I just wanted to share some pics from my garden. This year after several years, I’ve been able to plant and harvest summer vegetables. Also, my worm farm has been going gangbusters, so has been providing me with plenty of worm juice and worm castings which my plants seem to like.
As I sit here in a rare moment of quiet (baby is asleep – yippee!) and look out of my window at another cold and wintery day in Sydney, I think of the delicious soup that my mother made me waiting in my fridge. This soup is made of swede, or turnip (called swede because it is thought to have originated from Sweden).
Growing up in Iran whenever I got sick, my mother was forever trying to force this vegetable down my throat. ‘It’s a natural antibiotic’, my mum would say. To me, all boiled up, the bitter taste was the most disgusting thing I could put in my mouth. So most of the time I would refuse and if really forced would try and stifle the gag reflex as I would put a few pieces into my mouth covered in salt to take the edge off the bitterness.
My family even got my husband caught up on the ‘natural antibiotic’ bandwagon one year when we went to Iran for a skiing trip. Suffering from a terrible cold and cough, he was forced to eat copious amounts of turnips and drink the juice (the water used to boil it).
It was while living in Abu Dhabi that as Australians we were invited to an Australia Day celebration at the ambassador’s house. What they did to the vegetable changed my mind about the humble turnip. They roasted it and served it with other root vegetables, like roasted potatoes and sweet potato. I couldn’t believe that I was eating the turnip and actually enjoying it. Since then I am singing its praises. I even planted turnips in my veggie patch last year and was really surprised with the amount of foliage and leaves that it has.
This year, with various colds going around my household, I bought some turnips with the stem and leaves also (with baby number 3 around, it’s been hard to get out into the garden much). I didn’t want to throw away all that vegetable matter and wasn’t sure if it could be eaten. A conversation with my aunt and cousin in Iran confirmed that you can actually eat the leaves. So my mum got to creating this soup recipe and I tell you on a cold winter day, it is the best. As well as tasting great, it’s good to know that all of the vegetable was eaten and there was no waste created.
I’m not sure if it is an ‘antibiotic’, but there are many health benefits to the swede/ turnip including:
• Being a good source of vitamin A & C;
• Good source of calcium, potassium and fibre; and
• Being low in calories.
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
½ teaspoon turmeric
¾ cup mung beans
¾ cup jasmine rice
3 cups of water
I bunch of turnips (3 to 4) including stalks and leaves
Salt and pepper
Finely chop, then sauté the onion
Add turmeric to onion and sauté for another 30 seconds
Add rice and mung beans to onions mix, then add the water.
Boil for 10 minutes
Clean and chop the leaves and the head of the turnip, then cut it all into I cm pieces (I cm cubes). Add all of this to the soup mixture and let it simmer on low heat until the rice, mung beans and turnip are cooked.
Season with salt and pepper to your tastes
When serving, you can add more sauted onion and a dollop of greek yoghurt or sour cream.
Bon a petit and Nooshejan!
It’s summertime in Sydney and one of the best things about summertime is my veggie patch! Nothing gives me more pleasure than strolling around my backyard and checking my vegetables – their progress… Do my plants look happy or not? Ooohhh…look at that! etc
This is year two of the wonders of summer vegetables. Last year my veggie patch yielded many summer delights and interestingly my successes last year are my failures this year and vice versa.
As I have 1.2m x 1.2 planter boxes, I have been trying to practice the idea of crop rotation and companion planting. Last year this worked overall and I tried to incorporate these principles this year also. These principles state that you should not plant the same things in the same spot every year. This is to maintain the health of your soil and vegetation. I have been interested in practicing this for my vegetables from the Cucurbita family (Zucchinis, cucumbers, squash and pumpkin). The reason for this was to ensure the second season of Zucchinis for example did not get any diseases from the first season. Last year towards the end of summer all my Cucurbita family vegetables ended up dying – having suffered a bad case of a fungal disease (white fluffy spots all over the leaves). I wanted to avoid that this year.
This sounds great in theory, however, one of the lessons I learnt last year is that Zucchinis grow and spread – so this year I tried to spread out my Cucurbita seeds between the different planter boxes. So all my planter boxes have something from the Cucurbita family growing in them . Essentially, what this means is that I was not able to totally practice crop rotation for zucchinis this year.
If you want to know more about this concept, please check out this fact sheet: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s972741.htm
So what grew this year? Pretty much everything that didn’t grow so well last year:
• Lebanese cucumbers – I am very excited about this. I cannot believe the amount of cucumbers I have harvested – daily! I eat them straight off the vine. LOOOVE cucumbers! And this is the first time I have ever succeeded in growing them.
