Kitchen Garden Guides

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seattle's wealth of experience in community gardens

This afternoon I have been doing a bit of research on community gardens and I have discovered a fantastic set of resources based around the Seattle Local Government and also the P-Patch system. There, online for all to use, are so many wonderful pdf documents covering everything from how to set up, fund and manage a community garden, to graphs of produce grown per person or per acre or per season for every community garden in Seattle for many years and how much was donated to foodbanks and other charities. There are even templates of labels you can print off, in several languages, for every conceivable edible plant you might want to grow. And there is a seasonal newsletter, packed as full as a goog with all kinds of happenings, ideas and information like these:

2010 Declared
Seattle Year
of Urban Agriculture

Mayor McGinn and the City Council released a joint
press announcement on Wednesday, February 3 to
announce 2010 as the city’s Year of Urban Agriculture.
This exciting campaign highlights the city’s work on
food systems policy and city-community partnerships
being organized around urban agriculture in Seattle.

News from Lettuce Link

by Sadie Beauregard, Lettuce Link, Harvest Coordinator
In 2009, P-Patchers donated over 27,400 pounds of fresh produce to two
dozen food banks and hot meals programs in Seattle. Thanks to many
of you who shared the bounty of your harvest with your neighbors who
struggle to feed their families. As you plan out your garden for 2010,
keep these tips in mind:
• Plant an extra row. The more you plant to give away, the more you
can help.
• Plant just two extra crops. This will result in a larger harvest of
fewer items, which is better for food banks.
• It’s all about veggies. Plant hearty, familiar crops (no exotic or
heirloom varieties): beets, carrots, collard greens, green onions,
beans, peas, cucumbers, pak choi/bok choy, radishes, peppers,
tomatoes, cilantro, spinach and head lettuce.
• Food banks love herbs. Package herbs in small bundles to ease
distribution. Label the packages. Dill, basil, rosemary, cilantro and
bay leaves are popular.
• Plant successively. Many crops can be grown several times during
a season—lettuce, green onions, spinach, radishes, carrots and
cilantro to name a few.
• Grow less chard and kale. Chard and kale grow spectacularly in
Seattle, yet are not spectacularly popular at food banks. Clients
don’t recognize or know how to prepare these greens and they
often go unused. However, if you have time to teach a cooking
demonstration at your local food bank, bring some hearty greens
Want to learn more? Whether you have a row, a food bank plot, or want
to donate from your own garden, Lettuce Link would love to help you
get started. The Lettuce Link website has many resources, including
multilingual veggie signs, giving garden tips, names and locations of
Seattle area food banks and more. To join the many P-Patchers who
nourish their neighbors each season by gardening and giving, contact
Sadie at or 206-

Spotlight on:
City Fruit
from the website at

City-grown fruit is a resource for the entire community. Because most
residential tree owners can’t—or don’t—use all the fruit produced
on their properties, much of it falls to the ground and rots. In
addition, much of the fruit grown in urban landscapes is infested with
preventable pests.
City Fruit works neighborhood by neighborhood to help residential tree
owners grow healthy fruit, to harvest and use what they can, and to
share what they don’t need. City Fruit collaborates with others involved
in local food production, climate protection, horticulture, food security
and community-building to protect and optimize urban fruit trees.
City Fruit is in the process of becoming a non-profit corporation with
a 501(c)(3) tax exemption. It is supported by donations, memberships,
sales and grants.
City Fruit has a variety of projects going on, including Phinney
Sustainable Fruit Harvest, Urban Fruit Tree Mapping, Fruit Trees and
City Parks, and hands-on workshops and classes throughout the year
on topics including pruning, fruit tree selection, preserving, and more.
Visit their website to see more about their current projects or send
ideas for new ones, to view advice on growing fruit, and to find out
about upcoming workshops and classes.



And these are not just community gardens full of boring boxed plots.... these are beautiful, creative, enticing, community spaces for the enjoyment of all.... such as this new one.....featured in the newsletter.

