Editors Note: Sara blogged under ‘The Nonsuch Project’ on Victorian Flower Garden website after she moved to Nonsuch in Tasmania in early 2005, before she created the dedicated Nonsuch Kitchen Gardens website in mid-2009. These entries were referred to as The Old Diary. 

7th January 2006

angel01I’ve been abed or a-snuffling for almost 3 weeks with a flu/cold/lurgy kind of a thing, and have only just in the past few days been able to do anything other than rise out of the chair without getting breathless.

The garden is doing well. As you can see from the pic to the right one of the angel trumpets is out – what a beautiful flower! Over the past 36 hours we have had 47 mm of rain! Wonderful! That’s when the angel trumpet decided to flower.

I have been busying myself unpotting the meadow saffron bulbs and am slowly replanting them through the garden – I need to do this fairly fast as they’re going to flower in late summer or very early autumn.

As for the rest of the garden – much of it is just simply … wow. Suddenly the garden has blossomed, quite literally. The herbaceous borders are thick and luscious and brilliant with flower. The woodland garden is just looking superb – the foxgloves are now in flower. I have taken some photos, and I will get them up, but somehow too much for me right now. I can do a bit, but not much. The brain just won’t get quite into gear.

Weeding … ah, the weeding. I actually got around to starting to clear the side patio today, which I have just let go this past year. The weeds! I wish I had a flame thrower … but it is as well that I don’t as I’d likely take the entire house out.

And the powdery mildew. Some of the rose I bought in are thick with it, and they’ve infected many of the other roses. Am not happy.

I had a European goldfinch, a pair, actually, in the garden yesterday – what a beautiful bird!

Now I am off to sit on the verandah and have a wine, and watch the late afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

13th January 2006

The cockies are here! The cockies are here! Back to pinch the walnuts. I don’t mind, I love them, although they can get terribly raucus. This was taken with a telephoto lens right at the top of Great Wal, the walnut tree, just before a somewhat pitiful thunderstorm hit.

Making off with the booty.


And a closeup of one of the handsome laddies.



Sunday 21st January:

OK, so here’s the deal. I have a skip for a few more days and that means I need to get as much weeding done as possible in order to get it disposed of easily (very seedy and rooty, no way is this crap going into the compost).

Today is meant to be a big weeding day – and oh, some of the weeds. Early this morning I tackled a massive thorny thistle, 5 feet tall, about 4 in diameter, that had spikes on it the length of my finger. It is out and gone. Now I am hacking my way through the bog garden.

Let me digress and tell you about the weather – it is warm and it is currently 98% humidity – has been for hours. No rain (well, brief shower when I thought God had smiled on me and I wouldn’t have to weed any more). I am in the bog garden up to my ankles in bog – water and decomposing plant material that stinks (oh yeah, and I have discovered that the last time I had a skip I tossed out my wellies – why why why why? – so I have to do this in ordinary and now ruined gardening shoes). I am half blinded by sweat. I have hacked my way through a portion of the bog garden only to be confronted with a massive thistle twice the size of the one I took out at dawn. Oh God, I’ll have to cope with it when I go back out.

Fortunately I have just filled my builder’s wheelbarrow with weeds, so that means I can come inside, half a drink, some panadeine for the throbbing headache, and a whine. LOL Soon I’ll have to go outside and start on another wheelbarrow load. I am covered in mud save for my face and hands which I have just washed. I keep brushing off ants which are crawling all over me and one of them has died and got stuck under the ‘a’ on my keyboard, so the damn thing keeps sticking. Once I go back out again, if any passerby stops and congratulates me on the glorious garden, my dear! I’ll hack into them with my weeding hook.

As I hack my way deeper into the bog I am breaking off great heads of Russell Lupin seeds and spreading them everywhere – all I want is for a gigantic dense thicket of lupins to develop so I won’t ever have to do this again.

Anyone wanna come help???

27th January 2006

Weeding done and in the skip – after I wrote that last entry we had an absolute torrent of rain fall – 77 mm in 6 hours, and 40 mm of that in just over half an hour. One gravel path washed away but otherwise no damage and the garden had a terrific watering.

This week has been harvest time. Onions, shallots and carrots pulled, half the beetroot crop came up a couple of weeks ago and was preserved, the other half soon to come up for chutneys and relishes. The carrots have gone into storage, the onions and shallots are drying prior to being strung up to go into the dark pantry.

You can say an awful lot about growing your own food – how wonderful it is to grow organically, to know what is (or, rather, what is not) in your crop, and about how wonderful all that fresh air and exercise is. In the end, though, it comes down to the absolute satisfaction in growing your own food. I simply don’t know a better feeling than being able to stand back and look at the rack of onions drying and think, That’s my food, and I grew it.

The onion bed has now been cleared, dug over, and a load of compost and manure dug in. It should have a bit of a rest, but I think I may be able to get a crop of leeks out of it, or even some more beets and onions.

The flower garden is looking terrific (I know, I know, pictures soon!), and even the front garden is coming along with the shrubs finally started to look … shrubby. Even the side garden which has been strawed over to kill the lawn has a line of Lavatera flowering madly and is looking really pretty.

