What Kids Like To Do in the Garden

Regular readers will know that I am a member of the “Society of ELG“.

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Our founder, giving a seminar on something.

We have a lot of passionate people in the Society of Extremely Lazy Gardeners, but we are always looking to recruit new members. Thinking about joining? As a member you are entitled to a range of benefits:

– Low amounts of work

– High production of fruits and veggies.

– Money saving

– Great relationships with kids and neighbours

– General happiness and satisfaction.

Today was one of my laziest gardening afternoons but also probably my happiest. As an Extremely Lazy Gardener, I let many of my plants “go to seed”. This means that I don’t dig up or chop down all my veggies when they have finished producing their beans, fruit, and what not. For example, I leave a few lettuces unpicked until they shoot up into flowers and seeds. I leave a few broccoli unharvested so that their brocooli-bits turn into yellow flowers then seeds. I leave some zucchini to grow massive and hard then scoop out the seeds to be replanted next spring. I leave some of bean plants alone so their beans remain unpicked. They dry up and I can use the beans to plant again.

I like to tell people that I have a plan, but really it’s just that I forget to harvest some stuff, and nature did the rest. You have to ‘be okay’ with a garden that has a few towering, dried-up-looking stalks and a few rattling beans dangling from the vine. And believe me- I’m ok with it! Really, it’s just how everyone used to garden until they started selling seeds at the supermarket.

Anyway, enough about being lazy in the garden. Let’s talk about being lazy with kids in the garden! I wanted to include a brief description of what kids love doing in our garden:

Kids love:

  • planting broad bean seeds
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Another ELG member doing what I would consider to be a bit too much hard work in the garden. Probably trying to impress his kid. ELG Society rules state that broad beans should always be planted from a hammock or while half asleep in a wheelbarrow (see above).

 

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ain’t got a garden? do it in an old bottle!

  •  collecting and counting sunflower seeds from a dried up sunflower
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I asked my little fella how many seeds this one sunflower had given us. He said “Probably about 50hundred!” We counted them and turns out he was right…

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  • popping open dried-up bean pods and collecting the shiny beans
  • finding creatures in the jungle-garden

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two praying mantis mating- probably our best creature discovery in the garden. A great discussion was then had about what mating was and whether/why the female then ate the male’s head afterwards.

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  • eating tomatoes off the vine while they are still warm from the afternoon sun
  • eating anything within reach
  • pulling up a Jerusalem artichoke and plucking off the little tubers.

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  • Sharing these experiences with their friends in the street

 

All these things happened this afternoon. And it wouldn’t’ have happened had I not been so extremely lazy to have left all these seeds to dry up, pumpkin vines to take over (and harbour the amazing praying mantis), artichokes to grow in random places, sunflowers to wither, tomatoes to sprawl… Being extremely lazy has its rewards!

I’d love to hear your “what kids like to do in the garden” ideas too. Drop me a comment and we can all put together a list for others to be inspired by!

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Want to play God with Pumpkins?

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Here’s an image of a pumpkin I recently crossed with a small kayak..

I like playing God with our pumpkins. Actually I like doing it with our zucchini, gourds, squash and other members of the cucurbita family. Basically, all you do it you get the male flower bit and rub it on the female flower bit (regular readers know how scientifically high-brow this blog it, so I hope I haven’t lost you).

Doing this probably wont produce any weird fruit initially, but if you collect seeds from your fruit, and plant them, you may very well get weird fruit.

You have to know which flowers are male and which ones are female to do this right?

Here’s some helpful images…

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female on the left, male on the right. Note the swollen bit on the female flower- that is the fruit ready to develop. The male flower doesn’t have one of these.

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check out the different shaped bits inside. I just learned what they are called from this image but I still prefer “bits”

So then you just pick a male flower (there are usually heaps to choose from). Then you peel off the outer petals so you are left with the stamen (or “bit” if you want to get technical). Then you rub the male stamen into the female stigma and, hey presto- you just played God (well actually you just did what humans have been doing for about 12,000 years and bees have been doing for a lot longer!)

