Update from the Garden – April 2012

Hi Folks!

It’s been a while between posts and it’s been troubling me greatly. There has been lots going on at our place over the last few weeks, nothing terribly exciting though. The usual pressures of work and study seemed to reach a bit of a crescendo a couple of weeks ago when I found myself stuck in a hotel room in Melbourne (on a work trip) exhausted and trapped with a nasty bout of the unmentionable. I knew at that point I needed to take a bit of time out, to get my mojo back and focus on things that make me happy and well so I’ve got the rest of this week off to potter about in the kitchen and the garden.

This is what we started from. There were pots with zucch's, pumpkins and cukes around the back there. Some leafy groundcover more to the front.

As the seasons change I’ve been thinking a lot about where we head with our garden. We had some great parties and get togethers over the summer break and what became clear to us was that we needed to make our back garden more functional and better suited to entertaining. Right now we have a bit of a hodge podge set-up with lots of clutter, dirt and plants in pots. Many of the plants in the garden (planted by the previous owners) were unsuitable for the space as they required heaps of water, and it was difficult to walk around and enjoy the space without stepping on and over other plants and compacting the soil. So we sat down one afternoon and jotted down a bit of a map. We’ve decided to have a go at recreating the backyard ourselves and we’ve taken the first steps of clearing the space and building some basic foundations.

Paul working hard to clear the space and make way for the new wall.

Our bold plan is to create a space that enables me to grow lots of vegies and flowers but also creates a space for people to ‘be’ in. I imagine a hammock somewhere across the back under the shade of the gum tree, some striking kale mingling with sweet peas and springtime bulbs. As you can see from the pics I’ve posted, this space gets a bit of shade in the afternoon which is mainly provided by the ornamental pear at the back of the yard and the grapevine over our pergola. Both lose their leaves in winter which changes the light significantly. During summer the area gets good morning sun which tapers off in the heat of the day so it should be a good spot for most plants but the soil we are working with is less than ideal. It’s pretty much sand and water runs off of it as though it were coated in oil so we need to do a bit of work there in building some of that back up. We’ve also got the added issue of the large gum tree in the back corner of the garden which I suspect is probably the cause of the current state of the soil. We did toy with the idea of cutting it down but an afternoon out the back watching the Rosella’s playing in the branches quickly changed our minds so we’ve decided to try and work with it by raising beds and planters.

The new wall adds more space to our small pergola area. We're thinking about putting down a herbal/hardy groundcover in front, most likely Pennyroyal to help control mosquitos. Then we'll build up beds behind it.

The raised bed we built last year has also been re-worked, I’m in the process of planting out some winter crops and replenishing the soil with compost and cow manure. I’ve sprouted some Kale, Broccoli (romanesco & ‘regular’) as well as some mini cabbages and cauli’s. I’ll stick one of each in the bed and then pot on the rest until they are ready to go into the new beds….. That’s the plan anyway!

This is what we're working with at the moment. It doesn't tend to hold much water or nutrient.

This is what I'd like to get it to, this is the soil in the raised bed. Healthy and full of life.

Reviewing last years successes and failures.

In rethinking the space we’ve got I’ve been thinking about what worked well and what didn’t. By far the most succesful new crop from last season was the grafted eggplant in the raised bed, I got pretty sick of finding uses for them in the end as Paul’s not really a fan but it was definitely a good purchase. I’ve also done really well out of the silverbeet, basil and chilli plants growing alongside the bed which reassures me it is a good spot for growing. I’ve also now got a great jalapeño bush I sprouted from seed that has started to yield as well as a serrano chilli, so I’ll be moving both of those to large pots as part of an ever-growing chilli garden.

The grafted bonica eggplant was hugely productive.

Biggest flops for me this year were definitely the tomatoes. After the ‘incident‘ just before Christmas they never really recovered. I also made the mistake of bringing home a plant from a hardware store that I suspect had a wilt virus which in turn infected all the other plants. Tomatoes continue to evade me but I won’t give up, the lessons I’ve learnt this year put me in good stead for the next season.

I'm sprouting seedlings in old toilet rolls. It's cheap and easy, they go straight in the ground and break down over time.

So that’s about where I’m at with the garden at the moment. I look forward to being able to bring you some more pictures as we make further progress. I’ve been pinning lots of ideas to my garden board over at Pinterest as part of the planning process so feel free to drop by and have a look. If you’ve got any suggestions about things you think I should try please let me know in the comments below, this is definitely going to be a work in progress and I’m always open to suggestions.


My prized chilli bush. Grown from a seed about three years ago and still crazily productive.


  • You’re a better woman than me, Erin – I’ve officially given up on tomatoes. I used to grow fabulous crops of them down on the plain, but up here success has evaded me totally. I’ve tried for 5 years now and have decided I must recognise defeat. Perhaps cucumbers would like it more here.

  • Amanda, stop trying to grow tomatoes… and just dig lots of compost into your vegie patch. Make sure there are plenty of tomatoes in the compost. Magic will happen!

    Erin, a lovely, lovely update. How about that eggplant!

Leave a comment. Tell me what you think.