When I returned from the UAE to live in Sydney my avocado trees were sticks. After three years finally – some avocados! Then, some just over a year ago, I planted a lone apple tree in my house not really expecting it to bare fruit because you’re supposed to plant at least two for cross fertilization. But yay a few apples, albeit small apples. Still it feels great to grow and eat my own fruit and vegetables in a suburb of Sydney! Enjoy.
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.
Organic garden winter wonderland
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?