Edible Garden

Ripening up for Summer

I had so many plans for planting and clearing and learning in the kitchen garden this spring, most of which are still not done. With the official start of summer this week I thought it was time to take stock. Despite not being as organised as hoped, there is some produce appearing in the veggie patch – some intentional, some accidental, and some seeds planted which never appeared. Last year, after a disastrous crop the year before, I decided not to plant tomatoes. But several plants appeared anyway and the (cherry) tomatoes they produced were delicious and prolific.
This year I didn’t need to think about planting tomatoes; seedlings have been sprouting up everywhere – too many for my small kitchen garden patch to cope with! I have moved and potted up many of them and given some away to friends, but others have had to be pulled up and put on the compost; I just don’t have the space to grow them all. I planted basil seeds in one large pot, but only tomatoes have appeared! So it looks like we are in for a bumper crop again this year. They are beginning to turn red; it will soon be time to pick and enjoy them.

Also in the edible garden I have planted beetroot seeds. Most of them appeared, only to be attacked by the chooks who found their way into the back garden when someone (probably me!) left the gate open. Several of them needed replanting after being scratched up, but most survived, and the chooks had a fun adventure! We have been enjoying beetroot leaves in salads and sandwiches; it is probably time to dig some up and enjoy the ‘roots’. I must plant some more seeds soon (along with a second attempt at basil!).



Garden Inspiration

Last year I went to the inaugural Australian Garden Show in Centennial Park, Sydney and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to going again this year. It was all planned; Mr Rambles kindly agreed to work from home on Friday so I could go. This also meant I could head off early and not have to rush home in time for school pick up.

Annoyingly, on Thursday, I came down with a cold. I was still determined to go, so dosed myself up and headed off, in the rain, (we’ve had a lot of rain recently), wearing my new full length rain coat.

After arriving at the show I had a quick look at the feature gardens. There were plenty of umbrellas around, the rain hadn’t scared everyone away, but it was far from being crowded, which meant I could get a close up look at the plants. Then I wandered around the Inspiration Gardens, which showcased a selection of horticultural and landscape designers.

A sign caught my eye (Costa ‘Rambles’ too!)  For those of you who don’t know him, Costa Georgiadis is a landscape architect and tv presenter on the ABC’s ‘Gardening Australia‘. He is passionate about sustainable living, and has his own chickens and veggie patch. I couldn’t resist a chance to meet him, so waited near the sign in the rain. There were only a few of us; I thought we were about to get a really personalised tour, but then the rain stopped and hoards of people appeared out of nowhere. By the time Costa arrived quite a crowd had formed.  
His 25 minute tour of the Inspirational Gardens lasted for nearly an hour and the sun stayed out the whole time. He was very entertaining and full of energy and enthusiasm and pointed out things about the gardens which helped us to view them from different perspectives. At the end of the tour Costa was answering questions and posing for photos, but I was fading fast, so slipped off and found somewhere to eat my lunch and drink a coffee.

Feeling fortified I went to have another look at the Inspirational Gardens. I spent some time looking at, and photographing, details to help get ideas for my own garden.

A couple of years ago, we had an extension put onto the house and the main garden still hasn’t recovered from the builders who treated it like a rubbish tip. I am slowly turning it back into a garden, and trying to establish new plants, but still find lumps of dumped concrete and old drink cans as I dig. It really needs some more landscaping and redesigning.

The gardens at the show were all very different from each other. Some were concerned with their environmental impact, others with affordability in mind, some fun and playful, and some stunning architecture. There were a few pavilions and some with quiet ‘hide away’ places. I would love to try and make a space like that in the Rambles’ garden. I would like to incorporate some fun places in the garden for the children and for the chickens!

As I walked around I found myself chatting to some of the gardens’ creators who were all very friendly and happy, despite the fact they had to prepare their gardens during a week of heavy rain.

Another section of the show featured city and balcony gardens, with creative ideas for gardening in small spaces, and inspiring ideas for edible gardens. 
There weren’t as many reusing/upcycling ideas as last year’s show. It would have been great to see a veggie patch incorporated in one of the Feature or Inspirational Gardens; maybe next year!

There were many plants for sale at the show, including the edible variety but, as I was travelling by bus, it wasn’t practical to buy any. Instead, I stocked up on a few packets of organic seeds and some elephant garlic which I am looking forward to planting!

Creating the Kitchen Garden

As well as a larger area of garden at the front (where the chickens live) we are lucky to have a small, north facing, patch of garden just outside the kitchen door. When we moved in this consisted of; a ‘sooty mould’ infested Lilly Pilly hedge, a scrappy patch of grass with a washing line, and a well worn deck. After several failed attempts at curing the hedge of its black leaves, I decided to pull the whole thing out. What a great decision, it made the garden much bigger, and lighter.

I had wanted to grow veggies and herbs here, but had tried in pots for the first two years, with not a great deal of success. Now we had more space I enlisted Mr Rambles’ help in building raised beds around the fence boundary where the hedge had been, and in the central grass area where we had moved the washing line from. The washing line is now attached to the side of the house, where it can be folded away, takes up much less space and gets more sun.

Since putting the veggie beds in I decided that the rest of the garden would be created from found and reused materials only. It is still changing and evolving and has now become one of my favourite outdoor spaces to spend time in. I have had various failures and sucesses with my edible plants, and I am still experimenting and learning what, when and where to grow. Last summer we enjoyed some of the best successes yet, including chillies, cherry tomatoes, beans, spinach, spring onions, beetroots, potatoes, pumpkins and various different herbs.

Roast Pumpkin Soup

  • Wrap half a medium sized pumpkin, with the seeds removed, and about 6 cloves of garlic (all skin on) in foil to make a parcel.
  • Put in a hot oven for an hour, remove and allow to cool. Open the parcel and remove the pumpkin skin.
  • Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add one or two chopped onions, cook gently until transparent. Squeeze the garlic out of their skins into the onions and add the pumpkin along with some chopped rosemary.
  • Add 750ml of vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Blitz and pass through a fine sieve.? Check seasoning.
  • Serve hot with a dash of balsamic vinegar, a swirl of soured cream and a sprinkling of lemon zest.

Delicious with crusty home made bread.