Self-sufficiency in a kitchen garden: Part 4

Why this series?

One thing that gardening bequeaths upon the gardener is the sense of the passing of the seasons. While other outdoor jobs may well confer the same benefits, it is the short cycle of a vegetable's life that makes the gardener more conscious than most of the passage of time.


Tip #16: Each new season gives you a chance to correct the mistakes you made last year.

I read somewhere that ‘errors aren’t mistakes until you refuse to correct them’. So fiddle about until you get it right. You can easily clock up experience on twenty or more generations of annual vegetables such as cabbages or capsicums.


Tip #17: Perennials may be slow growing, but they require less work.

P1010902Fruit trees are the natural adjunct to vegetables and herbs in a productive garden. If room is limited, learn to espalier them along walls or fence lines. Once established, they deliver nutritious and tasty treats on an annual basis without the hassle of replanting new crops each season.

P1010885Tip #18: Keep things fun – gardens can provide stress-relief.

Gardens can provide plenty of stress too; there is a certain inexorable pressure to foster and nurture in a garden that never goes away.

Unlike knitting or reading books, you cannot simply lay a garden aside until you feel like dabbling once again.

I suspect such pressures do go away in colder climates than ours, when winter shuts down the garden and gardeners get to hang up their hoes. Around here though, winter crops follow summer crops like night follows day; we garden all year round. So

P1020135Tip #19: Plant some interesting and unusual plants for your own enjoyment.

I’ve got coffee bushes, Manzana and Christmas Bell chillies, Golden Sunrise tomatoes, Triamble pumpkins and Lazy Wife beans, Purple Congo potatoes, asparagus and avocadoes, as well as all the common stuff. Massed displays of sunflowers feed the chooks and delight the eye simultaneously.


Tip #20: Give your friends gifts from the garden, not from the shops.

P1010681Any chance you get to claw back the high costs of water, mulch and seedlings is a step closer to self-sufficiency, saving your cash for other things.

Besides, who can resist an unusual gift of fresh fruit, brown eggs, piquant herbs, colourful flowers, home-made tomato sauce and crisp vegetables?

Remember, lots of folk cook but very few folk grow the ingredients. A gift from the garden is likely to be welcome in most homes.


Late summer harvest

Feb 28th is the last day of the Australian summer, so the demands of harvest must interrupt my dissertation on self-sufficiency as I help the cook process the burgeoning tomato crop.

P1060770There is always a hiatus in the garden at this time of year, as heat and lethargy combine to drag our footsteps as we wait for the first rains of autumn to kick-start the soil and the planting of autumn and winter crops. Sheer weariness has set in, as it always does, as we keep water up to growing plants to bring them through to harvest.

But some things are – magically – blooming, especially the sunflower crop, which is a delight to the eye and a feast for the bees. These ‘Multi-Flora’ sunflowers – with many blooms on the same stem - also make wonderful gifts for visitors and birthday celebrations.

P1060760Fresh basil, red onions and ripe tomatoes combine in tomato salads to offset the on-going cost of water. Lettuce and avocado also combine in green salads, green beans are a common side dish, and late asparagus shoots still pop up to delight the questing cook.

This year our crop of ’Golden Sunrise’ tomatoes is prolific. P1060769This is a variety that was rare enough when I obtained the first seeds from a fellow gardener more than a decade ago. Now they have disappeared altogether from the seed catalogues, and I rejoice that they are still to be found in my garden. Their small 2.5 cm (1”) fruit are low in acidity and less prone to the viral diseases that plague their larger and redder brethren. I pick out the best fruit and carefully scrape out the seeds to carry on their line into future generations.