Kitchen Garden Guides

Monday, July 12, 2021

July 2019 Kitchen garden Guide

 There’s been frost, snow, frozen pipes, frozen plants, no wind and too much wind as well as unusually warm days and nights, through June. One thing has been constant in south eastern Tasmania; not enough rain to wet the soil beyond a few centimetres or to fill tanks and dams. Let’s hope things are different during July. Keep watering your celeriac or risk no bulbing.

Frost

Some plants love frost and others hate it. Some plants are ok if they are eased into it but this year it came hard and fast after some very balmy weather. Edible things which hate sudden, hard frosts include my Lisbon lemon tree and most other citrus, hearting lettuce, nasturtiums, and, obviously, warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkins etc. Even the Meyer lemon and the limes in tubs on my verandah had their tips burnt by that recent, very cold night or two, which has never happened before.

I was once in Japan in late autumn and saw workers wrapping special shrubs and small trees in parks with bundles of straw to keep them safe from the cold. They still looked beautiful as only the Japanese know how! I know from experience that just covering my lemon with either multiple layers of lace curtains or plastic and even surrounding it in bales of hay, stacked 2 high is not enough. I am going to do a full-scale straw wrap, Japanese style, this week before any more damage is done. It does not matter that it will exclude light as very little work is done by tender plants over winter. At least it should survive.

I grow vegetables in every season and both myself and the vegetables I grow revel in a good, hard frost. These include brassicas (broccoli, red cabbage and kales in particular), chard, oniony things, fennel, some loose leaf lettuces, sorrel, garlic, Asian greens such as bok choy, wasabi greens, mustard greens, mizuna, radishes, carrots, parsnips, swedes, celeriac and some herbs such as chervil, coriander, nettles, bay, calendula, chives and parsley. Do you need any more? Sow these in summer and early autumn…. put it in your e-diary for next year.

Chooks

Every afternoon I feed my chooks organic grains that have been soaked at least 24 hours. If I have whey or something else fermented, like kefir or kombucha or yoghurt, I add a bit of that to the soaking water. In winter I include whole sunflower seeds and /or cracked corn (even polenta will do) which are warming and will sit in their crops overnight, helping to reduce cold stress. They keep laying all winter.

Bokashi

You know those big, horrible, black compost bins (a great breeding ground for red back spiders in Adelaide!) that people buy then hate then give away? Well, a friend and I are experimenting using them as massive bokashi bins. Bokashi is a system that breeds lots of wonderful micro-organisms without oxygen, so without turning! Every time you add some garden waste to the bin you squash it down hard and sprinkle with a bit of bokashi inoculated bran (easy and cheap at hardware shops). You never have to turn it and can add stuff whenever you like. It won’t smell yukky either. Once it is full, leave it for a month or so. Delicious. I reckon this is going to be a winner because you can put a bin anywhere in your garden, fill it at your leisure and all the goodies will leach out the bottom too. Bokashi is advertised to be used in your kitchen, for cooking scraps, using special buckets which drain, which I also do, but I reckon outside bokashi is going to be amazing. Once fully composted, dig it into your garden beds and watch your vegetables go mad!

Fermented compost update

(See May 2019 for the intro to this method that I saw being used at Government House).

So, after 2 weeks we removed the tarp as directed and white fungus was everywhere. It was so exciting. We had thought that turning the heap would be difficult because we had added a lot of very long tromboncino/pumpkin vines but already, after only 2 weeks, they had shrivelled and were almost indistinguishable from everything else. Turning was easy peasy. Following the instructions, we sprayed over more microbes, piled it all up, covered with the tarp, trampled it down and secured the tarp so it stays relatively air-free for another 2 weeks. Stay tuned….

Sow in July

Sow now in the frosty garden: Onions (Creamgold, Domenica Sweet), leeks, broad beans, tic bean green manure

Sow now in the hothouse in trays to plant out asap or outside in frost free areas: Coriander, miners’ lettuce, spring onions, Asian veg, lettuce, bok choy, sugar snap peas, lettuce,

Sow now to transplant in spring: Broccoli varieties such as summer purple- sprouting and raab , red cabbage, kales, tomatoes.

July jobs

·         Get started on making fermented compost or bokashi compost.

