It has been a long time since I wrote about our vegetable garden and orchard. Partly this is because I became entranced by our birds and began compiling a species list, and partly it is because there wasn’t a lot to write about. Everything had already been planted – mostly by the previous owners – and it was a matter of watering, weeding and waiting for the fruit and vegetables to grow.
Today I harvested our small crop of shallots which will free up a tiny corner of the vegetable garden for something new. It’s well into Summer now, so I will have to do some reading to work out which vegetables are suited to the conditions.
On the radio, I heard an ‘expert’ gardener say that vegetable gardens were the easiest gardens to care for. In some senses this is true I guess – if you keep it weed free and watered, all you really need to do is wait for vegetables to grow. I’ve come to think that our vegetable garden isn’t ideal though. It is too small, and the plastic back and sides which keep possums and kangaroos out, also amplify the heat of the sun. On hot days, the heightened temperature along with our sandy soil makes it really easy for the plants to lose moisture. More than once I have noticed drooping leaves on plants in the hot midday sun. While I know this is not the ideal time to water the plants, it has been necessary to water the ground around vegetables such as the tomato vine and the zucchini plants to avoid dehydration in the leaves.
As the orchard backs right onto the vegetable garden, and the main shed is on the other side, there isn’t really the space to make the vegetable garden bigger, and simply removing the plastic seems counter productive because the wilfife will be able to eat the vegetables. So I need to give some thought to how I can make it more water efficient. More than one expert gardener I’ve listened to on radio (or TV or read in gardening magazies etc) has stated that before mulch is put onto soil, the soil has to be thoroughly wet so that it can retain the moisture – otherwise the mulch becomes a barrier to prevent water from getting to the soil. The plants then die through lack of water. Sandy soil doesn’t hold moisture, so the soil will need more conditioning to enrich it before we can apply mulch – or at least I think so. There may be ways around it, but I am still learning about these things.
A busy lead-up to Christmas means our greenhous has not yet been built, but I wonder if I would have the same issue of high heat and moisture loss in there over the hot Summer months? This first year of growing food is going to be filled with many trial and error moments, but I intend to learn from them all.
The first lesson is to put bird netting over and around the fruit trees. We have lost all of our cherries to birds, and both possums and kangaroos have made huge dents in the stone fruit we used to have hanging from the trees. The peaches and apricots have been decimated, with only a couple of fruit on each tree. Happily, the apples and pears seems to be surviving well.
We have a plum tree in the flower garden at the front of the house, which was only a metre or so away from the cherry tree. I haven’t really looked at it for weeks. Today I thought to check if it still had fruit on it – the experience with the cherries led me to beleive it was all gone too. Imagine my surprise to find large purple plums hanging all over the plum tree! At the moment they are too hard to pick. They need to ripen. Now it is a matter of timing – who will get to the ripe fruit first? Us or the wildlife?
If anyone has any tips on when to pluck fruit so that it is ripe enough to eat, but not ripe enough for the birds to ruin it, I would find that really helpful. In the meantime, here is a gallery of photos from the vegetable garden and orchard. If you receive this post by email, you can view large sized photos by going to the website.