The Sweet Meadow

plants

Planting seedlings

plants, how toAishe Besim
I like gardening - it’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself.
— Alice Sebold
lettuce seedlings

Learning how to garden has brought so much happiness to my life. Growing my own food is so rewarding - it teaches me how to be patient, how to nurture, how to let go, and how to start again. 

I started developing a keen interest in gardening after I began reading The Ringing Cedars book series, recommended to me by my naturopath. Soon after I started reading them I was told the contents of these books would change my life and while I didn't believe it at the time, I totally agree now. I don't think I would be about to launch a plant-based food business if I hadn't read this book series all those years ago.

The easiest way to start growing vegetables is to plant seedlings. It's so much fun planting things from seed but if you're green (pardon the pun) I'd stick with seedlings for your first season. I prefer to buy seedlings from a local nursery where I can, although I'm also a fan of Diggers varieties. I recently planted some cos lettuce in my autumn vegetable bed and have put together a few steps on how to go about doing this yourself.

1. Preparation should start at least two weeks before you actually plant your seedlings. I'm a fan of the 'no dig' garden method, which is all about layering materials on top of the earth rather than digging into it. Whenever I'm preparing to plant new seedlings, I always add fresh compost, cow manure and mulch (I like lucerne hay or sugar cane mulch, both available from Bunnings), and leave this to sit for a couple of weeks.
2. When you're ready to plant, water your seedlings while you loosen the area of soil you're going to plant in. Remove the seedlings from their tray and carefully separate each individual seedling, making sure you leave some of its root structure intact. 

tsm seedlings

3. I then place each seedling directly on top of the area I want to plant it in. This helps me work out spacing across the entire vegetable bed.

4. Clear away the mulch and dig a hole around 15cm deep. Position the seedling into the hole, adding some fresh compost around the base to secure it. I should point out I always take off my gloves at this point and use my hands (or even sometimes my feet) to make the holes in the soil, and I also spit into the hole before the seedling is planted. I got this tip from Anastasia, the woman that The Ringing Cedars book series is based around. She believes it is important for the plant to take in information about the person who plants it, and then, as the fruit or vegetable grows, it will enable its harvest to counteract diseases as well as "increasing his mental abilities and giving him a sense of inner peace." 

5. I then loosely add some mulch back around the plant, but not too much so that I avoid suffocating them. Water in your seedlings immediately. I use a watering can because I find it's more gentle than a hose. Check the soil daily over the next couple of weeks, making sure it's moist. You don't need to water everyday if it's been raining so just keep an eye on them and show them that you care. Seriously! That's another tip from Anastasia. 

During the cultivation time it is vital to communicate with the plant. And it is desirable to approach it and touch it during a full moon at least once during its growth period...It is essential to infuse the little patch of Nature surrounding you with information about yourself. Only then will the healing effect and the life-giving support of your body be significantly higher than from the fruit alone.
— Anastasia - The Ringing Cedars

This may sound way too 'new age', but there are countless studies showing the connection between the health of a plant and how much love and attention the owner gives to it. I recently read an interview in the amazing book Indoor Green - Living with Plants, with a plant lover from Japan. His special tip for taking care of plants was this: "Caring for and talking to them. When I give them water or look after them I always think positive thoughts from the bottom of my heart. Our plants normally grow very big. When I am busy and don't have time to talk to them they lose energy straight away."

The same book interviewed a Melbourne-based home gardener Georgina Nagy, who believes "...everyone needs to garden. I feel unwell if I have not been able to garden for a very long time. Even if I am very tired, I need to work with the soil and work with plants. After this I will come in bone tired physically, but my mother always said the same thing - 'You've now got colour in your face.' I just need that connection."

So try it and see for yourself. Love your plants and garden and it will love you right back. 

tsm watering

Lavandula Lavender Farm

living the sweet life, plantsAishe Besim
The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender, and with the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows...
— Wiliam C. Bryant
lavender in basket

I've seen the beautiful Lavandula Lavender Farm in every season, but I think Autumn is when this place really shines (even though there's actually no lavender left in the fields!). 

I recently visited the farm during a quick trip to Daylesford to pick up a second-hand table for The Sweet Meadow. I often dream about retiring to the spa country one day, so I'll make any excuse to return to this area. There is something about this region of Victcoria - Daylesford, Hepburn Springs, Kyneton, Trentham and surrounding villages - that mesmerises me. 

The people here care about how their food is grown, there are majestic forests and hills, and the towns are brimming with local art and antiques. I feel so inspired every time I visit Lavandula, it's sensory overload! Rolling fields of lavender, farm animals, vegetable patches, original stone buildings, antique furniture, and plants growing in everything from old tin kettles to wheelbarrows. 

I missed out on checking out a second-hand furniture store in Hepburn Springs so perhaps another trip is needed this weekend ;)

Stonefields

plants, inspiration, flowers, living the sweet lifeAishe Besim

I ticked an item off of my bucket list recently - a visit to the beautiful country garden Stonefields!

Designed by legendary landscape designer Paul Bangay, Stonefields is located in between Kyneton and Daylesford and boasts seven acres of lush gardens. I first heard of the garden after reading about Paul's vegetable patch in Edible Garden Design two years ago. I then purchased Paul's book about the creation of his entire garden and I was hooked. 

This was definitely the busiest open garden day I'd ever been to. I admit it was a struggle wading through the hundreds of people to explore the property, but if you're a green thumb I highly recommend visiting for yourself. I'm eying off a private tour with the man himself next time!