I had the idea for An Optimistic Gardener after fulfilling my dream of moving to a bush block with loads of space for a garden. Here, I thought, I could bring my romantic vision of self-sufficiency to life with free-range chooks scratching happily in an orchard of fruit and nut trees. My children would snack directly from the bounteous veggie patch, lured by the colour and fragrance of nature.

The only hitch is my skill level and propensity for killing things.

I nonetheless keep trying and hope that this blog provides both amusement and inspiration as it tracks my occasional successes and many failures.

What to do about ants in your plants

Garden optimism is in increasingly short supply. Punnets of seeds failing to thrive; chooks escaping into garden beds to broaden their palate; sudden dumps of rain that go nowhere in our clay soil; frost that brings a gorgeous icy dusting to winter mornings before dissolving into a desolate wasteland of ...
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kangaroo apple hero

Indigenous secrets in your back yard

Bet you didn't know there could be contraceptives growing in your back yard. Or if not the yard, then very likely your local park. The ubiquitous kangaroo apple -which ironically self-seeded not far from our front door – contains steroids used to make more than half the world's contraceptive drugs ...
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Sow & Reap – wins and losses of May

This month I’ve had fun experimenting with quinces for the first time. Left to poach overnight in the slow cooker with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and sugar syrup, the morning aroma is arresting. Even waiting for their turn in the fruit basket, the slowly yellowing quinces have stunned me with the ...
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Girl power is the buzz for bees

Who knew a workshop on honeybees would also provide a lesson in girl power? Yet that’s what happened when I took the kids off to learn about the importance of these little critters not only for honey making, but also on the small matter of global food supply. Apart from ...
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April sow reap hero

Sow & Reap – wins and losses of April

Despite it being school holidays – or perhaps because of it – I managed to do all my seed sowing within the first three days of the designated planting period*. Seeds sown last month seem to be coming along nicely; apart from the sugar snap peas, which were admittedly almost ...
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Chook Hero

Fowl reality: a beginner’s guide to chook ownership

Were there a live cam on the chook shed streaming my attempts to usher our new hens inside at dusk, I’d be assured a global following. Circling with arms spread and bok-bokking my way around the enclosure - one chook in, two chooks out, all of us becoming increasingly frantic ...
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March basket 2017

Sow & Reap – wins and losses of March

It has been a bit more of an organised approach to planting this month. Seed packets have been sorted into baggies separating those requiring punnets from those happy to be planted directly. I’ve cleared areas of the garden and fed the soil with leftover cow manure from my earlier compost-making ...
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Cows and manure

Spoiler Alert! Food Scraps Do Not Make Compost

Whoever started the idea that collecting food scraps constitutes composting has a lot to answer for. But after more than a decade of following this incomplete advice and coming up with nothing but slop resembling the inner workings of the large intestine, I think I might have finally figured this ...
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Summer harvest and pinch of fairy dust

It had been a lacklustre day in the garden. A bit of weeding and trimming dead flowers. The soil looked dry, the garden beds looked brown and dreary. I felt rather the same. I don’t know what drew me to snout around in the forsaken potato bed. Unloved and unwatered ...
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perfect vortex

The biodynamic vibe in six practical steps

Biodynamic gardening can be like a club full of secret handshakes, mysterious rituals and bewildering logic, making it easy to put into the too-hard basket. At its core, though, biodynamics is about improving soil over the long-term rather than seasonally like in conventional farming methods. It considers the earth as ...
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