·         Plant asparagus crowns, cut off old asparagus stalks and add seaweed and compost

·         Divide and replant clumps of chives and other perennial onions, rhubarb, strawberries, sunchokes and mint

·         Plant out deciduous trees and shrubs, bare-rooted fruit trees, cane fruits and grape vines.

·         Sort your seeds for the coming season

·         Get your favourite tomato seeds before they are sold out. Sow later in July.

·         Sow microgreens inside, in shallow trays of compost, for an enzyme hit to keep your immune system pumped during winter. Include fenugreek.

·         Sprinkle fire ash judiciously right out to the drip line of fruit trees

July 2020 Kitchen garden Guide


Water

Managing, rather than draining away, the water that falls on your land and the water that flows from elsewhere onto and through your land is an often misunderstood concept. For some reason getting rid of this water is seen as the aim, whereas making use of this water in the landscape is much more beneficial to you, to the flora and fauna, to the soil life and aesthetically. Of course, rural living often means capturing and storing the water that lands on structures but even this can be achieved more attractively.

Seattle is a city of inspiration, when it comes to community gardens and interesting ways to manage water. I spent a fabulous few days there in 2008, being shown around by a fellow food gardening blogger, discovering their incredible P-Patch system of community gardens as well as the quirky and fascinating downpipes and drainage reserves all over the city.

My current renovations include new roof areas and downpipes and I will be incorporating some ideas from Seattle. One of these is to suspend 2 downpipes out across the path, above head height, into part of the vegetable garden, then down a series of interesting sculptures, into a purpose built but attractive ditch which will, with a series of small soakage ponds, take excess water to an already existing, large pond. The ditch and small ponds will encourage as much water as possible to soak in and will provide spots to grow riparian plants and bog plants near the downfall and will water various fruit trees along the way, decreasing to less water hungry plants further down the system. The position of the overflow from the big pond will be changed so that it meanders through and soaks into my new Japanese garden. Finally, if water makes it right to the end of all this, it will end up in the creek at the front of my property, which is itself already a series of ponds with overflow points, made by a previous owner.

If I had left the design to the plumber, there would be ditches dug and hundreds of metres of pvc pipe channelling all the water to the creek. Yuk.

Feijoas

A delicious, winter-ripening fruit is a rare treat and that is a good enough reason to invest in a few feijoas. Size wise, they are very manageable, making a nice, dense, tall, hedging shrub or small tree…. eventually! They are totally frost hardy, have attractive red and white flowers in autumn and keep their robust leaves all winter. Evidently there are quite a few varieties but I have not seen them in Tasmania. For all the information you could possibly need head to the facebook page ‘Edible Gardens by Craig Castree’ and search for feijoas. He is in Tasmania. I have fruit this year on mine and am thoroughly enjoying them right now. You must wait for the fruit to fall. Don’t pick them. Bring inside and leave until they feel soft. Cut open and suck or scoop out the beautiful flesh.

Choosing and sowing tomatoes etc

If, like me, picking tomatoes from the garden is a favourite sport of yours then July is the time to get your seeds started. We have no idea what this summer season will be like so we need to hedge our bets and choose a range of tomatoes; some that will produce in a cool season, some for a hot season, some that will thrive even in the rain and some that can tolerate wind etc.

I always grow some Rouge de Marmande because, no matter what, they will provide you with a prolific crop of medium sized, red tomatoes on sturdy, bush plants. I always grow one Black Cherry as they are the most flavoursome of the cherries, in my opinion, and are reliable. After that, I go for a dense, luscious, tasty tomato like Black from Tula which may not ripen as fast in a cool summer but is nearly always the highlight of my garden. Next I would choose San Marzano, as a cooking tomato as they go on and on for months. Last year I grew Speckled Roman; a large, red, cooking tomato, decorated with speckles and stripes. I will grow that instead of San Marzano this year. Very prolific, very long season and so beautiful.

Basically, fruiting plants like tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants need the longest growing season as they have to first get to a good size, then flower, then the fruits must grow and finally they need time to develop flavour and to ripen. Sow these now, preferably with even, bottom heat, rather than sun. Over each tray I put a sheet of glass. This is for 2 reasons. Firstly, successful seed germination depends on high humidity, but constant watering can be too much, causing low germination. Once the seeds are gently watered at sowing, covering with a glass sheet keeps in the moisture without any further watering needed before germination. Secondly, mice love seeds and this is a fool proof way of keeping them out.

