And Now It’s Time to Get Back to the Garden

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The old girl is looking good.

What with the shop and hot, dry weather, the garden has been a little ignored since the Centenary weekend.

The berry bed is lush and I'm picking plenty of berries for sorbets and ice-cream.
The berry bed is lush and I’m picking plenty of berries for sorbets and ice-cream.

So now it’s time to put a bit of effort back, particularly in reinvigorating the veggie garden with Christmas imminent. The grass has been shabby and crisp with dry weather but recent rains meant it became a rampant lush mess – taking a solid and exhausting hot day to mow.

The recently chainsawed privet is growing back well and already had its first prune.
The recently chainsawed privet is growing back well and already had its first prune.

 

 

 

 

 

The massacred privet also had taken off, which is good – I just didn’t factor it coming back so fast. It’s now had it’s first haircut and I’m sure will look great in future – just will now always require frequent hard pruning.

The front central garden bed is looking a little shabby.
The front central garden bed is looking a little shabby.

The tired annuals are already coming out to be replaced with new plants that are seeding themselves. In the meantime, seeds are being collected from the old plants for next year. The colorbond fence bed is benefitting from the build up of old foliage.

That’s pretty much clean-up. Then it’s on to reforestation – with refreshing and replanting the veg beds. Next on the agenda.

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Cucumbers, capsicum and rocket added into a refreshed bed.

 

Autumn Garden Preparations

A beautiful iceberg rose just after rain
A beautiful iceberg rose just after rain
The refreshed raised garden beds. This one has turnip and betroot seedlings however one of the residents has been doing some gardening in the beetroots overnight.
The refreshed raised garden beds. This one has turnip and betroot seedlings however one of the residents has been doing some gardening in the beetroots overnight.

The garden clearly has required attention post Summer as veg like tomatoes and zucchini have died down after their premium fruiting period. Some of the other veg have limped along with the hazards faced over a difficult Kandos Summer with hail, followed by a massive dry period and strange bugs. Anyway, over the last month I have cleared out the old veg, extended the colorbond fence bed and replanted with vigour.

Hundreds of freesia bulbs are planted under the old cottoneaster - they are now peeking through.
Hundreds of freesia bulbs are planted under the old cottoneaster – they are now peeking through.

In regards to the non-edible but beautiful beds, I have gone to town with bulbs. Last year I invested in daffodils around trees (small and new as the trees are), snowdrops, grape hyacinths, as well as some normal hyacinths. The old cottoneaster had a healthy planting of grape hyacinths and many freesias. This year I have added to the beautiful deep Delft Blue Hyacinths, probably more than doubled the freesias under the cottoneaster with another 180 plus bulbs, added 100 bluebells to the garden (no idea why I didn’t plant any last year!), planted ranunculus and anenomes in the front circular garden bed, whilst adding Autumn crocuses to completely fill out the edges, given the success of the incumbents and supplemented another 100 plus of the hard-working grape hyacinths. The high profile bulbs are the 40 saffron crocuses I’ve added, which I hope will at least provide some saffron to the kitchen larder.

The never-ending garden bed down the colorbond fence - it just keeps being extended. Later it will also be home to potatoes.
The never-ending garden bed down the colorbond fence – it just keeps being extended. Later it will also be home to potatoes.

The veg beds are mostly cleared (some I don’t quite have the heart to pull out yet) and I’ve taken advantage of the significantly extended colorbond fence bed, to plant: lots of beetroot (I tend to hedge my bets with seedlings and seeds, which I can claim to be staggering planting but is more due to lack of confidence- and dogs), carrots – several varieties, mini cauliflower, broccoli, onions (red, brown and white), garlic, celery, celeriac, turnip, swede, parsnip, radishes … and probably more. Anyway, I’ve done my best in preparation for Winter veg. Beds are cleared, weeded, topped up and planted.

The Iceberg roses are now at their best
The Iceberg roses are now at their best

The flowering beds have been weeded, mulched and fed. A little more mulch is required to finish off, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with the garden.

The next garden challenges are to finish off the front garden bed along the wall. It looks great now but that’s because the salvias are at their best. These will soon die down and currently make up the middle layer of the bed. The roses and shrubs near the wall will hold their own but the smaller front layer of ground covers and smaller plants is non-existent. I need to put some thought into what will go here and how it needs to look good during the different seasons. I also still have the privet hedge to continue restoring and a small tree grove to establish. I’m not even thinking of the vacant block next door at this stage!

The garden is always a challenge but always fascinating and rewarding in how it changes and the opportunities it presents each season.

I'm liking the white flowers against the Convent with cosmos and icebergs. Two white Pope John Paul roses flank the front entry as well. The spade and bucket are marking where I will be planting two standard wisteria under the arched windows.
I’m liking the white flowers against the Convent with Cosmos and Icebergs. Two white Pope John Paul roses flank the front entry as well. The spade and bucket are marking where I will be planting two standard wisteria under the arched windows.

