It’s halfway through Spring and the flowers are out in force. Bees are buzzing, lavender is going off it’s rocker in my garden – so much so that it self-seeds everywhere and I pull it out like a weed – and the whole garden smells like sweet pea flowers. It is a beautiful place to be right now.
The Summer bearing fruit trees are starting to set fruit, and the Autumn bearing fruit trees are bursting into bud. The first blossoms burst on one of our apple trees today: an early variety called an Early Macintosh. This is its second year, and I am so excited to have fresh apples. The other apple tree, a Cox’s Orange Pippin, can’t be far behind.
This will be our first year of a decent apricot crop. The tree is three years old now. Last year, we scored about a dozen lovely, juicy apricots, but it is really this year that all our patience and care will be rewarded. As you can see from the photo above, the tree is heavily laden. Thinning sacrifices some fruit to make way for the rest of the fruit to develop. While I have no problem thinning carrots or onions, for some reason I can’t stand thinning fruit, so my husband did it for me.
My first job this weekend though was to give everything in pots and containers, including the raised beds, a feed of seaweed extract, Charlie Carp organic liquid fertiliser, and Go Go Juice, a liquid probiotic and soil conditioner. Go Go Juice is great stuff: a local company here in South Australia, Neutrog, makes it. It helps to nourish the soil as well as the plant.
After feeding the tomatoes, strawberries and chillies in containers, I planted out some new basil seeds – Cinnamon Basil, and Lettuce Leaf Basil. I planted these in the pots with the tomatoes and chillies, as basil is a good companion plant for these. I use a lot of basil in Summer for homemade pesto and salads, and I love trying new varieties. I could not resist trying Cinnamon Basil. It sounds so beautiful. Lettuce Leaf Basil apparently tastes and smells like regular basil, but grows larger, ruffled leaves.
I planted out the tomato seedlings (Rouge de Marmande, and Red Truss) that I have been growing out over the past month. I bought these as seedlings in little punnets in early Spring, and then transplanted them into larger pots. This has given them the time to grow to larger, tougher plants, and for the soil to warm up properly. The soil up here in our Southern hills area of Adelaide really doesn’t warm up enough for Summer vegetables until now, so the tomatoes have been having a nice cozy time in our patio. The patio receives enough sun to keep them alive and growing, but is sheltered from wind and rain. I raise all my seedlings in there.
This extra time also gave me an opportunity to prepare the soil and harvest the last of the Spring greens and brassicas to make room for the tomato plants. I still have broccoli and broad beans in the garden, but over the past six weeks I have been slowly making way for the Summer vegetables.
This has included preparing a large bed for corn and beans. My husband dug through a couple of bags of donkey poo a few weeks ago, and we have let it sit since then. Today I dug it over again and planted two varieties of corn: Jubilee Corn, an F1 hybrid sweetcorn I grew last year with great success, and Painted Mountain Corn, an ancient heirloom variety, grown for popping. This corn was grown by First Nation peoples in the Americas before colonisation, and nearly became extinct until a concerted effort by seed savers in that country. The seeds of the Mountain Corn are beautiful, jewel-like things, coloured blue, purple, red and yellow. I almost hated to cover them with soil, but I cannot wait to see these plants grow.
I planted climbing beans alongside the corn. The beans will provide nitrogen to the growing corn, which is a very hungry plant, and the corn will support the beans as they grow. I planted two heirloom varieties: Scarlet Runner, a green bean that has beautiful red flowers, and Climbing Butter Beans, a yellow, waxy bean that has beautiful purplish black seeds.
The last little job was planting out some Golden Zucchini and two varieties of pumpkin. I am once again trying the Lakota pumpkin – in a different spot in the garden – but if it proves a dud again this year, I am giving up on it. I am also trying another heirloom called the Australian Butter, a squat, golden pumpkin with heavy ridges. It looks sort of like an orange Queensland Blue. Of course, I cannot go without planting the traditional Butternut, and last year’s big success, the Kent – but I ran out of time this weekend so that will be a job for next time. The fun thing about gardening is that there is always a next time: another job, another plant, another flower.
I picked another kilogram of broccoli, some broad beans, and peas for dinner. I love watching my kids tuck into a bowl of vegetables straight from the garden. I showed them how to slip the broad beans out of their skins (although when they are this young and tender, it’s not entirely necessary). They got a kick out of popping the slippery green beans out of the skins and slurping them up. Gardening creates fun, sensory food experiences for children. Plus the flavour of fresh peas straight from the garden is incomparable.
Just as I finished planting tomatoes and pumpkins, and went inside to shower the dirt of myself, the rains came down and stayed for quite a while. Grow, my pretties [insert cackle here].