If you are interested in having a stall at a not-for-profit Garden Market in Cygnet, one is coming in September. Contact me at katevag@gmail for details.

In the frosty garden: sow broad beans to harvest or for green manure. Plant out more leeks and onions

Sow insitu the greenhouse (or outside in frost free areas): Coriander, miners’ lettuce, spring onions, Asian veg, lettuce, bok choy, sugar snap peas

Sow now to transplant later: Broccoli varieties such as summer purple- sprouting and raab, red cabbage, kales, parsley.

 

For a comprehensive, Tasmanian, monthly, food garden guide search online for “Food Garden Group calendar”. Thanks to Max Bahrfeldt, in Hobart.

July 2021 Kitchen garden Guide

 Whether or not we realise it in our heads, our bodies respond to the seasons. The best thing we can do for our health is to eat what grows in the season and in the ground where we are. In my garden, ready to eat right now are some brassicas, leeks, parsley, coriander, daikon radish, baby parsnips and a variety of magnificent leafy greens for eating raw and cooked. I have pumpkins on the shelf, garlic in a basket, potatoes in a box, pickles in jars, dried beans in the pantry, daily eggs from the chooks, apples in the fridge plus local celeriac and carrots in the fridge too. It is a rhythm that brings not just food but also security, in these times of uncertainty and change.

Tomatoes

It is time to get yourself ready to sow tomatoes. Sow later in July or into early August.

1.   Check your seeds and buy more if needs be. My favourites for Cygnet are: Black from Tula (big, black, solid, luscious, delicious and surprisingly reliable), Rouge de Marmande (medium, reliable, long season), Jaune Flammé (orange, medium to smallish, delicious, very prolific, long season).

2.   I use hiko seed trays because they are deep and solid so the seedlings are happy in them for quite  while.

3.   Tomatoes really do need bottom heat for good germination. Use a brewer’s mat or terrarium mat or silicone terrarium tube or lash out on a heated seed raising kit.

4.   Covering the seed tray with a sheet of glass or perspex before germination keeps moisture in and rodents out.

5.   Once germinated, they need LOTS of sun plus the heat mat. Water sparingly. Use warm water. Water with a weak liquid feed every couple of weeks.

6.   Pay attention to how they look. Spindly = need more sun. Yellow = too much water. Not growing = need more warmth or food.

7.   For more details check out “Dave’s Seed” website.

Wildlife

The joy we all find when we see wallabies, pademelons, bandicoots, quolls and friendly possums whilst bushwalking soon turns to despair when everything we plant in our gardens ends up in their stomachs and not ours!

Vertical Corrugated iron: possums cannot climb it, wallabies do not jump it, rabbits seem not to burrow under it, if it goes down below soil level. It can be painted and decorated or left plain. The heat reflected by it will warm your plants.

Floppy, arched wire: Having a top to the fence, of arched chicken wire, will keep out the wildlife, if you are diligent about securing gaps around the corners and the gate and the bottom!

Wire mesh (not for possums): I buy 900mm high x 50mm wire mesh in a roll and run this around areas I want to protect, using droppers (star pickets) and adding tent pegs between the droppers so the wallabies cannot get under. Plants with tendrils, like cucumbers, can also make use of this and I successfully trained one pumpkin leader along a rung about halfway up the fence last year.

Electric netting: A fool proof but more expensive option, which is available with a solar power and battery option. You need to keep the bottom free from grass and weeds which may short circuit the wiring.

Free events and groups

The next Cygnet Garden Market will be on Saturday November 13th at The Cannery. Again, it will be a community fundraiser for refugees. I am looking for enthusiasts (rather than experts) who would share their passion for 20 minutes, on any topic related to gardening, for our rolling demonstrations on the day. You may promote your stall or business too. Please contact me at katevag@gmail.com

The Cygnet Seed Library meets every second Sunday at 2pm at Oura Oura House. Please do join us and enjoy our monthly gardening workshops. The dates and details are on our website and facebook page. We provide free seeds to any locals, grown and saved by locals. You can find the seed box at Oura Oura House.

