A new vegetable garden

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Nothing makes as much sense to me as growing food in the backyard. Hanno has been working hard over the past week digging, adding manures, compost, blood and bone to the soil and sifting out the ever-present nut grass. Finally, after all his work, the garden was planted up yesterday.  


No doubt the garden will change a lot over the weeks and months that follow but at the moment we're growing parsley, sage, basil, thyme, bay, oregano, mint, Welsh onions, green onions, capsicums/peppers, curly kale, silver beet/chard, bok choy, lettuce, turnips, and two tomato types: the French heirloom Rouge de Marmande and two cocktail tomatoes, one red, one yellow. That will see us through the rest of autumn, winter and well into spring. We'll buy our cabbages, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower as well as root vegetables - potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and swedes. We're growing turnips. They're so easy to grow it's ridiculous not to. Sweet peas have been planted to grow over the arch at the entrance to the garden and when they finish, I'll use that space for cucumbers.  BTW, we have planted about 20 parsley plants so if you're short of parsley one day, you know where to find some.






After the lush overfull vegetable gardens we used to grow here, this one is more restrained, it's smaller, less showy and just right for our energy levels now. And I think we've got the mix of plants right for us too. We grow herbs because paying $15 every week for fresh herbs is crazy and I want freshness and taste - herbs that are cut, added to our food and eaten within the hour. Supermarket herbs that are tasteless and go limp within a day or two are a waste of time and money. We have to grow tomatoes - it's an interesting challenge to grow tasty tomatoes and it keeps us slower gardeners on our toes. I've never eaten a supermarket tomato that comes close to the excellent taste of a just picked heirloom tomato still warm from the sun. And we grow leaves because we can - they're so easy and as long as we give them enough water, they usually look after themselves. Overall, we've chosen the things we can grow easily as well as a couple of things that will keep us interested.



But the production of organic food isn't the only benefit of gardening. It creates a feeling of independence and self-reliance and when I go outside early in the morning to let the chickens out, or when I wander around picking herbs for lunch, or decide to sit in the cooling fresh air in the late afternoon, this garden of ours wraps itself around me and I know there is no other place I'd rather be. Further off in the distance I see the edge of a pine forest and a rain forest, I see homing pigeons out for their afternoon flight, butterflies float through, bees buzz and I listen to the sounds of the neighbourhood around me.  I feel protected here, I look at the seedlings just planted and feel pleased that we've put in the work, yet again, that will provide us with good food in the weeks ahead. As I walk back towards the house, I make a mental note to move this and that, to clip that rose back in the morning, to give the orange trees more seaweed tomorrow. There's always something to do in the vegetable garden and the work we do there rewards us just as much as the food does.



It's a wonderful network to be part of. We raise plants to harvest from seeds and seedlings, we become part of daily life in the backyard, we assimilate with the birds and animals out there, we breathe fresh air, stretch our muscles, we recognise patterns, carry out processes, improve our skills and end up carrying the freshest produce into the house. And we feel lucky being able to do it.

Are you planting vegetables, herbs or fruit this year? Are you adding anything new or going with your favourites?

45 comments

  1. I've added more herbs recently Rhonda as we eat a lot of fresh herbs and also in preparation for our chickens. I loved your paragraph about walking outside in the morning, letting the chickens out, picking fresh herbs just before eating.......... I feel it too, wonderful feeling.

    I was happy to read turnips are easy to grow because I had a packet of turnip seeds from who knows where which I've planted. Fingers crossed.

    Your garden looks so well organised and really healthy too.

    I may pop over some time for some parsley and bring some of my harvests or who knows by then a few eggs too.

    Kylie

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  2. Your veggie gardens are looking great, Rhonda. I have almost finished planting mine out now too, a few things left to go in. This year, I'm growing perpetual spinach, tuscan kale, silverbeet, lettuce, broccoli, snow peas and beans. I've also planted lots of allysum for the bees and and little violas because I love them. I want to try potatoes in a grow sack too and choko sometime if I can get my hands on one. I also have one volunteer pumpkin vine that I hope will produce little pumpkins. Enjoy tending your garden! Meg:)

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  3. Hopefully I'm going to plant up my Autumn/Winter garden this weekend. I think it will be a wise financial decision too given that veggie prices may rise due to the effects of cyclone Debbie. I think I'll plant the usual broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, leeks but I might try my hand at cabbage this year too, I've never grown it before.

