6 May 2009

Do it yourself vegetables

I want to thank everyone of you who made a comment yesterday. They added significantly to what I wrote and I'm sure many of those comments will help readers going through difficult times. I am very proud of this little community we have built here, and never more so than yesterday when I read those comments. Thank you.

I will be fiddling with the blog again today as the template is not working as it should. I may have to change it and rebuild the page again. : -|

I haven't shown you our garden for a while. The photos in the vegetables and flowers post were from many different periods in our garden, but we have a new season with us and even though we're a bit late with some of our plantings, it's coming along well. I took these photos yesterday afternoon after I came home from work. Hanno was sitting in the kitchen with a tradesman who was giving a quote on the government-subsidised insulation, so I took the opportunity to wander around with the camera.


We are blessed to have this space to plant our vegetable garden each season. Ours is a year long garden, containing vegetables, fruit, nuts, chickens and water catchment tanks. We use the chook poo to help make compost for the garden and the water we use is always from our rainwater tanks.

Our garden is protected from the wind by a tall fence on one side, rainforest at the back, the house at the front and lots of trees on the remaining side. We are lucky to have around 1500mm (60 inches) of rain fall a year and we catch some of that in our water tanks which hold 15,000 litres (4000 gallons).

Closest to camera are turnips, (right) tomatoes, and at the end Hanno has planted Swiss chard. In between the chard and the turnips, potatoes are coming up, leftovers from a previous crop.

March is our main planting time. It's the first month of the year when the humidity leaves us so there is less chance of powdery mildew on pumpkins, squash and cucumbers. We take the opportunity to grow Winter crops now - celery, cabbages, broccoli, kale, turnips and peas that are impossible to grow at other times of the year here.

Chinese cabbage and lettuce.

The last of the summer corn. I picked most of these last weekend, blanched them and placed them in the freezer for eating during Winter. The few that are left here will be eaten over the next week or so.

This is one of my favourite cucumbers. It's the Richmond Green Apple cucumber which is an Australian heirloom, common during the 50s, but not so much now. It has a very good flavour, and is crisp. You can see a small cucumber below. They grow to about the size of a small orange.

We had to remove all the tomatoes we planted earlier in the season as they were diseased and wilting. We planted some beefsteaks to keep us going and I'll plant up some more Brandywines, Moneymakers and Tommy Toes soon.

Next to the celery at the front, are some of the beefsteak tomatoes.

I love having brassicas growing in the garden. We can grow Chinese cabbage all year but none of the others will grow for us unless we plant them out in these colder months. Even now we choose sugarloaf cabbage, it has a short growing season and will mature into small firm heads in a couple of months. If you're having problems with cabbages running to seed before you have a change to pick them, try one of the smaller varieties.

Sugarloaf cabbages. They've been attacked by caterpillars but the hearts are firm and untouched. We leave the outside leaves there so pests will eat them instead of the heart.

We tend to do two plantings with our sugarloaf cabbage and mini cauliflowers - one very early and another one about three or four weeks after that. Usually, that gives us cabbage and cauliflower over most of the cold months.

Turnips are another one of our Winter crops. They grow surprisingly well here and I use them in soups and stews.

Ever present, our chooks wander the back yard looking though the picket fence at the vegetables. They often patrol the edge of the garden hoping for some old lettuce or cabbage leaves to be thrown their way.

In the corner of the vegie patch sits our composting area. Above you see the grass clippings harvested from the last lawn mowing. They're a valuable resource and they help kick start our compost because the mass of clippings create a fair bit of heat as they decompose. We add dry carbon in the form of shredded paper, chicken droppings mixed with straw as well as old vegetables and kitchen scraps.

So, let's see if I can remember what we're growing now: cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, chard, cabbages - sugarloaf and Chinese, potatoes, turnips, celery, parsley, chives, Welsh onions, oregano, marjoram, bay, kale, corn, green beans and mini cauliflowers. We will add carrots, leeks, tigerella tomatoes, more lettuce, peas, squash, capsicum (bell peppers) and garlic soon. We are currently picking lemons, passionfruit, pawpaw (papaya) and pecans, a small number of blueberries, oranges and mandarins (clementines) will be ready in a few weeks. We have bananas, loquats, pink grapefruit and avocados growing but not in fruit at the moment. The chickens lay year long but their output decreases in the colder months.

