I have a dream.
A dream that one day the family and I will have a highly productive kitchen garden. We’ll ramble around in the afternoon and collect a huge basket of rather splendid veggies and throw them on the table for dinner. We’ll have a mountain of non-wiffy, earthy compost and of course, the “girls” (gorgeous clucking hens) and loads of buzzy native bees.
Just quietly, I’m tipping I’ll be the Aussie answer to Annabel Langbein.
This is still a dream, but actually it’s one that isn’t far off (oh, apart from the Annabel Langbein bit). The hens are coming in the new year – thanks Stephanie Skyring for our uber-funky hen house!
In terms of veg, we do have a vaguely productive garden but not quite the eden I’m picturing. For the last couple of years, we’ve been incompetently tending our little kitchen garden and we’ve learnt a lot. It’s getting more bounteous each season.
Right now it is mostly herbs, but we’ve harvested tomatoes, silverbeet (couldn’t eat any of it as I was pregnant and it made me want to chunder just looking at it for some weird reason), rocket, spinach and bok choi.
We also have a curry, kaffir lime and bay tree – leaves a plenty! A mandarin and couple of lemon trees are slowly growing, no juicyfruit to report yet! And a passionfruit has just gone in the ground.
Top 3 things I’ve learnt:
- Plants need different amounts of water, some like it wet and others don’t. DUH. We’ve just planted out an ‘arid zone’ for the harder, more Mediterranean plants (thyme, rosemary, lavender) and we’ll limit their water. The soft ones like dill, parsley and basil are all together getting showered every day. But don’t forget they all need sun.
- Be kind – nurture your soil. Fertilise your soil, dig in chicken poo pellets (or the real thing if you don’t mind a big stench floating around). Water every few weeks with seaweed solution. And always use mulch. We don’t have decent compost yet but if you do, dig in in (mind you, you probably wouldn’t need to be reading this if you have good compost – you’re way ahead of us).
- Tend your flora – weed and harvest regularly.
Harvest your herbs by taking off the tops, it seems to promote growth. And don’t be scared, I’ve got 6 x two-week-old basil plants and I’m already getting enough for a small batch of pesto, just by trimming off the top leaves. If any seeds start to appear, like in the top of the basil, cut it off straight away. Remove dead or munched leaves and any weeds. If you have any infestations of bugs or black spot or anything funny, spray on some eco oil.
There are a lot of resources out there for beginner gardeners. I personally found a lot of them too overwhelming.
My tip would be start super-simple and small. Don’t be too ambitious. If things don’t go so well and you lose stuff, you can end up dispirited. And disinclined to spend more money on seedlings!
Just plant out one pot or make a tiny corner in a sunny part of the garden. Grow something you use all the time and love to eat. I love parsley and basil so they were our first successful crops because I was greedy and wanted them for cooking.
Next plants for us are blueberries (my neighbor Brigit got me on to this one, she has harvested blueberries after just one year!) and I’m prepping the soil in a new garden for late summer/autumn. I’ll be planting loads of greens, silverbeet, kale. I’m getting some cucumber seeds in too, it’ll be my first go at using seeds.
Some links you might find interesting: