Monday, December 28, 2009

Dear Mr Slater

Dear Mr Slater,
Your latest book Tender Volume 1 was on my Christmas present list and I have spent the last couple of unexpectedly wet days reading and making lists of what I am going to grow and what I am going to cook.
We have been in our house for four months now and the garden is still a wasteland. Like you we live in an inner  city Victorian terrace - akin to living in a tunnel. If you stand at the front window you get a clear line of sight through to the end of the garden. We do however have access to the rear lane through the garage so all the messy bits, the manure and the mulch, will not have to be carried through the house.

Once the layout is complete - pathways and garden beds - we will have two major growing areas each about 12 metres long running the length of the garden which is only 5.4 metres wide at the widest point. Cramming all the fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants I would like to grow into this space will be something of a challenge.
The garden faces north west and so most of the area gets sun for the whole day. Although it has rained steadily in the few days since Christmas and our water tanks are full, providing sufficient water to keep the garden lush and productive may yet be our biggest hurdle - it is highly unlikely that we will ever see the garden covered in snow. Foxes are not a problem in our part of Sydney, we are however prepared to be troubled by possums who have a fierce reputation for finding the tastiest morsels in any garden - grow something they fancy and they will find it. Late in the afternoon just at dusk we also often see fruit bats flying over so perhaps they too will find our new garden a temptation.
Already there are some plants in the ground - rosemary (a house warming gift from friends who already have a well established vegetable garden), lemon balm, thyme and rhubarb crowns which I have been keeping alive in pots for months while  the renovations to the house were being completed and we were moving from one temporary home to the next. Also in pots are lemon thyme, marjoram, sage and tarragon all waiting for their permanent home.
Reading about other gardens always makes me lament those plants our climate mitigates against such as apples, quinces, rasperries, and I can only hope for success with gooseberries and elderberries (what joy to be able to make elder flower cordial). On the other hand citrus and olives  and passionfruit should present few problems. For advice on what to grow and when to plant here in Australia my reference is Stephanie Alexander's The Kitchen Garden Companion. In the right position Stephanie promises as many as 30 aubergines per bush per season - all your wonderful eggplant recipes will be put to good use.
If all goes well we will be planting in late February in time for broad beans and beetroot and chervil and spinach and masses of salad greens. Like you I have always been something of a gardener with a few herbs and vegetables grown in various gardens over the years but this is our first attempt to establish a garden which is largely edible and organic as well as a pleasant place to relax. I hope we are well on our way to establishing our own little oasis on this side of the globe by the time Tender Volume 2 is available.
Thank you for your books - I have many of them on the shelves. They are always very seductive - beautifully written and presented -and endlessly inspirational.