It's a wonderful little garden that Hanno has put a lot of time and effort into. When it's growing well, we can live off it, but it's never that black and white. There are often times we need to buy from the markets. Hopefully, in the years to come, we will eat more and more from our garden. It is one of the true joys of a simple life to be able to grow fresh organic produce in the backyard. If you have a little bit of ground in the sun but have never tried your hand at gardening, I encourage you to give it a try. There is nothing like the taste of fresh backyard produce and the feeling you get knowing you did it yourself.



  1. Dearest Rhonda,
    I love to see photo's of your vegie gardens.
    My husband & I just purchased a renovated federation house on 1.6 acres near Maitland NSW.
    I am real excited about moving. We move in 4 weeks.
    I can't wait to get started in the garden, but am a little overwhelmed at where to start.
    I just purchased a Diggers Club membership plus a couple of books which I think is a good start.
    I think I will map out where the vegie garden will be, start a worm farm & compost area.
    Do you think this is the best place to start?
    Also I will eventually get some chooks but I think I will get started on the vegie garden.
    Thanks for you inspirational posts.
    Take care & God bless

  2. Dear Rhonda...

    I just LOVE your blog. Thank you for posting pics of your garden. This will be the first year that we have one and I am SOOO excited!! Hubby plans on building several gardens that are raised. We will need to put chicken wire around them as we have many rebbits that inhabit our property and I just don't feel like sharing!

    I live in Canada. The growing season is short so I will be planting fast and furious.

    Thanks again...


  3. The garden is beautiful! Ours is just starting to take shape. I too hope that someday we will be able to sustain our family with what we grow ourselves. Thank you for all your hard work and time you put into your wonderful blog.
    Hugs, Bobbi Jo

  4. Hi Rhonda, I love to hear how your garden grows! I have some herbs in my kitchen window, (so that I remember they need water) and I was given four Champion Tomato plants a while back, which I have finally gotten into the ground. This will be my first attempt after quite a few years to grow anything that I can eat. I have not been the greatest gardener lately because of time allotments. I am trying really hard to make time for this important new step in my life. You encourage me every day you post!

  5. Dear Rhonda,

    Wonderful garden. Here in Minnesota (USA) we are just beginning to dig our (Hubby and I)first garden together. The rain has kept us from digging though and we even had hail today!

    We have a very short growing season ... in the ground around June 1st ... out of the ground by the middle of September or beginning of October.

    I check your blog everyday...loving the pictures and hearing what you have done that day. You have truly inspired me to slow down and be mindful of my housework..thank you.

    Have a great day! :)

  6. I, too, enjoy seeing what you do. Thank you!

  7. Enjoy touring your garden. We're just putting our in now.
    I never heard of brassica before I came here.
    It been a cool spring here. So the only thing we got in our garden is thing that thrive on cooler temps.

    Coffee is on.

  8. What is a chook? Is that Australian for chicken? Just wondering!

  9. Rhonda,

    I love your garden pictures and wish we lived somewhere warm enough to grow year-round. We do try to eat locally, buying a lot of our fruit and veg from the farmer's market in our town. We even found someone this year who sells fresh eggs and butter so that's local now too.

    I wish we could have chickens or ducks but local regulations say you can't have any type of poultry or livestock unless your property is zoned for farming, no matter how much land you own. When did people start passing laws like these?


  10. Hi Rhonda Jean
    The garden is taking up most of my time at the moment and the knitting is taking a back seat. I got behind with the ground prep while away visiting and I am only now getting things out. I love to see your garden it gives me inspiration.


  11. In my imagination my vegetable garden looks just like yours! Well... perhaps minus the cabbage since I hate the stuff! ;) However, sadly my garden has only started so in reality it is a patch dug out of our lawn waiting for some soil and seeds!

    Thank you for sharing photos of your garden with us Rhonda!

    (And Debbie Bailey - Chook is indeed Aussie slang for chicken!)

  12. I'm having a good time with cooler-weather gardening too. And I'll have a bit more time at home this week than anticipated -- one of my sons has chicken pox!

  13. Dear Rhonda,

    Your garden looks lovely! Josh and I often feel that we've planted late. This year, we finally figured out why it seems that way: all of the people we know who garden buy their tomato and pepper plants from the greenhouse. We germinate seeds in our kitchen window and plant them with canning jars around them in our garden to act as gardening bells. When we first set them out, they are quite small. When our neighbors see those glass jars, they run to Lowe's or Home Depot and start buying foot-tall tomatoes. They set them out and we feel instantly behind. Of course, I wouldn't trade our hearty heirloom tomatoes for anything in the world.

    We have a six foot tall fence around our garden patch right now to keep the chickens from laying on our young plants or accidentally pulling them up while scratching the dirt.

