24 February 2012

This week in the Country Garden

The sunflowers are out and both the bees and humans
are loving them!

These radish seedlings were planted as seed 7 days ago
 - it's always nice to see some fast progress in the garden!

And speaking of fast progress... the pumpkins are doing
what all good pumpkin plants should do: taking over!!

Some more of the fabulous corn harvest.
These are so good we ate them raw in salads last week.

A very successful harvest from the strawberry patch...
I traded some excess strawberry plants for zucchini
home-grown by the vineyard manager!

And you thought keeping pests out of a home garden is
difficult, this is pest control at a whole other scale!

But it's worth all the effort.  Vintage starts next week
and the fruit is looking great!

14 February 2012

Another square metre

The City Garden has been neglected a little lately, with most space taken up with tomatoes that are just quietly doing their thing in the background, I haven't really tended the Garden as closely as I should.  So last weekend I had a huge working bee, pruning and trimming and weeding to try to gain control again.  And at the completion of all that work, after realising that a couple of flowering plants had come to the end of their useful lifespan, I managed to salvage another sunny square metre for vegetables.  It's the simple things that make me happy...!  So now that square has been composted and dug through and I've just planted a new crop of Cavelo Nero.  We haven't had any growing since early summer and I've been missing it.  I also worked through some of the other parts of the garden and planted some Ruby Red Silverbeet and bush beans around the nearly finished tomatoes.  Being able to step outside the backdoor to pick vegetables fresh for dinner just can't be beaten.

Gaining the square metre reminded me of my favourite gardening book called "One Magic Square" by Lolo Houbein (Wakefield Press 2009).  Although I have quite a library of books on growing vegetables, this is the one that I keep going back to, and if you are thinking of starting a garden and want some inspiration, or just need some good advice, this is the book to read.  Lolo's basic idea is to start with a 1m x 1m square so that you don't get overwhelmed, and then build up from there.  She includes many suggestions for how to plant out the square, all of which are designed to work with the type of cooking you do.  So if you eat lots of curries, plant a curry plot, or similar for stir-fries or salads.  Importantly she reminds readers to think about what you actually eat and plant that.  The book also has masses of useful advice about basically everything you could want to know about growing your own food, as well as a scary chapter about food security called "The Terrible Importance of Growing Food", which should be compulsory reading for all.  It's a great, down-to-earth book that makes growing some of your own food sound not just like a good idea, but like an essential one, and one that is definitely achievable.

11 February 2012

Tracking Progress and The Good (S)oil

Well my hope last week that this week might bring on the much anticipated tomato glut just about came true.  I arrived at the Country Garden to a stack of containers full of tomato sauce that had just been made by the restaurant chef from the abundant red cherries, ready for me to take home.  As well as the tomatoes, the sauce has basil and spring onions from the garden, and is delicious!  And even better, it only used the red tomatoes, so I managed to pick nearly a kilo of the yellow cherry romas as well.  The corn and eggplants are also ripening well, and taste fabulous.

If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Home Page, you'll see a graph that I've added, which will chart the percentage of vegies that I am growing vs buying.  I'm not planning to use it scientifically (and it's located deliberately at the bottom of the page so that not many people will notice it!) but I thought it would be interesting to track generally how much I'm able to grow.  I'm also hoping it might be a good reminder in the cold, wet months when nothing much is happening how good growing my own food can be!  (Thanks to the Zucchini Island blog for the graph.)

Some of this week's harvest

The importance of good soil for healthy plants has been reinforced for me in the last couple of weeks.  We had a barrel of herbs, including rocket from seeds I'd saved last year, which had been really struggling.  The rocket was pretty small and kept shooting straight to seed, and when we planted more seeds in there a few weeks ago, they struggled to get more than about an inch tall.  At the same time we had also sown some more seed into one of the main garden beds where they have shot up and formed big, peppery leaves in dense clumps.  So last week I dug up the pot and put new soil and compost in it, rescuing the few surviving rocket seedlings from the barrel that I could.  The problem was immediately obvious.  I could barely get the spade through the dirt, and the roots on the seedlings were all warped sideways.  They just couldn't fight their way through the compacted dirt.  The seedlings have now been replanted into the new soil and yesterday were looking healthy and growing quickly, and I had a delicious salad today of rocket, cucumber, cherry toms, fennel and spring onions, all from the garden. 

04 February 2012

This week's harvest

Finally, our first raspberries!  They really do taste best picked and eaten straight off the bush...!!

Yesterday I dug up the last of the potato plants.  We got 7kg in 1m2, which we were very happy about (refer previous posts about our slight obsession with new potatoes...!)  This last year we planted about 3m2 of potatoes in two goes.  This coming year we will definitely be finding space to plant more and will try to stagger the planting more to extend the harvest season.