August garden diary

It’s really cold here today. We’re getting this funny weather system where the days start out clear and sunny, then the temperature lowers and by mid arvo it’s raining. Sort of Winter monsoon, or something. The water barrels are full. Everyone in the house gets to drink fresh rainwater which is really nice.

After putting up with canine harrassment syndrome yesterday because the Beagle didn’t get a walk, I made the effort to get out early today. The peas have been growing up fairly nicely, but the stakes they were on weren’t up to it. Diggers grow theirs on a tee pee of three bamboo stakes, or an espalier kind of fence of criss crossing bamboo. It works beautifully.

Snow peas on a tee pee.

The broad beans, as mentioned yesterday, are going nuts now that we’ve had a bit of sun. The pods are beginning to form while there’s lots of new flowers growing at the top. Someone said to pinch these out, but I’m going to wait and see. I learn a lot like that. Generally the advice from old gardeners is spot on… But I’m the type to want to test evidence and information for myself.

After being a bit sad last night at the prospect of leaving this garden and all the time we’ve shared together, I’m feeling somewhat more positive this morning. I might be here for a few more months so I may as well continue experimenting and keep the greens going for as long as I’m here to eat them. At worst, if the next tennant isn’t a gardener a bit of clover will return to lawn. At best, some person who isn’t into gardening and organic home produce cooking might pick it up. It’s a permaculture potential legacy.

Green mignon, red cos and red oak leaf lettuces all self-sow here even through Winter.

Older gardeners and educated permaculturists may well laugh at some of the notes made here… No doubt I will too in future. But it’s a wonderful, forgiving journey and enormous fun. In the last few houses where I’ve lived and gardened, nature has been very kind and the crop returns were pretty good. Mother Nature is very generous. Here after six years I’ve learnt a lot including the reason for crop rotation and soil additives. This is the first time, for example, that there’s been a problem with wilt.

There are certain kinds of bacteria that can live in the soil and will damage plants. Your seedlings start out growing quite nicely but when it’s time to flower and produce fruit everything turns brown and, well, wilts. This is one of the major reasons for crop rotation or moving stuff around. The kitchen garden here was a bit of an experiment with the theory of no-dig gardens. That is going to take more investigation as the yield seemed okay when the crops were mixed and self-sown but how is bacterial wilt to be avoided if it’s already present in the soil? One possible solution is a green manure crop of mustard and clover. Mustard in particular is reported by the CSIRO to be effective in controlling wilts. I’m going to grow a crop of clover, mustard and comfrey this Spring to go in compost and we’ll see how it goes.

Wom bok (Chinese cabbage) starting to form a seed head.

Since I’m officially now addicted to home grown greens the manure crops will have to be done in partition rather than the entire bed so the chards and other stuff are still available to eat and for fresh seeds. The garden and compost won’t be moving with me but organic saved seeds certainly will!

What have I learnt this Winter?

Buying greens at a shop now seems absurdly artificial and unnatural.
Hens rock! Even when they’re not laying in the coldest months, they’re fun. They will thin out both plants and bugs very effectively.
Mixing crop types, like brassicas, peas, beans and lettuces, does help keep pests down. So does spraying with garlic.
Broad beans in good soil do need those huge, hefty stakes. Plant lots, they’re versatile and store well either dried or in the freezer.
Tie up the peas. The whole purpose of climbing crops is to use vertical space.
Plant double the number of snow peas because you know you’re gonna eat them all before they get to the kitchen.
Lettuce grow happily all through Winter. Even in the lawn.
Try to plant according to the size of the grown plant. If you can’t seem to sow or transplant sparingly (guilty) at least thin the buggers out.
Broccoli stems and bean shoots taste great!
Wild rocket, dandelion and sow thistle are wonderful in salads and soups.
Borage is a brilliant herb. It has a reputation as a good tonic and is lovely in omlettes, stir fries, soups and ragoulet.
For bigger seed yield on Asian greens, pinch out the heart when they start to go to seed, and they’ll form four more.
Lime works.
Raised garden beds really are easier to maintain.
A garden diary might be handy to keep, to remind myself not to oversow when I do it again next time.

lawn lettuce

This morning when confronted with the competition of peas, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, coriander and broad beans, it became apparent that “no dig” doesn’t mean “no thinning”. One of the great benefits of the home kitchen garden is that you don’t really have to pick veggies. The leaves and stems can be picked and the plant left in the ground to continue to produce and go to seed. Sometimes, though, it really is necessary to thin out their numbers.

This pile is the fruit of this morning’s clean up.

Thinnings: Snow peas, baby broccoli, spinach, bean shoots.

There’s the makings of a decent stir fry or Asian style soup there… Which got me thinking.

The menu.

With the addition of a few lettuce leaves, a couple of chards, borage and a free range egg, we have now a menu of omlette with greens and a noodle soup.

This is my veggie noodle soup recipe:

A cup of stock in a saucepan, or fry up some onion and garlic with a bit of salt and pepper then add a cup of water.
A table spoon of oyster sauce.
2 cups chopped greens such as: broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, chards, snow peas, shoots, wom bok, pak choy and a fresh chilli or two. (Use as few or as many as you like.)
Let the veggies simmer for a couple of minutes then add a cake of noodles.
Give the noodles another couple of minutes to soften.
Throw on a bunch of fresh coriander and taste for seasoning just before you serve it.

This kind of thing takes about ten minutes from start to finish and is absolutely wonderful to eat. There’s lot’s of room to experiment with different veggies and spices. I add cumin, cardamon, tumeric, fenugreek and sometimes black pepper to mine. Sage or marjoram would go well instead of the Asian spices. You can also add a little fried diced chicken or beef, if that takes your fancy, or some cubes of tofu. Or grill a fillet of fish in a separate pan and place it on top as you serve.

If you aren’t a cook or a gardener, this is a great place to have a go. Your body and mind will thank you for it!

broccoli crowd

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About Syburi

Witch, bitch, creatrix; hippie, dreamer, gardener. Lover of books, music, rescue animals, piss and vinegar.
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