Tradition has it that no tomatoes are ever planted out in Victoria before Cup day and so it shall be in my garden. They are happy in the hothouse. I delay the basil planting until then also. My experience has been that basil planted too early can sulk and certainly does not thrive.
My miniature fruit trees are crowded with small fruits. I shall remove some - last year the nectarines were too close together and some developed a sticky, sooty something or other before withering and falling off anyway.
I understand the theory of crop rotation but it's really difficult when one has little space. I couldn't possibly chop up my broad bean plants while they're still cropping and yet I really need that space for climbing pole beans or cucumbers or maybe for miniature sweet melons. In the front garden I'll designate one side as tomato territory, opposite where they grew last year. And this time I'll be realistic about providing tall stakes as I had a few broken plants last summer.
Similarly, the peas are still cropping just where I want to plant out the eggplant. My parsley self-seeds, so I find tender little plants in some surprising places, such as cracks in the paving on the shady side of the yard. The roots of this plant must be under the house! Wherever I can, I plant a new row of heirloom Manchester table carrots, mixing the super-fine seed with at least three parts of seed-raising mix in my hand and carefully sowing along the drill. This means that I rarely have to thin my carrot crop.
My best roses are all spring-flowering, so after the glory of October I have to wait for a second flush. I do find an hour of dead-heading a meditative way to start on a bright morning. I have Sparrieshoop, Julia, Lesbos, and a no-name lovely climbing white rose with perfect pointed buds that sets large golden rosehips. On the back fence, Lamarque, mermaid and crépuscule fight it out. The thorns on mermaid are truly frightful. The glorious Graham Thomas and the climbing Lorraine Lee come later in my garden.
Colin Beer and I have an annual date. He and Maggie and I arrange to go somewhere nice for a weekend and part of the deal is that Colin prunes my ornamental grapevine before we leave. As a grape-grower he is an expert, yet I am always amazed at the severity of his prune. But of course the leaves are unfurling beautifully, promising months of summer shade. I am hopeful that this will be the year the vine fully covers the pergola.
After so many years of drought the garden has flourished with our heavy winter and early spring rain. My tanks are absolutely overflowing. And the Aerobin compost maker should be emptied soon to give the garden beds a spring tonic, probably boosted with some well-rotted poultry manure.
Since I last wrote, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation has celebrated the completion and launch of two of our demonstration schools, Moonah in Tasmania and Bulimba in Queensland. Both schools have created their sunny lovely kitchens in buildings provided under the federal government's Building the Education Revolution program. Before the election the newspapers were full of disaster stories about waste, but here are two brilliantly successful projects. Why is there less interest in reporting success? In Tasmania the architect-designed kitchen and dining space has a wall of glass that overlooks the beautiful garden. In Bulimba the garden is steeply terraced, and the children dash up and down with the agility of the young. (I was a bit more cautious.)
A special fundraising dinner for the foundation will be held later this month at Bondi Public School. Guests will be invited to view the garden and the lovely kitchen before proceeding to dinner (get the details here).
Until next time.
This article is from the November 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.