And finally a note from the editors of this 12 page newsletter :

Note from the Editors:
We would like the P-Patch Post to reflect the diversity of gardeners in the Seattle P-Patch
Program. We welcome stories about P-Patch gardeners who bring techniques and crops from all parts of the world, individuals who have stewarded the P-Patch Program over time, novice gardeners and their adventures, etc. Please contact us at with ideas, gardener profiles, information about crops, recipes, and photos. The whole community will benefit from this wealth of experience.
- Deb Britt, Sue Letsinger and Susan Levine

Create a Successful Giving Garden in YOUR P-Patch

Leadership Handbook

Seattle Gov - Department of Neighborhoods

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To Everything....turn, turn,turnips... (The Seekers, 1967?)


Recently someone gave me some turnips from the local community garden and, to tell the truth, I have never grown them or even cooked them much, steering as I often do, away from the English food my mother always cooked. Don't get me wrong, she is a good cook and I got my love of cooking straight from her, but there wasn't so much variety back when I was kid and those darn English settlers insisted on growing only what they knew back in the old mother country! Luckily now we have other choices of seeds to grow and produce to buy, that is grown locally....Back to the turnips.


First, I sauteed them in butter and olive oil, turning them to coat and brown. I used plenty of butter - if you are going to cook a good, English meal, you need plenty of butter, I reckon. Otherwise it would be like fish and chips without lots of salt - a bit pointless!


Soon they were browning up and the I put in a good 1/2 cup of white wine and the same of water, scraped the brown bits off the bottom and it was looking good. I put the lid on for about another 10 minutes.


When the rest of the meal was ready to serve, I threw in the chopped turnip leaves - something my mother would never do! - and boiled the excess liquid off. Actually, I also added some chopped bok choy from my garden too. Next time I would thicken that yummy liquid a bit or use more liquid, chop the turnips up more and serve it as a soup. Excellent winter lunch that would be.

Give it a bit of salt and pepper and there you go, my turnip recipe. Deeelicious!

I originally wrote this on the Hills and Plains Seedsavers blog back in May 2008. At the time, Inanna left another turnip recipe in the comments and here it is. I am going to cook this next week; I love dumplings when its raining and cold outside. I will put both of these on Gardeners' Gastronomy in a moment.... but I have a zucchini cake to finish making now and a green tomato chutney bubbling on the stove.

Harvest Stew with Fresh Herbs & Dumplings
*1 c. pear nectar
*1 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
*1 T Dijon mustard
*3 tsp chopped fresh thyme
*1 tsp salt
*Freshly ground pepper
*1 small (1 lb) butternut squash, peeled & cu into 1-inch chunks
*3 small turnips, peeled and quartered
*2 carrots, peeled and sliced
*2 zucchini, sliced
*1 medium onion, chopped
*1/2 tart apple, cored, peeled & grated
*6 garlic cloves, chopped
*1 c. all-purpose flour
*2 tsp baking powder
*1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
*2 T unsalted butter, melted
*1 T chopped scallions
*Whisk together pear nectar, broth, mustard, 2 tsp thyme, ½ tsp salt and pepper in a large saucepan. Add the squash, turnips, carrots, zucchini, onion, apple and garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered until the veggies are just tender (about 15 minutes).
*Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder and remaining ½ tsp salt in a large bowl. Combine the buttermilk and butter in another bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the mixture forms a soft dough. Stir in the scallions and remaining 1 tsp of thyme.
*Drop the dough by 6 heaping tablespoons onto the simmering stew. Simmer the stew, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then cover and cook until the dumplings are firm (about 10 minutes more).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Seed Sowing at Last..... almost

It all started last night in bed, really. I decided that Sunday was going to be a big seed sowing day. I mean, all those men and women who fought in wars to keep Australia a free country deserve commemoration and I thought sowing seeds to give new life would be my contribution for ANZAC day. So I was up early and, a bit like with the sailing scenario, it was not ideal weather...... bloody cold with frequent showers, but hey, they don't postpone wars if it rains, so I soldiered on ( I guess that's where that phrase comes from, now I think about it).

