Sunday, February 15, 2009

Constant change

A much-needed 21mm of rain in the gauge after last night, and 62mm the morning before – that's good blogging weather. Nothing to do outside, except get muddy and walk it back into the house, if I really want to end the tidy domestic bliss. And besides, I've been meaning to do a little blog about constant change, one of the themes here in Amateur Land. The sunniest patch in my garden is, of course, in the centre, and it measures a whopping 1.3 metres by 1.3 metres. This is a hard-working, constantly changing little pile of dirt. Here's the story of its last 12 months.

January 2007, the patch in question is the one on the right middle-ground, next to the clothes line. There are handy little crops of shallots and basil that are always heading into the kitchen – and the curly parsley border, though mostly for show, makes the odd cameo here and there in the cooking pot.

A few months later, in March 08, we've cleared the decks, dug in the mulch, added some old chicken manure to keep the worms amused, and dolomite lime to raise its pH, and we're getting ready for winter vegies, such as Chinese cabbage, choy sum, turnips, beetroot, radishes and spinach. (The bamboo frame in the bed behind is for broad beans, by the way.)

About eight weeks later and the crops are belting along, a bit nibbled here and there by appreciative katydids and other insect visitors, but when you do it organically it's hard to look pristine. The best you can manage is to look healthy.

Harvests of Chinese cabbage and turnips destined for the kitchen. I like to stir-fry the finely shredded cabbage with spices (onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, turmeric, panch phoron (which is an Indian five-seed mix) and the magic ingredient sprinkled at the end – desiccated coconut. The turnips often end up in an Indian sauce called saag, which is an Indian-style puree of leafy greens – the turnip roots add body to the puree.

Once the Asian greens, turnips and other crops were harvested, the little sunny patch then became potato land in late winter. Here it is on planting day, with deep furrows dug, ready for the spuds to go in.

After a sluggish start the potatoes roared away by late September and into October, looking a picture of health through the deliciously kind spring weather.

Though they'll never be famed for their flowers, the potato plants brought a cheery innocence to the garden with the simplicity of their blooms and honest deep green of their foliage.

Bandicooted out of the ground and scrubbed up, these King Edward potatoes really were a deliciously good-looking reward for not a lot of effort on my part. But there is a downside with growing spuds in a very tiny backyard. Once the flowers fade and the plants put all their energy into developing the tubers underground, they become appallingly ugly looking scraps of rapidly fading greenery! I was prompted into an early harvest by the shocking sight one morning of these bedraggled tramps taking centre stage in my lovely garden. Wonderful as the home-grown spuds were to eat, I'm not sure if my tiny garden has enough room for scrappy spud plants to take centre stage every year.

After clearing the patch of the hills and all their potatoes in early December, I've given the patch a cheery, easy-going summer holiday by planting a punnet of small, simple, zinnias. Somewhere in the middle of all that colour there's a Habanero chilli bush struggling for survival. It's flowering and I can see the little green chillies forming, but the astonishing progress of the zinnias has really surprised me.

So, in a mere 12 months this little 1.3 metre square of ground has been a salad and herb patch; vegie bed of Asian greens and turnips; a potato patch; and a colourful fairground of summer flowers. For the next couple of months I think I'll just let the zinnias do their thing, and see whether Mr Habanero can get hot under the collar with the colourful crowd he's hanging out with.

By the time next autumn comes around I suspect my little patch will become my Italian salad bar. I've been ordering all sorts of interesting seeds from an Italian herb and vegie seed supplier here in Australia, as well as some new types of rocket recommended by Michelle in her January posting on arugula in her always-interesting blog, From Seed to Table –

The only thing I'm certain about this patch and my garden is general, is that it's constantly changing, which is the way I like things to be.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jamie, I think your greens are as lovely as your flowers. Vegetables have a definite ornamental value. Amazing that you can do so much in a small space. It's all in the timing. Cheers.

patientgardener said...

My your patch is certainly hard working but it must be working well as the plants look so healthy. I suspect your climate helps as I dont think one plot of ground here in the Uk could be so productive in a year. I like your broad bean frame - might pinch that as I am growing them this year too.

LC said...

Your garden looks just fabulous! I love the zinnias! It really is that wonderful combination of productive and beautiful. Very insiring. Must get out in the rain this week!

Chandramouli S said...

Hi Jamie! Your garden is so neat and almost perfect. You inspire me.