11 March 2014

End of summer backyard

It's the time of year here when the cicadas change the soul of their song. Instead of the raucous, celebratory screech of high summer, they sing in a minor chord, sad to be saying goodbye to the scorching heat. (Not that the days are much cooler now, but the nights certainly are.)

Sometimes we make the most of them by picking their old skins off trees - sometimes there are hundreds, if not thousands of discarded exoskeletons clinging to a single tree! Our chickens love them as a crunchy treat, you see.

I promised in springtime (and here) that I'd give a run down on successful and not so successful vegetable seeds I was trying. So I'll do that today, saving the lowdown on my anti-cancer winter vegetable plans for later in the week. Oh, and before then, a word on inspiration and rows vs random in the garden.

Mainly what I want to say about the garden is how magnificent, as always, it has been this summer to go out the back and pick huge amounts of super healthy food! What fun it's been, too, to create it. I love the creating part, the way it alters the landscape so profoundly, and how tiny seeds can turn into so much.


Beans. I professed a love for scarlet runner beans, not only for their taste while young, but their productivity. Ha! It's been a disappointing season. Usually we give a lot away, but we didn't even have enough for ourselves, really. A bean grower at our Farmer's Market told me that bumblebees damage scarlet runner flowers, and we have a lot of those big furry pollinators. It could also be due to growing them in the same place for several years in a row. Time for a change of location next year, and possibly of bean type!


Cucumbers. There have been some failed plants. But one of the seedlings I got from a church fair, possibly labelled burpless, gave us a real surprise. It was rampant, probably because it's growing in a spot that housed a compost bin for a couple of years and has been gorging on the resulting nutrients. But the many fruit are yellow with stumpy black spikes. They don't taste quite as good as the green version, sadly.


Slow-bolt coriander. Forget it. What a disaster - sure, it didn't bolt, but it barely grew, either.

Florence-ribbed zucchini. I loved it! Well, as much as you can love zucchini. But my husband and someone else I gave a plant to said they prefer plain old zucchini. We've had a wild plant of that, too.


Artichokes. Dead. Yes - death by aphid attack and a gardener who never got around to spraying them. I'm hoping the plants will emerge again in spring.

Tomatoes. We have gorged. The cherry tomatoes have been abundant and sweet, and it's been wonderful to have these big, tasty brandywine tomatoes, so different in flavour and texture, but so full of character. I'll definitely grow them again next year. (Does anyone know if the photo below is tomato blight? Because now the plants are much browner, and green tomatoes still hang, but don't ripen. The cherry tomatoes are less brown, and still ripening.)


Capsicum. We've eaten a few because the branches are so heavy that some of them snapped off! Mainly we are waiting for these huge beauties to turn red. These are Dulce espana, and are not long and pointed as I'd expected!


Peaches. Our own peaches, for the first time. Tastewise I can't rave about them, but they are ours! The 'dwarf' tree, however, looks bigger than it should. I bought some golden queen peaches at a market last week, and was reminded of how sublime they are. Nothing beats a perfectly ripe golden queen peach - they have such intense flavour. They're big trees, though, and we don't have the space.


Grapes. The green 'Niagara' grape vine I bought from the Warehouse a few years ago is giving us its finest crop ever. Divine.

I could go on - we have a lot of stuff packed into our little section! But I'll end with flowers. We've had sweet peas, cosmos, marigolds, poppies, lavender, sunflowers and borage scattered around the garden. They're gorgeous and I hope help attract pollinators and beneficial insects. 



I'll miss my summer evenings in the garden, weeding, watering and harvesting. The dark is coming earlier now, faster and faster, and soon we'll make soup and light the fire. But not quite yet.

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