Kitchen Garden Guides

Monday, June 6, 2022

June 2022 Kitchen Garden Guide

 (The day after writing this piece I picked up an old Organic Gardener magazine from 2011 which featured an article by Tasmanian chook man Paul Healy. Most of how I feed my chooks came from the advice Paul used to give on the radio on Saturday mornings, just as he describes in this magazine article.)
Various things are happening in my garden which indicate that the plants know a thing or two about the season that I do not.  Firstly, self-sown miners lettuce and corn salad are both coming up at the same time. This is a treat because I love them both and usually have to wait until almost the end of winter for the corn salad to appear, which then grows quickly before running to seed. Another thing is that frost has not yet knocked off the yacon leaves, which are very large and generally have turned black by now, telling me it is time to harvest the tubers. The BOM forecast for the southern Tasmania winter says we are in for warmer than average days and nights during winter, with average rainfall. With this in mind, I will wait for a while longer before covering my lemon tree with fleece.

Sprouts and microgreens

Shorter days and low sun angle in Tasmania mean plant growth is very slow during winter. These also affect humans, mentally and physically. The best approach to maintaining your health and vitality at this time includes making every mouthful as nourishing as possible. It is time to grow sprouts and microgreens because those very first moments of a seed’s germination are packed full of enzymes and nutrients.

SPROUTS (grown in a jar or container, without soil or the need for sunlight) should be eaten when the growth is only a couple of mm long, not left to grow long. My favourites are: lentils, chickpeas, fenugreek, buckwheat, mung beans, all of which only take 2-3 days. Wash well before eating to wash off the phytates. Some people prefer to blanch them before eating, but I don’t.

MICROGREENS (sown thickly in a tray of soil and raised in a sunny window or greenhouse) are cut with scissors and eaten when they have their first true leaves after the initial 2 baby leaves. This may take 2 – 3 weeks. There is excellent information on the Green Harvest website. Anything with edible leaves will make delicious, nutritious microgreens for salads.

Keeping chooks laying during winter

There are some absolutely gorgeous looking chooks but I have chooks to lay eggs, to constantly turn my weeds, finished plants and autumn leaves into compost, to chat with and to add their bedding to my worm farm. So, I have hylines or isabrowns, which are chooks that have been bred to lay. I don’t have roosters. Every November I get 2 new, point of lay hylines because I know from experience that 2 older chooks will die during the year, from old age or raptor attack or something else (I rarely eat my chooks). Buying them in November ensures that they get laying as we come into summer and they will keep laying pretty much every day for at least 2 years. Having 2 young chooks seems to also keep the older chooks in a laying frame of mind longer!

They have all day access to Red Hen grains (the one without animal protein). In the late afternoon I give them a small amount of organic wheat and sunflower seeds that have been soaked in water for 24 hours. If I have some unused stock or milk or anything else, I use that but water is fine. Soaked grain is more nutritious (as in the sprouts above) and feeding them late in the day ensures that they go to bed with a full crop, which evidently keeps them warmer at night.

They have access to water, which has a clove of garlic in it, for their health and for worm control. I don’t refresh their water until is it running low. I don’t find it necessary to treat them for anything (parasites, mites etc). They love freshly picked greens and I give them some most days, on the ground, held down by a brick, so they can tear off what they need.

Their coop is deliberately airy, but dry. They have a big free range area under the fruit trees and often out in my front garden, away from my vegetables. Dust bathing is very important and the ground under the oak trees stays fairly dry, which is handy. I don’t fuss about with chook care! But I talk to them and touch them or pick up them every day so they are easy for me to handle if I need to trim their wings or deal with for any reason. New chooks, like new puppies, learn from the older ones so having calm, happy, older chooks is really important.

I have not bought eggs for 20 years or more and currently have 3 chooks.

 

Seeds to sow in June

Sow in the garden:

Broad beans

Salad and spring onions

Shallots

Chives

English spinach

Radishes

Sow in trays to plant out later:

Brassicas

Globe Artichokes

Coriander

Chervil

Lettuce

Rocket

Asian greens

Free seeds available at the Cygnet Seed Library (see facebook page)

Plant out

Garlic

Asparagus crowns

Divide rhubarb

Winter herbs: coriander, chervil etc

Winter flowering annuals

Globe artichokes

Bulbs

Asian greens

Lettuce

Spinach

Winter Reading

Herb: a cook’s companion by Mark Diacono…. An absolutely fabulous book about making the most of herbs, in every way

 

Eat Wild Tasmanian by Rees Campbell…. About growing and eating Tasmanian edible plants

 

Jobs for June

-Prune deciduous trees except cherries and apricots

-Feed and mulch the dripline of fruit trees with anything you have, including seaweed and good sprinklings of ash from the fire.