There was a winter chill in the air this morning. A reminder that even though we have a long and glorious autumn before us, winter is a-waiting.

Sunday 28th January:

New crops of onions (red and brown) and leeks are in. Pumpkins are coming along nicely.

Also planted out a pittosporum hedge to replace the tree gardenis hedge which died! Every last shred of it! I can’t think why save it might have been too cool for it down here.

11th February

More photos, but we’ve left the garden (weed, prune, mulch, what more can I say?) for today and headed down to Hobart Docks for the Wooden Boat Festival. Click the thumbnails for larger views.

Small but sweet – note the steam
coming out of the stack.


Flowered music man boat


Some of the smaller boats gathered,
eastern shore of the Derwent in background


Winged head on the Duyfken,
first recorded ship to visit Austalia in 1606


The Duyfken


Yo ho ho & a bottle of rum & all that …
Rigging on the Enterprize


Rigging on the Enterprize


The Endeavour


Rigging on the Endeavour


The Enterprize,
Hobart skyline in the background.


12th March 2007

Well – a quiet time in the garden? Thus no entries?

No. Just … gardened out, really. Generally by the end of each summer I am ready to get out the drum of kerosene, flick a match, and walk away. It has been months of watering, months of weeding, months of pushing my way through jungles, and, dammit, once again starting up the mulching round.

I’ve really had enough. To some extent I’ve just let the garden go over the late summer, keeping up the watering and that’s it. But now, of course, the weeds have taken hold and I berate myself for being so slack.

So now it is back to the autumn slog of putting the garden to bed for winter. And autumn is here. Many of the meadow saffron have flowered, the trees are turning, and mornings have that chill about them. I’ve been grudgingly getting back into the swing of it by clearing out a patch here, a patch there, spreading out compost, and then layering well down with pea straw.

Today I cleared out the poppy and cosmos field – my lord those plants can get big! – and the weeds among them!! It is clear. Almost. And once I have recovered I will compost the patch, spread out yet more straw, and let it sleep until next spring when I’ll scatter wild flower seed again -that patch really wa successful this past season (and I just know I am going to have poppies popping up everywhere over the next few years …).

The tomatoes have been an almost complete failure – I think this is somehow connected to the fungus which has attacked the roses. Not been a good year – very humid over summer. The roses however, once I stopped spraying them, have largely outgrown the fungus. It may well attack again next year, but I hope they’ll be strong enough and robust enough to outpace it completely.

The woodland is looking terrific – the trees are growing, both the robinias and the silver birches. The Japanese anemones are out and drifting in the wind. The man ferns survived the worst of the heat and wind.

The shrubberies in various parts of the garden have shrubbed nicely, and next year should look splendid.

The mop-top robinias are gorgeous, and I will get some more this winter.

I’ve had Mr Rat living in the front garden all summer. He’s been sweet – a huge fawn and cream brown rat living off whatever the pea straw has produced. He lasted all summer, then last week decided to investigate the back of the house … and Jack the Cat caught him and hauled him inside screaming one night about midnight.

Mr Rat didn’t survive the experience, and very nearly neither did I.

Overall the garden has done very very well. I’m very happy with it.

Back to the weeding … you may not see me again for a while …

7th April 2007

I am still taking it fairly quietly in the garden, but am now starting to do a little more work.

Produce-wise I am in heaven. My haul of potatoes has been spectacular, particularly the King Edwards which have done very, very well. I am still eating strawberries from the garden. I have new onions on the way, as well carrots, rocket and cauliflower. My pumpkins have reached huge size and the vines are starting to die back, so soon they, too, will be picked. The walnuts are dropping from Great Wal – the cockies still helping themselves to the feast in the upper branches.

The raspberries, although no longer fruiting, have now grown to a massive size, so I am hoping for a good crop this coming spring.

And, unbelievably, after decided to play dead for all of summer, some of the tomatoes are making up for lost time and are now fruiting nicely. So much of the summer was humid they’ve suffered badly from rot and fungus, but now the humidity has gone they have decided to come out and play.

bestmoonThe roses, too, which suffered very badly from powder mildew and fungus, have surged ahead now that the humidity has vanished. I have today pulled up most of the smaller shrubs, leaving only the climbing roses. The hybrid-teas were just awful – not even the flowers were worth the trouble they have taken.

And we survived the tsunami warning last week. It isn’t often Tasmania gets a tsunami warning, but we got one last week. I was hoping for a decent drench in the garden as the river surged through suburbia … but nothing, alas and alack.

I am weeding and mulching. Currently I am clearing out a bed that isn’t doing well – needs much digging over and enrichment with organic matter, of which I have plenty, thanks to an efficient compost system.

I’m also starting to think about what I can do next spring … there might be a little bit of enthusiasm left, after all.