Crop Swap Cygnet and Surrounds can be found on facebook and at our monthly gatherings. All the details are on facebook and everyone is welcome to join in. We give/swap/share anything to do with food, not just garden produce! To be on our email list, contact me at katevag@gmail.com if you don’t do facebook.

The Nature Journal Club an amazing facebook group for people wanting to learn how to capture the world around us, in art.

Winter reading

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

Milkwood: Real skills for down-to-earth living by Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar

Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Eat Wild Tasmanian by Rees Campbell

 

Sow in July

Sow now in the frosty garden: Onions (Creamgold, Domenica Sweet), leeks, broad beans, tic bean green manure

Sow now in the hothouse in trays to plant out asap or outside in frost free areas: Coriander, miners’ lettuce, spring onions, Asian veg, lettuce, bok choy, sugar snap peas, lettuce,

Sow now to transplant in spring: Broccoli varieties such as summer purple- sprouting and raab, red cabbage, kales, tomatoes (later in July).

July jobs

·         Get started on making fermented compost or bokashi compost.

·         Plant asparagus crowns, cut off old asparagus stalks and add seaweed and compost

·         Divide and replant clumps of chives and other perennial onions, rhubarb, strawberries, sunchokes and mint

·         Plant out deciduous trees and shrubs, bare-rooted fruit trees, cane fruits and grape vines.

·         Sort your seeds for the coming season

·         Get your favourite tomato seeds before they are sold out. Sow later in July.

June 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide

 I adore the feel of really crisp air on my face; the white air we get here on a very frosty, early morning dash to bring in more firewood, that makes your cheeks glow and covers your hair in fine droplets.

Gardening in the cold is a challenge, as gloves get wet, fingers go numb and too much clothing makes jobs awkward. However, if the sun is out, even a very cold day becomes glorious and a few minutes pruning or doing other outdoor work warms your insides as nothing else can. It is a tonic. As you rest on your spade, close your eyes, face the sun and let the rays activate the capillaries beneath your eyelids.

Winter herbs for health and flavour

Do you love pesto and lament the end of fresh basil from your garden? Well, I make a wonderful pesto with chervil and almonds / rocket and pistachios / parsley and walnuts.

There are so many lovely herbs that either grow and thrive only in winter or continue to hold their colour and flavour even in winter and are perfect for pesto. The former includes the slightly aniseed chervil, with its pretty, soft ferny leaves which I grow as a block and clip by the handful, with scissors. Stinging nettles are a favourite of mine, mixed half and half with another herb in my pesto. Parsley is a fabulous winter herb, readily self-sows and is useful all through winter in meals and as a wonderful source of vitamin C, in our climate where oranges are rare in our gardens.

Trellises

Basically, there are 3 types of climbing vegetables and now is the time to get your garden set up to cater for them for spring planting:

·         Using tendrils (cucumbers, peas, tromboncinos, some pumpkins)

·         Twining (beans)

·         Scrambling (tomatoes, some pumpkins)

Tendrils are like little hands reaching out from the main plant to grab onto something to climb up. They prefer a natural material, like bamboo or jute twine or thin wood. They need a rough surface, so they will slip on shiny metal but I find they are happy on my rougher, galvanised fence. I have even successfully grown peas amongst my raspberries, which saves garden space too. You can even make a strong structure with droppers (for the wind) then simply wind twine around and around.

Tromboncinos and small pumpkins do really well on a sloping trellis. Their tendrils are remarkably strong and you can grow lettuce or other semi shade lovers underneath.

Twiners like beans wrap themselves around anything they touch, as they reach ever upwards. They will twine up just about anything vertical but it needs to be quite fine. They cannot stretch out and around a slat trellis, for example. Climbing beans are usually surprisingly tall so make sure you provide at least 2m. My bean frame is 1.8m and the beans scramble all over the place when they get to the top. It seems that the birds are good at nipping off the excess growth, which is fine by me.

Scramblers don’t grab on to a frame but enjoy the support given by one, to prevent their stems bending and breaking under the weight of ripe fruit. For tomatoes, I cut 1.5m x 50mm wire into 750mm lengths which I bend and join into circles. Large pumpkins will scramble over an elevated frame, or along a wire fence, just above the ground if you help it along.

