The kitchen garden - endless possibilities

30 August 2011
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?


  1. Hi Rhonda, that all looks good in your garden.
    We have lovely fresh carrots, broccoli, cauliflowers and herbs - coriander, Italian parsley.
    I will be sowing all my seeds for summer next week, tomatoes, chillies, corn etc We've had a few frosts here, so I'm waiting for it to warm up a little!

  2. I loved reading this! Yesterday my water tank was installed (a friend has been digging trenches and putting it all together over the last 4 weeks) and even though I was pleased that a huge project has been completed, I woke up feeling a little daunted by all the other things I want to get done. (Finish the wicking beds, establish more garden beds using the bottom half of the back yard, put in a verandah and water tanks for the toilet and laundry, decide where to plant the amaranth, avocado and everything else!!!)

    I was looking at the BIG picture and forgetting about why I'm actually doing all this in the first place.

  3. Good Morning Rhonda,
    It's funny that you should blog about this today, as my husband and I were talking in the wee hours this morning before he left for work about how we're going to tackle our vege garden this summer. the last few years have been alot of work for very little yield mostly because of the winds we get here and our shelter belts are not established yet. Large plants like corn, beans and potatoes do well, but I've never been very successful with lettuces and tomatoes and that is what we eat mostly through the summer, so we were talking about getting some troughs made and growing those plants in there so we could give them the shelter from the house and enough shade that they won't bolt. The price of fresh food has sure gone up over here. I paid out $8 for 4 large organic parsnip last week at our market - it has shocked me into getting motivated about the garden!
    Hope you have a good day.
    Rachel from NZ

  4. I agree. Kitchen Gardening is hard work - but so rewarding! In second last photo you have really tall stakes - are they for your tomatoes? (I can't see clearly what plant is at the bottom) Will you trellis them, or just keep growing up?

    Also, I wanted to let you know that I made your cold-pressed soap a few months ago. I have given it as gifts as well as using it for my kids - everyone loves it! My dad even wondered if it had extra moisturiser because his hands were so soft after using it!!

    Thanks - Jen

  5. Your garden looks wonderful and those last words are so true. Even if there is some failure, all those benefits will definitely have me coming back next year.

    This week in the garden I harvested the potatoes and did some cleaning up. Now I still want to sow some lamb's lettuce, to cover the beds for autumn and to have some fresh greens later in the year.

  6. I love this post. My growing season is coming to an end. And August has been so hot!!! Why is harvest and canning time the hottest time of the year?
    But every spring I get excited to get the garden growing with only the things we will eat. Would love to have more fruit trees in the yard!!

  7. That is so cool. We don't have gardens, but we are building our own garden boxes at the moment. Looking forward to growing my own again this year.

  8. Hi Rhonda.
    I save a lemon balm and strawberry from a neglected bed and potted them before I started turning it over with the fork and finding it really full of egg shells. I have lettuce, carrot and onion seedlings ... actually my blog post today lists whats in my potting shed that I have recently started using :)
    You last paragraph about the tomato seed is very powerful. Have a lovely day. x

  9. Hello my fellow gardeners! Thank you, I wish you the best in your gardens.

    Jen, they're for the tomatoes, we have heirlooms planted there. Always put the stakes in before you plant. We'll pick off the bottom leaves, trim out some of the top growth and keep probably 3 main stems for larger tomatoes. We'll keep tying them to the stakes all the way up. Great to hear your soaps went well.

  10. Nothing beats eating food you have grown yourself, we have lots in our garden at the moment. I love going out each day and pick a few lettuce leaves at a time for a salad.

  11. We are renting and the owner finally had the tall pines around the boundary trimmed by half so we now have sun on the garden all year round. Yay! Dh and my son put" 3kg of seed potatoes under in a no-dig bed under straw last weekend while I pruned the passionfruit. I'm going to fill the raised beds with soil this week and take care of the fruit trees before starting progressive seed planting the week after. I'm a complete novice but determined, and I have a plan!


  12. Sweet corn, potatoes and garlic are being planted today. My wicking beds are in place and full of soil so now I can get busy. Like you I'm planning for the future when it comes to vegies and fruit trees.I said to DD2 this morning if only I had planted all those fruit trees years ago - we would be reaping the benefits by now. Hindsight is a wonderful thing...sigh. Still at least I'm making progress and while the kids may have left home by the time we are harvesting lovely fresh fruit it will keep DH and I fed and happy.

  13. Love the photos of your garden and your passion for producing your own veggies. I've also been doing this for many years. My husband designed my current veggie garden, which consists of seven raised garden beds. It fulls the available space at one end of my property and my favourite spot. Along the back of my house ... a narrow area, I grow fruit trees and there's a little space left for a clothes line, biocycle septic ... climbing plants like passionfruit.

    It's wondeful to find treasures poked between other treasures, when I venture into my garden daily in search of food!