To the right is a wonderful photo I took of Mother Moon this morning. I have been practicing my moon shots, and this has been the best yet. Just past full moon, sinking in the west about 7 am. Isn’t she the loveliest of ladies? She looks a little brown (it was daylight), but that was the settings I used (Canon 400D, 75-300mm lens, focal length 300mm, manual control, shutter 1/160, Av 5.6, ISO 100, tripod with timer switch for those interested.)

15th April 2007

Ah, my favourite part of gardening – ordering in more plants.

Today it was plant sale time at Runnymede, a historic Georgian mansion just one block down my road. So I went, and fought among the ladies milling about the offerings, and came back with several soft lilac salvias, some pink and some white bearded iris, and some Heuchera.

On the way back home I stopped at the local nursery and ordered in 9 large mop top robinias, one weeping elm, and three apples: Gala, Granny Smith and Red Delicious.

This would bring my tree planting to twenty-eight trees … although 3 of the paper birches didn’t make it through the winter, and I am thinking I may take one of the survivors out. We’ll see. Do I really want huge paper birches?

I have also ordered in some big heritage shrub roses, plus some more climbing roses.

Otherwise have been, yes, you guessed it, weeding and mulching. Discovered a haul of raspberries yesterday while mulching, which made it a more pleasurable experience than other wise it might have been.

19th April 2007

I have discovered I am very sensitive to hyacinth bulbs. Not pleasant!

28th April 2007

I cleaned out the largest of the vegetable beds today – once composted and manured I will leave it for the early spring crops – maybe more onions – I never have enough onions. I picked the tomato plants clean of green tomatoes and am making green tomato chutney as I type.

Autumn03Last week I picked the warthog pumpkins and, with much of my store of potatoes, made vast quantities of pumpkin and potato and onion soup which I have frozen. Seemed like a good way to save the crop, and with a dab of sour cream in the soup it is delicious.

And weeding and mulching … but how boring is that.

Photo above is one of my fuchsias behind a screen of purple salvia.

13th May 2007

There has been a bit of a break from the diary – apologies – too much work weighing me down.

I am digging up one of the flower beds … well, almost three, actually, to put into food production. One will be for vegetables, one for herbs, and one a mixture of flowers and edibles.

preservesOver the past several years, but certainly far more so this year when I have been able to put dreams into practice, I’ve become very interested in the concept of sustainability. No self-sufficiency, which is almost impossible to attain, and not something I would want to do anyway, but sufficiency – growing as much of my own food as possible.

Perhaps four or five years ago I’d gone down to the local supermarket for a jar of chutney for my lunch sandwich. I was standing in the aisle, looking about, and I suddenly realised what complete shit was on offer. No natural ingredients. Food that had been virtually completely replaced with chemicals. Tastelessness instead of zing. I stomped off home and dug out one of my mother’s ancient cookbooks that had been handed down to her by her mother. It dated from the very early twentieth century, and it was full of the most wonderful recipes.

I made my first batch of beetroot chutney – and my life (and most certainly my gardening life) changed utterly.

I got into preserving in a big way – the picture to the left shows part of Nonsuch’s preserves cupboard (note the original 120-year old wallpaper). There are various chutneys, tomato ketchup (the yummiest you have ever tasted, I swear), pickled onions, dried rockmelon, apples and pears, preserved butter, canned beetroot and casserole bases among others.

Preserving, canning and drying food got me into hunting out the most natural and organic ingredients I could find, and that, in turn, made me determined to grow my own organic produce. Learning just what goes into modern agriculture and food (the chemicals, the dangers of genetically modified foods) made me even more determined to take control of what I eat.

Most of all, though, it is the sheer satisfaction of growing, tending, then picking my own food – of being able to thumb my nose at modern agriculture and what the gigantic supermarket chains try to force you to eat. I have never felt better, and have never eaten such wonderful food.

So now the flowers are giving way to the veggies. Only a little bit, though. I still love my flowers.

If you haven’t ever considered the problems inherent in today’s mass production of food, then (when you have a spare hour or two), watch The Future of Food. This used to be available in its entirety on Google video but has now vanished … there are segments of it available there, though. If ever you have an opportunity to watch this, please do so – it portrays brilliantly what uncontrolled movement towards genetically modified crops has done to the American environment. Both google video and You Tube have lots of documentaries about the crisis in modern food production (and the crises it is producing in our health), but also in the growing sustainability movement.

Later …

Have pulled out all marrows and zucchinis and the last of the tomatoes and composted down. I’ve cleared out the flower bed that was, and which will be edibles come spring. I have picked a crop of mild chili’s and am drying them. My cabbages, late crop of onions, leeks, rocket and carrots are coming on beautifully.

Oh, and I baked a lovely raspberry teabread from the last of the raspberries.

I thought I might give an account of my first year of produce growing. It was very successful in what I planted, grew, but less successful in that I had little idea of quantities of what I needed, or how much would grow, so I tended to an overabundance in some areas and a shortage in others. That’s a learning curve for me, and I will need to sit down during winter and carefully plan out what I need to do differently.

So, what did I grow?

