1 Feb 2014

garden share collective: february

A garden should have a space to sit, a place from where you can survey what you are growing and creating, make new plans, or simply enjoy the view. Until recently, I had a perfectly good spot - I could watch the ever-busy blackbirds scruff about the sugar-cane mulch and the silverbeet grow ever taller as it went to seed:


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:
I plan on putting strawberries in those empty strawberry pots once the weather cools a tad. Yes, it does get 'too hot' in Hobart!

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.
From this spot, I can also see the garden space - the layout of the beds and rows in relation to the sun - and I've been mentally plotting improvements for next summer. Tomatoes into a different bed where they get more sun will be the main thing 'next time'. Perhaps dig up another corner of the lawn for more gardening.

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?

Currently harvesting
  • Beans: borlotti and lazy housewifes.
  • Basil, but not yet enough to make a decent pot of pesto.
Yup, right now that's it. It's a good thing I'm getting zucchini, cabbage, carrots and scarlett runner beans from dad.


Currently growing
  • 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.
Note the blue larkspur doing a spot of photo-bombing

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.

Don't forget to see others in the Garden Share. Click on the logo in the column at right to see more green thumbs.

30 comments:

  1. love your sitting spot! We also have one of them! Terrible - it's so comfy I sometimes 'forget' to get up and do some gardening!

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    1. hello laura! yes, i can enjoy sitting and reading and forget about the gardening... other times, i keep leaping up after seeing new things that need doing!

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  2. Lovely to have the tour around your place. I too find tomatoes tricky; they are very slow to get established here, but I find variety makes a big difference. I've tried one variety for two years in a row and both times it just didn't survive. I sit firmly on the fence on the laterals thing, and pinch some out, but not all. I fully second the joys of growing your own peas. Heaven.

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    1. hello fellow pea lover :-) i would pick the pretty white flowers for little delicate bouquets inside, only that would mean less pea eating later.
      and thank you for admitting tomatoes stump you, too! i won't give up - the rewards of flavoursome homegrown tomatoes are too good.

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  3. People look at you funny when you work your day around having to water your garden don't they?! Clearly, not gardeners themselves ;) Lovely new sitting spot, will it be lovely and sunny for you in winter?

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    1. yes , work really just gets in the way of my gardening!
      no, the new spot will be in the shade more so in the winter - but i tend not to sit outside too much during a miserbale tassie winter anyway :-)

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  4. I think it's perfectly normal to go home from work to check on the garden. And on tomatoes, I'm not a lateral picker. But when the plants get a decent crop of green tomatoes on them, I pick out the top ends of the main 'branches" to stop them growing further and focus them on ripening fruit. It's the same thing you do for broad beans, and seems to do the trick. Love your sitting spot too. Beautiful.

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    1. i think dad has mentioned that top end thing, sue. it's vaguely familiar but lost in a fuzz of too-much-tomatoe-knowledge and that heady smell of tomato leaves (as good as the fruit itself). so thank you for that - next year, next year!

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  5. It's so good to see your lovely sunny photos, and dream of having to rush home to water the plants because it's just so hot... which is perfectly understandable if future dinners are at stake! I'm with you on the peas too - freshly podded peas must be one of the best reasons for growing your own - until you've tasted them, you just can't imagine how much better than any shop-bought veg they are.

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    1. hello GD. yes, i used to think that frozen peas were acceptable, and in the winter time you are lulled into beleiving that...but come summer, eating their green fresh sweetness, you realise how wrong frozen peas are - nothing else compares. but that is homegrown all over, isn't it!

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  6. Your garden looks productive and lovely e! I love your sitting spots too! Zucchini flowers are a beautiful thing aren't they? A mystery pumpkin is a total bonus! Happy summer gardening to you.

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    1. hello jane, and thankyou! i'm at that point between crops - i'm really hungry for the next lot of peas!
      the zucchini flowers are SO yellow - incredible. and i'm happy report the beginnings of teeny little zukes too.

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  7. Hi you have so much growing. Love the sound of your place to sit and ponder. Your dad is right about flowers in the vege garden, they do take over .. But I can't help myself! :)

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    1. thank you for your kind words julie. i'm going to restrict myself to marigolds around the borders, and blue bee-attracting flowers in nearby beds. hopefully... my poblem is i'm too soft, and if a flower self-sows in the middle of the rhubarb, who am i to pull it out?!

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  8. So impressed with how organised your veggie garden is. And I have no idea what laterals are when it comes to tomato plants.... oh-oh... I have grown tomatoes for a couple of years but seems I have some serious learning to do! I have to admit, I like to plant the odd flower in my vegie garden but your dad sounds wise.

