Storms and seedlings

Brisbane had a very wild night on Sunday. The thunder was intense and deafening. My heart was shaking so much and adrenaline surged through my body. Big M yelled at me to get away from the windows because he thought the pressure of the wind might blow them in. Then I saw a flash of lightening a mere metre away from the window and we both huddled into the centre of the house. I tried to reassure myself that, as our house is over fifty years old, if it has lasted this long, it would survive this storm.

An hour later the storm had passed and we went outside to assess the damage. It was the heaviest rain I’ve seen in a long time, and the wind was very destructive in our neighbourhood. Out the front a very large and once proud gum tree had its main limbs blown off. Luckily the branches fell across the road and missed all three houses on the other compass points. Our next door neighbour with the pesky ginger cats had a large tree completely uprooted. Down the road, fences were blown over and there was more tree carnage.

Fortunately, the vegetable beds look fine and the fruit trees all survived. The lattice holding up the sweet peas blew off and the native raspberry flapped its arms around aimlessly. The rain was very welcome and thoroughly soaked the soil in our beds. Our water tank was overflowing.

Surprisingly, we have spotted the first of our seeds sprouting up in the vegetable patches. Of course, it’s the beans and the squash.

Planting by the moon

Our seed potatoes went in on the weekend. I bought them months ago from The Lost Seed and they arrived in four neat brown paper bags. I was worried they’d gone bad or green in the back of the cupboard, and we really have missed the prime months for planting spuds. Matt declared himself in charge of the potatoes and he selected four of our local market favourites – Pink Eyes, King Edwards, Nicola and Kipfler. We shouldn’t have worried, the tubers were bursting with sprouting buds and more then ready to go in. Our only worry now is that perhaps we might have too many!

Today was the day before a full moon, and according to my “Astrological Calendar and Moon Planting Guide” by Thomas Zimmer, it’s a perfect time to sow “fruiting annuals – those vegetables which you want to produce abundant seed, or the seed bearing organ of the plant.”

We both got home early from work, and set about planting out our first three beds. The plantings were based on The Diggers Club article “The Mini-Plot“[PDF] and what in suitable for Brisbane’s climate in November.

Bed one:

Bed two:

Bed three:

  • Squash: White Scallop
  • Beans: Lost Seed Runner Scarlet Emperor x 12; Aqua Dulce Broad Bean x 12
  • Eggplant: The Diggers Club Listada Di Gandia x4
  • Rosella: Eden x 3
  • Eggplant: Cima Viola x 4

We ended up swapping the carrots for squash, beetroot for eggplant and rosella. In the perennial bed, we swapped the artichoke and asparagus (we don’t like either) for watermelon and rockmelon. The potatoes took up half the bed, but that’s ok because we’ve got two lots of rhubarb in pots.

In retrospect, we were thinking it might have been better to space out the timing of the plantings so that everything doesn’t come up at once. Oh the enthusiasm of naivety :-).

The Challenge

About a year and a half ago we bought a house and our interest in gardening blossomed. It was a natural progression that our love of food would lead to wanting to try to grow our own organic produce. Ultimately, we were interested in finding out how hard it would be to become self-sufficient without giving up our day jobs, moving to the country or growing dread-locks.

We wanted to know whether two amateur gardeners could grow enough fruit and vegetables to feed themselves within a year.

We wanted to follow The Diggers Club article on being self-sufficient in “Growing your Own Heirloom Vegetables”. It explains in perfect detail how to “Convert your lawn into a food garden” [PDF]. The author Clive Beazley claims you can grow 254kg of fruit and vegetables in just over 10 metres cubed. The average consumption of fruit and vegetables per person in Australia is 242kg (according to ABS).

We’re aiming for 236kg* of fruit and vegetables on one tank, for one couple in one year.

We’re going to loosely follow the The Diggers Club instructions, substituting fruit and vegetables for ones suited to Brisbane’s climate and our tastes. We hope to inspire others to dig for dinner.