30 August 2011

The kitchen garden - endless possibilities

With food prices still very unstable and some fruit out of our price range, we have made a commitment to keep our kitchen garden in full production for as long as possible, and to add to our fruit garden. Usually the thing that gets us in the end is the hot weather, the bugs and the humidity, which generally hits around mid-November. This year we'll have herbs in pots, lettuces in troughs, and different varieties of tomatoes to help keep a supply of them up, especially over Christmas. One of the difficulties of kitchen gardening is that you have to plan so far ahead. Hopefully our planning gets us through the price rises as well as vegetable and fruit shortages.

 This kale plant is 5 feet tall.

 Curly kale and garlic.

We went to our local farmers market on Sunday to pick up some seedlings and look at fruit trees and herbs. I had my camera ready to take you along for the ride, but when we arrived, just as dawn was breaking, I got my camera out and realised I'd left the battery at home in the charger. Ahem. There weren't a lot of people around because it had been raining overnight but it looked to be a fine day ahead and everything was fresh and cool. We came home with borage, thyme, heirloom tomatoes - Siberian and Kaziki (I think), dwarf green beans, ruby chard, beetroot, bok choy, lettuce and a grafted Reed avocado. I love the Reeds, for me, they're the best tasting avocado. A friend of ours has one in her backyard, so we have them most years, but this was the first time I'd seen the grafted trees for sale. It will go into our new fruit orchard.

Kohl rabi.

Usually we grow food in our backyard for the sheer pleasure of it. It gives us organic produce that is fresher than anything we can buy and we know it's been fertilised with organic fertilisers and watered with rain water. We grow only what we eat and love and if we have an abundance of anything, we preserve it in the freezer for later. And now there is the added bonus of it saving us some money.

Lettuce, tomatoes, corn.

Learning how to grow your own vegetables really will give you a head start in your simple life - it's such a positive eco-friendly and frugal activity. I believe it makes us much more independent too - we don't rely on primary producers or shop owners to stock what we like, so if we don't have delicious heirloom tomatoes, crisp lettuce, fresh herbs and organic celery to eat, it's our own fault, no one else's. That's quite an incentive to keep gardening.

The lovely Martha, our buff Orpington.

There is nothing quite like going into the garden in the late afternoon and looking through the beds to see what is ready to pick. Bringing those pickings inside, in a basket laden with vitamins and minerals in the form or ruby red tomatoes, bright green lettuce, blood beets, and crisp beans, gives me a feeling of empowerment that makes me want to keep sowing seeds, looking after seedlings and collecting rain water. There is such a great payout for the effort you put into a productive garden; it's hard to beat. I would like to be able to tell you that work in a kitchen garden is always wonderful and rewarding but that is not true. Sometimes there are unexplained failures, bug attacks, and storms that rip the heart out of the garden (and you), but there are rewards, many of them, and they far outweigh the problems.

When I pick a salad and have it on the table 30 minutes later, I know it's teeming with nutrients that would have leeched out of shop vegetables. When Hanno digs potatoes and picks cauliflowers, cabbage or kale to have with a warm winter casserole, made with locally grown meat, I know that the energy and time we put into our garden pays us back ten fold. I walk into our garden at this time of year and I am amazed by the new life around me.  When I think that kilograms of tomatoes will come from one tiny seed buried in soil and watered, then I know that anything is possible. And when we can fill our dinner plates with wholesome food - salad, herbs and boiled eggs a few hours old, and do it consistently, then I think that maybe we can do anything. That's why gardening keeps people coming back season after season - the possibilities are endless and they're there for the taking.

What's happening in your garden this week?
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