After taking a year or more off from vegetable gardening, I’m unspeakably happy with how our first foray back into it has gone. The small dipping of the toe back into it all has whetted my appetite to the point where I’m starting to plan bigger, more ambitious undertakings. I watch gardening shows or read gardening magazines with those sprawling, garden-consuming beds and I feel myself go into a flurry of excitement. I could do this! And that! And if I just do this and that I could do that!
I have to slow down. The reality is that extensive vegetable gardens take huge amounts of work and the building of them is a big job. So at the moment, the two beds I’ve got are enough to rekindle the love and who knows, by next summer maybe I’ll have the bigger plans underway.
So we had a few incredible storms in the last few days, smack bang on the top of some intense heat. We’ve had a couple of days up around 38C (100.4F) and with the subsequent rain, well the humidity is anything but pleasant. Our weatherman said tonight that if you’ve ever wondered what a tropical monsoon day in Darwin is like, well today you got to find out. Today was topped and tailed by intensely overpowering thunderstorms with torrential downpours. In between, the sun shone bright and furious. When I’m sticky and grumpy on a sauna-like bus, I try and remember that the upside is that my vegetable beds are absolutely loving these conditions.
Here’s the long view of my big bed. I think the success of this bed, which has really been designed just to get me back into vegetable gardening, is that I planted it later, when the ground was really warm and the I gave it a heavy mulching of straw. My other bed that was planted early and has no straw is nowhere near as lush. The zucchini have worked but honestly, the worst gardener in the world could grow a few zucchini. No skill required. Anyway, to the long view.
So much rich, leafy goodness! Basil at the front, followed by dwarf beans, then peas, lettuce, then more basil, chillis, cucumbers, tomatoes, asparagus and way up the back, invisible, are still small globe artichokes.
I’m bursting with pride at the verdant green in my bed. Seriously, a drought ridden, neglected garden for the last couple of years was one of the great depression causing things in my life. I’ve long held the view that my garden is an external sign of my inner health. So, let’s take this fecund bed as a sign that I am back. Healthier, happier and in control.
In light of that, consider my beans. Remember this little guy? the one who was just waking up?
Well now he’s all grown up. Not quite producing yet but the beginnings of beans are merely days away.
And my peas, who struggled for a while to get going are now strong and climbing up the frame Sean whipped up for them one afternoon.
I’ve never before reached this point with peas. I’ve always killed them by planting them too late and having them devoured by frost. This year, it’s all good.
Most thrillingly, my cucumbers are like a jungle. Here they are growing like mad up the frame Sean built. I aspire to keeping my cucumbers off the ground, where they’ll end up soggy and ridden with mildew. Up on the frame, they’ll grow freely and happily.
Up close the little beauties are making me so happy. Every day I check for how they’ve grown. they’re still tiny. So cute.
My jungle worthy plants are simply crawling with baby cucumbers. Given they’re one of my chickens’ favourite vegetables, I have no worries about excess stock. I think the whole family will be happy!
My little lettuce seedlings have grown into full bodied specimens that I need to harvest any day now. In a neat row, they’re about as pleasing as a vegetable in the ground can be.
Most of all, I’m delighted with my basil. I learned this year that basil planted in October in a bed that isn’t mulched, or poorly protected pots, doesn’t do as well as a properly fed, mulched and watered bed planted in January. This second round of basil seedlings went in in the first week of January, which by the books is late, but has worked out charmingly for me. I’m picking every day the most lush, plump basil leaves. There’s so much of it that I can snip the tops off plants every day and never run out. Salads, sandwiches, you name it. This basil is getting a great workout and the plants are thriving. Last year was so poor for basil in my garden. This year, we’re doing brilliantly.
This is only one row of basil. there’s a whole other one further on. Pesto anyone?
Wrapping up, let me share with you something funny that happened while taking these photos. I stepped onto the bed to try and reach a pea pod and suddenly found my foot sinking calf deep into the dirt. I was wearing thongs. I dragged my leg and foot out of the mud and had to reach down with my hand deep into the sodden soil to retrieve my lost thong. This is the hole that was left. I think I probably don’t need to worry about watering for a few days! Thank you monsoonal rains!
After so many years of bone drying drought, this mud and the rich green growth of my veggies is a sight for sore eyes.