Planting time!

I’m running very late with my gardening this year.  I pretty much let it lie fallow from mid-summer, because cycling was taking up all the energy I normally use for gardening, and Andrew is not confident about identifying weeds versus vegetable (let loose on a garden bed and told ‘this needs clearing,’ however, he works wonders).

So today – my first free day in about the last two months that wasn’t raining – was clearly the day to get started on it.  Fortunately, Andrew has made a start on all three garden beds recently, getting most of the weeds out of them and making the whole thing look less scary.  So this afternoon, it was off to Poyntons for us, to search for interesting seeds and a few seedlings too.

But first, we had to vote in our local council elections.  And what elections they were – 4 seats, 24 candidates (including 9 from the same party, which seems a bit excessive and counter-productive), 55 how-to-vote cards, and at least three court cases in process due to candidates engaging in highly questionable tactics prior to the election.  Part of me is a bit sad not to be scrutineering.  Part of me isn’t at all sad, because they are going to be there all night.

Anyway, the real reason I’m mentioning the elections is that, as is traditional, we went to the biggest local polling booth, located at the local primary school.  We like big polling booths.  Not only do you get the full smorgasbord of how to vote cards and nutty candidates, but generally, the primary school hosting the experience takes advantage of the occasion to hold a fundraiser – sausage sizzle, bake sale, second-hand book stall, craft stall, the works.  And this time, they were also selling their very own Coburg Primary School Cookbook!

The recipes come from the kids and the teachers, the illustrations and quotes are by the kids, and recipes range from a cauliflower soup that uses vegemite as an ingredient to a very authentic-looking baklava.  The first quote in the book absolutely warms my heart:

“The best thing about cooking is that you get to make new recipes and it’s like science because we get to make new experiments.”

A child after my own heart.

Anyway, back to the garden, and more importantly the garden shop, where I was first seduced by seeds.  I wanted a cut-and-come-again mixed lettuce mix and there were almost too many to choose from.  I wound up getting two, and will alternate them.  I also wanted yellow zucchini – I’ve yet to succeed in overrunning the garden with zucchini, but I’m hoping this will be the year.  I like zucchini.  I got a packet of mixed baby squashes and yellow zucchini, which sounds perfect.  Oh, and there was a packet of mixed edible flower seeds!  How glorious is that?

I’m not much for crop rotation, but I did want some beans – I got purple string beans and borlotti beans, but my most interesting find was something called an asparagus pea – I’ve never heard of it, but apparently it also goes by the name ‘winged bean’ and does taste a lot like asparagus.

Most exciting of all were the purple seed potatoes!  I’ve never grown potatoes before, but for these I will make an exception.

We then investigated the seedlings.  I don’t try to grow tomatoes from seed, because one does need a greenhouse of sorts for that, and I’ve given up entirely on getting capsicums and eggplant to produce fruit for me.  So I indulged in an assortment of tomatoes – roma, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, and stripey green and yellow tigerellas which the caterpillars can’t usually find.

Tomatoes, waiting patiently to be planted

For herbs, we got basil and parsley – I actually am quite well-off for herbs generally, with rosemary, thyme and chamomile growing around my water tank, and sage and pineapple sage in the middle of my garden (don’t ask).  I considered oregano and summer savory – and really would have got the latter if I had remembered, but decided that I was perhaps already over-estimating my garden space.

Exhibit A: catmint (which is nowhere near as exciting to cats as strawberries, apparently, and is also half buried by the pineapple sage), pineapple sage and sage. Going strong.

I’ve been considering raspberries for months.  I’d consider strawberries, too, but unfortunately Mayhem thinks they are catnip and rolls and rubs herself all over them until they become flat strawberries, and shortly afterward, dead strawberries, and nothing we can do will stop her.  So no strawberries for us.  I went and had a look at the berries, and was very excited to find that they had an Australian native raspberry, which will hopefully be fairly hardy and not quite so exciting from the feline perspective.

Native Australian raspberry. I hope so much that I get some berries from it – this is the most exciting thing I’ve planted in ages!

And that, we felt, was plenty for starting with.  I’m trying to rotate my crops a bit, so we then went home and contemplated our various half-prepared garden beds (for a value of contemplate that includes digging around and sifting and digging fertiliser and gypsum through and so forth), trying to remember what we put in them last year…

I have one bed with asparagus growing in it – growing from seed, in fact, so it’s not going to produce any actual asparagus for a year or two.  It was full of tomatoes last year, so it’s getting the purple beans.  I’m not sure what else.

Asparagus! Still alive, but with a tendency to fall over. Never having seen asparagus growing, I’m hoping that’s normal.

The middle bed was full of zucchini at the front and herbs at the back last year.  This year, I’ve sown a row of mixed greens, one of edible flowers and one of mixed radishes.  Behind that, I’ve put my parsley and basil, and the asparagus peas and borlotti beans.   I’ll probably fill the rest of the area up with purple potatoes.

This bed actually looks quite respectable!

The left-hand bed has been full of Jerusalem artichokes for several years now, and I am determined to eradicate them!  Apparently, they are great for the soil, you just can’t ever get rid of the blighters.  So this bed will get the tomatoes and zucchini, which are heavy feeders and will hopefully be hardy enough to scare away the artichokes.  Hopefully.

Of course, I haven’t got most of these into the ground yet – there is still a lot of digging and fertilising and snail-baiting to do – but I *have* at least started, and should be on schedule to get my tomatoes in before Cup Day, as is the Melbourne tradition.

Now I just have to get everything else planted.  And wait – with limited patience for my seeds to germinate… germinate now… germinate…

Purple potatoes, here we come…

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This time last year…

Recipe: Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary Cakes
Leftovers
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6 responses to “Planting time!

  1. There’s a small herb garden at our local nature preserve, occasionally maintained by a local gardening club. Among other things [rosemary, various mints, etc.], it also has strawberries [with no attendant cats, alas], pineapple sage [current blooming in splendor], & asparagus. Yes, the drooping looks quite normal. I feel such a connection, across the world, that we’re enjoying the same plants. Y’all are working much harder, though.

    • It’s astonishing, isn’t it? We were taught at primary school that our seasons are upside-down from yours, and in a sense they are, but in terms of plants, my pineapple sage is blooming in splendour right now, too, and we had jonquils from late April to June, not so long after you had yours…

  2. Be careful with the raspberry, they are noxious weeds here, like mint they spread with underground runners and quickly become a prickly and difficult to eradicate pest. Recommended not to plant directly into the ground, but in a very large pot (tho you could put that in the ground) instead

    I have to get into my garden, I intended to last weekend but hurt my back and have been a bit careful since. This weekend!

    • Oh dear, really? I’ve already put them into the ground, but I did put them a fair way from anything that isn’t grass, so hopefully I’ll be able to manage it.

      (I am amused to note that on the other side of that fence is my neighbour’s mint plant which keeps trying to encroach… perhaps the native raspberry is my evil revenge?)

  3. Strawberries can be grown in hanging planters instead of in the ground. If you have a place you could hang them out of the reach of cats, that might solve your problem with them becoming strawberry-nip.

    • I’ve seen this done, yes, and it looks very appealing.

      Unfortunately for us, ‘out of reach of cats’ is unachievable – Mayhem can and does get onto the roof and I can well imagine her swinging from a hanging basket full of strawberries…

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