Weekend gardening jobs, 18th November 2023

Baby Quince

It was a stunning morning in the garden today – lovely and warm, sunny, and not too hot. I had exactly two hours to spend in the garden before a family event, so I spent time feeding the pots in the greenhouse with liquid fertiliser and planting out more of the seemingly endless capsicum seedlings I have grown from seed. I also sprinkled organic snail pellets around the patch. This is the first year I have ever had much of a problem with snails. Usually, a bit of snail damage does not bother me, but they have been really having a go on new seedlings. A new organic iron-based pellet has been released on the market. It’s not harmful to other critters, and breaks down to harmless iron in the soil.

I have also been diligent keeping up with the mulch in my front and back gardens. Organic mulch decomposes over time. I topped up the bare patches that have broken down since the start of Spring with chopped sugar cane mulch. Keeping up the mulch is critical at this time of year as the weather warms up and because it has been incredibly dry all Spring. According to the long range weather forecast broadcast on ABC radio last week, the dry weather will continue for the rest of Spring. This is not good news for we gardeners, especially those of us that do not have a rainwater tank. I have been watering my garden since September, as we have a lot of fruit trees that need regular water through blossoming and fruit set. Mulch is necessary to maintain all that good work and save water.

I threw a couple of handsful of fertiliser under each fruit tree – in the Summer growing season I try to do this each month.

Walking around the garden mulching, hand weeding, and feeding, I can keep an eye on changes in the garden.

This week I noticed baby quinces growing (above – so exciting), the Violet Queen beans have started to flower (so pretty), and I picked two Pepinos and four cucumbers already! Cukes are my garden white whale – I think I built the greenhouse just so I could successfully grow cucumbers.

Violet Queen bean flowers

I’m also happy to see that the squash and pumpkin plants I planted about six weeks ago (probably too early, tbh) have almost all survived the snail onslaught and are starting to put on some lovely new growth. I usually have good success with pumpkins and limited success with squash (the mysteries of life!) but I really hope this year that I do well with both – I love steamed summer squash with butter or olive oil and a little salt. I could eat just a big old plateful of them for dinner and be very happy! The squash plants look as good as I have ever managed, so fingers crossed!

Capsicums (Sweet Peppers)

Last year’s capsicums

This year I am growing a lot of capsicums (in the US, known as sweet peppers). I am mostly growing the long Italian-style capsicums, used primarily for frying and cooking, rather than the salad-style capsicums (although I am growing one sweet salad variety, Sweet Chocolate, which I like because it grows a lovely dark brown when ripe).

I personally find capsicum really easy to grow from seed, and more fun because you have access to more interesting varieties than the standard Californian Wonder you can buy from nurseries. However, I do have a greenhouse, so that does make it easier to grow them from seed.

If you do want to try it, use seed-raising mix in trays (I like the Yates seed-raising mix best – but it is pricey – and I also think the Seasol brand is good), and plant as many seeds as you think you will need, plus a few extra. Water well and keep damp until seedlings emerge. Keep the seedlings going with a weak liquid feed every week or so, and then when they are about half as tall as your iPhone, prick them out gently and replant them into pots to harden off. Keep them watered and fed weekly until you are ready to plant them out into the garden – or you can grown them in larger pots. They will be happy in pots throughout the growing season. Just make sure to grow them in a warm, sunny spot and keep them well fed.

For chillies – just do the same! I find chillies fruit earlier and more prolifically than capsicums though, so don’t be surprised if you find you have chillies well before your capsicums have even flowered – they are related, but chillies seem to have started their run before capsicums have tied their shoelaces.

What to do in the garden with the time you have this week

I am flat out this week! It’s deadline time for the next two weeks – so I will barely have any time in the garden – as with today, I will be carving out a set period to spend in the garden, and that will be that.

If you are like me, and time-strapped, here are some suggestions for what to do in the garden this week with limited time.

If you have an hour

Plant some seeds for Christmas giving, or pot up some seedlings ready for Christmas giving. It may almost be too late to plant seeds ready for Christmas, but you could have time, depending on what you are planting. I have had some plants growing from seed for quite a while with certain people in mind, ready for Christmas giving. I also have had some growing from cuttings. They are almost ready to pot on for giving in four weeks. I am keeping an eye out for a lovely pot to give the plant. Caveat: I love to receive plants, but I also understand that not everyone does! I have chosen these plants and the receiver carefully, based on what I know they will enjoy.

If you have 2-3 hours

Feed and water – but keep an eye on the weather. You should not liquid feed your plants if the temperature will exceed 25 degrees C, as it can burn your plants. Choose a cooler day, and a liquid fertiliser for your plant type (there are many different types on the market, including organic). It can take some time, which is why I do it on a weekend when I have a little more time to go back and forth with my two 9L watering cans. I find it is a great way to get up and personal with your plants.

If you have 4-5 hours

Then you are living the dream! If it was me, this week, I would be deadheading roses and other flowering bushes to keep the flowering flush going, hand-weeding, mulching, and choosing some showstopper pots and plants for a front door and patio Christmas display.

Unfortunately, I don’t have that time this week – but hoping to carve some out in a couple of weeks to do these jobs!

Have a great week!

Planning your vegetarian garden

I’m a vegetarian, and although my partner and young adult living at home are not technically, they are in actuality, because I do most of the cooking.

We are not vegans, because I have severe, life-threatening allergies that prevent me from being a healthy vegan. Our happy chickens produce eggs, and we eat dairy products. I don’t enforce my dietary choices on the rest of the family – they can eat what they like – but at home for the most part, we are a veggie family.

