In the garden again

2 September 2015
Thanks for your enthusiasm about the new book. I was amazed at all the comments yesterday. It's a wonderful feeling knowing you're all there waiting and as eager for the book to be out as I am. I've decided this will be my last book so I'm savouring every moment of it.  I'll have another update after I find out about the book tour and publicity. I want to tell you more about the book too but that will have to wait until after I see the final stage - apparently that will be here in the next two weeks.

In the meantime, let's get back to lives being lived. Tricia flew back to Sydney yesterday and even though I was looking forward to gardening and carrying out a couple of plans I have for that area, instead I watered the vegetables then sat on the garden bench and felt a wave of tiredness overcome me. Hanno brought out a pack of sugar cane mulch for me to use on the new beds but it's still not done. My plan now is to do it tomorrow. I have a feeling that the last few months have taken a toll on my energy levels.  In addition to meeting so many impossible deadlines, Hettie's death and the lead up to it, more mundane things such as a burst water pipe in the kitchen on Monday seem to have hit me all of a sudden. Let's see what tomorrow brings. It might just be that I need a few nights good sleep with nothing to do the next day.

Silverbeet/chard, beetroot and lots of parsley.
Lettuce, turnips and a potted Cleome.
 Cut to the ground in winter, the raspberries are starting to shoot again.
Violas and alyssum with a pot of succulents.
Curly kale and rosemary.

The garden is smaller now after we took out two beds last year, but it will still provide salads, green leaves, herbs and fruit. It's not nearly as much work as it used to be. As we get older, smaller is better. We're growing a selection of herbs that I always use in cooking - tons of parsley, thyme, sage, borage, rosemary, Welsh onions and oregano and there are also three types of chilli and ginger. We have lettuce in the ground and soon I'll plant up a tub of it to grow in the bush house. When it's hot here, lettuce will bolt to seed soon after it's planted but we get around that by thickly planting up a tub of it and keeping it out of full sun and well watered. We cut it early when the leaves are about half grown.

We've just planted four tomatoes and that will be the extent of our tomato planting this year. We're trialling two new types (to us) - Beef Short, a medium sized beefsteak variety grown on a medium bush, and a prolific cherry tomato called Rapunzel with metre long tresses of fruit. They've been in a couple of weeks now and are both going well so far. Rapunzel is in flower already. We still have the ever-present kale crop and it's still looking spectacular. If you're thinking of growing kale this year, look for curly kale because it grows like a weed through winter and into summer. Hanno has been eating kale for 70 years and says curly kale is the best tasting of all the kales, and it's the easiest to grow. Our other favourite leaf - silverbeet/Swiss chard has just been planted so we should be right for leaves for the next few months. Chard's sister, beetroot is in the ground too. I often pickle beetroot but we also have it raw. A trellis is ready for the Lebanese cucumbers to scramble over and I'm going to prune last year's capsicums/peppers and see if I can get another year out of them. Finally, I'll be running a line or two of French radishes along the edge of the beds. Oh, and we're planting a few rosellas too, for jam and tea.

We have more berries now. I planted two more Heritage raspberries and we've moved an old Youngberry over with the raspberries.  They're in a fairly small area so I'll have to be ruthless with the clippers but there is a strong trellis to climb on so I'm expecting good things from those plants.

Shhhh, through the bushes I caught this elusive creature reading the paper in the afternoon sun.

I still haven't finished carrying out all my plans in the garden yet. This year I'm making it a place of production and a shady place to sit and relax. When I've done that, I'll take photos but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the photos I took yesterday so you can see what's going on out there now.  It's a great time to get busy in the garden. What are your plans this year?


  1. Everything looks so yummy in our garden. Our garden is coming to and end. So now we are canning up items, today or tomorrow it will be pears.
    Coffee is on

  2. I just received my copy of Down to Earth today, and I can't wait to start reading later tonight! I am slowly working my way to a simpler life, but my husband isn't on board yet.

  3. I am glad to read you rested when you felt you needed to Rhonda. Our bodies will tell us when enough is enough with life and we need to rest it :-). Where we moved to, there is a raised bed, but it is 3 metres square and in a corner. I am 1.55 cm tall and it is a problem for me so husband and I have decided to plant it with about 2/3 potatoes and I can reach the rest of the garden that will be left easily. I also have my own raised boxes that I brought 2 years ago and they are a great size -- 1.5 m long and 1 m wide and so I can walk around all sides of them. We too are cutting back on what we grow this year and will have the regular salad vegies and onions/zucchini/ and I have rhubarb seeds in pots and have been successful in growing my rhubarb from seed in the past. Am planting 6 tomato plants this year( Brandywine Blend) and of course rows of radish( German Giant) which I love. Hope to be better organized and get an Autumn garden underway when the time comes as well. Your posts are always encouraging to me and I look forward to receiving them.

