Experiences

Our move to Geelong + The Patch on Bellarine’s garden

Where has time gone!? It seems like forever since I’ve spoken to you guys! So much has happened over these past few of months! We moved from the hustle & bustle of Melbourne apartment living to a spacious new house in Geelong. “How’s the serenity!”

We now have lawns to mow, a garden to take care of complete with rose bushes out the front, five established fruit trees and space to start growing our own vegetables! Who would have thought six months ago we’d be mowing lawns and spending afternoons in the garden! Veggie patch here we come!

This has been a dream of both mine & my husbands for the past year or so – “moving to the country, we’re gonna eat a lotta peaches”. We finally made the sea change and we couldn’t be happier! We love sitting in our new backyard, admiring our new garden, and every 3 weeks, a freshly cut lawn! We’re loving the peace and quiet of country living. We love seeing all the birds who visit us daily, bees pollinating the fruit trees and just admiring mother nature, especially the lady bugs who are eating the aphids we had on our fruit trees! But that’s a story for another time.

The best part about being here in Geelong, is the wonderful sense of community, as well as being closer to family. I’m looking forward to making new friends and being a part of a bigger food culture down here. Everyone is just so friendly and welcoming.

That’s where Sharren & Stephen, from The Patch on Bellarine in Clifton Springs, come into the picture. Not only do they grow all their own produce as well as a variety of chillies, which they make their own sauces to sell at local markets! We were meant to meet so I could learn as much as I can about growing and living off our backyard.

When I first met Sharren & Stephen, back in September, they had open garden day showing off all their amazing produce that they grow in their garden. And can I just say, it was mind blowing to see the amount, variety and discipline needed to grow your own food! The best thing about going to such an eye-opening day, was asking them as many questions about their garden as you could think of, they didn’t mind one bit! They wanted to share their knowledge of growing food and living sustainably off their backyard.

Here’s 5 things I learnt from the day. Hope they help you out too –

Making your own compost is easy! Who knew! All you need is a bin, which you can buy at a hardware store, local nursery, online or even check with your local council. Use an old ice-cream container as your kitchen bench-top scrap carrier. Position your compost bin away from the house – behind the shed or garage works well. Start filling – layer of wet, shredded paper first, then brown items such as dried leaves and tree bark. Then top with layers of green food scraps – no citrus or onions – and finish off with shredded paper. You can also use grass clippings but it’s not essential. Then stir once a week. Your compost is on its way!

The compost mate is a great ‘stirring’ tool which some friends told me about. And a question I had was ‘how do you know when your compost is ready to use?’ You’ll know it’s ready when it stops smelling of ‘rotten’ food and starts smelling of dirt, with a dark brown crumble feel.

Sugarcane mulch or pea straw mulch is great for the garden, especially with new seedlings. Helps to protect new seedlings, minimise weeds and retains moisture in the soil, which in turns means less watering.

Netted areas for fruit trees is a great way to stop birds eating your fruit or vegetables. Sharren and Stephen recently added a netted area for growing their chillies. Special fruit-fly netting was used (see top two photos.) As chillies are self-pollinators, they don’t require the help of bees to pollinate. Different nets for different needs.

Companion planting is a must in any garden. Companion planting is all about planting flowers or herbs to assist with pollination, keeping pests at bay or adding beneficiaries (good bugs) to help with production. Planting marigolds and nasturtiums helps keep aphids from eating your veggies. Check online for other great companion planting with your veggies.

Everything you grow doesn’t need to be planted in the ground or in planter boxes! Pots, both big and small, work wonders! Sharren sussessfully grows finger limes and citrus in huge pots. Herbs are sprinkled throughout the garden, as companion plants, but many are grown in pots.

Seeing Sharren & Stephen’s garden got me really excited! That one day, I too could turn a huge part of my backyard into not only year round sustainable fruit and veggies but my dream of eating ‘backyard to plate’ can be a reality in one-two years, a little longer if there’s a need for fruit trees.

And remember, as much as your back may kill you when digging in the garden, gardening can be not only fun but a wonderful world of discovery. Love your garden and it will provide you with everything you need. Remember, trial and error is the key to a successful, sustainable veggie garden x

Note: All photos are of The Patch on Bellarine’s garden, not of my backyard (yet!)

PS. How cool are their garden gnomes and “scarecrows”!?! I just love them, don’t you!

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