Perfect Growing Conditions

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.

bed

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?

beans

Well now he’s all grown up. Not quite producing yet but the beginnings of beans are merely days away.

beans

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.

peas

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.

tomato&cucumber

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.

cucumber

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.

lettuce
Especially with their contrasting green and red. Nature is so clever.

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.

Basil Row

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!

mud

After so many years of bone drying drought, this mud and the rich green growth of my veggies is a sight for sore eyes.

Bells

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27 thoughts on “Perfect Growing Conditions

  1. Lovely garden – congratulations on all your growth! After moving into a new home the last couple of weeks, I’m excited about resurrecting the large garden here that’s been neglected for the past 3 yrs. Winter time here, so its a good time for pruning and cleaning up and planning 🙂

  2. Your garden looks amazing!!

    I can’t wait to set up and grow my garden like yours. I have been ok with herbs and soon hope to expand what I grow!

    Just checking out all the attendees for the Aussie Bloggers Conference. Great blog. 🙂

  3. What a mouth-watering vege patch! I am enjoying seeing bean plants send out perfect pairs of spade leaves as they head up to the sun, and check the rocket seedlings every day to see whether they are quite big enough for me to pick leaves for baby rocket in my sandwich… It is too late to think of cucurbits in Tassie, but we have plenty of feral potatoes doing their thing around the neglected parts of the garden, and freshly dug potatoes are very yummy!
    PS I envy you your basil!

  4. I am in awe of your veggie garden Bells. Veggie gardening is the only kind of gardening I like to do, the satisfaction in producing your own food is immense.

    The humidity has done wonderful things to my garden too… (but I’d be happy if the humidity stopped, it’s so energy sapping!)

  5. if gardens are a sign of mental health then i am in serious trouble! i do know, however, that i love seeing yours when you are in full swing, its really very inspiring, and im happy to see you getting so much pleasure out of it again!

  6. You don’t have to give ALL the excess cukes to the chooks.

    Finely slice washed Lebanese cukes (on mandoline or V-slicer, careful!) into bowl, sprinkle with salt, mix through, a bit more salt. Leave to WILT. Rinse, drain thoroughly, then spread out in a thin layer on an old clean towel. Roll up firmly, and LEAN on the roll from time to time. Peel off into container, add freshly ground black pepper, dried Dill, and white vinegar.
    For years and years I used good white wine vinegar, balanced with a little sugar. Nowadays I use a good white balsamic vinegar and no sugar. Balance the flavours to your taste.
    Made a batch of this yesterday, using 16 (that’s right 16!) cukes, it will keep well in the fridge.
    This ‘recipe’ was learnt from my husband, who learnt it watching his mother in Hamburg.
    I would probably not bother if I had to buy the cukes, but we are in the middle of a green Tsunami here, using up 16 has barely dented the stock, and we have no chooks.
    We once planted too many zucchini – first I got sick of ’em, closely followed by Ernst and the kidlets, so we started feeding them to the chooks (we lived on the land at the time), after about 10 days even the chooks were sick of ’em!!

    Gae, in Callala Bay

  7. Your vegie garden looks fantastic, and I love the colors of the lettuces. Perhaps I should try to get my garden going again as I do miss it – it is just a bare patch at the moment!

  8. Amazing stuff Bells! i too have always felt some reflection of where I am at by the standard of my veggie patch, if not the whole garden! The one thing I have learnt over the years, is to trust your own instincts, be prepared to not listen to the planting time recommendations. Global warming, or whatever is happening has been changing our weather year to year, making the time to plant things very different each time. For me it usually means one or two plants will ultimately fail (this year it was zuchinni – i know! and basil), but it also means different crops do even better than normal.

  9. I think your garden looks hopeful. As I look at our frozen, snow covered beds, and I mentally picture your garden growing there, it makes me smile. It’s so green and lush. I think after all the snow we’ve had this winter, we should be able to plant a nice small garden this spring.

    It’s really heartwarming to hear that you’re feeling healthier and more in control. You’ve worked hard to get to that place and I am so glad for you.

  10. Oh, fresh eggs scrambled with fresh basil – heaven! What a mouth-watering delight you share with us. Thank you so verdantly much!!

  11. Oh, that lettuce. It looks amazing. I’m extremely impressed, because I can’t keep plants alive for love or money. That’s interesting, that the garden is the external sign of your mental health. I’m going to be pondering what that would be for me. Obviously, not a garden. 😉

  12. i’m thinking of all the tasty fresh meals you must be able to casually whip up after a trip to the garden. so satisfying! and i just love basil, and yours looks so lush and perfect and healthy.

  13. Oh it all looks so lush and lovely. I really must plant some veges next year (later this year??) I could totally do zucchini, by the sounds of it!!

    Wish my basil looked as good as yours – it’s huge, but I think it must have gotten burnt, the leaves are a bit black and shrivelled. And I probably didn’t use enough of it, the tops are “flowering” (or going to seed??).

  14. I can almost smell that basil – it looks so good. This post has inspired me to be a better gardener this year and plant (and look after) a few more things. Had no luck with the tomatoes last year – we planted too late and the summer season was too short, but maybe this year…

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