It has only taken three years, but I think that I've finally hit an equilibrium point with my winter garden. Two years ago, it was awash with cabbage. Last year, it looked good, insofar as it resembled a fecund, colourful cottage garden. As rich as it appeared, I had set myself up for the disastrous mistake of planting vegetables that I’m not a huge fan of eating. The kale was left to go to seed with only a handful of leaves tossed into soups. The wong bok (chinese cabbage) also shot to seed before it even made an attempt to form into the rough shape of a cabbage, and could not be eaten or preserved as kimchi in any quantity. The bok choy was decimated by cabbage moth.
I got through the broccoli and am only now cracking into the last few jars of pickled beetroot which are as tasty as the day they went into the jars. It's likely that they would remain edible (although not at their prime) for years to come.
Last year, I had only built two of the four beds and, even from those, it was just impossible to eat everything. Over the last year, I finished and filled the beds, moved the perennial asparagus into one side, which leaves around 10 square metres of now humus-rich beautiful dirt to plant. One of the asparaguses, in a sheltered corner, has already shot a few months early.
I’m starting to feel like the vegetable patch is hitting equilibrium: a balance between moderate, suburban self-sufficiency, and the capacity to eat or preserve and enjoy everything that happens to grow in it. I’m finally getting better at staging the picking and planting. As I pull out the cabbages, I'm backfilling the leftover space with lettuce and rocket seeds, or herbs that will grow within a matter of weeks and be ready to go before the last of the cabbages is gone.
I think I’m also starting to work out how much I can possibly process and store. This year, I’m growing garlic, propagated from a bulb, from a patch that's been growing on my relative's farm for at least the past half century, and I'm pretty certain that it had been planted by the previous owners. I have no idea how to ascertain whether it is a rare variety or simply old. It is a great crop if only because it can be easily stored and eaten throughout the year, and it is rare that a plant can connect you with your family’s history.
The mixed beetroot is back in, as are leeks, a more conservative number of savoy cabbages, a brussel sprout that failed last year that I’m unwilling to abandon, and more of the same, successful calabrese broccoli. It feels balanced.
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