm a bit nervous about it strangely enough. I’m a bit of an advanced planner, I can’t fill the first seedling pot until late March so this is so timely for me.

    The “girls” look quite happy running around the yard… I’m counting the days (23) until I can order my Java Chickens for our own yard. :)


  11. Very nice garden ;) Its like spring hahaha......... In the Netherlands its very cold with very match snow :(
    I loved gardening.
    Greetz Anya

  12. Thank you for posting that link... it's wonderful. So many projects, so little time.

  13. Hello friends and neighbours!

    Janet, the book submission is almost finished. I'm waiting for my agent to contact me so we can go to the next level. It's been quite difficult and time consuming. I have to include two chapters and I've rewritten one of the chapters three times. I think it's almost right now. When I think about it rationally, it's been a pleasure to do, but because I want it to help and inspire people, as well as being a good read, I put a bit of pressure on myself. Anyhow, it's on the the real book soon and funnily enough, I'm thinking of that as a 'real' job and looking forward to getting into the routine of regular writing again.

    Tracie, I really miss our peach tree. If we didn't rely on the vegetables so much, I think we would have kept it. Enjoy your peaches!

    Hi Rhonda and Simon!

    Country cupcakes, I didn't know you are Australian. I love the high country around Canberra. Hanno and I hope to visit the Victorian high country when we go on a holiday sometime in the future.

    Karen, I'll start my tomatoes late January, the rest of the seeds in February. I like to have the tomatoes quite advanced when I plant them out. If you are near here you can definitely produce food year round. We still have quite a few kilos of potatoes from out last planting, Hanno is preparing the bed for the next lot now. We hope to have three plantings this year and that should keep us in potatoes all year. You won't be able to find seed potatoes yet, buy a few kilos from your organic green grocer and use those. That's what we do if we don't plant on from our own crops.

    Good news about your new chooks Karyn. Don't worry about your seeds. There will be a lot of people sowing seeds soon, and probably a lot of questions, so I'm sure we'll get you through it.

  14. It is so strange to look at a green and lush landscape when we are surrounded by ice and snow up here in Nebraska, USA! lol I get spring fever badly in January, which is kind of pointless as we are still in for 3 more months of cold and snow! But it is fun to dream and plan! Oh I can't wait to slice into garden fresh cucumbers and tomatoes! Thanks for the post!

  15. My vegie patch has a NW aspect, which is OK except for Jan-Feb. I plant tall plants like sweet corn or snake beans to shade the rest of the garden. One year I had a Jerusalem artichoke in just the right spot -- that was pretty.

  16. I have a feeling gardening there is very much like gardening here. Summer is also a low production time for us, unlike the rest of the U.S. While most of the U.S. is unable to garden right now, we currently have lettuce, watermelon, herbs, carrots, garlic, snow peas, broccoli, and tomatoes in the garden.

  17. Hi Rhonda,

    I am in Sydney and we are in the middle of some shorchers - someone told me Wednesday is supposed to get to the 40's.

    Not only does my brain shut off in this weather but the garden does too. My tomato plants have really suffered and I am not going to get much of a harvest this year.

    I am enjoying reading the seed catalogues and preparing for the next lot of planting. I read them like a book each night with my cup of chammomile tea before bed. Mr Berry thinks I am crazy.


  18. I believe our climates are fairly similar. Summer is the worst lowest producing season for us as well in the New Orleans area.

    The only obvious difference is our humidity which is oppresive at times and prevents us from successfully growing certain crops. I have found that raised garden beds work well in allowing me to grow things that don't like their feet to stay wet.

    I'm looking forward to another year of inspiration from you! Thanks for the past year. I hope to buy your book one day.

    In New Orleans

  19. You've given yet another Northern Hemisphere (Canadian) reader spring fever!!
    I just love your blog, and it often makes me dream of the day we'll be able to have our own gardens and animals (we've been renting, and doing what we could with limited space, etc.)!
    We just put an offer in on a house with 2.3 acres today, though! So hopefully this spring we'll be well on our way!! I'm beyond excited about the prospect(not to mention owning a house!)

  20. I need to plant here real soon. Beginning of February. Our last frost is Feb 15th.
    I got hit by a frost and lost the beans. The tomatoes seem to take forever to get red. Do you ripen them inside?

  21. I love your arrangement of plants! How do you decide "what goes where"?

    We're building raised beds this year & enclosing them to create greenhouses come fall. We are making 2 raised beds, 1 with vining plants & 1 with low plants. (plus a compost raised bed & a potato raised bed)

    Do share :)

  22. HI Rhonda,
    Thanks so much for the link today. So many useful tutorials. It is sooo hot in Sydney today. I just popped downstairs to look at the veges and they are suffering. Will give them a drink in the cool of the evening.
    Blessings Gail

  23. I love your garden. And I see that your beds are not too high. I started a garden last year and was afraid the height of the beds was not enough. I guess I am okay. I can't wait till the sun heats up the ground and I can get outside and plant a new season. :)

  24. Hi I live in Brisbane, so we are subtropical. This spring we planted some summer crops, beans, tomatoes, etc. And then stood back in amazement as the drought broke in a series of violent storms, just days after all our hard work.

    I could have cried, (actually i did, a little). Our yard flooded, not drastically, no damage to our home, thank god. However, our seeds and seedlings either washed away, or rotted. Larger, established plants survived, like our passion fruit and capsicums, but were to damaged to flower and fruit.

    My gardening confidence fizzled.

    Seasons change though, so now we are digging over our beds and planning for autumn. :)

    reading your blog is giving me fresh inspiration to roll up sleeves and start again.

