Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the not so abundant garden

I'd like to apologise in advance for this slightly depressing post.  Let me tell you about the sad state of my vegetable garden. Which hadn't been doing too badly.  Up until now that it is. It had managed through frost, occasional snow and icy winds to keep us supplied with spinach, silverbeet, rocket and kale over Winter. Of course every year I look forward to the time when we can put the frosts behind us and plant those tomatoes, zucchini, peas and other sorts of wonderful summer growing things.

But it's a bit of a jungle out there. In an aphid, cabbage moth infested kind of way. Not a lot has been spared. All my Winter greens have shot to seed. Despite daily watering and some mulching my garden is so very dry. Top ups with home grown compost, though improving the soil, don't make up for the scorching sun. Only a few seeds seem to make it to the seedling stage. Silverbeet is my one redeeming vegetable.

Locals here often wait until after Melbourne cup to plant frost prone vegies. So despite these setbacks I'll be visiting the nursery this week to pick up some seedlings, while praying for no more frosts. And for some much needed rain.

It's the most difficult area I've ever gardened in, and I have to admit that sometimes I question the wisdom in living in an area that is so very difficult for growing. Locals say that you need to undo all the gardening you have learnt elsewhere, as it's a different set of rules here. The cold is very cold and the hot is very hot, with not a lot of weather in between. I'm aware that I need to put more time into my garden, but the heat is so very draining. Some natural pesticides probably wouldn't go astray either.

However rain brings hope, and I know from experience that conditions can improve quite quickly here. It's all about timing and getting those seeds and seedlings in just before a rainy week forecast. If you are so fortunate as to get one.

I will keep reminding myself of the bumper zucchini crop of two years ago, the daily supply of little sweet cucumbers last year and the amazing potatoes dug up in Autumn.

On a more positive note our fruit trees are absolutely thriving. Our hedge is above head height and there are flowers in the front garden. It's been many years since I've had my own flowers, and I'm so grateful to have some once again.

Meanwhile I'll be watching the skies today hoping for that thunderstorm forecast to eventuate.


  1. Try these Tania:

    Aphid Spray

    Dissolve 1 Tbs of baking soda in hot water and then add 1 Tbs each of dishwashing liquid, oil and liquid plant food. Add this mixture to 5 litres of water and spray.

    Natural bug spray

    3-4 chilli peppers
    3-4 cloves of garlic
    ½ cup water
    ¼ cup liquid detergent

    Enough water to fill remainder of spray bottle

    Steep the chilli and garlic in the water over a low heat for 15 minutes. Cool and then pour into a spray bottle with liquid detergent. Fill the rest of the bottle with water.

    Elaina xo

  2. The same with us. Waiting waiting waiting for that lovely rain.Maybe you could try some shade cloth to help protect the vegies from the afternoon sun. Friends of ours do this with great success. We are unable to do it on a commercial scale, but do things like planting in the shade of corn, tomatoes etc, Good luck!

  3. You have done so well under difficult conditions. We have the heat and humidity up here but the worst are the scrub turkeys that dig everything up and the possums that eat everything. Maybe try some arches of ag pipe at the end of your garden and some shadecloth over the top as suggested- we have to do it for creature proofing, looks ugly but helps. mel x

  4. Oh I know what the locals mean about unlearning everything you know about gardening. Even in my very limited knowledge of gardening, conditions are so different here to back home in NZ.
    I've all but given up on having a productive vegie garden Tania..at the moment our garden extends to a few pots of herbs.
    I think you have done well to have some success.

  5. I am a learner gardener (my mum is a a great teacher) I am sure she would suggest you load up your beds with manure too....

    We are in the country too and the weather can be most harsh (no snow, but -3 to 40+ ) but we do our best!

    I know an older local man that has his veg growing in old wheel barrows he has collected, he then can wheel them in and out of his verandah whenever they need protection, I thought that was clever!


    (does anyone else find the capcha words impossible to read??)

  6. I still haven't worked out how to be a good Queensland gardener here. In Canberra the winters were cold, the summer hot. The hot winds start in spring. The idea there was to whack summer veges in the ground as soon as the last frost disappeared 'cos the growing season was short 'n' sweet. All the best with planting your new seasons crops.

  7. Heirloom vegetables!! Find out those that have been growing successfully in your area for years and plant them instead of the generic ones from the nursery!
    That is my two cents - that being said I hope it gets better...keep up the good fight :)

  8. I have a hard time with gardening too. I have had to unlearn a lot. Mostly just herbs and onions. And tropical fruits here.

  9. Glad you can't see the state of my vegie patch at the moment.

  10. Can I make a suggestion to put some shade around the vegie beds...? without seeing the whole area, it may be a silly suggestion, as you may already have planted under fruit trees ...but by creating some shaded areas the Summer veg may be a little less prone to sizzling in the direct heat...I try to do it home here in my yard, I even grew a grapevine across one bed just to provide shade in the summer time...it did work, the plants under there were much better off than those in the direct heat...anyway, dont give up....anything we try and grow ourselves is better than nothing...you may even have to put some tomatoes in pots somewhere in the shade...

  11. I agree with A Little Bit of Country. Try her mix coz those aphids are having fun! And Enchanted Moments has a good point too. This year, we are trying a winter and a summer garden. The winter is in full sun and the summer in the shade of the house. It's harsh where we are, very harsh. And not a lot of rainfall. Though it's raining NOW! Of course it is, it's Cup Day!!!

  12. You've done well, the winter veggies are just doing their thing and weaker as they age. Give elainas potions a go as you have energy but definitely more shade for your greens in summer. Our climate is harsh so think about planting greens etc where they get part afternoon shade or construct a simple shade tunnel with ploy and shade cloth as suggested, it only needs to be low and not elaborate, I do the same if you need advice. And remember, it's just that funny in between time of year, you've got flowers so life is good!

  13. Hi Tania, I have been learning abot the benefits of companion planting at our community garden, they plant nasturtiums an dfeverfew (a natural pesticide) in amongst the veggies, and mix the veggies up to confuse the baddies. Good luck! A worm farm is fab too for compost and nourishing "worm juice"

  14. Aw man...I hear your frustration.

    Like others have mentioned - heirlooms, companion planting, mulch and manure will all be your friends. Try to find some patience with the process...once you find your groove your veggies will be the envy of all your neighbors :-) Keep your head up!

  15. Oh, the garden. A challenge and a joy. Sometimes more challenge than joy.... but you're wise to keep those good harvests and happy fruit trees in mind. I can't really imagine moving somewhere that necessitated a new approach to gardening, but I know that is the way it goes. I am sure you'll learn the tricks of the place.

  16. I've learned a lot this summer, as it was scorching hot and deeply dry here! The areas I mulched with wood chips (a thick layer of 2-4 inches) did so much better than the rest of the garden. I was amazed at how much moisture was retained. This type of mulch also provides some cold-weather protection. Maybe the wood chip mulch could work for your area, too? (oh, and I've had some luck deterring cabbage moths with oregano!)

  17. I know what you mean... only today, I was planting a few new lettuce seedlings into our patch (which is watered at least daily) only to uncover dry sandy soil. I'm not sure much will grow at all in such dry conditions apart from my spinach which like yours is doing well x


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