Tag Archive: spring


Another year has gone by, and while most people find New Years a time of reflection of the past year and what they want to gain in the next – I find myself doing the same thing for the garden. What worked? What was a complete disaster? What do I need to plant more of this year? What do I want to try?

As the permanent plants and trees become larger in the garden I find myself needing to adapt and change where I am able to plant vegetables to still gain success. My knowledge grows each year though, which is something to be happy about. A good way of seeing how far I have come is a look over previous photos of how the garden has grown and changed since we first moved in four years ago. So here is a look over the evolution of the garden – I recommend all gardeners do the same thing; I promise it will make you smile. Happy New Year everyone, and for those who are gardeners – I wish you a large bounty and fast-ripening tomatoes this year 🙂

From the "for sale" adds - the garden when we first moved in

From the “for sale” adds – the garden when we first moved in

Initial work

Initial work

ev 3

Year 1 - initial brick work

Year 1 – initial brick work

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

Year 1

ev 9

Year 2 - making my mark

Year 2 – making my mark

Year 2

Year 2

Year 2

Year 2

ev 14

Year 3 - Spring

Year 3 – Spring

Year 3

Year 3

Year 3 - Summer

Year 3 – Summer

Year 3

Year 3

ev 19

Year 4 - Spring

Year 4 – Spring

Year 4

Year 4

Year 4

Year 4

One of the main things I had to learn about renovating was to be extremely flexible. At times I did struggle this, however overall now that we’ve finished – I think I did (reasonably) ok. A fair amount of tantrums occurred though when the garden was invaded. Over the past few years renovations have been mostly inside, however at the very end (back in September) all the weatherboards were replaced outside and the eaves etc were sanded to make the front look… well…stunning. The only problem with this was the garden underneath was trampled in the process. To be fair to my partner Chris, I was warned of this pretty much the day we moved in, so I’ve really only planted annuals and a couple of bulbs. But still – when the time came I guess I’d put it so far in the back of my mind, that it was hard to watch.

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I sulked for a good childish amount of time, but then given free rein to start building up the garden again did spark me out of my mood. I thought about it for weeks, trying to work out how to form a “screen” between the two new pillars. I thought about different grasses, small shrubs and even lavender came to mind. However a walk about our local streets revealed the inspiration I needed – my favourite native correas! It seemed very me and I loved the idea instantly.

What was left - a new blank canvas to work with

What was left – a new blank canvas to work with

new bit 5

I dug through some compost under both windows and planted my “Alba” correa (had been growing in a pot out the back) between the pillars. I found a couple of cheap mini “Alba” cuttings too which I planted either side – hopefully as they grow larger they’ll continue to form a screen. I divided a grass that I already had growing there and added a lot of annuals around the front to hopefully give the areas a burst of summer colour.

Initial planting (in September/October)

Initial planting (in September/October)

Under the bay window I also planted three correas – this time a “Canberra Bells” as well as a couple of my “Relexa” cuttings I’ve been growing. Again annuals were splattered around to hopefully give a burst of life.

Initial planting (September/October)

Initial planting (September/October)

I’ve now also moved a few spring seedlings out there too – including dwarf beans, capsicums and pumpkin seedlings (a bit hopeful I think, but worth a try!). Now that it’s been a couple of months, everything has grown and the area is looking a lot better (see photos below)

Even though the garden went through a very negative patch, and a lot of my spring bulbs were nowhere to be seen this year – things are now back to positive and on the way up. Thankfully rennos are now finished, and I can go back to protecting plants just from snails – at least they’re smaller.

What the garden now looks like - photos taken this week

What the garden now looks like – photos taken this week

The garden now (photo taken this week)

The garden now (photo taken this week)

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Making the most of leftovers

Back in autumn I pruned my callistemon (an Australian native) but what I was left with was a fair few branches that were a bit too big to compost and felt like a waste to throw out. I decided to use the branches in a pot to form a tepee and planted sweet peas all around the bottom.

 sw pea 11

The peas have only now decided they are going to flower, despite being almost summer. However when they are this pretty and delicate, I guess I shouldn’t complain that I had to wait – hopefully they will continue to flower through summer and make the most of my left over branches.

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Black Barlow

I’ve been waiting for over a year – but finally, my Black Barlow Aquilegia has started to flower. I sought out a seedling of the Black Barlow last year due to the deep rich colour and, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t around my area very much. It almost died over summer from the intense heat – however with a bit of nurture it survived and has started to bloom. I realise I change my mind every week – but this week it’s my favourite flower in the garden.

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The garden has been trying its hardest over the past month to leap well and truly into spring. Not only are flowers blooming, but my favourite spring veggie has been ready to harvest – the broad beans.

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I have really been looking forward to the broad beans forming as I wanted to try a recipe for broad bean risotto that I tried last year which was fantastic. It’s from “Grow It Cook It” which is a really great book with recipes on basic things grown in the garden (most of my favourite recipes are from it). This recipe has lemon & parmesan in it too which makes the flavour pretty awesome, but I vary it a little by adding a lot of other veggies alongside with home grown celery. Although it does use a lot of broad beans – most of the crop, it’s worth it – tastes great! Thankfully the beans are still growing and I’ll get a couple of more meals from them again before spring is over. I’ll probably just end up making risotto again though!

Crop 1

Crop 1

Crop 2

Crop 2

broad bean 8

The result!

The result!

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Spring is well and truly here and the remainder of the winter veggies are fading fast. I’ve already harvested heaps of celery and have been freezing a lot of it for future use. The broccoli is long gone, the broad beans are almost ready for picking, and for the first year – I have had cabbage heads ready for harvesting!

