26 February 2010

Back to normal

Officially, there are two days left before Autumn arrives in Australia.  The Autumn equinox is actually March 21,so we have a few hot days yet to come, nevertheless, we have begun our major planting of the year.  Where we live, it is much easier to garden organically during the cooler months.  Summer's heat brings many insects and diseases that we don't see when it's cooler.  Generally, we plant for nine months of the year, we harvest during Summer, and start all over again in Autumn.
Starting over again always means ripping out the most of the plants still producing, like eggplant (aubergine) and pumpkins, and working around those that will continue on, like the capsicums (peppers) and sweet potato.   Hanno has worked hard on adding cow manure, compost and worm castings to the garden beds, it's been raining on and off for a couple of weeks, so the beds have settled again nicely, and now it's time for the first plants.
Bok choy is a staple here.  We use it in various stirfries and casseroles but the chooks eat most of it.
Further over in the part of the garden that will get sun all day we have cucumbers and lettuce.  The cucumbers, when they grow on their trellis, will partially shade the lettuce.

Most gardening books will tell you to rotate vegetables and plant those with the same requirements for water and feed in the same plot and although that is how we started out, that is not how we garden now.  We found long ago that if we are to produce food year round, many of the guidelines in gardening books don't mean much.  They are written for short season gardens.  We start off in a very organised way, but as soon as the first crops are harvested, and they don't often ripen at the same time, we fill in the empty spaces with other crops.  So where we started with, for instance, a row of tomatoes, we might end up with lettuces or radishes in the spaces when the tomatoes finish.  
These pumpkins and eggplant have been growing over Summer and will soon be pulled out and composted.
We planted sweet potato late last year.  This will grow for another couple of months.

There are only a few real rules we go by: we always grow the vegetables in excellent soil that is rejuvenated every year, they always have adequate sunlight, and we are very careful not to plant members of the solanacae family - tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, capsicum (peppers), in the same soil two years in a row.  We also tend to keep these vegetables in groups and don't fill small spaces with one tomato or one potato.  If we keep them in groups, we know where they've been grown recently.  This family of vegetables are notorious for wilt diseases and soil nematodes and we need to plant them carefully to avoid problems.
Capsicums (peppers) don't need to be replanted each year here, they will grow for three or four years and still produce well. Our capsicums are here with Welsh onions, the new pasley, tomatoes and garlic.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about soil improvement  and when we improved our soil here we also started to sow seeds and plant cuttings.  Of course, this is an ongoing task throughout the year, but these and seedlings bought at the market, are what started our garden again. This year I have turmeric and ginger growing from tubers planted a few weeks ago.  They'll be planted out soon.  We also have seedlings of tomato, beans, cabbage, cucumber and bok choy, as well as new parsley, lemon mint, and coriander.
So our garden is planted again, albeit, with only a few seedlings, but it feels like we're back on track again.  In the coming weeks, the empty spaces will disappear and greenery will grow tall and overflow.  Trellises and climbing frames will be secured in the soil for cucumbers and peas; stakes will hold tomatoes steady and firm.  There will be all sorts of lettuces, ruby red tomatoes and radishes, dark purple cabbages and beetroot.  Soon we'll plant potatoes, carrots and baby cauliflowers for our Winter soups and vegetables.  Soon we'll be back to normal.


  1. I am busy doing the same..replanting for autumn. I am looking forward to some slightly cooler weather! :-)

  2. Exciting times Rhonda, I look forward to seeing how the sweet potatoes turn out.

    I'm glad you made the comment about Autumn starting in only a few days, my ride to work this morning was unusually crisp and chilly and I guess that's why! :)

  3. Thank you for sharing your gardening tips and photos. Have you ever had you tomatoes turn brown on the underside of them? Ours do every year and I don't know if it's something in the soil, a pest of some sort, too much water or what? Do you have any idea?

  4. well, that is a relief to read about rotating crops.. something that stressed me out no end.
    autumn is coming here in the mountains, I can feel it and see it in the longer shadows..
    I will begin to pull out plants this weekend.. my pumpkins only just have flowers on them.. too much rain this year and not enough sun.. should I leave them in and see if they develop?
    thanks so much for you blog Rhonda.. I just wish the book was out :)

  5. Good morning Rhonda. The former geography teacher in me would argue pedantically about seasons and dates, but I have to admit after three or four slightly cooler nights that at least the change of seasons is on the way.

    Lovely to know that you and Hanno are back to having your vegie garden, it will be interesting to hear how things go after this fallow time.

  6. Rhonda,
    I absolutely love looking at photographs of your garden! I live in northern Wisconsin, USA and it is bitter cold here now so to see the growing plants and green grass is such a treat! My raised bed gardens are still covered with about a foot or more of snow. Thanks for sharing with everyone!