-Collect seaweed (especially kelp) after winter storms and cover your asparagus patch with it. Brassicas also love it. Wonderful added to your compost too.

-Walk in the forests and see the fungi

 

-Lacto-ferment root veg and sprout seeds to add vitality and nourishment to your body during winter.

-Take time to read, write, walk, swim, breathe, cook and think.

-Make a wonderful pesto with chervil and almonds / rocket and pistachios / parsley and walnuts. ---Make hempseed butter for hot toast and honey.

-Check out my blogs for food and gardening inspiration….

Vegetable Vagabond and Gardeners Gastronomy

Saturday, May 7, 2022

March 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

Summer has drifted in and out, the wind has howled and abated, rain has pelted down, then evaporated and our tomatoes are slowly ripening. Interestingly, my tomato plants are much taller than ever before, and the first tomatoes to ripen, quite early on, were the big, luscious Black from Tula. The most productive this year has been Jaune Flamme, which I only decided to grow at the last minute. It just goes to show that it is worth planting a diverse range of tomatoes and everything else.

Cuttings

Autumn is an excellent time for taking cuttings. Cuttings in autumn can be semi hardwood or hardwood, but not the floppy, green, very new growth and not something that is in flower. Autumn cuttings are usually of evergreen plants. Generally, only take cuttings of deciduous plants when they have lost their leaves (in winter).

Cut with clean secateurs just under some leaves, remove all the leaves from at least 2 growing nodes above the cut. Reduce the number of leaves on the rest of the stem, all the way to the top. Slip the cutting into the soil (pot or ground) and water thoroughly. I don’t bother with hormone powder or anything.

I asked a couple of my gardenin friends how they prefer to strike their cuttings.

Sally’s beautiful garden is grown almost entirely from cuttings. Sally is a no-nonsense gardener and her plants must not be too fussy! She chooses a spot in the ground that is damp, sheltered from wind and all but a little easterly sun. The soil is friable, but not fertilised. Into that go all her cuttings and there they stay until they shoot new leaves. Then they are transplanted to their garden site. She rarely uses pots at all.

Nick prefers to put his cuttings into medium size pots, 10 cuttings to a pot. The mix he uses varies according to the difficulty of getting the cuttings to strike. Azaleas are tricky, geraniums are easy. Generally it contains something water holding like coconut fibre, something that drains, like sharp sand, plus some basic potting mix. They are kept somewhere near the back door, out of wind and sun, so they can be kept damp and cared for.

I generally take cuttings only when I am pruning. I have a bucket of water near me and nestle them in there while I complete the pruning. Oh dear…. sometimes they stay in that bucket, or in a jar in the kitchen for a couple of weeks. Ideally, I would remove them from the water on the same day I cut them and put them in pots, similar to Nick’s method. However, I usually poke a few taller bamboo sticks in the pot and, after watering well, I cover the whole thing with a plastic bag, with a rubber band around the pot to hold it on. I am likely to ignore them for at least a couple of months then I check to see how they are going and replace the bag again until they shoot new leaves. Then I remove the bag, leave them a little longer before transplanting to individual pots.

Alliums

Onions, garlic, shallots, potato onions, walking onions, leeks, elephant garlic, chives and garlic chives are all alliums and have been grown for thousands of years, in many parts of the world. Alliums all have day length requirements, some preferring shortening days, some lengthening days, some a little more flexible. In autumn we sow and plant those that prefer or will tolerate shortening days to get them started, then lengthening days to finish off (towards next summer). These include garlic, shallots, potato onions, elephant garlic and walking onions. I have talked about growing garlic previously, in many of these garden guides so now it is the turn for the other alliums that suitable to plant now.

I went to the Koonya Garlic Festival last time it was on and heard an excellent talk by Tino, all about alliums and got totally enthused. So, last autumn I planted potato onions that I got from a friend. It was a roaring success. Each one produced 10 or more small onions, up to 20! They shot quickly, grew strong stems all winter then bulbed up during spring but took ages to dry off, which is when they are ready to harvest. I harvested in January. They are great for pickling or throwing in a baking dish or stew. I spoke to Tino at the Spring Bay Sunflower Festival in Feb. and he said you can plant the potato onions in spring too, to save on garden space….. but I am going to plant them in autumn again because it was so successful.

