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Leafy Planting Days in Mid-winter – Finding the Gaps

It’s cold and damp today, not exactly raining but overcast and looking like it intends to drizzle any minute. It’s a leafy planting day but it’s not an exciting day to be out in the garden. On top of that, my garden is pretty full of leafies at the moment – all the spinach, silver beet, chinese cabbages, lettuce, rocket, parsley, raddicchio, coriander, dill, leeks, kale and celery we can get through, and the first round of broccoli, cauliflowers andd brussels sprouts just about to come on. Fruiting plants – peas, snow peas and broad beans – is where the gap is, the result of the mice getting so many of the early rounds.

I’m a sucker for a baby plant! It’s a mistake I make over and over – resisting wasting a cute little seedling, planting too much in the early rounds and not leaving enough space for the later rounds. I keep planning to solve the problem by building new garden beds, but that just brings on a whole heap of other issues around securely fencing them to keep the creatures out and marketing the excess. I love having enough garden produce to send my kids home with a box full and to give away to visitors, but I’m lousy at selling.

The six beds I have in production at the moment – only about 80 square metres – is plenty for us if I use the vertical space and stagger the planting well. I can manage that area and two part time jobs (that add up to full time) without it running away from me too often. But if I don’t plant at least a few of each of the leafies this time, come October there will be a lean period where I’m scratching round for salad ingredients, right when weekend barbeques become very attractive.

So I shall put in another round of seed today of lettuces, broccoli, kale, chinese cabbages, raddicchio, spinach, silver beet, celery, parsley, rocket, coriander, and leeks It will be the last for the year for some of these. By next month I will be planting things designed to mature in the subtropical summer heat and storms of November. And I shall plant out all the advanced seedlings I can fit in gaps where we have harvested something – like this spinach – dig a little hole, add a handful of compost and pop in the advanced seedling.

Then I shall retreat to the front of the wood stove with a good book and some sourdough baking experiments, and try to find the positives in this cold wet day.

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Frogdancer July 3, 2011, 7:54 am

    I just finished your book. Loved it.

    Loved. It.

    I’d turn straight around and read it again but I’ve already lent it to someone else. Sometimes I’m too nice for my own good!

  • av July 3, 2011, 8:48 am

    You’re an inspiration. I love your blog, I’ve found your book so incredibly helpful in establishing my own system, and on those days when I have trouble finding the energy to spend that 10mins in my garden that will make so much difference down the line, I see a post of yours and off I go, newly energised. Thank you.

    and thank you again! 🙂

    p.s. and oh what a treat to have a gardener who shares excellent knowledge and actually has a similar climate! yay!

  • Jason Dingley July 5, 2011, 2:03 pm

    Gone on Linda you can make room, pull something out. The chooks will have it. Interesting how you went from a 7 mandala system to now being content with just 6 beds.

  • Linda July 5, 2011, 2:56 pm

    This is true Jason! It took a long time though. I gardened commercially with a 7 mandala system for all of the late 1980’s and most of the 1990’s, but I’ve been scaling down gradually over the last decade. The absurdity of transporting produce three hours to market got to me, and I moved into teaching and writing, and thence on to other passions. Ironically, the marketing world has now caught up and we have a Farmer’s Market in my town, and commercial scale gardening is now a viable proposition. I may yet go full circle.

  • Jason Dingley July 6, 2011, 1:29 pm

    3 hours now that is an absurd distance. I get annoyed when I have to travel more than 15 mins. When I first caught the gardening bug I thought about jumping into commercial scale, that’s my passionate nature. But now that I have my backyard farm I am content as a pig in mud just producing for my family. That may change once I reach my goal.

    Back on topic of your post… In my pre-mandala garden I often struggled to find gaps. Yet I had plants that could have done with pulling out. I just couldn’t, I had watched them grow and was proud of them. I am going to have the same problem with the mandala system keeping that chook dome rotating. I never though there would be emotional barriers to overcome as a gardener.

  • Linda July 7, 2011, 9:34 am

    There is a little bit of a contradiction in terms in “commercial scale permaculture”. Zone analysis would always give the answer that the best place for people to produce a lot of their food is in their own back yard. In my perfect permacultured world, there is room for some commercial broadacre agriculture and for local Farmers Markets that allow trading of surpluses and value added products, and even for international trade in high value low volume products like spices.

    And yes! Having chooks helps – I am feeding my chooks armloads of mizuna at the moment. It is just so prolific and hardy, there’s no way we can keep up even with the half a dozen plants I have left in. But still, they are so beautiful and strong and bountiful, I can’t bear to pull them out. I have managed to convince myself that they are worth the harvest in eggs (which is actually a lie because the chooks have heaps of greens just with the chickweek, duckweed, and other weeds and spent plants. But it allows me to leave the mizuna there to admire!)

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