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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lessons learnt in the vegetable garden

This summer has not been my most successful vegetable growing season.  Last summer I harvested over 50kgs of tomatoes in my little patch and almost burst with vegetable growing pride when I made passata entirely from my own crop.  This summer I have picked just enough tomatoes for sandwiches and salad every few days.


Disappointingly my cucumbers died shortly after flowering and it became too hot to grow lettuce months ago.

I could blame our extremely hot, dry summer.  Or I could blame my lack of time available to tend the vegetables.  But honestly I think prior to this summer I became a little complacent.   I thought my previous summer abundance would just happen naturally.   Stubbornly I insisted on growing heirloom varieties from seed which requires some patience and dedication.

Here are some things I have learnt this summer:
  • Shade cloth is something I need to embrace, regardless of the extra infrastructure required.
  • Autumn is going to be my time to raise winter vegetables from seed, when the temperatures are not as extreme. However, next summer I am going to buy seedlings and get my crops well established before the hot weather arrives.
  • A successful tomato crop requires commitment.  I knew this, but the message has been reinforced.
  • Patience is required to allow my garden beds to recuperate.  I am guilty of eagerly re-planting with the next crop whenever a spare space appears.
On the upside I do have some vegetables that are bravely standing up to the heat.

Small but tasty capsicums.


Sweet smelling basil.

  

Pretty Listada di Gandia eggplant.


Vigorous and reliable Tromboncino zucchini.  These would easily be the most productive vegetable I have ever grown.  


My first crop of apples are suffering from a little sunburn but I am still quietly proud of them.
  

Lastly, perhaps not the most practical thing in the garden but this Buddha's Hand  citrus is unusual and the little tree is proving to be very hardy.


Have you learnt any lessons recently?  In your garden or otherwise?
Are you patient or eager?  

64 comments :

  1. I am in awe that you manage to grow anything at all in the middle of the desert! Great photos. I've never seen zucchini like that before.

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    1. Thanks Gill, you would love these zucchinis!

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  2. How disappointing your tomoatoes have not done so well this year :( I have just returned from holidays and leaving my garden for 5 weeks so it is a jungle out there! i am trying to weed and work out what went ok based on my preparation prior to leaving and some watering effort from friends. I will keep you posted on the lessons learned. Your apples look gorgeous Jane as does your other produce. I agree re the heirloom seeds. None of my capsicums or eggplants were successful, and very few carrots, worked this year from seed.

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    1. Thanks Kyrstie, I can imagine you came home to a jungle after 5 weeks! I look forward to you posting a blog from your garden :)

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  3. Looks like you have some lovely crops! Tomatoes are the most fickle, especially heirlooms but they're just the best. We got a lot last summer but ultimately they succumbed to a late season blight. I'm debating a blight resistant variety for this year, but wonder if they'll be as tastey. Enjoy what you have, I say from the depths of winter without a fresh tomato in sight :)

    xox Lilly

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    1. Thanks Lilly, and you have reminded me to enjoy what I have in the vegetable garden and beyond!

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  4. The eggplant in your garden is very expensive here in New York. There are not many seeds in it (less bitter). Can you tell us about the Buddahs hand. What does it taste like? How do you eat it? Is it only grown there?

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    1. Your information on the cost of eggplant is interesting Lisa. I really don't know a lot about the Buddha's Hand apart from what I have read on Wikipedia! It smells like lime and you treat the whole fruit like lemon/lime zest. It is basically like a huge piece of peel.

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  5. Amazing garden Jane! I can empathize with you over the tomato commitment, I'm afraid I haven't been as committed as I should have. Still we have a little, pretty intense flavoured crop. That Buddhas hand looks amazing, is it similar to a finger lime?

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    1. Hello Mrs M...I really don't know much about finger lime but I think they could be similar. It is like a huge piece of peel and smells like lime. My fruit is still very immature, fully matured they are yellow and as big as a human hand or bigger.

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  6. We can't grow anything in summer up here. It either dies of the heat or gets drowned during the wet. Our growing season starts by planting seeds into pots in March or April, and nothing goes into the ground until Autumn has well and truly arrived. By Spring we have to put shade tunnels over the lettuces and other leafy things. Winter is our prime growing time, but we're fortunate enough to never get a frost in our area, so everything usually survives.

