The remaining weeks of a cool German summer had me planting out my father-in-law’s garden with winter-hardy Feld Salat and Zuckerhut (‘Chinakohl’); leaf vegetables not much seen here but which provide green salads even as the soil approaches freezing point.
There was a certain sadness in this for me – I needed to load the old chap into his wheel chair and make the journey to Hagsfeld on foot to his favourite plant nursery, tucked behind a regular house and run by an old lady well into her 80’s. But we’d discovered a small bakery nearby, so we stopped off there for one more coffee and Bretzel before returning home for the plantout.
Our return to Australia was marked by the usual jetlag and somebody-else’s flu – lent out to returnees at no extra cost – but with the beginnings of Spring to cheer us.
As always, September brought the Royal Adelaide Show and a chance to see the farm animals and vegetable displays that link me to the land.
Late winter rainfall had failed on the Adelaide plains and warmer spring weather brought a new urgency to protect what soil moisture had been collected in the garden beds. So a thick mulch cover of barley straw - laid down on the pathways before we flew to Germany in early August – is used as a ready source of clean weed-free mulch.
The top layer is forked off with a three-pronged long-handled garden fork and tossed onto garden beds showing bare earth amongst the garlic, onions, potatoes, cabbage, garden peas, parsnips, leeks, lettuce, beetroot, silverbeet, broad beans, turnips and snow peas that have grown through winter and are now approaching harvest.
This year the seed table was set up in a single day; my seed-saving activities had meant that I had all the necessary warm-weather seeds to hand. Two weeks later, these seedlings are already flourishing, and the cycle begins again.