Garlic

This year I have been staggering my planting of early and mid-season garlic in 1 square meter blocks, dotted about my garden, from April. June is a fine time to plant out late season garlics, like dungansky. This way, I get each patch maturing separately, making space for the next thing I want to grow. 

Magnesium

As the sun dips low in the sky and the temperatures drop, plants are relying on their strength to remain healthy, just as we do. Problems become evident quite quickly sometimes, especially in pots. My citrus, in big, concrete pots on my sunny verandah, are laden with fruit. Their leaves have been green and fruits growing well but I can see signs of yellowing of some older leaves, which could be a sign that a dose of magnesium might help. Purple, red or brown may also appear on the leaves of other plants. We all need magnesium and if our plants are short of it then we who eat the plants will be short of it too. It is vital for photosynthesis, which obviously happens less on these short days, which is why it raises its head now.

Add about 3 tablespoons of Epsom salts to a 9 litre watering can, stir well to completely dissolve, then water the root zone. For pots, you can also mix into a spray bottle and spray the leaves. Repeat as required. It is a gentle remedy.

The name comes from its discovery, bubbling up in ponds in the English town of Epsom, in the 1600’s. Farmers noticed that wounds of cows that waded through the bitter tasting water healed quickly. Many people in England began to travel to Epsom to experience the numerous health benefits, particularly the relief from the painful symptoms of gout and for the natural purging effects of the water.

Tasmania is surrounded by sea and we are now learning to forage the shores and shallows for food. As a longer term strategy, magnesium can be added to the soil simply by adding seaweeds to your compost or by using a seaweed liquid feed. Magnesium can be added to your diet more directly by eating the seaweed yourself. All of the longest lived peoples of the world eat many different sea plants; think Okinawa (Japan) and Sicily.

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

Plant out

Garlic

Asparagus crowns

Divide rhubarb

Winter herbs: coriander, chervil etc

Winter flowering annuals

Globe artichokes

Bulbs

Asian greens

Lettuce

Spinach

Winter Reading

Wild Mushrooming: A Guide for Foragers (Australian)

 

The Seed Garden:The Art and Practice of Seed Saving

 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

May 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

Late autumn is my favourite time of year in the kitchen garden. The harvesting and preserving pressures are finished, seeds have been collected and stored, there has been some rain, everything is green, self-sown treasures are popping up everywhere, and the sowing and planting pressures of spring are months away. Now is the time to work on the soil, to reshape beds, to make compost, to prune, to protect tender plants and to sit on the verandah in the sun and watch the light as it changes day by day. Brassicas are flourishing, Chilean guavas and cape gooseberries can be picked by the handful as you pass by, grape leaves are turning and apples are abundant. Life is good, here in southern Tasmania.

Shorter days and frosty nights

Some plants (and people) love shortening days and freezing nights and  will thrive throughout winter. Such vegetables and herbs include alliums, such as garlic and garlic chives, onions, walking onions and potato onions and as well as brassicas and broad beans but also some surprising things, like lettuce and Asian greens. Two varieties of winter lettuce that readily self-sow in my garden, oakleaf and freckles, are coming up now. I prick some out and transplant to fill gaps elsewhere and some I leave to grow in situ, with no protection at all. Bok choy, mizuna, daikon radish, frilly mustard, chicory, endive and others also thrive in the cold, without any protection and even in a little shade. Winter is a beautiful time for the food gardener and forager.

Stinging Nettles

Nettles are abundant too, in cool, damp spots, making excellent soup, pesto, tea and a brew for the garden. In France, nettle tea is regularly used as a tonic for plants that lack vigour, where packets of dried nettles for that purpose can be found in garden centres. In your own garden, don a pair of washing up gloves and cut nettles with scissors, leaving enough to regrow. Put the whole lot, stems and all, into a bucket with a lid. Cover with water and leave for a couple of weeks. Dilute and water over anything that needs a lift. For yourself, pick as you need, check for insects, dirt and dead leaves then, with tongs, put the whole lot into a coffee plunger, so it is stuffed full. Pour over boiling water and leave to steep for at least 10 minutes. Press the plunger down and enjoy. Refresh once more before starting again. Pesto made with half fresh nettles, half parsley plus walnuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese is the perfect quick lunch, spread on toasted, home made sourdough or scooped up with carrot sticks, celery etc.