  25. Your gardening post is so informative (as well as entertaining:)...I never thought about the need for enticing the bees to come into the tunnel!! It's almost a romantic notion :). Thank you again for your generosity in teaching and inspiring us to live our ideal lives...independently...simply...and with respect for our environment.
    God Bless.

  26. Thank you from my whole family and some friends for the Chocolate Sour Cream Cake recipe. It turned out wonderful!!!! I hadn't made a cake in several years, now I'm back on the baking wagon.
    Thanks again,

  27. Hello, I just happened across your blog tonight and feel as if I have alot in common with you. My husband and I garden and we are a one income family, trying hard to live debt free. I have enjoyed reading your blog and will continue to check in with you. Thank you for all your your information and ideas.

  28. Hi Rhonda, we're in the middle of the coldest winter for years here in the UK, so it is wonderful for me to look at your blog and see these lovely pictures of your garden! I'm hoping to grow some veggies this year and also to replace my old shed with a greenhouse to get the seeds started. It's an exciting time!
    Willow xx

  29. Hello everybody,
    doesn't it seem quite nasty to show your wonderful garden ? LOL
    And pineapples! Wow, I can't believe!
    Germany is still covered in ice and snow, and so I'm going through dozens of gardening catalogues which make me feel hopeless because I only own a small roof-garden with pots and baskets etc.
    I'm longing to hear all the helpful ideas for that little thing from the wonderful kitchen table club.

  30. Wow, look at that pineapple! It's grown so big! After you've picked it, will the plant grow another fruit or is it just once? I think it's so exciting it grows just from the top you planted. It's not hot enough here in summer to try it myself, so I really like following the progress from yours. :-)

    Christine from the NL

  31. I could loook at photos of your gorgeous garden all day!

    I am just north of Sydney and our garden is extremely dry and hot also. Our water tank ran dry a few weeks ago and now watering the garden does just not feel the same...cannot shake that guilty feeling.

  32. Great pictures Rhonda. I love reading about your garden. By the way, I aquired some luffa seeds and am getting ready to plant them in my greenhouse. You have gotten me excited about growing these and making soaps for next holiday gift giving and personal use. I have taken your post on the luffa and soaps and pasted them in my garden journal to guide me along the way.

  33. Rhonda , thanks for mentioning the greeting card racks , you recycled. I have some old racks from my closed business , never thought about using them for a trellis , I'll make good use of them this year.

    The clay pots you have hanging on the posts , are they to add whimsy to the garden or do they have a real use ? I've often wondered , thought I would ask.

    ~ Garden Blessings ~

  34. Rhonda, Are your upside down flower pots on posts filled with straw and to attract earwigs? Or what?

  35. Love your garden posts. So encouraging to read.

    We have a new regulation in Israel prohibiting the watering of "private gardens", because of the draught. Well actually it's not a new regulation, but it's supposed to be enforced more strongly now, and there's a governmental campaign in its favor.

    The problem? The regulation was designed in order to prevent wasteful watering of decorative lawns, but they forgot to add a clause in exception of people who are growing fruit or vegetables in their back yard and thus working towards sustainability.

    We don't have a lawn (wouldn't waste water like this even if it was allowed), but we do have some fruit trees, radishes, and a patch of mint. We live in a remote area so it's pretty safe to say that no one is looking, but I still feel uncomfortable when I water our plants, even if I just use the surplus of water from showers or hand-washing.

    This legislation reminds me, by its spirit, the recent law that will put home-working toy makers out of business "for safety's sake".

  36. I would love it if you started by talking about soil preparation on a budget. I spend more than I want to hauling manure, and adding soil to my raised beds. Mine decrease each year, and this year I have not had the energy to make much compost (which is often the basis for my beds) as I'm expecting. Also, I don't like to get compost for veg. from our local county recycling place because it's made from lots of items which could contain pesticide residue.
    Would love some frugal tips on what you do.
    Enjoy your blog very much - first time comment.


    PS I assume that your chickens don't have access to your raised beds? Mine do, as it's off-season here, but in Spring I'll have to devise a plan to keep them out.

  37. Rhonda, surely you must know...I LUST for your garden! LOL! I can't tell you how often I've plopped the laptop in my husband's lap and announced, "This year I'm (we're) going to have a garden just like Rhonda's!" Seed catalogs are rolling in and I'm searching out the best price for Abraham Lincoln tomatoes.

    In the meantime, a question. Is there a purpose for the upturned pots on stakes? Or were they just there? We're so nosey out here, aren't we?

  38. I'm curious about the upside down pots too!

    We have had a mild summer so far down in Melbourne but I live in one of the driest suburbs and my water tank actually ran dry yesterday. First time in 8 years. I'm fretting about how on earth I'm going to keep my veg patch alive if we don't get some rain in the next day or so.

  39. I really appreciate all the photos. It is so hard to come across photos of edible gardens on the net. Now, if I can just get my mending done, I'll take another peek at my seed catalogs. Thanks for the inspiration.

  40. We really like looking at your garden, espeicially during our rainy, mucky Oregon January.

    Yes, we feed the chickens right over the fence as well. They surround the garden on three sides (house is the fourth) and they and the ducks and geese watch for certain movements on our part (summer, heaving weeds over/winter, heaving the frozen chard over that didn't make it into a row cover) and they seem to regard us as a pretty decent resource. We did have to redesign the garden gate, however -- tricky bed-destroying she-devils that they can be ...

    We are shading with fruit trees, sunchokes, and by planting such as spinach in the middle of runner bean beds, beneath the trellising.


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