The Good Life: Spring in The Otways!


The Good Life

Ami Hillege


It is the time of year when we hope we have lined all our ducks up properly in preparation for a bumper Spring and Summer vegetable harvest. One of my favourite things to do is to pour over seed catalogues that find their way into my hot little hands. It’s very tempting to select far more than we can ever hope to consume. Besides, we have our own little seed bank now that we draw from. Some vegetables are good value. They keep on giving. Take the humble Cos Lettuce and Wild Rocket. We’ll never need to buy seeds again. I make sure that I always allow one or two plants to go to seed. I used to like a ‘neat’ vegetable patch, one where all my vegetables were neatly lined up in straight rows, no straggly leaves in sight. I’ve since come to appreciate more freedom in the garden, where there are plenty of fennel, mizuna and nasturtium flowers for the bees.


Over the past few seasons we’ve experimented with various veggies and we have found our own favourites. In a week or two we’ll be harvesting our first peas, spring carrots and sweet little radishes. They will make a welcome change to the winter staples of potatoes, turnips and cabbage! As we start picking new vegetables, a change in menus excites us. Roasted fennel, leafy salads and if we’re lucky, the first of the little beetroots will make their way onto the family dinner table.
We have a poly tunnel that I planted up with all kinds of seeds the first spring we were living here. Let’s just say I made a few mistakes. My most valuable lesson was that zucchini and cucumbers, when given a lovely warm, humid environment, would produce leaves the size of a fridge door, and yield little fruit.



I tried raising my own tomato seedlings two years in a row. I would spend a morning lining up seed trays; ice cream sticks marked with exotic sounding names for the pretty tomatoes and carefully plant at least 25 varieties into the trays. Then I would wait. And wait. A few little seedlings would pop their heads up and when I would check again in a day or so, they’d all be gone. My mistake had been to rest the seed trays on the floor in the poly tunnel and slugs had feasted on the tender shoots. So this season I will be giving the tomatoes one more shot. Except my arsenal has extra ammunition this season. Ducks. I’ve been allowing our ducks free run of the poly tunnel. They have feasted and cleared it beautifully, and at the same time they’ve added to the biology of the soil.


Once again I’m reminded that growing food can be challenging, but immensely rewarding. Here’s to a bumper Spring!


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