Nettle soup

Cook 1 onion in a pan until soft

Add lots of nettles (leaves roughly picked from stems), 1 large potato, 1 large carrot, 1 litre good, light stock and cook 15 mins or until the potato is well cooked.

Blend and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt or a drizzle of olive oil or neither.

Seaweeds

Tasmania is surrounded by sea and yet we tend not to forage the shores and shallows for food. Did you know that our soils are low in magnesium and that this means your vegetables are too (unless care has been taken to add magnesium to the soil, usually by using dolomite lime or Epsom salts)? Magnesium is vitally important for our health. Magnesium can also be added to the soil simply by adding seaweeds to your compost or liquid feed. Magnesium can be added to your diet more directly by eating the seaweed yourself. All of the longest lived peoples of the world eat many different sea plants; think Okinawa (Japan) and Sicily.

Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) is a common seaweed in Tasmanian waters but it is an introduced weed, probably arriving on the bottom of Asian ships and making a home from St. Helens to Dover. Search the internet for photos so you can identify it. I don’t know of any plants in our seas that are toxic but, the sad thing is, some of our coastline has been raped by industry plus land and sea farming which has left toxic residues in our once pristine waters.

The regulations for taking seaweeds from the beach, according to the DIPIPWE website, is for 100kgs / day. Seaweeds should never be taken directly from the sea.

Garlic

Garlic varieties are many and each has its own ideal planting time. I like to plant an early, a mid and a late season variety. May is mid season. Garlic is reasonably shallow rooted so a friable, well-drained 15cms of soil will do. Poke the best cloves you can find into the soil, about 15cm apart, cover over, water once then leave them alone. All the information you need can be found on the Tasmanian Gourmet Garlic facebook page and website.

Sow in the garden now

Plant in the garden now

Broad beans

Bok Choy

Mustard greens esp. frilly

Miners’ lettuce

Corn salad (mache)

Shungiku (edible, Japanese Chrysanthemum)

Radishes

Salad and spring onions

Coriander

Chervil

Stinging nettles (for teas and pestos all winter)

Calendula

Perennial Leek bulbils including elephant garlic

Garlic cloves

Potato onions

Seedlings of Asian veg.

Flower bulbs

Sow in trays to plant out:

Lettuces

Kales

Broccoli raab

Red onions

Sow to stay in the hothouse or outside in frost-free areas:

Sugar snap peas, podding peas

May 2020 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

Millions of people all over the world have started growing food for the first time, which has even caused a shortage of seeds. People are cooking a lot more than ever before too. Families are sitting together for meals. School at home is including measuring ingredients, following recipes, planning menus, using up what is in the fridge in creative ways, as well as preparing garden beds, harvesting fruit and saving seeds. Isn’t this how life is meant to be? After all, food production, preparation and eating encompasses every school subject you can think of!

Making the most of chook yard design

Being at home, it is a good time to look at your garden and explore ways to make it more user friendly. This is where permaculture design can help and is worth researching.

You can harvest many products and gain many services from a well thought out chook yard, besides the obvious eggs. My chooks range under half a dozen fruit trees. Their kind services here include constant vigilance for coddlin moth and other pests that overwinter at the base of trees, everyday manuring, turning of the mulch and eradicating weeds and grasses that germinates there as well as cleaning up some (but not all) fallen fruit.

The product I appreciate most is their production of the most beautiful leaf soil from the fallen leaves of two large oak trees that overhang the chook yard. Thousands of oak leaves fall from now into winter and form a very thick layer of gorgeous dry leaves which is the playground for the chooks all winter. They constantly turn it, manure it and crush it, while the rain dampens it, resulting in a very fine, deliciously soft, quite acidic, leaf mold or leaf soil by mid spring. I rake it up and spread it around liberally wherever acid loving plants grow (such as blueberries and strawberries) and where I am going to plant acid loving plants such as tomatoes. Left for another year it can be used with worm castings and something light, like perlite, as a seed raising mix or added to potting mix.