I could not spend the day squatting over a bin full of compost, so first I had to find a way to elevate the bin and make some shelves to put the finished boxes of seeds on. And since I was going to be putting them in the rough old poly house, some decisions needed to be made about how it was all going to fit in. Then the search began to find something to use as a frame for a bench. Surely, I thought, I have found and used every single useful thing in this whole place by now!

image It is funny how, when you look at things with a particular use in mind, everything looks different! The previous owners had left me literally hundreds of pots, of every size and they had thrown them into what I now saw were large bakers' crates and, what is more, the crates were resting on some kind of old frames. Oh no! This meant totally rearranging the whole garden shed..... did I want to do this now? No, but these frames were so ideal I just had to get on with it. Here are what turned out to be fruit pickers' bunks, removed and now ready to use! I cannot imagine sleeping on these very narrow hessian/canvas slings. I must be getting old.....

image And so the day progressed in a similar fashion, walking around searching for just the thing for this or that job until finally, by lunch time, I had something more or less ready to use. It certainly doesn't look like much but to me it is a beautiful sight and cost me nothing at all. I especially like the use I found for the old fire hose reel, under the blue soil bin, which I would have thrown out by now if it had fitted in the rubbish bin! You can barely see the bed frame now but it is very sturdy..... I have another one in the big shed!!

image Over lunch I had been listening to the radio and heard the forecast for frost in inland Tasmania tonight and this reminded me of the warning Peter Cundall gave on his radio show here, saying it was too late now to sow lettuce outside. There are dozens and dozens of lettuce seedlings self-sown in my veg garden and one night soon there may well be frost here in Cygnet so instead of sowing seeds I decided I should shift some of the lettuce seedlings to inside the poly house........ More thinking..... and watering the dry soil on the other side of the house..... and removing wooden edges that only serve as homes for slugs and snails....... then changing the shape of the bed...... and finally ever so carefully digging up and transplanting the seedlings most exposed. At the same time I thought I might as well shift some of my mizuna too as it probably doesn't like frost either. I have lots of dry leaves about the place so began to collect them and use them on the paths, as in the photo.image

  I have 2 clumps of alpine strawberry, evidently. They are little, white, delicious strawberries which never go red and my plants are covered in flowers and new fruit so I also moved the big tin box of them inside the poly house too, for the winter..... which was no mean feat and required more thinking.....



By this time it was 3.30pm and I was too tired to begin sieving and mixing volumes of stuff to sow seeds.Tomorrow is another day, thanks to the diggers, and then I really will sow some seeds.



Saturday, April 24, 2010

Boats with Smiles

There were gale force winds and rain forecast for Saturday so Liz rang me up and asked me to go for a sail.... well I did previously say anytime would be ok! We launched ourselves off the shore in the dinghy to row out to the mooring; the sun shining and the sea a glassy calm. I knew nothing about the boat other than it is made of concrete and is 20' long. I did not expect such a beautiful little creature as Verity, a Flicka 20, which are born, as one magazine cutting says "with smiles on their faces".

With all the quality fittings of a big cruiser, this 1981 yacht can handle anything.... which I was very pleased to learn as the wind began to come up in gusts from every direction, once we had the jib up!

Picturesque barely conjures up the natural beauty as we sailed down the coast from Cygnet to Lymington. As we looked north we left behind the green pastures of Cygnet and all around us gently rose the layer upon layer of forested and farmed hills. While south, the bay opens up and eventually reaches the Channel, as they call the stretch of water between Bruny Island and the coast. It is deep right to the shore, and was once where large ships would load apples for export..... after being a common escape destination for convicts in the early 1800's!

The gusty and at times strong and turbulent wind kept us concentrating, but only added to the enjoyment of a cup of tea and a biscuit. Eventually the wind set itself firmly from the north, and of course this was exactly the direction we needed to sail into to return home. After several tacks we gave in, took down the jib and put up the iron sails. Back on the mooring, the rain and gale force winds unleashed themselves so we settled down in the cosy and roomy cabin for another cup of tea.

