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Previous months in Melbourne, Victoria
With Rachel Bucknall

2002

August
Weeds
Rachel's healthy weeds
Beans and lettuces
Beans and lettuces growing happily together
Broccoli and weeds
Broccoli and more weeds
Oxalis
Oxalis masquerading as green manure

I’m probably running strong for the ‘most clueless’ gardener. Maybe you should view this as the comedy section of the reports and under NO circumstances should you take any of my advice seriously! I’m Rachel, and I’m based in the leafy green eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria. For anyone who doesn’t know Australia, Melbourne’s down the bottom in what’s politely known as the ‘temperate’ area. This translates to bloody cold in winter, variable any other time. Still, plants love it and tend to do fairly well whatever you do or don’t do for them.

My gardening experience runs to the small plot my parents lent me as a tiny child to grow flowers and a couple of vegetables. I don’t remember any catastrophes, but I don’t remember being particularly vigilant, either! Basically, I know nothing. Converting the old vegetable patch (recently weed paradise) seemed like a great idea – we’d get food, I’d get exercise and a massive boost of confidence…and I’m sure that’ll still happen!

I’ll catch you up on the starting stages when I have more time. Basically, the patch is at a stage where the plants have been in for several weeks and it’s all doing well. Especially without me! I’m currently completing my final year at Uni (graphic design) and last semester didn’t leave me with much time to garden. Neither does this semester, but I’m willing to ignore that for as long as possible in the interests of my gardening education.

At the moment, we’re growing a rather unusual collection of vegetables, because we were subject to the whims of my cousin (he gave me the seedlings)! Our crop includes at the moment: Freckles, Red Coral and Royal Oakleaf lettuces, Beans (can’t remember the variety), Roman-something broccoli,
Red Bore and Black Tuscan kale, Red Drumhead cabbage, Mini gourmet beetroot, Bloomsdale spinach, Mizuna mustard, Red Traviso Chicory and Rainbow Chard (silverbeet). My mother has added sugar snap peas and carrots, while there is still rhubarb, passionfruit and what looks like a silverbeet surviving from the last incarnation of the patch.

I recently weeded a circle around all the plants, so they’d be getting less direct competition from the weeds, but didn’t weed the whole beds, because I’ve read that clover is a good thing to keep in there. It’s supposed to stop other weeds growing, plus becomes a good green manure later on. And that would have been fine, except that apparently it’s ‘Oxalis’, a weed which Mum battled with in the last patch. I’ve been told it’s either pull it all out, or as a shortcut boiling water can be poured over the bed which will kill it off (being careful of the vegies, of course!). Then I’ll have to get some pea straw or something to discourage anything else popping up.

The vegies on the whole are fairing pretty well. A couple have been chewed by who-knows-what in varying degrees but the majority look very healthy. I’m putting used coffee grinds around each plant because apparently slugs and snails find it a bit too prickly to slime over. I’m hoping I’ll find some time to research into how to deal with the weed and pest problems soon – of course any advice would be appreciated!

September

You remember all those picture books mum and dad would read you, explaining what all the seasons meant? It’s not that you can miss the regrowth that happens in Spring, but until this year it didn’t mean as much. Now I’m thinking about what I’m putting into the patch and how to do it, planning furiously as I can see the buds bursting into flower everywhere (including my crop of weeds!)

One of my first problems has been the issue of ‘change-over’. I assume most of my winter vegies should have finished by now, but they haven’t. No book seems to cover this, they just talk about summer and winter vegies, as if one makes way for the other… I have lots of little baby peas growing, which has been terribly exciting. The lettuce as done well, except for the afore-mentioned freckles. All but the Cos lettuce are now looking bumpy which we think is either sun or wind burn. The broccoli is cheerfully growing more and bigger leaves (we’ll be lucky to get broccolini at this rate) and the cabbage is also doing the same thing, but out and not in a heart like I thought it would. We have beetroot, and little leaves suggest we have carrots, but I’m leaving them in for the moment.