This means that how I garden has changed quite a lot. In the past, I was a bit more haphazard about what I planted. I often planted things for fun and interest rather than what we needed. Now I plant more intentionally, thinking about the plants that supplement a healthy veggie diet. We eat a lot of legume-based Indian curries, Mexican meals like burrito bowls, quesadillas, and fajitas, tofu stir fries, soups, and some veggie burgers and pasta. With these in mind, I have planned my Spring and Summer garden around the veggies that supplement these dishes.

variety of vegetables
Photo by Adonyi Gábor on Pexels.com

This Spring and Summer I am growing a lot of:

  • Chillies: a mix of very hot and milder chillies, for our curries, Mexican dishes, and stir fries, and for Indian and Mexican pickling. This year our choices include Devil’s Tongue, Jalapeño, Siam, Serrano, Guntur, Scorpion, Bird’s Eye, Habanero, Cayenne, Bhut Jolokia Chocolate. Er…we love chilli!
  • Capsicum: Sweet Chocolate, Italian Fryer, Quadrato D’Asti Gialo. These are sweet and frying peppers for salads, salsas, fajitas, and pasta dishes;
  • Eggplant: Japanese White, Thai Purple Ball, Slim Jim, and Turkish Red, for curries, fajitas, and pastas, as well as for our favourite Indian Brinjal pickle;
  • Basil: Lettuce Leaf, Cinnamon, and Sweet for pestos, pizza, and pasta dishes;
  • Squash and Zucchini: Tromboccino, Bennings Green Tint, and Lebanese, for pastas, curries, and stir fries;
  • Cucumbers: Gherkins, Mini Muncher, and Marketmore, for salads and pickling;
  • Tomatoes: Riesentraube, Green Zebra, and Mysterious, for salads, salsas, and sandwiches;
  • Tomatillos for salsas;
  • Spring onions: Candy Stick, for salads and stir fries;
  • Silverbeet: for stir fries and curries;
  • Herbs: Annual and perennial herbs for everything;
  • Melons: Mini Yellow Watermelon, and Rockmelon Petit Gris De Rennes;
  • Beans: Kentucky Wonder and Violet Queen, for stir fries and curries;
  • Pumpkins: Wrinkled Butternut, Buttercup, and Kent, for soups, curries, and pastas;
  • Lettuce: Cos and Freckled Cos, for salads.

90 per cent of these were raised from seed. All of these veggies, planted across our front and back yards and the greenhouse and balconies, when combined with dried and canned pulses, grains, dairy (cheese and milk), homemade yoghurt, and eggs from our chickens, give us a healthy veggie diet. We still supplement with some purchased produce like potatoes, onions, garlic when I run out of homegrown, ginger, and other veg I can’t grow. At the height of the season we can easily live out of the garden for at least 6 weeks, not including all the pickles we put up, which last for months.

I could choose not to do this, of course, but a) it’s fun, and b) I have the space. Also, have you seen the price of a capsicum lately? I generally believe that growing your own veggies is not cheaper than buying produce, but I have to say I might be willing to reconsider that theory soon.

We are fortunate to have a lot of space that we can dedicate to a garden and chickens. If I had less space, I would focus on growing chillies, capsicum, eggplant, lettuce, and herbs in pots.

Of course, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to have veggies that are your gardening must haves! What are your ‘go to’ Spring and Summer veggies?

Weekend garden jobs, October 14 2023

Fernery, Sydney Botanic Gardens

We spent a few days in Sydney last week, in perfect weather. Aside from the usual things (Opera House, Harbour Bridge, ferry rides), we visited the Botanic Gardens, which had a beautiful rainforest section and a fernery.

The fernery was stunning. We learned a lot about how ferns reproduce, and the variety of ferns in Australia. I recommend a visit if you ever visit Sydney.

We also took a ferry ride to the ritzy suburb of Rose Bay. The reason we went there, aside from the fun ferry ride, was that it has a beautiful, bay with crystal clear water, and art deco buildings in pristine condition. It has streets lined with enormous trees – really gorgeous and worth the trip.

Greenhouse Jobs

I spent several hours rearranging my greenhouse this morning. My husband suggested making better use of the space by shifting some shelving to the centre of the greenhouse. This was a really smart idea, and it also gave me the opportunity to clear out some cobwebs, creeping oxalis that had wormed its way in, and sweep out the greenhouse. Once I did that, I moved a heap of pots around, moved the shelving racks to the centre, and then had the fun of potting up a lot of seedlings that were ready to move from the seed troughs.

Rearranged Greenhouse

Mulching and weeding

Due to the combo of warm, sunny weather last week followed by cool rainy weather this week, the weeds have come out in full force. I have spent quite a lot of time trawling around the garden, bucket in hand, pulling out weeds. These were much worse in the front yard than the back, where I do admit to spending more of my time. Some kind of grass has found its way into the front garden, probably blown in, and I have finally given it my attention. Fortunately it was easy to yank up, but it really was all over the place.

Another job I have put off in the front yard was mulching (the back yard veggie patch has been properly mulched for several weeks now, in anticipation of the warmer weather). In the backyard I use a straw mulch (lucerne or sugar cane), but in the front yard I use a cottage mulch because it is more attractive. I finally started it today, and realised I really underestimated how much mulch I needed for this job!

Mulberry answers?

As I mulched and weeded, I listened to Roots and Shoots, an ABC gardening podcast from Western Australia. I also listen to the local Talkback Gardening podcast from here in South Australia, but when I have finished these, I turn to Sabrina in WA. Someone called in asking how often to water a mulberry tree during Spring. My mulberry tree is a current bane of my garden (you should see our back neighbour’s tree – covered in ripening mulberries! Our tree – tiny green fruits!). Sabrina said mulberry trees should be watered twice a week in Spring and three times a week in Summer. I water about half as often as she recommended – this could be the answer to my mulberry tree woes. I immediately put the hose on the mulberry tree.

Quinces and plums

It’s not all woe in my garden though! The plum trees we planted last year have tiny plums, the lime tree is covered in tiny limes once more, (after an absolute bumper crop last year), the apricot tree is loaded, and the quince tree we just planted six weeks ago is covered in blossom!

