Kitchen Garden Guides

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

October 2017 Kitchen Garden Guide

It seems that all our winter rain has come at once and many gardens are too wet, after a record dry June and July. If your soil is full of organic matter you will notice that the rain has penetrated deep, the big native worms have moved up into the top 20 centimetres and the soil is damp and beautiful indicating the perfect conditions for weeds and grass to germinate!

If you cannot keep on top of the weeds and grass, but the bed has not reverted totally to turf, simply cover it with plenty of hay, layering it with a thorough but thin covering of compost (and bio-char, if you have some) as you go. Then, when you are ready to plant into it, make a hole in the hay, add a good handful of compost and slip each seedling into its home. From then on pull the weeds and grass as they appear. This will be easy! Keep topping up with compost and hay all summer long.

Other amendments may be helpful, but we are trying to provide the right conditions for the soil microbes, who will do much of the work for you. Overfeeding your plants will kill the microbes in the soil and require you to add more and more amendments, forever!

Tasmanian plants for the kitchen garden

Along with herbs and vegetables that originate from other countries, plant some Tasmanian edibles. Not only can you eat them but they will bring beneficial insects and native birds to your garden.  And when you walk in the forests you will see them growing wild.

Did you see Tino, on Gardening Australia this week, planting native, edible plants in The Patch at the Tasmanian Botanic Gardens? Catch it on iview. Below are some of the plants he used plus some I have in my garden…..

Gaultheria hispida - Snowberry – a very pretty and quite tough plant with berries that look like balls of snow. This plant is recolonizing much of the previously bare hills surrounding Queenstown now.

Tasmannia lanceolate - Tasmanian Pepperberry – A mountain plant which does remarkably well in gardens, protected from afternoon sun in summer. Leaves and berries make excellent replacements for imported pepper. Be sure to plant females for the berries. You only need males if you want to propagate from the berries (just as you only need roosters if you want to have fertile eggs).

Ozomanthus – An open bush with tiny leaves, resembling thyme in looks and taste. I use it regularly wherever you’d use thyme. It has masses of beautiful, cream flower heads in summer. Mine grows in dry, semi-shade under an oak tree. Others I planted in lusher, brighter places all died.

Rubus parvifolius – Native raspberry – a very fine climber, with tiny little raspberries which are quite sweet. Worth growing. Very hard to weed around as the stems are so fine and easily broken.

Apium prostratum – Sea Celery – A salt herb used widely in restaurants these days but also eaten by early settlers and Captain Cook and his crews. This rambling shrub prefers dry conditions.

Kunzea ambigua – a lovely hedging plant for poor soils with masses of sweet-scented flowers. The leaves are useful for tea and have one of the best herb flavours for cooking of all the Tasmanian plants.

Cyttaria gunnii (Myrtle Fungus) - An edible fungus, which only grows on Myrtle Beech trees (Nothofagus cunninghami ) and cannot be mistaken for any other species. It has a mild, slightly apricot flavour. Look for them between Nov - Jan .

Prickly Currant Bush (Coprosma quadrifida): Forms sweet orange berries that can be eaten raw or made into a pie. The tiny spines provide protection for small birds. Consider the spines when choosing a location for these plants. To encourage bushy growth, pinch out the tips.

Coast Beard-Heath (Leucopogon parviflorus): Widespread throughout Australia, mainly along the coast. Forms a small white flower followed by a white berry. Grows well in sandy soils, avoid heavy clay. Small shrub - can be used as a hedge.

Flinders Island Celery (Apium insulare):  Grows only on the Bass Strait islands and Lord Howe Island. Stems can be eaten just like conventional celery and the leaves are a good alternative to parsley. Perennial plant that dies down in winter, but comes back year after year.

More information can be found on the Tas Wild Edibles facebook page and the Gardening Australia website. Plants and knowledge can be sourced at Plants of Tasmania in Ridgeway.

Citrus care.

  • October is a good time to feed your citrus.
  • Don’t use too strong if your plants are in tubs or you may burn their shallow roots.
  • Sprinkle 1 tsp. Epsom salts around each pot, or more if in the ground. Water in well.
  • Give a liquid feed such as seaweed and fish, all over all the foliage and soil, every 2 weeks.
  • Mine live on my sunny and windy verandah and thrive. I move them forward as the angle of the sun rises, to get as much sun as possible.
  • The frost damaged citrus in my garden will not get this treatment until they are looking stronger.

Sow in October
For transplanting later, especially in frost prone areas
Any vegetable that fruits or with edible seeds: (Tomatoes – a bit late), zucchinis, corn, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, capsicums, eggplants (good luck!!)
In fact sow almost anything you have seeds of including flowers and herbs galore.
Leaves, legumes and roots
Lettuce and other salad greens, beetroot, parsnips, carrots, peas, radish, celery, summer spinach and brassicas….. and of course lots of herbs; all of them.
Tip: If you have grass problems in your beds, sow everything in trays and plant out later.

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