• Tomatoes – they went gangbusters last year and this year actually. This year, they self seede, so I didn’t even plant them. They just grew from the tomatoes that feel into the planter box last year;
• After my failure to grow eggplant from seed, I bought some seedling and to my complete and utter delight, I had some lovely shiny purple eggplants to savour this year. I am so excited about this development also – first time ever I have managed to grow eggplant;
• Then what do you know – another success? My capsicum! Last year I planted them and they didn’t grow. I forgot about them and went to the garden one day to find a beautiful shiny and big capsicum staring at me. I was like a child in a candy store. Running and telling my husband to ‘quick – run – look! A capsicum!’
• Okra – I do love Okra and they have provided me with a bountiful harvest this year. Yum-o!
• My herbs actually have grown well. Last year I was really struggling, but this year it is so lovely to go out and pick fresh basil, thyme, sage….
• My Zucchinis have grown okay – but nowhere near as good as last year when I could not eat them fast enough;
• Squash have been okay too, but the plants are definitely infested with that fungal disease;
• Beans; and
• My Butternut squash is slow going, but when I look at those beauties growing slowly in the sun, I am very excited by all the delightful dishes I can make out of them.
The main challenge I am facing in my garden however is the fungal disease of the cucumber and zucchini plants. I found this recipe in my organic gardening magazine which I used to good effect a few times, but I think you have to keep applying, which I will HAVE to do this weekend as my cucumbers look like they are suffering a little:
• Add one drop of vegetable oil and one drop of detergent to two litres of cool water. Add four level teaspoons of bicarb soda and mix thoroughly. With a sprayer apply to both sides of the affected leaves and all over the plant. The idea is to inhibit the growth of the fungus by making the foliage of the plant alkaline.
I feel there is much for me to learn and I look forward to my crop next year where I hope to build on my successes and learn from my failures of the last two summers.
Over the last year I have been growing vegetables. Last summer I enjoyed zucchinis, tomatoes, spinach and all sorts of other goodies. During winter I enjoyed Kale, carrots and snowpeas. So I’ve been looking forward all winter to spring when I can start to plant my summer vegetables. After preparing my vegetable beds and finally adding my compost (which I’ve had ‘brewing’ for many many months), I thought I would grow my seedlings to then plant into the garden beds.
This is when things started to take a downward turn. I feel that as well as sharing my successes, that I have to share my failures too.
I had seen something in my organic gardening magazine about using toilet rolls to plants seeds into. The idea is that once the seeds have grown into seedlings that you could plant the whole thing and that over time the toilet roll would break down.
This idea had me excited. This was a great reuse idea and an upcycling one at that. I could reduce waste to landfill and grow my vegetables organically!
For months I saved toilet rolls and the odd biodegradable takeaway coffee cups. When the time came, I cut each toilet roll in half and created bases for them. I happily planted my seeds into them. I placed them in a sunny spot and watered them regularly. I waited and waited….weeks went by….oooh a corn seedling …..ahh no more…..nothing……seedling died…..hmmmm, nothing grew!
I have thought about why this was such a dismal failure. There are a number of potential reasons:
• The rolls were in a very sunny spot – maybe it was too hot. Certainly the soil seemed to be quite dry a lot of the time;
• Spring seems to have skipped Sydney this year altogether and we are straight into very high summer temperatures. Maybe it was too hot for the seedlings to grow;
• My seeds are from last year – maybe they are not so ‘fertile’ as they have been in a cupboard for a year;
• Maybe there were chemicals in the toilet rolls that didn’t allow the seeds to grown.
Perhaps if you are willing to undertake this experiment, I would love to hear how you went.
For now, I decided to plant some seeds directly into the soil. Let’s see how I go….
I loved creating my veggie patch in my backyard last year. Over summer I had many days filled with wonder at what was growing in my backyard. It was also a great opportunity to get my children involved and help them learn about where their food comes from. Also it was a cheap way of eating organic!
But alas, summer is definitely over in Sydney and many of my summer veggies were removed to make way for winter ones. After a little research on what winter vegetables exist and what would grow in my garden I came up with my list of goodies:
• Spring onion, onion;
• Lots of herbs!
Well the list is not as impressive as my summer vegetables, but given the number of things I was growing, I am trying to be more sensible and scale things back a little.
To prepare I visited my compost which has been slowly composting vegetation and food waste. I saw slowly because I have left it to mature for many many months. It is taking a long time because it is completely shaded, hence once I use the compost I want to move my compost bin to a sunnier area.
This addition of compost was obviously good for my plants, but I think that there were seeds that had not died off, so my veggie path became overrun with weeds like onion weed. This has become confusing, as I don’t know if any of my onions/ spring onions grew at all. When they are little, they look the same I think!
