Sunday, February 7, 2016

Summer garden

As to be expected, my summer garden isn't as promising as my spring one was. Everything is dying back, due to sporadic watering, bouts of heatwave, and pests who see the stress of plants, and move in. So my garden beds went from looking like this, in the second month of spring...

Neat and tidy in October

To looking more overgrown, but surprisingly, with very little produce to show for it now.

 Same row of beds in February

I harvested sporadic tomatoes, beans, beetroot, radishes, rubarb, zucchinis and some beautiful spaghetti squash, as well as herbs, over the growing season. But it was a battle all spring and summer to keep the garden hydrated enough.

What you can see in the image above, are the flowers of my Jerusalem artichokes.

 Jerusalem Artichokes

The rhizomes, of which, will be ready to harvest in late autumn/early winter. I will also have my Yacon, which will be ready to start harvesting around the same time. So there's more to come from my vegetable garden, but this season hasn't been without its problems either.

Pumpkin on a hot tin roof, to cure the skin

This is our Kent pumpkin and is one of our favourites to eat. This was the largest one to be produced. I have another four smaller ones to harvest, and that is all I've managed to grow, on three separate vines. If I were to boil it down to the major culprit of such a dismal crop, it would be a lack of balanced nutrients in our soils. My cucumbers barely managed to produce two fruits, on 4 separate vines, either.

So my task is making better soil improvements, but also exploring a better way to water - as it was a full time job to cart water by hand, to the garden every day.

Spaghetti squash vine

These are the last of my spaghetti squash, and I will be sad to see them gone. They were a delicious meal to have with a white sauce, made from coconut cream and chopped home grown herbs. This will be a stayer in my vegetable garden, for years to come. I just have to work on improving the soil, so I can get more to produce on the vines.

Blossom end rot, was the culprit. I was actually able to get these two remaining fruits to produce, after delivering a milk spray to the leaves of the vine. I also added some magnesium, by watering the base with an epsom salt solution. That intervention, saw these two fruit emerge, which makes me very happy. Especially since I'll be having spaghetti squash, for dinner tonight!


My nasturtiums are still producing flowers, which is great to see, in an otherwise shrivelled bed. As the season has progressed and I've gotten busier, I haven't been able to water as regularly as I was. Even the rains we received, while welcome, wasn't enough to water deeply into the soil.

I'm going to completely rethink this area, as some interventions are required, if I want to produce food on a consistent basis.

Summer fruits

Here is the spaghetti squash for dinner tonight, but also two mangoes I picked from our tree. Its a tiny tree and I wasn't expecting much from it, but its produced 3 fruit. One is already ripening but the other just fell off the tree, as I went to inspect it. It may, or may not ripen on the kitchen bench.

I will give the other mango a try, after a few days on the bench. This was a lovely surprise to find in our garden. Especially since our avocado tree, managed to drop all its developing fruits.

Space invaders

This is why we had problems growing vegetable beds in this particular area, before we put in the retaining wall. The passionfruit vine would invade from above. We keep saying we're going to take out the passionfruit vine, but it does give us food we can eat, as well as the chickens, so its tough to consider its demise.

Maybe this winter? I have plans to put in beds under the wall, but hopefully they won't be ordinary beds. I don't want to soften the soil under the wall. So it will have to be raised beds, with a barrier, to suit this area.

Bananas and herbs

The banana plants we rescued, from having to cut the parent tree back, have gotten so big, I've had to transplant some into boxes. We should be able to get these in the ground, in the next few months - hopefully. We have to cut out some lantana first!

 Banana trees cut back to make way for retaining wall

Overall, if I hadn't decided to tackle the overgrown garden beds, back in August, and turn them into vegetable production areas again, I wouldn't have grown anything. So that can be considered a success! However, what I was able to produce, was sporadic and while utterly enjoyable when available, it wasn't enough to justify the labour involved.

When you tend a piece of land, you have to be able to expect a reasonable amount of calories to come out of it - to compensate for the expended energy. I don't feel I've achieved that. Not YET anyway. But I've learned a lot from this growing season, and hope to change our system to better meet the conditions.


  1. Have you tried hugelkultur beds? Your retaining walls would be perfect I reckon. Hugels are beds built of timber with soil on top. The first year requires a heap of nitrogen to realise much of a crop as the carbon base draws it all down but they are AWESOME for water storage. My hugels were brilliant their first year for water storage and through a week of 44C for 5 days I only watered my pumpkins once or twice. As the wood rots it holds even more moisture, almost like wicking beds. When you build them, either dug into the ground, behind garden edges/retaining walls or above ground, load them up with wood chips (massive nitrogen draw but water results faster) or fallen trees and logs as well as some biochar, worm castings, compost, spent chook straw etc with your soil on top. The worms will soon mix it all up, the logs will catch and hold onto any rain and you will find you will water a whole heap less. Drip irrigation works nicely with it too but hugels are cheaper to build (although MUCH harder work of course)

    1. Thanks for the feedback on hugelkultur beds, and your experience with them. I will definitely put them to work in some regard here, as we have quite a deal of wood and branches, to deal with on a regular bases.