Steve Solomon suggests, in his book “Growing Vegetables South of Australia” putting shallots (and late garlic varieties) in the fridge for a month, starting early to mid March, before planting out in April, as this breaks their dormancy so readying them into faster sprouting once planted out and gives them plenty of shortening days to grow a good set of leaves before they start bulbing up in spring. I am going to do this for my potato onions because I harvested so late.

Give all alliums a friable, fertile soil with good drainage, adding lime, if necessary, to about neutral or slightly alkaline, but definitely not acidic. Peter Cundall uses fire ash in place of lime and digs in old sheep manure and biochar.

Look for potato onions, elephant garlic and other alliums at markets plus online and our Crop Swap Cygnet and Surrounds facebook page.


 

Seeds to sow in March

Plant out now

Beetroot

Salsify

Burdock

Tas. swede

Carrot

Parsnip

Spinach

Broad beans

Daikon radish

Asian vegetables

Coriander, pennyroyal, cress

Seeds to harvest in March

Tomatoes

Orach

Fennel

Lettuce

Sunflowers

Calendula

 

Good sized European brassicas

Spring onions

Chives

Elephant garlic, potato onions

Lettuce

Spinach

Celery

Silver beet

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*If you would like to learn about saving seeds, join us at the Cygnet Seed Library every second Sunday, 2pm at the old CBA, 17 Mary Street. Details on facebook.*

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Cygnet Autumn Garden Market is on March 27th 12 – 4pm at The Cannery. Fundraiser for refugees moving to the Huon. Talks, stalls, food, coffee. See you there.

March 2020 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

It seems that autumn has arrived, with few tomatoes ripening but lots of fabulous beans and no bushfires in our area. The paddocks that have had hay cut are green again, with the cool summer and frequent showers. We have a lot to be grateful for, here in southern Tasmania.

Alliums

Onions, garlic, shallots, potato onions, walking onions, leeks, elephant garlic, chives and garlic chives are all alliums and have been grown for thousands of years, in many parts of the world. Alliums all have day length requirements; some preferring shortening days, some lengthening days, some a little more flexible. In autumn we sow and plant those that prefer or will tolerate shortening days to get them started then lengthening days to finish off (towards next summer). These include garlic, shallots, potato onions, elephant garlic and walking onions. I have talked about growing garlic previously, in many of these garden guides so now it is the turn for the other alliums that suitable to plant now.

I went to the Koonya Garlic Festival last weekend and heard an excellent talk by Tino, all about alliums and am totally enthused. I have never grown regular onions as one seed produces only one onion and it seems a lot of work, when onions are so cheap. So now I am going to grow shallots and potato onions, that, like garlic, can be grown from a clove and produce a head or cluster of themselves and which are quite expensive to buy for eating. And I will again grow elephant garlic (really a type of garlicky leek), to harvest at the leek stage, before forming bulbs, as at that stage they have thick, long, white shanks of the most incredible flavour; the longest white shank of any leek I have ever grown. I don’t like the bulbs but let a few go to seed and form the underground bulbs and bulblets, for replanting and also for the beauty of the allium flowers.

Steve Solomon suggests, in his book “Growing Vegetables South of Australia” putting shallots (and late garlic varieties) in the fridge for a month, starting early to mid March, before planting out in April, as this breaks their dormancy so readying them into faster sprouting once planted out and gives them plenty of shortening days to grow a good set of leaves before they start bulbing up in spring.

Potato onions grow clusters of small onions underground and can be excellent keepers like shallots but have a stronger oniony flavour than shallots. They can be used for eating or pickling and I do so love pickled onions!

Give all alliums a friable, fertile soil with good drainage, adding lime, if necessary, to about neutral or slightly alkaline, but definitely not acidic. Peter Cundall uses fire ash in place of lime and digs in old sheep manure and biochar.

Steve says that shallots can manage a heavier soil because they form at the soil surface, unlike garlic and potato onions and elephant garlic which grow deeper. He recommends planting shallots 30cms apart with 45 cms between rows.

Where do we source shallots, potato onions and elephant garlic? Shallots should be available from a local greengrocer (it is too late for shallots to grow from seed for autumn sowing but you can sow in early spring, for a summer crop). Look for potato onions and elephant garlic at markets and online crop swap facebook pages.