(Last year I gathered lots and lots of the fallen oak leaves from one of the trees and put them into 3 large sacks. The resulting compost or leaf mold is now good enough to eat on your muesli, as Peter Cundall would say. I look forward to making good use of it.)

If you don’t have such a luxury, just cover the chook yard in any old hay, raked up autumn leaves, finished tomato plants etc. Peter Cundall recommends you throw around some lime under the hay. If you use dolomite, you will be adding magnesium and it is gentler on chook feet than other lime too, as they scratch about all winter. I use woodash.

In order to have a constant supply of greenery for chooks, it is a great idea to surround the perimeter of their yard, outside the fence, with things they like to eat. Plantings right up against the fence will poke leaves through or even over into the chook yard and allow the chooks a constant supply of your favourite vegetables without you having to do anything! Leaving some things to go to seed and fall into the chook yard will give them a good addition to their seed intake.

Useful leaf plants for this include chards, comfrey, parsley, nasturtiums etc. Useful seed plants include amaranth, small sunflower seeds, millet, wheat etc.  Useful fruits include strawberries and any soft fruit. For more info check online.

Cuttings

May is the perfect time for taking cuttings of deciduous plants like grape vines, glory vines and black and red currants as well as for rosemary, Chilean guavas and other evergreen edibles. Cut lengths of new grape vine growth to include 4 buds. Put into a damp, light, potting mix deep enough for 2 buds to go below the soil and two above. A cheap potting mix with no added nutrients is best. With rosemary and other evergreens, strip the leaves off the bottom 2/3 of a cutting and place into damp potting mix. You can put several in a pot. Cover with a plastic bag secure with a rubber band. Leave in a sheltered place and keep just damp, not wet, until spring. Check for root growth then and pot up to grow on further or leave longer. Some will take much longer than others, so be patient!

If this all sounds like too much hard work, grab yourself a bottle of linseed oil, mix it half with turps, sit in the sunshine and rub an oiled cloth over the handles of all your garden tools. Listen to the birds, breathe our clean air and be grateful for the safe place we find ourselves in.

Books, websites, courses and facebook pages

Books:

Paradise and Plenty by Mary Keen…. The inside workings of the legendary, productive garden at Lord Rothschild's private house, Eythrope in Buckinghamshire, England

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe…. How first Australians farmed and managed the land as recorded by all the explorers of the day.

Around the World in 80 plants by Stephen Barstow…. A compendium of 80 perennial, edible plants from around the world, with stories and recipes. Amazing!

Online:

For Tasmanian relevant, food gardening articles, videos, courses and more check out the “Milkwood” website.

Join a local facebook page such as Food Gardeners Tasmania, Tasmanian Fungi, Preserving Folk, Cygnet Seed Library, Tasmanian Bushtucker, Crop Swap and others from further afield such as Wild food and Hedgewitchery, Earth Homes, Huws Nursery, Garden Art, Junk and Antiques and so many more!

Sow in the garden now

Plant in the garden now

Broad beans

Bok Choy

Mustard greens esp. frilly

Miners’ lettuce

Corn salad (mache)

Shungiku (edible, Japanese Chrysanthemum)

Radishes

Salad and spring onions

Coriander

Chervil

Stinging nettles (for teas and pestos all winter)

Perennial Leek bulbils including elephant garlic

Garlic cloves

Seedlings of Asian veg.

Flower bulbs

Sow in the hothouse to plant out:

Lettuces

Kales

Broccoli raab

Red onions

Sow to stay in the hothouse or outside in frost-free areas:

Sugar snap peas, podding peas

2019 Kitchen Garden Guide

 

Hooray for rain; the sound of it on a tin roof at night, the approach of it across the hills and waterways, the feel of it on my face when I pop out to feed the chooks and the comfort it brings to gardeners and their gardens, from the worms and microbes to towering trees. Rain in autumn means everything is going to be ok.

Autumn is a wonderful time for harvesting mushrooms, kale, French sorrel, salad leaves, early broccoli, rainbow chard, bok choy, wasabi greens, the last of our summer vegetables, the first of the edible, winter weeds and a myriad of fabulous apples, pears and quinces. Many kitchens are bulging at the seams with preserves. Bring on winter and cosy nights by the fire with some home-made cassis and quince paste served with a delicious, local cheese.