Potatoes: the most successful were the King Edwards, so I might stick with those next growing season and perhaps diversify again the next year. They are keeping well, and every week I go through, sort out those starting to soften, and either use them then and there or make something like soup or potato and leek bake and freeze them.

Onions: mostly cream golds, although I have a crop of early reds in at the moment (possibly the wrong time of the year, but they are doing well!). I need to grow much much more – I use onions so much in preserving that I have little left over to actually eat.

Shallots: very successful, and are keeping well in storage.

Leeks: currently growing well. I need to plant far more next season.

Spinach: Bloomsdale spinach which did well, but I will need to plant more of it next season and freeze it for the winter.

Silverbeet: Five Colour: did very well, may need to plant more and freeze. Beautiful for cooking.

Carrots: mini reds, which are round ball carrots – love them, and I can grow them as needed throughout the year.

Beetroot: Bull’s Blood, did very well, but grew a few too many. The greens were lovely for salads. Nice for chutney and I might look at other ways of preserving them. (I did can some, but I am not sure how well they have done – will open some soon.)

Raspberries and strawberries: they did very well for their first year, and I got spring and autumn crops from both. I have ordered more strawberries and may get some more raspberry canes as well. Absolutely lovely produce.

Saladings: rocket, lettuces, radishes, various greens. All did well but I need to learn to stagger plantings!

Tomatoes: they did not do well. For most of the summer they struggled under a load of fungus (I heard many others had the same problem, but maybe it was just me) but very late in the summer and into autumn they came good and actually produced some tomatoes! Many of them I picked a couple of weeks ago for a green tomato chutney before the frost got to them.

Zucchinis: grew well, but I kept forgetting to check them and they grew into gigantic marrows which fed the compost heap rather than me. I may not grow them again next year.

Pumpkins: Galeux d’Eysines. They did well, but I need to get them in earlier and to grow more of them. I had no idea they would spread so! The Galeux d’Eysines produced a lovely fruit with rich orange sweet flesh. Makes beautiful soup and is great for roasting. This variety of pumpkin is covered with warts!

So, that’s my main crops. I think I did well for my first season and am happy enough. Next year I will get going far earlier on many of the crops, plant more of many of them, and rethink my tomato strategy

What do I need to get over the winter? A chest freezer so I can freeze and keep more vegetables and produce.

12th June 2007

Winter is finally here. Nights are frosty and days not much better, and my central heating has packed in. Am waiting for gasfitter to arrive and install a new system, Brrrrr!

I have been away for 2 weeks photographing Tasmania (and thus little garden news as I have allowed the garden to do its own thing for the past few weeks). I will put up a page of photographs shortly. Tasmania is just so beautiful.

16th June 2007

No sooner had I arrived back from holidays than plants started to arrive en masse. 9 mop-top robinias are here and are currently heeled into one of my compost bays. I also have new strawberry plants, clary sage, coneflowers (white and reds), hollyhocks, yet more gunnera and Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia), lavateras, anemones, salvias, violets (why on earth did I order those?) and some oakleaf hydrangea.

Today I have started to either pot them on or plant them out. I have a space ‘out back’ which wasn’t attacked by the landscapers and which I use as my ‘nursery section’. Trouble is, it is overrun with weeds, so I have layered down weed mat, and in the next week or so will order a bunch of river pebbles to go over the top, which hopefully should improve the look of it. It is an area I’ve needed to do something with for ages, and this should be an easy and effective fix.

And I’ll need new pots for the strawberries – I think they will line the back fence in pots where they’ll be easy to net from birds.

Gardening never ends! I ordered in some more compost from Chandler’s yesterday, and they gave me some russel lupins as a gift. I love lupins – so now they’re potted on and will go out later once they are more firmly established.

It is turning into a nice day – I’ve been gardening in my thermals and fleecy tracks and layers and layers and layers – very cold and foggy earlier – now I can start to peel off!

We do need rain, though – no rain for ages.

19th June 2007

Five of the robinias planted – this entry is procrastination to avoid going back out and planting the remaining four. It has been so cold recently!! Much black ice and frost and occasional drifts of snow. The strawberries are all planted out as well.

We did manage 10 mm of rain last night, and this morning the Bridgewater Gerry rolled in and enveloped the house in fog for a few hours.

Later: well, three more of the robinias are now planted. There is one more to go, and I could really do with two more (I wonder if the nursery has any more left in stock?). The one left heeled into the compost cried and wept and demanded to be planted out as well, but I told him to get over it, and I’d attend to him over the next few days.

These nine robinias are really starting to give the front garden some height and form – I can’t wait for them to grow and mature, when they’ll look spectacular.

10th July 2007

There has been a break and I am sorry for it – caused by frantic work on a project to get it finished, and then a complete upgrade of all computer equipment and software. And the one thing I forgot to transfer over was the information needed to connect to the remote site. Oh well. Hopefully this will work. I’ll try the transfer and if all goes to plan I should be back within a couple of days to update the site. (New software … can’t get the rotten fonts right!). I have lots of new trees and plantings …

17th July 2007

Enough procrastination. I must bite the bullet and get used to the new software.

