Eating the Garden

Every home needs a garden especially a kitchen garden

– Nada at Grandiflora

I’ve been having so much fun in my garden preparing the winter planting.

caterpillar in a tomato I grew

Over summer I didn’t have as much success with my vegies as I’d hoped. I planted tomatoes too late (November) and although the bushes grew big and lush, the tomato crop was in short supply and there were quite a few caterpillars in the fruit. I didn’t have enough to cook with, but it was nice picking a tomato when in the garden and eating it on the spot. I did have to have a knife with me to cut out the part with a caterpillar, which most of them had. I’ve learnt for next summer to plant seeds when I’m meant to ie. early spring and use Dipel (Bt) and/or wormwood (soak the leaves in water and then spray on the plants) to kill the caterpillars.

The beans were producing well in December. I’d pick a nice pile every evening to snack on in the garden or cook for dinner. Then the heatwave at Christmas killed the plants and a second lot of bean seeds never did well because of the continuing summer heat. The cucumbers never grew well because of too much direct and very hot sun.

sunflower in summer

Beautiful sunflowers, strawberries, NZ spinach (Tetragonia tetragonoides), herbs and lettuce were abundant, but that happens every year. The sunflowers were two new varieties which happily grew tall along the front fence and people walking past would comment on. I collected lots of seed for next year. I still haven’t worked out how to shell them (other than one by one by hand) so I can put them on my breakfast.

strawberries from my garden

My strawberries were producing well at the start of summer, but this dropped off. I’ve always let the runners grow where they like and the plants are everywhere, but then I read from Lis at A Year in a Day,

Snapping off all runners before they get a chance to root also diverts the strawberries’ energy from making new plants to making fruit.

I started removing the runners and I have strawberries right now. I’m getting to them before the bugs and they’re very tasty. There’s not enormous amounts, but they’re a nice treat when I water the garden.

my new vegie patch, seeds just planted

But the winter planting season is upon us. I’ve extended my vegie garden inside the front fence to double in size. I’ve now converted 2mx3m of lawn to food growing. Last winter I did the first part of this conversion, hoping to put in tomatoes and beans over summer. I hadn’t built up the soil enough from the sand that’s under the lawn and the direct summer sun all day was too much for anything other than NZ spinach and marigolds to grow. I’m continuing to add compost, manure and mulch and the soil is improving. When I extended the fence there was wire left over. I put this in the growing area to provide a trellis for peas and that’s what I’m filling most of the space with. The peas will get some sun, because there’s no shade, but the colder temperatures mean it won’t be killing any plants. I’ve also planted parsnips in between. My dad gave me some seeds he had and I’m trying them out.

jiri jiri in my garden

I’m also planting carrots, radish, lettuce, spring onion and bok choy at two weekly intervals to make for continuous harvesting. The lack of frost in my area means they should all (hopefully) do well. And for the first time I planted garlic. My friend told me she’d planted an organically grown bulb she got from the supermarket. I went to my local Absolutely Organic shop and bought a WA organically grown bulb. I divided it up and planted the cloves 5cm deep, in a sunny spot.

Then I read Trina at Green Foot blog about planting garlic in her garden. The book Organic vegetable gardening said plant garlic February to April [1], but Trina’s friend Matt said plant it a month or so before the cold weather starts. Perth’s cold weather starts around May so I hope I didn’t plant the garlic too late. It was 33°C last Monday, I don’t think I have to worry!

before I removed the agapanthus

As well as my vegie gardening, I’ve been working on my native plant garden. Some of which are bush tucker plants. I refined my wish list of local plants with help from my friends at Nuts about Natives. I removed the agapanthus, which was a killer job. I didn’t get all the roots, but I did get all the tubers, so I hope they don’t pop back up. I put the removed plants (roughly chopped) at the base of the sheet mulching for the vegie garden extension. I’m not sure this was the best idea because I didn’t quite have enough newspaper and every now and then an agapanthus leaf pops out of my mulch. I pull it and the whole plant comes out. I’m putting these in a plastic bag (for a number of weeks to thoroughly kill them) and then they can go in the compost.

after I removed the agapanthus

I still have to remove the ferns from the area where the native plants are going, and then I’ll get the plants. There are ten small shrubby species, one of each plant, and they’re all native to the Perth area. I chose some for their pretty flowers, so they don’t all grow in the bush reserves near my house. When I’ve finished the planting I’ll blog about the plants I chose, with photos.



  1. McFarlane, Annette (2002) Organic vegetable gardening. Sydney: ABC Books.

6 thoughts on “Eating the Garden

  1. Your garden’s looking great. I had no luck with tomatoes this year either. Little fruit and what there was, was eaten by a wallaby, i think…..or some kind of rodent. They just munched into the green tomato and left the rest. Argh!!

    The strawberry runners you can pot on, to form your next strawberry plants. Start a new bed. Strawberry plants become tired after a couple of years and by potting up the runners, you can always have good plants going. Don’t you just love that! It’s just a question of space – where do you put the new ones? Never enough space.

    Oh, with the wormwood – do you steep the plant in hot water? How much herb to water? Do you dilute it further to spray onto plants? Does it work on all plants/worms…eg those that eat brassicas?

  2. Nada, wormwood spray is meant to be used on brassicas. It kills leaf eating caterpillars like cabbage white butterfly caterpillars (Pieris rapae). I don’t know if it works on the worms in tomatoes, it probably doesn’t because they’re eating the fruit. I’ve never actually made or used wormwood spray, I just want to cause I have the plant. It doesn’t help that I’ve never grown brasscias, space is at a premium in my garden, So I can’t let the strawberries grow where ever they want :)

    I just googled “wormwood spray” and found It does use boiling water.

    Julie, thanks for the links. I didn’t know about them.

  3. Thanks. i’ve got it growing in my garden….so now apart from admiring the lovely, grey green form, i will use it on caterpillars which are a major problem at my sister’s place.

    Wormwood can be steeped in alcohol….for purely medicinal purposes of course…….

  4. Does anyone have a problem with little green worms eating the strawberry plants?

    What can a person do about this?

  5. I’ve never experienced “little green worms” eating my strawberries, but anything that looks like a little green worm is probably a caterpillar. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that kills caterpillars. A commercial preparation of the dead bacteria is available and spraying it on what the caterpillars are eating, whether this is the strawberry fruit or leaves, will poison them. Excess Bt is washed off by water or rain, thus it’s not harmful to people who eat the strawberries. I blogged about Bt here with some links to info on it.

    A spray made of garlic and chilli has been recommended to me for killing tomato-eating-caterpillars. You might like to try that – it will be cheaper than Bt.

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