Sunday, September 20, 2015


Fresh peas from the garden have a taste all of their own and they are a crop I look forward to each year.  

Peas are a cool season crop, that makes them in the warm area where I live in Oz  a spring harvest. The recommended time for planting these sweet babies is February - August in my area, that's end of summer through winter.  However in England I believe March to June would be an ideal planting time.

But for those of you who live in Oz and haven't planted any yet, don't despair.  If you live in a warm area like Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide, hurry you can just squeeze in a planting now, although I would recommend advanced seedlings as opposed to seeds. However, if you live in a hot area like Perth, Brisbane and Darwin you can still plant seeds direct into the ground. Cool areas like Canberra, Ballarat and Tasmania have a planting time of January-Oct. (The guide I'm using for planting times is The Digger Club's Sow What When.)

I planted my seedlings out in autumn, having first grown them from seeds in my  little greenhouse. I prefer to raise them in seed trays, then when the seedlings are big enough I move them out of the greenhouse and into a protected area outside, where they can harden off for two to three weeks. You can't take baby seedlings straight from a warmer setting and plant them into the ground, the seedlings will be too tender - hence the hardening off period.

Before I plant them into my veggie garden I like to prepare the soil a couple or so weeks ahead by digging in some well rotted manure, or blood and bone and some lovely compost. This time I used mushroom compost. Peas like a well drained soil and an open situation where they get sunshine. At the time of planting I also scatter a handful of lime to sweeten the soil and lightly dig this in. Now your plants should not look back.  From this stage onwards I give them a liquid feed around every two to three weeks and I carry on feeding them through their cropping season.

My plants are now at the stage of producing their crop and I'm harvesting them a little each day. I like to grow three different varieties of peas: 

A shelling variety called Willow. It's a mid sized plant and will need support. It produces lots of pods over a long period and the peas are so sweet that I have to stop myself eating them straight from the pod!

The next on my list is Snow Peas, such a versatile variety. They're great in stir fries or raw in salads or simply steamed as a veg. 

These again need support and grow to around 1.1m (3.5ft)  Heavy cropper, they too seem to last over a long season - a must have in any kitchen garden.

 The last on my list is the Sugar Snap Pea, it's a versatile pea with a sweet flavour. You cook the young pods whole, but they are also tasty eaten raw in salads.  

A tall variety which can reach around 1.8m (6ft) and will need good support. They don't seem to crop has heavily as the  other two varieties I've mentioned, but their sweetness makes them well worth growing. 

Don't forget to keep your peas well watered and to pick the pods regularly to encourage your plant to produce more of these lovely treats!

There you have it growing peas is easy-peasy. 

Why not have a go at growing some yourself.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Let's Get Together - Community Gardens

Unlike in England, we don't seem to have allotments in Oz, at least I've never seen any, do tell if you know of any. But what we do have are Community Gardens. 

Community Gardens seem to have taken off in the  last few years. Local councils have been generous and donated various pieces of land. My own community garden was once tennis courts. They are a great asset as they provide those who do not have a garden of their own, or one not big enough or with the right conditions to grow fresh vegetables or flowers, with the opportunity to have a small plot to do just this, set in nice surroundings within built up areas.

But community gardens are not just for those without the facility to grow vegetables at home, they are also for people like me who have a veggie garden of our own, to have the opportunity to garden with others.

The great thing about these community gardens is that they provide you with companionship and the ability to share ones knowledge and learn from others. There are working bees held regularly, where members come along and help keep the general garden in good shape. It's a chance to chat with others over a cuppa and morning tea and to form friendships based on a shared interest—gardening.

There are social events for those who wish to participate and also speakers are engaged to come and talk on topics of interest. I believe my own community garden recently had a speaker on bee keeping. I would have loved to have heard this one, but unfortunately I couldn't go.

The garden I'm a member of is called Joy of the Earth and is now in its third year of being. Let me take you for a little tour around it.

This is the Rotunda and provides seating for that morning cuppa I spoke about and also shelter when it rains. 

Say hello to one of the characters that can be seen around the garden.

This is my plot within the garden, and I have to say everything is doing very well.

In the garden we have a greenhouse for the members use. There is an automatic sprinkling system installed to make watering easier for those who are growing things in it.

