The Smith family have lived in Milton for over a decade, and for most of that time the vegetable garden has been a flurry of productivity. In the summer, most meals involve running down to grab a lettuce, a bunch of tomatoes, or a sprig of herbs. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the veg garden has slowly been reclaimed by creeping bushland as everyone became busier and busier. But no more! This summer, I’ll be working on the farm with Mum to rejuvenate the vegetable garden and tackle the wilderness that is the surrounding gardens. The dream is to be “self-sufficient(ish)”. We’ll grow most of our own vegetables and some of our fruit to significantly reduce our weekly grocery bill. For a family of eight where dinner often consists of up to twelve people, this would be huge. Not to mention tastier, healthier and more enjoyable. Nothing beats growing your own produce, and I’m psyched to use my WWOOFing skills here at home on such an exciting project.

The view.
The vegetable garden (with the sea in the background).
A work in progress.

The first step was clearing out the vegetation in the raised beds. Dad tackled the tall grass along the garden path with the brush cutter, and I followed by spending several days weeding each vegetable bed. This was followed by a veritable lasagna-like construction of compost, lucerne hay, a layer of freshly collected donkey and cow poo, then a lovely mixture of mushroom and organic compost.  The beds have been transformed from straggly, overgrown weeds and grasses to a beautiful, pristine ebony.

Weeding and preparing the garden beds.
Mushroom compost!
Mindy: our on-site manure supplier.
Next it was time to look over our collection of heirloom seeds and decide on what to plant. The overall plan is a basic six-bed rotation scheme. We’ll leave some space for the autumn and winter planting, but we’re planning on a big summer harvest in the meantime. There will be plenty of:
  •           Greens! Snow peas, silverbeet, swiss chard, kale, lettuce, rocket, pak choy and bok choy.
  •           Those tasty mediterranean staples: capsicum, eggplant and tomatoes
  •           The good old basics: sweet corn, beetroot, celery, carrots and spring onions
  •      We haven’t forgotten the perennials – there will also be garlic, chilli, asparagus and rhubarb. 
  •      There’s also plenty of room for the sprawling vines: we’ve started a big crop of pumpkin, zucchini, watermelon and rock melon.
  •      The herb garden is also getting a revamp. There’s already well-established mint, oregano, rosemary and lemon balm, and now we’re adding a whopping amount of basil, parsley and coriander. Curries, tagines and tomato sauces, anyone? 
So – the seedlings are starting to sprout in their trays and we’re not far away from planting out tomatoes, pak choy, capsicum and eggplant. The silverbeet, snow peas, swiss chard, kale, lettuce, rocket and bok choy are already thriving in the garden and can’t wait for their new neighbours to arrive. I personally can barely wait the six to eight weeks until we can sample our home-grown produce. Grow, babies, grow! I have dreams of mountains of jars of tomato preserves, crisp, fresh salads, ratatouille, baba ganoush and home-made pesto.

The lettuce is already taking off.
The citrus trees smattered around the garden are still going strong, with ample amounts of lemons, oranges and mandarins already weighing down the branches. The mulberry tree is bowed under the mass of bursting, purple berries, while the apple trees have shot up remarkably. We’re also going to plant a bed of strawberries and a passion fruit vine which should take off in the warm weather. We should be set for fruit, especially with the organic berry farm down the road and Martin’s Orchard for succulent, juicy peaches and nectarines not far away. You’ve got to love Australia in the summertime. Add in tasty Queensland bananas and mangoes and we’ll be all set.
Citrus galore.

Stay tuned for regular updates on the progress with the caravan and the vegetable garden, as well as the Smith family shenanigans. There’s never a dull moment in such a big family and I’m loving being home again.

2 replies on “A self-sufficient(ish) adventure

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