    I hope your surviving vegies continue to produce!
    xx

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    1. This is very interesting and encouraging Sarah Jane. We live in an extreme country don't we? Onward to winter I say! x

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  7. We have found our tomatoes are doing quite well this year though the last two seasons had been dismal.
    Water has been an issue being on tank water and with little rain so I am rather surprised we have managed to harvest plenty of cucumbers and zucchini.
    I have let a few plants go to seed in the hope of saving some of our own but we'll see.
    And the thing I am reminded of every year? You cant beat Mother Nature!

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    1. Hello Sue, wise words on Mother Nature!

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  8. Nothing like the weather to bring us down Jane. I have had the exact same experiences!
    As lovers of growing things we bounce back though.

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    1. Hello Annie, it is a strong urge that keeps us going back each season is't it? x

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  9. I sympathise with your garden woes Jane between the heat and birds we have had little from our fruit trees although some of the apples are struggling through...I think I will be happy to see winter too!!!

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    1. Hi Paula, sorry to hear about your fruit trees which are usually so productive! I hope you get some apples. Yes, bring on autumn and winter and the gentler conditions!

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  10. Lucky you don't give up easily Jane. I found apples on my tree too! Very exciting

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    1. Excellent Kate, autumn apple pies perhaps?! x

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  11. Your haul looks wonderful! If I had half of those tomatoes I'd be feeling very smug indeed but I've found them so hard to grow. Up until now the majority things have gone "OK" but the budworm & blossom end rot really burst my garden-bubble! Those limes look amazing...so unusual.

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    1. Curse the dreaded blossom end rot Mel. You may not have a huge tomato crop but you are growing so much other good stuff and pots add an extra challenge!

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  12. How disappointing your tomatoes have not done well this year.

    This weekend I plan to start a vegie patch. Not sure what I'm going to grow yet.

    Good luck with your patch, Jane!

    Za

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  13. Oh how I wish I had that many tomatoes this season! We have had ONE so far! And that came from a self sown bush. However, my cucumbers have been bountiful, well, two a week, which is great, as they are about 18 inches long and quite tender and sweet! Love your garden philosophy Jane and thank you for sharing your pictures ; )

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    1. Your cucumbers sounds great Lizzy, I love them! Tomatoes can be elusive cant they? :)

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  14. I wish I would learn to never leave a zucchini on the vine when it's the perfect size, you turn your back it grows triple the size!
    Shell

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  15. My veg garden was disappointing last summer - we picked hardly any of the outdoor tomatoes and the indoor ones weren't a total success. At the beginning of the season I plan a careful rotation, but then like you, we end up sowing seeds wherever there's a gap.I'm intrigued by the Buddha's Hand.

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    1. Thanks for calling in Anne. Yes, careful rotation is always my plan too...something I really need to concentrate on!

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  16. Jane, Pete and I have been having nearly the same conversation and came to the same conclusion - we need shade, shade and more shade if these hot temperatures are the way of the future. When the heat got scorching, so many plants curled up and died. Oh my poor succulents! The cucurbits have had a good run here, but they've almost exhausted themselves now, so we're moving onto the next batch. And still no tomatoes here - we haven't tried for ages given the fruitfly problem, but the predator numbers in our yard have really picked up, so it might be time to try again.. xx

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    1. It is an ongoing process of learning and adjusting isn't it Celia?

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  17. hi jane, i too learn lessons. i blame the hot dry weather for a not-so-successful season. my peas have failed spectactularly this year, growing in a stunted manner, i suspect i may need to boost the soil more. i too need to rest my beds but as i have really only two beds, it's too tempting to fill them both up and not give them an off season. As you say: patience. probably the most important lesson for any gardener.
    i also need to learn that as a full time office worker with only a very small area to garden, i will never be self-sufficient. not yet anyway. but i have this unrealistic idea that i will be.
    still, it's all healthy and good fun!
    ++ i'm in awe of those gorgeous, trombone-like zucchini! amazing!