  4. Looking forward to the new book coming out and hope I can order it through Amazon books UK.
    Your garden looks great. As you are getting busier with the planting and planning our gardening year here in the UK is now winding down. Autumn had come much too early here and I shall have to harvest tomatoes whilst they are still green. Green tomato relish and chutney is on the cards as the tomatoes will not ripen anymore out in the garden due to lack of sunshine. There were unfortunately too many dull days and much rain during August. I`m still harvesting courgettes and potatoes and hope that my pumpkins might still grow a little. Much work to do in the garden to prepare everything for winter, so will soon be out there cutting back and tidying.

  5. As you are readying your garden for spring, I am readying mine for the end of the growing season. The only vegetable left are pole beans.
    I enjoy reading your posts and look forward to reading your new book.

  6. Time for a rest I think Rhonda! The emotional toll of losing a loved pet friend is enormous. Loving thoughts winging your way!
    We have just moved to a 2.5 acre property in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, and are busy planting up our new vege garden and orchard. It seems a daunting task at times, but also very exciting. We have heavy clay soil and are on a steep hill, so quite a challenge to take on at 62. We have retired early so that we can live the simple life on our own piece of paradise, debt free and loving our new life.
    Bless you for sharing your life with us, complete strangers, who feel that we know you as friends.

  7. Rest. Tea. Books. Sleep. That is what you need right now, Rhonda! The conclusion of a book (sort of a metaphoric death as it is completed) and of Hettie are a double whammy! When my cat Wookie died, I was worn out for weeks. We are so symbiotic with our pets that losing them is as tragic as losing a human family member. Be gentle with yourself, please!

  8. We are downgrading our garden due to hubby's health problems. Keeping the weeds down is a big challenge at the moment so a lot of rethinking has to be done to make it all manageable as I will be doing most of the work. Getting older does bring its challenges I must say. Love your garden, Rhonda.

  9. We also live in SE Queensland and grow our lettuce in a protected position in pots. There is a good spot near the shed which gets morning sun but nothing n the afternoon. This has been very successful in the past. I just pick a few leaves as I need them.

  10. You are so right Rhonda, a good night sleep knowing nothing has to be done the next day. Take care. Sleep well. Finishing the book and fare-welling Hettie are major life events.

  11. Lovely gardening photos. It's giving me the urge to go outside and potter now the weather is getting nicer (in Melbourne anyway!) and there are blossoms all over my garden. I've got some brown onions that are almost ready to harvest. I'm quite excited as I've never grown them. I think I'll plant them again if this crop has been successful though, as I pretty much just planted them, watered the first few weeks and have left them to it! I want to get my Spring/Summer vegie gardens up and running. It's my birthday in a few weeks, and I am considering asking for help from my Dad to get it all set up in lieu of gifts. I need to install some new raised beds I'm going to construct - not the pre-made kind, my own style - and although I could do it myself it's more fun having the team work, and my kids will love it if Pop comes to help :)

    I'm so sorry you've had a hard time of late. I think a few days of not doing much and just being gentle and kind to yourself would do a world of good. xx

  12. I'm like you, Rhonda. I didn't realise I was tired until I slept for 12 hours straight last night! Must've needed it. I could've slept all day had my husband not been going out. I love reading about what's happening in your garden, my garden bed is in mid-renovation at the moment so won't be able to plant anything. The caption under your last photo made me laugh so hard!!!!

    Rest up, my dear. Xo

  13. For someone with no energy you have managed to fit a lot in your day. Take care and look after yourself.

  14. You are so industrious and do so much put me to shame. I am 'bogged down' with family issues and health issues right now and so nothing much gets done around here in the way of vegetable gardening. I have a lovely front yard and a big house that gets away from me plus a variety of pets and family members! I wanted to say that your cat Hettie was very lucky to have had YOU for a pet. Her 18 years were spent in a loving environment and what more could a pet ask for? I rescued one of my cats from an abusive home when she was just a tiny kitten and she has lived with me for 15 years now. I often look at her and think how lucky she was that we came along when we did otherwise her life would've turned out very differently. It hurts the heart when we have to part with our furry friends, as I did in fact have to say goodbye to my fave cat a few months ago. He sits on my sideboard now in a box with flowers on it as I had him cremated and returned to us ... still not ready to part company with him just yet. Hope you feel back 'on track' soon.

