How does my garden grow?

My front garden is changing from a veggie patch to an indigenous garden. Last year I realised that a veggie garden was just too time consuming for me to keep up.

I have been reading about the plants that were here before colonization, and how the First Peoples cultivated the land to harvest grains and roots. It makes sense to me that the native plants are the ones that are suited to my garden, and therefore should flourish. That’s the plan, and so far they seem to be. The ones I showed you a few months ago bulked up nicely over the Summer and Autumn.

You can see some of them from back then in the feature photo, where they are being overwhelmed by the parsley plants.

The other hoped for benefit is that they will attract and nurture native insects.

So, some photos

These are my favourites at the moment. The one at the back — is a native pelargonium. I think it dies back to in Winter, but at the moment the red leaves glow with the Sun shining through them. In front is a Wahlenbergia. Its delicate blue flower is peeking through the pelargonium.

To those walking past with their dogs and takeaway coffees I am sure the garden looks a little unkempt, an out of the ordinary garden. However I am fine with that. I see that the plants are settling in, bulking up and will strut their stuff when the time comes. That’s when I will become a neighbourhood trend setter!

And I am still in love with my new fence 💕

How does my garden grow?

A gardening guru recently used floriferous to describe his garden. It fits my garden well too; it is surprisingly floriferous. Surprising because it is not particularly planned, relying on some very welcome volunteers.

Like the pale blue/darker blue starry flower in the foreground. I think it is a delphinium. Do you agree? Its small shoots appeared months ago. As the leaves didn’t look like a weed I was familiar with I let it grow. This is how it has repaid me. Smiles!

Behind are white and blue salvias. To the right, out of the picture is a mass of nasturtiums, rambling around. I certainly haven’t planted them for ages, but they happily return year upon year.

The corn flowers are have also sprung from seeds of last year’s flowers.

I am very tolerant of volunteer plants, happy to wait for them to grow, to see what they will turn out to be. I quite like some weeds. I even did a zoom talk recently about edible weeds!

I love the seed heads of salsify. That’s another plant that many see as a weed, although the root is apparently edible, but I am happy to have its company. How can I resist admiring them as the morning sun shines through the delicate seed balls?

The front garden is another area that is doing its own thing at the moment. One half it is a parsley patch. The plants are almost a metre high and in flower.

Look at the soft yellow flowers and the umbral shape of the flowers. But what I love most is how it attracts so many insects. The bees! There must be at least a dozen working away every time I go past. Hover flies hover. When you look closely you see spiders and ladybirds, which means there must be many other creatures that I don’t see.

I wonder what the passerbys think…..

Which brings me to the verandah. You may remember that I was pondering what to do with the verandah-shaped space at my front door. After workshopping it through with friends and family, I decided to pave the area. I found some pavers, ordered 15 of them, only to find out that it was going to cost $99.00 to deliver them! After I picked my jaw off the floor I said “Thank you, but can you cancel the order”. So now I am on Plan N, or there abouts, deciding to have a proper wooden verandah built. Not that the plans have gone any further. In the meantime I have put two plastic chairs out there on the sand and enjoy cups of tea in the sunshine.

There is progress planting the other part of the front yard.

It doesn’t look much, but I can see the potential! I have planted:

  • Poa labillarderi ~ a native grass that will clump to be about a metre wide. At the moment they look like grassy weeds!
  • Copper crest grevillia ~ very low growing, and hopefully will not only cover a large area but also bring in birds
  • Wahlenbergia stricta ~ these are the native bluebell, whisky little things, but quite pretty.
  • Pelargonium australe ~ this was a surprise as I didn’t know there was a native pelargonium. It has a little, pretty pink flower.
  • The taller, broad-leafed plant is a sunflower, the only plant that came up from the many seeds I sowed.

There are plans for more. I am looking for some murnong plants (a native yam) and bright yellow billy buttons.

I must tell you of my David Attenborough moment. I was sitting with my cup of tea on the ‘verandah’, reading and idly watching the insect world go about business, when I looked down. I noticed some flying insects digging in the sand. From later research I think I was watching three sand wasps at work. The digging fascinated me, as the wasp madly dug a little, then moved to another spot, madly dug a little more. All three were frantically digging. I figured that they were testing out the sand, searching for the perfect spot. Then one started to be really serious about her hole. The digging action was rapid so the hole got quite deep quite quickly. At times she would appear with larger grains in her mandible and toss the grain away from the hole. In the end I think the hole must have been about twice the length of her body, which was a couple of centimetres.

