Growing food for fun

Since late 2019 I have slowly but surely cultivated a vegetable patch in the backyard of the place me and my son live in. It is an old rundown joint in coal country near the rail line and the ground in the yard here is full of the debris of generations which includes gravel, rail ballast, plastic, and a plethora of old matchbox cars from adventures long gone by children now grown old.

It all started with some spuds that had been forgotten and begun to push out shoots, and that was in the kitchen. I foolishly mentioned to my son that we should bung them in the ground and see what happens. He was onto that idea like a demon and so it began.

We went and got some mushroom compost and chook poo from a bloke that sells that sort of stuff from his farm gate at cheap prices, and a bale of sugarcane mulch from the hardware on the way home at retail rates. We turned over the tired old ground, raked out a heap of gravel and rubbish and then mixed in the compost and chook poo. Did I mention that this garden bed was roughly eight foot long and four foot wide, so not entirely enormous.

Anyway we put the spuds in and topped it off with mulch, gave it a good watering and that was it for the day. Nice and simple without much expense considering that the bale of mulch was the most expensive item bought, I spent less than thirty bucks to get this thing going.

From that we both were onboard to see how far we could go with growing veggies.

The first crop of spuds was dismal but in the time between planting and harvesting them we had slowly expanded the patch to twice its size and planted out a mix of seeds and seedlings. We had beans, snow peas, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum, corn, cucumber, radish, sunflowers, spring onions, shallots, and more spuds.

The interesting part of that summer was seeing that the seedlings were simply not as robust as those grown from seed.

That first season saw a mixed bag of results and it had got my son hooked on growing food for fun.

We have had a weird winter here but suffice to say that weeks of cold and wind has seen very little happening. We had put carrots, leeks, lettuce, snow peas, and spuds in just to see what would happen as last winter had been mild. This time around everything is being grown from seed.

Basically everything pretty much didn’t grow and just sort of marked time waiting for warmer weather. Three weeks ago the warmer weather came, the soil temperature has risen above five degrees and the seedlings are putting on growth.

The spuds are going gangbusters with a surprising first harvest considering they were grown out of season. It will be good to see what the other two spud patches do with good growing weather. The carrots and leeks have decided to grow, as have the lettuce which is running rampant. The snow peas seem to grow six inches a day and are putting out their flowers.

This year we are growing everything from seed and have planted out two types of tomato, capsicum, celery, radish, cucumber, shallots, spring onion, beans, chives, corn, and rockmelon on top of what we already have in the ground. Next door gave us an open packet of rock melon seeds so will toss some in the ground and see what happens.

This patch is small in comparison to the variety and quantity of vegetables being grown and it requires a bit of attention to detail. Basically we are doing everything wrong, and just doing stuff to see what happens. There are no expensive purchases, stakes are made from whatever is available, there are no chemicals used and nature is allowed to do as it does.

This season like last season will see the neighbours getting the excess from the patch and regarding spuds and lettuce this is already happening. With a bit of luck we will see some of last season’s kindness with the neighbours saying thank you with home cooked food. I like that sort of thank you as it means I don’t have to cook for a night or two.

For all of the garbage of the last year and a half there are some positives and a vegie patch has turned out to be one of those positives as it delivers far more than just food. Our veggie patch has generated a tiny bit of community and everyone wins.

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