23 December 2012

2012 - It's a Wrap!

A year ago I decided to start writing a blog as a way to keep track of what was happening in both the City and Country Gardens.  I didn't expect much but thought it would be interesting to use it as a way of exploring my interest in gardening and food sustainability.  

When I started it I didn't understand the whole thing about connecting with other blogs and the communities it could open up.  I was amazed when the first person that I wasn't related to or friends with wrote a comment, and then slowly a whole new world opened up and I have now become part of an online community of lovely people doing really interesting things with their lives as well as having a great journal of the past year in the gardens.  Along the way I've learnt heaps, pondered problems with others and shared monthly updates on ways of living more slowly and thoughtfully.  Not only that, but I've written an article for a book and have just been interviewed for a gardening magazine (both yet to be published).

In the City Garden the produce was boosted by the addition of three gorgeous, hilarious chickens that we hadn't even contemplated this time last year; and from the Country Garden we managed to feed two households almost entirely and provide part of the requirements of a small restaurant throughout the whole year.  And then somehow to finish the year off, after meeting several fabulous farmers during the year, I ended up becoming one (well a farmer but to be honest probably not a fabulous one!) even if only for a short time.  Who'd have thought I'd end the year with "Learnt to drive a tractor" as one of my achievements?!

Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog this past year.  It's been so lovely to "meet" you.  I can't wait to see what 2013 brings and to share more adventures here!  

All my very best wishes for the festive season and for the year to come.

Tobi x

This Week in the Country Garden

While it's still a bit between seasons for us at the moment in the Country Garden, the harvest has included potatoes, leek, radish, lettuce, sorrel, spinach, basil, kale, rhubarb, a few blueberries and the last of the cabbage.  Everything else is now shooting up rapidly and the next month or so should see us back to a bumper crop of summer goodies.  Can't wait!
For all our statements last year about not overcrowding the
tomatoes this season, they grew quicker than expected...! 
Beans and Corn 
Capsicums and Sorrel
The second potato bed
The savoy cabbages have finally been harvested
to give some room for the zucchini and squash
to hopefully take off
After waiting patiently for months and months, we've finally
managed to harvest some red cabbage just in time to make
our traditional Norwegian Christmas Red Cabbage dish
Miniature pumpkins with the first small fruit on them 
Perfect cos lettuce
A  few onions.  They failed last year so we
 didn't bother planting many this year
- wish we had now!

16 December 2012

December in the Vineyard

Getting stuck on a packed tram in hot weather or having to run home from the tram stop if you forget your umbrella is annoying, but working outside day after day gives weather observation a completely different meaning.  The weather over the last month has been crazy.  One day I had to run for shelter when a sudden thunderstorm hit the vineyard (standing in an open paddock holding onto trellis wire is probably not a very healthy option in such conditions!) soon followed by hail, then a couple of days later we were sweltering in 35 degrees, and everything in between has been thrown at us.  
Good weather for ducks as they say...!

Micro Gardens

The City Garden is pretty small, but it is possible to have an even smaller area and still grow great produce.  Here are a few ideas:

Out the front of our house there is a power pole that has been badly graffitied.  By "badly" I mean a) the fact that it's been done at all, and b) the fact that it's not exactly a Banksy!  I've been looking at it for ages thinking about options to cover up the graffiti, and finally decided to utilise the holes in the steel support wings on it to hang pots, and now I've created a street herb garden.  It's still a work in progress and needs a few more pots on it to completely hide the scribbles, but it's getting there.  I hope that as the herbs grow my neighbours feel that they can pick a few leaves as they walk past for their dinner, and perhaps even add a pot of their favourite herbs to the collection.  I've planted some flowers in amongst it for colour, and perhaps next there could be some lettuces or radishes.  Once this pole is full we could move onto the next one down the street...

My friend R lives in a rental house with a tiny front courtyard.  A while ago the owner came and chopped down the one straggly tree in it, leaving a bare space.  R decided there was enough room to create a vegie garden there, so with a weekend's work they built up a garden bed to fit the space and mulched around it for easy access.  They now have a thriving patch with several different varieties of vegies and herbs.  The fence will be used to support some climbing vegies over summer to provide shade for the rest of the garden bed and to give a green outlook from the living room. 

Community Gardens are obviously a great way to get your hands into some soil and grow things, while being surrounded by other people who can share knowledge and friendship.  The Elwood Neighbourhood House Community Garden offers all of this in a secret little spot within a small park.  It's absolutely magical, creatively developed and very much loved by its gardeners.  My friend E, who lives just around the corner in a small apartment was thrilled recently to be given a plot to work with her young daughter.  They walk past every morning on the way to school and stop off to water and check on progress, and then again to pick something yummy for dinner on the way home.  E's plot is quite small but she's managed to fit in cucumber, zucchini, radishes, tomatoes, snow peas and a few herbs.  In fact they're producing enough to give me a couple of vegetable gifts when I visited there this week!
E's garden plot

01 December 2012

Meanwhile, in the City Garden...

 The apple trees have followed up their beautiful blossoms with the development of quite a few apples
The potato patch is thriving, with a sudden growth spurt in the last week of hot, wet weather creating quite a potato jungle
The nectarine tree, while having masses of growth, has sadly only one nectarine that I can find.  The combination of terrible windy weather at blossom-setting time and marauding possums seems to have taken its toll.  Also apparently there is excess nitrogen in the soil, due to the attention I've been lavishing on the vegetables underneath the tree, creating a concentration on leaf-growth.  A lovely horticulturalist I met has recommended a light summer prune instead of a heavy winter prune, which is what I did to try to encourage more even growth as it's quite crooked, and then hopefully it shall improve next year.
The beautiful crepe myrtle is full of leaves and full of gorgeous little honey-eater birds that are protected in its thick canopy
My one remaining strawberry plant that wasn't eaten by the chickens is safe...well at least the bit under the chicken guard is!  Other vegies safely behind wire mesh include a couple of tomatoes and lots of herbs.
And speaking of the chickens, no this isn't a chicken tree, it's just the three girls taking a nanna-nap in a warm spot!  And good news: After two months of determinedly being broody, Mavis has finally gone back to her normal chicken life and is happily hanging out again with her mates.  She even laid her first egg again today, so all seems good.

This Week in the Country Garden

With the danger of frosts continuing for longer in the Country Garden than in surrounding suburban areas, the summer planting is a bit later, so I always feel a bit behind at this time of year! While other people seem to already be harvesting early summer vegies, ours are mostly still at seedling stage.  So in terms of harvesting it's a bit of an in-between time at the moment.  We're being sustained by spinach - no hardship as it is the most succulent, crunchy, delicious spinach you could hope for.  I haven't bothered cooking any of it as it's great raw.  It's being matched with savoy cabbage, sorrel, rocket, radish, basil and lettuce for the first warm weather salads.  There are also leeks and a few beetroots, along with rhubarb that I've been cooking up in Rhubarb and Apple Crumble for desserts.