I am also trying to get a double benefit in planting some snow peas in all my garden beds. I am hoping that they will add some beneficial nitrogen fixing bacteria to my soil in preparation for my summer crop.
I planted my beetroot in summer and let me tell you, I don’t know what the problem is, but honestly it is taking SO long for them to grow. I mean they’ve been there for like 6 months and all I feel is a little bulb!
My carrots however are a delight. I am so in love with my carrots! I am like a super excited child when I pull and a big (if somewhat strange looking at times) carrot comes out. And the smell, oh the smell. If you were to see me, I am sure you would think me strange, but the smell of carrot taken straight out of the ground is so beautiful. When I do pull them out, I just stand there inhaling their aroma!
My other vegetables are growing well too and it is only last week that I removed my tomatoes. What a good crop they were. They became like a baby to my mum and I, but especially my mum who tended to them every day. So many tomatoes grew, but towards the end, they would stay green and not ripen. So I am preparing for my summer season of tomatoes.
Who knew that I would have so much winter heartiness and delicious veggies growing in the colder months! Do you have any suggested winter vegetables that I should try?
To all the mummy’s around the world ‘Happy Mother’s Day’.
If you’re a mother,how did you spend today?
For me, I was woken up early by my son who is always an early riser. Today he was in my bed twitching excitedly before 6 am. I then left him to it and went into his bed and got back to sleep. My husband later told me that my son did not sleep and spent the whole time talking and wanting my husband to play with him. So some sleep was my first gift!
We then had breakfast prepared by my husband with my kids helping. After some play, I got my gift of a massage and a book on the natural wonders of the world. I ended up spending my afternoon at my mother’s house and with the glorious day was itching to get into the garden. When I did get into the garden I discovered that part of my brick fence had fallen down and I also discovered that even a little bit of physical labour in the garden seems to upset my wrist. Grrrr……
I did however want to take a moment to recognise the mother of all mothers ‘ Mother Earth’ and the wonderful world she has given us. Also I wanted to share this link to photos of mothers from around the world.
This was not supposed to turn into a gardening blog, but at the moment it is one of the main things I am doing actively on the sustainability front – apart from work of course! It is also one of the most satisfying as day after day I go and manage to harvest some goodies. As my last post showed, my zucchinis are growing wild. I cannot keep up with Zucchini recipes. I have been making stuffed zucchinis and zucchini flowers, and putting zucchinis in almost every dish I make! And as I have read and observed, you have to watch carefully and harvest regularly before they become mega zucchinis or cucumbers – like these two zucchinis.
They then turned into this! They were not the most tasty stuffed zucchini. The flesh was a little mushy, but they were nice and at least I used them up.
Of course part of the joy of having this garden and investing all this time into is, is to share it with my kids. To get them involved. While my son is kind of interested, my daughter is definitely a bit of a dirt girl and loves joining me in the garden. I even bought her her own gardening kit for Christmas.
While I have had some bugs get into my garden, I have managed to still harvest lots of goodness, though I now check my rocket (that is a favourite) regularly to make sure I get in before the caterpillars, and I bring in my basil from outside every night to keep them away from the possums that are brazen and lurk all over my garden at night. I am also managing to get my tomatoes as they go red, but just before an attack from something. Now I have to say and I dont know if it is totally becuase of the marigolds and nasturtium, and my attempts at companion planting, but my organic garden is going well (knock on wood!). I thought I would not be able to get any tomatoes as previous attempts were failures with most tomatoes damaged by caterpillars. In this instance, some are damaged, but not many.
I do admit to one failure and any advice is appreciated – my corn are really quite pathetic. They have about 20 kernels on them and then only on one side….don’t know when went wrong there, but they are not looking particularly happy right now and the yield is low.
Apart from that though things are going well. I’m looking forward to my winter crops now!
Over the last few months, my vegetables have been like my children. They are my babies. Sometimes they bring me joy and sometimes frustrate me. I go out every day and check on them. How are they doing? do they have enough water? do they need more fertiliser? more garlic chili spray? I haven’t named them yet, but have been close! I doubt I am unique in this regard.
A few weeks ago some friends came over for ‘high tea’ at my place and where once these girlfriends and I may have talked about boys, men, sex, politics and philosophy, this time we talked about our children and our vegetable gardens. What we planted, what worked and what didn’t. How things have changed!
As the last post showed, I went bananas with my planting and have been going organic, hence no pesticides.
So what have been my successes?
