Plus the garden's been keeping me busy. I realise now that I haven't posted anything on the garden since we built the beds and put the plants in over a month ago.
The beds looked like this at the beginning of November. Small tomato plants at the back with clumps of basil. Rosemary, thyme and chives on the right-hand side, with different lettuces scattered around the middle. The black kale was doing OK at this stage as was the watercress in the bottom right-hand corner. There's also some sage on the left and strawberry plants at the front.
|A close-up of the tomatoes, basil and cucumber plant which I later had to relocate to a pot - oops!|
In this bed, it started off with (starting clockwise from the left) small plants of mint, coriander, baby spinach, French tarragon and parsley.
Fast forward four weeks and it now looks like this!
|The oregano and parsley have gone mad and the baby carrots and beetroot are almost ready|
|The tomato plants are now staked|
|Heavenly mint and marigolds|
One of the main reasons everything is doing so well is because they get a good dose of worm juice every week. Luca has been lovingly tending to his worms and looks forward to our hour of pottering in the early evening when Kian has gone to bed.
|A spray of water to keep the worms' blanket nice and moist|
|Happy worms give us lots of nutrient-rich liquid fertiliser|
|Graeme's chilli plant on the left has just started flowering this week|
I don't remember enjoying gardening in quite the same way in England. Maybe because Graeme was happy to do it all and I was content to just cook with whatever we grew. Or maybe it was because I didn't have a little helper who gets so excited when I mention it's garden time. Hearing Luca say 'look how bushy the basil is Mummy' and 'oh my goodness, the tomatoes have grown' (he really does say that) has made it so much fun.
I've been in my element picking herbs and salad leaves for our dinner every evening. I manage to pick a bowl like this every time I go down there. Tender beetroot leaves, lollo rosso, baby cos, spinach, basil and mint feature almost daily in our evening meal.
He checks the tomatoes each morning to see if they've turned red and shouts 'you're not welcome here!' whenever he sees a snail (I wonder if he's copying anyone).
What I've also been doing this week is thinking about what to plant in the patches I have left (read: where one strawberry plant died, where the watercress strangely disappeared), what to do about the pesky bugs eating away at my basil and how to save my black kale.
This led me to Nicola Chatham whose wonderful gardening blog I follow. Nicola was offering free 20-minute coaching calls this week and I was lucky to get in quickly. I can't believe how much Nicola taught me in 20 minutes.
I learnt how to get castings quickly from our worm farm by giving them a nice layer of cow manure to eat through; that pests attack weak plants so it's best to boost their 'immune system' with some compost or worm castings rather than adopt time-consuming pest control strategies; that it's best to get rid of a sick plant than try and save it; and that the best thing for a garden is a frog pond.
Sooooo, this weekend I'm erecting the black kale and serving it to the worms, and I'm going to look into how easy it is to build a little frog pond. Not that I need to add to my to-do list, but wouldn't it be nice to have little green tree frogs jumping about the place, feasting on slugs and other little critters?
Meanwhile, we have a lot of soil leftover and don't know what to do with it. Is there anyone on the Central Coast who'd like some organic soil? Seriously?