Learning by blogging: My Gardening Adventures

Blogging is an important part of how I learn.   The process of sharing information in posts helps me reflect deeper, document information I want to refer back to and provide a mechanism for others to provide input into aspects I hadn’t considered.

It’s also important to blog about what you’re passionate about , and what interests you.

The purpose of this post is to reflect on my veggie patch progress.  While the topic mightn’t necessarily be of interest — you might find it helpful to observe how someone like me uses blogging for learning and why it is important to encourage students to not only blog for school but allow them to blog about their passions.   It might also help those the develop school vegetable gardens with students.

Background

Mid last year we decided to help improve our diet, and the variety of what we eat, we would have a new rule for home cooked meals — each meal had to be different.  Isn’t necessarily the easiest of rules  but has been achievable by working through recipe books by well known chiefs.  For those wondering my favorite is Curtis Stone’s What’s for Dinner.

Fresh herbs are an important part of many of these recipe.  Buying weekly fresh herbs isn’t cheap and I was frustrated by the wastage when they weren’t all used.   This inspired me to work on my gardening skills at the same time as improving cooking skills.

I don’t necessarily have the greenest thumb.  Our climate is temperate – warm summers with low humidity and cool winter with average annual lowest temperature of 5 C (41 F) which helps but our soil is sandy which isn’t the best for growing veggies.  It’s been trial and error; and I’ve been experimenting with a range of herbs and vegetables.

Gardening Frustrations

Trial and error is very frustrating.

My local store is always stocked with an extensive range of herb and vegetable seedlings.  I regularly purchase seedlings I hadn’t intended to buy (they call me!) that are either hard to grow, don’t suit our soil conditions or it isn’t the right season for planting in our garden.

Apparently it’s a common problem and the best ways to avoid it is to have a list of what you want to buy before going plant shopping.

To solve the problem I’ve developed my own planting guide for Perth based on recommendations by other local home gardeners and Gardenate.   Belle’s Vegetable Garden shares great insights into their gardening.  Their humor makes me laugh!  SilverbeetGood to grow if you like to eat it. Personally I think it is like eating dirt …

Plant Plant in Garden
Celery Nov, Dec
Coriander Sept, Oct, Nov
Basil Oct, Nov, Dec
Chilli Sept, Oct, Nov
Chives Any month except June, July, August
Curry Plant Oct
Dill Sept, Oct
Oregano Any month except June, July, August
Parsley Any month except June, July, August
Radish All months
Silver Beet Any month except June, July, August
Spring Onions Sept, Oct, Nov
Thyme Oct, Nov
Tomato (Cherry) Oct, Nov, Dec
Zucchini Nov, Dec
Mulching Garden bed Add Straw mulch late spring (November)

I haven’t included lemon tree, lime tree, mint, sage, tarragon in the planting guide as these shouldn’t need regular replanting.  Oregano and thyme don’t need regular replanting but have been included because both herbs have suffered from hubby turning off watering system.

My Herb Garden

Herb gardenMy herb garden is fairly small but includes all the herbs I need for cooking (except not all herbs are available year long).   I occasionally plant some vegetables among my herbs in the hope they may grow.

I also have a separate garden bed with a lemon tree and a lime tree as well as three rectangular small planters with a mixture of herbs and some veggies.

Below is a summary of the different herbs (and some veggies) I grow with links to recipes I enjoy cooking.

Basil

Basil is an annual plant that doesn’t like colder weather.  It should be planted once the night time temperature is above 10 C (which could be any time from late August to October in Perth).    It’ll continue to grow through until about mid May (unless your husband turns off the watering system and upsets the plants!).

Basil flowers during summer and the flower spikes should be regularly pruned to encourage bushiness.

Basil is easy to grow with a wide variety of basil to choose from.  I have three varieties of basil: sweet basil; Greek Basil and purple basil.  I confess I haven’t always been the greatest fan of eating basil but it has grown on me.  Haven’t been game enough yet to try my purple or Greek basil and they are on my to do list.

My other ‘to do’ is to look at preserving fresh basil as I produce more fresh basil in the growing season than we eat.