As for the summer crops, I decided to take advantage of my big patch and just put them in the beds that aren’t being used for the winter crops. Hopefully this situation has been brought on by my not fertilising properly and they’ll come on faster next time! I’ve discovered the Diggers Club, a bit like seed savers, where I can buy organic and heirloom varieties from (little did I know till now, this is where my cousin got my first seedlings from for me). So this is what I’ll be ordering this week: Blue Lake beans, Organic Red carrots, Lebanese mini muncher cucumber, New Bohemian pumpkin, Breakthrough/Eight Cob F7 Sweet corn, Tommy Toe and Anna Russian Tomatoes, Black Beauty zucchini, sweet Basil, Onion Chives, Coriander, Dill and Thyme. My mother’s also bought a lettuce mix and bok choy seedlings. I wanted to do potatoes too, but there don’t seem to be any seeding potatoes around!

I’ve been a regular book worm and reading up on what I have to do – late, as per usual! I have a break from uni (non-teaching week, really) in a fortnight’s time and I plan to use it to do the big plant in. It’s later than I wanted, but I figure I still have a good chance of something edible by the end, especially as hopefully the windy days we’ve been having will start to die down. My Grandpa is a big fan of gardening but has recently had his hip replaced and is stuck inside. Apparently he’s getting very tetchy and frustrated, so I’m hoping that with the help of my trusty digital camera, I can visit him and get him involved by asking for advice.

October

Spring in Melbourne – steadily getting warmer and very windy. I’ve started eating my pea harvest and discovered that they’re absolutely delicious! The majority of my carrots don’t appear to have survived thinning out but I think I’ll get a couple of them. I have a small broccoli flower growing (hopefully to be followed by more) and the cos lettuce is the only one worth picking now, my other lettuces being too bitter. The cabbage, silver beet and kale etc seem to be getting on well and least, when I can see them through the weeds!

I got sick in my week off, so the major weed and plant never eventuated. I’m trying to pull them out whenever I can make the time (spare moments two weeks from the end of your uni course just don’t exist). I hold high hopes for what I can accomplish after November 1st! My seeds have arrived, but I don’t want to plant them yet in case they die while I’m trying to put my folio together. Better to wait a while and risk insect infestation and a reduced growing period than not have the time to tend for them at their most vulnerable.

I’ve got a lovely pile of compost waiting to go on my beds from years of dumping our waste on it and I still need to organise some pea straw as a mulch for after the seedlings have become established. And I’ve got to find some money to pay off my library fines after borrowing so many gardening books…

2003

March

Over the last couple of months, I've had quite a few life changing experiences. I've finished my course (but am now enrolled in honours), I've turned 21 and I make a long-awaited pilgrimage up to Sydney to catch up with old friends I made while I lived there in 97. The vegie patch was (mostly) turned over and covered with pea straw and I made an attempt at growing some plants from seed. It was badly done, so nothing came of it! I've answered a lot of emails from people in the Victorian area asking me for advice, which amuses me immensely. If only they could look out my window now...

HOWEVER, I do have good intentions still. One of my presents for the 21st was a whole bunch of seeds and some worm food. My big problem is finding (making?) the time to get out there and get going. Now that I'm almost settled into Uni, I'm hoping I can be more successful in this.

April

Weeds
Rachel's "weed patch" and drunken gnomes
Pumpkins/squash
Pumpkin-squashy harvest

Welcome to Rachel's complete waste of time. I'm excelling in growing a lot of nothing but weeds! I will hasten toadmit that I've done absolutely nothing, so I'm not entirely surprised by the result of my non-labour. As it is, with the Easter week fast approaching, I'm thinking positively and planning to sow some seed then. Hopefully, as we've had more rain recently, they'll have a better chance than if I'd put them in before. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!)

There's a pumpkiny-squashy thing that's grown out of my compost. I don't think it'll amount to much, but I'm still excited. I'm told if you heap grass cuttings on compost, they're the best for getting the heat up in
a pile to kill off all seeds in there...but with the drought there hasn't been much grass to mow. We didn't get a passionfruit crop either because of the drought and the rhubarb has bolted and then gone to sleep so no stewed yummy redness on my breakfast :( We did manage to salvage a few apples from the birds, though. (they're all hanging around suburbia given the drought has cut their food supply. Bonus for me, bad for gardeners!)

Rachel

 

 

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Last Updated 15 May, 2003

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