Kitchen gardeners on small backyard plots – just like farmers on thousands of acres of land – wait avidly for the ‘break in the season’ in southern Australia; the first decent rainfall that heralds the start of the winter rains, and that breaks the long stranglehold of drought that increasingly marks the Australian summer. The last rains of any value ended back in September 2012, and the summer crops have been totally dependent upon town water for survival.
Over on the seed table, lettuce, beetroot, spinach, rainbow chard, strawberries, celery and celeriac seedlings have been grown though from the last heat of summer, ready for this occasion. Early autumn crops have been flourishing in the beds behind them – broccoli, kohlrabi, lettuce, bush beans and Asian vegetables. Various cabbages, peas, parsnips, carrots and shallots have been planted elsewhere. Broad beans wait in the seed tins in the shed. I’ve stocked up on 10 kg of five varieties of heritage garlic cloves; when these sprout green shoots, they will replace the pumpkins in the pumpkin patch, expected to be harvested in the next few weeks.
The real work ahead is in pruning the fruit trees and clearing the ‘dry beds’; garden plots left to go to seed for seed collection but pretty much left out of the summer irrigation cycles for lack of water. They’ve been awaiting the break of the season to wet them up ready to receive those lettuce and spinach seedlings currently down on the seed tables. They will supply our winter salads for the coming cooler months.
And the carrot seeds planted a fortnight ago?
Covers have been removed, and there they are – hundreds of carrot seedlings, just in time to greet the first of the winter rains and waiting to be thinned and given a chance to grow to full size over the coming winter.