Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spring Garden Glory

While I have been working on my vegetable and herb gardens, the rest of my acre has magically looked after itself…. apart from some mowing!

I know this is the most ridiculous thing to say! Gardens are nature and nature always looks after itself but the thing is that the majority of my garden was here when I arrived and all I do is revel in its glory and no time is more glorious here in southern Tasmania than spring.

imageYesterday I was walking though the herb garden when I was caught by the beauty of the late afternoon light on the purple sage. Earlier I had noticed lady birds all over it too so I abandoned whatever I was on my way to do, went inside and got my camera.

Rather than choose some photos to share here, I have uploaded an album for you, to play your own slide show, as they look so inviting at full screen size. These photos are simply the capture of the best of my garden on the day. If anyone should think that a photo or two are worthy of downloading and using, I would be most delighted to share with you.

You will find the album here. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hastings

Saturday…. a long drive….to Hastings…..a short walk through the forest……. swimming in a thermal pool, in a rain forest …..then racing in our bathers through the cold, torrential rain to a magnificent, stone shelter, complete with fires raging in 2 huge fireplaces where we huddled in the warmth, wrapped in beach towels….. followed by scones and coffee.

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We also took a tour down into the caves….. which was wonderful….

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Seasonal Cygnet and the Library Garden Open Day

Today, in persistent rain, 40 people turned out with coats and umbrellas to help celebrate the completion of Stage 1 of the Cygnet Library Garden Project….. At last, after more than 3 years of pestering, it is finally happening! Hip hip hooray!!

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Moreover, this tiny snippet of a garden, measuring about 12m x 0.5m plus a bit more around the corner, has inspired a community art project and brought donations of time and energy from the Port Cygnet Men’s Shed, Cygnet Glass, Corey at Treemendous, the local CWA (Country Women’s Assoc.), Woodbridge Fruit Trees, and more.

A picture tells a thousand words….

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Catherine and Carol sorting out last minute plans for the day, in the library carpark, in the rain.
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That’s me addressing all the well-wishes.
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Catherine made this compostable piece from flour, water and seaweed
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There it is…. the thing that has brought so much joy to every library goer recently
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Carol showing people around the back of the library where we will begin stage 2
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Catherine collected wishes from every school child and attached them to the bricks of the library walls and walkways
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Catherine, our lovely community artist, talking about her contribution in the form of wishes
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Carol enthusing everyone with ideas for the rest of the outdoor space around the library
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One of the lovely librarians, Heather, brings the visitors together and explains what has been going on these last few months.
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Our tiny library is part of a wonderful, state-wide system with a fabulous website allowing access to an online registry of all books and material available to borrow.

My next idea is to take this first stage and repeat it up and down the main street, then through all the streets of Cygnet. Wherever there is a little piece of land, I would like to fill it with suitable, edible plants, flowers and herbs, turning Cygnet into a Seasonal Smorgasbord for everyone to use and enjoy.

Police Station, Fire Station, Health Centre, Banks, Shops and Cafes etc etc…. building on the momentum of the library garden and that of the local schools who have embraced food gardening in a big way already.

Seed Freedom Fortnight

October 2nd – 16th is when the world of thinking eaters join forces to proclaim their right to grow and eat food from seeds that have been saved and sown by farmers and gardeners for thousands of years, not from seeds that are genetically manufactured by large petrochemical companies and must be bought annually by farmers.

You can read about Seed Freedom here. And you can see on this map the actions being taken all over the world for this incredibly important issue. This link will take you to the online map where you will find all the details of these actions by hovering your mouse over the pin. If you know of others, you can add them to the map.

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Currently Tasmania is GM free and profits from this in its sales of clean, green foods to countries in Europe and Asia. Let’s keep it that way!

GM free Tas poster

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Aesthetics of Food Gardening

When you get taken away from the things that you believe, something comes along to reconnect you. It happens over and over to me.

I used to worry that my garden wasn’t tidy enough for visiting garden groups. We all see tidy gardens on TV gardening shows. We see vegetables grown in neat rows, in boxed beds with no weeds, rotated and fertilised religiously. We see freshly mown home orchards and we see pretty chooks in amazing coops and yards, laying eggs in clean straw.

If this makes you feel good then you are very different to me. I want to ask the owners of these gardens question like -

  • how come you ever get a whole bed clear at one time? In my garden things are never all finished at once.
  • why aren’t there any seed heads in your garden? Why do you buy seeds when actually the second crop of every plant is seeds for next year?
  • do you kill things in your garden? How? Why?
  • where are the seats for sitting and enjoying your food garden?

So now I focus more on what my garden does offer, not what it doesn’t. I have reconnected with the aesthetics of food gardening by being the rebel that I always have been but forgotten about whilst  settling into a new place!

So, when my SeedSaveUs group hosted the Hobart Food Garden Group, in my garden on the weekend I had a ball showing them my lazy gardener methods of producing food aesthetically. They were a fabulously enthusiastic bunch but I was so busy answering questions that I hardly had a moment to take photos while Lenny was out!

