26 February 2014

Starting the vegetable garden

I miss our garden when it's not growing. At the end of our main season in November, I really feel like a break because I'm over watering, tending, harvesting and the rest of it. But then December, January and February come and go and I start missing the garden. I don't like paying high prices for inferior vegetables, I can never find anywhere near the freshness that we're used to and I start longing for the garden to be there again - fresh and available, right at our back door.

Head gardener Hanno.

These are unripe black passionfruit.

The time is right to plant again and the signs are already good. Our passionfruit vines are holding big juicy passions and we've had the best season ever for blueberries. I think it's going to be a good year in the garden. But things have changed out there. The chook house has been renovated and enlarged and that took a small area out of the garden. Hanno has put up a very strong climbing frame on the new chook wall and I expect that will help our vines grow during winter because the heat of the sun will hit the vines from both sides.

I started sowing seeds a few weeks ago and almost all of them are growing well, although the daikons didn't germinate and the granny's bonnets took 28 days to come up! That's a long time here, usually our seeds take only a few days when the days are so warm but like parsley, the granny's bonnets like to take their time. I have half a tray of curly kale because we grow for ourselves and the chickens. The more green vegies they eat, the darker yellow their yolks become. If you're a new gardener, I recommend curly kale to you. It's very hardy. They're at their best as a winter vegetable but will keep going in the heat as well. It's the best flavoured kale in our opinion and beats the dark kale hands down for versatility. This year, I'm trying Japanese spinach. Has anyone tried that? I've only sown six seeds at the moment because I have so many other leaves on the go, but I'm looking forward to test tasting it.

 Still growing in the garden now - pumpkin a few silverbeet and some beetroot.

Chillies and a few other herbs - pineapple sage, thyme, parsley, sage, Welsh onions.

And another bucket of lemons waiting to be juiced.

I have three types of tomato - our self sown large cherry tomato that comes up every year sure as eggs, the French Rouge de Marmande and Amish paste. The seeds collected from our flat leaf parsley have germinated well and I have about 50 plants now. I'll share those with Sunny when she comes home. I have a nice selection of Sugarloaf cabbage and mini cauliflowers, magenta silver beet, Warrigal greens, pak choi, cucumbers, sweet potato, potatoes, about fifty garlics from last year's crop, calendulas - for ointments and oil, sprouting broccoli, brown onions, and peas, beans and sweet peas will be planted as seeds, along with many other root vegetables, directly into the ground. I've taken cuttings from the elder tree and that will be planted when it's ready, we brought another passionfruit vine that will be planted on the new trellis and I have a two year old avocado, grown from a seed, ready to pot on. There is certainly plenty of work to be done.

We've been building up our supplies recently and every time Hanno goes to the produce store or hardware, he brings home bags of cow manure and sugar cane mulch. Yesterday afternoon, when I took my photos, he'd just finished planting the kumquat tree that Shane and Sarndra gave us. Now I just have to wait for the other beds to be prepared and then planting will start. Once again, we'll be set up here to provide ourselves with plenty of fresh food. It makes me feel good to be alive.

We're both excited about the possibilities this growing season is presenting us with. We both have a new leash on life and feel thankful that we can do this work and provide for ourselves. It's going to be a good year here at the Hetzel homestead. What are your plans for the garden this year?

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