I did not take my camera as I had heard that this dinghy was very leaky, so I found a photo of another Flicka 20 online. Next week there is a wonderful weekend on near here, at Franklin, called "Daggy Dinghy Day" where you take your daggiest dinghy and someone there will tell you how to restore it to its former glory..... Liz is taking hers. However, I would call her's quaint and beautiful..... stable, light and wooden.... with oars to die for..... just in need of recaulking and a lick of paint. We have a little deal..... I help fix it up and I can take it out in the bay for a spot of squidding now and then. What could be better than that?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cooking Kale and Other European Greens

I was very skeptical when son Hugh, the chef, told me how he was going to cook the silver beet and kale we picked from his garden, back in Adelaide, back in December. Well the proof of the pudding is in the cooking and I sat at his table, wondering if I would be able to tell the difference.... sometimes chefs see and taste things with senses the rest of us have not honed! At the first mouthful, I was converted. Never had my cooked leaves been so full of juice and such a vibrant green as these, although I would not have realised it until now.

 image So, tonight when I was about to cook a big pan full of kale, to form the base to sit my osso buco on, I remembered Hugh's instructions: Bring to a good boil lots of water. The reason for this is so that the water stays boiling even when you add the leaves. Add the leaves (I chop them a little first) and keep up the boiling; do not let it go off the boil even for a moment.... and you need to have the lid off.... I forget why! I don't remember if Hugh added salt but I didn't.

Immediately the kale was all in the pot, I put my osso buco in the microwave to heat for 2.5 minutes. When the timer went off, I tested the kale and it was done perfectly so I poured it into a colander and ground plenty of pepper over it then put it on my plate. I placed the osso buco on top and can say that, like when Hugh cooked it, the leaves were vivid green and so full of juice I nearly choked on it!image

Thanks Hugh .......... Buono appetito!

ps Everyone knows I love leaves but did you know I could eat a whole dinner plate full of them? Topped with a small serve of osso buco, it was delicious.... but I forgot to photograph it!!

Community Gardens.... who are they for?

image Since coming here to Cygnet I have been wondering who the local community garden is for. The beautiful sign has been removed. It feels more like a private club than a community space.

  Almost everyone in this rural area has land; even the new town blocks are big enough to grow plenty of food.... so why have a Cygnet Community Garden? I went to the weekly community garden day on Monday, along with about 8 or more others. I did some weeding, met some people, had a coffee at a local cafe afterwards then went home. It felt a bit soulless but, since it was only my first time, I thought I would probably get used to it before too long. I asked the old timers what was the idea of the garden, who was it for? imageThe answer was "It is for people who want to garden with others and learn about growing food."  It is a huge space for so few people to work; so huge that it is overgrown and lacking the "life" I saw in the community gardens I visited with Melinda, in Seattle (photo is of the E Thomas St P-Patch, Seattle). As a beginner gardener I think I would feel lost there and, like so many others evidently, drift away.There were 2 newcomers plus me.... we all felt the same.

Then I read Pattie's most recent blog piece about The Ton for Hunger Drive where people are growing food to help others. I think this is the best piece Pattie has ever written and I now feel inspired to try some of her inclusive ideas for making community gardens a core part of the community, for everyone. Once an area is ready for planting into, Pattie puts out the word..... " Come and plant some of your spare seedlings in a space marked with a little flag. Here are some suggestions of plants we need......". This means that :

  • people can call in at any time..... not just the allocated sessions
  • there are no requirements for you to make any commitment
  • people are more likely to visit the garden again to see how their donations are doing and may become regular helpers over time
  • people can stand around, chat, laugh, meet neighbours etc and not feel they have to be fit enough to do lots of work
  • when the food is grown, there is a bigger group of people who may be willing to help harvest and distribute the food to needy families
  • the breadth of ownership of the project grows and grows and the community garden truly becomes a garden by and for everyone in the community, with everyone welcome to contribute in whatever way they can
  • the needy families themselves have an opportunity to give some time too,  meaning they can learn to grow food for themselves and even help feed others through their actions.
  • all sorts of activities could be encouraged in the garden space and people really would learn not just to grow food but to belong