Smyrna Quince in bloom

Some people would recommend trimming blossom off a newly planted tree to let it put all its energy into growth. I just let the tree do its thing. That may not be the right approach, but it’s what I do.

The apple trees are also both covered in blossom, and we are hoping for a good crop this year.

On the other hand, I had to dig up the ring-barked passionfruit, leaving just one sad passionfruit left of the five I planted two years ago. I have two tiny Red Flamenco passionfruit growing from seed, still alive in the greenhouse. If these don’t make it, I might wave a white flag on passionfruit. It feels almost unAustralian, saying that.

What to do in the garden with the time you have this week

If, like me, you have minimal time, here’s some suggestions for what to do with it:

If you have an hour

Plant some zucchini and pumpkins. The soil has warmed up now (although it’s cold in our area today) – push some zucchini, pumpkin, or squash seeds direct where you want them to grow and wait. They will pop their heads up soon! I’m finding all the extra spots in the garden to poke a few pumpkin seeds, including the front yard.

If you have 2-3 hours

Keep mulching. I don’t know about you, but mulching takes me a long time (I’m not as young as I used to be, and my yards are big). I spent a couple hours on it a few weeks ago, and a couple hours today. I’m still not done. I hope to have finished all the mulching by the end of October, before the really hot weather hits.

If you have 4-5 hours

Start planning for Christmas. When I look at my garden now, I’m thinking about how it will look in eight weeks’ time. We often host, and I like the garden to look nice. Do I want plants to be in flower? It’s going to be a hot Summer, so everything will be a bit droopy unless I make sure to mulch and water well now and in the future. What about colour? If I want to have a display of flowers by Christmas I need to start planning for that now.

(Gardening) regrets, I’ve had a few

I was out in the patch this morning moving the sprinkler, and I noted yet another lemon balm seedling.

If you have been gardening for a while, you will likely have made some mistakes. Some will be minor, some not so much. Here’s a few of mine.

Planting the wrong thing in the wrong place

Lemon balm, violets, oregano…these plants sound lovely. They are lovely. But in the wrong place, they are weedy little monsters. Even violets, which are one of my all-time favourite flowers. They were one of my grandmother’s favourites. They were Oscar Wilde’s favourite. Whenever I smell their gorgeous perfume, I think of my grandmother.

But. They grow like a weed in my back garden, to the extent that I pull them up constantly. I planted them as a ground cover, to fill in a space in my mini-meadow, not realising they would find a way to spread through the veggie patch as well.

Ditto lemon balm aka Melissa, which spreads even worse than mint, to which it is related. Every time I am in the veggie patch, I pull up a couple of lemon balm or violet seedlings. I often yank up whole plants of the damn stuff, and we still have it everywhere. I planted the lemon balm as a tea plant, and to be completely honest, we never use it.

Learn from my experience – check how invasive a plant is before you mindlessly plant it in your garden.


I love passionfruit. I love all passionfruit flavoured things, even that weird passionfruit chocolate that Cadbury just released, that my husband thinks is abominable. Love it. It’s supposed to be easy to grow, and yet I have planted five – yes FIVE – of the damn things since we moved to this property eight years ago, and still no joy. I am about to wave a white flag and put the final two out of their misery.

But have I learned my lesson?

I have not. I am currently raising more from seed in my greenhouse.

This time it will be different.

The lawn

Our lawn, or more properly, the weed patch, is one of the banes of our garden. We should have done something to properly treat the broad leaf weeds and clover that were already invading it when we moved in.

We did not.

We should have acted on our intention to solarise the entire lawn, remove it, and replant it with a herb lawn or even a new hardy lawn variety.

We did not.

Instead, my husband goes out every few weeks and dutifully mows the weed patch so it looks barely passable, and another year goes by with me regretting its existence.

The Mulberry tree

When we moved in, we had to remove a dangerous gum tree and a date palm planted right up to the footings of our house. We considered what to replace these trees with, and decided on an apricot tree and a black mulberry tree. I had memories of a friend’s mulberry tree from when I was a kid – it was huge and covered with juicy mulberries in the Summer. We had great fun climbing it – we would sit up in the tree and eat mulberries until our bellies ached. I thought my kids would love to climb it and pick mulberries.

Well, my kids are adults now, and the tree has barely produced more than a handful of dry, sour mulberries each season. It takes up a lot of space in our front yard, and I swear if it does not produce any fruit this year it will produce lovely warmth from our fireplace next Winter. I’ll replace it with a peach tree or something else useful.

What are your gardening regrets? Let me know in the comments!

What to do in the garden with the time you have this week

If you have one hour…check for critters.

I tend not to worry about critters in my garden much. Critters live in the garden and that is fine by me. However, there are some that love to destroy plants, and these are not really ok. Aphids and white fly are my current nemeses. I check my seedlings every couple of days for white fly and aphids, which are starting to ramp up now that the weather is warming up. If I find aphids on my seedlings, I gently scrape them off with my fingernail and give them a little squish. On plants like roses, you can hose them off. For white fly, I have yellow sticky traps in certain spots in my greenhouse. I’m hoping that this diligence will pay off and I won’t need to take more drastic measures later in the season.

If you have 2-3 hour…keep on weeding

This time of year is Goldilocks time for weeds – not too hot, not too cold. I spent a couple of hours this morning weeding. It’s not the most fun time in the garden, but it is very satisfying. My husband joined me, and we really made a difference out there in a short time.

For the rest of the week…water!

It’s going to be a warm week, so the first thing you should be doing is watering your plants – especially if you have plants in pots.

So, my main suggestion is that if you have any spare time, keep your plants alive! The weather will fluctuate between 20-30 degrees in Adelaide. Plants in pots dry out very quickly in warm weather, and once they do, it is hard for them to draw up water. Plants have the big roots we see when we plant them out, but they also have tiny, hairlike roots that can die off when the plant dries out. These roots are like our capillaries, drawing nutrition and water to the main roots – they are important to keeping plants healthy.