Edible Flowers and seeds

Almost everything that has been growing over summer is striving to reproduce before winter. Many of the flowers and seeds are not only edible but actually delicious. My favourite is probably the yellow flowers and developing seeds of Florence Fennel (not the wild fennel, as I find that too strong and the seeds too coarse). Don’t rip your summer vegetables out before exploring their second and third edible crops, such as the flowers and seeds! Save the dried seeds of lettuce, shungiku, French sorrel, Florence fennel, rainbow chard etc, to sow again, as they are adapting to your garden. This is very important as our climate changes.

Society garlic makes a pretty, edible border and survives very dry soil. Right now the little pink flowers are blooming and make a wonderful, garlicky addition to salads. Garlic chive flowers are white and grow on tall stalks, which are both pretty and deliciously garlicky.

The Cosmos in my garden are flowering, producing masses of bright, edible flowers. I also have had amaranth and shiso, both providing an abundance of delicious red and green leaves all summer. Now the long, magnificent tassels of the red amaranth are breath taking and soon will be laden with the tiny amaranth seeds, which are a so-called superfood that is expensive to buy but so easy to grow!

Pumpkin vine care

The single, little, pumpkin plant (of the Peter Cundall variety) I got from someone has rambled far and wide, at break-neck speed, flowering with both male and female flowers very quickly. Consequently, since it has 6 well-formed pumpkins now, I have cut off all the long leaders beyond those pumpkins. Six is more than enough for the plant to put energy into developing and maturing. I will remove all future flowers and long growth. I may give it some Charlie Carp liquid feed too. Now is the time to plan what to put there next, when it is harvested later in April or even May….. perhaps broad beans.

 

 

Sow in March

Plant out now

Beetroot

Salsify

Burdock

Tas. swede

Carrot

Parsnip

Spinach

Broad beans

Daikon radish

Asian vegetables

Coriander, pennyroyal, cress

 

Put shallots and late garlic into the fridge for a month, to break dormancy.

Take cuttings of

Evergreen herbs such as rosemary and sage

 

Good sized European brassicas (it is too late for punnets)     

Spring onions

Chives

Elephant garlic, potato onions

Lettuce

Spinach

Celery

Silver beet

 

 

Spring bulbs (ixias, daffodils etc) Water well.

 

Evergreen shrubs and trees (only after we get a good rain. Otherwise hold off until April)

March 2019 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

My garden has been blasted by winds from the north west and south west, drying everything out, no matter how much I water. I am rarely despondent about my garden but, after the fires and smoke and stresses  of January then the winds of February, all I can do is learn and implement some strategies for the future.

Lesson 1: Shelter

My cucumbers have thrived for several reasons and the first is that they are sheltered from all wind. They needed no extra water than normal and have produced a continuous supply of beautiful, healthy, crisp, Dragon’s Egg cucumbers for months. They are sheltered by a deep bank of shrubbery to the north and by being at the bottom of a slope, so that the westerlies just blew over the top and hit the trees on the other side.

Not only does the shrubbery provide wind shelter but, if you choose right, you will encourage beneficial insects and birds as well as healthy soil life. In this part of my garden the shrubbery is only about a metre high but very dense, allowing sun even as we move into autumn, but little wind.

In another area I planted out broccoli seedlings and, to save them from cabbage moths, I made a frame and covered it with white shadecloth. Co-incidentally, this heavy duty shadecloth also protected the seedlings from the daily blast of the westerlies that howled through my wire, boundary fence, along which my shrubbery is still very young. Those broccoli seedlings are now big and strong and dark green, compared with some of my unsheltered tomatoes only a few metres away that look miserable and copped the wind severely.

Lesson 2: The Soil

Long before I planted out the cucumbers, I densely sowed broad beans as a green manure crop, quite late, some time in early winter, after last year’s tomatoes had finished and been removed. In October when the broad beans were just starting to flower, I trampled them down with my feet so they were lying all in the same direction, then chopped them up with my spade. I threw over some biochar and sheep manure. I didn’t dig it all in but I did push my fork in and loosen the soil below, allowing some bits to fall through. Then I watered it all well, before covering with some rotting, wet, old hay and leaving it until early December when I dusted over some potash and planted the tiny cucumber seedlings. By this time every bit of the broad bean leaves and stalks  and roots (which I left in the soil) had been composted in situ by the soil life and the hay too was almost gone. The cucumbers grew like mad the minute they landed and never looked back. They grew so fast that I didn’t get a chance to mulch them but they soon provided their own soil cover as they spread. Nevertheless, they needed very little water all summer.

