This summer I will not be gardening. Much.
A decade ago I might have said, "I am not going to plant anything at all, no trees, no veg."
I have now learned that's impossible – the last time I swore I wasn't going to plant anything, due to a hot dry summer ahead, I put in a grove of olive trees (most of which are thriving, even the ones much nibbled by wallabies), made a new vegetable patch and added a pumpkin garden. Also "some" salvias ie,. "lots".
This year I really did manage not to plant any more fruit trees, not a single rose and no grevilleas or banksias whatsoever. Mostly this was due to getting two new knees, and the previous injuries that made them necessary, rather than determination. But it still counts as a first.
The knees are still creaky and the water situation dire, so this year's vegie plantings are going to be the true essentials for summer wellbeing.
Tomatoes. Four varieties. Well, maybe six. Grosse Lisse and whatever else attracts my attention at the garden centre because I haven't planted any seeds this year – or even ordered any – plus whatever self-sown ones come up in the garden. These are usually the most productive and hardy, the ones perfectly adapted to this end of the valley, and will almost certainly include red and yellow cherry tomatoes, plus one that is halfway between a cherry and a Roma and the best thing ever to eat with cheese and lots of pepper. Also a cracker, if you feel inclined to crunch.
Basil. Because why else grow tomatoes? The old-fashioned, narrow-leafed ones are the most fragrant, to use in cooking. The big-leafed ones are best for salads and salsa. The purple ones look great but don't seem as productive as the others. Actually any basil is gorgeous, but it's worth knowing that they are far from identical. Sniff before buying.
Apple cucumbers. These survive and fruit even in the dry and give us a crop by Christmas. A big crop. We binge on cucumber salad and cucumber soup for two months then neglect them.
Melons. Because when you eat a fresh-picked, not cold-chilled, melon you discover why they were once one of life's great luxuries, so fragrant that they scent the kitchen as soon as you cut them open. I am salivating even as I write this. They are also surprisingly drought resistant once they get going.
Pumpkins. Ditto pumpkins. Once again I don't have seed, so it will depend on what seedlings I can find. The most delicious I ever grew were Giant Butter. I kept the seed for years, then lost it. I have never come across them again.
Zucchini. Just because. How can it be a summer garden if you don't put in some zucchini?
Continental Parsley. A kitchen staple. Cannot do without it.
Climbing beans. Because there are still dried beans on last year's plants and all I need to do is push them into the ground.
And then there is … whatever I can't resist when I'm shopping for the other stuff, which may well include eggplant, which rarely give much of a crop in this shady valley, but which I totally adore and so continually and most fruitlessly hope for a massive crop.
This is exactly what you should be planting – the stuff you love, adore and salivate about, whether they are fat-fleshed capsicum for baking or crisp, sweet Butterhead lettuce, assuming you have the water to keep them thriving. Those are the ones you'll remember to feed and water, to mulch and pick: the true essentials.
+ picking asparagus, eating asparagus, loving asparagus;
+ still picking daffodils, double ones now, so heavy they often snap their stems before I get to pick them, plus the last of the camellias;
+ trying to get around to watering the hydrangeas – there is nothing as reliable as hydrangeas for vase filling;
+ marvelling at the blue salvias, which are springing up on a totally dry, sunny bank as gorgeous as if I had been cosseting them with food and water;
+ smelling spring every time we open the doors and windows; and
+ amazed by at the two, pea-sized, yellow cherry tomatoes on the self-sown bush by the front door that have survived minus-eight degrees this winter and nil watering (just) and even flowered in July and now we have the fruit. Have great hopes of what it may decide to do with warm weather and water.
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