Produce

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Now I’m here full time and tending the gardens, they are responding well. Other than hail, there have been other set backs including very dry weather and hordes of tiny flying insects that seem to invade the plants. Locals tell me these are unusual (but to get used to different challenges each year). Even the most avid permaculture people are encouraging to spray so I’ve succumbed with a Pyrethrum insecticide.

The citrus are very 'distressed' and will be a focus for attention over the next few weeks
The citrus are very ‘distressed’ and will be a focus for attention over the next few weeks

The downside has been that the hail hammered the olives and citrus which appeared to be covered with baby fruit, as well as my white muscat grapes. I won’t see much there this year. On the other hand it was wonderful to go to the garden each day and pick fresh salad for my parents.

Cucumbers so far. I also have planted lebanese cucumber seeds as a back up plan
Cucumbers so far. I also have planted lebanese cucumber seeds as a back up plan

As usual, I’ve way overplanted. The cherry tomatoes are the dominant plant this Summer. Whilst they had been stripped bare with the hail, it seems like they have all come on well and I’m now heavily pruning laterals to keep under control. Some are fruiting (enough for daily consumption) but I think in a few weeks I will have a glut and preserving will be on the agenda. I have struggled with the cucumbers. Despite buying many punnets, they all seemed to disappear into nothing within a few weeks. I’ve been told that this was the work of the tiny flying insects and pumpkins and potatoes have suffered the same fate within the area. Well, I now have a few different cucumbers and am looking forward to a taste test.

IMG_1885The carrots are a delight – all different colours and so perfect. The brown onions still just look like blobs at the end of the stalks, but the white onions are gorgeous and so milky juicy. My butter beans are going gangbusters – we had plenty for Christmas Day and I’m still picking and storing them. My favourite is probably the lady finger eggplants that look like black dripping jewels. The zucchini are also growing, although you need to keep an eye on these sneaky little creatures – if you miss picking them, they grow into monsters. Last night my daughter and I had ratatouille using my own onions, capsicum, zucchini and eggplant. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough tomatoes yet but it was still rewarding.

I have an artichoke – not sure what to do with it yet. I also have rhubarb which I haven’t used before. The beetroot is looking healthy, the chokos have just kicked into gear and may start climbing their wire frame shortly. The kiwifruit also seem to have survived and are now showing signs of growth.

The potatoes (all nine bags) have been a disappointment. Between the hail, the bugs and a novice planter, they have gone from magnificently green to deathly and now showing signs of improving, however I will count myself lucky to find the original potatoes, let alone any new ones.

Berries - lots of green growth. Let's see if we get more berries now the bugs are under control
Berries – lots of green growth. Let’s see if we get more berries now the bugs are under control

I also had greater hopes for the berry bed – I’ve had some fruit – enough for sorbets and ice-cream, but had hoped for much more. However there is a huge amount of growth and now I’ve sprayed, maybe I will see more.

Anyway, it’s exciting to see the changes everyday and I value every inch of garden to see what it can be home to.

What does one do with a single artichoke?
What does one do with a single artichoke?

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Nature Strikes Again!

The tomatoes were thriving and beginning to fruit. Most of the new growth has been broken off and fruit is on the ground
The tomatoes were thriving and beginning to fruit. Most of the new growth has been broken off and fruit is on the ground

I was relieved that the winds saved themselves until the day after the Garden Fair, given they made their mark on the last of the sweet peas, broadbeans and stopped the cornflowers from feeling so cocky. But I wasn’t expecting a huge hailstorm to hit after I went back to Sydney.

Fortunately one of the last things I did was net off the berry bed to stop the birds who have discovered the ripening gems, and they have been spared. However anything with leafy growth has been massacred. It looks like a plague of green caterpillars has eaten their way through my beds, but it’s all the damage from hail. This time the damage is more widespread than the frosts.

Zucchini - after a number of unsuccessful attempts. I  had baby zucchinis on this a few days ago
Zucchini – after a number of unsuccessful attempts. I had baby zucchinis on this a few days ago

I’ll be replanting all the leafy greens like lettuces, spinach, rocket and can hope that the tomatoes just kick on and grow. But it’s disappointing to see the veg that were just beginning to establish themselves and fruit looking so stripped and bare. Moreso after so many attempts to get the cucumber and zucchini started and sourcing so many mini tomatoes. Fortunately most of the other plants in the garden seem to have been spared. Just the food crops took most of the force.

Another gardening experience. I now have a bit of hospital work to do in the garden.

Eggplant - this was a picture of purple flowers last Saturday
Eggplant – this was a picture of purple flowers last Saturday

Fresh Crops for Spring

The broad beans running amok in the veg bed - but more than earning their keep with the prolific and wonderful beans
The broad beans running amok in the veg bed – but more than earning their keep with the prolific and wonderful beans

The first of the veg planted in my veggie beds – predominantly the root veg – are all pretty much finished now and I’ve harvested the last of the parsnips, turnips and swedes and culled some of the older veg that is now going to seed. All rich fodder for my compost bins.