- Tomatoes – they are going really well – a little too well to be precise. I had planted the seeds and waited until they were seedlings before putting in the planter boxes. The problem is that the ballpoint pen I used rubbed off – so in the end I didn’t know exactly what I put in the planter box. All tomato seedlings looked the same to me, so I put them all in and now they are taking over the planter box, but they are doing really well. Lots and lots of cherry, Roma and normal tomatoes growing.
- Squash – My little yellow squash are also growing fairly well.
- Zucchini – My zucchini is going gangbusters – so much in fact that it is crowding out everything else. I didn’t know that Zucchini plants would grow so large.
- Turnips – initially did okay, but now, not so much. Maybe it is too hot right now for them. I’ll try again soon.
The so so list:
- Pumpkin, Okra, Cucumber, Lettuce, rocket – they are being eaten too rapidly by caterpillars…Chilies, and Capsicum.
The following crops have been an absolute failure!
- Eggplant, Beetroot, carrots, shallots, onion, snow peas! I thought it would be really easy to grow snow peas, but they all shrivelled up and died 😦
- Beans – I thoughts my beans would go great, but not so.
- My herbs – total failure. No matter how many times I planted basil, they never took hold. Neither with the oregano, nor my parsley.
I have learnt a few lessons though which I will share:
- Don’t plant everything under the sun. I tried to think in my head of all the vegetables that I eat and tried to plant those. It is too much and thus many of the seedlings never took hold.
- Plant less quantities of seedlings. Because I lost track of what I did and did not have due to my bad disappearing pen incident, I planted too many seedlings. Now that I know how big some plants get, next year, I will only plant 2 zucchini plants and 2 tomato plants.
- Cover my herbs with chicken wire. I am sure the culprits of my failure are the possums that frequent my house!
While I am disappointed with some of my crops, I am pretty excited to be eating from my garden and teaching my kids about where food comes from. Do you have any successes to share?
You can tell when my husband has gone grocery shopping – home brand things everywhere. When I shop, I try and include some organic vegetables and fruits and other produce in the mix. I’m not sure why my husband ignores the good example I try to set. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. That I should be happy that doing the grocery shopping is one of the only chores he does.
I always thought that when back in Sydney, I would try and buy more organic things and I have tried to do that to a degree. I generally find it okay when something is even double the price of non-organic, but when potatoes and onions cost more than twice as much as standard ones, I do baulk and go for the non-organic variety.
I suppose first I should really state why I am bothering at all. For me personally, I believe that there would be health benefits to eating organic. Whether they have been scientifically proven or not, I don’t care about. I can see how eating organic is going to be worse. Also, I went to a compsting workshop organised by my local Council where the presenter (Peter Rutherford) made a convincing argument about the acidification of our bodies, which can lead to many ailments including cancer and the fact that synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were contributing towards this.
Then there are the many environmental benefits in reducing or eliminating pesticide and synthetic fertilizer application on a wide scale: to the air we breathe, to the water that we drink, to the soil that sustains us and the diversity of life (biodiversity). Having said that, I like many have budget constraints. I know many people that are very ‘pro’ organic will always argue that in the past people were used to spending more of our pay packet (as a proportion) on food compared to now. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I have a lot of bills and if there are cheap ‘home brand’ alternatives, then it can be hard to resist saving money on food.
So what should I do? Maybe concentrate on foods that have been found to have a higher percentage of pesticide residues, so as to focus my ‘buy organic’ efforts. What are these foods?
- Apples are the worst culprits – thankfully the Coles organic apples are not too expensive, so I buy those;
- Celery – quite a lot more expensive, so I haven’t bought organic yet;
- Strawberries – hard to find in local supermarkets or fruit shops;
A lot of the fruit and vegetables on the ‘bad’ list are hard for me to find, unless I go searching for an organic shop and there aren’t any in my local area.
So this summer, as I have been a working bee in my garden, I decided to establish my own organic vegetable haven! Firstly I observed over winter, where in my garden gets sun and one of the main areas was by the fence between my neighbor and I in my backyard. So I moved some plants I had recently planted and bought some planter beds from Bunnings (a local hardware store). They were not super cheap and are not so great in quality, but being hard pressed for time as I am, I bought them anyway. I bought six (two were from Aldi, which were much better in quality) 1.2m x 1.2 m wooden boxes.
I then bought some soil from Bexley Sand and Soil Company. It is supposed to have been accredited to Australian Standard 4419, but when I got the soil it was full of contaminants like plastic, glass and other organic waste. Obviously this soil is made from waste management companies and while theoretically I support this, the sight of plastic and other goodies did not fill my heart with joy. I had however bought too much soil, so had to use it all anyway and decided that I would add organic fertilizer like ‘Blood and Bone’, worm castings and worm juice from my worm farm to improve its productivity.