My cup of tea caught my attention for a few minutes. When I looked back at the hole I was amazed to see that she had brought a caterpillar from somewhere, which she dragged down the hole. She spent a little time down there, so I presume she was laying egg/s into the caterpillar. Up she came, and fastidiously covered it in, caterpillar and all.

I helped me remember all the interactions that are happening that we have no knowledge of. We need to slow down and look.

I know that many of you are heading into a cold and anxious Winter, so I will leave you with some flowers from other gardens. I hope they bring a smile. Stay well, my friends.

How does my garden grow?

It is a year since I last wrote about my garden ~ well I think it is. Lately I have been planning changes.

Very little has been done over the last seven months of staying at home. It may have been in March when I bought potting mix with the grand idea of repotting during this time at home. eventually I opened the bags over the weekend! Much to the chagrin of a trillion ants that have happily nested in the pots for who knows how long, I repotted the mint, an ivy geranium (which is actually a pelargonium) and a couple of succulents. Still a few more pots to go (and more ants to annoy!), but I have run out of potting mix. It looks like more online shopping. (Our shops are only open for click and collect.)

Newly minted mint

It is out the front where the larger plans are underway. You may know that the front yard is where we have been growing our veggies as it faces north and gets sun most of the day. However, the last eighteen months ~ the Fella’s medical issues and the virus ~ have made me realise that it is impractical to have a veggie garden. It is a question of priorities. To have a proper patch, with rotations and well maintained soil takes time and thought that I have to, and want to, spend elsewhere. It means that this year it has been a jumble of weeds.

So, my plan is to plant out the front with plants that are indigenous to my area, things like kangaroo grass and murnong, a native yam. I found a great pack of 10 tubes of plants from nursery I like. However, I am foiled by the pandemic again. The nursery is not delivering because they have a large backlog of orders. I could do a pick up, but it is outside of my 5 km radius. Patience.

The weeds are still growing well!

The other part of the plan for the front of the house is the verandah. For an embarrassing number of years it has been an area of unwanted junk ~ old plasterboard sheeting, bits of wood etc. This year I decided it was time for a council hard rubbish collection, so more unwanted stuff accumulated. The pandemic thwarted me again because I couldn’t book the collection. Until yesterday when they came and took it all away!

It went from this….

to this…..

in the space of a few minutes! Hurrah!

Now the observant among you will realise that we don’t actually have a verandah, just a verandah-shaped space. My current project is come up with some temporary solution before decking is put in. However, I know that temporary becomes permanent quite easily around here, so it has to be something quite nice. But easy. My thoughts involve big pots and some comfy chairs to enjoy the sunshine and chat to neighbours as they pass by.

Out the back, the Fella, AKA the Undergardener, took out a big bush, which opened up some space. This space is one of the few in the back garden that all day sun, which is why the rose flourishes. The spot for veggies, just a few that take my fancy. I sowed in some silver beet and spring onion seeds, and haven’t seen a single sprout. The dandelions love it though.

I take heart from the flowers that grow despite the lack of attention over the last year. They just do their own thing and I love them for it.

Now, I am going to take a chair out onto the verandah and have a read in the beautiful sunshine. Celebrate the small things. Take care.

Beeutiful, belicious 🐝

There is a world out there…..

Let me show you some of the bee magnets in my garden.

Salvias. I love them, and so do the bees. Also I have seen a wattle bird drinking the nectar. Now a wattle bird is more the size of a blackbird than a hummingbird. The stems certainly sway when this bird comes to drink, making me fear for the bush when I see one feeding, as salvias are quite brittle. The bees are much more gentle.

I have also had a couple of blue banded native bees visit. Maybe it is the intense blue of the flower. They do say that bees are attracted to blue.

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Rosemary. If you have one, you know how the bees love it. If you don’t, think about popping one into your garden. They grow well in pots. I am going to plant a prostrate one at some point.

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Sedum, Autumn Joy, I think. Not only does it attract bees, but the dried flower heads make a lovely feature either kept on the plant in a winter garden or brought indoors. And it is so easy to split the base and roots and replant elsewhere.