    I think it's particularly wonderful that you and Hanno are able to grow a winter veg patch with cabbages and whatnot. Can you grow pumpkins? I can send you some seeds. My sister says that pumpkin is quite difficult to find (she lives in Adelaide).

    You are so inspiring!


  14. Your garden is so organised and an inspiration to me when I need a boost. My vegetable plot is in it's second year, but I've still sooo much to learn. It's a great form of exercise and relaxation for me and I love to escape there.

    Thanks for your inspiring words

    Kim x

  15. Just found your blog and love it! thanks for sharing.

  16. Your garden looks wonderful Rhonda..in the next few weeks I should be able to get my garden planted.
    I loved that your readers shared the ways they were cutting back and living a simpler life.
    We live a comfortable life and our wants are few. The things that I thought would bring me happiness when I was younger didn't and the struggle to 'get stuff' just isn't worth it. Now I am content and happy to live simply. Actually it can be fun and a challenge to live even more simply..some shake their heads..but it is my journey and I love it!
    One more thing..we just got a composter and I am so excited!!

  17. kristenintexasMay 07, 2009 12:18 am

    Hi Rhonda,
    I am new to your blog (about 3 weeks)and have already knitted dishcloths and tried your bread receipe last night. It was delicious, but my husband swears it tastes more like a hot pretzel than bread. I think I did something wrong. It was still good though. I know this has nothing to do with your post about veggie gardens, but I just wanted to say Hi, and how much I completely appriciate you taking the time to share all of your ideas with everyone. It is wonderful. Thanks again

  18. Wonderful post, Rhonda. Your garden is amazing. And now that I live in a place where it is very tough to grow warm weather crops even in summer, I am quite jealous. I'm still learning how to make a great garden from the things that do well here. We're fortunate to be able to grow berries, apples, and rhubarb, so that is going to be fun. And we'll see what else we can do!!

  19. Lovely garden Rhonda and Hanno, the variety is amazing to me. I am putting in a garden this year after many years of doing without one. I harvest water from the roof of our house and I have a question about that. It is made of asphalt shingles and I am wondering if there is anything in that water that would make it unusable on our vegetables. We currently use it for our flowers shrubs and trees. We live in a very dry climate and may not have enough harvested water to speak of during the summer (Denver Colorado USA)but our springs are usually wet as this one has been and I just want to be safe if we should need to use it on our veggies. Any advice?

  20. dear rhonda,
    a garden like yours is one of our dreams, but now i have only a small piece of 20x1mt but for the time we eat vegetables of our one garden and that all thanks to youre inspiring blog.
    when i was reading it last year i want a garden like that too.
    so thanks.
    i often have to take my dictionary for some vegetable names, but now i know them all.
    greetings from holland jenny

  21. Razorfamilyfarms is smart to grow her veg from seed. Cheaper and the heirloom varieties are the best. I've found that if I use a heated propagator in the kitchen window ledge, my plants are as big as the ones at the DIY stores.

    And, I love raising plants from seeds...I tell people...I raised that one from a pup! Motherly pride over a tomato plant, indeed!


    AM of the bread

  22. Dear Rhonda,

    Two things:

    1. I bought a broom last week. I know this doesn't sound like a groundbreaking event, but it really has been for me. I see it as the first step to simplicity, and there is something intensely meditative about sweeping up my home.

    2. For your website problems, have you tried a Joomla template? I use one for my website. So easy to use once you have it installed, and there are thousands of free templates for it on the web.

  23. You may have answered this before, but I've been curious as to the pots upside down on the posts. Is there a purpose to them? Just wondering!

  24. I have celery in at the moment, any hints? it is my first time growing it... my potatoes have been harvested and they will last me for awhile I hope...

    I remember those cucumbers from my grandpas garden! I must look around for them.

  25. Rhonda - I love seeing photos of your garden. My garden is growing really well too (I am in Texas). I have a question though. The past two years I have tried to grow chard as I love it but both times this happened.. I planted in the ground around mid February, the seeds sprouted and looked good, and now, three months later, they are still tiny little seedlings and haven't gotten any bigger. What am I doing wrong? We haven't had pest problems. They were covered during frosts like everything else... thy just don't seem to want to grow.

  26. Lacy, yes, we can grow pumpkins. There is a real beauty from my state called the Queensland Blue pumpkin.

  27. Patricia, I don't know much about asphalt it does contain a lot of chemicals. I'd be wary.

  28. I'm so glad that you can grow pumpkins! I love pumpkin muffins and cakes -- so moist and flavorful!



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