I also did my research about companion planting (where you plant vegetables and fruit that like to be near each other – like tomatoes and basil – to ward off insects and other nasties), so I had all my garden beds planned out! For more information on plants that like to be near each other – go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants
So with my garden beds filled, the fun part began. Rather than buy small vegetable plants from nurseries, I decided to grow my own from seed and not any seed – organic seeds. I went online to Eden Seeds http://www.edenseeds.com.au/content/default.asp and went shopping!
Shopping online is so easy and I have to admit I kind of went nuts – I bought so many seeds and in hindsight – too many. I bought different varieties of some vegetables, rather than one. I just couldn’t wait to get them in the ground.
Here is my list: marigolds, Nasturtium, okra, radish, Greek Oregano, Egyptian beetroot, little finger carrots, Carrots all seasons, cayenne peppers, Californian wanderer capsicum, white Lisbon shallots, Lebanese Zucchini, black zucchini, Waltham butternut pumpkin, sweet corn, button squash, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Swede turnips, silverbeet, Lebanese cucumber, snowpea Oregon, beans, eggplant, coriander, cilantro, dill, leek, English spinach, Onion Gladalan, Red onion, iceberg lettuce, rocket, Cos lettuce, asparagus, lettuce lollo rosso, parsley, basil….phew! I know! That was a few hundred dollars worth of seeds alone.
What is my planter box ‘map’? in each box I have planted some marigold and nasturtium and the following:
Box 1: tomatoes, basil, capsicum, chillies, squash and snow peas;
Box 2: corn, beans, cucumbers and Lebanese zucchini;
Box 3: Black zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant and okra;
Box 4: sweded turnips, radish, beetroot, carrots, shallots
Box 5: silverbeet, English spinach, onions
Box 6: the different lettuces, rocket
In other pots I then planted seeds for my herbs. I also bought some strawberry plants and blueberries.
Now my house probably sounds like a garden of eden brimming with fruit…well I am having some successes and failures, which I’ll talk more about in my next post…until next time – happy gardening – hopefully organically!
As I sit here lamenting another wet day in Sydney (it has seriously felt like it has not stopped raining in Sydney for the last year!) I take solace in the fact that my plants will be happy. If you read part 1 of this series, you will know that I have removed a lot of stuff from my garden – weeds. Now I want to talk about what makes many gardener’s hearts skip with joy: the chance to create a garden through planting.
Before travelling and having children I worked as a bush regenerator. It was a job I enjoyed and the study and practice of bush regeneration made me very snooty about anything other than native plants. Not only native, but locally indigenous. At my parent’s house (I lived in an apartment) I sought to create this bush garden paradise, but my parents sold their house and I never really got to see the garden established.
Now I don’t hold such snooty ideals. When I realised that after my labour of weed removal, I would be able to treat myself to new plants, I immediately set off to a commercial nursery, rather than the community nursery I would have once shopped at. Over the last year or so, whenever I go to a nursery, I am like a child in a toy shop. I have a skip in my step and I am simply overwhelmed by all the choices. I fill my trolley with all sorts of goodies and I have to admit, a lot of flowering plants. After I lived in a desert surrounded by nothing but buildings and sand, I really felt like having colour and beautiful flowers around me. Unfortunately a lot of nurseries are a bit far for me to travel to, so a lot of my plants have been bought at the local Bunnings, where there isn’t the most amazing variety. I know that my husband always gets nervous when I tell him I’m going to Bunnings, because he knows that some hundreds of dollars will be billed onto the credit card!
I once used to scoff at gardens like mine as being ‘so typical’. Now I love these ‘typical’ features. I did try and rectify this recently by participating in my Council’s ‘Backyard Habitat’ program. I have to admit though that a lot of my native plants have been removed or not survived the 15cm mulch accidentally placed over them (more on that later).
So what have I planted? Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum), Magnolia, Cammelias, Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), some succulants, lavenders, roses, Rhododendron, kangaroo paws (Heamodoracae), Westringia, Grevillea, bottlebrush (Callistemon), some Cordylines, small ficus plants, and flowers like petunias and pansies. While this is not a comprensive list, it gives you an idea of the type of things I’ve planted.
Now that it is nearing summer, I have been able to observe the plants over the year and also the movement of the sun over the seasons. I now know where in my garden consistently gets sun and where it is always shaded. I have an idea of the type of planting I want and where.
I do admit however, that I am not so good yet at all the things I have to do to maintain the plants, but as this is the first year, I think I will learn these skills in the years to come.
Here are some photos of before and after the new plants…..now if only it would be a little sunny, so I could go out and sit to enjoy these beauties!