I recently read an article about sustainable food gardening in Australia and the enormous rise of home veggie plots and gardening groups. Apparently the popularity of growing your own fruit and veggies at home have not been this high in Australia since the 1950s. As well as the growing number of home gardeners I’ve also noticed a rise in the popularity of old-fashioned vegetables such as brussel sprouts and broadbeans, hopefully we’ve learnt a thing or two about how to cook these vegetables along the way too. My only memory of eating broadbeans was at my grandmothers where they were boiled until grey and wrinkly and then delivered to the table. Despite this horrific childhood experience, I’ve decided to give growing broadbeans a go in my own small plot. The difference being I intend to blanch and double peel them to reveal the beautiful sweet green morsel now common in many restaurants.
I like to think that I’m not one of the many that have only recently jumped on the bandwagon of growing your own veggies. I grew up with a vegetable plot down the back, where tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, corn, strawberries (once) and herbs were all grown. We also had an orange, mandarin, peach and nectarine tree (all inherited when we moved into the house) and a passion fruit vine. Unfortunately, the ten year long drought in the area saw all of these wither and die one by one and it is only after recent record breaking rainfall that the vegetables in my parents’ gardens are once again flourishing.
I also elected to study horticulture at high school – probably a subject only offered in country schools in the 1990s – where I experimented with beetroot, radishes and berries on top of learning how to prune roses, grow plants from cuttings and tend to seeds growing in a greenhouse. From there I was hooked and looked forward to owning my own house one day where I could grow to my heart’s content.
Reality soon hit though when, four years ago, I did buy my own house with my husband and found that gardening is sometimes fruitless, expensive and bloody hard work. I now feel however that I might be getting somewhere with it all. I have established a pretty successful vegetable garden, growing in planter boxes made by my husband as the soil in our garden beds was so full of building rumble it seemed the easiest option. This year we had an abundant supply of both cherry and Roma tomatoes (to the point where I as able to make some chutney and Italian tomato sauce) masses of cucumbers, zucchinis – though not as many as last year – lettuce and herbs growing wild all over the yard. My eggplants have just started coming into their own with plentiful fruit, and several capsicums are now fruiting as well. With the change in season though, I now have a few spaces bare for new plants. As already mentioned broad beans will be going in soon, but I have yet to decide what else should enter the cycle.
As well we have recently laid a small patch of grass – very 1950s Australian suburban dream only on a MUCH smaller scale – loved equally by our daughter and dog and tended to lovingly by my husband. We have the weeds generally under control, though the front could use some attention, and most plants seem to be growing nicely – the once needing more care and attention quickly died off.
The one thing I feel is missing from the garden though is some colour. I attempted to remedy this by getting some hanging baskets and planter boxes for around the pergola and adding colourful seedlings. Unfortunately they have not been as successful as I would have liked – probably due to a lack of watering, oops. Currently I have a beautiful big spider plant (only tiny white flowers, but interesting foliage) and a sad and spindly looking geranium as the two surviving plants. I am, however, determined to have another go at these and in an attempt to keep the costs down, especially given my past record of failures, am looking for plants that I can grow from cuttings – any suggestions?
So far my list includes nostalgic plants that I remember from my Grandmother’s garden – she was not a spectacular gardener, but certain memories of playing in her yard as a child bring a smile to my face. Top of the list is the fuchsia which grew along her shed and the flowers of which we used to pop open with great delight. I mentioned that I had decided to give this plant a go to a friend of mine and she immediately told about an almost identical memory she had of her grandmother’s garden. She was also able to source a supplier of cuttings for me, so I’ll keep you updated about my success with this one once they arrive. Also in contention are geraniums – I know I already have a sad looking one, but am hoping with some love and extra attention this will come good and will be joined by a few others. I’ve spotted two pretty geranium plants in some gardens further down the street, now I just have to sneak a cutting or two one evening. Finally and potentially most challenging is the hydrangea, another favourite from Nana’s garden. Apparently these are hardy and easy to grow from cuttings, but need to be kept well watered, my downfall in the past. What I may also find challenging about this one is the time the cutting can take to strike, I’m not known for my patience.
So with these fond memories in mind (well not in the case of the broadbeans, I’m trying to create a new memory to erase the old there) I would like to transform the remaining sad and sorry sections of my small suburban yard into one of nostalgia, colour and productivity – in equal portions perhaps. Updates and photos to come of my successes and hopefully not of my failures.