Back in the vegie garden

14 February 2013
We've started luring Jamie into our gardening ways. He had his first trip to the markets with Hanno and his mum on Sunday to buy seedlings for planting in this season's new garden. Sunny is keen to try her hand at growing a few things in her backyard as well. She's never been a gardener before but she's starting with some favourites, daikon radish and shallots. I have a ginger shoot I planted up last week to give her. I think later she'll venture into the various Asian greens. She's an excellent professional chef and home cook so having fresh greens just outside the kitchen door will be a real bonus in her new home.

Sunny and Jamie helping to water in the new seedlings. 

Most of you know that one of Hanno's tasks is to produce food for our table. We live in a subtropical climate with good rainfall so vegetable gardening is a way we can get extra value from the land we live on. Summer is hot and humid here so we stop gardening over summer to give ourselves and the soil a break in the heat. We stop planting in November, continue harvesting over December, then start planting again in March. This year we've decided to start early so the first of our seedlings have already gone in.

Welsh onions, sage, basil, shallots, calendula, daikon and parsley.

Even though one of our chickens, Lucy, has been flying over the fence to peck through the garden, the curly kale survived the summer, along with a few leeks. We'll keep all this going with extra water and a good feed.

The comfrey has shot up again after it looked dead during the drought. That's the beauty of those fleshy root plants, they can survive harsh conditions. We'll be transplanting some root cuttings of comfrey over to the edge of the compost heap.

This is what the garden looks like now. It's bare and meagre but it will only take a short time before it will be full of life and plants producing healthy crops.

We have good soil, although when we came to live here 15 years ago, it was undisturbed clay. In the first three years, Shane helped me develop the garden and after the addition of compost, cow and chook manure, along with worm castings and comfrey tea and a lot of organic matter, the soil improved out of sight and we are able to grow almost everything we want.

We've had to rethink our vegetable garden because of the drought we've just been through. Even though we have water tanks, we lost a lot of oranges and lemons off our trees in the past few months and as a result we won't have our delicious over-supply of organic oranges and lemons during winter this year. We never use town water on the gardens and as a result of the drought, we've decided to install another tank so we don't have to ration out the water again like we did this year. We all know the climate is changing and I can see more droughts, more frequently, in the future.

I'm not sure yet where these plants will go. There is a bit of re-organisation going on in the backyard, but for the time being, they'll be fine here. These are lemon myrtle, bay, blueberries and an avocado growing from a seed.

We dug up the blueberry bushes and put them in pots a couple of years ago but we didn't look after them properly and they've barely given us any berries since. I've had them in the bush house for the past six month and have nurtured them along and now they're all looking healthy again. This morning I moved them out of the bush house; the two smaller ones are now next to the small tank and the larger ones are outside the bush house. Where they're positioned now will remind me to water them and feed them well and hopefully we'll be rewarded for that with bowls full of blueberries.

I've also potted up the strawberry plants we bought this year from Green Harvest and intend to have them bearing fruit in June and hopefully through to September.


At the moment we have a prolific chilli bush and two capsicums and we added another two. We don't expect them to do much during the cold weather but they will over-winter in the garden quite nicely, without producing any fruit, then start off strong when the weather warms up later in the year.  The curly kale survived the hot summer and as it's such a strong strain, and in Hanno's view, the best tasting kale, we'll keep that going too and probably add a few more plants. I have curly kale seeds to I'll sow in the next few days. I hope to have most of our seeds for seedlings planted on the weekend. They'll sit in the bush house until they're ready to plant out. We have seeds for legumes, greens and root vegetables too. Hanno will plant them directly into the soil when it's been enriched and dug over.

We've also started to talk about having day-long workshops here at home. The first would include making bread and soup from scratch, that we'd all have for lunch, and then some outside work to talk about keeping chooks and our way of organic vegetable gardening. It would help new gardeners get on their feet and would bring in a few dollars for us as well. We've only just started talking about this and I guess we're still not convinced there's a market for it. We'll have to wait and see and if all goes well, the first of those might be in June. We've been gardening for many years and have a lot of information to share and as far as we're both concerned, if we help encourage a few more people to produce food, we'd see that as time well spent.

Are you growing some food this year?