Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Aesthetics of Food Gardening

When you get taken away from the things that you believe, something comes along to reconnect you. It happens over and over to me.

I used to worry that my garden wasn’t tidy enough for visiting garden groups. We all see tidy gardens on TV gardening shows. We see vegetables grown in neat rows, in boxed beds with no weeds, rotated and fertilised religiously. We see freshly mown home orchards and we see pretty chooks in amazing coops and yards, laying eggs in clean straw.

If this makes you feel good then you are very different to me. I want to ask the owners of these gardens question like -

  • how come you ever get a whole bed clear at one time? In my garden things are never all finished at once.
  • why aren’t there any seed heads in your garden? Why do you buy seeds when actually the second crop of every plant is seeds for next year?
  • do you kill things in your garden? How? Why?
  • where are the seats for sitting and enjoying your food garden?

So now I focus more on what my garden does offer, not what it doesn’t. I have reconnected with the aesthetics of food gardening by being the rebel that I always have been but forgotten about whilst  settling into a new place!

So, when my SeedSaveUs group hosted the Hobart Food Garden Group, in my garden on the weekend I had a ball showing them my lazy gardener methods of producing food aesthetically. They were a fabulously enthusiastic bunch but I was so busy answering questions that I hardly had a moment to take photos while Lenny was out!

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There’s me, inviting them to dig up my garden!
Smile!

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At the end of the day what I gained is the joy I always feel when sharing. I started this session with an offer; “I grow more than enough food in my garden so if there is something you would like, for whatever reason, please ask and I will share it with you.” One man grabbed my arm and looked into my eyes, smiling…. I didn’t quite mean THAT kind of sharing!

People were shy to start with but soon we had a production line going as I dug bundles of self-sown miners’ lettuce and happy recipients wrapped them in wet newspaper for the drive home. They all hoped to get the plants to shed their seeds in their gardens and come up next autumn, as mine have done.

One man spotted my wonderful leeks which grow from little bulbils that form at the base of any leeks left unpicked. These will all grow into new leeks next year. I dug him a bunch to transplant. And so it went on.

I had put 2 trestles in the garden for people to put any seeds or plants etc that they brought to share and the tables were laden to overflowing. Gardeners are a generous lot. Also laden were the morning tea share tables. One of our seedsaver members had not just brought home-made rolls, but had grown the pigs and made the speck, the relish and all the salad greens that went into them.

So, why am I so happy about my garden? Well, because it is a garden; not a series of boxed, orderly beds that I must tend and control. It has flowers and seed heads. It has self-sown almost everything, in every stage of their life cycles. It feels wonderful to be in it, watching the ecology that has evolved from scratch in the 3 or so years I have been here. It is aesthetically pleasing and calming but also exciting.

 I can take my coffee outside and sit amongst my food.

While I sit there I get inspired about dinner, I talk to the chooks on the other side of the fence, I can see the apple tree blossoming, the broad bean pods starting to grow and marvel at all the life in the air and below the ground that lives in balance in such a diverse system, producing my food with very little effort from me.

Life is good. Make it pretty too. Save seeds and it will save your back, your wallet and your children’s future!

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Tomato seedlings getting an airing on a warm day
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Coffee corner amongst pots of herbs, under the oak tree,  looking out across the veg garden
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Remind me again what is not beautiful about vegetables going to seed?
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Self sown salad patch with edible native violas too. Nature is amazing when left alone to do her thing!
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This year I have the best fennel since I came here, from an unruly, permanent patch I had considered removing! Patience is key in this business.
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Self sown marigolds dotted about
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The chooks waiting for breakfast… Most of them lay ok still. Currently getting 2 – 5 eggs / day which is way too many anyway!
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The best soil in my garden but a bit shady in winter. Lined both sides with raspberries. Hoops for intermittent lace curtain protection from cabbage moths / bandicoots or loose chooks!
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Birds love this bird bath amongst the artichokes, even in winter.
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Native stinging nettles amongst the miners lettuce. Used in soups, tarts and a liquid tonic for plants.

6 comments:

Michelle said...

Such a lovely post Kate, and a timely reminder about what a garden should look like. Your photos are beautiful. x

africanaussie said...

Oh I would so love to visit your garden.... You are such an inspiration. Just the other day I was marvelling at how many amaranth I have popping their lovely little red heads up in my garden. You sent me my first seeds and I have shared them anong many other gardeners.

Kate said...

Gillian, I wish I could get them to grow well here. I keep sowing them in the hope the self-sown ones will do better but so far they have only grown at most a foot high.

Thanks Michelle!!

Linda said...

I hope my garden is as productive as yours one day. It gets a little better every year and I love being with my veggies! Sounds like a geat day you had!

Deborah Cantrill said...

hi Kate the key to a good garden is love.
So nice to read your posts as I'm stuck in the RAH with a broken leg!after trying to untangle our neighbours goat and it dragged me down the bank.
I hope I can go home soon and sit in my garden soon and enjoy its harvests as the food here is shit

Kate said...

Oh no Deb!! Hope you get back home soon. Being in your wonderful garden would cure anything!
Best wishes,
Kate