Take care of recently planted seeds and seedlings in particular – once they dry out, it can be difficult to recover them. If your little seedlings are wilted, it is past time to give them a drink. And if you are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse, you may need to water more often.

Of course, there is such a thing as overwatering as well! Check your plant soil with the tip of your finger. If your finger comes back dirty, the soil is damp and will be ok for now.

Planning for Spring + What to do in the garden with the time you have this week

I blinked and two thirds of 2023 whizzed by me. We are in the second week of August already and I honestly feel like 2023 just started.

I think that happens as you age, and are busy. Suddenly Spring is around the corner, and aside from ordering some seeds, I have done almost nothing to prepare for the Spring garden. So I spent this morning out in the garden, accompanied by some gorgeous helpers – my two daughters and my husband. It was so lovely to spend the morning outside as a family. My husband tackled the more physical jobs, as I am recovering from surgery, while the kids (adults, actually), helped with the more fun stuff – picking, planting, and watering.

Planting seeds

It’s late enough in the season to plant Spring and Summer seeds, if you have a warm spot to plant. Don’t plant into the garden yet – the soil is still too cold. But if you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse like I do, or a heat lamp, a heated seed mat (about $50 from Bunnos or the Diggers Club), or even a warm, sunny windowsill, you can start seeds now.

I used to use a heated seed mat, but now I raise seeds in the greenhouse. I have five raised troughs that I use to raise seedlings and to grow plants. Right now two are used to grow peas and lettuces, leaving three troughs free to raise seedlings.

Before I could plant new seeds, I had to move out the seedlings that were already growing: lettuces, tatsoi, kale, cornflowers, and spinach. I transferred some of these to little pots for my daughter to plant in her VegePod, and then the rest we planted out in the garden. These should grow quickly in the warmer days of late August/early September, and give us some fresh veggies during that ‘hungry gap’ before the Spring veggies are ready. While we were planting, we harvested a few veggies that were ready: peas, turnips, radishes, carrots, and some purple broccoli that was about to bolt (already!). My garden is at the stage where there is always something to pick, no matter the time of year.

My plan for the garden this year is to grow as many eggplant and chillies as I can, grow just a couple of my favourite tomatoes, a couple of good cucumbers, trial a different watermelon in the greenhouse, some beans, and lots of zucchini and pumpkins. I don’t have as much veggie growing space as I used to, as one side of the garden is now entirely devoted to seven fruit trees. I drop in some onions and other shallow rooted veggies in that space, but veggies do not feature heavily on that side of the garden. That means the veggie space has cut in half, and I have to rely more on pots and the greenhouse.

That is honestly fine, except I am expecting this Summer to be much hotter than last season. While I am looking forward to a hot Summer (I hate the cold!), I will also have to take care of plants in a poly hot house in very hot weather. The greenhouse has good ventilation, but I do expect that if it gets too hot in there, I will be moving plants out so they can survive.

With my Summer planting plan in mind, I had a couple of seeds I definitely wanted to plant today, then let my daughter choose the rest. We planted:

  • Passionfruit – Red Flamenco
  • Eggplant – Thai Purple Ball
  • Eggplant – White Egg (Japanese)
  • Eggplant – Red Ruffle
  • Chilli – Jalapeno
  • Chilli – Serrano
  • Chilli – Guntur
  • Tomatillo
  • Tomato – Green Zebra
  • Tomato – Mystery (that is, I saved the seed and forgot to label it!)

Looking forward to seeing these pop up over the next few weeks. Once they are large enough, I’ll pot them on, then plant the next round of seeds, which will include more eggplants, watermelons, cucumbers, and zucchini.

What to do in the garden this week

How much time do you have this week? If you are a part-time gardener like me, the answer may depend on your workload, caring responsibilities, and lifestyle. I love reading those lists that tell you what you need to do in the garden this week, but I note that most of them don’t take your time into account – so here’s a quick list to help you fit in some gardening tasks depending on how much time you really have (and if you don’t have any time – that’s OK. Your garden will survive!).

If you have…one hour

Give your houseplants some love.

In a tub of lukewarm (not hot) water, add a couple of drops of olive oil. Take some paper towel, scissors, and a jug of fresh water, and go around to all your houseplants. Using the paper towel, dipped in the water and olive oil and well squeezed out, wipe over the leaves of your plants to remove the dust that accumulates over time. You will be shocked at how much dust you can remove. The olive oil in the water helps to pull the dust off and gives the leaves a shine. A build up of dust on the leaves prevents the plants from photosynthesising properly, and slows their growth. Also, it just looks bad.

Using the scissors, trim off any dead or scrappy leaves, and as you move from plant to plant, use the jug of fresh water to give the plants a drink if they need it.

In about a month, it will be time to feed your houseplants – don’t worry about it now, as they will be dormant and not interested in taking up any food you give them. I use slow release prills or an organic fertiliser spray for houseplants, that is sprayed directly into the soil.

In early Spring I will also check out which plants need repotting. I can already tell from Saturday’s houseplant clean and watering, that my Fiddle Leaf Fig needs to be repotted. The soil is becoming hydrophobic and the plant is outgrowing the pot. But that job can wait until I have more time.

If you have…two or three hours

Start some seeds for your Spring garden.

Whether you are a flower gardener or a veggie gardener (or like me, a bit of both), you can easily plant up some seeds for your Spring garden in a couple of hours or less. Use recycled pots or seed trays, good quality seed-raising mix (I personally think the Yates speciality seed-raising mix is the best I have used, but Seasol is good as well), and labels (I use bamboo labels that are biodegradable – but you can make your own).