Another example of the importance of looking after the microbes and other soil life is the wind blasted tomatoes which, in December, before wind or smoke, produced fantastic, early, ripe tomatoes. This previously deep hay method bed was also the one where I planted tomatoes amongst some self-sown companion plants, such as calendulas, nasturtiums, garlic chives and sweet cicely. The tomatoes flowered and produced very early. Interestingly though, the plants did not grow very big but managed to support dense clusters of ripe tomatoes very low to the ground. Once the heat and smoke then winds arrived, these poor tomatoes suffered so my idea of having 3 separate tomato beds turned out to be a good one.

Garlic

The recent Koonya Garlic Festival has put garlic at the forefront of my mind and I will be preparing beds this week. What it comes down to is that, whatever garlic cultivars you choose to grow, the health of your soil microbes will determine how well the flavour develops. The growth of the bulb itself will be determined by soil and weather.

Garlic does not need a lot of fertility but it needs humus (well rotted organic matter) for the soil microbes to be well fed. Here is what I am going to do:

1.   Dig to a spade’s depth and loosen any clumps. This does not mean turning the soil. It means loosening and working it.

2.   Dig in plenty of aged sheep manure (I am saving my compost for brassicas and other greens as I don’t have enough for everything)

3.   Dig in a well known, pelletised seaweed, fish, humic acid and manure product available in large buckets.

4.   Really concentrate on improving the structure of the soil, with elbow and back grease!

5.   Mention was made of lactobacillus bacteria so I might dilute some kefir or pickle juice and pour it over!

6.   Water, mulch and leave, removing the mulch at planting time.

7.   Plant out at times according to what garlic you have.

 

The planting, harvest and storage times depend on the cultivars you grow. I will be planting my 3 cultivars from late March onwards. First is what is locally called Tassie Purple, which is a softneck and will be ready in about December. Next, in about May, I will plant 2 hard necks: Dungansky and a Creole. They will be dug late January or even February. These are the ones that grow the long, curly stalks called scapes, which make excellent pesto.

Sow in March

Plant out now

Beetroot

Salsify

Burdock

Tas. swede

Carrot

Parsnip

Spinach

Broad beans

Asian vegetables

Spring and salad onions

Coriander, pennyroyal, cress

Take cuttings of

Evergreen herbs such as rosemary and sage

 

Good sized European brassicas (it is too late for punnets)     

Spring onions

Chives

Leeks

Lettuce

Spinach

Celery

Silver beet

 

Spring bulbs (ixias, daffodils etc) Water well.

 

Evergreen shrubs and trees (only after we get a good rain. Otherwise hold off until April)

 

 

March 2018 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

I wandered around my garden this morning, taking notes about what is happening, in order to write this garden guide direct from plot to page. It only took a few minutes for me to realise that there is more happening this time of the year in my garden than I can fit into this column. You may find this surprising when autumn is on the doorstep but, actually, life never stops in the food garden.

Seed saving

Every part of the kitchen garden is getting ready for winter by flowering, fruiting and setting seeds. Tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers and beans are all produced by plants in order to make seeds and reproduce themselves. It just so happens that we humans jump in and harvest their fruits before the seeds mature. If you leave a few unpicked you will be able to save the seeds later, when the fruits are fully mature and beginning to go mushy (ie well past the time we would pick them to eat) or brown and dry (in the case of bean pods).

I have left some broad bean plants in a back corner of the garden, after harvesting most of them back in November. The pods are now crisp and almost black; perfect for collecting and saving, ready to sow in a few weeks. Similarly, there are literally hundreds of seeds, dry now and ready to collect, on a couple of the best of my rainbow chard, which I tied up to a stake and allowed to flower and set seeds after months of fabulous, brilliantly green leaves and incredibly red stalks. They stand tall and brown and heavy with seed now, amongst the fresh, green cucumber plants I sowed back in December. In this way barely any space is taken up by the seeding rainbow chard as the leaves are long gone and all that is standing is the trunk, topped with a heavy head of seeds, tied to a stake.

There is nothing better for you and your family, for eliminating food miles, for food security of our region and for the health of the whole earth than saving seeds. Of all the options we are presented with to help reduce our carbon footprint, none surpasses growing food from seed that has been saved and shared in your own area.

