Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Things I have learned from my vege garden

We're only seventy kilometres from town but it's still hard to get motivated to do a grocery shop.  It's not like you can wake up in the morning, discover there's no milk and go for a quick walk to the corner store to get some, still wearing your pyjamas.  For the 70k trip, you have to psych yourself for a 45 min drive in, 45 min drive out, and the hour long pick-n-pack routine.  That's 2.5 hours if you don't speak to anyone.  But this is a country town.  You can't feign anonymity here.  Inevitably you'll get chatting to someone or many someones.  A grocery shop is a full days activity regardless of what else you have to do.  I get to town about once a month, if that.  Needless to say, my fresh veges, if not eaten within a week will have gone off anyway leaving us without for a good three weeks, maybe more.

So I started a vege garden.  Never having been a gardener, this was somewhat of a challenge.  Luckily for me, my husband (a grazier, not farmer) has had some farming background and he helped me plant my first seeds.  I'm not going to tell you the proper ways to plant a vege patch (you can google that yourself) but here are some things I have learned about vegetables since I started.

Silverbeet is difficult to kill.
One silverbeet plant seems to be sufficient for all of my spinach requirements throughout the year.  It can be pruned right back to nothing and still sprout again. I learned this when some cattle got into our house yard.  It is also impervious to frost and as long as you keep the water up to it in summer, it will handle heat as well.

Tomatoes grow from seeds dropped the previous year.
I haven't planted any tomato plants this year but I had heaps last year.  So many in fact, that we couldn't eat all the tomatos and they were ripening on the vine, promptly getting eaten by birds and seeds and skins were dropped back onto my vege patch.  This season, I have half a dozen tomato bushes with plenty of tomatoes for our needs.  These always frost in the winter but it is good to know they come back.

Pumpkins grow in summer.
I always thought these were a winter vegetable.  I probably sound like an idiot here.  I never intentionally grew pumpkins before.  Last summer, during the floods, a single rogue seed sprouted under our verandah and took off.  We picked the pumpkins around March this year and we haven't had to buy a pumpkin since.

Sandy loam is not the best soil to grow lettuce.
It's almost impossible to wash the sand off.

Shallots never die off.
I have had the same shallot plants for four years now and it is growing like a weed. At the end of winter, the stalks are really woody and seeds grow on the top, but after that, the stalks separate into smaller parts and new shoots grow.  By spring you have many more shallot bushes. I can't eat them fast enough.

There's more.  I'll keep you posted when I think of them.


  1. Hi Shell,

    For not being a gardener, I certainly think your doing pretty good at it..after all it goes back to Dawson's theory of natural selection - if it dies well it doesn't work, if it survives, hurrah....a couple of tips:

    1 - manure, manure manure - no doubt you've got plenty of that around and i'm sure it's what you've got predominantly already...just makes sure it's dried and well composted...

    2 - all you excess tomatoes, prick 'em and zap in the microwave for like 20 seconds - the skins should peel off easy enough, then boil, roast or pulverise in large batches, then freeze into smaller containers - makes the best spag bog and pasta sauces, especially as you say the tomatoes are ripe red on the vines....oh and just on fresh tomatoes - always eat at ambient temp, never fresh out of the fridge - ok to store in the crisper but put some out the night before for the taste to improve...and keeping the green stalk part on will help them store longer...

    3 - your not an idiot on the pumpkins - just grown in the summer to store and use in the winter....argghhhhh - i see.....tip here is to cut the pumpkin from the vine with about an inch of the stem still attached - they'll store then for ages somewhere cool dry and dark...should get you into some rockmelons and honeydews later this year - you know where to get seed...

    4 - potatoes also do very well in old tractor tyres filled with, yes you guessed it manure....just cut up some that are sprouting (look for the eye :) shape on the skin, in the kitchen and bury them about 100mm down - plant anytime from the end of March - mulch to keep moist when the tops are growing - potatoes are ready to harvest either after they flower (they may not) or when the lower leaves start to die off - cut any top leaf growth off and use for compost, and leave the potatoes to 'cure' for 3-4 weeks before harvesting - they'll then store better...sweet potato also can be very easy to grow and a good way to cover a large area quickly - the vines will usually keep spreading but jsut 'trim' with a shovel to contain in a given area...you'll have coming out of your ears...

    5 - Lettuce - the easiest way to combat is to put down a thick layer of mulch that way during rain or hap hazard irrig, the sand doesn't get up into the head or leaves...

    6 - actually exhuasted all my thoughts now...

    Hope it helps....I should send you some seeds...shouldn't I???..


  2. Such great ideas I am just about to start my farm vegetable garden.

  3. Question what is the best material , besides tractor trees to use to make gardens beds ?

  4. I'm not really sure Trish. We used old yard rails then filled it with sandy loam from around the house. We topped it off with soil from up at the yards. I've put some photos in the original post.