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  4. Don and I packed a thermos of coffee yesterday and drove down to the village, purchased the papers from the shop and sat at a picnic bench by the river to read. We were able to watch the vacationers at the houses along the foreshore pack up their cars ready to go home as the holiday period was at an end. We watched kayakers paddling up an down the river past the houseboats and yachts that are moored there. Later in the day Don drove the ride-on mower down to the river that is closer to home and caught a couple of fish, while I planted out beetroot, added to the compost and readied another bed for planting. Earlier in the day I had potato, corn and chicken chowder cooking away in the crockpot. A day full of simple, homespun pleasures.

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    1. That sounds like a lovely day, Sherri Mac.

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  5. I am glad you have your garden in such good shape. After the hot summer we have just had it will be great to watch it all grow.
    I have an unrelated question. I want to have another go at soap making. My last try was so long ago that I can't count the years. What do you cook it all up in? Initially I used an old laundry cauldron which has long gone. Once I tried my cooking boiler but it all bubbled over the top. My local hardware store has 60 litre boilers but will that be large enough? I have seen an aluminium laundry boiler (without tripod) but it is very expensive and I could look around garage sales if that is necessary.

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    1. Crikey Jill, how much soap are you making? 60 litres is a huge amount! For my regular soap recipe, I use a total of about 2 litres - that is made up of water, lye and oil. That makes enough soap to last us about 6 months with some to give away. I use a medium sized saucepan and a mixing bowl.

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    2. But when I added the caustic soda it all bubbled up and went everywhere. It was a rented house and I have always been a bit worried about the kitchen pipes.

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  6. Rhonda, I must admit I had trouble trying to work out how to comment now that you have changed your template and thought it might be like a Wordpress template so clicked on the title and the comment box came up. I will also be buying brassicas this year and am way behind with my planting and only have silverbeet planted but still have heaps of herbs as usual. I am still trying to pull out weeds from the recent rain but once that is done I can get started. It is now cool enough to be outside without being burnt to a crisp. I hope you had a wonderful birthday.

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  7. I love seeing your new vegetable garden! I've been busy planting my spring and summer crops here. What you said about "it creates a feeling of independence and self-reliance and when I go outside" is so true for me too. Being able to grow my own food gives me a feeling of accomplishment that boosts my confidence.

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  8. It's early spring here in my part of the world (western Canada). I've spent the last three days gardening. I try to get out and play in the dirt any time it's not raining heavily.
    So far, I've planted snow peas, shelling peas, radish, carrot, beets, a lettuce mix. I'm trying a new to me small napa cabbage as well. I reorganized one bed to make it easier to control the grasses/weeds. I also relocated a lavender bush and some strawberries.
    I've harvested kale and the first asparagus.
    I chose not to grow potatoes or onions. Other gardeners are successful with both but I don't want to give up space to those. I'm learning new things each year.
    Love seeing your garden photos and hearing about your journey.
    SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

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    1. I am in New Westminster, my husband spent the weekend working the garden. our rhubarb is going crazy, the strawberries are finally looking like they survived that second freeze we had we lost only a few, and the herbs that survived the winter are starting to bush out. I will be buying some seedlings again this year due to forgetting to start seeds indoors. I too have some kale ready and one swiss chard, most of my over winter plants rotted due to the freeze, thaw, freeze pattern they had to endure.

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  9. I agree. There is nothing better than going out and picking food you've grown yourself.

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  10. I did not have the best spring / summer in the garden - the hot weather and bugs played havoc so my yield was lower than previous years. I was a bit annoyed about this, especially given the time, money and effort that goes into gardening. However, I quickly got over it when I remembered the other benefits that gardening brings - calm and mindfulness.

    "... the work we do there rewards us just as much as the food does." Love these words, Rhonda.

    xx Jade

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  11. Hi Rhonda & Hanno,
    Your garden looks great, I am tempted to get planting. Last year and this year on the sunshine coast I seem to have been loads of flies landing on my vege patch and leaving black marks, maybe its not related and every single Roma tomato seemed to look healthy but they all got a black spot on the bottom. So a bit disheartened but you have inspired me to plant up again. best wishes Lors

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  12. Your garden looks very productive. At the moment I have mostly herbs growing - parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and chamomile. The gardens are still at the rearranging and restarting stages but we have plans :). There are a couple of existing stone fruit trees that I have been giving tlc to and will prune shortly and a variety of beautiful roses that are in need of Winter coddling so they reach their potential next Summer. The final result, in a few years, should be a permaculture garden.