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male bit in my hand, female bit still in the attached flower

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just rub the male bit into the female bit. Some people even leave it in there to prevent bees cross-pollinating with other types of plants.

Actually there are some really good reasons for doing this artificial pollination (not just because of the feeling of incredible power you wield).

Sometimes you might have a problem with no fruit forming on your pumpkins/etc. This can be because your female flowers are hidden or not accessible to pollinators (bees, butterflies, etc.). So hand pollination can help this problem. Added to this, you might want to just hand pollinate to ‘guarantee’ pollination. Vegetable plants are a big investment of your time/space/etc.  so its good to cover your bases.

Also, you might want to keep your veggies “true to type” which means you don’t want them to cross with other veggies in your garden.

Happy pollinating!

THE STORY OF THE ZUCHINI THAT TURNED INTO EGGS, THEN INTO A SRI LANKAN CURRY!

Regular readers may be familiar with these zucchini that recently turned into eggs

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Trombone zucchini tastes like zucchini, looks like…
well, lets just say it looks different.

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Our neighbour’s eggs- look like eggs, taste like…eggs

Well another zucchini we grew, just miraculously turned into a delicious curry and some other scrumdiddlyumptious side dishes, thanks to our lovely Sri Lankan neighbours!

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The swap happened under the cover of darkness. Which was a relief because I felt like I was getting a ridiculously good deal!

We do most of our vegetable gardening in our front yard (mainly because it gets good sun, and also because the backyard is shady fruit tree forest. Also it is because we used to have a dog that roamed the backyard, pooing everywhere and chasing anything ball-like). We don’t have a ginormous block so the front yard was always destined for greatness. I envisaged a manicured, practice putting green so our kids could turn into pro-golfers and I could retire… but instead I made it into a vegetable patch/jungle.

The major up-side of front yard gardening is that you meet a lot of your neighbours (who are often gardening too, or trying to avoid having to look at your scarecrow as they pass by… ). I love the privacy of the backyard when it’s ‘us time’ but I also love the community-feeling of being in the front yard too. We have neighbours with diverse backgrounds some with heritage in Sri Lanka, Italy, Lebanon, The UK, Greece… And I, (being white-trash) find it so interesting to hear about how their families all got to this country and then to our suburb and street. I feel privileged to be able to listen to their stories but it also makes me think of the people who are currently trying to find refuge in our country, but who find themselves detained for doing so…

These lovely people with their global accents almost all garden too, which I would venture, is often a feature of first-generation Australians. It’s a feature I am very endeared to!

I love hearing how different cultures garden and I love tasting how they turn their harvest into deliciousness. I have been very lucky to have inherited grape cuttings,  heirloom tomato seeds, figs, preserved olives, seedlings, and other assorted fruit and vegetables from these generous people. I have definitely received more than I have given away and for that, I want to say thankyou!

So the moral of this story is:

If you want a curry, grow a zucchini!

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Ok. This one won’t make it into a cook book but the skill was in not drooling all over the food while taking the photo. Can’t wait for lunch tomorrow!

The story of the lost chicken and the zuchinis that changed into eggs.

So the other day we received a letter in the mail saying someone had lost their chicken from their backyard. We had a look around and sure enough, there were a few eggs scattered around the dark corners of our backyard. Later that day we heard some clucking and out popped a chicken from under our apricot tree.

We called the number on the letter and met with our new neighbour who explained that she had saved some chickens from a battery farm.

A few weeks later we received 6 warm eggs from  our new chooky friends!

Now we trade excess fruit and zuchinis for eggs.

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here’s a picture of 6 eggs in a zuchini suit

It makes me so happy to be a part of this type of barter system, here in the concrete jungle. It’s a system that our ancestors have enjoyed for millennia and that is slowly creeping back into the lives of city dwellers, despite the efforts of the big supermarket chains to make us think that the only way to get ‘fresh’ produce is by buying it,wrapped in plastic from a refridgerated shelf in a shopping aisle.