So to the garden. Over the past few weeks I have been getting the garden ready for spring. In the main vegetable garden I have dug over the main bed, composted and manured it, and covered it over with pea straw awaiting spring planting. I did, in one corner, plant the year’s crop of shallots (plant on the shortest day of the year, harvest on the longest day). The other two beds currently contain cauliflowers, cabbages, a rogue patch of rocket and a very large crop of onions and leeks – the leeks being almost ready to pick, the onions still a good few weeks off, but I hope they will be an early spring crop for me.

In the rest of the garden I have been weeding and mulching – this weekend’s garden blitz involves a very large bed containing many perennial shrubs which have largely died back over winter. So I have been pruning heavily, and tearing a few out so that I can use the foreground of the patch as this summer’s pumpkin field – the back will keep its shrubbery of laveteras, buddleias, giant sages and salvias, angel’s trumpets and camellias.

I have also been planting trees. Lots and lots of trees. From my very local nursery (New Town Station Nursery) I ordered and obtained nine more mop-top robinias to form a formal guard of honour up the front path to the door, and also to form a sky hedge to block out the less than beautiful view of the purple block of flats one door but one away. I have also planted out 3 apple trees (a Granny Smith, a Red Delicious and a Gala) and a couple of lemons.

About fifty strawberries have gone into pots, and I have just had delivered six huge terracotta pots to use for this year’s tomato harvest. My seeds from Diggers have arrived for the vegetables this spring and summer. I have planted out some sweet potato but feel it is still far too cold for them. I have my seed potatoes – King Edwards and Pink Eyes -for the potato cages.

In the kitchen – have discovered I can make my own vanilla extract! I bought one hundred absolutely delicious vanilla beans from ebay (for the knock down price of $30!) and have several large bottles standing in the pantry, each filled with several beans and covered to the brim with vodka. I have to say it all smells delicious and every day I head into the pantry several times and lift down the bottles and admire the deepening colour, and then take off the lids and inhale slowly … yummy. It will take some 4 months for the beans to flavour the vodka … and once that is done then you may expect me never to be coherent enough to add another entry to this diary.

I have purchased a large upright freezer in which to store my produce.

And that must be it for this week, I am afraid – that shrubbery beckons …

23rd July 2007

Well, I got the entire bed weeded and pruned, watered and mulched.

Today I am awaiting the big truck from the landscape suppliers, bringing more lucerne hay, about a tonne of pebbles for a bit of a project out back (neaten an untidy area), chook poo, potting mix, vermiculite and perlite, some more pots for the Mistydowns rose order which is on its way, and some black plastic to nuke a bed with way too many nasturtiums.

There is an area behind the garden sheds which is sludgy and weedy and nasty. I am in the process of putting down weed mat and the pebbles will go down atop this. I also bought 6 huge terracotta pots to go down there in which to grow my tomatoes this summer. Today I had to clear the area and shift the pots into position before the pebbles went down as I would not be able to do it after.

Am looking forward to summer very much.

I can almost feel a hint of spring in the sunshine today … but maybe that is just sheer hope.

19th August 2007

As usual much weeding and mulching – I try to do something each day, but because I have been involved with a work project that has sometimes been difficult.

Inroads are being made. Most of the weeding is done, and mulching also. Some smaller bits remain to be done, but the back of it is broken. The side garden has to be worked up. The woodland has to be weeded. I have dozens of plants in pots waiting to be planted.

But we will get there.

Today I planted the horse chestnut I grew from a conker from Ashcotte’s garden. It will be my only living link back to that garden so it was an important moment. I hope the poor thing survives as I think I crushed its head, plus half of its root system, as I was trying to get it out of the pot. *oops*

The apple trees and weeping elm I planted last month (did I mention those? Surely so …) seem to still be alive, which is a bonus, and all the roses (mostly still waiting to be planted) are sprouting nicely. I have been shifting lilies so that I can turn a flower bed into a pumpkin patch.

A local carpenter came about and enclosed most of the car port for me, then filled it with shelves. Viola! I have a wonderful dry space for my gardening equipment. He also built me a huge potting bench – thanks Tony.

The white pebbles I had delivered in July have been used to make a wonderful area out by the potting sheds – what was once muddy weedy area is now levelled and pebbled and has many terracotta pots waiting to be filled with tomatoes and herbs. It looks fabulous and really brightens up what was once a dull and useless area.

3rd September 2007

Amazingly, the weeding appears to have had its back broken – which is likely as well, as I am sure you’ve had enough of hearing about it! Most of the beds have been mulched in well, although I could really do with more pea straw. We are now, unfortunately, in pea straw famine time of the year, and it will be difficult to find for a bit. I make do with the cats’ litter, which has the added benefit of keeping at bay all stray cats.

Spring has struck. It has been our coldest winter in many, many years, and very dry, but the garden is looking fine (as fine as it can look in its bare winter bones). I have many roses and perennials still to plant out, most of which will be going into the side garden still slumbering under its layers of newspapers, cardboard and straw. Many of the new mop-top robinias that I put in over winter now have green buds bursting through, many of the hyacinths and daffodils are up, the early crocuses are now dying back. I’ve been pruning back shrubs, hoping I have got in early enough before the great spring burst.

