Summer garden update

Heirloom tomato | she cooks, she gardens

Greetings from my summer garden!

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We’re having a bumper year at our place, which is the result of some serious work during the cooler months. Since my last update we’ve replaced the crappy pond liner we found in hard rubbish with a new liner that is deeper and better at holding water. Around the pond we’ve planted hardy plants like aloe vera, parsley and citronella scented pelargoniums to keep the mozzies at bay. In the pond we’ve got a couple of water lilies and some laksa leaf that seems to be doing well.

I’ve previously grown the laksa leaf in a pot but on our last trip to Bali I noticed it growing in the rice paddies with its roots fully submerged in water, so I thought I would give it a go and it seems to be really happy. We’ve also added in some Murray River rainbows and brown tree frog tadpoles that are doing a good job of keeping some of the other bugs (mainly mozzies) under control.

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Another focus for me this year has been to get more bee-friendly flowers happening in and around the garden to help with pollination. I’ve scattered dahlia, salvia, borage, zinnia and calendula seeds randomly about the place and they are all going great guns. The bees love them, as do the wasps who have been working hard to keep the aphids under control.

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One of the most profound changes we’ve made to the garden this year has been our veggie patch, which has been a bit of a labour of love. When we first moved in, the back of the yard was quite beautiful but not really to our tastes. One of the biggest problems we faced was the large gum-tree in the back corner of our yard. It was completely inappropriate for the space because of its size (about 30 metres high – we only have a small yard) and because it stripped water and much-needed nutrient from the soil.

At certain times of the year it would drop toxic leaves over the garden and I was constantly paranoid about it dropping big branches on our roof. So at the end of 2013 it came out – an expensive exercise, but ultimately a good decision as the difference it has made is incredible.

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In previous years I’ve had real trouble getting much of anything to grow in this part of the garden, but look at it now! It’s a jungle of green growth. We’re pulling in a steady stream of tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini to the point where I’m having trouble keeping up with it all.

To get it to this point we first grew a cover crop of green manure, which we then dug back into the soil as it started to flower. We then added a layer of organic garden soil, compost and sheep manure, followed by a thick layer of sugar cane mulch. P added drip irrigation in rows and as the weather started to warm we planted out a range of seedlings I had grown from seed. We had really low expectations and I was convinced that the soil needed further work, so to see it flourish this way has been wonderful.

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As we start hitting the peak of summer I’m starting to turn my mind to the next season and what we need to do to keep things churning along. It’s only a small space but as we’ve seen this year, it’s possible to pack a fair bit in.

I’m also conscious that we’ve probably pulled a lot of nutrient from the soil, so I’m keen to hear your suggestions on what we should do when it comes time to remove the tired summer plants and replace with winter crops.

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How is your garden going? Do you have any suggestions on what we should do when things start to slow down here? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


  • Annabel says:

    Well done Erin! What a wonderful productive start to your garden. You should be able to maintain the fertility with the addition of sheep manure, chicken poop, growing broad beans and adding compost. I think gardens just get better and better the more time you spend in them,

  • Bek says:

    Nice work! You have so much going on.
    I’d be planting winter crops now, wherever you have the space. I find they do well planted early in the year as opposed to late summer/autumn. But it’s hard to be thinking of winter crops when you are surrounded by summer’s bounty.

  • Amy says:

    Your garden is impressive!
    I have grown tomatoes last year, but it looks like you have taken it to a while other level! Absolutely amazing!
    Keep up the great work!

  • Steve Jones says:

    Hi, thanks for sharing the pictures of your summer garden. I live in the U.K. so I can only dream of summer, our weather keeps flirting with spring but then darts back to cold grey days. I think you should look at crop rotation to let nature take care of the viability of your soil but adding sheep manure will also help.

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