I don’t know if you would call it “Spring Cleaning” but I have been re-evaluating my gardens. The result has been about four trailer loads of shrubs that were thriving being ripped out of the garden and sent to the tip. These plants were in some cases, up to 5 metres tall and requiring hubby and a chainsaw for the removal. What has inspired this wholesale massacre of shrubs at my front entrance? A dream of an edible Vegetable & Herb Garden.
It is a realisation that I want my plants to be more than just pretty. The entrance to my house was beautiful lush and green with thriving native plants which required no maintenance, attention or watering. They were becoming a little too big, and we were definitely being dwarfed as we squeezed down pathways, but in all, they had been very successful. Why the change?
At Christmas last year the family got together for our bi-annual Christmas gathering which lasted about four days. Each day for lunch and dinner we picked enough salad out of my mother’s garden to feed about 14 people (give or take) we had tabouli and green salad on the table for every meal. The crazy thing was at the end of the four days the garden didn’t look like it had been ravaged. I could not tell where the food had come from.
This prompted me to put in a garden of my own. I actually just chose a corner of an existing garden to add some of the herbs I commonly use. The first plants into my new garden were Thyme, Tomato, Basil, Parsley, Beans, Eggplant, Chili, Strawberries for the kids to pick, and Coriander. It was great have Basil for fresh Pesto, Parsley for Tabouli and Eggplant for Babaganoush… but I needed more.
We put in another garden (reclaiming some turfed lawn) and we then planted Rocket, more Tomato, Shallots, Rosemary, Lavender, Dill, Carrots and Spinach. Over winter we have eaten well from the garden. If I don’t feel like shopping I just walk outside to my garden and see what vegetable and herbs are in my “mystery box” for the night’s meal.
Recently though I have begun to begrudge the space my under-performing plants are taking up. Space which could be better used by planting a more giving plant. As a consequence, we have ripped out two more gardens of their shrubs. One has been transformed into a third vegetable and herb garden.
The new garden is pictured above and has a border of Asian greens and coriander. The trellis on one side is for tomatoes and on the other for snow peas. There is also lemon grass, galangal, basil, corn, squash, and so much more.
The second garden, which is at the entrance to the house has been planted with dwarf citrus trees. The hedge that remains may still be replaced and planted with a low hedge of parsley and coriander. The jury is still out on that one.
The first thing I have to say is the citrus trees smell magnificent. They have earned their place already just by having the most divinely fragrant blossoms. We have planted dwarf citrus, including lime, lemon, Meyer lemon, mandarin, and orange plants. I am hopeful with a little bit of attention they may be as successful as our other gardens and keep the family in fruit. No more will I pay $2 per lime.
I have spoken to a lot of people in the food industry, particularly providores and chefs and they all agree that when people have a love of food they also have a tendency to want to grow some of their favourite items so that it is fresh, organic and just truly homemade.
As we become more involved in cooking food from scratch and more particular about quality we tend to like food to at least be local. Having your own vegetable & herb garden is just one step on from that. It is a great feeling to pick your own salad fresh from the garden and be eating strawberries and tomatoes directly off the bush.
This is my spring clean for the year. What do you think, is a garden something you would consider? Do you have little planter pots of herbs on your kitchen sink? What is your most giving plant?