Sunny new garden!

When we first built this veggie garden, the big question was – will it receive enough sun? The tested answer was no. 
Whilst the patch received enough sun for some leafy greens and some butter beans to grow, it was not enough for them to thrive. It was certainly not enough sunshine per day for any of the flowering crops, such as tomatoes or zucchini, to produce any fruit.

A couple of months ago we had the Leopard tree taken out. In the four years since creating the veggie garden, the canopy of that tree had almost doubled in size, completely blocking any sunshine from reaching the garden.

Now the garden receives full sun for most of the day. Hip hooray! And the field silverbeet is luscious.

I’m sure there will be some issues around too much westerly sun in the middle of summer, etc. For now, though:     

sun + water = delicious home grown food.

We eat at least 4 ‘bunches’ of silverbeet each week. So our self regenerating field of the stuff is a good investment in family health and for the family budget.

First harvest – silverbeet salad

1 handful of silverbeet

1 handful of butter beans

several basil leaves

1 kafir lime leaf

Picked 10 minutes before dinner, sautéed with a chopped clove of garlic and a slug of olive oil. Serve immediately. I know where my dinner has been!

Fresh produce

First harvest – silverbeet salad

I wish for Summer Watermelons!

Today I planted the Sugarbaby watermelon seedlings  in a tub underneath sturdy trees that they can climb up – they do not naturally climb, so will require encouragement – and avoid spreading around the garden. The trees will shelter the plants from the rain, as I have a feeling that too much water will bloat the fruit and make it taste less.

The tub was layered with alternate layers of soil and compost to enrich the soil to grow tasty healthy fruit. Two seedlings, grown in the same pot, were planted together. To disentangle the roots of the two plants may weaken both, and it is better to see which plant grows strong, and then cut the other off at the stem with secateurs.

At the moment too much rain is not the issue, Brisbane has not received any significant rain for months. The 3,000 litre water tank in the garden hit empty today and I will start to siphon water from the kids’ bath to the garden to stay sustainable. The lack of rain means that mulching the garden properly is important.

Jobs – buy a bale of sugar cane mulch and spread on garden, and organise the siphoning.

For details on how to grow watermelon, and especially for reasons not to grow watermelons, see…..

Yummy strawberry jam

Here is the recipe for the jam I made recently. Strawberries were not from my garden, but in season and very tasty. The recipe can be altered to whip up smaller batches, which I did as an emergency when we finished the first lot.

P.s Apologies to the blogger whose recipe made it easy – I will improve at cross-referencing!!!

Strawberry Jam

8 cups strawberries

4 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

These quantities made 6 small jars of jam.


Hull the strawberries and wash. Chop to desired size – I like small chunks in my jam – and place in a wide, shallow pan. Add 1/4 cup of water and heat until fruit is soft.

Add sugar and lemon juice and stir. Keep stirring, more stirring!

The stirring takes longer that 15 minutes, this allows time to sterilize the already washed jars and lids in the oven for 6 minutes, just place them all on a tray. I find that a regular set of tongs is fine for handling the hot jars.

Test jam by blobbing a teaspoonful on a saucer that has been chilled in the freezer. When the jam cools to the desired consistency stop stirring and pour jam into the prepared jars. I use a small stain-less milk jug to do this, and it makes less mess than using a ladle.

Place full jars – with lids tight – into a pot of boiling water, boil for 15 minutes. Use tongs for this. Remove from the water. As the jars cool, they should pop, this shows that they are sealed. For the jars don’t pop, keep in the fridge until eaten.

Garden waste recycled as useful resources

Check out the bean stakes (see photo in previous post) – straight from another part of the garden, from a shade-loving plant that grows on a cane! I’d like to make my garden sustainable by keeping its footprint small: using material produced in my garden, and other recycled materials – see old chicken wire gate recycled as the support for the snow peas.

I have been experimenting with mulch, trying to use organic matter shed from other plants in the garden, as there is plenty, which I have to rake up each day – now I understand why it is preferred not to have trees surrounding the house, though I do believe that the benefits of shade over the house in summer and experiencing the wildlife, especially the amazing birdsong that we hear each day, does outweigh the annoying aspects of maintenance.

The best mulch so far is the shorn ‘hay’ from the native grasses. Cutting the grasses back at the end of winter allows them to shoot anew in spring. This should be a fairly sustainable method of mulching. Not sure about the nutrient value of these grasses going back to the soil.

Jobs – plant more native grasses to use as mulch.

I have held off mulching too much until the plants grow up a little. Small plants can get shaded and lost beneath mulch.

I am not super impressed with the soil that I bought for the garden. It is going to take a while to create a good growing environment with lots of nutrients and organic matter. I will improve the soil over time with additions of compost and manures.

My compost is much improved with adding comfrey. I have added several green leaves, chopped up, each week and it has reduced the vinegar fly maggots. I have sourced the comfrey from my local community garden.

Jobs – plant some comfrey and get a bag of horse manure.

Check out the Greenharvest website for more info about Comfrey.

‘Comfrey probably has the widest range of uses in a permaculture system of any plant.

The leaves are a useful addition to compost or used as mulch,as they contain silica, nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. Comfrey is lush and fast-growing in the right conditions and can provide abundant supplies of mulch. When planted in the orchard, it can be slashed to provide mulch under fruit trees. Comfrey leaves, measured as dry matter, are about 15 to 30% protein which is as high as most legumes. The leaves readily decompose when soaked in water to make a liquid manure.’