Of course there needs to be a group of regular weeders, waterers and organisers but, and this is a big but, success is measured in how much can be given away, not by how much they produce for themselves. This approach would soon weed out the power hungry and encourage the philanthropic, the creative and the generous spirited.

Perhaps this could be the future focus of the Cygnet Permaculture Food Forest, because permaculture seeks to integrate rather than segregate as well as focusing on opportunities rather than obstacles. It could be the start of the Huon Valley Sustainability Plan, in conjunction with Transition towns of Tasmania.


In another excellent article of Pattie's she asks...the city of Seattle sustainability plan establishes a level of service of one community garden for every 2,500 citizens. In my city, that would mean we need 16 community gardens. What would it mean for your city?

Click here to find out more!There are many different ways to make a community garden something wonderful for its community and none better than on tonight's episode of Costa's Garden Odyssey, on SBS, about the Kevin Heinze Garden Centre, and a centre for gardening it certainly is. People of all ages, with disabilities, have their own plots which gives them a sense of achievement and responsibility rarely possible in the rest of their lives. The smiles on their faces would bring a tear to anyone's eyes.

Another community garden Costa visited was the Maidstone Community Centre garden.... Maidstone is a melting pot of ethnic culture in Melbourne’s west. The community centre caters for about 8000 people a month from 20 different cultural groups, providing services such as cooking and language classes through to migrant and senior citizen’s support.... Community gardens can play a critical role bringing people together. Saida Mohamed, lived in Kenya before moving to Australia seven years ago. She works at the centre, but loves the garden because it brings people together. “You don’t have to talk about your culture or anything in particular but can come and garden and just it is good,” she says.



Community gardens need to be whatever it is that community needs.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hobart Poultry Show and a Bookcase

It was another one of those occasions when the advertising preceding the event made me think that there would be signs as I approached Glenorchy to indicate where I would find the Hobart Showgrounds and the chook show I was so looking forward to seeing. Alas! Not one sign did I see but Glenorchy is not that big so eventually I found a street full of cars and followed the people..... but the sign on the gate only mentioned a gun show! I asked at the entrance and the young man said yes..... just walk right through the showgrounds to the far corner and I would find the Southern Tasmanian Bantam Club show. I imagined having to walk all this way back, carrying a couple of chooks in a box!


Remarkably, that is exactly what this old woman was doing. In the basket on the front of her walker was a plastic crate holding 2 chickens.... I wonder how far she had come! I was so surprised that by the time I got myself organised and managed to extract the camera from my bag, she had well and truly passed me, otherwise I would have asked her to show me her purchase and really had something interesting to write instead of this drivel.image

Inside the poultry pavilion, which was unsigned again (and in a sea of possible sheds) were hundreds and hundreds of cages of chooks, ducks, turkeys and maybe other things. They came in every colour and size imaginable. A lot of the cages were empty because the inmates had been sold in the first hour the show was open!  I have decided I would like to have ducks because I just loved all the ducks in the show but I managed not to buy any this  day because I have no idea what they need.




So, what on earth is this? At least the ducks looked like ducks!




If you wanted to buy a particular bird, you removed the sign from its cage, as these people are doing, you took it to the desk, paid your money and they got the bird out and gave it to you in a box..... all very organised.

Today, Monday, the day after the show, I met a woman at the Community Garden, just so coincidentally..... who has 70 or so birds, mostly ducks! She has asked me around to see her setup later this week.... I could hardly believe it when she told me..... this kind of thing keeps happening to me here at Cygnet!

imageOn the way back to the car I wandered through another market, this time row after row of bric-a-brac and shocking smelling fast food and hundreds of fat people all stuffing their faces.... enough to make me sick. But way in the distance I could just see one lone stall with furniture, all set out on the grass and there imageI found a small, very solid bookcase just ever so perfect for my cookbooks. Here it is in my kitchen.