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However the most attractive flower to bees is this little unassuming one ~ oregano, if I remember right. It flowers for ages and whenever I look there are usually at least half a dozen bees in attendance. The bush sprawls its way over everything else, but I never have the heart to cut it back until flowering has well and truely finished. By that time it is already sprouting new shoots from the base.

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Of course bees are not the only good helpers in the garden, so I like to encourage others too. This strategy has the added benefit of allowing me to be lazy, letting things go to seed instead of clearing and tidying. Hover flies and ladybirds love the parsley flowers and the newly setting seeds. So parsley umbels stay, set seed and drop their seed everywhere. Parsley seed is best sown fresh. Consequently I have way more parsley than I could ever use.

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If you are stuck inside, longing for the outside world, my Instagram posts might help a little. On every daily walk I try to find something in the outside world that makes me feel good. When I can’t walk outside, I will post from my garden. And there is usually a bit of arty/sewing going on there too.

Stay well my friends Â đŸ™đŸœ

 

A catch-up in my garden

How about this…two posts in one week! It may be an indication that life is returning to some sort of normality. Fingers crossed.

In my last post I wrote about an issue with my computer, explaining that I had to leave it at the shop for a few days, a few internet-free days. Did I miss Facebook? No way, especially as that is where the hacked message came from. However, I did miss this blogging world. I missed finding out what you were up to, catching up on the news.

I think it is a special place we have nurtured, a warm and welcoming space. We have built friendships across the globe. While we may never meet in person, we are friends. Dr Snail posted recently about the loss of her blogging friend Patricia. It is a loss that touches all of us who may have read Patricia’s wise posts.

So, come my friends and sit with me in my Spring garden. Let’s forget about droughts and fires and the insanity of the world for a little. We will have tea, or coffee, or even a glass of wine, and cake and natter about whatever comes to mind! We will find a little space in our lives to just sit and enjoy.

For my garden is now in a fit state to have visitors. The weeds have gone. I have moaned about them before and some got to be about a metre high.

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The compost bins were being engulfed.

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And then my brother came and like a whirlwind uprooted them all.

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Thanks to his hard work I have weed free spaces and can easily find the compost bins.

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I am delighted by the flowers that have not only survived the neglect, but seem to have thrived on it.

 

 

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Sit with me and enjoy the foxgloves that I planted last year and are coming into their own this Spring. Admire the three different coloured irises ~ you can see one of them behind the foxgloves. The aran lilies are past their best, but the salvias are thriving, and it seems to be a glorious year for roses. (Remember how pruning the roses was the only thing I did in the garden over Winter? I am reaping the reward of finding that small pocket of time!)

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Let’s admire the complexity and beauty of the foxglove spires. Can’t you just imagine the little fox paws inside these?

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It is still rather weedy out the front, but let’s ignore them and admire the poppies that are exploding into flower.

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I must show you the seed heads of the salsify. I am not sure that the neighbours love these seed blowing in the wind, but I think they are wondrous.

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I managed to get the tomatoes in before Cup Day ~ that’s the marker for the right time to plant tomatoes in Melbourne. (And yes, we do get a public holiday for a horse race. We get another for the grand final of the Australian Football League. That’s how obsessed with sport many Melbournians tend to be ~ the rest of us just enjoy the day off!) There are strawberries to be harvested too.

Thank you for sitting and strolling with me, for taking some deep breaths and enjoying what the botanical world has to show. Your company is very special to me and I thank you for that too. Here’s to friendship, and foxgloves!

 

 

How does my garden grow?

We are having very stable Autumn weather at the moment. It’s my favourite time of the year, especially to garden. The soil is still warm enough to plant things in (although very dry) but the cooler nights are turning the leaves into glorious reds and yellows.

But it is dry ~ our driest start to a year on record. That’s a scary stat, because we are well used to dry conditions. So, let’s hope for the rains to come soon.

Let’s turn our eyes away from that for a little while, and look to what is happening in the garden, because I have been trying to get things under control.

As you know the front yard is our veggie patch. The corn, beans and tomatoes are finished, and I cleared away all that debris. We left the corn roots to rot down into the soil ~ it’s not just laziness!

At the moment there is nothing to see, except the spread compost. If you had x-ray eyes you would see the pea seeds and snow peas seeds beginning to germinate under the soil.

