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Welcome to Level Zero.

Ever bought a great looking gardening book, but after the temporary hit of ‘I’m so gonna do this’, it soon becomes another pretty shelf ornament on the alter of ‘too hard; too much to learn’?

There is a level zero for every garden skill,
but most books don’t start there.

Level Zero vegetable gardening is for ABSOLUTE beginners – very few rules, simple tools, and basic methods to experience success.
Come make a real start. 🌿

RULE 1: One new veg per season

VEGETABLE FAMILIES mostly share what they like and don’t like, so learn one entry level choice per family. We have seen the Level Zero alliums already, and we will explore other families too. My recommendation is choose just one new veg per season that your family loves. Along with a easy herbs, flowers, and asparagus or rhubarb, it is enough commitment. It will also teach you other essential skills. More on that later.

RULE 2: Organics is the answer

SOIL HEALTH in the books involves a lot of testing, tweaking, turning and frankly.. tension, if you are new to all this. Avoid it all by just focusing on organics (plant matter) instead. Lots of it in the soil all the time will give you a rich enough, open enough, healthy enough soil to plant almost anything, year after year. You can get fancy later, but so long as you are TRENCHING every bed every season, you have enough food to keep veg and worms in the bed very happy.

RULE 3: Seedlings for vegetables

PLANTING has many methods, but most are not Level Zero. Seed-raising, seed-saving, cuttings, division.. all might be in your future, but the good old punnet with a few strong little beauties is your friend for now. We will learn those other skills by growing herbs, bulbs and flowers that are all useful but not essential. One skill at a time.

RULE 4: Simple tools

TOOLS are cool, but you don’t need near so many as you think. A square head spade, a small rake, a trowel, garden knife, dibber and boots. That’s it. Any more is for later, or…just ’cause you just want to. I add sturdy scissors and a brush for harvest and clean–up. We will learn how to use each properly.

RULE 5: Don’t rush

The best advice I ever got was from my Gran, Nancy – “You can have it all, my dear.. just not all at the same time. There is a season for everything.”

Most folks who try gardening in a rush spend lots, go hard, crash and burn. Let’s do this so it sticks. Slow. There is no rush.

Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿

Essential Garden Books: Grow Vegetables

Some of you are at the Level Zero stage of gardening, but you will progress, and it is good to have a real hum-dinger of a vegetable book to look forward to, and start dabbling with.

A few folks have asked about our Grow vegetables book by Alan Buckingham that we loan out. It is marvellous and has been adapted by Jennifer Wilkinson for the Australian context. It accompanies our other favourite, ‘Grow Fruit‘. Explained well, approachable and a great reference.

It breaks my heart to say we have learned that this Australian Edition is entirely out of print, though you can still get Alan’s British version, here.

BUT we do have a few loved ‘hen’s teeth’ copies of it that we have loaned out to folks, and which are available to purchase directly from us. Pls contact us to enquire. If you happen to see a copy out in the wilds, snap it up!

Please do consider the irony of cutting down a tree for paper to make a book about trees – and perhaps buy a book in print only if you feel it will stay with you for a long time or can be shared with someone else after you. Buying books second hand is a great way to make the most of resources that someone else has finished with.
Many of our loved books were loved before.

To see more of the books we use every day, and recommend,
go to the Book section of our garden shop, via the menu..

Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿

What are grafted trees

Grafted fruit trees

What is a grafted fruit tree? You may have heard the term but not really known what it means. Can’t you just grow a lemon, a plum or an apple from a seed? This story is especially for Daryl, who asked that question.

Let’s take a step back and start at how stuff is bred from seed. Walk with me through this…

>> Bred for strength <<

> Seeds will grow to be a mix of the DNA of parent plants, so where parents are the same species, the new plants will turn out mostly true to type (same as parent) 🙂
>> Many fruit trees though have been in cultivation (grown by humans) for a long time, so different Variations (subspecies) have been bred to showcase different features. 🙂 The best features of strong breeding in fruit trees are disease resistance, climate adaptability and size specs.
>>>Breeding is a slow process though, to grow and wait to see what develops, generation after generation. 😕

A tough wild citrus from seed is a real survivor – but frankly likely tastes like crap.

>> Cloned for taste <<

> Every now and again, a chance seedling can produce a spank-me-silly-awesome fruit with amazing taste that everyone wants. 🙂
>> but in many fruits, the chances of getting TWO like that, to breed from are ridiculously small 😕
>> So instead, we clone it, which is to grow by cuttings of the original, which all end up genetically IDENTICAL. 🙂
>> but given these chance plants don’t have stable breeding, they are usually tasty but weak overall; beautiful but vulnerable, and that is no guarantee of survival.

Cloning the perfect lemon can produce an endless number of identical but vulnerable beauties.

>> Your cake fruit and eat it too <<

Thousands of years ago, people figured out that plants in the same family may well grow if joined. Pretty soon, the art of joining tough roots to tasty shoots was perfected. This is grafting.

The tasty shoots are called the SCION; the tough roots are the ROOTSTOCK.
They are joined at the graft UNION.

>> So, can I grow a lemon from seed? <<

Yes. It will however be a SIBLING of the original scion plant, not a CLONE, so you may or may not get what you expect. It can be fun to try though 😀

>> How best to grow a grafted tree <<

  • Promptly cut off any shoots that grow from the rootstock, from below the union. That rootstock is tough and bullish and any shoots will quickly take over, starving the scion of energy and will kill it off 😕
  • Don’t allow soil, mulch or water to sit on or around the graft union, as that encourages the rootstock plant to shoot and take over as well. Clear away any high mulch from the stem and be able to see the graft to check it routinely at a glance.
  • If the rootstock does shoot anyway, it may be a sign that the scion is unwell. Applying some seaweed solution in the watering for a while can help and keep on top of any pest attacks.
  • If you would like to give grafting a go yourself, it is not difficult, and quite fun. Here is a quick tutorial from Tino, at Gardening Australia.
  • Here also on the GA website is another story about choosing a grafted lemon in Australia.

Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