A new vegetable garden

18 April 2017
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Nothing makes as much sense to me as growing food in the backyard. Hanno has been working hard over the past week digging, adding manures, compost, blood and bone to the soil and sifting out the ever-present nut grass. Finally, after all his work, the garden was planted up yesterday.  

No doubt the garden will change a lot over the weeks and months that follow but at the moment we're growing parsley, sage, basil, thyme, bay, oregano, mint, Welsh onions, green onions, capsicums/peppers, curly kale, silver beet/chard, bok choy, lettuce, turnips, and two tomato types: the French heirloom Rouge de Marmande and two cocktail tomatoes, one red, one yellow. That will see us through the rest of autumn, winter and well into spring. We'll buy our cabbages, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower as well as root vegetables - potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and swedes. We're growing turnips. They're so easy to grow it's ridiculous not to. Sweet peas have been planted to grow over the arch at the entrance to the garden and when they finish, I'll use that space for cucumbers.  BTW, we have planted about 20 parsley plants so if you're short of parsley one day, you know where to find some.

After the lush overfull vegetable gardens we used to grow here, this one is more restrained, it's smaller, less showy and just right for our energy levels now. And I think we've got the mix of plants right for us too. We grow herbs because paying $15 every week for fresh herbs is crazy and I want freshness and taste - herbs that are cut, added to our food and eaten within the hour. Supermarket herbs that are tasteless and go limp within a day or two are a waste of time and money. We have to grow tomatoes - it's an interesting challenge to grow tasty tomatoes and it keeps us slower gardeners on our toes. I've never eaten a supermarket tomato that comes close to the excellent taste of a just picked heirloom tomato still warm from the sun. And we grow leaves because we can - they're so easy and as long as we give them enough water, they usually look after themselves. Overall, we've chosen the things we can grow easily as well as a couple of things that will keep us interested.

But the production of organic food isn't the only benefit of gardening. It creates a feeling of independence and self-reliance and when I go outside early in the morning to let the chickens out, or when I wander around picking herbs for lunch, or decide to sit in the cooling fresh air in the late afternoon, this garden of ours wraps itself around me and I know there is no other place I'd rather be. Further off in the distance I see the edge of a pine forest and a rain forest, I see homing pigeons out for their afternoon flight, butterflies float through, bees buzz and I listen to the sounds of the neighbourhood around me.  I feel protected here, I look at the seedlings just planted and feel pleased that we've put in the work, yet again, that will provide us with good food in the weeks ahead. As I walk back towards the house, I make a mental note to move this and that, to clip that rose back in the morning, to give the orange trees more seaweed tomorrow. There's always something to do in the vegetable garden and the work we do there rewards us just as much as the food does.

It's a wonderful network to be part of. We raise plants to harvest from seeds and seedlings, we become part of daily life in the backyard, we assimilate with the birds and animals out there, we breathe fresh air, stretch our muscles, we recognise patterns, carry out processes, improve our skills and end up carrying the freshest produce into the house. And we feel lucky being able to do it.

Are you planting vegetables, herbs or fruit this year? Are you adding anything new or going with your favourites?