Winter Gardening

Working in the Winter Garden

It has been a few months since I posted a story about my garden.   Friends have been giving me a nudge and asking ….. what’s happening ….. how is your garden growing? I have not been idyll. Dressed in thermals to guard against the winter cold I have been expending energy around the compost heap. While I have been working I have also been planning a number of blogs on compost making and worm farming.

Garlic and radicchio after the last of the radish have been removed - Henny is searching for a sweet treat amongst the straw.
Garlic and radicchio after the last of the radish have been harvested – Henny is searching for a sweet treat amongst the straw with broad beans towering in the background.

However one of the most important things I have been doing is collaborating with a group of committed volunteers helping to set up Open Gardens Victoria.

Back in 1987 a small team of like-minded Victorian’s established the first open garden program. This grew into Open Gardens Australia. However in June this year  OGA ‘Closed the Garden Gates’ for the last time.  A small group of us in Victoria felt this should not be the end. Our State has a long and passionate history of all things horticultural, it is home to thousands of committed gardeners and the place where many wonderful private gardens are waiting to be discovered.

‘We had to do something’

…………….so after much work behind the scenes Open Gardens Victoria will launch its first garden at Musk Cottage in September this year. Visit www.opengardensvictoria.org.au to learn more about gardens opening this spring.

OGV Musk Cottage_Lge

Back to the veggie patch………..

My garlic is well established, the radishes have been and gone and the radicchio I planted in April needs thinning and transplanting. I have been picking coriander for micro greens, baking beautiful pies using the swiss chard planted last summer, thinning leeks for risotto, picking beetroot, parsley, lettuce and spinach. Pumpkins are still being baked or put into soup and potatoes dug when needed. A few of the last Hungarian peppers need picking, the plants look ‘shocked’ because they don’t like the cold, but the shiny red peppers bake up a treat. I go out and harvest a fresh winter salad each evening.

In the morning we enjoy stewed rhubarb on our muesli.

My garden is abundant and the crisp winter air offers a special snap to the vegetables and reminds me I’m alive and spring is around the corner.

A barrow load of compost ready to spread and the hay bale enclosure ready for the new 'hot' compost heap.
A barrow load of compost ready to spread on the garden and the newly constructed hay bale enclosure with cardboard base ready for the next ‘hot’ compost pile.  I will talk about this technique in my next posts.

ANZAC Broad Beans

‘ My Little Cobber Beans’

April 25th was ANZAC Day and I planted broad beans. I had dug the bed early in the week with the plan to plant the crop on this special day of commemoration.  I often choose a garden task to mark a special day.

As I was digging I thought of my Grandfather, Joseph Philip Roberts, a returned soldier from WWI. I wondered what he and all those lads who travelled to far-flung shores would make of us 100 years on?

How different our world is, but how much stays the same.

Joseph Philip Roberts on leave in Manchester England
Joseph Philip Roberts on leave in Manchester England, perhaps on leave to visit my grandmother.

Early on Saturday, before I left for the dawn service at Queenscliffe, I opened the pack, removed the damaged beans and covered the good seed with water. I always soak my beans before I plant them. It speeds germination by softening the outer shell and fattening the seed.

Sorting the beans and removing the cracked and split seeds
Sorting the beans and removing the cracked and split seeds

The business of planting broad beans is timeless.   Those who returned and took to gardening would certainly have been preparing beds and planting beans at this time each year. Every gardener knows the hard graft of gardening is therapy for the body, mind and soul. A quiet time toiling in the vegetable patch would have offered a curative escape to many returned soldiers, providing for the family table while calming troubled thoughts.

Broad Beans covered in water and left to soak for 6 to 8 hours
Broad Beans covered in water and left to soak for 6 to 8 hours

At this time, 100 years on from ANZAC, I understand the special qualities that are attached to the term ‘cobber’, a term only given to the best of mates. I have especially been thinking about my grandfather who chose to answer the call and defend his country, serving on the Western Front.

This ANZAC day I honored both my grandfather Joseph Philip and my father Ruben Charles, who served during WWII. I went to the dawn service, then marched in their memory. I also honored all those soldiers and civilians who have served and given so much that we might all have our freedom.

Paying tribute after the march at Johnston Park
Paying tribute after the march at Johnston Park

Joseph Philip Roberts was a gentle soul, he was frail and in his 80’s when I was just 10. Memories of ‘Pop’ are laced with a deep feeling of kindness, recollections of a person who had time and patience for children. I recall his happy welcome each time we visited, we would run into the room and jump on his lap to the call of, ‘How are you My Little Cobbers’?

Bean seed laid out 10 cm apart, in furrows 20 cm apart, all ready for planting.  As a good rule of thumb is planting depth should be the same size as the seed.
Bean seed laid out 10 cm apart, in furrows 20 cm apart, ready for planting. A good rule of thumb is planting at a depth that is the same as the size of the seed. My favourite garden tool is used to comb the soil and form the furrows.

My grandfather grew broad beans.  What he would have called ‘good tucker’.  And so I plant my ANZAC Broad Beans, my ‘Cobber Beans’, in memory of him and all those who have given in war.

As a symbol of hope and renewal I will sprinkle red poppy seed amongst them for the coming spring.

We Will Remember Them