Recipes:

  1. Pesto glazed chicken breast with spaghetti
  2. Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts, and Basil (I add chicken as well).

Chilli

Chilli
Chilli

Chilli are fairly easy to grow.  My biggest challenge is finding the right chilli varieties to grow!  Chilli’s I grew a few years ago were so hot only my friend could eat them.

Fortunately chilli seedlings now includes a chilli hottest rating to help with selection.

This summer I grew Chilli mild and Chilli Jalapeno.  Both produced chilli that were too mild for what I needed.  Next planting season I’m going to try some slightly hotter chilli varieties.

Chilli heat vary considerably even when they look the same.  A handy tip for working out the chilli heat is to cut the chilli in half, run your finger along the inside of the chilli, then rub it on your bottom lip.  If you feel nothing it is very mild.  Slight tingle means it is mild and you’ll know if it is hot.  Following this technique when using Chilli in a recipe helps ensure you get the desired amount of heat (or mildness).

Recipes:

  1. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo

Chives

Chives
Chives

Chives are perennial and easy to grow.  They die down in winter and return again in spring.

To harvest you should snip close to the ground rather than snipping ends of shoots otherwise stalks become tough.

Recipes:

  1.  Matt Preston’s Potato Salad (this is our favorite potato salad recipe).

Coriander

Coriander grows best during cooler months. My coriander grew well during winter and spring but went to seed as it warmed up.

Coriander
Coriander

Pushing boundaries I planted two new advanced Coriander Slowbolt seedlings in summer. Slowbolt is a fast growing but slow bolting variety of coriander (i.e. bolting = goes to seed). Both plants are growing slowly and so far haven’t gone to seed.

Coriander and flat leaf parsley look very similar; it’s a good idea to keep them separate.

Recipes:

  1. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo

Lemon

Lemon
Lemon

Lemon is the most common ingredient I use weekly and I can use up to 7 lemons per week which can cost about $7 per week.   We had an advanced lemon tree planted last November.

It’s already bearing fruit however I’ve discovered lemons gradually mature and it can take up to 9 months for lemons to change from green to yellow.

Apparently patience is a virtue.  Hopefully both my lemon and lime trees will eventually bear fruit.

Recipes:

  1. Roast Chicken with lemon & shallot asparagus
  2. Matt Preston’s Chicken with oregano, lemon and garlic.

Mint

Mint
Mint

Mint is incredibly easy to grow.  Once planted it keeps propagating and can take over the garden as it is very invasive.  I learnt the hard way years ago that the best option is to plant mint in pots otherwise you end up spending a lot of time pulling it out.

It dies off in winter and comes back in spring.

Recipes:

  1. Vietnamese-style chicken salad 

Oregano

oregano
Oregano

Oregano is a small perennial shrub that grows to 30 cm and produces white flowers in late summer.

My oregano hasn’t fully forgiven me for that time I didn’t realize the sprinkler wasn’t working. Need to do some more trimming to remove damaged leaves.

Recipes:

  1. Grilled lemon oregano lamb chops with rustic bread salad.
  2. Matt Preston’s Chicken with oregano, lemon and garlic.

Parsley

Flat leaf parsley
Flat leaf parsley (Italian Parsley)

I have both curley leaf parsley and flat leaf parsley (Italian parsley).   Flat leaf parsley is used more in recipes because it is considered to have a more robust flavor while curley leaf parsley is more associated with decorating.

Parsley is one of the easiest herbs to grow.

My first batch of flat leaf parsley grew well over winter but went to seed early and had to be replaced.   Should have lasted 1 to 2 years.

Curley leaf Parsley
Curley leaf Parsley

I replaced with a range of different sized seedling batches but planted them when it was hot (they survived!).

Parsley doesn’t like being transplanted and are more temperamental if you plant seedlings during periods of warm weather (oops).

Recipes:

  1. Cheesy Garlic and Herb bread

Rosemary

Rosemary
Rosemary

Rosemary is one of the few plants that is Sue proof!  Easiest herb to grow.   Great for flavoring meat and roast veggies.