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    1. Hello e, we can strive towards being partly self-sufficient cant we? Even a little bit of home grown produce is better than nothing. As you said, it is all healthy and good fun!

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  18. i'm impressed jane that you grow so much..i've been to broken hill and i know how hot and dry it is..one thing i learned a long time ago is that i have to continually adapt..for instance this summer i've planted the more tender vegetables in new southerly positioned garden beds..even when it's over 40 deg c and with hot northerly winds the beans and tomatoes don't get scorched..zucchinis, cucumber, eggplant, chilli and capsicum seem thrive in the heat..one of the few vegetables to survive the 47 deg c day in 2009 was the zucchini..

    i really feel for the growers whose income depends on having a 'good season'..x

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    1. I agree Jane, I am glad we are not depending on our vegetables for income, especially this year. Zucchini is so tough isn't it!

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  19. Jane I feel your pain. I watched my beautiful herbs curl up and die one by one. I might be joining you on the shadecloth escapades. It would be great to find out if there is something in particular you recommend.
    Katrina

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    1. I will keep you posted on the shade cloth progress Katrina!

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  20. Hi Jane,
    I'm feeling your pain! We haven't even had time to get a veggie patch established here, just too busy with the cows and kids. All the materials are sitting here waiting, and I have a plentiful supply of composted bedding from the calf shed and calving pad, but that's as far as it's gotten. I to have raised the seedlings myself, only to watch them wither and die in the trays because I can't get to them to plant them out.
    I'll be buying seedlings next summer too!
    Kate

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    1. It takes time and effort doesn't it Kate? Thank for calling in :)

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  21. Still some wonderful scenes of success here, congratulations! I have finally given in to the fact that my urban space is not right for many plants and I have sent them on to better homes to recuperate. I have kept two that seem to be happy in my space, and am going to stick to small herb pots that last longer than a bunch from the market, and are cheaper. But I will accept that they will die after a little while. Also, I accept that while I nurture my humans and dog very well, I'm not a good reliable, patient nurturer of my plants! :) I will continue to enjoy exploring other people's gardens!

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    1. Small herb pots are perfect for your urban space I think Lucent!

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  22. I am new to your blog and I'm so glad I found it! I invite you to check mine out! I hope you have a great weekend! =)

    -Heidi Harlequin
    www.20stampslater.blogspot.com

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  23. My garden's crop looked promising this season too but I don't know what's happened. Lots of herbs bolted to seed and the fruit I did have on has not ripened. Everyone else is pulling in bucketloads of tomatoes but I have fruit on but it stays stubbornly green. It's had me scratching my head. The olive tree flowered prolifically, but only produced three (count them, three) olives. Stumped.

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    1. There is always next season Katie! Thanks for calling in :)

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  24. Wow check it out! I am so impressed. I am also very inspired by your Buddha's Hand. I have one in a pot and I am hoping that it will start to bare fruit soon! LOVE your blog!

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    1. Thanks so much Anna, I love your blog too! Good luck with the Buddha's Hand.

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  25. You know, i grew a feast of tomatoes one year and have suffered from droughts, blights and this year sandy dry tomatoes ever since. I, too, got too complacent, i fear. On the other hand i've had some gardening successes too. This year my chilli plants are doing tremendously well and i harvested my first jalapeno a week ago. While much of my parsnip crop failed - three sturdy ones survived, which i'm saving for seed. Leeds were lovely this year, spring onions too, and green and butter beans. I'm now just starting to think about what i can plant when this heat has died down ... Looking forward to hearing more about your garden.

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  26. Thanks Rachel, I am looking forward to the cooler season too!

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  27. Hi Jane. I'm a newbie to your blog too and I'm definitely an impatient gardener. I have learnt a huge lesson this summer - check the seed packet before planting. Following is my story of woe...but I have learnt the lesson. Can't wait for March/April in Brisbane so I can get going again. I hope my story is not too long.

    In Spring I planted 5 Yellow Empress Sunflower seeds in a raised garden bed. Two of these flourished. The packet said they would reach a height of 1-1.5 metres. Well let me tell you...they reached a height well over that figure - they reached the top of the roof at the side of he house. But the story doesn't end there.

