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.


  1. Good morning Rhonda,
    So good to be back reading your posts again. I agree with you so much about winning our independence back one yard at a time.
    It is good for young people; tilling a bit of soil rather than sitting in front of TV or the computer screen for hours on end. Its also a great family pastime where every one can be involved. For the elderly, it keeps them sprite and a bit more nimble. All in all everyone benefits by time spent gardening.

    Blessings Gail

  2. ''It's sad to think that many of us have lost the ability to work the land we live on [....] 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.''

    Thank you for putting in words something that has been on my mind for so long now :)
    Have a lovely day !

  3. I am planning to make my garden larger this year, I don't mind cutting down on lawn. Another great idea is to plant veggies among the flowers in the flower beds..container gardening is great too.
    I have a large pot on my deck which holds lettuces and herbs, I stick a large wooden spoon and fork in the edges and it looks like a huge salad bowl. It was my Mother's Day gift from my daughters a few years ago and I keep planting the same stuff in it..I love it and I can get my salad makings just outside my door.
    One yard at a time..

  4. I think more people in world will take up gardening for many reason.
    Those who can't get out in there own yard they can go to our local community gardens.

    I don't what it is I have trouble doing cucumber and my neighbors to them and get bumper crops.
    If I get two cucumber I'm doing great.

    Coffee is on.

  5. Rhonda, Your words spoke volumes to me, and brought tears to my eyes.
    I was raised as a Farmers Daughter, and my Father died in a field planting when I was 9 years old.
    Thank You for this post!
    A reminder of my Heritage
    I will be linking my blog to this post.

  6. Good Morning, We ae one of those couples who do not not have a backyard or garden space so we utilize our deck that is located on the second floor. I always grow basil,which I dry that which I don't immediately use, also cherry tomatoes,the larger variety do not mature fast enough for our climate and a mini cucumber plant will be tried this summer. Not much but does keep my hands a little dirty.Enjoyed reading your column which I picked up from our daughters blog. Keep up the good work. Lilly

  7. I'm so excited about my garden this year! It's not huge by any means, but it is definitely larger than last years'. I'm not sure if you already have done so, but would you consider a post on starting plants from seed? I'm doing that for the first time this year and while my Amish paste tomatoes seem to be growing by leaps and bounds, my pepper seeds are lagging behind terribly. I'd love to see some tips on encouraging seedlings from a pro!

  8. Thanks Rhonda,
    I am encouraged by your blog. I have joined a local community garden and have ordered heirloom seeds. I'm fairly new to Colorado and it sounds a bit harder to grow things here than in my native Florida, but I'll give it a try. My husband also built me a raised bed to see what I can do in my own backyard - we'll see if the deer think I planted them a salad bar!

  9. Hi,
    I absolutely agree it would be wonderful to see very household be encouraged to grow a garden,we dont plan to stay were we are long term but we are still growing some food through permaculture methods and trying to learn as we go,we also have our chooks here in surburbia.It isnt perfection and we still have so very much to learn but were trying,lol,thanks for your ongoing inspiration Rhonda,
    Blessings Carleene

  10. Oops. I missed your earlier post about seeds and seedlings.



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