If you don’t want to save your own seed, look for locally saved seed at any of our great Huon Valley markets or check out Crop Swap Cygnet online.

Edible Flowers and seeds

Almost everything that has been growing over summer is striving to reproduce before winter. Many of the flowers and seeds are not only edible but actually delicious. My favourite is probably the yellow flowers and developing seeds of Florence Fennel (not the wild fennel, as I find that too strong and the seeds too coarse). Don’t rip your summer vegetables out before exploring their second and third edible crops, such as the flowers and seeds!

Society garlic makes a pretty, edible border and survives very dry soil. Right now the little pink flowers are blooming and make a wonderful, garlicky addition to salads.

The Cosmos in my garden have been flowering for months, producing masses of bright, edible flowers. I also have amaranth and shiso, both providing an abundance of delicious red and green leaves all summer. Now the long, magnificent tassels of the red amaranth are breath taking and soon will be laden with the tiny amaranth seeds, which are a so-called superfood that is expensive to buy but so easy to grow!

Drying Herbs

March is the time to cut and dry herbs such as oregano, while they are in full flower. Around the Mediterranean Sea people have foraged for flowering oregano since ancient times, hanging the tall stems in a warm, dry place then storing them for use in winter soups and stews.

I also cut boughs of lemon verbena and let the vivid green leaves dry fully before packing them into jars and using as my evening tea during winter and spring, when the plants are dormant.

Garlic

What it comes down to is that, whatever garlic cultivars you choose to grow, the state of your soil will determine how well the flavour develops. The growth of the bulb itself will be determined by soil and weather.

Garlic does not need a lot of fertility but it needs humus (well rotted organic matter) and for the soil microbes to be well fed. Here is what I am going to do to prepare my soil for this year’s crop:

1.   Dig to a spade’s depth and loosen any clumps

2.   Dig in plenty of aged sheep manure (cow would be even better, I am saving my compost for brassicas and other greens)

3.   Dig in a well-known, pelletised seaweed, fish, humic acid and manure product available in large buckets.

4.   Really concentrate on improving the structure of the soil, with elbow and back grease!

5.   Mention is sometimes made of the benefits of lactobacillus bacteria in garlic growth so I might dilute some kefir or pickle juice and pour it over!

6.   Water, mulch and leave, or sow a quick green manure.

7.   Plant out at times according to what garlic you have.

The planting, harvest and storage times depend on the cultivars you grow. I will be planting 3 cultivars that I saved from last year, from late March onwards. I suggest you search online for “Tasmanian Gourmet Garlic” and a book called “Garlic”.

Sow in March

Plant out now

Beetroot

Salsify

Burdock

Tas. swede

Carrot

Parsnip

Spinach

Broad beans

Asian veg.

Spring and salad onions

Coriander, pennyroyal, cress

European brassica seedlings

Spring onions

Chives

Leeks

Lettuce

Spinach

Celery

Silver beet

 

Evergreen shrubs and trees

Spring bulbs (ixias, daffodils etc)

Feb 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

I have been gardening all summer. In fact, I have been gardening solidly for a whole year, without going away anywhere at all. Such was 2020! But, last weekend I stayed at Triabunna and went to the Spring Bay Mill Sunflower Festival. Marcus Ragus, who I would claim to be Tasmania’s leading horticulturalist, has been in charge of creating a 4 hectare food garden down by the sea, on part of the old Triabunna Wood Mill site, which is 42 hectares in total. He will also be creating more gardens and doing bush rehabilitation on another 30 hectares or so.

It was from Marcus that I first learnt about the deep hay method of gardening, as a means of raising fertility, getting rid of twitch etc, improving biodiversity and feeding the microbes. The Spring Bay food garden is run totally on this method and you ought to see the results, in just 2 years! I came away re-inspired to follow my passion for the largely self-sown, mostly deep hay, biodiverse, food gardening system. It was truly wonderful to spend all day wandering the gardens and listening to Marcus Ragus, Tino Carnevale and Angus Stewart filling the heads and hearts of a few hundred gardeners with their knowledge. There were also walks and talks and demonstrations of making fermented compost, gardening with all sorts of bees and hives, and plenty more.

