Vegetable and fruit gardening

5 April 2011
Thank you so much for all your good wishes for Jamie, Kerry and Sunny. They read through the comments yesterday and were really pleased to know that so many people had wished them well.

Things are starting to settle down again here and with the weather turning cooler, the first thing I think of is to make the bed with warm flannel sheets. There is something that stirs inside me when I make a bed with flannel sheets.  It might be a nesting instinct or some remnant of long ago when staying warm at night could mean life or death.  All I know is that when those cool winds start blowing through the bedroom windows in April, the flannels come out and are laid on our bed. We're not quite into a full winter bed yet.  So far it's just flannel sheets with a fleece blanket and patchwork quilt over the top.  With that amount of covering, we'll be warm and able to sleep with the windows open for a while longer.  I wonder if others do this staged approach to bedding.

Our bed yesterday morning after the new sheets were added.

There's not a lot to report on inside our home, I'm still working with Jo editing the book, but outside, Hanno has been busy building up a fruit and vegetable treasure trove to keep us going in the coming months. The prices we're paying at the green grocer now are way too high for my liking but even if the prices were lower we'd still grow our own so we know for sure what has been added to the soil and that no harmful sprays have been used.  The major benefit though is the freshness of back yard produce.  It is THE freshest possible and often during our growing season, I pick in the late afternoon and those vegetables are on our plates within a couple of hours. There is no way of knowing how long a potato or onion has been kept in storage before it's offered for sale at the supermarket.  Cabbage and apples can be kept in cold storage for weeks and sometimes months.  I often wonder about the carrots, swedes, parsnips and garlic. No one can convince me that eating long-term, cold-stored fruit and vegetables is nutritious.  The vitamins and minerals must have diminished or even disappeared during that time in storage.

This is our first greens bed.  It's made up of lettuce, red cabbage, sugarloaf cabbage and bok choi, with those wonderful large cherry tomatoes at the end.  I'm sure some of you will remember the tomato that came up on its own  near the verandah.  We saved some seeds, and that is what is growing in this bed.  They're a very good large cherry tomato, easy to grow, with great flavour.  I'll be selling the seeds later in the season.

As I wandered slowly around the backyard taking the photos here today, the chooks followed behind, gently clucking in their secret language.  Our fruits are growing well, oranges and lemons are ripening fast, there are pawpaws|papayas ready for picking, along with loofahs and pecan nuts.  The solo pink grapefruit is nearly ready for eating and there are passionfruit galore!  All the vines are full and we have about 20 passions sitting in the kitchen. I'll make something with them soon, I made a passionfruit and custard cake the other day, which was delicious but maybe this time it will be passionfruit syrup for later in the year and a lemon cake with passionfruit icing.

This is the red variety of passionfruit.  We're also growing the black Ned Kelly and the yellow variety.

No bananas at the moment, but there are a few navel oranges ripening.

We planted the loofahs late this year so we only have a half a dozen but we'll have plenty of seeds to sell when they ripen.

Red pawpaw|papaya.

Cooking according to the seasons and what is available just outside your own back door is one of the many pleasure of living this life. The trees and vines prompt us towards cooking certain foods; lemons remind us to pick them by falling at our feet when we walk by. The clucking following me reminds me to collect eggs and  soon my apron is bulging with produce headed for the kitchen.  There are few more simple tasks than collecting eggs and vegetables in one's apron, but doing it allows us to eat like kings.

Sprouting sweet potato ready for planting.

Seedlings for Brussel sprouts, red silverbeet and more bok choi have been brought out of the bush house and are hardening up in the filtered sun before being planted out.

The garden is no where near fully planted yet.  We have brussel sprouts, bok choi and silverbeet seedlings almost ready to plant out and an orange sweet potato sprouting and ready to go into the ground.  There is still room for lettuce, beans, more cabbages, radishes, more tomatoes, potatoes and turnips.  But that's the nature of vegetable gardening and the constant rotation of backyard crops.  There is always something to go in and usually something to harvest.

I have so many emails at the moment, there is no way I can answer them all.  I'm sorry.  I have read them all but there are not enough hours in each day now for me to do anything about them.


  1. I planted my first round of winter vegetables on the weekend. The chooks were allowed into the veggie patch for the week before and they were totally disgusted when I shut the door in their faces on Sunday and told them to go away. (I felt a bit like Gandalf... "You shall not pass!"

    I'm saving seeds from my heirloom tomatoes for the first time. Seed saving is this year's experiment.