About a third of the roses are planted out, I’ve planted out the new giant rhubarb, the horse chestnut tree, and the edible rhubarbs. I bought a couple of hot houses, and together with my heated propagation trays have some tomatoes and pumpkins hatched and growing (some of the pumpkins are Turkish Turbans, and I have now heard that while spectacular, they’re a nightmare to cut into, so I’ll have to see how we go with those). Some of the asparagus caught me napping and sprouted – so now I will need to watch out for other spears and perhaps harvest a few this year. There are cauliflower and carrot seedlings started off, and potatoes sitting in the hothouse developing shoots. I am just going to grow King Edwards and Pink Eyes this year – maybe just the King E’s if the Pink Eyes don’t hurry themselves along a bit. There are also seed potatoes left in the beds where last year’s cages stood, so I should get a crop from them as well, and I might try a late crop to see how I do, planted in high summer.

I currently have cauliflower, onions and cabbage growing well. I am hanging out for the onions to mature, as I need their bed badly to start off some of the summer saladings!

Oh, and I have planted out a field of mustard. I have no idea how it will do. I’ve not ever grown mustard before and this patch is prone to frost … so we’ll just have to see how we go.

The climbing roses I put in last year are doing wonderfully now – I pruned them back a bit, and they are now sprouting all over the place with new, rich red foliage.

I really am sick of planting. I will need to try and be restrained once those catalogues come around again. It would be nice to spend a winter and spring not worrying about getting things into the ground and just not buy anything. I want to get this work of planting out finished as quickly as I might – I truly want to enjoy the garden this summer!

15th September 2007

I found 2 crates of champagne in a back room – I’d forgotten about them. Looks like the ‘enjoy’ part of the garden time is here.

Of course I haven’t planted out as much as I had expected – but then I am sure you expected that! Some of the monkshood has gone in as underplanting in the new rose bed (looking very pretty with the hyacinths and daffodils all out in bloom – and I need to get some of the pumpkins in there as well). It has all been mulched down with cat litter … but my shopping lady found me thirteen bales of lucerne hay the other day (she normally only gets the toilet paper and meat!) and so I can cover up the litter a little.

My tomato seedlings are doing well … but … as every year I forget to set them early enough, and so what happens is that they take ages to germinate on their propagating trays, and then I am down the nursery one day, and see precisely the same tomatoes for sale at $2 each and they’re 3 or 4 months more advanced than mine … and so I buy some of those, and then my own carefully nurtured seedlings are composted. MUST not do that this year … although I already have 6 nursery-bought plants sitting in the greenhouse.

Oh well.

Must off to do some work so I have time enough this afternoon to sit down and enjoy some of that champagne.

18th September 2007

Weeded the front path – discovered hundreds of tiny russell lupins growing in the gravel of all places, but also many more in the front bog garden, which is nice.

Put together a new el cheapo greenhouse … learned to do it properly. Took apart existing el cheapo greenhouse and put it back together properly. They are all full of tomatoes and seedlings. Within a week I can start to transplant them into the vegie beds.

I have lots of potatoes growing in the compost bins. I gave up and popped the remaining seed potatoes in there as well – might as well have a bumper compost crop.

Chatted with next door neighbour. Explained to next door neighbour what mop-top robinia trees are and, no, they will not grow into great giants to dominate her garden. She is a lovely old lady, and she says she has a vegetable garden. I believe her, really I do, but I have no idea where it is. So I went to whereis.com and looked her up in aerial photography and she has it tucked away in a dark corner of house and fence. She is the lady who inhabits my stable block. I don’t have the heart to tell her I want my stables back …

20th September 2007

When I moved down to Tasmania I had wanted to eventually become self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. The fruit is still a long way off – the apple trees have but two baby leaves each and won’t be producing fruit for some years yet, the rhubarb patch still has to establish, as do the berries (although I am hoping for a bumper crop of strawberries this year).

But I have decided that it is time I went self-sufficient with vegetables. Starting from December/January I want to try a year of eating only what I can grow. It means eating seasonally (looking forward to that) and it means lots of preserving (looking forward to that) and it means staying on top of the planting … not sure I am looking forward to that!

Am suffering with a terrible headache with a sudden and dramatic drop in barometric pressure here over the past day. The barometer is now on its way back up again, so I hope it will relieve the pressure in my head somewhat, too.

26th September 2007

A dull day – what better time to update the diary?

Yesterday I realised, very suddenly, that all my major jobs have been done. Sure, there is lots of planting to go out yet, but it isn’t a depressing amount. The weeding is under control. On the weekend I tackled a job I had been dreading and cleaned out some blocked garden drains (oh yuck, but great once done). Yesterday I cleared off the patio of its winter weed woollies and – finally! – set out the canvas garden umbrella which has been in storage for almost three years since I moved from Bendigo (I was sure it would have a tribe of huntsmans living in its fold – but no, merely one juvenile snail) and put out beneath it the table, steamer chair and garden rocking chair.

