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