Around this time of year, I'm often asked what wonderful plants I have in my home garden for the season.
Fortunately we live on a large elevated rural site with free draining soils, a warm temperate, bordering on frost-free climate, regular rainfall and a shed full of seed close at hand where I can get a good discount. This means the possibilities are endless.
Like a mechanic's car or a builder's house, a seed merchant's garden never quite gets to a fully planted state nor does it remain weed free for very long. The potager garden around our shed is a mix of permanent plantings of flowers, vines and bulbs from which we can collect seed including Lilies, Snail Vine, Swan Plant, Aquilegia and Tweedia with a couple of beds left for summer cut flowers and herbs for the kitchen.
Raised beds with wooden sides make it easier to control the weeds in the paths and the addition of lots of compost every year means the soils have good structure and moisture retention over the dry summer months.
I intersperse the gardens with pockets of plants to attract and host beneficial insects – Anise Hyssop, Thyme, Echinacea, Calendula and Salvia all serve a dual purpose, looking pretty and providing nectar and pollen to the good guys.
We have good air movement through the potager so mildews aren’t usually a problem. The insects I could do without though are Paper Wasps over summer and Aphids at certain times before the Ladybirds and predator Wasps get up in numbers. I have to be cruel to be kind with the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars as my patch of Swan Plants will be smothered with hundreds defoliating them before I can harvest a seed crop from the ripening pods. Most years, I’ll dispatch a container or two full of caterpillars to primary schools round the country that don’t have any.
The new flowers in my Potager this spring will be Calendula Candyman Orange & Yellow, Penstemon Twizzle Mix, Poppy Pandora and Hyacinth Bean Vine Silver Moon....
Up the back of our property is my vegetable garden which includes six long beds, a blueberry house and three long rows of vertical nets to support vines or tomatoes. In previous years, the nets supported a trial of various Passifora/Passionfruit initially with eight different species whittling this down to three after the first season when I discovered the characteristics of some of them weren’t at all desirable.
After hauling many of them out, last year the nets helped support an enormous crop of tomatoes. Honeybee, Chef's Choice Orange, Diplom, Boy o Boy and Black Cherry had a fantastic season. We ate them fresh, turned many into sauce and gave away approximately 250 kg from just 18 plants.This season, having learnt from that experience, I’ll probably grow a similar amount but stagger the sowing a bit to extend the harvest and also try a few new ones - Chef's Choice Black, Chef's Choice Yellow and Indigo Blue Berries will all be starters.
The six long beds were heavily composted over winter with well rotted shelter-belt trimmings that were heaving with worms, always a good sign of a healthy mulch. A generous quantity of Dolomite Lime will be added to sweeten it up before being dug in, in a few weeks time. Last year the beds grew a heavy crop of Soybean, Ornamental Corn and Caigua for seed harvesting so this year the rotation will be towards species quite different to break any disease cycles from carrying over. Definitely one or two Watermelon Gold in Gold, some dwarf sugar snap peas for Christmas and a successive sowing of Broccoli Tasty Stems.
I credit the lack of Psyllid in my garden (spreading that cursed disease Liberibacter through my potatoes) to the strip of Phacelia sown down the middle bed. It plays host to a range of predator insects that keep the Psyllid in check.
Right now the purple asparagus and Christmas lilies have pushed their heads through the mulch, the golden beetroot is bulbing up nicely, the tomatoes have been pricked out into pots, the cucumbers are up and I'm going to sow my sugar snaps this weekend.....
Keeping the joys of spring rolling along!