My husband Wayne is quite the aspiring green thumb, he wakes up an hour before me every morning to prune, weed, sow and water our ever changing and growing edible garden. There has been mistakes made and lessons learned. We've found some things just don't grow in the Hunter Valley and that bananas walk. Bananas walk! It has been interesting. Our little backyard in a residential street has provided us with beautiful fresh tomatoes that taste like a tomato should, carrots in all the colors of the rainbow, Plump figs, handfuls of fresh berries each morning ready for breakfast and so much more. It's taken a lot of work to get to this point but the reward is well worth the effort.
This time of year is tricky. It's cold, it's frosty cold. Our banana has upped and left us in search of the sun, our Mulberry tree is a mere stick figure of its former self and basil is just a memory from warmer days. The yard doesn't look great but there are things you can grow for those of you who can't wait until after the final frost to get planting and some things that will work hard to live for you all year round.
Some of our sturdy herbs are toughing it through the winter, our flat leaf Parsley being one. Unfazed by the cold it stands tall beside our Thyme, Rosemary and Sorrel. We love having plenty of herbs on hand in the restaurant and at home. Fresh herbs make every dish pop with flavor.They're expensive to buy from the shops- and don't get me started on the unnecessary packaging but they're easy to grow in any size yard. Our love of growing fresh herbs begun in small pots on our little balcony in Surry Hills, so even if you don't have a yard herbs could be great for you.
For those familiar with the restaurant you'd see we use quite a bit of this beautiful baby sorrel that we grow at home. Its citrusy and gets a little bitter in time. It adds a beautiful color to our food but we never put something on the plate that doesn't enhance its flavor. Obviously its also happy in the winter months, in fact its likely to wilt when too hot. We have it in part sun- part shade up the side of our house and it seems pretty happy here.
You usually don't associate Strawberries with this time of year but this little bad boys bursting with incredible flavor- in July! Some of the worlds very best and tastiest berries are grown in the colder climates. The full sun we've been receiving has proved enough to bring our strawbs back to life. We love strawberries for edging, using them as a boarder between our garden and our lawn. It gets loaded with so many amazing berries in a small amount of space. At this time of year we let them go wild. The beautiful green and reed of their leaves and the occasional flower and fruit is a sight for sore eyes. When the warmer months hit it's time to 'thin them out', having too many plants will limit the sun they can take in and prevent them from growing big and beautiful. We plant a variety of strawberries that fruit at different times so our season is longer and we get varying fruit in different sizes and flavors.
Radishes are great, they were my first joy in the garden as they only take a few weeks (around 20 days) between planting and enjoying them on your plate- perfect for gardening with children. Ideal for a bit of crunch in your salad, finely sliced with fish, on a sandwich or simply snacked on while harvesting. My favorite is the Baby French Breakfast Radish as it has a pretty pink color and a mild flavor. Leaving them longer in the ground will make them bigger but it will also make them quite peppery in flavor.
And last but certainly not least our lovely Lavender. Lavender is essential to the kitchen garden, it smells great and if groomed well can be quite beautiful. We use clippings for decoration and dried out for beautiful smelling potpourri but Lavender is much more important than that- it attracts bees! No good if you or someone in your house hold has allergies but bees are a crucial part of growing food, they are needed to pollinate the flowers to grow your fruit. You wont find any bees around in the winter months but your Lavender can still grow in the conditions over winter.
There are so many other great flowers and edible treats you can grow over winter but it's important to know what to plant and when to get the very best out of your garden. If you can find a Gardening book specific to the Hunter Valley we'd love to know about it!! Until then we'll keep posting our backyard successes- and the not so successful...