Friday, November 22, 2013

How does your garden grow?

I always wanted a veggie garden, but for most of my life my thumbs have been black instead of green. I once managed to keep two tomatoes and some spindly basil alive for a couple of months, but when I moved the tubs to a new home bush rats ate every plant down to a nub on the first night there. The heartbreak was too much - I didn't try again for over a decade!

Even marrying a gifted gardener didn't help - the soil where we live is suitable for nothing but the hardiest native plants. Seriously, it's HORRIBLE. In fact, I'm pretty sure that more than it isn't actually soil at all - just sediment that the developers of this neighbourhood churned up to level the land. 

This all changed a few months ago however, when I saw raised garden beds at Stratco for only $40 each. We decided to get three, which turned into five after I over-estimated how much soil to order... (The soil was the premium blend from Western Landscaping Supplies and I do highly recommend it. Everything we have planted in it has grown beautifully).

In the photos below, the early days pics were taken on 1st September, and the more recent ones on 29th October, so this is less than two months growth, minus pruning and regular harvests.

The first of our five beds I call "Little Italy". It contains four tomato plants, basil, parsley, garlic and some yellow capsicum and heirloom eggplants that I'm struggling to get established. 

Here's Little Italy a few weeks after planting:

And here it is now!

The next bed along is the one Apples and ChilliPepper have had the most to do with. Our first crop was radishes, which didn't grow well at all! They were all leafy tops and hardly any root. We have also had a crop of lovely little candy striped baby beetroot and one crop each of sugar snap peas and snow peas (which have now died off in the summer heat and been removed). But my favourite crop in this bed by far has been the cos lettuces, two in opposite corners. I love being able to cut only the number of leaves I need that day and not worry about the rest going manky in the fridge! Now that the peas are gone, I have transplanted one of my yellow squash plants from a hanging basket where it wasn't doing so great into the middle of the bed where it's starting to thrive! There's also some flowers in one corner which ChilliPepper grew from seed, some tat soi and some white beetroots on the go. 

Here is our mixed bed in the early days:

And here it is now!

The next bed over is my "squished squash" bed, so called because it is full of curcurbits - zucchini, spaghetti squash, yellow squash in hanging baskets over the arch and cucumbers. The spag squash and cucumbers are growing vertically very well, but I must admit, I overcrowded this bed (hence the "squish") and after a month or so of great zucchini harvests, had to cut back about 80% of the zucch leaves (and a few of the spag squash) due to rampant powdery mildew. I'm now trying to control the remaining PM with bicarbonate soda sprays but it's not making a big difference just yet - I might have to footle with the recipe a bit (not keen to use chemical fungicide if I can avoid it!) in this bed there's also some very spindly bean seedlings that never took off - too much shade from the huge zucchini plant I think!

Here's squished squash a few weeks after planting:

And here it is now! (Before I cut back all those lovely big leaves...) There's a few extra cos in a container in front too - not nearly as big as the ones on the raised bed!

The next bed along I call "Two Sisters" after the Native American "Three Sisters" method of planting corn, squash and beans together. My bed only has corn and beans. The beans are there not just for their own sake, but also to bind nitrogen for the corn. I am succession planting this bed (from seed) and have recently planted the third quadrant but no shoots just yet. The first quadrant already has tassels and silks, so I'm crossing my fingers that eight stalks is enough to ensure decent pollination

Here is Two Sisters shortly after planting the first quadrant... Nothin' to see here folks!

And here it is now! The pots in front have (L to R) a chilli plant, dill and parsley.

The fifth raised bed I call "Little Thailand". It too has tomatoes, but these ones are yellow pear and purple varieties. Echoing the little Italy bed, there is then a row of herbs - chives, lemon basil, coriander and garlic chives. Then a row of red capsicum plants. The chives in this bed are doing great (almost too great - they are developing dreadlocks!), and the coriander was doing okay until it bolted, but the lemon basil has failed to grow past seedling size - too much shade from the other plants I think.

Here's Little Thailand in the early days: 

And now:

I also have quite a lot off herbs in pots. In the early days I was using cheap potting mix, so some of them had a good start, then started to struggle. This is most notable in the mint,as you'll see below. The one in the cheap potting mix is really struggling to recover from being cut, whereas the one in the good stuff is growing almost out of control! Here's some pics of the container garden: 

This first one, left to right, are a some spindly things that have been knocking about forever, two tubs of my husband's roses, mint (in good potting mix), ChilliPeppers's flowers, lavender (which I have a lot of trouble keeping alive), a "geisha girl" (in the large blue pot behind), more of Chilli's floowers in front, and you can see a bit of the oregano and coriander at the far right. 

Picking up where we left off you can see in the front row oregano, chives, mint (struggling in cheap potting mix) and sage (also not doing great in cheap mix). In the row behind is the coriander (bolting), rosemary in the tall terracotta, and a pot of thyme next to that which is so overgrown you can't even see the pot! (I guess thyme likes cheap potting mix!) In the blue glazed pots behind those are a lemon and lime tree that I really must move to a sunnier spot, some chocolate mint (also struggling in cheap soil), a tomato seedling (one of the few I managed to coax from seed much too late) and a tiny eggplant seedling that the cat has knocked over... again. 

So that's our produce garden. There's just one more important plant to mention - Apples' sunflower. This happy little blossom sits out on our front step to greet anyone who visits:

Hope you enjoyed the tour! Keep on growing...

- MotherHen

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