  7. Good morning ladies!

    Nancy, it sounds like blossom end rot. It is caused by a lack of calcium which is usually triggered by inconsistent watering. When the plants are not watered enough or inconsistently, the available calcium in the soil cannot be taken up by the plants because it's too dry. Water around the roots of the plants maybe twice or three times a week, depending on yor climate.

    Rose, what would your argument be about the seasons? That we start at the beginning of the month and not at the equinox?

  8. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I love your blog, it is very grounding to read about the things you are doing. You have such a great way of writing. Up here in the tropical north our ginger and tumeric grow during the wet season, and we will be harvesting in about a month. I have been trying to grow year round, tried pigeon peas this year - they grow huge! A few flowers, but no peas yet- I think we need a bit of sunshine, we have had such overcast weather with all this rain!. I carefully read your posts on luffa and have just harvested my first crop of five huge luffas. Please keep writing!

  9. What a beautiful garden...you've got me all excited about starting our small vegetable patch for the first time this spring. I'm sure I'll be back here for lots of inspiration!

  10. Great post, Rhonda! I wanted to ask you something. How do you keep yourself from zoning out in front of the TV or the internet all day? I am a stay at home mom and I'm really having trouble with this. Even though there are things that need to be done, I find myself fixated on the TV or internet for hours at a time. How do you limit your internet/TV time?

  11. It is amazing , knowing that your part of the world is in the process of gardening. It is the coldest Feburary on record for our part of the country and it doesn't seem to be letting up. The groundhog said we would have six more weeks of cold weather, but I don't think he meant it to be this cold.Can't wait for our side of the globe to warm up enough to garden. Love checking out your blog occasionally.Sue in Ky.USA

  12. I love your garden pics....it is cold outside here and I am looking forward to spring coming soon. I have been learning so much here. Thankyou. ---Krystal (in Canada)

  13. I find it so interesting to read about your garden , in Nova Scotia we have such a short growing season compared to you ,we can't plant until after the last frost which can be in June so that gives us just a few months of growth but we manage to grow a few beans, carrots , beets, lettuce and tomatoes in our small garden and I love every minute I spend out there especially once I am actually picking a crop;-) Spring doesn't start here until March 20th so a little time to enjoy the snow yet and those March winds sure do blow cold ! Take care and love reading your blog .

  14. Oh to garden for 9 months I would be in Heaven. I suppose that moving to the Southern Hemisphere might upset a few people - like my Dad, my husband, the children etc etc. I'll admire your garden instead.

  15. Kim, what I do in my daily life is much more interesting than TV or the internet. I prefer to live life rather than watch others live theirs.

    Watching too much TV and internet is a bad habit that you can get out of if you put your mind to it. I watch programs I record - I can then choose exactly what I want to watch and I can fast forward through the ads. If you find you can't pull yourself away from the screen, get a timer and set a task you need or want to do and do it for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, go back to what you were doing before. Hopefully, after doing that for a while, your interest in other things will stir and you'll stop turning on the TV in the morning.

    Think of this, on the day you die, do you want to look back on a productive and wholesome life, or will your memories be of TV shows and missed opportunities?

  16. Here in Pennsylvania, we may have snow by morning. It looks beautiful, but leaves a gardener wanting spring.
    I have been reading quit a bit about gardening in raised beds and how to amend soil. So I have alot planned for when spring really does arive here. I must say that I like how you have your garden set up. I've been taking a few pointers.

  17. Thankyou Rhonda, this post was very informative today for me, I learnt a lot. My husband & I will be getting into the garden & pulling out the rockmelon this weekend we harvested 9 huge ones, our first time with rockmelons so we are very proud. Quick question: fruit fly got our tomatoes we threw out all tomatoes on the vine then sprinkled tomato dust over them, will that work or should we just pull them all out & start fresh? Thanks Rhonda.
    Erika (Gold Coast)

  18. Erika,fruit fly in the garden spells disaster. Unfortunately, you probably have them in your soil now, under the tomatoes, because as the maggots develop they drop to the ground and finish their development in the soil. Here is a very good bit of info about fruit fly: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/230612/queensland-fruit-fly.pdf

    Having said that, there will be far fewer fruit fly around in winter and often they are only a pest during the hot months. If the tomato bushes are still healthy, I'd leave then in and see what happens.

  19. Morning Rhonda
    I've been up and had a quick look at the lottie and it looks in good shape but it is still far to cold and wet to sow or plant anything outside. I'll have to content myself with planning for a little while yet. Have a good day.

