Springtime for the kitchen gardener is the most hectic time of the year, and particularly so here in southern Australia where Spring and the approach of Christmas coincide to muddle social pressures into the life of the harried gardener. ‘Spring-cleaning’ makes sense in the cook’s particularly European tradition, where sunshine and warmer weather bring on a frenzy of activity in the house, and things that have lain dormant inside get kicked outside into a warmer clime to make way for the new.
My one relief from all this activity is to rise early before the cook is astir, and to sit outside overlooking the garden each morning to watch the dawn chorus. Dawn is the busiest time of the day for all those small birds foraging through the kitchen garden in front of me, and the changing patterns of the clouds in the sky over the garden never fail to bring me some peace.
It sticks in my eye with all the irritation of a burr under a horse’s saddle, and I’ve finally been forced to dispose of it.
So I’ve turned it into a growing frame for my wife’s favourite cucumbers, located as near to the kitchen door as I can get it! True, it looks a bit junk-yardish at the moment, but in a few months time it will be covered in a a wall of cucumbers, and our summer salads will be blessed by the cook’s smile…
Other useful things salvaged from this bed-base include the felt underlay – perfect for starting carrot seeds – and swatches of cotton waste from the corners; I leave these lying around for the birds to find as they hunt for nest-building material. Only the synthetic covering goes out in the rubbish.
While vegetable gardens lack the floral elegance of more formal cottage gardens, vegetables flower also – especially in a seed-saver’s garden - and many of these small flowers are irresistible to birds and bees, such as those of the broccoli and lettuces to be seen in bloom below.
And all those wonderful garlic plants in the foreground? It was only six months ago that they were bulbs, planted out into the cooling soil of mid-autumn, and now finishing up to add flavour to the cook’s welcome meals for months to come…
Clockwise from top-left: Flowers of Italian parsley, purple-sprouting broccoli, bitter lettuce and chives.