Permablitz in my Rental Backyard III – Winter Solstice Abundance!
It’s dead smack in the middle of winter at Batcastle Gardens, but that’s no deterrent for hardcore veggie-gardening addicts.
We’re still bursting at the seams with greens and there’s peas hanging off the chookyard by the fistful. I’m quietly satisfied with the bumper crops of what Briana mockingly calls ‘famine food’: swedes, daikon radish and a few other random tubers and yams I stuck down the back when she wasn’t looking.
We finally got some REAL chickens! The ‘single-ladies’- four lovely retired girls from the organic chook farm- have already managed to do more work in a couple of week than our other crap chickens accomplished in their entire lives!
We get a couple of eggs a day, loads of fertiliser in the form of poo and the weeds that were looming have all been eaten down and scratched into oblivion. With the addition of the ladies, we also got to putting a proper roof over them with the construction of a new cutting-edge, high-tech, albeit slightly crooked R&R (roost and relaxation) facility made from recycled wood from the tip shop and bits of the old ramshackle construction that was in there before.
We may be twiddling our thumbs a bit in anticipation of spring planting fun (apparently you have to wait until you can sit your bare bum on the ground comfortably before you can safely start bunging seeds in the ground!), but at least there’s plenty to eat in the meantime. We’ve been cranking out some tasty, tangy Kimchi with all of the daikon and other brassicas exploding out of the ground everywhere and I pickled our first harvest of beets with a recipe that makes it taste exactly like the tinned stuff (I can’t help wondering if that is defeating the purpose of growing fresh veg, but whatever, I love tinned beetroot!). This evening we celebrated the first harvest of our Cosmic Purple carrots- a TotaLLy GrOoVy old variety we got from Eden Seeds (www.edenseeds.com.au). I’m hoping to leave a few in the ground so we can save the seed for next season!
Our seedlings aren’t the happiest, most likely due to the cold weather we’ve been having (it’s two-doona weather up here in Lismore Heights!), but there are still a few things popping up: wong bok (perfect for Kimchi!), artichokes and the exciting old school Walking Stick Cabbage- which can grow 2 metres tall! I think a cold frame might on the cards if we want to be germinating anything over the next few cold weeks.
Bring on spring! I know it’s probably a bit early to start getting too excited, but this is the subtropics is it not?
Lessons learned so far on my whimsical frolic into the land of backyard food production:
- 1. Plant more, More, MORE!! We’ve only garden-ified half of our backyard so far, but there is still SO much more lawn where food should be. There’s a lady in Mullumbimby who’s eating 85% of her food from her small town block! Milking the edges is the key to getting as much food as possible into a small space. If there’s not an edge, make one! The chookyard fence has made a fantastic trellis for our peas, and there are lettuces and radishes nestled in happily underneath.
- 2. Communicate with your fellow gardeners. Some people think that having more than one gardener in your plot is a bad idea, but with a good solid plan in the beginning combined with regular check-ins (even just a ‘hey, I’m thinking of planting this or that down the back, whaddya think?’) makes for a satisfying shared effort.
3. Get good chooks from the start! They’re an essential part of your composting and waste-disposal regime. Don’t waste energy on cute fluffy bantams that don’t do anything!
4. Grow things that will actually feed you (as opposed to half an acre of mustard. Oops!)
5. Mulch! It keeps everything warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot and moist when it’s dry.
6. Label your seedlings or map out your garden somehow. When we started, I planted a whole load of ‘mystery’ seeds that were rattling around in the bottom of my seed box and now we have a whole bed of ‘mystery’ brassicas! We’re not sure if they’re broccoli, cauliflower, kale or turnips! Some of them turned out to be some kind of beet, which was a nice surprise. But better to label!