26 January 2015

Flowers and flops in the garden

It's the height of summer, and we're feeling pretty smart about some of our garden produce. Certain other attempts, however, have been distinctly shady.

Last year I got excited about growing flowers with the vegetables to encourage beneficial insects. Yet I forgot about the importance of sun, and the ability of flowers to grow tall and shade the very plants that were meant to be growing our food! In some patches the flowers grew so tall and healthy that the vegetable and berry plants were shaded, with a corresponding drop in production.

Sweet peas shading the blueberries.
Pest problems? We have none, probably because of those carefully selected flower species, alyssum, phacelia and buckwheat (the sweet peas are just there because they're pretty and fragrant). But actual capsicums or strawberries? None of them either. Well, there were just a few strawberries.

Phacelia shading the strawberries.
My reading and scheming has paid off in other areas. For the first time we grew great big, strongly flavoured garlic bulbs, and lots of them. We did it by the book, supplying plenty of compost, spacing the cloves a hand's width apart just before the shortest day, mulching them and keeping them weed-free. It's been a fantastic success.

I've also been delighted with the Tomaccio tomatoes from Egmont seeds. Five bucks for two seeds? Worth it! They are the sweetest and most productive cherry tomatoes we've grown.

We're also picking beans (loving the sweet cobra runners from King's Seeds), cucumbers, spring onions galore (always too many spring onions), zucchini (we like slabs of it cooked on the barbeque) and soft buttery lettuce grown in the shade of the cucumber plants. Egmont's gourmet lettuce salad blend is delicious, and very affordable at $2 a packet. In the consistent heat we're having (it's 28 degrees C as I write), lettuce lasts about three weeks in the shade before bolting, so you need to sow new seed about that often.

And the poppies... Anna and I have fallen in love with them this year and have grown plenty. None have been shade culprits. My favourite is Kings Seeds' Icelandic poppy, and their peony poppy (which I'm told is an opium poppy) is stunning too. Happy days.

Icelandic poppy
Icelandic poppy
Peony poppy
What the photos above don't show are my ever-present gardening companions. They join me each evening in the garden, which is the only time it's cool enough to be out there (I have another project filling the cool mornings).

These ladies are always keen for snails and greens.
My friendly and patient pal who decorates wherever
he is so beautifully.
Oh, and the sandflies and mosquitoes. They're there too, wanting a taste of my sweet tomaccio-red blood, and deterred only by clothing or insect repellent.

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