I also saw, amongst all the junk and the bad food, a little reminder of France.... ("Would you like a piece of chocolate cake?") ....  but made in China!


I sat down here to write something very thought-provoking tonight but somehow the Southern Tasmanian Bantam Club show got in the way! Now I have finished making runny quince jelly and am too tired to write any more.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


image I think there is no vegetable more worthy of a place in the gardens of the world than amaranth. That is a BIG statement, from one who loves so many vegetables and I have previously said that I thought fennel was my favourite! But that was for its versatility, not its beauty.

There is leaf amaranth and seed amaranth. There is regular (green) or purple; it is this spectacular purple one that I have grown....and I have an idea mine was seed amaranth, which I sowed to supplement the chook food. Actually, in the end I collected some of the super tiny grains, offered them to the chooks in my hand and the vote was unanimous....."Are you crazy? Bring us some spaghetti or sunflower seeds.... not this tiny stuff!"

image Once you have amaranth, you will always have it and the self-sown seedlings transplant easily. It would look spectacular amongst sunflowers, as a backdrop to any garden bed. The young leaves can be eaten in salads and even the toughest, oldest leaves cook beautifully. Since they grow to over a metre or even to 2m in height, and grow for months and months over spring, summer and autumn, you will have plenty of time to cook them. Even when the gorgeous long, pink flower tassels are produced, the leaves stay edible and simply become more brilliant in colour. The seeds are very good for you.... but you will need glasses on to see them!


Laura at Mas du Diable has recently written a great piece about the amaranth's history, propagation and uses and this is what made me think of recommending it to some people in the northern hemisphere who could be sowing it now.

You get about a million microscopic seeds in a packet, so they are also incredibly economical and very fast to grow to a picking size.


Please, Heiko, sow some soon and tell us what you think. Buon appetito!

Friday, April 16, 2010

How to tell if your house is crooked












shadows never lie.....

An Ugly Blemish

I have been writing only of all the good things I have discovered here but there are some bad and some ugly as well. The first and worst is the logging industry which continues to cut down old growth forests, replant them with a monoculture and call it sustainable forestry. Beautiful old and rare rainforests are being chipped and sent to Japan to be made into office paper!! The excellent roads I have driven on in Tasmania are excellent because they are logging routes and here, logging rules. It makes me sick to see enormous trucks, laden with ancient timber, hurtling along highways and through small country towns, so I chose to live off the logging route and only experience its horrors when I have no choice but to use those roads.

image Well, that is what I thought until a week or so ago, when massive plumes of smoke rose from beyond the hills, blocking out the afternoon sun in the west. It was not until someone told me that I realised this was a consequence of the logging..... burning everything that is left.... it is so sad, so unbelievably stupid and amazingly ridiculous that they are allowed to send ancient forest remnants soaring into the air as carbon in this day and age! Here, you cannot escape the logging.

But there are, thankfully, people who do more than just moan about things. The Greens and The Wilderness Society are very strong in Tasmania, with the Greens getting 20% of the vote in the recent elections. In Cygnet, it was 40% for the Greens.(And there I was pleased when in South Australia 10% of the vote in Burnside was for the Greens!) A delegation from the Forest Stewardship Council went to Japan, to speak to the customers who buy the wood chips.They have made some huge gains as this news item explains:

Green groups hope rule change curbs logging

By Felicity Ogilvie for PM, ABC

Posted Mon Feb 1, 2010 10:45pm AEDT

Environmental groups are hoping that rule changes will soon force the Tasmanian timber giant Gunns to end old growth logging.

Their hopes are based on the interest that Gunns has shown in getting certification from non-profit organisation the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The council does not allow companies to take timber from high-conservation-value forests and the process would force Gunns to negotiate with environmental groups.

