Friday, October 14, 2016

Exploiting Your Niche




One of the many wonders of a backyard vegie garden is that you can beat commercial growers not in spite of, but because of, your small scale. It would be foolhardy indeed for a commercial grower to start a tomato farm here in Tasmania, unless they have several very large greenhouses, as late frosts can sneakily decimate baby tomatoes even up to November. However, if you have a small plot of backyard tomatoes, and by some miracle have remembered to check the forecast, you can cover up your tiny crop with old sheets (you can also use horticultural fleece, but one of my creeds is, why buy horticultural fleece when you have a stack of old sheets?). If your baby tomatoes are slightly bigger you can crack out the mini greenhouses (er, plastic bottle tops) that Bek has cleverly fashioned for her delicate snowflake tomato babies.

The other thing you can cunningly exploit in your backyard vegie garden is micro climates. I have mentioned before that lemons and other citrus aren't grown commercially in Tasmania because it is too cold. But practically every old Tasmanian garden has a lemon tree tucked in a warm corner. This is where suburban and urban environments can really come into their own - the built up nature of the town creates warm pockets - next to sunny walls, or black asphalt roads and driveways. There are often frost-free patches next to houses because the walls have absorbed sun during the day and release the heat slowly at night. Working out all of the intriguing quirks of your property through the seasons is fun, and can be very rewarding. One of my friends owns a 1950s brick house which has a small garden patch in a sunny sheltered corner where two brick walls meet, with a concrete path in front. This small patch was clearly the perfect place to plant a Tahitian lime and a mandarin, and these are some of the healthiest and most productive citrus trees I have ever had the privilege of cadging fruit from (well, in actual fact I am showered with generous gifts of this fruit, as it is so ridiculously prolific, and I have lovely friends).

Anyway, having managed to dodge Thursday night's frost I am hoping for balmy days and warm nights to encourage the baby tomatoes to reach passata size:)

I'll leave you with a front garden food forest. Here is someone who knows how to make a suburban garden work very hard indeed. Give me two years and I'll be there..

10 comments:

lucindasans said...

I love the optimism and positivity from your blog. Your new place has obviously given you a new burst of both.

Hazel Marchant said...

You are way ahead of me - fancy having your tomatoes in already! I have three in pots basking in my sunny bathroom, but they won't be going in until I've had a chance to find my veggie patch under the grass/sticky weed/self seeded silverbeet. I aim for Melbourne Cup day, as per accepted wisdom in Canberra. In fact, I'm going to do some weeding right now!

Cheers, Hazel

Jo said...

Lucinda, my optimism and positivity in the garden far exceeds that of, say, my enthusiasm for housework. I have been procrastinating for a week, but finally today the bathroom got clean. I declared it a family activity which made it go much faster. There is nothing like the bonding that happens when scrubbing the bath. Plus, life skills..

Hazel, luckily we have a milder climate than Canberra - we don't get as cold, or as hot! There has been much weeding going on here too. My new project is making a garden path out of all the bricks I have dug up out of the garden. The rest of the jungle I am ignoring for now..
PS Self seeded silverbeet is the best, isn't it? Even our weed patches want to feed us..

Hazel Marchant said...

I've envied the residents of Launceston ever since I visited a couple of years ago, it seems an ideal sort of climate. I'm also making a path, but due to an absence of spare bricks, I'll have to buy some gravel. And the weed of choice in that area of the garden is continental parsley, so we can eat that, too. Now, if only the sticky weed was edible, the world need never go hungry again...

Jo said...

Hazel, good news, sticky weed IS edible, but as my weed identification handbook puts it, 'edible, but with the texture of velcro'. This is true, as I have tried it. Full of minerals though, so recommended by the handbook, 'put it in smoothies'. There you go, sticky weed smoothies. Just to make sure before you try it though, that your sticky weed and mine are the same thing, google 'galium aparine'. Would hate to send you to an early grave from misidentifying a weed..

Hazel Marchant said...

I knew sticky weed was medicinal (thanks to the Brother Cadfael books) but I'd never heard of anyone eating it. I guess any day where you learn something new isn't wasted! 😜

Jo said...

Hazel, handbook also recommends stirfrying. Do let me know if you try it..

Hazel Marchant said...

Jo, I'll keep that in mind if I'm ever desperate for vegetables ( but only if I'm desperate). :-)

GretchenJoanna said...

I don't live in the ideal tomato-growing climate, but I had the best tomatoes for decades when we had the swimming pool and planted the tomatoes in narrow beds along the sidewalks and decking, where I knew the heat absorbed during the day would keep the roots warm at night, which tomatoes love.

Now, none of that! But my little lemon tree is under (thin) cover of a big pine. I still need to protect it with a sort of tent in the winter, when frost threatens. Last winter was a hard one and some leaves shriveled from the frost even so.

Jo said...

Gretchen Joanna, that is exactly what I am talking about! At my old house I had oranges planted by the pool for the same reason. Try a seaweed-based foliar feed for your lemon tree during the winter - it strengthens the cell walls in the leaves and helps them become more frost resistant.

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