CABBAGE 3 CABBAGE 4

I have tried to grow cabbage before, but haven’t had much luck. Wombok seems to grow easily enough – but with other types like savoy or red cabbage I seem to only end up with outer leaves and no tight heads (I really grow red cabbage as an ornamental plant! Just love the colour in a mainly green winter garden). However this year I have had a few savoy cabbages grow much better that any previously and last week they were ready for cooking. Although small, I wasn’t deterred and thought I might try a couple of different cabbage recipes for some fun (and it beats cabbage soup – sorry cabbage soup fans!)

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Given how much I love Japanese food, I thought I’d stick with a Japanese theme and make gyozas and okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes). The gyozas were made mainly with pork mince and of course – my home grown cabbage. The recipe did say to use wombok , however I did say I was “experimenting” with cabbage. The recipe (from the cook book “Yoshoku”) also included ginger, garlic, soy sauce, mirin seasoning, pepper and spring onions. Teaspoon of the mixture in a gyoza or wonton wrapper and then they’re ready to go. They are supposed to be deep fried, but I gave them a shallow fry in a little sesame oil instead (made me feel as though they were slightly healthier…as long as I’m convincing myself).

CABBAGE 11 CABBAGE 12

The okonomiyaki were made with shredded cabbage and some fresh celery from the garden, along with the rest of the pork mince (but you can use chicken), grated carrot, shitake mushrooms, ginger, and then some flour and eggs to bind it all together. Then they are fried like any other pancake which made them quite a quick and easy meal.

CABBAGE 17

Overall the meal was a great success! Quite rich, but it felt like a real home grown treat. The only problem was the meal, and the cabbage, was gone too quickly! Good inspiration to grow more cabbage next year…

CABBAGE 13

Spring is here!

Towards the end of winter I planted out my first round of spring seeds. I’ve been keeping them inside next to a north-facing window and had hoped the warmer temperatures and protection inside would convince the seedlings it was spring. It worked! The seedlings are now a couple of weeks old and are looking pretty happy.

Now that they are larger I’ve been very tempted to plant some out into the garden, but the weather is still a little cool and fluctuating… so I might wait till the weather gets a bit more settled. For now, as with every year, our lounge room has turned into a mini nursery – but it certainly has started the spring excitement at our place!

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I think the verdict is finally in on my seedling experiment (see previous posts: breaking the first rule of blogging and seedling experiment update) and now I know what to do in years to come. I’d love to show you a photo of the winning tray – which by far was the tray kept under a sunny window, but I can’t as the tray was so successful most of the seedlings are now out in the garden! Instead here are some healthy looking tomatoes, all grown from seeds from the winning tray and even starting to form fruit.

"Sweetie" tomoatoes

“Sweetie” tomatoes

"Florida Basket" tomatoes

“Florida Basket” tomatoes

"Tommy Toe" (left) and two "Sweet Grape" tomatoes

“Tommy Toe” (left) and two “Sweet Grape” tomatoes

Verdict 4

As the spring weather heated up – I did move this tray outside into full morning sun and then back inside at night for protection, which seemed to work well and the seedlings thrived.

Also a very big thank you to Rosalind (of Just Another Beer Blog) who recommended I try small shallow trays rather than just ready-to-plant paper pots. At first the tray was half demolished by snails in the greenhouse, but after I moved it inside the seedlings have grown really well. Particularly the eggplant seedling – I have never been able to grow eggplants from seeds into full size plants before! Now I know for the years to come how to make it happen – thank you!

verdict 5

Eggplant seedlings growing

verdict 6

Eggplants currently out in the garden

I’ve had a couple of chilli and capsicum seedlings growing – but they have been quite small and are growing a lot slower than the tomatoes and eggplants. Hopefully they’ll get big enough to plant out soon.

verdict 7

Chilli and friend

verdict 8

Capsicums

As for the control tray that was left outside open to the elements – I have planted out a couple of tomatoes from this tray, but that was really all and they haven’t thrived like the others. As for the greenhouse seedlings – it was a complete disaster. I have planted out nothing from this tray, and they barely grew after germination. Once slightly warmer weather during spring kicked in, despite leaving the door open during the day and watering daily, all the seedlings died.

So I may not be the best salesperson for greenhouses or paper pots – but at least I’ll be enjoying my very own tomatoes and eggplants this summer (and still hopeful for capsicums) – all grown from seeds. But I won’t be getting rid of my greenhouse just yet – because apparently I’m not the only one who uses it…

verdict 9 Verdict 10

Nasturtium Capers

cap 1

With this latest discovery, nasturtiums are possibly the most useful plant in my garden. They grow easily and quickly (including hard to fill places), they cover the garden with bright beautiful flowers (which you can eat – my type of flower!) They then shed loads of seeds all over the ground and self-sow so easily that I haven’t had to grow any from seed since my initial two nasturtium plants from a few years ago. The rest of the plant can be composted, adding to their usefulness. I was already pretty happy with how much I could do with them until I learnt I was wasting the seeds (despite giving away as many as I could) – I could be making nasturtium capers!!

cap 2

I’m not sure how I missed this one, but after mentioning it to a few people it seems they are pretty common. It’s also amazing easy to do: collect the seeds (they need to be green) and soak them in salty brine for 24hrs.  Drain, pat dry and place into sterilised jars. Add herbs and a bay leaf if you like, and then fill the jars with white wine vinegar. Too easy! All that’s left is to add some labels and wait for a couple of weeks for the flavour to develop. I made these at the very end of last month, so it won’t be long before I can give them a try…

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