A small boxed orchard was set up last year, and the trees planted are doing very well. This photo I took during the winter months, so the trees are bare, but come blossom time they should look a treat!

There's sculpture in the best garden tradition ^_^

And of course there is a compost system which comprises of a three bed cold system. 

Housed next to it is our very productive worm farm, that supplies all the gardeners with that liquid magic called worm wee. 

Around the edges are beds planted with flowers, citrus trees and native plants, giving the whole garden a restful feel to it. 

We're the first community garden, I believe, in our area to have a wheelchair garden built by local college students as a project. 

Also we are a wheelchair friendly garden with access made easy to reach the lower half of the garden. 

And just to finish off your tour here are a few other views around the garden. 

So if you love to garden but would also like to have the companionship of other gardeners, why not check out your own local community garden.   

 Happy Gardening!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Come On Let's Talk Dirty! - Compost

Compost to the gardener is black gold. Every garden should have a compost heap of one sort or another, it's a vital ingredient in a healthy garden. It feeds and conditions your soil and it's good for the environment as it takes care of household scraps and your garden's green waste. 

Unless you are lucky enough to have the room for a three bin open system, which would make you a lot of compost and you're willing to turn it regularly, most gardeners like myself, only have room for an enclosed bin. The closed bin is a hot composting system and if mixed right will produce you compost fairly fast, as long as you place that bin in a position where it will get plenty of sunshine.

The enclosed bins come in various sizes, and I have found, having tried both, that the ones that also have air slats featured in the design, as compost does need air, work better than those that don't. 

 Just like the cold bin method, you do have to ensure your compost is aerated and within an enclosed bin you cannot really turn it, but you can use a tool that you insert and twist. This tool, (a picture of my own one is seen to your left,) will introduce space and air into the mixture. You still need to do this even if your bin has air slats. I also prefer compost bins that have an open bottom and which you place in direct contact with the soil. By having an open bottom to your bin you allow access to those lovely worms that work so hard for you in your garden.  

Making compost is not hard, you just have to get the mix right, that is the right balance between brown material (paper, cardboard dry leaves, straw) and green material (kitchen scraps, garden waste etc.) Compost also needs air and to be damp. Too wet or too dry and your compost will not turn into that black gold that smells right - no bad odours. Also the addition of extra nitrogen in the form of organic fertilisers can and should be added. I add usually a little blood and bone to one of the layers. 

The trick to good compost is to build it in layers. You can start with your green waste, that is scraps like vegetable peelings etc. Egg shells, just crush them up and don't waste those coffee grounds, tea leaves or tea bags as your compost will love these and they act as an activator to breaking everything down. Throw in your garden green waste, but do chop it up small. Even weeds can go in a hot compost bin as long as they haven't gone to seed.

Now, to the no no no's of kitchen scraps. No meat, fish or dairy. I do believe too that your dear worms are not too fond of onions, garlic, chilli and citrus (although I have to admit I have put all of these things worms don't like into my bin without any problems, but not very often.)  A big NO to  dog/cat/human waste - you don't want any of that shit! It may not be safe to use - so don't put it in.

Next layer can be your brown waste, that includes paper, shred it up, but not the glossy type though, newspaper, kitchen roll is all good, cardboard, save those inserts to your toilet rolls and kitchen rolls and rip 'em and chuck 'em in!  Don't waste those dried leaves in your garden, they're all brown waste and of course straw.

Sprinkle on top of this some blood and bone, or well rotted manure, chook, cow, sheep etc. or even some organic pelleted fertilisers.  Also I don't waste my spent potting mix. When a plant pot is finished I empty it's contents into the bin.

Now you can start your layers all over again!

You need to keep your compost damp but not wet or too dry.  If it's too wet, how do you know this? Well, it may not smell as good as it should. Aerate it and put in some of those dry ingredients I talked about earlier. If your worms are exiting your bin, the chances are it's too wet or you've added those ingredients those little darlings don't like ^_^

Some people advocate not composting tomato plants, capsicums and potato plants, because they may have developed a disease, and you do need to keep your compost disease free. However, I do compost tomato, capsicum and potato plants, all you have to do is check those plants out, if they're clean they're fine. If you suspect any plant of any sort has a disease then the best thing to do is bin it, not compost it.

There you have it, compost is the gardeners friend, so go on make yourself a lovely heap!