Return of the gardeners

It’s always with a degree of trepidation that I return to our garden after being away. While three weeks absence isn’t much, it did coincide with the first big flush of spring so the weeds are rampant and the vegetables are hard to find.

On a more positive note our two new chickens have started laying, so the daily egg count is growing nicely. A friend was looking after our tomato seedlings and they have flourished under their care.

I braved the front veggie patch this afternoon. Brave being the operative word. After half an hour of weeding I had scarcely managed to clear a metre of ground. What was more disappointing was that after that work it turned out that the purple podded peas were so spent that it actually wasn’t worth the effort to free them from the weeds.

Thankfully the shallots that I planted at either end of the bed are growing away reasonably well. I have now mulched them with sugar cane waste to see it I can slow down the ever ready weed population.

A further word on these beds that I planted out so hopefully a few months ago. You might remember that I tried out Tino Carnavale’s method of placing the seedlings near strings so the plants could readily climb to the top of their support. Sadly I have to report that for one of my beds this was almost a complete failure. Not Tino’s fault but my first qualification is don’t try this method where the plants will be effected by strong wind.

My purple Podded peas were growing away quite nicely when our spring gale force winds hit. The plants were clinging so tightly that almost all of one bed were immediately snapped off at the base. A second row of peas, planted in the shelter of the first row managed to survive somewhat better and they are starting to produce quite well. The bush peas planted nearby have just about disappeared under the weeds. However my Alderman climbing peas and my snow peas, planted in the more sheltered back garden, are podding quite well.

Probably best of all is that we are still harvesting some asparagus. Just enough to remind us what we missed out on during our holiday.

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Lanyon’s productive garden

Picking_garden

I spent last Saturday visiting Lanyon Homestead for the annual Open Garden Scheme Plant Fair. I knew the day was off to a good start when I ran into a friend just inside the entrance. So we set off together for the vegetable garden talk.

It’s been several years so I last visited Lanyon and I was very impressed with the positive changes to the vegetable garden since my previous visit. Our guide was Lanyon gardener Alison whose enthusiasm for the garden was infectious. The setting of this garden in one of the ACT’s historic houses means that attention is paid not only to maintaining a good looking garden, but one that also reflects its use in previous times. The Lanyon Conservation Management Plan says that “The present-day garden siting and structural framework were established in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by the Cunningham family. In effect, therefore, by about 1875 Cunningham had created a landscape substantially similar to that which we see today.”

The picking and vegetable gardens are placed on a set of northern facing terraces, to the north of the house. The terraces were created in the 1930’s by the Field family, using soil they dug up on the river flats to improve the beds. Today more conventional mulching with silage hay and the addition of compost improves the fertility of the soil.

Herbs

Here in the herb garden Alison stands between a large sowing of parsley and chives. Behind her, with the blue flowers, is borage and also oregano. These latter two group of plants were collected from Lanyon’s ‘picking garden’ and transplanted into the herb garden.To reinforce the emphasis on herbs that would have been traditionally grown here, cuttings of rosemary from Mugga Mugga have been included in the garden. This bed also contains thyme, lemon balm, rocket, chilli, sage and bay. 

One unusual ‘historic’ plant growing in the garden are cardoons. Grown for their stems, which are blanched prior to eating this plant is actually the natural form of the more widely cultivated globe artichoke, which is also grown at Lanyon. No wonder I was having trouble telling the two apart.

Cardoons

Alison has also been growing gourds, another plant which seems to have fallen out of fashion. While many cultures use gourds as a storage vessel Alison did admit that she grows them mainly for their interesting looks.

Gourd

We worked our way down several more terraces looking at beds of pumpkin, Jerusalem Artichokes, tomatoes (suffering like everyone else’s from the wet weather), beans and chard.

ChardPumpkin

There were also signs of a good harvest of raspberries and thornless blackberries this year, although we were too late for the Red and Black Currants.

Stand

One last mystery remains – what is this? It looks like some sort of stand for a water tank (it’s only about 50 cms high), but no one is sure what it’s purpose was. Thankfully it remains as an object of interest, if nothing else, in the garden.

Our guided tour finished we walked around the lovely old apple orchard next to the vegetable patch.

OrchardSign

Behind this orchard (the far end of the picture) is a second series of orchard plantings, which appear to be more recent, but reflect plants that would be in keeping with plantings from an earlier era. One corner is dominated by a Chestnut tree, full of ripening nuts,

Chesnut

other key plantings in this area are medlars, an uncommon fruit nowadays, but traditionally grown in England. More memorably, the medlar’s fruit has the somewhat dubious honour of being known colloquially as ‘dog’s arse’.

Medlar

Moving right along, there are also persimmon’s and pomegranates growing in this area.

After all the walking around I decided to try some of the exotic flavoured ice creams on offer. I was one bite into my rose petal icecream when I was temporarily distracted, only to find that my scoop of icecream had slid off onto the ground with a resounding plop. Quelle horrible disappointment!

Thankfully the rest of the afternoon was redeemed by cruising the garden stalls. My two best buys of the day were a Kingston Black cider apple plant and a leaf rake with real metal tines! I’m trying to invest in better quality gardening tools these days to replace the poor quality ones generally available. The rake has a handle that extends, or telescopes down to half size for easy storage.You can also vary the width of the rake head allow you to rake in a narrow area. Whatever will they think of next. No doubt I’ll be able to give it a thorough testing when leaf-raking time comes soon.

While winter may not be the best time to visit this garden, come spring I’ll be heading out to Lanyon again to see what’s growing.