Well, hello there December. Care to remind me exactly how we managed to miss October and November? I'm pretty sure last time I checked it was not even close to Christmas, yet here we are. I know this is a refrain being repeated all over the internet and in almost every casual convo, but with good reason - 2014 was a hard and fast one, and we are now in the countdown to the fat man sliding down the chimney...
I'm pretty sure the garden is wondering what the heck happened as well - we, like many other parts of the country, moved straight into Summer a month early. We've had hotter temps, lower rainfall and a distinctly 'spring' wind all at once, everything is a little dry and battered, especially unhelpful while the young plants are trying to get going. We had a huge few weeks planting out everything in our market garden, rows and rows of all the summer veg, some of it transplanted, some of it directly sown. Our whole process of bed preparation, planting, running irrigation and mulching took time, but it's all in now, and starting to perk up after the standard germination or transplant shock period.
While our primary focus has been the larger market garden area, we managed to sneak in some time last week in the kitchen garden and food forest at our back door (well, if we had a back door!). I don't think I've ever really shared many photos of this area in a Garden Share Collective post, so I thought I would this month, while the larger garden is still looking mostly like a sea of blonde mulch and relatively un-photogenic.
The food forest is in a large metal structure covered by shadecloth and bird netting, planted out with various fruit trees and undersown with a variety of seasonal leafy greens, asparagus and globe artichoke, the odd flower dotted around, blueberry bushes and other annual and perennial herbs and veggies that don't mind growing in lower intensity light or partial shade. To say we can grow killer lettuce and spinach in here would be an understatement - unfortunately, we can also grow an abundance of snails too! The internal design is a Permaculture-inspired mandala system, with keyhole design and two ponds. It's very cool and after nine months here, I'm starting to finally get a handle on what will and won't grow well in there and get a vision for how it could look. We've got a bounty of chives, lettuce, late red cabbage, baby figs and apples, a bare patch of dirt that was the day before about 20 marigold seedlings (bloody snails), lemongrass rising from the dead of winter slumber, two new Luffa plants grown from gifted seed, spring onions and leeks for days, Tuscan Kale holding on for dear life, and one messy corner with asparagus and comfrey being rapidly consumed by various forms of grass (sigh).
Outside, there are climbing sunflowers next to a thriving row of horseradish, saved chilli seeds and sweet potato slips (we planted our sweet potato in damp sand, in contrast to the method explained by Tricia from Little Eco Footprints here - amazing how plants will always find a way, huh!). There is also a large strawberry patch out the front, dotted with wild rocket, hyssop, chamomile, sage, thyme, parsley and other hardy perennials - this area gets hit with frost in winter and hot sun in summer, so anything growing here needs to be resilient and unfussy. The numerous citrus trees that were planted here pretty much all failed, with the exception of one plucky little mandarin nestled in the corner of the tall Photinia hedge.
While we've still got an amazing amount of work to do in this space, it's nice to have an area that evolves more frequently than the market garden, one that stimulates the creative, design side of the brain and one that presents an area of opposing environments to grow in - snails aside!
The Garden Share Collective is a monthly collection of posts collated by Lizzie over at Strayed from the Table from gardeners across the globe, sharing their veggie patches, potted gardens and windowsill herbs…Go and check it out! “Creating a monthly community to navigate through any garden troubles and to rival in the success of a good harvest we will nurture any beginner gardener to flourish. Each month we set ourselves a few tasks to complete by the next month, this gives us a little push to getting closer to picking and harvesting. The long-term goal of the Garden Share Collective is to get more and more people gardening and growing clean food organically and sustainably.”