Our vegetable garden

10 August 2016
Before I start today's post I want to thank so many of you for your kind and generous comments.  It really does make blogging a great joy to have feedback - without it it's a one-way conversation.  So thank you for taking the time to comment, it motivates me to continue blogging.

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Although we've cut down on the amount of food we produce in the backyard, it's still an important part of life for us.  Not only for the fresh food it gives but also for the work required to get a seed or seedling to harvest. That work is still interesting and rewarding and it forms part of the framework we live within.

We have a huge garden but only a small portion of it is taken up with food production. The natural soil here is heavy clay but we've been working the garden soil for almost 20 years now and it's as close to perfect as I imagine it could be. The original clay was broken up when we first arrived here and compost, lime and organic matter added, not just once but continuously. When a crop was harvested and the roots removed, Hanno added more nutrients and compost. Over the years that built up to be dark, rich, fertile soil that has given us many kilos of fresh food. We've always had a compost heap, at times we've kept worm farms and we always grow comfrey with which to make a good natural free fertiliser that is as good as any you can buy.

Daikon, butter lettuce and er, weeds. LOL

One of the major parts of our garden are our rainwater tanks. Hanno constructed an excellent water collection system from our house roof and the shed roof. That gives us 15,000 litres of rainwater to use on the garden. If we didn't have those tanks I doubt we'd grow food in the back yard because tap water is so expensive. Luckily we live in an area where the rainfall is between 1500 to 1800mm (60 - 70 inches) a year, that rain falls in heavy showers throughout the year and is followed by mild to hot sunny weather. We never have frosts and our winter temperatures are between 3 - 23C. Most winter days warm up to about 20C, even after a cold night. We used to garden all year but since we cut back, we plant in March and stop planting in November. That gives us and the garden a break of 3 - 4 months over summer when it's hot, humid and there are a lot of insects around.

Another valuable part of our backyard eco-system are the chickens. They provide eggs for the kitchen but also nitrogen-rich manure for the compost. The addition of fresh manure helps the compost decompose and after a couple of months we have the best soil additive we could hope for. And it all comes together simply by adding chook poo to compost - the microorganisms in the compost do all the work for us and help turn kitchen and garden waste into rich, sweet smelling compost.

Hanno planted out more seedlings yesterday. We're currently growing chard, beetroot, spinach, kohl rabi, curly kale, bush beans, climbing beans, Welsh onions, lettuce, daikon radish, bok choi, turnips, parsley, basil, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves, sage, lemon grass, mint, raspberries, blueberries, youngberries, elderberries, Brazilian cherries, lemons, oranges, bananas, loquats and passionfruit. In the bush house I've planted trays of various chillies and heirloom tomato seeds that have just germinated. There are flowers in the vegetable garden too and they help attract the pollinators.

The afternoon sun catches the tangle of Herb Robert and alyssum.
What started out almost 20 years ago to be the chore of modifying hard clay and then planting seed to bring to harvest, has turned into a gentle and pleasurable way to spend time together outside. That garden of ours isn't just a food garden, it provides us with a space to sit and enjoy the fresh air and all the wildlife that visit on foot and fly through.

I wonder what's in your garden this season.