Roots, Weeds and Paths

Roots are doing amazing things down under the surface; even more than I realised. Roots are dealing with all the microbes, worms, fungi, bacteria and air while growing through the soil. Some roots are actually benefitting all the other plants in their vicinity too. Mulberries and sunflowers are two such plants. That was part of the reason for a sunflower festival; to highlight not just their beauty but their usefulness growing amongst the vegetables and herbs. Plants that grow near sunflowers and mulberries benefit from this association. I have noticed that everything growing near and under my mulberry tree is so healthy and lush and now I know why. At Spring Bay, sunflowers are everywhere and they have planted a whole semi-circle of mulberries on the edge of a large, curved bed.

When most annual vegetables and herbs finish producing, I just cut them at ground level and leaves the roots to dissolve back into the ground. For sunflowers you can leave the strong stem in the ground and, if you have a clump of them, they can be used in-situ as next spring’s pea poles. Planting brassicas amongst the sunflowers in late summer, as they begin to die back, can help confuse the cabbage moths….. perfect!

In spring and summer the paths in the vegetable garden are where I toss most of the weeds and finishing vegetable debris, including old sunflower leaves. (Or I just lay some on the garden surface, if the weeds don’t have seeds.) As I tread it all down on the paths, it all goes back into the soil. Eventually, during winter and early spring, I scoop up all the resulting compost with my spade and put it back on the garden, ready to start again. Thick stems on the paths can get be treacherous so they get tossed amongst the shrubbery and trees, to rot away slowly.

Biodiversity

If you go into a forest or walk by the sea or a river, or, in fact, anywhere in its natural habitat, you will see that plants live together; you won’t see one plant here, one plant there, with space and bare soil all around, so I am not sure why people plant vegetables like this! The Spring Bay garden and my garden are packed with plants; tall ones, young ones, flowering ones, old ones, climbing ones and creeping ones all together. There are bees and insects doing all the work, so we never have problems to deal with. Marcus even plants grasses, especially barley, in clumps in the vegetable garden beds because grasses do such good….. but I tell you now, I have grasses in my garden that I would LOVE to get rid of. Some grasses are definitely better than others!

If you want to improve your gut health, you need to eat as much variety of food plants as you can. Having a biodiverse garden is a great way to ensure you and your environment are healthy. Your garden becomes a place to forage and nibble.

Cygnet Seed Library launch party

The Cygnet Seed Library will be set up on the verandah of Oura Oura House and will contain locally saved seeds for you, the community, for free. To find out more, please do come to our launch party at Oura Oura House from 6pm – 9pm, this Friday, Feb. 5th. There will be seed saving demos, chats about seeds and some lawn games!

Side dressing time

Side dressing means a supplementary feed once the plants are well established. A good thing to do for hungry plants in our short summer season to keep them powering along before the weather changes.  Now is a good time to side dress fruit producing vegetables, such as tomatoes, zucchinis, pumpkins, capsicums and eggplants (if you are clever enough to grow them here). A dose of potash, well watered-in with a watering can of fish fertiliser (preferably the one that uses carp, which is a pest fish in the Murray River) and seaweed extract is my recommendation.

Early February is the last chance to feed your citrus because new growth stimulated to grow later, when autumn is approaching, will result in the tips being burnt off, even if the plants are in a sheltered place, simply because of the cold on tender citrus shoots. I use the carp fish fertiliser.

Seeds to sow in Feb.

Broccoli raab

Kale

Beetroot

Shungiku

Lettuce

Asian greens (late Feb.)

Carrots

Spinach & silver beet

Spring onions

Leeks

Hakurei turnips

Tas. swedes

Parsnips

Radishes

Seeds to save in Feb

Lettuce

Shungiku

Calendular marigolds

Tomatoes

Plant out /pot up now, yes now

Brussel sprouts

Cauliflower

Broccoli – regular, sprouting and raab

Salad vegetables

Leeks

 

Jobs for February

Plant, feed or move citrus

Summer prune stone fruits

Prepare beds for autumn plantings

Save seeds for next spring

Mulch with wet straw/silage

Give flowering veg a dose of potash

 

Preserve, cook, nourish

 

February 2020 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

So much has happened, in Australia and the world, since my last kitchen garden guide in December. Last year at this time we were in the midst of the fires. More than ever, food security is at risk, making it imperative that communities grow whatever they can for themselves. Tasmania can produce most of what we need, starting in our back yards and those of our neighbours and friends and on the small farms we see dotted about on the hills and valleys of our beautiful state. Bush foods abound too and more and more plants are becoming available at everyday outlets and specialty nurseries, propagated in Tasmania, by Tasmanians, as it should be. We are so very fortunate; let’s make use of our situation and grow food for one another. Check out ‘Crop Swaps’ near you and online.