All your Summer veggie seeds can be started now – think tomatoes, eggplant, chillies, capsicum (peppers), etc. Spring flowers can also be started now. I recently planted cornflowers, but you can also start Cosmos, Scabiosa, Sunflowers, Forget-Me-Nots, and flowering herbs such as Calendula, Borage, or Nigella (also called Love-In-A-Mist).

Once planted, keep them damp (not wet), and keep your eyes open for them to pop their heads up.

If you have…four to five hours

Trim back woody herbs and weed, weed, weed!

This is the time of year that weeds go crazy. In our area, the weed that is everywhere is the dreaded sour sob (oxalis), but many grasses spread to unwanted areas as well. If you don’t keep on top of them, you can find weeds spread very quickly. While some gardeners are happy to use weedicides, I don‘t, which means many hours of hand-weeding.

Now is also the time of year to trim back woody herbs. As I have mentioned before, trimming back woody herbs and perennials is a time consuming task that I have been slowly doing over the past six weeks (I have a big yard). We are almost there, but I estimate another weekend of this task. I hate doing it, but I am always happy I did it in mid-Spring when all the woody herbs put on new growth and a gorgeous display of flowers.

Weekend garden jobs, 2 July 2023

It was a sunny-ish day today, so I made a plan to spend it outside in the garden with my husband. He committed to finishing the pruning and to cutting back the giant rosemary bush under the apricot tree. It was so big, it was almost as tall as the tree! He cut it back hard, by two thirds. Most of it went in the green bin, but a bunch is hanging in the kitchen to dry.


I turned the compost bins, a job long overdue. The photo below shows the pile before turning. The layers of compost show the different stages of breaking down over the past few months: at the top is the ‘freshest’ additions to the bin, and as you can see at the bottom is the final product. In the middle there is a mix of compost ready to go out onto the garden, and some that needed to go back in the bin to break down further. The compost is created from a mix of chicken litter, manure, kitchen scraps, yard waste, old potting mix, and sometimes some pigeon manure from my neighbour’s aviary. From this single bin, I pulled about ten 10-litre buckets of compost.

Turning compost bins is a physically demanding but important task. It aerates the compost, which helps it to break down more quickly. As the compost is turned, you can dig out some of the ready compost and make space to add fresh content. And it helps you to learn more about what compost should look, feel, and smell like. If, when turning the compost, it seems a little dry, you can add some more greens (leafy plants or kitchen scraps). If it seems a bit too wet or smells bad (compost should not smell unpleasant), you will know to add some leaves or straw.

It’s a job I don’t mind, but because it is time-consuming and physically taxing, I have to find the time to do it. Once I have started, I get into it, especially when I pull out buckets of fresh compost to put around my fruit trees.

Planting seeds for early Spring

It’s still mid-Winter, and although still cold and wet, I have some space in my garden and in my greenhouse. I planted out some late Winter/early Spring veggies in my seed-starting trays in the greenhouse. My goal is to fill in the ‘hungry gap’ between late Spring and Summer, when we are waiting for those veggies like eggplant and capsicum to come on. I planted coriander, silverbeet (chard), spinach, more lettuce, tatsoi, and kale. In the light and warmth of the greenhouse, they should pop up quickly.

While I was in there, I potted up the Sawtooth Banksia seedlings that I have been nurturing since our trip to Tasmania in February. It’s been a long, slow task to grow these from seed, but they were finally large enough to put into little pots. I have successfully propagated four seedlings and I am so excited to see how well they grow in our climate.

Sawtooth Banksia seedling

The rest of the day was spent continuing the somewhat dull but necessary task of cutting back the old mint and oregano stalks in the front garden. I still have a couple of hours of this job to do next week, then it is done for the season. Combined with the pruning we have done, we have almost finished the seasonal tidying up and can look forward to a lovely Spring garden. The jonquils and daffodils are already up – I can feel the season turning just around the corner.

Planning for Spring

We have been hibernating around here. The icy blast that has hit our part of Australia has kept us indoors, working, or doing other indoorsy things, like sitting by the fire reading, watching movies, or on some days, making jam and pickles. We had a big crop of limes, so I have made marmalade, lime curd, and two types of spicy lime pickles. What I have not done is venture outside to the garden. It’s just been too cold and too wet.

This weekend though, after seeing we were in for yet another weekend of rain, I finally cracked. I missed being outside, and I know my garden really needed some love. So I carefully checked the 48-hour forecast for Saturday, and found a window of about three hours with no rain. So out I went.

Three hours is not a lot of time in a garden that has been neglected for weeks. Even in the middle of Winter, the garden keeps on growing. So I decided to be very judicious with my time. I grabbed the hedge trimmers and secateurs, and set myself a couple of simple tasks trimming a lavender bush, cutting down as much of the dead mint stalks as I could manage, and if I had the time, pruning a rose bush and a salvia. I felt these were achievable tasks in my three hours.

My husband was a bit reluctant to come outside, but after a coffee and a bagel he decided to join as well, to prune and train the apple trees on the espalier frames.

Trimming back the mint stalks

Before trimming back

Every year, the mint and oregano in the front yard looks lush and full in the late Spring and Summer, with lovely mauve flower spikes. By Autumn, they start to look straggly. And by this time of the year, they look bloody awful. Trimming them back is boring, time consuming, a bit painful on the old joints, but necessary. If I don’t cut back the old flower stalks, it will limit the growth of the fresh Spring plants. Plus, they just look yuck. I know I have left it a bit late, but it has been so cold…and waaaahhhh. It’s one of those jobs I just hold off doing because it’s not fun. To start with, I used my electric hedge trimmers, but someone (cough – husband – cough) took them off the charger and they ran out of charge very quickly. So ended up using the old manual trimmers that only run out of charge when I do.

The results are pretty impressive:

After trimming back

Underneath that leaf litter are new mint and oregano plants that will spring up in a couple of weeks.