Now I need a nice sunny day to enjoy it.

Speaking of sunny days – my tiny cheap hothouses have been so good that on Monday I bit the bullet and ordered a real one – 12 foot by 6 foot – so am looking forward to that arrival.

And now, imagine, I am a soil expert! Helen from Musing on Self Sufficiency asked me my advice on soil prep which isn’t very advice-ful I am afraid, but you might like to read Helen’s blog as she is in the same process as me three years ago – selling up and re-establishing a garden elsewhere.

My vegetable garden is forging ahead – last night I enjoyed a meal of new potatoes from my feral potato patch.

28th September 2007

I found a soapnut seed in the wash today (I use soapnuts in the laundry instead of washing powder). I wonder if I can grow it. I wonder if having been through the wash five or six times might have, literally, dampened its ability to germinate. Who knows? I stuck it in a pot and stuck that in one of the cheap greenhouses. We’ll see.

15th October 2007

This has been a relatively quiet month in the garden for me thus far – I have been tending the food garden, but as things are mostly still seedlings, there is not much to do. I have planted, all I can do now is wait.

I have been feasting off new peas and new potatoes and the ever loyal leeks – the feral potatoes have been doing wonderfully and keeping me in a ready supply of meals.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be able to join a boat which wanted to do a circumnavigation of Maria Island. it was just amazing! My ankles and wrists are stiff and sore from hanging on in the boat tossing and throwing in the Tasman sea, my hair is still stiff with salt, but, oh, the sights!

17th November 2007

The food garden is doing splendidly. It is still early days for produce, but I have had many lovely new King Edwards from the feral potato patch, and likewise 2 kilo of delicious peas from some peas which grew from the winter spread of pea straw. I am eating my way through the beetroot I pickled last summer, and still have leeks available. The spinach and silverbeet (swiss chard) are also providing lots of yummy greens.

hothouseAs well, I have about a dozen capsicums growing, and some of the tomatoes are beginning to fruit. I had put the tomatoes out into gigantic terracotta pots … and most are doing well, but one of the pot’s drainage holes have blocked and one poor tomato is now dying from an overabundance of water. I did my best to protect these drainage holes, but not enough, I guess. It has some fruit ripening on its dying vine, though, so I will achieve at least two tomatoes from it. My winter onion crop is still bulbing up – I am desperate to get it up as I need that bed, but these onions are taking their own sweet time about maturing. They are almost there, but not quite. The garlic, and all the herbs are growing on well – the garlic should be ready for harvest soon.

The damned bloody blackbirds dug up my seedling carrots, but my strawberries are producing and the raspberries are going to give me a huge harvest in a few weeks’ time.

Finally the hothouse has arrived and is now up and running. Many thanks to Joanna and Tony for their help in this – I am hopeless at flat packs anything more than a metre square. Thus far (early days) it appears a great success. I have some new baby tomatoes in there, as well the capsicums Today I put in trays of peanut seeds (a great experiment, I really hope it works) and some Japanese climbing cucumbers (to be used more for gherkins, I think).

Boy does it get warm in there! As well as providing a happy home for heat loving plants, it is also a terrific place to raise bread dough. I bought a fluorescent lighting system (solar powered) from ebay, so hopefully that will provide light and a bit of warmth on cloudy winter days.

The flower garden is delightful. Many of the roses have really sprung ahead, the lupins are blooming, the giant rhubarb have flowered and all the new mop-top robinias have transplanted well – the apple trees, still tiny babies, are also forging ahead.

And now I am off – I have run out of perlite for my seed trays

5th December 2007

The garden is going well – we have had some good rain this week so everything is peaked up. My onion harvest is in and I must this weekend find the time to plait them up.

But the news for this month is not so much the garden as the house. I have finally, after downing as many calming things I could find, embarked on the interior of the house. The builders are here and I am coping, if only barely. Having renovated Ashcotte in Bendigo, I am not sure I have the nerve for this … but it has to be done, so I am gritting my teeth, drinking too much wine, and getting on with it.

This initial stage is the hallway and drawing room. You wouldn’t think that was too much, but it has taken almost a month so far (the builder promises me they will be finished this week – we’ll see). In the drawing room the ghastly 1940s fireplace had to come down and everything rebuilt so I can put back a Victorian surround. I am having a gas log fire put in there (over winter I had two put in elsewhere in the house and I love them – I am so over wood fires … the grit, the dirt the fuss, the cleaning and chopping and carting … no way ever again). In both hall and drawing room dado rails were going in to divide up the tall walls, the thirty year old carpets were coming up (oh my God they were in a state!), the floors are not being sanded because right now I just can’t cope (which means they won’t ever get done), everything was to be painted (walls a soft apple green, below the dado rail in antique white, and all the woodwork (doors – ten! – and windows and skirting boards and dado etc.) all in glossy antique white. The paint work looks splendid – it really lifts the hall and drawing room – which has been some compensation for living in a state of nightmare of brick and plaster dust for all this time.

