The Food Bed Update

Growing food in a shady south-facing yard with additional shade from a lot of established Eucalyptus and Conifers is never going to be especially easy….but, at this latitude (~35°S), most sun-loving plants don’t actually require all-day sun in summer and can actually benefit from about 4-5 hours of light shade.

This is the bed shortly after I created it:

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At this time, I planted about five blueberry bushes, strawberries, a dwarf lemon, two dwarf apples and a dwarf cherry tree.

A quick look at the progress so far…

The dwarf cherry tree got to leaf bud and then died after the October snowstorm. I was unimpressed. It was one of the only ‘full-size’ plants that I have actually purchased for the garden.

Despite flowering at the start of October, the Dwarf Pink Lady Apple produced no fruit. The Dwarf Granny Smith, which flowered about 3 weeks later, has given me two apples, one of which promptly fell off at the start of summer 🙂

I shall get one whole apple in autumn. That is, assuming the birds or possums don’t beat me to it!

Everything in the food bed is grown cheek-by-jowl. Given that the Granny Smith apple is a dwarf tree, it also makes an excellent support for the tomato plant….

The tomato plant also makes a great companion to the Italian Parsley and Basil plants (click for larger images):

You can see how crammed in everything is, and it is certainly none-the worse for it. That first tomato in the picture tasted wonderful!

The blueberries, which will eventually be trimmed to form a productive hedge, are doing fantastically and have given me fruit daily (click for a larger image).

The Blueberries first started bearing fruit in about November and there is a mix of evergreen, semi deciduous, deciduous and early, mid and late flowering shrubs. I don’t net these, but allow plants to grow around the blueberries (such as the Phlox, which re-seeded from last year).

It seems to be working in terms of keeping the birds at bay. Additionally, as woodland plants, blueberries are fine with part-shade and a bit of competition.

The dwarf lemon tree is seldom without a lemon or two:

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Dwarf Meyer Lemon

Given the success of keeping the winter weather off it by growing it under the overhanging polycarbonate roof, I decided to see if that extra warmth would benefit a passionfruit vine (these normally can’t be grown here):

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Passionfruit vine

So far so good, next winter of course will be the judge of whether this goes on to produce fruit or just compost….

The strawberries are doing well as the wend their way throughout the bed. The varieties I chose were ‘Fragoo’ and ‘Alinta’. Both have borne a lot of fruit, but the ‘Fragoo’ is certainly one of the juiciest and sweetest varieties I have yet encountered. It also has the benefit of such pretty pink flowers:

Apart from the usual herbs (thyme, oregano, mint – click to enlarge -)….

I also have Stevia. Quite possibly the sweetest leaves on the planet (but with no calories) this is a ridiculously tender plant, that despises temperatures below 5°C/40°F, so it too is under the polycarbonate roof and sheltered by the other plants. It seems to be doing OK and has added a little bit of growth:

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Stevia & Oregano

Just half a leaf in a cup of tea/coffee makes the beverage as sweet as soft-drink!

A dwarf variety of sun-flower has finally opened to attract vinegar flies:

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So cheery, and of course, covered in bugs

Oh, well, it’s still cheery. And, because a food garden can look dull, I’ve added a few low-growing cosmos seedlings:

And Pineapple Sage rounds out the pretty flowers in this part of the garden

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Pineapple Sage

As always, Happy Gardening 🙂

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18 thoughts on “The Food Bed Update

    • Their proving challenging here, too. Of the four planted, one died in the late snowstorm, one has produced no fruit, another one piece of fruit….the only one that’s doing OK is the dwarf lemon and that’s not supposed to grow here….go figure 🙂

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  1. Maybe your pink Lady is still a baby and she might also benefit from some bees. I have an apple three in Victoria and she dropped about a basketful when we had the first hot spell. Still, you got blueberries and lemons. Magic.

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    • Yes, this is a possibility (although they swear that dwarf fruit trees should fruit younger than their normal counterparts). Thankfully we only get a few days a year above 28C which makes growing citrus tough (but not so much with blueberries)

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    • I’ve seen them grown in a large trough, but I suspect they need a fair amount of water in any sort of container to really thrive. Once in the ground, I don’t really think about them until they fruit

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    • Yes, it’s unusual to have a self-pollinating apple, but the pollinator for Pink Lady is the Granny Smith which is only a metre away. Oddly this year, the two flowered at different times – the granny smith in my yard coinciding with a neighbours (and every other) apple tree and an increase in bees in the yard…hence the pollination. I’ll give it another season, hopefully the pink lady will flower at the right time, otherwise there are some very nice crab-apples that I’ll just have to make room for 🙂

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  2. Matt despite the loss and disappointments overall you seem to have done very well, regarding your buying more established plants, I have repeatedly read and heard that buying large plants is not a good idea as they take longer to settle, do not like having been moved and frequently fail, small, younger plants are said to settle in better and grow better often taking over a larger specimen, I only have a little experience but it does seem to verify this opinion, I find smaller plants take much better and it leaves more money for more plants, Frances

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    • I usually only ever buy plugs or raise from seeds/cuttings. But with the fruit trees (and some of the other trees that I’ve planted) I did want to get a head start, so I bought more advanced specimens about 1.2-1.5m tall….that’ll teach me!

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      • you are not alone, I think most of us learn the hard way, I have become much more cautious about where my plants come from, the growing area they are in before I buy them and try to find nurseries with similar weather to mine, I have found this has helped, I used to think when plants died it was something I did but I now know it isn’t, Frances

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