Arguably I could have saved myself all this trouble if I did not plant mint in my garden in the first place. Most garden experts advise to plant mint in a pot, because it has the tendency to spread everywhere. That is true. It’s equally true of oregano, lemon balm, lamb’s ear, violets, and even calendula, parsley and lavender, all of which spread or self-seed prolifically in my garden. However, I don’t mind the mint where it is. It is great ground cover, and stops other unwanted weeds spreading. It smells beautiful, and unlike some other ground covers, is non-toxic and edible. I wouldn’t plant it in my veggie patch, but in my front garden, under the pomegranate tree, it’s fine.

Cutting back the salvia

I’m slowly replacing most of the lavender in my garden with salvias. I prefer the different varieties of salvia, their drought tolerance, and I have found to my frustration that lavender self-seeds like crazy in my garden. I’m always pulling out baby lavender plants.

Salvias come in many varieties, are drought and heat tolerant, and I think they are beautiful. Some of the new plants are still establishing so do not need to be cut back yet, but I have some older plants that have grown enormous over the past six months. The lipstick salvia (bright red heart shaped flowers) has tripled in size this year, and was impinging on the space of other plants.

To cut back a salvia, follow the canes back to the base and cut off with sharp secateurs. I just shaped the bush to the size and shape I wanted – cutting back by about half. That tidied it up and made space for the other plants nearby. I also found one of the canes had rooted – I pulled that one out and put it in some water to plant elsewhere in the garden.

Planning the Summer Veggie Patch

One of my favourite seed companies (Happy Valley Seeds) had a snap EOFY sale this weekend, so I took it as an opportunity to buy my seeds for Summer. I thought about what I really wanted to plant this season, and the answer was: chillies, zucchini, beans, and eggplants.

The varieties I bought are:

  • Eggplant – Tsakoniki
  • Eggplant – Thai Purple Ball – I love these little globe eggplants
  • Eggplant – White egg
  • Eggplant – Turkish Orange
  • Eggplant – Red Ruffle
  • Zucchini – Rondo De Nice – a globe shaped zucchini
  • Climbing Beans – Kentucky Wonder Wax
  • Squash – Scallop Bennings Green Tint

Last season’s eggplant crop was a bit of a bust, but the long range weather forecast is for an early Spring and a hot Summer. That’s eggplant and chilli territory, baby. So I stocked up on five types of eggplants, some chillies, extra zucchini and squash, and some more climbing beans. I still have seeds from last year, but I used up all the eggplant seeds from last year. My plan is to start everything in the greenhouse in late August, and as Spring is starting early, plant out in September.

Bring on the eggplants! Hey, some people get excited about Christmas, I get excited about eggplant. Each to their own.

I also bought some watermelon seeds (the cycle of self-inflicted pain continues) – a mini yellow variety, and some red passionfruit seeds (Red Flamenco). The Red Panama passionfruit I planted a few years ago turned up its toes – I want to try growing another red passionfruit from seed to replace it.

FYI, the online sale at Happy Valley Seeds is on until 30 June – 25% off store wide. I don’t get paid to endorse them, I just think they have a good variety of heirloom seeds at a fair price.

Weekend garden jobs, March 12th & 13th 2023

It’s a lovely long weekend, with perfect clear skies and cool, but sunny weather. I spent a day and a half in the garden – and there was a lot to do!

It’s the end of Summer and many of the seasonal plants are finished for the year. Eggplant, okra, capsicum, and chillies are still going strong, but it was not a great season for tomatoes in my garden, so I pulled almost all of them out.


Okra is my little experiment for the season – I tried and failed to germinate it twice in two different spots in my garden before it finally grew. It has slowly started to fruit, probably quite late in the season, but I am letting it continue for as long as I can. Yesterday I picked two – yep, two – whole pods. I sliced them up, washed them and dried them to reduce some of the famous okra sliminess, and threw them into a curry, where they dissolved into nothingness – so I cannot tell you how they tasted. I’m hoping for some more before the warm weather disappears completely.

I picked the rest of the green tomatoes off the bushes, with a plan to make green tomato pickle. As I did not want to go shopping for additional ingredients, I tried this recipe, which is for refrigerator pickles using green tomatoes instead of cucumbers. I played around with the recipe a bit, subbing sliced onion for the fennel bulb, adding some sliced green jalapeno (because, yum), and using whole coriander seeds instead of the fennel, because that’s what I had on hand. I ended up with four jars of green tomato pickles for use on burgers and sandwiches. If the tomatoes do not taste delicious, I have not wasted much except a bit of vinegar and my time, but if they are good I will have preserved fruit that would have gone to waste. I’ll let them mature for a couple of days, then will report back on the flavour.

Green Tomato Pickles

After pulling the zucchini and tomatoes out, I dug over the beds and spread some dynamic lifter over the soil. I raked the soil to a lovely, crumbly fine tilth, ready for planting Autumn veggies – some of which I am already raising in the greenhouse, and some to be sowed directly in the garden.

Now is a great time to sow Autumn and Winter veggies. The soil is still nice and warm, and the days are sunny and bright. Seeds will pop up quickly and have a great headstart before the cold weather really sets in. This weekend I directly sowed beetroot, radishes (Watermelon and French Breakfast), carrots (Purple Dragon), and peas (Telephone). I love to grow peas, but my success rate is so-so. I have two varieties to grow this year: a dwarf variety I bought in Tasmania (Keveldon Wonder) and Telephone, which is a climber. I think my success rate is low because I plant them too late. Hoping this year to fix that by planting much earlier.

Greenhouse Adventures

In the greenhouse, I’m still growing a range of Summer veggies, including capsicums (sweet peppers), cucumbers, chillies, beans, eggplant, and a solitary watermelon.


