21 November 2016

Do you know what to plant?

We've reached the point in our gardening year when we've stopped planting. We still have a fair bit of gardening to do but there will be no new plants added. Our leafy greens finished early because of the large numbers of insects this year. We don't fight them with insecticides, we just stop growing what they eat. The tomatoes and cucumbers are in and mulched, now I have to keep the water up to the citrus and berries so that in a year of less rain than normal here, we'll still have a good supply of fruit in the coming autumn and winter. Thank heavens for tank water.

We're always working for now but planning for what will come later in the garden. It makes things easier when we know what's ahead and are prepared for it. And that applies to our general lives too. We're always planning ahead, always wanting to arrive at a new stage of life with at lease some of the preparation and thinking done so it's not a struggle or a burden.

 Always lurking - the black shadow, ready to bite any toe at any time.
 And here she is playing with Jamie.

Always add flowers to your garden because they'll attract beneficial insects. Purple, blue and yellow flowers seem to be the most attractive to insects where I live but all flowers will lure bees, wasps and hoverflies in.  Above is The Fairy rose and below is a blue sage that grows two metres high. It requires hardly any watering and is a great plant for dry gardens.

I often get emails asking about this and that relating to gardening but one of the most often asked questions is: What should I grow?  I can never answer that question because my climate might be totally the opposite of yours, our tastes might differ and I have time whereas, you might not have.  When planning your garden, grow what you eat.  Make a list of every vegetable you eat.  Research what season each plant grows in and what conditions they need, discard those you can't grow, then divide your list into seasons - that is your planting list.  If you've got too many on the list, work out which vegetables are the best picked and eaten straight away. For example, both corn and peas should be eaten within a few hours of harvesting if you want to experience the best of them. After harvesting, corn and peas start converting their natural sugars into starch and that affects the taste and texture. So if you love corn and peas, plant them. You could also select the most expensive vegetables to buy at the market and grow those because they'll be cheaper and better grown at home, or if you're a new gardener, choose the easiest to grow - lettuce, Asian greens, carrots, radishes.

The first of the tomatoes (above) and capsicums (below).

And don't forget herbs. I routinely use parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme and mint in my cooking. All of them are easy to grow here and one plant will last at least a season, often two seasons, so it saves me money to grow herbs. I also grow Welsh onions which are perennial green onions. I use them in the same way I use chives or spring/green onions. If I were to buy all those herbs every week, it would cost me at least ten dollars just for herbs. Planting half a dozen herb seedlings in Spring, or keeping perennial or biennial herbs going through the year, is wise economy.

The berries are growing well this year. Here is the second flush of blueberries (above) and the Young berry is starting to climb the trellis (below).  A farmer in Maleny gave my the Young berry. It's native to northern America and is very similar to a raspberry.

Don't forget fruit trees, passionfruit vines, and berries. These are longer term plants and will cost more than a seedling but they'll produce fruit over a number of years. I think of fruit as an investment. As long as they're fed and watered, they look after themselves. They'll need mulching if you're in a hot area, and pruning occasionally, but they're easy care plants once they're in the ground and growing.

In The Simple Home I wrote about container gardens. They're great if you're renting or don't have much land or time. You'll still get a crop and although it will probably be smaller than an in-the-ground garden harvest, the work load is smaller too.

There is no doubt that you'll reduce your grocery bill and improve your health by growing organic food at home. Some gardeners are held back by doubting their own abilities and some don't know where and how to start.  But there is help. There is a large group of gardeners at the forum who will help you with any question you may have. So if you're tempted and have been putting it off until now, start planning what you'll grow. It's a great skill to have and there are many of us older gardeners who will help you get started and then ease you through the first few seasons. 🍄

Two guides I've written
How to start a vegetable garden - part 1
How to start a vegetable garden - part 2



  1. We grow what we eat fresh and like canned; this goes for our meat, too. I can a lot of our beef and pork to reduce freezer use... Would you believe that we have baby strawberries in a hanging pot in my kitchen right now? It is 37-degrees F here today (high) and snow flurries fell last night, yet I have baby berries which we will most likely enjoy on a dessert at Christmas! I have sprouts and microgreens going, too. It surprises me just how much food one can grow with little time and effort!

  2. I've started from scratch with our veggie garden and slowly however since March now have an abundance of kale, spring onion, parsley, mint, thyme, coriander, bok choy and now zucchini on its way. I've noticed a drop in our fruit and veggie shop cost wise as I no longer buy these items. I only grow what we eat and what suits our area.

