Back to the grindstone

So I ended up not getting the horse and organic vegetable farm in Provence… but we can dream, can’t we? After gallivanting through the European summer for two months, catching up with precious family, attending weddings, sightseeing and investigating agritourism in-between, the harsh reality of the cold Victorian winter hit us in the face as we stepped of the plane in Melbourne at 5:35am last Tuesday morning. Needless to say, after such a long absence, there was a lot to observe and catch up on.

Early blossoms

Great to see some early blossoms on some nuts, plums and on an early apricot too!

Winter growth

The winter vegetables and the winter cover crops made a poor showing so far. We have to start preparing the beds for spring sowing, but there has hardly been any growth to work into the ground!

Grind - winter greens

Weak winter cover crop

Meanwhile the clover and weeds have been going ballistic! The forest vegetable beds at Dreamland have grown so dense, you can’t even see where to start. With all this flowering going on, it must be good for the bees – they’re all over all the yellow flowers.

On a positive side, the paths we planted at Dreamland just before we left are looking good. I had to give them a good mowing to be able to distinguish the paths between the beds.

Cold start

Of course with such a long period of no action, my composting process has gone cold. It’s not hard to imagine with all the winter cold, frost and rain. Hopefully all the grass and clover clippings contain enough nitrogen to kick-start the process again. There surely is enough compost fodder as we start clearing the vegetable beds for spring planting.

Grind - compost fodder

Enough compost fodder


We’ve had a little bit of frost damage. The tomato tree looks much for the worse.

Grind - tomato tree frost damage

Tomato tree frost tree damage

One of the Burdekin plums’ frost cover has blown off – so it looks a bit worse for wear too. In the meanwhile I have replaced the frost cover – just as well, as we’ve had 3 bouts of frost since we’ve returned.

As an experiment I didn’t cover one of the baby tagasaste trees. I must say even though it hasn’t grown much, it is not showing any frost damage. (Mmm I need some practice with close-up photos!)

Grind - tagasaste

Unprotected tagasaste


The fledgling citrus trees, on the other hand, seem to going quite well. The mandarins who took a beating with last year’s frost are doing nicely and are bearing the sweetest mandarins!

Grind - citrus


But now I don’t know what to do with the young citrus trees that have frost cover over them. Many of them are flowering, but this week, for instance, we had two really cold days with heavy frost forecasted. There’s no way I can open them up to that kind of torture at the end of winter. Oh well, my philosophy is that they are actually too young and still too weak to bear anyway. So I’ll rather let them survive the winter and then grow stronger for next year.

Getting down

A serious list of projects are waiting to get tackled; no rest for the wicked! No doubt we’ll be reporting on those. As someone once said – the great thing about winter is that it makes you feel alive!

Grind - rosemary

Rosemary in full bloom


About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

11 Comments on Back to the grindstone

  1. janesmudgeegarden // August 30, 2018 at 4:13 pm // Reply

    Lots of work to return to! It’s always the way when you’ve had a a long time away, and considering the weather we’ve been having ( I think ours would be similar to yours) your garden seems to have done very well. What is a tomato tree? Do you mean a tamarillo?

    • Hi Jane, yes it is Tree Tomato (Cyphomandra betacea) also known as Tamarillo. Thanks you made me look up the more common name! I have called it Tree Tomato since we got it as that is what the label said (OK that’s only a few months ago). I hope it recovers… At least we had some rain while we were away, but looking at the grass and the tanks, it hasn’t been a lot. It’s raining today though!

      • janesmudgeegarden // August 30, 2018 at 4:28 pm //

        I love tamarillos, but they’re rather expensive to buy and never taste as delicious as the ones I remember from my childhood. Good luck growing one- I don’t think they like heavy frost at all. Good that you’re receiving some rain, we’ve got our fingers crossed for tomorrow.

  2. What is a tomato tree? Is it a pepino?

  3. The rosemary is rather glorious! What did you use as your winter cover crops? I’m considering just sowing perpetual spinach…

    • Hi Henriette, it was a combination of separate packets of Bio Mustard, Clover Trikkala, and Clover Dalkeith. Mustard in the middle… Why they didn’t grow well? Bad soil (possible), not enough rain (possible – the grass is also still pretty yellow), or just general brown-thumbness….?

  4. I love that saying about winter! I get my best work done in the garden in winter – the big projects happen then. I think you’ve been away for months rather than weeks, haven’t you? I get twitchy after two weeks so I can’t imagine the trepidation you feel after a longer period away!

  5. I was interested in your tagasaste tree. I think it would probably not stand the wet and windy winters here. Are you growing it for chicken fodder, or N2 fixing or both? I’m trying to propagate broom here mainly for shelter and N2. A lucky find today whilst walking the dogs resulted in two pocketfuls of fresh wild seed. Talking of which I often have problems with seed germination. I used to put it down to bad gardener, but I now think it was at least partly bad seed. It could have been bad weather, but then the grass has done fine. It’s odd that all the other varieties have done poorly.

    • I’m growing it (I have just started growing it :-)) for chicken fodder, compost fodder, N2 fixing and for a N2-generating wind break for some fruit trees that get battered by the summer wind. I have about 30 in the ground now. I say just keep trying with the seeds – one day the weather, moon and whatever else will line up!

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