Capsicum have been the standout crop this season. I have never had much success with them, so it’s exciting to grow so many. However, aphids and whitefly are a problem. I had to pull out five chilli bushes as I was not able to get on top of the bugs. I think they enjoy the humidity and warmth of the greenhouse. I’ve been using eco oil and pyrethrum, but in the heat and bright light of the greenhouse, these tend to burn the plants. If any readers have another suggestion, I’d be glad to hear it.

Cucumber in the greenhouse

My real joy though is the cucumbers – while I do not have many of them, the fact I have any at all is a matter of great pride. Every year I try to grow cucumbers, and at the end of the season, I vow: ‘never again!’ Then along comes the Spring, and somehow I find I have ordered cucumber seeds once again. The secret, for me at least, is to grow in a greenhouse (honestly, not such a secret – that is how they are grown for market).

I have planted seeds for the Autumn brassicas and leafy greens in the greenhouse planters, and they have popped up very quickly in the warm environment. My goal this year is to grow as many cauliflowers, broccoli, and cabbages as I can. I also planted kale, lettuce, onions, and bok choy.

Brassica seedlings

Planting Native Seeds


The last seeds I planted were some natives I bought in Tasmania: Sawtooth Banksia, and King Billy Pine. This is my first foray into growing natives. When we were hiking in Tasmania, we saw both these plants growing in the wild: the Banksia beside Dove Lake in Cradle Mountain National Park, where it grew to an impressive size, and King Billy pine, both in the rainforest area of the Cradle Mountain National Park, and in a smaller version at the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Garden. In the national park, it was an enormous, awe inspiring, tree of magnificent proportions. Of course, I don’t expect to grow a tree of that size: my goal is to grow a version for a pot. How well it will grow in South Australian conditions, I don’t know.

The two plants require vastly different germination environments. King Billy must be chilled in order to successfully germinate. I planted it in seed-raising mix in a container, covered it in plastic wrap, and placed it in my fridge. I’ll leave it there for two weeks before removing it and placing it in a sheltered position to finish the germination process. The Banksia is much simpler: place in a container of seed-raising mix, and keep damp, away from full sun.

A Virtual Tour of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

Bumblebee on hydrangea

We have been fortunate to tale a trip around stunning Tasmania this past week, with the past few days based in Hobart. After a day spent at Salamanca Markets, and another at the Museum of Old and New Art, we walked to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Set on 14 hectares close to the centre of Hobart, the Gardens are one of the oldest botanical gardens in the Southern hemisphere (established in 1818). Our State was colonised in 1836, so the gardens are older than colonial settlement in our part of Australia. And it is obvious, just by the size of the trees. South Australia has some lovely trees, but they are teeny tiny compared to Tasmanian trees in the gardens, and even more so in the wild. I had heard the phrase ‘old growth forests,’ but I did not really understand the reality of it until coming to Tasmania. Trees here are giants. The RTBG has oak trees that could shelter the Merry Men. We have seen even larger trees since our visit to the botanical garden, but that was my first experience of really large trees.

Rose Arch – Pierre de Ronsard

My travelling companions took many photos (I’m not much of a photographer), which has allowed me to create this little virtual tour.

On arrival at the gardens, we were greeted at the gate by a friendly person who asked us our interests, handed us a map, and pointed us in the right direction. As our first goal was “COFFEE!”, she directed us to the cafe, and we stumbled forth. The cafe overlooks the water, so we sat for a while looking at the water and feeling very civilised before heading out on our garden walk.

Tasmanian Community Food Garden

Giant snowball pumpkin – you can’t tell from this photo, but it was about the size of a beach ball!

Once it was a working farm, then Pete Cundall established Pete’s Patch in this space, then it became the Tasmanian Community Food Garden, an organic community garden cared for by volunteers and community members. It produces four tonnes of fresh organic produce annually. On our visit, pumpkins, apples, tomatoes, pears, and herbs were growing in abundance.

I was happy to note that many of my own practices were also in evidence here. I did pick up some tips though: plant borage and calendula in among the pumpkins to encourage pollination. There were dozens of ripening pumpkins in the various pumpkin patches, so it clearly works.

Cinderella Pumpkins in the Community Food Garden

My husband took careful note of their technique for espaliering pears. We have multiple espaliered young fruit trees in our backyard but are always looking for more advice. The pear trees in this garden were beautiful, and covered with pears.

Much cooler is an apple tree arch. I wish I had space to recreate that in my garden.

Apple tree arch

I noted that the traditional ‘Summer’ crops that would be in full fruit in warmer States, such as chillies, zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplant, were not much in evidence here. There were a few healthy tomatoes and capsicum plants, but they already had brussels sprouts in the ground – we would not be planting these in SA for at least six weeks, and in my area probably not at all.

Japanese Garden

South Australia has a small but lovely Japanese Garden in the city. The RTBG Japanese Garden is about three times as large. It is beautiful, very tranquil, with many little hiding nooks for quiet contemplation. After a busy few days, I enjoyed finding a quiet spot to sit for 15 minutes.

Tasmanian Native Garden

Lemon Beautyheads

The Native Garden was quite large and clearly well-designed and considered. This was my favourite section of the RTBG, because it was so well-thought out, and I did not recognise many of the plants. Each plant was accompanied by a description of its traditional and medicinal uses.



Exterior of the Conservatory

If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know I have a fascination with greenhouses. The RTBG has a gorgeous stone and glass conservatory, that houses a fountain and hothouse plants that would struggle to grow outside in Hobart’s cool temperate climate.


The stone fountain was so relaxing it inspired me to consider adding a water feature to my garden. This is something I have avoided for many years, due to the maintenance. However, I think a solar powered water feature in the patio or greenhouse might be worth considering.

Interior of RTBG Conservatory

Of course, my greenhouse has been set aside for productive plants, while this Conservatory is decorative. I still found it inspirational. You can see a variegated ficus in the foreground of this photograph – beautiful! I’m going to search for one when I get home.

