Winter is upon us in southern Australia, yet there is no let-up in the effort required in the garden. If anything, pressures are building back up again as I try to make space for onions, beetroot and spring flowers (still in the seed trays) while trying to keep the rain-fed chaos of self-seeded pathways under control.
Adding some winter colour to the verdant green of the overflowing beds, my chilli collection is starting to ripen and will be used to refresh my seed collection as they mature.
And what are the names of all these chillies? Sadly, I forget. Some are spherical, some are small pointy multi-coloured ones with an upright characteristic, others are deep purple and some are the regular long skinny droopy ones alongside a different variety having a bell-lantern shape.
There is beauty in vegetable gardens if one looks closely.
Among the rogue salad collection are the Italian bitter lettuces that I know I grew on purpose, didn’t eat much of, but then let the plants go naturally to seed because of their pretty blue flowers, so unlike the thistle-type flowers of all other lettuces.
In the orchard, one of the peach trees is still suffering from the after-effects of the massive 2013 peach harvest and is now under attack from bracket fungi where limbs had to be removed and the bark on the main trunk started to split.
The tomato crops and their bamboo frames have had to be pulled out to make way for the onions. All the old mulch and new weeds have had to be hoed out and thrown onto the pathways for natural composting. This soil and weed mix will soon be covered with new barley straw to over-winter and break down under the scratching of the hens and the softening effects of the winter rains. This ‘path composting’ process will deliver soft mulch and fresh organic matter to garden soil as it accumulates year after year.
All the necessary hoeing turns up plenty of earthworms; the chooks follow my work closely and enjoy the fresh protein. Every meter or so I turn up some soil-borne grubs that I believe (without any evidence) to be ‘mole cricket larvae’; these are a special delicacy to the hens. I pick them out of the trenches and throw them in front of the flock where they are snatched up.
Ah well, that’s my fun for the day. Now its back to planting out all those onions…