Tuesday, 4 August 2009


Many visitors to the garden at Sunnybrae this month might think we have giant rabbits or badgers digging holes and making piles of dirt all over the garden. City slickers with minimalist gardens will also feel a little uneasy by the seemingly disordered state of the vegetable garden. But for us this is pay-dirt month, the month when all the organic waste from the kitchen from the previous year is revealed as compost. We don’t have an elaborate system for making compost but simply make a couple of large heaps with all the garden and kitchen organic wastes mixed with some mulch, straw, and sheep manure. We turn it over once a year and the result is about 30 cubic metres of what is priceless to us, well rotted compost. This is distributed all over the garden during winter in preparation for new plantings.
There has been a lot of chatter about the nutritional virtues of organic food in all the different forms of the media this month. A study by a British Standards authority was picked up by a news editor [or 30] and became a global story bringing out all the usual arguments about organic versus genetic versus conventional food production. We do organic because it’s easier. There is very little disease or pests in our garden as long as the plants are weeded and do not suffer from a lack of water. I am reluctant to use any heavy duty chemicals. I’m not saying its better or more nutritious but I do think food tastes better when tended with care and harvested at the right time.
Our cooking is also based on minimal interference with the natural flavours of our ingredients. I can’t see the point of de-hydrating something only to sprinkle it on to a liquid to create a surprising sensation in the palate of an unsuspecting diner. But that’s another story. I purchase some organic, some conventional and some imported produce that is not available here. The descision is not political but seasonable and what I think is reasonable. Too much psychobabble is published to preach and sell a position. We are in the country on fertile land and do what we can to get the most out of our situation.
Ten years ago the limits to what we could grow were tempered by the amount of time we could afford to spend on the garden as we had 4 good dams always full and overflowing in the middle of winter. Now we have the same 4 dams at less than 20% capacity. So planting is now based on how much water we can use.
This is the game plan for 2009-10.
Garlic lots more than last year. This will keep the beds tidy for a decision about how much summer produce can be planted after it’s picked.
Tomatoes about 200 plants. This is where most of the water will go.
Artichokes built up from new cuttings into 3 large beds. This has taken 3 years to achieve by taking the suckers from the pants and dividing them. We have a variety that is pure heart.
A new herb garden to include summer savoury as well as all the usual suspects.
An emphasis on melons this year with Ogden and Charentais to feature.
Re-establish the lost Physalis beds that include Cape gooseberry and ground cherries.
More edible succulents and hardy salad greens.
A new bed for table grapes.
And plant out whatever self seeds like the tomatillos.
The fruit trees that really suffered last year have had about 2 truckloads of mulch from across the road, when they thinned out some scraggy trees in their plantation,spread around them. The olives have been trimmed.
The asparagus will soon come into life. We can see buds on some of the trees.
Spring is nearly upon us.


Thermomixer said...

Hard to believe it's nearly spring again! Great to hear that you are expanding the garden (due to demand I guess). Some dehydrating is good, but maybe not little piles of "sand" on the edge of the plate.

Ed said...

I dream of large piles of compost like that but make do with a worm farm and some bucket thing. I took your advice on garlic and planted on the shortest day and they are all doing very nicely now. Looking forward to coming up again soon.

Ran said...

my garlic is doing well too - or so it seems (have never tried it before). At the moment i am crazily suffering from too much rain. BUT i have put in some asparagus crowns, started my potato bed and some artichoke and rhubarb.

The edible succulent we took a cutting of when we visited you in April/ May is doing really well George. in fact a little too well, so we are containing them in pots at the moment

we will have to come see you during asparagus season, would love to see them all growing