    Growing our own veggies is an easy way to start taking responsibility for our health and also saves some money, is good exercise and for me ... it lifts my spirit!

  14. Your veggies look amazing. Mine are pretty good too, but the bugs keep taking a nip here and there I get so mad at them. My veggies are little but I hope the new season will Spring them into life. Hopefully in the fullness of time I can show you photos. Take Care.

  15. Planning the garden for consistent harvesting is at the top of my priority list this year.

    Your meal looks scrumptious Rhonda.

  16. Well, there are some signs of 'movement' in the garden but not enough to get really really excited about! I have sown a few seeds but our growing times are mainly summer and autumn here in Tas - quite the opposite to you in the sub tropics!! It wont be long though, until the first seedlings can go in and then it's weeding time too!
    Oh and congrats on your new superstardom in the WW! Great to see 'real' people in there!

  17. I love the sound of those vegies and that avocado sounds like a wonderful addition. We've just planted fourteen fruit trees and I've just ordered some more. That will be a good start on our orchard and I hope to add a few more every year. I'm quite excited at the arrival of Spring and the sowing of seeds and planting going on.

  18. One word - YUM!

    ...and I love Martha - it looks like she's wearing frilly knickers!

    Cheers - Joolz

  19. Hi Rhonda,

    Hello from Canada! I discovered your blog last week and honestly haven't shut my computer off since then as I want to read ALL the posts.

    I live out in the country, in Alberta -our growing season is so much shorter here! I think it does make everything from my garden taste THAT much better - we appreciate it so much!

    As I'm a speaker and writer, I can work from home and when the tomatoes are calling for me...or branches of chokecherries are whispering "Jelly, syrup, jelly, syrup" I can dash outside for an hour and enjoy the day.

    I'm a former farm girl and I'm not sure if that ever leaves you. The simple life is what called me to leave my fancy corporate job 10 yrs ago and start my own business. It was the most joyful decision I ever made!

    Thank you so much for your lovely blog - I can hardly wait to try your bread!


    Kim Duke
    Alberta, Canada

  20. Hi Rhonda,
    What will you be doing with your borage?? I grow it also, but just because I like how it looks. I did read somewhere that you can use the baby leaves in tea (?) I think.


  21. Your garden is beautiful and very inspiring. We're growing tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers this year, and they are all doing well! I'm a new gardener, so my plan is to add a crop or two each year. So glad I found your are a kindred spirit!

  22. Hi Rhonda, I planted a lot of potatoes this season for winter storage. I'm harvesting them just now. Potatoes have such high nutritional value I decided they would be an excellent choice for long term storage and a good use of my garden space. The possibilities of what you can cook with them seems endless too. Baked, fried, boiled, scalloped, gnocchi'd and then there's vichyssoise! I've decided to can some potatoes this season as well. I love the idea of reaching for a jar of garden fare after a long day and having all the hard work of peeling and dicing already done for me.

  23. Beautiful veggie garden you have Rhonda! Since we have been renovating our house we have not paid much attention to our veggies, but I really miss nice fresh, pesticide free goodies from the garden.

  24. Rhonda that kale was huge! :-) A great post as usual! Now that I'm retired I'm putting more effort into my veggie garden and at the moment things are going well. Like you and Hanno, we've had disappointments in the garden but the successes far outweigh them!

  25. What a lovely garden! You have a life many long for. Love the new photo of you!

  26. Here in the lower midwest of the US, the gardening gods have not been favorable.

    Too hot too soon and no rain! Even the local orchards are saying very little fruit. I know my trees didn't even bloom!

    I have lettuce up for fall and turnips planted. Anything growing now has to be watered almost daily, thankfully, from our deep well.

    We live on a farm out in the country. I have a milk cow, chickens, a garden and the beginning of an orchard. I love sitting down to a meal and knowing most of what we are eating came from our farm.

  27. Our garden is winding down now, as autumn begins. I've pulled the onions, and potatoes out of the ground, and we've eaten all the peas, but there is still plenty of kale, and the tomatoes to look forward to.

    I'm always in awe of gardens in moderate climates, that produce year round! Yours is lovely!

  28. Just pick a basketful of tomatoes. Mostly my garden is chives, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, horseradish and weeds this year. I tried a bunch of weed suppression methods in various parts of the garden as I am an archaeologist and spend my summer digging not in my yard. Straw and cardboard together worked the best. Every year I learn something in the garden. Like planting smaller varieties of tomatoes as the kids like them better that way and they produce a lot. I learned this year to stop buying cheap birdseed as my garden is full of thistles and that my kids like red tomatoes better than the two variety of yellow ones. Thinking about trying a fall planting of lettuce and spinach.

  29. And I thought MY kale was tall!

  30. Martha is beautiful. Do you use diatomaceous earth for mites?

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