Winter garden

Winter garden
“Never seen the winter barometer this high at this time of the year, “says my ninety-something year old neighbor, Bill. He is not alone in his observations. The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a warmer (and dryer) than normal winter this year. So let us take advantage of this situation and throw ourselves into our garden planning.
Fruit trees are something worth your attention. Now would be a good time to plant them. And if you plead lack of space, let me urge you to consider replacing older trees and ornamental shrubs with new food bearing trees. I have just planted a nectarine (Prunus persica Goldmine), a white-fleshed fruit and self-pollinating variety. I also planted a dwarf Tahitian Lime (Citrus latifolia). The label reads ‘heavy bearing, medium sized fruit, juicy and seedless. I’ve never taken dwarf varieties of fruit trees very seriously but now, with less space, I have surrendered. Time will tell.
Two well established and prolific fruiting Cumquat trees are without a doubt the most successful food producing trees (think marmalade) on the property, and they take up very little space.
Figs are another welcome addition to a food garden. I recently took out a large Preston Prolific – a green fig – and replaced it with a Black Genoa. Time will tell whether or not this was the right move.
If I had more garden space I would also plant a yellow cling peach. These are such a versatile and undervalued fruit and I love them. Apricots also do well here. You will often come across trees in old established gardens with smaller fruit and extraordinary flavor. The apricot should be on the top five food trees list along with almonds and apples. We see well-laden orange trees around the district and the occasional grapefruit. I confess to not having tried either and, having reminded myself of this fact, will now go out and seek this citrus experience.
Before leaving our fruity friends, let us not forget the Nellie Kelly grafted black passion fruit that should adorn every backyard fence. Easy to grow and disease free. And what would a Pavlova be like without passion fruit!
And I shouldn’t forget the rhubarb. A moist spot in dappled sunlight with well-manured soil is an ideal spot for this ever-popular desert ingredient.

Easy to grow vegetables

With so much recent talk about food waste, it is worth considering planting a few vegetables even if you don’t see yourself as a gardener. You don’t need a green thumb for the basic essentials of healthy eating, namely a green vegetable. Seedlings are sometimes a better option than seeds if for no other reason than you get the satisfaction of watching their progress from day one. Plant the obvious things that should be a regular item on your plate. Silver beet – sometimes called Swiss chard – is available in the plain green variety or as the more decorative ‘rainbow’ with bright colored stalks. Plant plenty and anywhere where there is a space. The ‘rainbow’ colored variety is a popular pot plant on a veranda. A bunch of silver beet can be a great little token gift to take to a friend or neighbor when calling in.
I’ve taken to making vegetable soups lately and I like to add a green vegetable. Often I will buy a bag of spinach but being able to collect something from your garden feels so much better. With this in mind I have planted Kale for the first time. While I’m not a fan of the cooked vegetable as such, it is ideal for adding to soups. It is hardy and robust and for that reason I’m including it on the ‘easy veg’ list.
Broad beans are not every ones favourite – I don’t know why. They are fun to grow and provide a vegetable that can be eaten as young pods before maturity or as beans when fully grown. Depending on the variety, the plants can often grow bigger than expected and then fall over. One suggestion is that once the first pods are looking close to being fully formed, pinch out the tops of the plant. This will stop it growing too high. Runner beans climbing up a fence or dwarf beans in their own bed or scattered through the flowerbeds are very worthwhile.
If you have an open space like a lawn area or unused driveway or path and there is a sunny garden spot adjoining, consider growing pumpkins. Once established, the plants will spread over the adjacent land and you will be amazed at how many and how big your pumpkin crop will be. You can store them in a dry shed or spare room or give them away to friends. Note: A friend told me that their pu-mpkin plants had been nibbled at the ends of the runners by deer that venture out of the Muckleford Forest and into Maldon gardens so if you live on the edge of town, you might get a surprise in the pumpkin patch.
A salad crop list is most often headed by that impossible to avoid vegetable – or fruit – the tomato. I hasten to add that this is not a winter garden vegetable and I wouldn’t dare suggest growing hints for fear of retribution from the hundreds of home growers, each with their special tried and true growing formula. But growing a half a dozen plants, either in the garden or in pots can be fun. Plant in late spring and never before Cup Day – or so they say.
One of the most simple green salad vegetables to grow at most times of the year is Rocket. You can literally throw the seed on dug soil and rake lightly. Bingo! Salad greens.
Finally, if you want information about growing your own food, check the shelves at your local library. I find this more informative and interesting than searching online, at least, to begin with. Once you’ve started gardening then online can be a lot of fun.

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