Gunns, which has made millions selling woodchips to Japan, will not say if it plans to stop logging old-growth forests.

But the Japanese no longer want to buy woodchips that are not certified by the FSC.

Read the rest here:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nuts and seeds collected today in my garden


image image
image image
 image  image the beautiful, rich-coloured juice of some of my apples

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hey, I have some ideas!

Probably the thing I am best at is having ideas. It is up to others to decide if they are wise or otherwise! Lately I have been spending more and more time sitting at a little round table by the big, sunny window in the lounge. There are several reasons for this.... I am lazy, I can see lots of the garden from here, it is one step from "Deb's" verandah where I am heading but don't quite make it, and I sit here taking in the vibes of this place, wondering what to make of what I see.

A previous owner made this part of the garden from everything she found washed up on the beaches nearby but this is her personal perspective and really has no relevance to me. It is a nice, triangular space, almost a walled space.... edged as it is by the high, curved slope of the dam wall and the driftwood fence, the side of the house, and the perimeter fence which is going to be screened with edible bushes and small trees.

Heronswood's vegetable parterre

For many years I have had a postcard of Heronswood - the home of Diggers - showing this circular vegetable garden, surrounded by vertical spaces for climbing fruit and veg... Also, my friend Kathy from Bridgewater, SA has a gorgeous circular herb garden and small, shady arbour, which I have admired for a long time.... and so I am thinking of doing something circular with my triangle!




Here is a sketch... please click to enlarge and read it..... a herb circle of about 6m in diameter in the wide part of the triangle.... surrounded by bushy fruits and nuts..... mostly.... but incorporating a strip of flowers and natives and just some other plants I think would be suitable. North is to the right and evidently this is also where a fierce wind comes from in spring, so I am keeping this in mind too. I am open to any suggestions.


The only problem is that there is a huge, strappy-leafed plant in that area and I am not sure I can dig it up by myself.... anyone want a little holiday in Tasmania?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poa grasses

In South Australia I often heard people talk about the old days when they had a poa grass lawn, before everybody watered their lawns. Poa is a group of grasses native to parts of Australia and some are drought and/or frost hardy, ranging in location from river banks to alpine regions. I have never seen a poa lawn, however, and wondered why nobody seemed to sell the seed.

image At the food forest here in Cygnet one of the first jobs was to remove all the poa grass which at one time somebody had planted. Everybody seemed to know what this was except me but I soon understood.... it was those huge clumps of dead looking stuff! This must be different to the SA poa grass, surely! Like the others, I threw the clumps into a big heap as Celia told us to..... but later I discovered her plan. You see, the long, brown, dry, reedy grass can be harvested regularly through the year, simply by giving the clumps a hair cut, and used as an excellent, fine mulch which does not break down as fast as straw. They were almost a metre high when we cut them.

image So, at the end of the gardening session, we each cut and left the mulch to use next week, and took the clumps home, with soil attached, to plant in our own gardens to give a supply of mulch for next summer. Here in the photo are my shorn clumps, all planted. Well, why aren't we doing this in our gardens in SA?? I know there are grasses in the nurseries but I did not know much about using them.



Already the poas I planted after the first garden session have sprouted new growth and I look forward to having a border around my lawn before long but more, I look forward to harvesting my own mulch when I need it.



Both of the photos below have links that will take you to the source of the photos and to wonderfully interesting native Australian plant nurseries.

Poa Labillardieri or 'Large Tussock Grass' is a clumping species to nearly 1m with grey-green leaves. Hardy, frost tolerant and drought tolerant this Poa is great for borbers and landscape plantings. Poa australis or 'Blue Tussock Grass' is a smaller growing species approx 30cm. and like all Poa is attractive to birds. Poa sieberiana is the 'Grey Tussock Grass' and is found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

The S.A.State Flora Nursery at Belair has an incredible range of plants including the poa labillardieri, on page 34 of the extensive but not very user-friendly online catalogue.