  2. We are busy with the allotment at the moment- it has been dug over and nourished with organic pelleted chicken manure( we had a terrible problem on our allotment site with horse manure contaminated with aminopyralid so don't trust it anymore). We have part of it covered to warm the soil ready for planting the potatoes in a couple of weeks,the onions and shallots are coming on a treat and the broad beans are showing through. The conservatory is doubling up as a greenhouse at the moment as it is full of seedlings, and I am so looking forward to eating the fruits of our labours.I think everything tastes so much better if eaten seasonally - I can't wait for the first strawberries of the year!

  3. The only passionfruit we have growing here is a weed with fruit that is not so delicious. maybe when I sort out this garden we can get some yummy fruit like yours going. It sounds like you are settling back into a nice gentle rhythm Rhonda T. x

  4. Somehow, every time you post a picture of a just made bed, I get the urge to sleep! Somehow you can make it look so comfortable...

  5. I don't use flannelette sheets.. since going through menopause, my body temp is high enough!! :)

    Rhonda, i would love to buy some luffah seeds [or swap something for the baby]

  6. I live down in Victoria and its starting to get chilly even for this menopausal gal..i just yesterday changed my bedding to my winter set and I changed the childrens last week..I buy woolen blankets from op shops thru outh the year,, we use them as picnic blankets in the warm weather and i wash them up and put one on the mattress and one added to the top layer of blankets to keep them all cosy n warm.

  7. Miss R, it will be a couple of months before the seeds are dried out and ready. I'll let everyone know when they're available.

    Joyfullhomemaker, I have very happy memories of my mother using woollen blankets in a similar way. She used to put one on the mattress, under the bottom sheet, and when it got really cold, Tricia and I used to lay on a pure wool blanket on the floor in front of our open fire and mum would roll us up in our blankets like big cigars. Dad would then pick us up and carry us to bed. Happy days!

  8. It's delightful that there is a passionfruit called "Ned Kelly!" How distinctly Australian!
    Sometimes I forget that you are in a completely different zone and hemisphere, but when you write about your garden it comes home (sometimes painfully). We can only grow things for 3 months of the year, up here on the prairies of Canada, so what you call putting in your 'winter garden' sounds like a fairytale! We sure do appreciate our summers, though, after a frozen wasteland for 8 months or more. :0)

  9. We do the staged bed thing too Rhonda. At the moment it's cotton sheets with a light doona. Next is a thin old blanket, which is followed by a "real" blanket and then the big with the light doona on with another blanket and the proper quilt.

    How do you keep harvested cabbages?

  10. Here in Michigan we have April & May to get thru before garden planting...I can't wait for the labor of love to begin...

  11. Weel it's still summer-like over here in the West. Air-con on all night, sheets and a cotton blanket. I have been adding a little home crocheted lap blanket over my body to ward off the early morning chill that comes around 4am. Soon we may have some rain over here (for the first time in about 2 months) so a doonah may be added to the bed at night. It's on the bed when I make it but it's pulled back every evening. I have never slept with flannel sheets, I tend to stick to them and can't roll over! Cotton year round for us with thermals and plenty of blankets in the middle of winter!

    On the subject of your garden - I love the rhythm of it. I've been reading your blog for quite a while now and am learning your seasons for the produce. Before I couldn't have told you when anything was in or out of season because, unlike the old days, everything is around all the time. I look at some things in the aisles and think it doesn't look right to be there now, look at the ridiculous price and know it's not in season.

    Sidenote: We put those sprouting orange sweet potatoes in a tub of potting mix and they're happily growing. It'll be easy to harvest, just tip em out!

  12. Work on your book and enjoy becoming a grandparent....I'm sure we're all independant and mature enough not to need email replies to ensure ourselves our comments are worthy of reading.
    While you and Hanno are planting we are on the verge of mulching before the cold weather starts in earnest.

  13. I too would like to crawl into that nicely made bed on a cool night. Mine never looks that good.

  14. This is my first comment, Rhonda. Discovered your site last year and have had great fun reading all your old postings. You are an inspiration for young and old alike! I'm in my late fifties, grew up in country Queensland and, like you, have lots of memories to draw on of how things were done in "the olden days".

    We live on a small acreage and I am fortunate to have a large garden area. Have been planting winter vegies for the last few weeks.

    I don't use flannelette sheets because, as Larissa says, I stick to them and struggle to turn over. I have lots of blankets, doonas and rugs on top of the bed for us to snuggle down into. We love fresh air and sleep with the bedroom door open most of the year as it opens onto a verandah.

    Congratulations on the safe arrival of your first grandchild. I know that you will have many years of joy to come. I LOVE my grandchildren, all 7 of them. We are not getting any more as we have been told that "the breeding has finished"!

    Can't wait to see your book. God bless.

    Lyn in northern New South Wales.