    Pippa x

  20. Hi Rhonda, I loved seeing the pics of your garden with new seedlings! I am really enjoying your blog and visit often, your posts are always so informative and inspiring. Quick question - how many vegie beds do you have, and what size are they? Thanks for all the great reading.

  21. I thought I might take the time to mention that your timing for planting is very similar to what we practiced when we lived in Florida in the USA. Of course, our summer is in the middle of the calender year, but that was when we took a break from the garden for the most part and resumed again in the fall.

    In that respect, central to south Florida has the best climate for teaching gardening to school children as the growing season fits nicely with the school year (except for the Christmas break, when a lot of cool season crops would be ready).

  22. An interesting post, and I agree with what you say about crop rotation. I do rotate, but this is only my second proper year and I wanted to start "by the book" and then see what suits. Our growing season is about March to October, as we are quite high up in spite of being in "sunny" Spain!

  23. As we moved through February, I found myself getting excited at the realisation that Autumn would soon be here, it hadn't occured to me how close it was. YAY!!

    To be able to get outside without the possiblity of either heatstroke or feeling like I'm in a sauna, Yahoo!

    Looking forward to being able to don more clothes and snuggle up under blankets. There's a limit to how much clothing I can take off in summer before the neigbours start screaming something about their eyes.

  24. Sounds and looks wonderful! March 21 is our first day of spring and we have not seen the ground since late December. I can't wait to have live growing things in the ground, as you do now.

  25. Your garden looks great!! I cant wait to follow the progress! I loved the pic of the chicken too!! I am a chicken rooster collector
    Happy Gardening!

  26. How good to see your raised beds all ready for planting again. Here in southern England, we have a month or two before we can start planting in the outside beds. There are signs of spring, but we are still in the grip of a long winter.

    Like you, I fill in gaps with lettuces and salad crops. Last year we didn`t need to buy salad greens from June until late October.

  27. We have a fairly short growing season, but I do try to do succession planting. But nothing does as well as my spring planting. Fortunately the plants usually last until fall. - Margy

  28. I have been reading your blog a lot recently, thank you for enthusing me to get on and make something beautiful with what I have been given.

    Here in the UK we are just getting ready for the growing season and the warmth of summer, after an unusually cold and snowy winter. I don't feel prepared, my quiet slumbering winter has been far too hectic to prepare for the burst of activity coming over the next few months!

  29. A friend recommended your blog to me and it inspired me to start my own. I love looking at all your great pictures and it makes me want to garden right now, but as it's too cold here. A couple more weeks and we'll be ready.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge

  30. Hi, Rhonda. That dark chicken is beautiful. Is that Cocobelle?
    Your blog is fun and informative. Last year, I was inspired by your blog to use shredded newspaper in my compost. The worms thrived in it. I also used shredded paper to mulch my raised beds since I didn't have ready access to straw or leaves. It worked great for the summer though I notice it's too soggy to use as a winter mulch over my flower beds. This year, because of your blog, I'm giving comfrey a whirl both as a tea for fertilizer, and as a compost activator to replace the horse manure I used last year. Both my neighbors and passersby will be happy about that. (My veggie garden is in my front yard). I'll let you know how it works in my New York garden! Thanks for sharing your great ideas.

  31. anon,the chook is Kylie, cocobelle was standing nearby though. The black girls always travel around the backyard together.

  32. Thankyou for your post. Your blog is fantastic. I look forward to reading it each day and relate well when you talk of the weather, cooking from scratch and doing environmentally friendly things like making your own cleaners. I live on the Gold Coast, Upper Coomera, which you are probably our familiar with. How I found your blog was looking up about hens as we hope to get some shortly. Our dog died (15 years) so I am looking forward to having hens- yours look beautiful. Like you we are interested in Aquaponics, my husband is building a big concrete fish tank beside our pool and the water will cascade over the wall of the tank and water and feed the plants underneath. He is going to alot of trouble so I hope we don't have problems like you both did. I have many herbs in the garden, capsicum, peppers and cucumber. I did plant some seeds in toilet rolls and planted them in the garden as I saw this on a gardening show but I wasn't successful. How do you grow your seedlings? Any magical way for somebody with brown fingers? We are budgeting seriously at the moment as my husband has his own business, electric beds (he is an engineer). Like with many small business owners he has been effected by the economic downturn. Now he is at home and I work full time as a nurse in Springwood. It is hard but we manage. I am celebrating today as I finally finished with my credit card. Once I finish paying the rates then I can relax a little. But I really want to live without buying too much as I think it is very satisfying and such a win win for all involved (except the supermarket). Until next time - I promise it won't be sooo long. Lorraine

  33. We don't properly rotate our crops either and we have had much of a problem. I wish we could keep our peppers over winter! Yet a other reason for a greenhouse!


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