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  13. We plant a large garden every year and this year is no exception. I will put in several varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, snap peas, peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, lettuce, and several types of herbs. I plant a few extra plants of each to share the bounty with the folks that live in a small apartment building for low-income elderly residents. A lady had once told me the thing she missed most about moving to the apartments was not having the fresh vegetables out of her garden. A couple times a week I go in and drop off a large box of produce and the office gals divide it out for the residents as best they can. It's not a huge thing to do but I know the people there enjoy it. I'm so excited to get out into my garden and get things going.

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  14. Our garden is just about ready to start. We are being tutored by our neighbor who has been here for a great amount of time, he grows a number of different fruits and vegetables (and gives most of it to friends and family) He is letting us know the best times to do what we need to do. I'm so thankful to have a neighbor willing to take the time to share!

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  15. I enjoy peeking into your garden. I have early veggies in the raised beds and we will be planting the garden in the next month. Our typical fare of cucumbers, zukes, green beans and tomatoes. I can't wait!

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  16. Tomato growing season has just finished here. Brian pulled the plants out last week.
    We have herbs growing - parsley, chives, purple sage, thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary. They are the herbs we use the most and will grow here this time of year.
    We don't grow veg over the winter. Now that we have been here for 10 months, we'll be changing where we will be growing our summer veg. This means over the winter we'll be rearranging some plants and boosting up the soil where the veg will grow.
    Come spring we'll plant tomatoes, capsiums and zucchinis. We'll try to plant basil too. The last ones were eaten, we think by snails. We have removed lots of the Spanish Eyes where the snails were living so hopefully next summer by planting between the tomatoes we'll have success.

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  17. My order from Eden seeds arrived today. There will be a lot more planting going on. I made my order after an unsuccessful trip to the various seedling sellers around town. Apparently the suppliers had been wiped out by cyclone Debbie. This made me remove my lazy bone and order some more heirloom seeds. I did not need to order tomato or bak choy seeds as we have so many volunteers coming up from last years crop. I am finding small seedlings popping up all over the place. The joys of heirloom seeds. I had already planted into the seed trays broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, silverbeet, basil and coriander. Cucumber seeds have been planted with the passionfruit seedlings on a trellis. Zucchini are in pots. We have a reasonable sized, very varied garden. I love this time of year and being able to be outside growing a beautiful tasty garden.

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  18. We are growing a mix of fruit, herbs, and veggies. Our basil is, for the first time since we moved here four years ago, abundant enough that we were able to make pesto (finally found a few spots in the yard where it's happy to grow). We have been harvesting peaches (yay!), cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, collard greens, and green and wax beans, and we have lots of green tomatoes on the plants. Loquat season just finished, and our citrus has set fruit, so we are hoping for a good harvest this fall/winter. Other herbs in the garden are thyme, rosemary, oregano, Mexican tarragon, and garlic chives.

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    1. So many different climates. I noticed you're in Florida, Helena. We probably have a similar climate but our plants are different. Our loquats are setting fruit now, we've finished harvesting lemons and now wait for the June harvest of oranges. I've really enjoyed reading about everyone's garden. It feels good knowing there are many gardeners who are doing what we're doing.

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  19. Nothing is so satisfying as doing your grocery shopping in the backyard. I love having a garden. Your season is a month ahead of ours; we start planting around mid May, but I do have seeds started in the potting shed :)
    Happy Gardening!
    Connie :)

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  20. Hi Rhonda, do you buy seedlings to plant, or propagate your own? I've struggled with transplanting seedlings I've grown myself out into the vegie patch, as they seem to go into transplant shock in a big way, and often don't survive.

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    1. We use seeds and seedlings and we rarely have any losses with the seedlings. You must make sure seedlings are well hydrated before transplanting and be gentle with them. We put an inch of seaweed liquid in a bowl and sit the seedlings in there for an hour or so before we plant them in the garden. Then they're watered in to remove air pockets in the soil and then water every day for the first week.

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  21. Lovely garden pictures. I love the new look blog too.

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  22. Wonderful to be planting for the new season - I'm away at the moment, but space was cleared and compost added before the trip, ready for the new season in May. We'll plant herbs and greens, maybe leeks (trying companion planting - we'll see) and whatever else is easy and expensive to buy. Beetroot is always a must for us, although I need to double check how it'll go in Auckland at this time of year. Happy gardening!

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  23. What a pleasure it was to read your post this morning. Gardening is just like that, and I guess the lifestyle itself is too. We planted the majority of our summer garden over the weekend. So many things, but they will hopefully keep us fed over the coming months. I love the pretty, new look of the blog.