  15. ohhh my rhonda, take some time out , you have been through a lot in the last week or so & as others have said, not only have you the loss of a family member (hettie) but also the closing stages of the book plus your visitor the last few weeks too, you have been very busy, please do take a day or two off & relax & reboot.
    see you in a few days
    take care xxx

    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

  16. It sounds like you need some "me time". I think the loss of Hettie was the final straw for you. How I know what a gap they leave. We always have a "passel of cats" here as we seem to have been Stray Central down the years. We too had a white stray (imaginatively called Snowy!) and he got cancer on his ears and we had to have him pts long before his time. I still miss him as he "helped" me with everything.

    So, rest up, read a book, and recharge those batteries.

  17. P.S. I hope your summer is better than ours - which has been cold and wet and I have Damsons rotting on the tree before they ripen, and even almost a courgette harvest failure (so you know it has been BAD!) Thank heavens for runner beans and my best apple tree (the others are sulking).

  18. Please keep an eye on yourself Rhonda!

    Love from Holland

  19. Hi Rhonda,

    Sounds like you've had a bit of a rough patch lately. I'm sorry to hear of Hettie's passing. I'm sure it was particularly sad knowing she would be your last cat. It takes time to process these things. Give yourself permission to rest and recuperate. I'm sure you'll feel fit and ready to be in the garden in no time!

    We've had glimpses of sunshine here in Melbourne recently which is just wonderful! Although I don't usually mind winter, this year felt like a very long one.

    In the garden I have decided to remove some lavender bushes and prepare that space for veggies as its close to the house and easily accessible for me to look after. My girls have been planting seeds in pots and egg cartons and they are slowly starting to germinate which is to exciting for all of us to see. My youngest daughter is now 1 and walking. It will make this spring and summer that bit easier as she can potter around next to us and get her hands dirty with the rest of us!

    Take care, jade xxx

  20. That is some fine looking kale! Here the tomatoes and other summer veggies are fading away, as the kale begins to emerge. I'm looking forward to having it again.

    Congrats on the progress with the new book. As I'm sure you know, it is difficult to get your books here in the U.S. I've only found Down to Earth available from overseas bookstores with hefty shipping fees. But I was fortunate to find The Simple Life available domestically and I'm looking forward to reading it. :)

  21. I love reading about others' gardens. Since I live in an apartment and water in Texas is precious, I only have potted plants. But, I just started 2 lemon trees from seeds of a lemon I used in cooking. They are both doing well on my porch along with aloe, ferns, Swedish ivy, peanut cactus, succulents and some herbs.

    Self care is the best thing we can do for ourselves. Glad you are taking some time for yourself now.

  22. Your garden is to be envied, even if you've altered the size. Kudos for both of you. The violas are so pretty that I think I will look for some in the spring. My plan is to cut out the garden next year. I'll divide the strawberry plants and the blackberries to give to my daughters for their yards and just grow a few items in pots. Like you both, my energy levels have changed.

  23. Thanks for sharing your plans for your garden! I just began gardening, so it's been less of a planned out adventure and more experimentation and trying new things as I read about plants that are good to grow this time of year in California. I find it inspiring to read what other people are doing in their more established gardens, and I always learn something new when I explore your blog, so thank you!

  24. I've found, with some things that have happened this year, that when things take an emotional and mental toll, it can show up physically in the form of fatigue, among other things. I'm glad you rested when you needed to, and hope that today you are feeling better.

    Thank you for sharing that tip on how to keep lettuce going into the hotter months. I live in Florida (US) and from what you've written over the years about the plants you grow, I think your climate might be similar to ours. We have the same problem with lettuce, it's a late fall/early spring crop here, usually, but I'd love to have it into the summer. I will have to try that your method.

  25. Rhonda, I've often wondered, is Hanno's name his full name or is it an abbreviated version of something? It's a lovely name.

    1. It's his full name, Bec. Pronounced Harno because Germans pronounce "A" as an "R'.

  26. Dear Rhona, I sensed that you would reach a low ebb after your sister left; so plenty of rest as nobody will the sending the gardening or housework police round ;-) I'm going to try your method of growing lettuce too, my poor garden has fried and died this year with the extreme heat and little rain and it's still in the high 30C's which just sucks the life out of me! Hope you have a wonderfully restful weekend.



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