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There’s me, inviting them to dig up my garden!
Smile!

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At the end of the day what I gained is the joy I always feel when sharing. I started this session with an offer; “I grow more than enough food in my garden so if there is something you would like, for whatever reason, please ask and I will share it with you.” One man grabbed my arm and looked into my eyes, smiling…. I didn’t quite mean THAT kind of sharing!

People were shy to start with but soon we had a production line going as I dug bundles of self-sown miners’ lettuce and happy recipients wrapped them in wet newspaper for the drive home. They all hoped to get the plants to shed their seeds in their gardens and come up next autumn, as mine have done.

One man spotted my wonderful leeks which grow from little bulbils that form at the base of any leeks left unpicked. These will all grow into new leeks next year. I dug him a bunch to transplant. And so it went on.

I had put 2 trestles in the garden for people to put any seeds or plants etc that they brought to share and the tables were laden to overflowing. Gardeners are a generous lot. Also laden were the morning tea share tables. One of our seedsaver members had not just brought home-made rolls, but had grown the pigs and made the speck, the relish and all the salad greens that went into them.

So, why am I so happy about my garden? Well, because it is a garden; not a series of boxed, orderly beds that I must tend and control. It has flowers and seed heads. It has self-sown almost everything, in every stage of their life cycles. It feels wonderful to be in it, watching the ecology that has evolved from scratch in the 3 or so years I have been here. It is aesthetically pleasing and calming but also exciting.

 I can take my coffee outside and sit amongst my food.

While I sit there I get inspired about dinner, I talk to the chooks on the other side of the fence, I can see the apple tree blossoming, the broad bean pods starting to grow and marvel at all the life in the air and below the ground that lives in balance in such a diverse system, producing my food with very little effort from me.

Life is good. Make it pretty too. Save seeds and it will save your back, your wallet and your children’s future!

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Tomato seedlings getting an airing on a warm day
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Coffee corner amongst pots of herbs, under the oak tree,  looking out across the veg garden
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Remind me again what is not beautiful about vegetables going to seed?
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Self sown salad patch with edible native violas too. Nature is amazing when left alone to do her thing!
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This year I have the best fennel since I came here, from an unruly, permanent patch I had considered removing! Patience is key in this business.
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Self sown marigolds dotted about
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The chooks waiting for breakfast… Most of them lay ok still. Currently getting 2 – 5 eggs / day which is way too many anyway!
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The best soil in my garden but a bit shady in winter. Lined both sides with raspberries. Hoops for intermittent lace curtain protection from cabbage moths / bandicoots or loose chooks!
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Birds love this bird bath amongst the artichokes, even in winter.
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Native stinging nettles amongst the miners lettuce. Used in soups, tarts and a liquid tonic for plants.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Liquid feeds from your garden

I find that a regular dose of weak liquid feed helps tiny seedlings grow into strong plants.  I also use liquid feed for my citrus in large pots, for ailing plants, occasionally for fruiting plants like tomatoes and in my hothouse. But which one to choose!

Worm juice

Simply made by watering the worm farm, collecting the liquid, diluting it to a very weak tea look and watering the foliage and soil of young seedlings. My worm juice making device is a terracotta water filter from the tip shop. It lives on an upturned oil tin, in my hothouse. The worms are fed in the top section, with weeds and trimmings from the hothouse. I water it from time to time and this collects in the bottom. I then use the tap to drain some into a small watering can, and water my seedlings in the hot house. No fuss. No carrying of heavy buckets. The job takes 2 minutes.

Bad weeds

Onion grass, weeds carrying seeds, couch / twitch – pack densely into a barrel. Fill with water. You can also hang a kg or so of old manure in it (in old pantry hose or hessian) and add some wood ash and comfrey leaves if you want to. Cover well. Wait 2 weeks or more. Sure, it will smell when you take the lid off. Just before rain is forecast (so it washes the smell away) dip into it and dilute 1:10 in a watering can. Use this on established plants, shrubs and trees. Great for citrus, but don’t be tempted to make it stronger. Rather, use a weaker solution, more often.

Seaweed

Put some kelp or other seaweed in a bucket, fill with water and cover with a lid or something. I use a hessian bag. Keep it in the garden, near your vegetables. Dilute 1:10 and water transplanted seedlings, young fruit trees and anything in pots.

Stinging Nettles

A tonic for any plants looking a bit unwell. The silicon in nettles strengthens the cell walls and helps return vitality (also wonderful for people!) The amount you put in a bucket is determined by how much you have. The more concentrated you make it, the more you dilute it. I stick to about 1:10 for all these liquid feeds. Don’t be tempted into thinking more is better!

Comfrey

An undervalued resource in gardens. Make as for stinging nettle tea and use weekly on all your summer fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers etc.

When I don’t have anything much at hand, I use Seasol or Marrawah Gold in place of the seaweed and Charlie Carp in place of the weed and manure brew. Charlie Carp makes use of the feral carp from the Murray River and this is a practice I applaud.