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    1. hi maya! the organisation of my garden beds reflects my tendencies for order... you should see my linen press and cutlery drawer!! i think the only way to learn about tomatoes is from someone like dad; i tried readign books last year but it was even more bamboozling. hopefully in 20 or 30 years time i shall get it right.

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  9. Your garden is beautiful E. Your personal spaces are very pretty and full of love.

    Haha...I am quite partial to photo bombing and can really appreciate the blue Larkspur. Fabulous! Couldn't have done it better myself. :)

    Thank your for sharing your garden/instant kitchen. Sampling a fresh snow pea from the vine is one of my favourite things. Recently my sister walked me through her hothouse and we were very naughty. First in best dressed is what I say besides, I am sure no one else wanted those snow peas and strawberries anyway.

    I am quite impressed with your organisation skills, you seem to have an excellent plan of where, how and when things should be planted. I am sure your parents must be very proud. A chip of the old block!

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    1. ha, i love the image of you walking thru your sister's hothouse. sometimes the produce never makes it as far as the kitchen!
      and yes i think i get my organisational skills from my dad. he is all for the most efficient way of doing things, too. i love a rambling garden but in the end, neat and square suits me best :-) thanks SB!

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  10. I only have a couple of tomato plants in my garden at the moment given to me by an Italian farmer that I'm hoping will produce some beautiful tomatoes. Your sitting spot sound so peaceful and I couldn't agree with you more about the serenity it must bring sitting there watching and planning your veggie garden. Lovely post.

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    1. thank you for your kind words, catherine. you are spot on - there is a special kind of serenity that comes from sitting in a garden.

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  11. I like your new sitting spot, its an essential in any veggie garden. I have a rock I sit on in mine to appreciate my afternoons efforts before making my way back to the house. Tomatoes can be very tricky to grow, they don't like to be too wet yet they still need water. I always put pot ash around them to increase the flavour.

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    1. hail liz, the organiser of us all!
      a rock, now that would be just wonderful to sit on. i donlt think i have space for a decent zised rock though :-)
      yes the water requirements of tomatoes is confusing. not too much dad tells me, while the bushes are developing, but once they start with the fruit, he reckons a litre a day to keep them juicy.
      i don' think i've put on potash since my holidays - thank you for the reminder.

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  12. I love your ample bean supply. Perfect to watch grow from your new gorgeous bench by the wall. Strawberries will grow beautifully in pots against that wall, it will be as pretty as a picture. I love how your blue flowers photobomb everything, what a pleasure. Your garden is looking amazing, very green and well producing. Our basil has been a little slow this summer but seems to finally be gaining momentum, so pesto may be on the menu yet :D x

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  13. hi merryn! yes, beans are one thing i usually grow easily - but they are also one of my favourite green things to eat :-) so good on all counts.
    i'm hoping to get the strawberries going in a week or two - hopefully i haven't missed the boat - and yes that shoud be a good spot. and in those lovely old-fashioned strawberry pots!
    good luck with your pesto too. reading around the various garden share posts of others, it seems the summer weather has played havoc with quite a few of our gardens, no matter where we are located.

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  14. It's all looking lovely, you got some very productive thinking time on your bench, what a good move! Can I ask, what are Lazy housewives?

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  15. hi alex! lazy housewives are a green bean, long and skinny. they are very very prolific - not lazy at all - but there is some story about the name ... let me google ... ah yes, stringless bean, good for the supposed lazy housewife. more likely the housewife run off her feet doing twenty things at once and with better things to do than string beans - what a sexist story! harrumph!!
    but they are terrific green beans because they are such heavy producers. i really recommend them if you can get and grow them where you are.

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    1. I'll look out for them, I like the story! I like to think that a modern woman can be proud to be a lazy housewife, stringing beans? not me, I'll be catching a snooze on my bench in the sun!

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    2. i'm with you, move over! a bit of bean string never hurt anyone, anyway. extra roughage ;-)

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  16. I'm in Ballarat, everyone thinks Ballarat doesn't get hot, well at 43 degrees the other day I can well and truly refute that one.... it also gets bloody cold. I love you're Dad's theory about flowers in with veggies, very practical. I have flowers near veggies but not mixed in, I'm like that. Also love your sitting spot, I need one of those and when we finish the deck I should have one, but that's a while off.

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    1. hi barbara! the weather is really hitting everyone hard this summer, isn'it?
      yes my dad is nothing if not practical (which is a GOOD THING). i will be like him - and you - next time, keeping the flowers nearby. but i can't resist the little marigolds along the borders, as you can see; and they do not interfere too much. plus i am harvesting their seeds to make new marigold plants. i never see bees on them but they are supposed to be companion plants, aren;t they? oh well - a lovely rust-coloured presence.
      i'm off to read your garden share post now.

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