Potting up seedlings

Locally grown seedlings are a great investment. Mostly, those at the Cygnet market and other markets are grown from seed saved in Tasmania, for Tasmanian conditions. If you, like me, quickly run out of space to plant out winter crops, in the middle of the summer vegetable garden, then transplanting punnet seedlings into individual pots is my suggestion. Brassicas are quite happy to grow this way for quite a while but you will need to pot them up again, into bigger pots, along the way. It is easy to protect them from the cabbage moth, with a wire basket and lace curtain from the tip shop. I use a cheap, basic potting mix to which I add some blood and bone and SeaMungus.

Greenhouse materials

I have a tiny, old, lean-to greenhouse attached to the eastern side of my house. It has proven to be excellent in several ways.

1.   The sides are made of a heavy duty, greenish solarweave film, which lets in lots of light but no direct sun, so everywhere in the greenhouse is brilliantly light but nothing gets burnt or overheated, even on the hottest day.

2.   Being a lean-to, it is quite low on the eastern side so the sun comes through the sloping, plastic roof for quite a while. This is old, floppy plastic film, that also is not clear. It works perfectly but if starting again, I would use coreflute, for longevity.

3.   On the northern and southern ends there are louvre windows, which I keep open most of the year. The door is also on the southern side. A wire screen door would be nice, so animals can’t get in even when the main door is open.

4.   An old brick wall runs in a U shape, along both sides of where I walk in and centre path is also brick. This holds some heat and keeps everything tidy on the raised beds. Instead of soil beds, I would prefer staggered shelves as it really is not necessary to actually grow vegetables for their whole life, in a greenhouse in Tasmania. I use it to start things off, to protect plants from the wind and for cuttings etc. I do, however, grow 6 large pots of basil in there and I have a sticky, nicotiana plant which catches aphids and white fly, growing in the ground. In winter, I bring some pots in, for frost protection, for example ornamental ginger.

5.   The greenhouse sticks out from the house on the northern side and gets many hours of low, winter sun. This is perfect. It is important to look at the angle of the sun from the horizon here, because 43 degrees south brings the sun very low in winter.

6.   The western side is the wall of the house so the greenhouse is totally shaded, but still very light in summer, in the afternoon.

Pear and cherry slug

If you see tiny little black ‘worms’ on the leaves of your pears, cherries, quinces and even plums and the leaves are turning brown and crisp, you have this slug. A simple control is to spray the entire tree with a mist of water then throw ash all over it. Do this a couple of times and they will be desiccated. Try to stand up-wind!

Managing wind

Fruit trees: Quince fruit seems to stay on despite summer wind, as do plums, apples, olives and Kentish cherries. Contrary to what you hear, citrus also seem to thrive on my verandah and in my garden despite the wind. Young trees bearing fruit will snap off in the wind so staking is necessary. I espalier my Bramley apple as the fruit are way too big and prolific for the branches. This means that the trellis takes the weight of the fruit and far fewer seem to drop off. If you live in a very windy area, I recommend you espalier the perimeter of your garden with fruit trees, all the way around. Actually this is a wonderful, practical and beautiful way to grow fruit and is common in many English and French gardens.

Tomatoes: When I plant my tomatoes out, I push in next to each one a tall, steel, twisty pole (available at Shiploads). As the tomato grows, the pole is shaped perfectly so the new tomato growth can be wound around the pole. Then I make circular,wire cages 720mm diameter and as high as you can buy the stiff, 50mm hole roll. 1200mm is good here, 1500mm would be lovely. Mine are only 900mm and is adequate. I bought a 30m roll. It is excellent quality and will last forever.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeds to sow in Feb.

Broccoli raab

Kale

Beetroot

Shungiku

Lettuce

Asian greens (late Feb.)

Carrots

Spinach & silver beet

Spring onions

Leeks

Hakurei turnips

Tas. swedes

Parsnips

Radishes

Seeds to save in Feb

Lettuce

Shungiku

Calendular marigolds

Plant out /pot up now, yes now

Brussel sprouts

Cauliflower

Broccoli – regular, sprouting and raab

Salad vegetables

Leeks

 

Jobs for February

Plant, feed or move citrus

Summer prune stone fruits

Prepare beds for autumn plantings

Save seeds for next spring

Mulch with wet straw/silage

Give flowering veg a dose of potash

 

Preserve, cook, nourish