Grow Your Own, Make Your Own

a journey of discovery

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How to choose what to plant

It is Autumn here is Australia so I am in the process of choosing winter crops to plant. I have set aside a weekend in my calendar to do this. If I don’t book it in my calendar, the weeks drift by until it’s too late and too cold to plant a good selection. So I’m going to try and get myself organised well beforehand so that on planting day – I’ll have everything ready to go.

I have used a couple of different resources to help me choose, including the following:

The Diggers Club book “The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden: grow the best fruit and vegetables for good health and flavour” has great information on climates, growing instructions, organic gardening, garden basics and planning what to plant where. There is also sections on vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, nuts, fruiting shrubs, berries and climbers. It is a comprehensive guide in an easy to read format.

The ABC Gardening Australia app “Vegie Guide” is awesome. It has 4 sections: Nursery, Patch, Facts and Info. You can select your growing zone (I’m in the Arid growing zone) and the month you want to plant. Then you can select which vegies you are planting and it will track the growth of your plants in the Patch section and tell you when they are ready for harvest. Great for a novice like me!

You can also find out information about each plant (in the Nursery section) including possible problems, ideal pH levels, and planting information.

The Facts section provides very simple e-factsheets about Soil Health, Plant Health, Getting Started and Trouble Shooting.

The Info section provides the instructions on using the app and an opportunity to provide feedback.

I intend to use this app for the winter season as I am really only starting out and need as much guidance as I can get. It is helpful to have this tailored to my area, the crops I’ve chosen and to have it all at my fingertips.

I also subscribe to several websites and blogs including Milkwood and Milkwood provide very informative articles about all things permaculture and have a particularly good article on testing your soil’s pH here. send me monthly planting reminders set for my growing zone. Through these reminder emails I can click on particular vegetable and gain more information about them.

So… using all of these resources I have decided to plant:

  • broccoli,
  • kale,
  • lemon thyme,
  • spinach,
  • snow peas,
  • radish

and I’ve decided to plant from seedling. I’ve tried seeds before and have had variable results leaning more towards the “not very successful” end of the spectrum!

My vegie patch is not really ideal but it’s the best spot I can get. It is a little too shaded so I’m going to have to work out the right configuration for these guys so that they all get enough sun. I’ve already got sage and parsley growing – they are both happy and can sometimes get a little out of control so I’ll be pulling their reigns in a bit this winter.

Woo hoo! I’m excited! I’m looking forward to getting my seedlings and planting them out!

PS. I have not received any income, discounts or kudos for mentioning the above resources. I’m just sharing what I have used in an effort to help others who might be looking for good resources.

photo courtesy bjwok/

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Preparing compost: giving it some TLC

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m not terribly good at growing vegetables. I dabbled in vegie growing when I was a child, but didn’t really do much more until I was well into adulthood. I have set up a small vegie patch in our front garden, mostly so that our two dogs won’t dig up my little plants. I have a tumbling compost system which has been OK in terms of having a place to put our vegie scraps, but I think I still have a lot to learn about creating a really good, healthy compost.

The key to good compost is balance. It needs nitrogen, carbon, air and water. It also needs to be allowed to heat up to about 55’C in the centre so that any harmful bacteria are destroyed along with any weed seeds that may have made their way in there.

According to Clive Blazey and Jane Varkulevicius[1] in their book “The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden: grow the best fruit and vegetables for good health and flavour” (The Digger’s Club) the best recipe for a good compost is:

25% high nitrogen like raw manure or green legumes;

35% green plants like fresh lawn clippings or vegetable waste;

35% high carbon material such as straw, dead leaves and paper or cardboard, and

5% gritty material such as rock dust, bone dust, wood ash or compost from the last good batch.

 I once added my sub-standard attempts at compost to the soil in my garden and ended up with some free tomato and butternut pumpkin plants, as the seeds hadn’t broken down. It was a lovely surprise, but not really what I’m looking for every time! At the moment my compost is sitting in a tumbler getting vegie scraps added to it constantly without being given the time to break down. It is exhibiting the symptoms of poor compost – it is black and doesn’t have a pleasant, earthy smell. Jarod Ruch[2] says that “Good, well-aerated compost should be fluffy, crumbly and a very dark-brown chocolate colour rather than black.”

Its time to give my compost some TLC before the cooler weather sets in. The plan of attack? I’m going to add some shredded paper to boost the carbon, get some chook poo to add to it. I might even add some stinky blood and bone to the mix to beef it up a bit! Right. By the time I have to plant my autumn/winter vegies, my compost is going to be awesome! Watch this space!

I also need to figure out what to do with my surplus vegie scraps while the tumbler contents are breaking down. There are two options I can think of. One is a worm farm and the other is a container called a bokashi bin. Have you ever used either of these composting systems? What would your preference be out of a bokashi bin and a worm farm?


[1] Blazey & Varkulevicius (2008) “The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden: grow the best fruit and vegetables for good health and flavour” The Diggers Club, Victoria, Australia.

[2] Blazey & Varkulevicius (2008) “The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden: grow the best fruit and vegetables for good health and flavour” The Diggers Club, Victoria, Australia p35.