I stood up and stretched my back. My nails were filled with soil and the skin of my hands thick with worm castings. As I brushed against the tomato plants their distinctive smell wafted up. With the promise of future home grown meals lingering in my nostrils, I washed my hands in a bucket of rain water and stood back to study my efforts.
It's happened. One month after planting some Stupice and Hardy Tom seedlings we have our first tomato of the season. I was amazed that we have something so soon, but read up on Stupice and found that they are so frost resistant that they will grow in Alaska.
I guess I'm not as green thumbed as my Grandpa after all, and then there's the weather. It's been a perfect Spring of sunshine and showers to encourage the plants in their endeavours.
The tomato seedlings were purchased last month from the St.Kilda Veg Out Farmers Market and this week, after bumping into Ed, I followed them up with Oak Leaf lettuces, Rabbits Ear lettuces, Rocket and Basil.
I think that we owe part of our success with herbs and vegetables to worms. We mix the potting mix in our planters with our Vermiculture efforts - worm castings and liquid - from a worm farm supplied by the local council.
I love that I can feed our worms all of our kitchen scraps, lint from the dryer, pet hair and excrement, the contents of the vacuum cleaner, newspaper and the human detritus that falls on the bathroom floor, then out the other end comes a marvellously rich and complex mix to keep our plants happy. Anything we can't feed the worms - like citrus peelings, lemongrass and onion scraps - get chopped up and composted under the citrus trees.
Now our garden is small and what little soil we have is so sandy that water washes straight off the top without sinking in. I believe our home is on the site of an old foundry and despite applying lashings of compost and mulch for years, our patch of dirt is still ghastly. So bad that I am thinking of building a decking over the main garden bed instead.
Consequently we resort to self watering pots for our vegetables. Or in this case, we went to the South Melbourne Market, and enroute to the Dim Sim Stall, we scrounged large empty polystyrene boxes from the fishmongers. The long narrow boxes smell fishy at first, but make excellent planters and it's a great way to recycle.
We already have a smaller polystyrene box filled with Tasmanian Purple Garlic and it's going great guns. In August we surreptitiously smuggled some garlic bulbs into Victoria after a visit to the growers at the Hobart Salamanca Market. Until then we had been garlic free when I failed to find anything but that awful acrid bleached giant Chinese garlic in Melbourne. At the time even the organic stores were barren of decent garlic.
So, after planting and administering worm by-products to all saturday's new lettuce and herb seedlings, I then added a little Saturaid around the stems. Mr Stickyfingers treated them to a dose of grey water mixed with rainwater and like tucking a snug blanket around them I topped the lot with pea straw mulch. If seedlings had expressions, I'd guess that they'd be looking rather smug at this point after a good feed and a comfortable new bed.
Every day since, like a couple of expectant children, we have checked on the progress of the seedlings. And the pay off is that they have already blessed us by growing noticeably since the weekend. If I can manage to keep the snails off them with the coffee grounds from my Vietnamese coffee maker and dishes of beer, we should be enjoying a fair bit of organic, home grown salad in the months to come. I can't wait.
A shout-out for Bloggers. Ed Charles of Tomato is masterminding a Bloggers Banquet here in Melbourne, for bloggers, partners and aspiring bloggers. To be held in the St.Kilda Veg Out Community Garden, the old bowling club in Chaucer Street. You'll find it's next to Luna Park and one street back from Acland Street, where there is abundant parking and easy access to trams.
A number of Monday or Tuesday nights in November are on offer, when we will have access to the Garden's BBQ and Wood fired oven. The evening of Monday November 12 is the current favoured date. The plan is to bring a dish - what in the USA they call Pot Luck, I think - so you have a month to come up with a treat to bring or BBQ or bake in the oven.
Holler back if interested here or at Ed's blog as we need to confirm numbers, and why not post details on your own blog? It'll be great to meet you in the flesh.