  15. I love the new look of your blog but I sure miss the little 'extras' at the end of each post saying maybe I'd like to read another post somewhat related. That's how I've been reading most of your archives!!!
    As you are moving into fall we, in Canada, are moving into spring. We just had a major spring storm on Sunday and we had 15 inches of snow. Fortunately it is melting pretty fast but we sure have had a lot of snow this year. I sure envy all of the beautiful fruit you can grow in your garden.

  16. Janice, I will be putting that back as soon as I have a spare minute. I really like that too. :- )

  17. Rose, we only harvest what we need and leave the rest in the garden. We usually plant out six seedlings at a time and follow that up a month later. I hope to have enough time to make sauerkraut again this year. That will take about 4 or 5 cabbages.

  18. You obviously have a great climate. I'd love to grow Passion Fruit!

    Here in S W France I am just about to get going with this year's garden. We live mostly from what I grow, and still have plenty of veg's either in storage, or preserved, from last year. Happy gardening!

  19. Mmmm there is something special about going into flanelette sheets. We live north west of brisbane so even here it is getting that bit chilly at night and in the mornings. Your garden bed looks great so neat and tidy.
    You seem to fit an awful lot in your days even with the arrival of your first grandchild who you must want to spend a lot of time with.

  20. That nesting instinct thing makes sense to me... because I get a cozy feeling just reading about it.

  21. I also have passionfruit in abundance - a custard and passionfruit cake sounds a delicious way to use them up. Our mandarin tree is loaded for the second year and we are just loving having our own bananas especially with the high prices being asked at the moment. You will so enjoy harvesting your own bananas Rhonda. By the time you little grandson is ready for banana I'm sure you will be handing him one from your very own trees - I can picture it now! Ours are getting better all the time. There is a picture of our latest bunch (it took just a week to ripen once brought inside) and lots of photos of the other produce from our gardens in my last two posts which are all about gardening with gratitude. I called one post 'The Retrospective Gardener ' as I had to stop and look back to really appreciate all the benefits of our gardens and what they have brought forth. Worth all the hard work and worth waiting for!

  22. Dear Rhonda - I do the same thing with our bed as the seasons change as you do.
    Speaking of gardening. It is chilly here today in NZ but one thing I have noticed is that our peppers ( capsicum) do much better and have larger crops in the Autumn than in the Spring/Summer. I have one "bush" so loaded that I am going to have to help it to stand up!!!!!!
    My Winter vegies garden is all planted up and parnsips I put in 8 weeks ago have finally popped through the soil-- I was nearly giving up on them :-)
    Another great post-- so encouraging.
    Karen - NZ

  23. Still using plug-in mosquito repellents at night (w/ citranella) here in Cape Town, so too early for any extra blankets. I still like sheets & blankets & bedcover the American way while my teens like their duvets w/ extra blankets in winter. I've given an afghan blanket to my son for his univ residence--that my univ roomie's grandmother had crotcheted for our matching beds back in 1977. It's still going strong and is so warm & cozy.

  24. I just changed the bedding from flannel to something cooler for the summer, but more because I am done with the cold than out of necessity. We use our duvets almost all year round, even in summer I keep them at hand to reach for one if I wake up in the middle of the night because it got chilly.

    Having a garden like yours (adjusted to middle European climate) is my ideal. To just walk out and get everything I need for dinner from my own garden. Wonderful!

  25. Since our seasons are opposite, we are getting ready to switch the flannel sheets to the summer cotton sheets.
    Next week, I will be planting the lettuce greens, broccoli and spinach outdoors for our cool weather garden. This is my first year growing broccoli and I did them all from seed.

  26. We layer-up our bed too - right now, we are just de-layering it, as spring has arrived, and so the 1940s feather quilt has just been removed.

    I am envious of your exotic fruit, but then we have plenty of soft fruit here, and damsons, apples,etc so I mustn't complain.

    I'm just getting started on the season's vegetables.

  27. I love when you blog about your garden. I think it is lovely! :)

    Here in the US, I've been very busy prepping our garden for spring/summer. I have planted many greens and herbs, and I have tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and other started inside. We should be able to plant everything out in about two weeks!

    I'm very jealous of your wonderful weather for fruit trees! We planted a pear tree and a couple nectarine trees, but I would love to have the weather for other fruits and citrus.

    And many congrats on your first grandchild! :)

  28. Hello Rhonda!
    Having a food stockpile is definitely a lesson I took from your blog. I feel bad that food prices are high where you are too- it seems like everything is sky-rocketing.
    I've been bustling around with my seeds this spring, planting a wide range of things. The garden is huge, but I feel like I need to...there is a smallish sense of urgency that has been hanging around me lately. Best wishes on the new grandbaby! You must be so thrilled!
    The Girl in the Pink Dress
    PS For some reason, I never get tired of seeing pictures of your bed. It looks so cozy and comforting!



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