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Nothing to see here!

The bees have been very active over the last couple of months. At the moment the rosemary bush is one of the few food sources for them. It looks scraggly, but the bees are loving it. And I have been delighted to see a native blue banded bee. It is a beautiful bee, with quite a loud buzz. They are solitary bees and you can find out more about them here. The backyard bird bath is too deep for bees, so I set up their own water station  in a shallow bowl and stones under the rosemary. I will say that I’ve never seen them use it!

The other thing to show you before we head down the back is the containers ready for my neighbour to collect. Dagmar lives in a flat, with no chance for her own garden. Like all of us, she hates wasting her food scraps, so we have set up a system where she leaves her scraps and coffee grinds. We put them into the compost or worm farm and return the washed container. The drop off point is the blue stone block near the tap.

Chillies are the only produce to share with her at the moment.

The backyard is looking more under control too (well, parts of it).

The salvia is growing so well I have planted two more.

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A helebore made it through years of neglect, so I figure they grow well in the garden too. Two more have gone in.

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The tatty one on the right is the older plant. One of the new plants is at the back, behind the foxgloves.

Mum gave me a punnet of corn flowers. They are doing well, growing at the base of the sedum.

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The poor fuchsia isn’t doing so well. It may need more sun. And a repot.

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The pelargonium is flowering well, but something gets in and munches the flowers before the bud opens. Any thoughts?

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But the begonias are thriving on neglect

While our vine is looking rather tatty, and there are so many leaves to sweep…

I am lucky to be able to enjoy the neighbour’s tree from my back door. Autumn is a magical season.

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How does my garden grow?

It’s quite a while since I have done a gardening post. But before I get to that, let me wish each of you the best for 2019. I hope it is a calm and healthy year for you. We can certainly do with both.

In my last post I spoke about my lack of New Year celebrations. Well, this year I did see some fireworks. The Fella and I walked to Footscray Park and watched them on the bridge over the Maribyrnong River, then walked home! Fireworks always make me smile.

The walk home was good too, because all the families were leaving the celebrations, and I could see how diverse my community is. We had all come together for this. That made me smile too.

Now on to the garden….with a slight detour to talk about the weather, like all good Melbournians love to do. It does affect the garden, so there is some connection.

Many parts of Australia, including my favourite arid inland place, Menindee, have been experiencing prolonged hot conditions, with many days well over 40 degrees C. Our Summer has been pretty mild. Then we copped the blast of heat yesterday.

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But we were really lucky because the cool change came through mid-afternoon and the temperature plummeted, 10 or so degrees in about 20 minutes.

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Melbourne can be like that. My Fella says “Melbourne doesn’t have weather, it has samples”. 😉

Today it is 18 degrees, with a misty rain, which my garden will be loving. Nice way to bring it back to the garden. But a little more weather…..Our Winter was dry, but we had some good Spring rains. I mention that because the garden loved the rain and flourished.

The garden has been something of a work in progress, as gardens usually are. Over the last couple of years some plants have gone and some planted. Then, in the lead up to my Open Studio, the Fella and I had a Big Clean Up. It helped that it was the annual council  hard rubbish collection. We got rid of buckets of unknown garden stuff ~ potting mix? worm castings? ash? We cleaned and cleared and weeded and swept. Very satisfying.

The other difference was the garden hose we bought this time last year. I have no connection to the company, but I am quite happy to spruik my Hoselink hose. It wasn’t the cheapest on the market, but it works wonderfully. It is a relief to not battle old bits of hose snaking the way through the garden. It retracts like a dream.

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The fitting is brass, not plastic that breaks up in the sun. It has so many settings and a great feature that allows me to adjust the flow without having to go anywhere near the tap. That’s the yellow lever three quarters of the way down. My only slight criticism is that it is heavy, and might be an issue for someone with arthritis.

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Now, let me show you some pretty pictures of how my garden is growing…..

The roses are abundant. I love salvias and this one is a stunner ~ dark blue and black. It looks great with the nasturtiums that are taking over. Nasturtiums make me smile!

Many of the plants have flourished with the Spring rains and repotting.

These plants (I forget what they are called) cause me grief, as they want to take over the garden. However, they fill in the area under the maple and I enjoy their flowers, and the bees love them. I am ruthless whenever I see a seedling trying to escape the strict boundaries I have set for it.