The many moods of compost making

I recently attended two fabulous and innovative sessions which included information on making the most of compost preparation. One of these was at Government House in Hobart where the compost maker, Jimmy, took us through current thinking which challenges the aerobic, or lasagne, heap we are all familiar with. Fermenting, which is anaerobic, as a way of preserving food and increasing its available nutrients is on everyone’s lips, so to speak. But fermenting is also useful for improving the diversity and numbers of microbes in our compost. Here are his guidelines.

Gather your ingredients as usual. Green (leaves etc), brown (hay, dry leaves etc), high nitrogen (fresh manure/ seed meal).

Spread all green material in a thin layer, spraying with fine mist of low concentration compost microbes (available locally). Then spread all the brown/carbon thinly on top and spray another fine mist on as much material as you can, but without wetting it too much. The material is actually fairly dry on the whole but seeded up with microbes across as wide a surface area as possible. The microbes inhabit and colonise that film of moisture on the organic matter as he understands it, and the greater the concentration and diversity of microbes the greater the water retention will be, it will create and hold on to moisture as the fermentation happens.

Then spread horse or other manure and he also adds some neutrog seamungus. If they have some food scraps from the bokashi bin in the kitchen he will throw them on too. This is only small volume but could do way more if they get more from kitchen.

 

The ratio he works to is normally 3 Brown (carbon): 2 Green: 1 High Nitrogen - the idea being a higher carbon makes the biology of the compost more fungal dominated.

 

He sometimes ends up with more like a 3:3:1 which is good too - probably tips the compost to a more bacterial dominance. 

 

Once all material is spread out thinly (300mm ish deep) and sprayed/inoculated, I push it all together in a heap so it's all mixed thoroughly. Compress it down as much as you can, cover it with a tarp and secure it down. It can be turned anytime after a couple of weeks. At first turn I spread the pile out and re-apply EM in 50% less concentration. 

 

He finds that one turn at 3-4 weeks then another in another 3-4 then take off cover and in a couple of weeks its ready to go and full of worms.

How I pickle olives:

So many people have asked me so here is the answer….

3 kg black olives, firm but black all over (I have never done it with green)

3 Tbl salt

12 Tbl olive oil

600mls white / cider vinegar

1.25 litres water ( boiled and cooled)

optional : 1 clove garlic / jar

1 small red chilli (or less)/ jar

dried oregano or other herbs

 

After picking, wash then slit each olive on 1 or 2 sides (depending on how big the olives are. If small, omit this step). Place in a large, ceramic bowl and cover with ordinary tap water. Try an olive, so you know what you are starting with. It will be shockingly bitter!

Change the water daily for 10 - 14 days, until you can bite into one and not spit it out in disgust! It should still have flavour but not be unbearably bitter nor bland. Strain.

Sterilise some jars (I find 3kg olives makes about 12 medium jars). Place olives into jars. Putting in some / all / none of the optional  ingredients as you go. (I usually don't use any now because I prefer the real olive flavour)

Mix the boiled water, vinegar, salt and olive oil in a bowl. Pour into the jars making sure you cover the olives completely. Put on well-fitting lids.

Wait at least 2 weeks before starting to eat. You will find the flavour changes with time - some people prefer them with the 'fresh' taste you get after 2 weeks, others prefer the more mellow flavour after 6 months or more.

They should be stored in a cupboard but when you open a jar put it in the fridge if your kitchen is hot. I always put open jars in the fridge in summer or they go mouldy, but I never do in winter as I eat them pretty fast and I don't use huge jars.

 

 

Sow in the garden now

Plant in the garden now

Broad beans

Bok Choy

Mustard greens esp. frilly

Miners’ lettuce

Corn salad (mache)

Shungiku (edible, Japanese Chrysanthemum)

Radishes

Salad and spring onions

Coriander

Chervil

 Stinging nettles (for teas and pestos all winter)

Leek bulbils

Garlic cloves

Seedlings of Asian veg.

Flower bulbs

Sow in the hothouse to plant out:

Lettuces

Kales

Broccoli raab

Red onions

Sow to stay in the hothouse or outside in frost-free areas:

Sugar snap peas