The builders had got to that stage where everything had been demolished, the walls stripped, plaster gouged out of cracks waiting to be refilled etc etc etc. The hallway was littered with debris, every room in the house was under a thick layer of dust, the builders were due to start rebuilding – and then bingo! They come down with chicken pox and flee for a week! So here I was, stuck in this nightmare while they went off to have the damned pox. I managed to clean a trail through the hallway for me and the cats and somehow I survived.

Mostly it has been cleaned up now and mostly it is now all fixed and just a few finishing touches to be done.

But oh, to think I have the rest of the house to go. And all the really expensive bits!

I have consoled myself by ordering two exquisite leather sofas for the drawing room, also another beautiful Pakistani rug for the room’s floor (I already have one). I also need to order in the fire surround and the gas fire men have to install the fire. The room won’t be looking good for another 3-4 months at least as the sofas will take months to arrive, and I need to get curtains made up, too. And Christmas looms. Everything now is dictated by “Oh, but Christmas is nearly here and we’ll have to close down for ten months’. I really hate Christmas …

But hopefully this weekend I will be able to start moving stuff back into hall and drawing room and finally start to clean!!

24th December 2007

Just before I get myself tucked into some Christmas beer, I thought I might give a sum of the food production thus far this growing season. I had set myself to be self-sufficient in vegetables and soft fruits from December, and in fact I have largely been self-sufficient since about October. The only vegetable or salady thing I have needed to buy in was some celery … I forgot to order celery seeds. Otherwise … here are my efforts in no particular order.

Potatoes: I have had many kilos of King Edwards from what I called my ‘ferals’ – last year’s patch which was not supposed to grow potatoes this season but which has been feeding me since late winter in feral potatoes grown from escaped seed spuds. My main potato crop, the more ‘formal’ one, should be ready in about 6 weeks.

Tomatoes: last year I could not grow a tomato to save my life. All succumbed to some horrid fungal disease (we had a very early and very humid summer and the tomatoes just did not like it). This year … well, I have eight foot high, six foot diameter monsters that are laden with as yet green fruits. I am going to be awash (praying now that they will continue to do well). I kept three or four back in the hothouse to see how they did, and they haven’t ‘done’ at all – although they are growing some fruit, they are sickly looking bastards. Tomatoes do best nurseried in the hothouse, but grown to maturity in the open air.

Onions: the winter crop is (finally) in and the summer crop is growing on well. I should be OK for onions for the rest of the year. I will grow another winter crop next year. I have red sweet onions and Hunter browns – the red onions did far better. I have some heritage varieties to try out next year.

Garlic: a big and wonderful crop of Tasmanian purple, now either plaited up and hanging in the scullery or dehydrated and stored in jars.

Shallots: just about ready to be picked – much earlier this year than last. I should get a good crop.

Leeks: one very good winter crop and another crop on its way. I love my leeks!

Herbs: I have been more diligent this year and now grow all my commonly used herbs – rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm and others which for the moment escape me. I have also been far, far more diligent about drying out the herbs I will need over winter … although, my God, the basil takes 3-4 days to dry out in the dehydrator! I will use some of these herbs and some of my garlic to make garlic salt for seasoning. I also make herbal teas..

Carrots: an utter failure this year! Why, I have no idea. Last year I was awash in carrots. Oh well …

Beans: mostly Berlotti, but I have some other varieties as well. They are growing on strongly now.

Peas: none of the ones I have planted have done well … but the feral peas from the pea straw mulch have kept me happily in peas and I have frozen lots to put away for winter.

Spinach: has done well – will need to put more out soon.

Silverbeet (Swiss Chard): another good crop that I have been eating and putting away in the freezer for next winter.

Beetroot: several rows coming on well. Must also plant some more soon.

Strawberries: I have been awash in strawberries. I never thought I could get sick of them, but I have this summer!

Raspberries: are almost ready to pick.

Gooseberries: ditto – I will get a small crop this year.

Saladings: all kinds of lettuces and relishy bits.

Walnuts: I should get a good walnut crop from the tree this year.

Peanuts: an experiment for the hothouse. I think I may have set them too late, but they have sprouted and I have potted them on. Now for some warmer weather and longer days to get them going.

Capsicums: Sitting in the hothouse ripening up.

Cucumbers: I have cucumbers growing both for cucumbers and gherkins.

Pumpkins: as usual have taken over the entire garden. I should get a very good crop of pumpkins.

Squash: I have forgotten to check the squash patch! (It is tucked away in an unusual spot.) I will do so once I have done this page – they were going great guns last time I looked.

Asparagus: I managed four spears this year. Next year I should be able to start picking in earnest.

The fruit trees are still to small to fruit, and the rhubarb patch is still immature (but doing very, very well!).

Overall, I may not have been eating hugely widely, but I have been eating well. I am looking towards the seasonal unfolding of the garden.

So there it is. I know I must have missed at least four major crops, but that beer is calling and I must away. Seasonal best wishes to all!