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 🌿

Alliums, Level Zero

This is growing alliums, the onion family, at Level Zero for absolute beginner gardeners. Learn to grow these, and the rest of the Allium family will be yours to explore. The two most easy alliums to grow, and those we prefer here in our patch, are GARLIC and WALKING ONIONS.

STEP ONE: In Level Zero gardening,
we stick to the most basic methods and simple routines that can prepare the garden for anything we want to grow. Check them out here first.

Garlic stories

Garlic is about the easiest allium to grow. You don’t need special conditions or seeds, just a store bought garlic head. Just be sure it is AUSTRALIAN garlic, as those from overseas have been mostly bleached, roots gouged off, and sprayed with growth inhibitor. Ew. In the cooler regions, APRIL 25 (Anzac day in AU and NZ) is a traditional ideal day to plant garlic, but seriously folks any time is fine. You’ll harvest in summer when the plant leaves start to yellow off. See below for the easiest planting ever.

Walking onions are curiously named by their growth habit. They are bunching onions that multiply at the base, but also grow stems with bulblets that grow on top in place of flowers. These ‘sets’ become heavy and eventually bend the stem over to touch the ground, where they form roots and start to grow on their own. In the garden, if left, they seem to ‘walk’ away from the original location – GENIUS! We use these ridiculously versatile and useful onions all year, from root to set – the quintessential no-waste veg.

curious 'sets' atop walking onions
Funky sprouting ‘sets’ atop walking onions
freezing - such a great way to store onions
Ready-to-freeze walking onions

FUN FACT ~ The mini bulblet ‘sets’ on bunching onions are what are used to make the little cocktail pickled onions we trot out at parties. Small, round and perfect 🧅🧡

Why not try pickling some for yourself?

So, where can you get walking onions, you ask?
– You may find some at a heritage nursery.
– Next Summer we will be making ours available for sale by mail order within Australia. 😎
– (sneaky tip) some supermarkets sell ‘Shallots’ that are actually just bunching onions. Though perhaps not walking onions, they are worth giving a go. Why not pop one in the ground and wait. If it multiplies at the base, then BINGO!

>> LET’S TRY THAT RIGHT NOW <<

Went to the super and bought a garlic and some shallots to show you. Excuse the grainy picture. The Garlic will seperate into good size cloves to plant. The shallots you can see are even dividing (I took off the outer skin to show it), so will likely multiply nicely. Its a grocer’s trick to sell bunching onions as shallots, but it’s good for us. Happy days. I will plant them and see what happens.

>> GETTING THEM INTO THE GROUND <<

  • CHOOSE A WELL-RAISED BED that has been trenched, so that it has plenty of organics to feed the bulbs.
  • SEPARATE THE CLOVES AND ‘SHALLOTS’ so you can plant one in each hole, about a fist or so apart
  • PUNCH a hole with your dibber or super handy Japanese Hori garden knife if you have one, deep enough to fit the bulb with a few cms spare.
  • POP THEM IN and cover with soil (or not, if it’ll rain soon) and mark them so you know where they are.

Seriously, that’s it. Don’t fuss. As Autumn and Winter rains come, you will see new shoots, and they are away. We will check in again when they have popped up.

Look wide, grow well, folks. 🌿

pruning peach trees

The stone fruit pruning trick.

It is a tricky balance, pruning stone fruit. The timing can be a challenge.

❄️ Pruning stone fruit in Winter is a bad idea.

If we prune in Winter, sure we can see bare branches, which is convenient, but infections can then easily get into cold wet open wounds, to leave your tree exposed and at risk of attack from even more pests and problems.

Uuurrggh.

☀️ Pruning stone fruit in Summer is annoying.

Prune in Summer, and the sap flows freely and wound sites dry off, which heals them more quickly, protecting the tree from distress. Annoyingly though, it’s also the time the tree is in full leaf and you can’t see the branch structure as well.

Boooooo.

…but there IS an answer 🍑👍😉

This is so simple it feels like cheating, haha.

🍑 TopTip #1: have it both ways and use winter to ‘mark’ the main branches to go with string, especially if you have some structural decisions to make. You’ll see the whole tree and make better decisions. Then, wait to cut them off in Summer when sap is flowing well. The cotton string lasts just fine to do the job, but not long enough to strangle the branch.

🍑 TopTip #2: if a damaged branch really does need to come off in Winter, remove it an inch or so away from the collar and paint wound with bitumen or acrylic paint to seal, then come back in Summer and retrim the same branch back to the collar (where it joins a large branch) to make a fresh wound WITHOUT painting so oxygen triggers accelerated healing. 

In June, it is the perfect time to get out there and look at your stone fruit trees, make some decisions, and get that string working. Go team!

Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