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  24. I grow herbs in pots on my balcony. Due to watering constraints in Texas, growing veggies is not possible, but I love having the fresh herbs to add to my homemade dishes. I love seeing your home and garden!

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  25. Not sure if we are going to plant this year, for the last 4 years the bugs and grubs have decimated our crops and it doesn't matter what we do to stop them. Last year we put one of those really fine mesh garden sheet thingy (can't remember what you call them) over our cauliflowers and broccoli and the grubs still got to them. The grubs also got into every tomato we had, they looked so perfect on the outside, not a mark on them but when we cut them open they were riddled with grubs. They were getting in through the stem part where you couldn't actually see the hole. It's a lot of money to keep doing it to get nothing out of it except grubs. I enjoyed our first year of gardening before the grubs found us, now they keep coming back :(

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  26. Howsmart to make use of the siol around you. It would be great if more of us got back to those basics.

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  27. So nice to see all of your lovely photographs.
    Gardens are hard work, but so worthwhile.

    All the best Jan

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  28. It is Spring here in the UK. I am looking forward to growing lots of herbs too in my allotment. Last year was my first year and I had only cleared a small patch as it was overgrown so mainly did potatoes and strawberries. This year after some more digging I will plant lots of herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, Swiss chard, purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and potatoes. I can't wait to start growing. I am going to grow from seedlings too so thank you for the advice on transplanting as I have never done it before. Tomatoes are my favorites and can't wait to taste home grown ones. Your garden looks lovely! Nia

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  29. Your posts are so inspiring, Rhonda. My husband plants vegetables for me to cook with, I'm no gardener but I love cooking so he makes sure I always have things to use. At the moment we have different varieties of chillies, parsley, coriander and lettuce ready to eat, and there are onions, broccoli and tomatoes planted. We always have Rosemary, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves too to add that freshness you talk about to our meals. Thank you for sharing your photos.

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  30. I cannot grow enough parsley. My budgies love it lol
    Have planted out some new winter vegetables broccoli and cabbages and cauliflower. I planted some beans as well. Don't normally do beans in th winter but as they were diggers heritage and they were in the shop I thought I'd give it a go
    Since getting a chronic illness I cheat and buy the seedlings. Not as cost effective but as there are now only two of us I don't buy a lot and I get the heritage ones so I know they are good

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  31. Your garden looks absolutely perfect for you and the life you prefer to have. Right now we have parsley, sage rosemary, thyme - normal and lemon varieties - , mint in one long garden bed. I also plopped an aloe vera cutting somewhere in there yesterday. We also have brussel sprouts and cauliflower littlies just in. I really would like some rainbow silberbeet, maybe next week to play with.

    Love reading about your gardening as it is quite inspiring.

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  32. Thanks for the reminder to get out into my garden and put some vegies in, Rhonda. Yours and Hanno's work in your garden and house always inspires me. I was wondering though why you don't use mulch in your vegie garden? I'm sure Hanno has thought it through and be interested to hear it. Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Fiona. We'll use our usual organic sugar cane mulch but we like the smaller seedlings to get established first and then the mulch will go on. Happy gardening.

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  33. Your gardens are always inspiring! I've been working on regrading our garden area the last couple of years. It's on a slope that had been terraced but it was more conducive to weed growth (and rocks) than vegetable gardening. I'm going to try a few raised beds to see if I have a little more success this year, but really I'm just looking forward to being outside and growing even a little of our own food again.

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  34. I love having the fresh veggies to add to my homemade meal and lucky, I always have them available in my garden.
    BTW, I love seeing your garden!

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  35. Love your garden Rhonda. I cant wait to retire so I can take the time I want in mine. Blessings Juanita.

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  36. You have a lovely growing area, I don't think you can ever have too much parsley, such a versatile herb.

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  37. hi
    your garden looks lovely :)

    --Josie--

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  38. Hi Rhonda,
    I found your blog back in 2012 and printed the article "Saving big bucks in the backyard" but unfortunately didn't write the web address down for your blog. I have been looking for your blog for the last 4 1/2 years. So I was greatly surprised when I put Saving big bucks in the backyard in your Search this Blog and it came back with this very article. I will now subscribe to make sure I don't miss out on any of your future great articles. I live on the Gold Coast and I think you must be some where close, maybe Brisbane area because of the of the comments on your weather and growing conditions. Such as Start in March and finish in December. This last January and February were so hot it wasn't worth gardening this year. So glad to finally find your blog. Jen

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