Heritage Cottage

The Heritage Cottage was the first building constructed in the gardens, and was originally a dwelling. Now it is a little museum showcasing some early botanical drawings and horticultural equipment, like an early terrarium design (see below).

Early Terrarium

My youngest and I both love botanical drawings and paintings, so we loved looking at the early colonial botanical drawings.

Statue outside Heritage Cottage

The Tasmanian Royal Botanical Gardens were my favourite place to visit in Hobart so far (we are going back to Hobart for a few more days). We spent most of the day there. If I lived in Tassie, I would visit regularly. If you are ever in Hobart, I recommend a trip – it is a beautiful, relaxing, and inspirational garden.

Gardening jobs, Christmas and New Year 2022

Happy New Year!

It’s finally really lovely and warm in our parts. I have had lots of jobs to do to keep the garden alive and well, including watering the containers and raised bed daily, and keeping the watering up across the whole garden. I don’t mind this, but it is a job of work.

Fortunately, I’m on a break for the Christmas/New Year period. This is my first proper break in over a year. I am taking full advantage, getting out to the garden every day.

Garden progress

The long, cool, and wet Spring stalled the progress of eggplant, zucchini, chillies, and tomatoes, which would normally be in full fruit by now. One of the cherry tomatoes I grew from seed, a variety bred for pots called Window Box, is the only one that has fruit so far. It is a dwarf breed, unusual for a cherry tomato, and has a lot of flowers and clusters of fruit already. Apparently the fruit is yellow. I’m looking forward to tasting the fruit. I have found that some of the new breeds of cherry tomatoes do not taste great (last year’s Blueberry cherry tomato was, in my opinion, yuck). I hope Window Box is tasty, because I have about six plants. All the other tomato plants have put on good growth and have started to flower, but no fruit yet.

As for my dreams of expansive eggplant crops, it’s not looking great. I’m thankful for the greenhouse, which will allow me to grow eggplant well into Autumn. I have planted another punnet of eggplants, as well as more seeds, with plans for a long season of eggplants in the greenhouse. Fingers crossed!


Speaking of the greenhouse, it’s coming along nicely. For the first time EVER, I have planted eight watermelon seeds, and have germinated eight watermelon plants. These were a gift in a seed swap from a friend (an heirloom variety called Moon and Stars). Watermelons, along with cucumbers, are my Achilles heel, so if I can even grow one watermelon from this lot I will be very proud of myself.

The watermelons were exciting to watch. In the morning I found one had popped up from the warm soil. About an hour later, my niece found another poking its head up. By the afternoon, all eight had germinated and were stretching their leaves to the sky! How fun gardening is!

I also have cucumbers popping up, more eggplants, and basil. This greenhouse is so much fun.

Chillies Galore

At last year’s Chilli Festival I bought some chilli plants (a Devil’s Tongue, and a Four-in-one pot of a Mango chilli, a Lemon chilli, an Ajo, and a Curly Toenail). While I was not a fan of the Mango chilli, all the rest were great (the Devil’s Tongue is an old family favourite – very hot with a delicious flavour, and prolific). Following the advice of the stall holder, at the end of the season I cut them back by 50% and let them over winter. A couple of the four-in-one did not make it, but two did (I won’t know which until they set fruit). Over Spring the others put their leaves back on and have now started flowering happily. I’m looking forward to full crops of the others.

I also raised quite a few other chilli plants from seed, including Serrano, Gunter, Jalapeño, and Chocolate chilli. These are still quite small, but I’m hoping for a good crop. We eat chilli most days, and appreciate the flavour profiles of the different chillies, so growing many varieties is worth the time and effort for us.

The orchard

Mulberry tree

The apricot and mulberry trees are ready to harvest, and we are watching them like hawks – and so are the parrots! We have the biggest apricot crop we have ever had. The tree is too large to net, and I don’t like to do that anyway – I don’t mind the birds having some of them. But if we want to save any for ourselves, we have to pick as soon as they blush – so we check daily. We go out early in the morning and pick as many as are tinged orange, then wait for 24 hours to check again. We leave them to ripen on the kitchen bench.

Mulberries are kind of a pain to harvest. They ripen a few at a time, I think because our tree is still relatively young. We pick a couple a day, then wait for the next lot to ripen. The tree itself is beautiful, so I would not consider removing it (yet), but it has not lived up to my mulberry jam dreams.

We have a big crop of passionfruit and pomegranates coming on, but they are way off yet – at least a couple of months.

Cleaning up and potting up

A big and boring part of the past couple of weeks has just been cleaning up. I dug out the raspberry canes that have not done a damn thing over the past two years, and pulled out more bits of Audrey II, the boysenberry plant, that continues to make her presence felt (even though I dug the main part out months ago). I suggest to you that if you want to grow berries, set aside a bed that is completely separate from any other part of your garden, let them go, and don’t grow anything thorny!

At this time of the year, many of the Spring flowering annuals and herbs have flowered and are starting to set seed. They are generally looking tired and ratty. I have been clearing out all of the dead sweet peas, nasturtiums, parsley plants, and anything else looking old, dead, or tired. It’s taking quite some time and filling up my green bin quickly. To fill in the gaps I have sprinkled fast growing annual seeds like Cosmos, or planted quick growing annual colour, like Petunias. In about six weeks, I’ll start planting Spring flowering bulbs.

I’ve also repotted some sad looking houseplants, including an Umbrella plant that was miserable. I’ve had it for two years, and it started dropping leaves. When I repotted it, I found it had sported two babies. So for my repotting efforts, I have three plants now instead of one. I also repotted my beautiful Spotted Begonia, moving her up to a larger pot. She is much happier now, and I removed one of her leaves to strike into a new plant. Begonias strike easily in water, and are very easy to grow in the right conditions. I have two now (one struck from the mother plant), and they flower profusely with very little attention from me.