Brown is the colour

To say that this years summer garden is the biggest failure to date is a pretty harsh statement. There was a drought, it's true but it really wasn't all that hot and there was some rain. The soil wasn't as dry as deep down as it's been in other more succesful years. Not being able to water when I like has had a bigger impact than I would have thought. I've never been much of a waterer but I think for the vegetables at least, it's been the difference between failure and success. Maybe I watered more than I thought. By the end of February I'd pretty much given up. Still, it was pretty hard to come home from holidays and see the vegetable patch shrivelled to almost nothing. The tomatoes and eggplant had succumbed to a virus. The zinnias also looked infected and sad and I'm wondering if water stress made the garden more open to infection. Or maybe it was just a bad year all round, although there was no sign of any sort of fungus which normally shows up on cucumbers and zucchinis (not that any of them got big enough for fungus).  All the lettuce had gone to seed. The beetroot are holding on but I imagine they'll taste dry and woody. The beans germinated eratically and have not set well. 

The perennial beds are fine and have perked up with the recent rain. But the Virginia creeper has pretty much lost its' leaves. Not in the flaming glory that I look forward to every year but with dry brown leaves that cling to the vines. I'm hoping that it hasn't got the tomato virus too. Maybe it missed it's weekly dousing of bath water and is just water stressed. Anyway I'm most annoyed because it's a big autumn treat for me, to sit under the vine and watch the red, red leaves fall to the ground and lie around in elegant drifts. Not this year.

The ugliness of the vegie patch was getting me down, so on the weekend I spent an hour or two and pulled out everything that looked dead or dying. I was careful to put all the diseased plants in the bin rather than the compost, even though it pains me to throw out organic matter. Once all the yucky stuff was gone, I felt better about the garden and even enjoyed some of the healthy drying stands of plants. And could see the beauty of the Jerusalem Artichokes a little more clearly. We don't eat them, although I hear that they're nice with lots of butter, and they're quite expensive to buy. But I think they taste like cardboard and they give you the most hideous wind. So we just grow them for the flowers.

My next garden is going to have a water tank and proper grey water recycling. Although if I'm still here next year, we'll have to figure out something a bit more suitable for renters. Perhaps channelling the run off from the roof onto the vegie patch? Anyway it's raining now and I'm starting to think about what to put in next; broadbeans, lettuce, snowpeas, more beetroot, coriander and maybe some onions. Is it too early for onions? I have half a thought that nothing will grow, no matter what I do. But the other half of me is plotting which seeds to sow and where. And what we'll be cooking when they come up. Such is the optimism of gardening.


  1. Hello, I've been reading your blog for a while now and got inspired to start my own blog 'HurrayforLuray'. Is it alright if I put a link to your blog on mine? Thanks- elaine from Luray Virginia USA

  2. this is really my first year for gardening ... i am excited, scared, thrilled and clueless : ) this was really good to read, its good knowing that anything can happen and i should just have fun and hope for the best, lol ...

  3. Thanks for your reply. I'll send you an email if I get a chance later today.
    Our garden looks just like yours! It's so disappointing. At least we got some tomatoes before they shriveled up.

  4. Hi Janet. I just visited your Flikr photos - brown has never looked so beautiful! I really liked your final comment on optimism. I think Samuel Johnson said second marriages were a triumph of hope over experience; I feel that way gardening sometimes, and espcially now that I have begun to plant freesias, which never ever appear for me. Broad beans on the other hand, are unstoppable in my garden.

  5. We ripped everything out of our desperate vegie garden a couple of weeks ago but left the Jerusalem Artichokes too. Ours are just starting to flower. I agree with you, buttery cardboard is just not my cup of tea.

  6. I've never been able to do coriander :(
    It's not autumn here yet, and my vinginia creeper, and my silver sterlings are still green and showing no sign of turning colour or shedding.
    I've been carrying buckets from the shower and washing machine, but I haven't concentrated on these plants at all, so there's no real reason for them to be lush.
    Also, the dude that lived here before us did a nifty trick on the downpipes I can pic and email you if you like ? I'd imagine it to be a cheap and effective fix .. but I only stumbled upon it AFTER this nice douse of rain .. I will know for next year ...

  7. I don't think I said this in the post but I think we got two tomatoes the whole season, and even they tasted awful. And about twenty beans. Oh well. But the apricots were sensational. And we had heaps of cos lettuce, silverbeet and beetroot. And a fair amount of basil and onions. I suppose it wasn't all doom and gloom. I think it's the creeper that's got me worried.
    And we normally do OK with broad beans. Coriander can be hit and miss. Some years yes, some no.
    H&B I think I've seen that trick with the down pipe at my local garden centre, but hopefully I'll have a whole new garden to play in next summer...

  8. One of the reasons I love your blog so much is that it makes me keenly aware things are happening around the globe that are on a different cycle than where I am on the East Coast of the US. I just rejoiced this morning as my first hyacinth popped her head up and the poppy's leaves are getting more confident. The rest of my garden is still wiping morning sleep from it's eyes and yours is about ready to go to bed. I also think global warming issue areso blaringly obvious when you watch a garden being chronicled.
    I'm going to try adding some more edible elements to my garden this year. I've been inspired by watching you eat what you grow.