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and this is a zucchini, cunningly disguised as 6 fresh, warm eggs

We have only just started bartering with the people who sleep within 30m of us, but I am going to try to do it a bit more.

Growing your garden UP!

As you might know by now I am a lazy gardener. I blame my parents. They are both lazy gardeners too, and great at it!

If you don’t have much time to garden (and/or don’t have much space), garden upwards.

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this zuchkin or pumpkini (cross between a zucchini and a pumpkin) is growing up our watertank-hiding bamboo screen.

Climbers like pumpkins, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini are easy to grow and love going up.

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pumpkins going up the steel reo mesh

How to do it:

1. Get some old lattice or steel reinforcement mesh (you’ll find this in people’s hard rubbish or skips if you keep an eye out, and if another lazy gardener doesn’t get it first). Chicken wire strung between two stakes works too but I like how the steel reinforcement mesh (the kind they put down in concrete to keep it solid) is self-supporting and bendable into various shapes (arches are nice).

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two pieces forming an a-frame

2. Set up the mesh in your garden. You can do a-frames, arches, straight walls at the end of a garden bed or down the middle of one.

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beans, zucchini, asparagus and pumpkin all held up by the same piece of mesh. Little things grow underneath

3. Spread some nice compost from your worm farm or compost heap under the mesh. Plant some seeds at the base of the mesh, in the compost

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4. Water every day or other day until the seedlings grow. Keep watering a fair bit if it is hot weather (or put a drip system in if you are really lazy like me. It is very easy to do. For instructions, see YouTube)

5. Prepare to wow your friends with uppity, jungle-ish garden, bursting into the sky with produce!

Grow a papaw in Melbourne. THE AMAZING BABACO! (ready to publish)

Babacos are a cool climate papaw that are extremely easy to grow, are pest free, are prodigious, fit into a small space and are delicious! They are self-fertile too, meaning they don’t even need a another babaco-friend to make fruit! They have a really long harvesting season too. The first ones arrive in November (you can see one yellowing at the bottom), and the last ones are dropping in March or even later!

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fully loaded!

Here’s one of my gardening heroes, Angelo, talking about babacos…

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The fruit of the Babaco tree (Carica pentagona) grow over several seasons, these have seen a whole winter, and will resume growth now that the new leaves have sprouted once again.  The babaco is ideally suited to container gardening and also excellent for greenhouses. The plant takes up very little space, and can be planted anywhere where there’s a bit of free space. It can fit nicely in many parts of the yard, and even though it will handle shady locations it prefer a sunny spot. The broad green leaves and vertically held fruit add an exotic touch to the garden. the fruit of the babaco has excellent keeping quality, it has a shelf-life of around four weeks without cold storage.

I have grown them from cuttings very easily. You just cut off a small branch, let it harden in the air for a few days, then plant in compost.

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here are the fresh cutting drying out a bit in the sun before planting

You can also chop up the trunk into bits and do this to the bits.

What a remarkable fruit!!!

Growing gargantuan gaudy gourds

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our gourds drying out in the sun. Not only do they look cool but they are blocking the summer sun from our front porch.

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other cool object de art from the gourd family (and a couple of random aubergines)

Ever been game enough to grown a gourd? Go on, good golly, they’re great!

They are as easy to grow as a pumpkin. We used to grow ours at the base of a tree and just let it climb straight up, with gourds adorning it on the way up- like some sort of hippy-Christmas tree.

Once they are fully hardened off in a breezy and dry spot, they can be used as rattles, water containers, and about 17 other things. Some people even have the time to carve them into fantastical shapes.

They also make an awesome jack-o-lantern that can be used every year (and, unlike using a pumpkin, you don’t need to eat pumpkin soup for 23 days after making it.)