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Our vine has featured in posts before. We don’t have air-conditioning, instead use the vine to shade the house. The pesky possums are still eating the new tips and slowing the growth. That makes the vine more determined to grow, and it is getting up over the supporting wires. In fact, I can see further growth when I compare these photos of a week ago to today. It might be there next time the really hot weather hits. Yay vine!

The front yard, where we grow the veggies is doing okay too. We have corn and beans powering along. The strawberries continue to be lush and have started to produce for the Summer.

[You will just have to imagine these photos, because the gremlins are in my WordPress photos and not allowing me to upload. Anyone else having problems?]

The marjoram is something else that the bees love. You wouldn’t think these flowers would be a bee magnet, would you? So it stays, even though it does get droopy (but then, don’t we all!)

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While I haven’t been blogging much of late, I have been creating. I’m sewing more pumpkins (scroll down the page in the link to see a previous one) and creating landscape trees (again, scroll down). My Letter From the Studio will start up again for the new year soon. So, if you would like to keep in touch with my art work, sign up for the letter, or leave me a note in the comments and I can add your email address to the list.

Pesky possums*

* Warning: alliteration ahead!

Pesky possums have been a part of life in Melbourne for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a house next to a park, so we always had possums playing. They loved to chase each other around the roof, sounding like marauding hordes. Then there is the unholy scream they make, enough to chill your bones.

I well remember one time when we were woken by our dog, Galahad barking on the front verandah. We had long ago dropped the “Sir” from his name, as he did not live up to his gentle, ethereal namesake. So image our surprise to find that a baby possum had ousted Galahad from the door mat and was keeping this big dog at bay. I felt sorry for this wee, frightened creature and went to pick it up. My reward was a bite on my finger, and later a tetanus injection that hurt more than the bite! From memory the possum scampered off, and probably grew up to be one of the marauding hordes on the roof.

Then I moved to my own house and I would listen smugly to gardening shows where there were inevitably complaints about possums.

“The possums have eaten all my rosebuds. What can I do?”

“The possums eat the rind off the lemons and leave the fruit to rot. What can I do?”

“The possums…..” “The possums….”

I say smugly because I didn’t have pesky possums. My roses and lemon tree had many other problems, but not possum problems. However, the Gardening Gods do not like smug gardeners…….and you know where I am going with this……..

Yep, I have possums, pesky possums.

My pesky possums are not pilfering the roses or the lemons (and that is not smugness ~ just give them time!). No they are plundering the vine.  And this is a problem because it is one of our main forms of summer cooling.

You may remember me talking about the vine before. We have ceiling fans rather than air conditioning, and rely on the vine to cover and shade the eastern side of the house. It’s been a great system as the morning sun doesn’t get a chance to beat into the house. But now the possums have come to play, and they just love to nibble the new shoots of the vine down to little nubs.

The weather has been hot this November ~ 36Âș today. We seem to have gone straight from the cold of Winter to the heat of Summer, without Spring in between. We are missing the covering of the vine.

So, I am trying to out-fox the pesky possums. Surely with some human ingenuity and the rampant growth of the vine I can get the tendrils up the wires. My thoughts are that if I can overwhelm the possums with young shoots some of them will sneak past and take hold. Armed with a ball of string and a rake I have been tying and training, trying to keep the young shoots away from places where the possums can reach out to take a nibble.

This is the state of the vine:

If you look hard you can see the string amongst the tangle of tendrils.

At the moment I think it is nil all, but it’s only half-time! And a long hot Summer ahead of us. I will let you know the final score!

Other gardening news….

It is time for the jacarandas to flower. Again I have written about them before.

I have had a delightful volunteer in the front garden, in among the onions!

A red poppy was a delightful surprise, and I wonder where she came from.

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How does my garden grow?

Before I show you my garden, I just want to remind you of my tree painting giveaway. If you would like to be in the draw to win it, head to my last post to leave a comment. Hugs to those of you who have already entered.

Last year my veggie patch in the front yard looked like this

with the tomatoes still in their pots and the seeds in their packets.

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The tomatoes did okay, but the volunteer plants were much more prolific. Both varieties have given us rich red tomatoes, our best for quite a few years. I think a consistent amount of water was the key.

