One backyard at a time

25 March 2009
It's Wednesday morning and once again I'm looking forward to being at home after two days out at work. My work days are getting busier as we move towards the building of a new Centre. We have to equip and furnish the building, having no money, but with access to various grants. The generosity of people never ceases to surprise and please me and just yesterday a man I had know for only 30 minutes donated a brand new leather sofa for us to use in the reception area of our new building. I am ever thankful that what we need seems to be provided by someone, somehow, and even though we have no funds to buy what we need right now, I have no doubt that when we open our doors on the first day, we will want for nothing.

Yesterday marked another important day on our way to the new work place - we had a cleansing ceremony on our block of land. The land was passed from one community group to ours yesterday and we marked that important day with an aboriginal cleansing ceremony, carried out by my good friend, Bev, elder of the local Gubbi Gubbi people.

Bev preparing the fire for the smoking ceremony.

So now we're back to our current topic of growing vegetables. I've just read through the two previous posts and I hope I haven't made it sound too difficult. With all new skills there is a period of learning and sometimes failing. Many of life's lessons are learnt through trial and error, and this is no exception. It's okay to fail, you learn a lot that way, I least I know I have, but the thing about failing is that you have to try again. So if you have trouble getting seeds to germinate, or they start growing, then die, that is okay, and quite normal when you first start growing your own food. Just keep going, never ever give up. Bit by bit you'll work out what to do and in a few short seasons, you'll be growing crops that will be a regular and healthy addition to your family's table.

If you have a short season - either too hot or too cold, try growing baby vegetables, or the smaller varieties of your favourites. I would dearly love to grow savoy cabbages and big white cauliflowers here, but my climate is too warm, so we settled on sugarloaf cabbages and baby cauliflowers. We can grow both of those quite easily. The sugarloaf cabbages don't have the beautiful crinkled leaves of the savoy, but it tastes just fine. And the mini cauliflowers are delicious, we just have to plant more of them spaced a few weeks apart to give us a continuation of supply. You can also buy broccolini, which is a smaller but delicious broccoli, small carrots, small pumpkins and baby squash. All of them grow to maturity in a shorter time that the regular variety, so even though you have a short season, you might be able to get a few vegetables to harvest.

So what do you do if you don't have a backyard or the space to grow vegetables? You can also grow vegies in large containers, like polystyrene boxes and rubbish bins with drainage homes. Any large container would do, and if you have a sunny spot, you could grow one tomato bush, or beans or cucumbers, using the vertical space on your patio, or a row of lettuce , chard or herbs. And for those who have no sunny spot, you could grow sprouts or mushrooms inside. I'll do a post on sprouting for you very soon.

It's sad to think that many of us have lost the ability to work the land we live on. Some of our pioneering ancestors died for, or suffered extreme hardship, for a parcel of land to live on and grow food. I hope I have encouraged you to use the land you have, to learn the skills you need to work your land and to provide your family with cheap, fresh, organic food from your own backyard. We may not be able to change the world, but we can give it a good try, reclaim our independence and slowly work towards change, one backyard at a time. Happy gardening, everyone.

ADDDIT: I have answered the questions asked in the first gardening post.