    Last Saturday I cut off the two heads (they were huge) and putting on heavy leather gloves, I shucked all the hulls from the flower heads. It was a very rewarding exercise. I then soaked them as instructed on a video and that evening I drained them and lay them between layers of a towel to dry out ready for roasting on Sunday morning. Unfortunately in the early hours of Sunday morning our son was admitted to RBWH through emergency and so the roasting was put on the back burner (pardon the pun). However, all was not lost. My other son was visiting from Sydney so I phoned him and asked him to do the roasting for me. And he did.

    Later in the day he visited his brother in hospital (we were still there). He brought in a small container of the roasted hulls and guess what? Yep, not a seed in sight. How disappointing. I went from being a successful farmer with a successful harvest, to a successful farmer (they did grow after all) with a failed crop in less than 24 hours. I guess I'm not alone there. Many farmers often experience disappointment on a much larger scale than mine. We speculated. Did I fail? Did I do something wrong? Were the seeds sterile?

    This morning I decided to have a good look at the packet of remaining seeds. Part of the back of the packet was covered with a large sticker. I peeled it off...and there it was writ large in red 'Caution: Treated with Thiram. Do not eat these seeds or feed to animals'. So just as well we didn't get any seeds inside those hulls. Here is a brief description of Thiram from Bayer Pharmaceuticals.

    Product Information

    Thiram is an industry standard with contact activity against multiple seedborne and soilborne fungi.
    Key Pests

    Decay, Seed
    Damping off
    Blight, Seedling

    So I guess I will find some organic seeds for next season and although they may not look as spectacular as these plants did whilst growing - at least I can grow them in the knowledge that they will be safe to eat.

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    1. Hello Jan. What an amazing story! I hope your son is OK. Organic seeds might be the way to go in the future, farming and gardening is a continual learning process I think!

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  28. We are extremely excited to have found a blog that includes posts on gardening. We have been interested in starting a miniature garden in our backyard, so we are grateful to have found yours. New followers! -Kaleb & Marilyn

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  29. Thank you Kaleb and Marilyn, good luck with your garden and please drop in again and say hello :)

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  30. Wow some gorgeous stuff there. Beautiful blog and so so great seeing others growing stuff...love it xx

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    1. Thanks for calling in Amber, very kind of you!

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  31. You are an amazing gardener! I have tried planting tomatoes and I only had few harvest but it was great seeing it grow. It was my first time. I want to plant zucchinis too! :D I'm inspired ;)

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    1. Do plant zucchinis Debie, they are very rewarding! Thank you for calling in.

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  32. Thank heavens for zucchini hey?! It's the only thing flourishing in my garden right now too.

    I take great comfort from the fact that each season, even if there are failures, you learn something new to help you become a better gardener - that in itself is so rewarding.

    x

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    1. I agree Michelle, it is a constant learning process isn't it?

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  33. Hi Jane. I have learnt heaps this year. I grew too much, too closely. We have cucumbers and tomatoes everywhere. Next year I will plant half as much. I have also learned to get the trellis in before I plant. If is very difficult to organise a trellis arround growing tomato plants.

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    1. Hi Glenda, I agree on the trellis issue...much easier to do it before you plant but it doesn't always work out that way does it?

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  34. Thanks Jane, for finally stopping by, it was only the day before you did that I had your business card next to my computer on my to do list. As I also have been very busy these past few months. But it is a New Year now.
    I grew heirloom tomatoes this year also and found that shade cloth is very necessary to keep them cool with the extreme heat we were having. I also got away with planting lettuce and silverbeet under the shade cloth for summer. I have only just pulled out the last of my tomatoes this week, due to the excessive rain we have here from the remnants of a cyclone, they started rotting in the soil.
    I planted my seeds on the second week of August and transplanted them into the garden on the first week of September. I was harvesting tomatoes by December. Heirlooms are sturdy and really don't like over-watering either.
    Look forward to reading more of your stories.

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    1. Thanks Lizzie, I look forward to reading more vegetable growing stories from you too!

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Hello and welcome. I will try to reply to all comments eventually because I love the conversation! Jane