Archive for the 'garden' Category

First fruits

One does not like to boast, but this evening we had our first entirely home grown meal from this new garden. Everything we ate, I grew from seed. On the menu were zucchini cakes (I make these, amazing with tomato relish) using eggs from our chooks and a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, baby spinach, beetroot leaves, basil and nasturtiums.

This is what real zucchinis look like. One that something had a nibble at, one that was hiding under a leaf and turned into a monster, one that got more sun up one end than the other. What must they do to commercial zucchinis to get such uniform shape, colour and size? As a consumer of commercial zucchinis, I dread to think. I wonder how many such beauties they throw away.

* Sussex trug. Tony excels at gift giving, really.


Gardening in the round

This peculiar round structure was the first thing I noticed when the real estate agent showed us our house. There it was in the middle of the front lawn, covered with grass and weeds and hosting an indignant brush turkey who was obviously freeloading. I had been looking at Brisbane’s rental properties for weeks, holding out hope that I’d find one with an innocent patch I might claim for vegetable gardening. And there it was. I was leased.

You may not realise this but circles are a special shape in the world of gardening. In the language of permaculture, they have the best time and motion efficiency. For the past few months my circle has been planted with a green manure crop of fenugreek, mung beans and clover, biding its time and waiting for the real planting action to begin. This weekend we finally found leisure to dig in the green manure, errect a little fence and let the girls enjoy a working holiday. Their first few hours were spent in orgiastic dust bathing.

Being situated right at the front (where most Australian houses have only a modest bit of rockery and a letterbox), this garden is visible to all who care to notice it. I love to see the reactions of passers by, like the man who was obliged to wait patiently while his two dogs longingly eyed our chickens, or the daily throng of school children saying “Look Mummy, chookies!” or the couple who regularly stop their exercise to offer encouragement and check our progress.

The round bed will have to wait a little longer before my visions of a bountiful mandala planted with flourishing organic veggies are realised. For now, it’s proving a great conversation starter and a dream holiday location for the chooks.

Ready and Waiting

Was I little hard on suburbia? Perhaps. Along with our 1950s timber house we’ve inherited a garden. This garden boasts a large frangipane tree, a small lawn and rampant weeds. On the Eastern side of the house are three large concrete beds. One can only imagine what they were originally intended for, but they do seem rather serendipitous to us. So far, they’ve been aggressively weeded, mulched, fenced and otherwise prepped for serious suburban bliss. First thing on the list? Backyard poultry.

Our chook house was bought on Gumtree and cheerfully delivered by the seller. It is, in fact, a decommissioned children’s cubby house and came with a sandpit, gratis. With help from Uncle Ollie and Aunty Sarah it is sporting a new paint job, a perch fashioned from an old rake handle and a hinged roof for ease of egg-collecting. The colour scheme was inspired by our travels through England.

All it needs now are some residents!

The Thrifty Gardeners

Among my library finds this week were two real gems which have long been on my amazon wishlist. The Edible Garden and The Thrifty Gardener by Alys Fowler. I’m in the process of planning our veggie patch, or food garden, as Alys would prefer. Her gardening situation is about as far from mine as possible. She gardens in the cool, fertile soil of England, where her major pests and predators include moles and hedgehogs, whilst her chief concern is how to extend the growing season through the British winter. My garden is in the backwaters of hot, windy Brisbane. My major predators will be possums and native turkeys (yes, turkeys). My climate is so warm that is seems, to my infinite sorrow, unlikely I can grow garlic. If I’m honest, the real allure of the books was Alys’s wild hair and charming, punk permaculture aesthetic.

And yet, organic gardening has common threads, the world over. Feed the soil, let the soil feed the plants. Imitate nature, not the farmers’ fields. Live with the holes in your lettuce. A hole-y lettuce leaf is better than a sprayed one.

While Alys’ thrifty ideas are getting me riled up with enthusiasm, there have been a few checks to this process. Even a thrifty gardener needs some cash, apparently. Wine crate pots are certainly charming, but they aren’t free here. Cheap potting mix is about as fertile as a pile of rotting socks. And Bunnings’ lowest prices are just the beginning of a long list of garden inputs that adds up very quickly. Lucky the girl who has a mum to buy a pair of gardening gloves and a hand trowel or two.

A thrifty gardener, it seems, must wait. Wait while the compost bin does its thing. Wait while the green manure brings life back to the soil. Wait while the toilet rolls pile up for seed raising. Wait while tools and hardware are thrifted or borrowed. Wait while the bank balance recovers enough to buy bales of mulch and bags of sheep poo.

But there’s plenty of fun to be had in the meantime. Like perusing the seed catalogues of Eden Seeds or The Digger’s Club, or searching out local sources of manure and knowledge, or cheering on a husband who’s building a cage to keep out possums and bush turkeys.

Oh, and reading books by a British girl with amazing hair who is growing food, like you are, on the other side of the world.

Alys Fowler, The Thrifty Gardener

Alys Fowler, "The Thrifty Gardener"

About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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