But over the Christmas holidays I found an even better vantage point, so I relocated an under-used garden bench to up against the garage wall. I installed a pot of pyrethrum and artfully arranged some old (vintage!) terracotta pots:
From here, I can rest in the shade, pod the broad beans, and still see the blackbirds wreak havoc on my mulch. And do some garden thinking:
- Dad was right: It's not good to have plants in your vegie garden, even if they attract bees. They start to dominate and crowd out what you are trying to grow for harvest, or crowd you out as you try to get to your crops.
- Bumblebees make lovely gardening companions. With their deep buzz and lazy, drunken flying patterns, they pose no threat as you work in the garden, no matter how close they get to you (or you to them).
- So do blackbirds, even if they infuriate me sometimes with their mulch displacement techniques. They are remarkably tame, and seem to know I pose no threat as I work about my garden beds (or maybe they consider them to be their garden beds?).
- There is no greater pleasure than picking your own peas and beans, especially those first few gatherings, then sitting outside in the soft evening air, surveying your domain as you shell them for dinner.
- Do not assume you will be able to distinguish between a sugar snap, snowpea and greenfeast pea. LABEL.
- Tomatoes are a mystery. All the work, the tending: pinching out laterals (which I only vaguely recognise), tying up limbs, not too much water... I'm following dad's instructions but I do not yet understand them. It's probably why I grow so many peas and beans. So much simpler.
I also got inspired to fashion some wobbly duckboards, to lift my walkways between rows off the ground; the aim was to keep them free from, yes, the blackbird-rearranged mulch which obscured my pathways. But it should also mean less compression of the soil. At the end of the season, when I put the vegie patch to sleep for the winter, I shall refine this infrastructure.
So, onto specifics. What have I been growing, watering, feeding, cursing, harvesting since the last time we spoke?
- Beans: borlotti and lazy housewifes.
- Basil, but not yet enough to make a decent pot of pesto.
- Second installment of peas: sugar snaps, green feast, snow peas. All labelled.
- Second installment of beans: yellow, green and purple ones.
- Tomatoes: still green on the vine, but two black krims (or black russians?), one granny's throwing, and one more (dad's handwriting has worn off the stakes, but a large hefty variety)
- Black beauty zucchini: my first ever attempt at growing zukes, and I already have some bright yellow flowers!
- Rainbow chard (silverbeet). I sorely miss having this (and kale) in may garden right now; it is one of my dinner staples. The wee seedlings are growing strong but nowhere near harvest yet.
- Second installment of beetroot. Due to planting too many, the first lot were only good for the green tops.
- Basil. See above.
- Rhubarb. The least said about this under-performer, the better.
- A capsicum plant that looks ... very yellow and sickly. Not sure why.
- Lettuce; but in the last week it's started going to seed and has turned very bitter, so will probably come out soon.
- Some mystery pumpkin, self-sown from some kitchen scraps I buried as a kind of compost. Not sure exactly what variety I have - something from dad's garden - but a lovely surprise.
Things to do?
Water. Summer in Hobart tends to be up and down (I'm sure I've said this before). Mostly the mild weather is great for tackling garden chores such as deadheading and pruning without raising much of a lady-like glow, but when it's hot here, the sun stings with a fierceness that never fails to shock (and if you're not protected adequately, burn). If there's a hot northerly wind as well, it's a disaster for the garden.
Even though I have a thick layer of sugar-cane mulch, I also have tender new seedlings that are barely sprouted and need nurturing. So as I'm lucky enough to live quite close to work, on the stinky-hot days I drive home at lunchtime to water the rows, carefully, to keep their roots cool and moist. Someone at work (a non-gardener, obviously) marvelled and thought I was being a tad over the top in my efforts, but we are talking about ensuring my future dinner here, so if I can, I will.
Plus now that I'm back at work, it's a way of staying in touch with my garden during the day. I miss being outside all day - and sitting in my new spot, surveying it all.
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