In the back patch near the rosemary hedge I planted Kipfler potatoes. They grew well. The potatoes are small, but tasty. Despite not planting them very deep, potatoes hide in the soil and reappear the next season. So, as well as the Kipflers we also harvested purple spuds that came up elsewhere.

The corn came up strong and tall. The cobs weren’t as good as last year. It may have been a different variety or maybe too much competition. Around it I planted silverbeet and beans, and the volunteer tomatoes flourished in amongst the corn. The silverbeet certainly suffered. Who knew that it wouldn’t flourish in all possible situations?!

I deliberately planted the beans at the base of the corn, hoping that the beans would curl up the stalk, giving back nitrogen for the corn to use. The beans loved climbing up the corn, but didn’t know what to do when they reached the top!

To solve the problem I have untangled the runners from the tomatoes, silverbeet and corn and let them ramble on the Aframe that the Fella made for me quite a few years ago.

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Yesterday I had one of those extremely satisfying gardening days. I pulled out the parsley plants that had gone to seed, the old tomato bushes, dug up volunteer potatoes and sweet potatoes and dug over a bed.

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As well I took time out to watch the bees in the oregano flowers. It is difficult to cut the flower heads because there are always bees there, sometimes butterflies too. Anything that brings in the bees and insects is welcome in my garden!

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I also harvested and cooked.

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Slow roasted tomatoes are my favourite at the moment. Pop the tomatoes into a dish (cut them or not, as you like), add some oil, balsamic vinegar, parsley or any other herb you fancy, salt and paper, and some garlic cloves. Put into a slow oven 150 degrees or so until they are cooked to your liking. Mine stayed in for about an hour. I will use them tonight, with slow roasted eggplant and peppers, bought today at a farmers’ market, as the basis of a pasta sauce. ~Sigh~

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Remember to head over to Time for a tree giveaway to enter my giveaway. This is the tree painting you could win.

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Copyright: Anne Lawson 2017

How does my garden grow?

It is quite a while since I have talked to you about my garden (aside from reblogging an earlier post about the jacarandas in my street). That’s partly because I have had so many other things to write about, and partly because when I got home from the Flinders Ranges it was an overgrown jungle. How could there be so many weeds in such a small space?

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
How many weeds could there be? (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

Let me remind you that my vegetable patch is actually in my front yard, because that is the part of my garden that gets the most sun. It is a good size, about 3 x 2 metre. I have built up 4 beds and do my version of crop rotation. One of the advantages of veggies in the front yard is that you have all sorts of interesting conversations with the neighbours and people walking past. It makes it very easy to give away vegetables. I thrust broad beans on anyone who stopped for 2 seconds! 🙂 And we have had some generous donations in return, as you will see if you read on.

Once I conquered some of the weeds I found that I had a silver beet tower and a glut of  broad beans. I was forced to be inventive when cooking them, and wrote about some of the recipes here.

I thought we would have a break from silver beet…until a thoughtful  neighbour brought me some more seedlings. They could not be abandoned, so they have gone in, and are doing well.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

I had some strawberry crowns that were past their best. So I dug them up and replanted them on the street front, where the non-existent fence is, as well as along the path to the front door. They are doing very well. I love strawberries so much that I bought 2 more plants, one is ‘Red Gauntlet’ and the other is ‘Bonnie’, a white strawberry. Such sweet little flowers and delicious fruit — if we can get to them before the snails!

The neighbour who gave me the silver beet also gave me lots of tomato seedlings which are powering along. In the photo you may see a pumpkin leaf or two. It has come up out of the compost. Pumpkins tend to take over, so if it wants to stay it must be well behaved. There are also photos of potatoes. Would you believe me if I said that they were free too? When I went to the nursery to buy seed potatoes they told me it was past the time to plant them. However, I could help myself to the bags over there, for no charge. I had nothing to loose if they didn’t come up, so I planted them out. They all sprouted and are growing very well.

Next time I will tell you how to plant potatoes the easy way. And remind me to tell you about the sweet potato too.

I love the flowers of the Solanaceae family — tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants. They look like very fancy turbans, and are great fun to draw!

So, from mayhem to order, with a little help from the compost bin and worm farm and a lot of help from the Under Gardener (aka My Fella 😉 )