      Maybe I can use it when we plant out our bananas? So thanks for the idea! I do have another option I thought better suited to the retaining wall area though. Using resources I've been putting aside for this purpose, one day. :)

  2. I was going to suggest wicking beds? To help minimize the water usage dramatically?

    I think for a first season its pretty good to be honest. Though I totally understand feeling a little disappointing. I find it seems to take about 2-3 years to really get the soil really good, full of organic matter and so forth.....Depending on the soil condition in the first place. Well done on what you grew! :)


    1. Wicking beds, is what I was contemplating too! Its been on my mind for ages, and I've gradually gotten the resources together, to fit this area - I hope.

      I agree, my first season wasn't a total failure. Many pioneer families who moved to new land, experienced exactly what I am too. Which is a lack of nutrients for the crops we hope to grow. The soil has plenty of nutrients to sustain its indigenous flora, but needs improvements to grow better crops.

      Given the local conditions I had to work with, I did pretty well. But I would love to be able to feed our family more of that delicious bounty, we got a taste of! My son was picking beans and eating them recently, as we were doing stuff around the yard. We only had three spindly beans left, but I was so pleased he could reach into the garden and grab a snack of health nutrients.

      I know you got the same feeling as your boys explored their landscape, and ate mandarins from it too. :)

  3. Yes, my problem is lack of nutrients too, especially with the zucchinis which were planted on a hugelkultur bed in which the wood hasn't broken down properly yet. Don't be put off by that...Jessie is right...hugels work well once they're well established. Where the zucchini are had an underlying base of pure grey sand...great for the indigenous plants but no good for nutrient-hungry veggies, which is why I'm not getting (m)any. No pumpkins either here, although they're in a different spot. Growing well but just not flowering yet.

    I like the way the passionfruit is cascading nicely down The Wall. They do tend to get rampant though.

    Why did you have to cart water by hand? That's no fun! Is there no hose nearby? You have tanks don't you? Is that your only water source?

    1. With the lack of water you experienced for most of summer, I can imagine the hugel beds would take longer to break down. That's if you weren't running irrigation to them. I remember one of your hugel beds, you ran grey water to. I hope you get some pumpkins before the frosts come.

      We do have a single 5,000 gal rainwater tank, to supply our family of four. We just don't know when the rain will visit us, so we tend not to use the hose on the vegetable beds at all.

      The system we do have however, is when we are getting good rain and the tank is full, we run the hose up to, two smaller tanks up near Hilltop chicken coop. This gives us 1,300 litres, exclusive for the vegetable beds. Being on a hill, a gravity fed system to bring the water to the veg would be perfect. We just haven't gotten around to doing that part yet. Because the fitting to access the water from the tank, isn't a standard hose fitting.

      So I run the water down the hill, via a watering can, until we fix the water delivery system. I was also using the aged swimming pool water, to drain it recently too. I could have just dumped the water down hill from the pool, but water is a precious resource here, and wanted it for my veg. Which, unfortunately, was up hill from the pool.

      If we had the money, we'd get more tanks, but we don't yet so we shuffle around what we have. I think the exercise does me good too. At least, until we make our system better. ;)

  4. Pumpkins on the roof! I had clean forgotten about this - of course yes, we used to do this as kids and put all the pumpkins on the tin shed roof of the chicken house. Kept them high and dry and helped keep the chicken house roof on too!

    1. That sounds just about right, Phil! Though our roofs would blow off, with of the gusts we get, if we didn't secure them properly. ;)

  5. I waish I cou,d send you my seeds for beans. I have no idea what they are but I'm on a third year and they tolerate a lot of neglect. Tomato can do very well in five gallon buckets if you have good soil to begin with. You coukd keep them closer to the house that way. And I fine that pumpkin really likes its own plot...more room to ramble with no competition. As to zuchinni, I fooled their predators by planting them later last year. The Amish use epsom salts on fruit and beans and I think they said cucumbers too. Its just about knowing your conditions and experimenting. You did great this year. Make sure to replant beets a month before its cold. and turnips too.

    1. I'm definitely considering more options with growing edibles around the house. I try a couple of boxes, every year, and I think the afternoon sun is what puts them to rest quickly. Still its a learning process and I'll come up with something.

      That epsom salt is necessary, because so many soils are low in magnesium. Which results in reduced fruit production. Thanks for the reminder of the beets too. I hope to do some more serious planting come next month. :)

  6. We are so barren now that all your photos look really good. Your nasturtiums do okay in the heat? Maybe I didn't water them enough in the past.

    1. The nasturtiums don't really like the heat, but where I have these ones is near the avocado tree. They only get the morning sun, which is probably why they're still with me. I have some alyssum self-sowing too.


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