The biggest lesson so far is not to over-plant, although it is so tempting with so many plants, limited space and the joint fears that a lot may die off or I will want to harvest lots of it, not mentioning the pain of thinning out successful seedlings. I have a few different beds I can use now so I’m trying to be a little more disciplined with planting. And not planting everything at once.

Firstly, my biggest successes:

  • the wide range of cherry tomatoes which had all the neighbours intrigued with both the range of colours and shapes. These grew well against the back wall and I intend to repeat again this year. I already have a few planted in a trough I moved from Sydney. They were 100% consumed last year, including being used for semi-dried preserving.
  • radishes – I love radishes and always buy them when they are in season. These little ruby jewels are lucky to make it to the kitchen (a bit like the cherry tomatoes) and are dusted off and eaten on the spot. I’ve already replanted some of the longer French Breakfast variety and intend to also do the smaller round traditional variety.
  • Cucumbers and zucchinis – a little mixed with how well I grew them but enough plants survived me to provide wonderful veg that was quickly consumed. Zucchinis do take up so much space, though.
  • Eggplants- last year it was a variety called Lady Finger (I think) which was a small thin variety
  • Broad Beans – I had a post drafted questioning whether the broad beans were worth planting given the space they take up (and they can look messy when I prefer better behaved plants). I now have no doubt that broad beans are wonderful and worth their space in the garden. I have had them in three spots, including in the raised veg bed where they are causing havoc. I deliberately bought the Dwarf variety so they wouldn’t tower. As you can see above, I was mistaken. I now believe that “dwarf” refers to the bean size, not the plant size. Anyway, all the plants have heavily rewarded me with bountiful and beautiful beans that have supplemented many a meal and are great as a salad, added to a risotto or as today, stir fried with the sugar snaps with a little oyster and soy sauce. All is forgiven and they will become a Convent staple in the garden.
  • Sugar Snap Peas - another heavy cropper with peas that never go to waste
    Sugar Snap Peas – another heavy cropper with peas that never go to waste

    Sugar Snap Peas – I was told by a local that the only thing that grows better than weeds in Kandos is snow peas. On that note, I planted snow peas, normal peas and sugar snaps – all have been great and provide on-the-spot garden snacks for visitors. The sugar snaps, however have been outstanding in both taste and cropping, with the plants continually heavily producing, despite constant picking.

The current plantings, which I am being more disciplined with and pacing myself, including cleaning out beds, and supplementing with new compost, organic fertilisers and mulching (and thanks to Flash and Smokey for all the horse manure) before planting. New additions include: the initial cherry tomatoes, two larger tomato varieties, capsicum, cucumbers, chillies and zucchinis. A couple of passionfruit will supplement the two vines that seem to have successfully survived.

I already have in asparagus, onions, rhubarb and the nine bags of potatoes which are now full to the top with sugar cane mulch and healthy potato plants still peeping out. Mixed lettuces will be a must.

It’s an exciting time to be here (almost permanently) so I can take care of the garden properly and watch the daily changes. I’m also keen to have an interesting display for visitors for the Kandos Gardens Fair. One of the great pleasures is to plan each meal around what the garden currently has to offer. Last night it was Smoked Trout Pie which incorporated my fennel, dill and lemons, as well as using breadcrumbs from homemade bread. Small steps, but so rewarding.

Root Veg – Winter Warmers

ImageThis weekend I harvested my first set of root veg. Apparently root vegetables are the standard fare to plant for Winter.  I love my soups, casseroles and roasts so this is hardly a hardship.

I was so excited this weekend to be in a position where I could harvest enough for two nights roasts (well, only one Beetroot was big enough to pick…). I managed to collect Parsnip, Swede, Turnip, Beetroot and Carrots (which were small but perfect) as well as Broccoli (which has been prolific) and Sugar Snap Peas.

I’m learning by mistakes – I will NEVER EVER plant beans again so close to Winter. I had several types in and the frosts wiped each out very early, even though they had been growing strongly. Strangely enough, most of the leafy veg – Kale, Rocket, Spinach… has gone well. The Peas seem to flourish in the cold, as do Broad Beans, although they (hopefully) crop later.

I’ll be braver in future with seeds. The seedlings I planted out from punnets have been fine, but I only have limited plants (6 – 8 as per the punnets) whereas for the seeds planted, my biggest problem is having the discipline to thin them. So I only have a small crop of Beetroot, however the neighbours are under strict instruction to start culling Turnips and any of the leafy greens that were planted by seed.

I’m very happy with the outcome  for my first year of veg, but hope the soil will continue to be as giving with future crops.