I’m a vegie garden person. I love all sorts of fruiting trees and trees in general and while I am an absolute sucker for any plant nursery, things that can be eaten are my absolute favourite, well that’s my excuse for throwing good money after bad at any nursery I walk into.
People say grow your own vegies, so you know where they come from and the chemical use etcetera, etcetera. Personally I think the need to have a garden is more basic and primitive than that. It is the simple need to use the soil, nurture and grow and consume it. I get a real kick from going into the vegie garden picking something and simply eating it then and there. It’s nice to be able to eat dinner and say I grew the pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, as we tend eat the majority of our own beef at times some meals are nearly 100% home grown.
I’m fortunate to be in a position where I have the space and resources to have a larger than most suburban house block vegie garden. Personally I believe anyone, even if they had only space for one tomato plant in a pot would get enjoyment from growing it. For me the vegie garden is my quiet space, thinking area, planning and simply down time place. I spend a little bit of time each day, then on occasion have a few hours where I do some serious mulching or cleaning up but in general I just potter around, weed something, stake another plant, replant and other garden stuff like that.
I believe if more people grew something they would appreciate how difficult it is on a large scale to produce a top quality product that they see in supermarkets. I believe then people would be more prepared to support our Australian food producers when they realised what good quality fruit and vegetables they produce. I think it is absolutely disgusting that orange orchards are being ploughed in in southern areas at present due to replacement by imports.
As I don’t go to town that often when I buy fruit and vegetables the bulk bill can be quiet large, while there are many things I will always need to buy the things I can grow that are seasonal can save us some money, but I really garden simply because I enjoy it.
My vegie garden is in mainly two segments, the part most frequented by snakes and the part not. Needless to say I have an absolute fear of snakes and the areas that are more prone to snake habitation simply tend to be watered and not much else care given otherwise. I live over 300km from the nearest hospital and irrespective of how seemingly harmless a snake is identified, I have a healthy respect for keeping my distance from all of them. To illustrate how committed I am to maintaining my snake clearance space I have been known to take a shotgun gardening when I have sighted a snake and know the mongrel is still residing in the garden. Usually these are whip snakes, black, fast, low venomous toxicity, but enough to still make you sick, normally quiet shy snakes in that they move just as fast to get away from you as you from them. Others like old carpet snake, black headed rock pythons usually, absolutely beautiful animals, harmless, but lazy as all crap and will usually only move if you nearly stand on them and thus scare the living daylights out of you. At often over 2m long I’m sure these buggers have an innate sense of humour and enjoy seeing me lift literally 3m in the air when I nearly stand on them, not to mention the tyriad of abuse they cop, if I can’t throw something at them then I can assure you their ears are ringing or they feel the earth move, what ever, they give me the hebbi-gebbies. We get other harmless ones too like children’s pythons and small tree snakes. Most of these I’m happy to live with, and with deft hopping and shovel manoeuvring we tend to direct away from living areas and live side by side. Though the whip snake if he frequents the vegie garden too often will get a 410 shotgun headache to terminate residency. The ones I really fear are the Western browns, they come in all sizes, cheeky as all heck, highly venomous, if they think you’re a threat will actually give chase, I’ve been chased by a number of small 30cm ones for 15-20m. Those are not allowed in the garden, full stop, They have thousands of square kilometres outside my vegie garden they can have that and I’ll leave them alone, but my garden is mine and they aren’t allowed in it.
So my snake area garden is the pumpkins, sweet potatoes rambling plants, that I can set up sprinklers on and besides the mulching prior to planting really receive little care though-out their growing period.
My maintained areas are the garden beds, with my tomatoes, rocket, pakchoy, beans and anything else I can manage to get growing, corn, egg plants, celery, silverbeet, zucchini, capsicums, herbs and squash.
This year, during the wet I had a major garden renovation, with my wonderful mum who I tend to rope into these activities on her supposed rest holidays while visiting. We redesigned the area to allow access to a great little front end loader I have, rocks for garden edging and to allow me to set up a more efficient sprinkler system for watering.
January 2013 – Garden reno during the ‘wet season’, these will be the maintained garden beds about 1.5m wide and 15m long.
I have a good secure fence around the vegie garden to keep dogs, roos, wallabies and pigs out, including the odd inquisitive bull. Outside my vegie garden I have more bananas, passionfruit vines and a small orchard of fruit trees
January 2013 – ‘Wet season reno’ – To be pumpkin area, garden bed to the left will be bananas, the other bare section will have sprinklers to water pumpkins. Prior to planting I will lay full bales of hay mulch on the area and wet down, then plant seeds willy nilly. In following seasons I just let the plants reseed themselves from previous fruit that has dropped seed. This is my form of the toughest survive and whimpy plants die. I can’t stand whimpy plants
Being the semi tropics my vegie garden growing period tends to be during our ‘dry’, March through to October, the ‘wet’ is simply too hot and wet to grow so I do renovations and spend most of the time just keeping up with grass growth.
There is no such thing as too much mulch, our soils here are quiet deficient in some respects, phosphorus particularly but I find the greatest difficulty is to keep the moisture in the soil even up here in a the semi tropic. Its June now and we don’t get much below 15 degrees but the soil dries out surprisingly fast and due to the warmth mulch breaks down very quickly. So I use whatever mulch I can get. This isn’t usually a problem and I’m spoilt for choice. We feed weaners (young cattle) a lot of hay in the yards at the house so I’m able to collect much of the waste they leave along with soil and manure and use this to top dress the garden. I also have about 15 pet goats, some of which I milk that are great manure producers, in turn I feed them vegie garden surplus like banana leaves, and the zucchini type plants that are in excess, they love these. They also love the small cherry tomatoes that grow so rampant throughout the garden year after year and I never need to buy seeds for again. I’m sure in 20 years’ time there will be an invasive weed declaration of them in the Roper Gulf, and it will be traced directly to my vegie garden.
Pests can be a problem, I have great difficulty in just getting seeds to germinate and I’m not sure if it’s a temperature/climate issue or bugs and ants in the soil taking them as fast as I plant. The usual course is I plant full packets of seeds in a very small area, get to germinate what I can and then transplant from there. I have issues with some aphids and bugs, which depending at what time of year, may have to resort to chemicals to control. Bower birds and other little birds like the tomatoes but we have an agreement to share, I net most of my fruiting plants and this protects the majority of the fruit for us but the birds can nibble at a few at the base or around the edges. Bower birds can be bit of a nuisance in that they pinch my sprays, particularly if blue. Fruit fly can be an issue; I set traps for them and find this seems to keep their numbers in control. Being isolated from any other farming areas means I’m fortunate to be protected in some respects from other people’s gardens and their associated pests. Dogs are strictly forbidden from the garden though we have a pet foxie who seems to think monsters reside there, Maybe he seen one of those pythons once and has been traumatised ever since.
As the season progresses I’ll try to add to this post to show the garden growing.
June 2013 – Pumpkins and Bananas at the rear planted March 2013, Tomatoes to the left are about 2 months old and the new seedlings about 3-4 weeks. I have just mulched. The rock is all natural Granite on our property.