It's easy enough to buy expensive things and follow the directions and get beautiful (although often not very tasty or resilient) plants. Growing amazingly healthy plants using natural processes and products to be found in your own backyard (or front yard as the case may be) is much harder - but it is possible. It's a question of harnessing and powerboosting natural processes. Brilliant soil, teaming with microbes and organic material, is the real holy grail I think.
My garden's pretty good at the moment:
I only put manure, blood and bone, dolomite, potash and pea straw on it. And LOTS of water (except for the xeroscaped cottage garden bit - it's a rental). I put all that in - it cost $100 in seedlings. It was totally bare before - the owners had cut everything down and left the wood chips on the ground. There is lovely volcanic loam to start with though. Oh and I make sure the correct crops follow each other, and replenish the soil in between them as necessary. Coriander (all outer leaves already eaten :) is just visible in centre bottom of the shot between the calendula and the chives.
This garden has a mix of: tomatoes, basil, chives, parsley, coriander, dill, tatsoi, leeks, spring onions, beetroot, silverbeet, lettuce, english spinach, cucumbers, celery, carrots and rocket all cropping, and I've got parsnip seedlings coming on. I need more beans and peas - must pull out the tomatoes and cucmbers, but they're still cropping! I have one scarlet runner bean in another part of the yard, and I got heaps of peas over summer which came up as volunteers in the pea straw mulch around the potatoes and corn!
Look at all my tomatoes!!
I also decided to get serious about strawberries and have been getting a few now - they like that self watering pot in the foreground, but they don't like my Mini Garden tower thing so much, because the spot it's in is a bit too hot, and they don't get as much water. I should put it next to the vegie garden, but am just a bit paranoid about it being nicked (as if - it's the country - but there you go). Was terribly excited to decorate our chocolate tart for our picnic the other day with strawberries and mint leaves from our own garden :) (I rolled the pastry in the tin, dusted with cocoa - hence the mess).
Note, as usual, my strawberries are 5 months behind the commercial crop - !? - which here in Victoria is December. In Brisbane my strawberries were ready in September, not April. I don't understand THAT at all.
I also have another bed around the side of the house, which has zucchini and a monocrop plot - which recently had potatoes, and now has a (ridiculously optimistic probably) crop of late corn, an Oca, and some roma tomatoes. That's my entire garden - and I'm feeding 30 kids every Tuesday at our schools' kitchen garden program as well as us :) It's very small!
We regularly buy fruit, onions, garlic, potatoes (although we didn't have to for the last 3 months - and in Brisbane that was sweet potatoes, and we had them all year), broccoli (in summer), maybe a capsicum, cauliflowers before ours are ready, carrots because our daughters love them as a snack. Our next big crops will be carrots, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, parsnip and turnips or swede. Then broad beans, then back to the main crop season in summer (tomatoes, potatoes, corn). Most meals have 4-7 vegies in them.
I love it that the vegie garden is right next to the tap, and right in front of the front door (just like the permaculture manual recommends) - it's the best watered garden I've ever had because I walk through it every day and can see when it needs a drink. I have a timer on the tap and I just move the sprinkler around, keeping the water pressure low to minimise water loss.
Still, I can't wait to buy another house (rather than rent) and kill ALL the grass and fill the whole yard up with productive trees and berry bushes etc :)
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