Perennial herb that produces spikes of lavender blue flowers from early August to October and should be pruned after flowering to maintain a dense shape.

My rosemary is a bit yellow and probably needs fertilizers.  Checking my soil pH is on my to-do list.

Recipes:

  1. Moroccan beef skewers

Sage

Sage is a tough perennial that has so far survived me (and the hubby factor).  There are several different varieties of Sage.

I have the common sage which has velvety, grey-green leaves, grows to 75 cm and produces pink flowers in spring.

  1. Homemade Ravioli of Pumpkin and Parmesan with Roasted Pine Nuts

Tarragon French

Tarragon
Tarragon

French tarragon is the most popular variety of tarragon because it has the peppery tarragon taste.  It needs to be propagated from cuttings as it really ever flowers.

It has thin grey green leaves on a sprawling bush that dies down in winter and returns again in spring.

Recipes:

  1. Poached Salmon with Green and Yellow Beans
  2. Easy flatbreads

Thyme

Thyme
Thyme

Thyme is a perennial that grows to about 30 cm and produces pretty flowers in summer.

It is the most flavorsome when in flower.

Recipes:

  1. Fettuccine Bolognese
  2. Turkey meatballs with marina sauce

Tomato

I’ve had varying success with tomato plants!  Bellie’s veggie garden reports the same issue.  They’ve been successful with cherry tomatoes but struggled with larger tomato varieties.

I’ve accepted defeat and next planting season I’m planting cherry tomatoes.   Proof it is in the best interest of the tomato plants.

Recipes:

  1. Homemade Pizza with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, and Pesto

Your tips?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!  What else should I consider growing?

Still trying to work out how often I need to fertilize and what to use.  What is your advice?

I’ve also had a look at some of the gardening apps.  Do you use or recommend any?

And always looking for new recipes to try!  Feel free to share links to your favorite recipes.  You can check out my Recipes for Inspiration Flipboard magazine to see what I’m trying to learn or are thinking of trying.

5 thoughts on “Learning by blogging: My Gardening Adventures

  1. Hi Sue,

    My mouth is watering thinking of all the yummy recipes and fresh herbs. When I lived in Arizona, there were very few herbs I could grow due to the extremes in our temperature, and then there were all the jack rabbits, desert squirrels, and other animals/insects that would eat them up. However, now that we are in California, there are many possibilities. My husband is actually taking over the family farm, and they grow all types of vegetation. Your post helps me to identify some of the herbs growing outside.

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

    Tracy Watanabe Reply

  2. Hi Tracy

    Glad my post on herbs helped! Sounds like you’re enjoying living in California. If you’re planning on growing your own I suggest starting off with some of the easier herbs. Flat leaf parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary are all easy to grow and used a wide range of cooking. Basil is very easy to grow and used in lots of Italian cuisine.

    Cooking wise I found working with a weekly meal plan where I tried to cook something different each meal really helped extend my cooking and improved my skills. Following the recipes of a chief whose recipes generally taste good helped. Curtis Stone worked for me (his What’s for Dinner book) and helps that you can watch his videos on YouTube.

    Sue Waters

    Sue Waters Reply

  3. I liked your blog on your garden. I too am an avid gardener. This year I turned my former front weed “lawn” into a space for all the big vine plants. For the first time I’m trying winter squashes, which I dearly love. Since the drought here in CA appears to be staying, I want to use my water to grow food. I’ve lived in the high desert and have had phenomenal success and am applying the techniques here.

    I’m starting a gardening journal this year and have cruised many formats. I haven’t found exactly what I want so will have to become creative. I was curious where you constructed the garden map. I like the idea of using actual photos.
    Good luck and thanks for sharing.
    Terresa

    Terresa Reply

    1. Hi Terresa

      Apologies for delayed reply! I missed the comment notification email 🙁

      I have a Samsung Tablet 2014 and I used their Note taking app to create the garden map. Alternative options are to use an image editor on a computer. I do most of my image creating using Snagit but there are also some free online tools you can use. I did search for a garden app but didn’t find any suitable.

      Sue

      Sue Waters Reply

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