    I do plan ahead but on a smaller scale. My next goal is to plant broccoli in the next few weeks.

    Thanks Rhonda for all of your help and advice, your books and I've received so much help from the forum.

  3. Good morning, Rhonda! I think growing what you eat is a real key to getting the most out of a garden. When I first started, I grew eggplants and, while thrilled I actually grew something, I'm not a big fan of eggplant! Instead, now I grow what we eat so at the moment that's salad veg: lettuces, cherry tomatoes, spring onion, capsicum and zuuchini. We also planted an avocado tree a couple of years ago, as we eat them all the time and they are expensive. Happily, that avo tree now has six little fruit on it. So exciting! I'm envious of your blueberries. My bush was covered in them but a "robber" came and took every single ripe berry off before I could pick them. So, next time I'll net the blueberry. Gardening is so much about learning, I think...celebrating successes and accepting some failures along the way. That Gracie of yours looks like she has a lot of fun in your garden and it sounds like she has a lot of fun with your toes! Meg:)

  4. I just want to hug that little dog! I was hoping to get a few more things planted this month but we've been away and it's just too hot now and so little rain this last 2 months. I might try some leafy greens in a styrofoam box in the shade as I hate paying for leaves. We have lots of green bananas waiting to ripen and tamarillos but not much happening in the veggie garden other than herbs but they are very useful. I'm still getting plenty of self seeded cherry tomatoes and I need to make time fo make chilli jam. I used your recipe a few years ago and it was wonderful. I think everyone who has a veg patch starts out wanting to grow everything. Then you realise you are growing some stuff you don't like or putting a lot of time into something that takes a lot of space and water that is actually dirt cheap at the markets as it's in season. I grew kale for ages and hardly used it but then I made an effort and use it quite a lot now. This winter I grew broccoli but it took up a lot of room and that meant I couldn't grow other things so I'll cut back next year. I love that I can look back and know I have learnt a lot. Seeing what neighbours are growing successfully is always helpful

  5. Rhonda what you say about growing for your climate is so true. I only live a couple of hours drive north of you, Hervey Bay, and my tomato growing time is over. I agree with you on the more insects than normal as there are fruit fly in huge numbers. A couple of weeks ago we also had butterflies everywhere. I'm now keeping an eye out for the caterpillar's that are the logical consequence. We don't spray either as just as many good insects get taken out by the sprays as bad insects. An older friend has said that lots of insects means lots of rain this summer wet season. I really hope this is true.
    Miss Gracie is really looking like a little scottie now. She and Jaimie will end up great mates.

    1. Jane, we're late with our tomatoes this year. We usually plant them in winter and grow until December. I hope to get at least something out of these because home grown tomatoes, as you well know, can't be beaten. Thanks for telling me about the likelihood of good rain with the insects. I wonder if it will happen.

  6. You wrote that you don't grow what the insects eat! What a new thought for me! I'm going to have to really take that seriously and consider what vegetables are insect magnets. Last year my butternut squash got a horrible bug that was creepy looking. I crushed them instead of putting insecticide on them but the bug multiplied too quickly. I'll need to consider not growing it if that happens again. Thank you!

  7. Hi Rhonda,thank you for the really useful information. Although I have been gardening for many years I always learn something from your posts. We are lucky enough to have quite a large vegetable garden at the rear of our house. About 10 years ago we converted our front garden from lawn and shrubs to a mini orchard which at present has 9 fruit trees in it. During winter next year, we plan to plant our young quince tree that is currently in a large pot,into the ground in the front garden. We will then have no room for any more fruit trees. Our front garden is behind a high wooden fence which means the "orchard" is a private and very relaxing place to sit and enjoy either a cup of tea or a nice cool drink. Our dog, 3 cats and 3 hens all enjoy being in the front garden especially on nice spring days. I agree with you Rhonda that the simple aspects of life can be the most enjoyable and relaxing.
    I recently borrowed a book from the library which may be of interest to your readers who do not have a lot of room in which to grow food. "The Edible Balcony" by Indira Naidoo has useful information and some great ideas on how to grow food in small spaces. The book also features some lovely recipes using home grown fruit and veggies.
    Wishing you continued success with your gardening, cooking and simple life activities. Regards, Maria.

  8. .....avid container gardener here.


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