Spring Reflections

by Ellise Rickard
Spring 2015, Living Well Magazine

Spring with its longer days and more warmth is an inspirational time of year in the garden.

I was looking at quotes for this and so many were elegant, timely and poetic. With the drabness of winter still a memorable cold sting on my toes and nose, I was delighted to read this saying…

“Spring is nature’s way of saying Lets Party!”

Perfect! Hours of muddy wet winter work that was spent dreaming, scheming and taking stock for this widely creative time.  Mascha and I can enjoy this beautiful, busy time of year and there will not be enough hours in the day for all the gardening we want to do. We often joke about cloning ourselves, even getting an app for our phones to do weeding but really the greatest gift of gardening this time of year is the almost renewed restoration of the five senses.

Sight

The Yarra Valley Living Centre garden comes alive with flowers and bulbs colouring up the landscape. The most anglocentric and distinctive sights are the daffodils , jonquils and magnolia tree, a lovely flower to behold on the trees leafless branches.

Smell

It is like you can smell the sunshine on the air, flower buds swelling and bursting, we start to mow the lawns more regularly so there is a scent of cut grass around. This often reminds me to to take a breath, slow down and enjoy.

Sound

Experiencing nature quietly with all its pure sounds, trying to work out how many can be heard. Bird calls, whispering breezes the rustle of leaves and of course rain, the garden does have a dreamy music to it! I remember reading a Chinese philosophy that said: “ Don’t just do something sit there!”

Touch

No more frozen fingers as the rich earthy soil warms up, it is the best sowing and planting time of year. A favourite quirky garden writer of mine, Jackie French (Google her funny 105 things not to do for Spring gardening) says when planting tender seedlings in the garden she suggests wait until you can sit on ground with bare bottom… hmmm, maybe I get Mascha to try that one.

Taste

Spring will taste like all the wonderful, vibrant, nutritious, vegetables that the Yarra Valley Living Centre garden grows, so let’s move on to what’s happening in the vegetable garden… Yum!

The Vegetable Gardens

Weather can be a bit fickle this time of year, Mother Nature and gardening with her elements is very humbling. We can get some killer frosts so when planting our polytunnel born, loved up little veggie seedling children we try to be careful… no fatalities yet!

Having said that, our poor ornamental herb garden outside our kitchens back door gets slammed, with the herbaceous, fleshy, plants getting burnt and maimed each year but miraculously bounce back.

Spring time is also about weeds, weeds and more germinating weed seed.  The vegetable growing area is the largest it has ever been (are we inspired or insane? the jury is still out on that one) so hoeing on dry sunny days and leaving weeds to shrivel up on soil surface is a good way to avoid endless hours on hands and knees pulling out these opportunistic space invaders. Not that we mind weeding so much… chatting, laughing and watching yellow breasted robins follow us and pick over our freshly disturbed soil is rather nice.

Pest patrol is stepped up a notch at this time of year, as aphids, slugs and cabbage moth caterpillars are as eager as we are to see tender young lush new plant growth.  I have been experimenting with homemade chilli spray in the polytunnel, so stay tuned for more on that subject.

The late winter vegetable pleasures saw kale, beetroot, a few asian greens, spinach, lettuce, silverbeet, rocket, yacon, turnip scarlett queen, parsley, pumpkins, broccoli, radish, dill, chervil, coriander, wombok, mustard greens and lots of lemons grace our kitchen.

In the ground awaiting spring’s climatic gifts, so to explode into a growing frenzy are broadbeans, snow peas, spring onions, chives, garlic, parsnips, strawberries and with much excitement asparagus… these mulched up beds will have spears popping up all over the place this spring for our first time harvest after two year wait. Look out Gawler chefs these edible spears can sometimes grow the length of 25 cm in 24 hours if humid conditions prevail!

Come September we should see fennel, leek, onion, more cauliflower broccoli and cabbages also sugar snaps, peas, more lettuce, beetroot, silverbeet and spinach, swedes going into the ground.  A second year of polytunnel cropping good times could also have early summer plantings of basil, tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum, cucumber and if we have enough room a zucchini plant or two and some climbing beans….phew!…busy times!

I would like to finish with another quote…

“It is spring again, the earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

How lucky we are working in this divine place in the Yarra Valley, with all its natural wonders and abundance.

Ellise & Mascha

These two talented women are responsible for the beautiful ornamental landscaped spaces and the abundant organic produce that comes out of our gardens.  As a duo, they bring a wealth of knowledge to the Yarra Valley Living Centre, a mutual passion for sustainable gardening and a deep respect for the supportive benefits that nature provides in our quest health & healing. Ellise and Mascha run no-dig garden demonstrations for the participants of our 10-day Live & Living Cancer Retreat Programs.