Sydney’s everlasting autumnal sunshine incited a last-minute seed planting push: mostly lettuce, spinach, leeks, spring onions and celery — and chilli, which didn’t germinate in those endless, breathtaking, sunny days.
I’d hand-harvested the seeds from the veggie patch during the preceding months, painstakingly decanting tiny specks into containers as i stood at the kitchen bench — my second favourite spot in the house.
There had been an earlier seed planting — too early. It was still summer — scorchingly so. The seeds suffered at the hands of a distracted gardener, from parched days and several torrential downpours with super-sized raindrops that torpedoed to earth and landed with big splats on the seed trays, dislodging anything that had managed to take root.
That planting was doomed from the start. Sun-tranced, i didn’t care. Until i realised there would be no winter vegetables, at least none that had been hand raised; a home-grown second generation. I pulled my green thumb out and planted another batch. The timing was better. The sun kinder. The mellow rays first coaxed the shoots, then caressed the first leaves, then encouraged the fully fledged seedlings to threaten mutiny if they weren’t transplanted into beds.
I was awaiting delivery of a raised garden bed, so prolonging their days in trays; delaying their adolescent growth spurt. Finally the bed arrived, full of flat-packed promise. I began construction in my usual bull in a china shop kind of way.
Fortunately my right-hand man anticipated my trademark slapdash enthusiasm. He rolled up his sleeves to help. When i obliviously skipped a step of the instructions, he pulled me back. When we had to dismantle one of the corrugated sheeting sides because i’d misread the steps, he took it in his stride, knew better than to criticise. In hindsight, it would have been a relatively simple construction had i been removed from the equation.
We bought the requisite seven 25-litre bags of potting mix and two 20-litre bags of sand to fill the bed. I went one step further and turbocharged that winter bedding with decaying organics — moist and teaming with life from our constructed compost bin.
I carefully planted out the lettuce and spinach, leeks, spring onions and celery. I watered them in. The bed’s self watering system is used thereafter— that and the rain, of which we had much that following week.
I kept an anxious eye on those seedlings, worried they would drown in the downpour. I wished the bed had come with a waterproof cover that could be strapped in place on those dreaded Sydney downpour days. Another flaw is that the bed can’t be moved once laden with 215 litres of soil.
But it looks cool in a steely-grey kind of way against the wall of our back garden. At knee height it will hopefully prevent my dodgy back — the result of being regularly thrown off horses in my fearless teenage days — whinging and moaning after a gardening stint.
The seedlings survived the rain and have well and truly taken root. The past week of winter sunshine has given them a good start in life. In another week or so we’ll be harvesting lettuce leaves, in a few months celery sticks and and spring onions, later in the year hopefully leeks. And from there seeds, for the third generation.
Note: The Food Sage received a complimentary raised garden bed from Hills.