Kitchen Garden Guides

Monday, December 20, 2021

December 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide

 Spring has been challenging for our gardens, with a week of incredible wind in September, followed by a week of snow and ice then never-ending rain in October and November. Finally, we have sunshine, which may verge on hot this week! Is it any wonder that some of the seedlings you may have planted out in October or November are not going well? It is not too late to replace young plants now. I have been getting beds ready but keeping most fruiting plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins, in my mini greenhouse until now.

Flowers, seeds and more

All the winter vegetables have stopped producing food for us and are wanting to reproduce themselves now. Brassicas, chard, chicory, winter fennel, lettuce, asparagus, daikon and more are all sending up flower stalks. These flowers and old plants either attract beneficial insects directly or they attract aphids, scale and other so called “pests”, which actually are the food for the emerging beneficial insects. Always leave a few old plants of each sort, to provide the diversity we need in our gardens so they can maintain the balance, without us needing to interfere. For example, I tie one or 2 to a stake, removing some of the bottom leaves, so I can plant new things nearby. I can honestly say that I rarely have a problem with pests or disease because I always make sure I have every stage of plant life represented at all times.

Obviously, you can also save some of the mature seeds to sow next season. Only save seeds if the plants were healthy and produced well for you first time around! Wait until the seeds are brown on the plant before picking them. Put the dry pods or whole heads into a paper bag, labelled with the date, the name of the plant and variety, if you know it, for about a month. From experience, let me tell you that you will NOT remember it later! After a month, shake or rub the seeds off or remove them from the pods etc and store in jars, once again labelled.

If you would like to learn more about seed saving, come to the Cygnet Seed Library’s “Seed Celebration - an afternoon of seed saving demos & community fun”, Sunday Dec. 12th , in the garden behind ‘Cuckoo’ (17 Mary St., Cygnet). Seed saving demos from 2pm, shared picnic dinner from 5pm. Details on facebook and our website. All welcome.

Growing Basil

Unpredictable and tricky until you find what works, basil is loved by everyone! Here is what I have discovered works for me: I sow in trays in December, only the large leaf varieties such as Genovese and Lettuce Leaf which grow fast in our climate and have fabulous flavour. The seeds take a while to germinate so be patient, keep the soil damp but not wet. Once germinated, water with a weak seaweed solution until they are big enough to transplant. I put several plants into each 20cm pot with a rich potting mix and keep them in my little green house, as they hate the cold. I like to have 6 pots, some sown early Dec. and some later. They don’t mind a bit of shade as long as it is nice and warm and if you live somewhere consistently warmer than Cygnet they may be fine outside. Don’t overwater and do pick regularly.

Plant out in the damp soil

In early December, sow and plant cucumbers, zucchinis, corn, sunflowers, salad greens, herbs, flowers and everything you can get your hands on. After rain is the best time to get plants going. Even though the soil is still damp, always water your seedlings in. Why? Because every tiny root hair needs to be in contact with the soil to work its magic and extract nutrients from the soil. Watering in is the only way to ensure this happens.


Tomatoes, corn, other fruiting vegetables and flowering plants – water the roots deeply only once a week, even if it is hot. In very general terms, water soaks in to about 10 times the rainfall. Once your tomatoes reach Christmas time, they will be down (and out) about 30cms so you need to give them 3cms of water.

That far down, the soil will stay moist enough for a week, especially if you use a thick, hay mulch. So, I will be giving my tomatoes 3cms water once a week; not next to the trunk, but out about 30cms, preferably on 2 sides. Shallow, frequent watering, on the other hand, ensures your plants have a shallow root system, susceptible to the stresses of constant heating and cooling, and will grow a wonderful canopy of leaves, with little fruit, before succumbing to some disease.

Hand watering is great for pots, seeds, seedlings and in times of infrequent watering. It is a pleasant morning or evening past-time but not the best way to irrigate a whole garden.

Tomatoes do not like wet leaves so they are best served by what I call finger drippers – more like a cross between a dripper and a spray, with coarse droplets radiating out like fingers to about 10 -15cms in diameter. These can easily be seen and have removable caps which can be easy screwed in or out to adjust the flow. I place one finger dripper between every tomato plant. (I plant the tomatoes about 1m apart). They are easily plugged into a run of black poly pipe. I put a click fitting on the end and connect my hose to this once a week for 1 hour.


December Jobs

January Jobs

Sow seeds: beans, zucchini, cucumbers, basil, carrots, celery, lettuce, leeks, parsley, sunflowers, radish, parsnip, pumpkin, chicory.


Sow seeds: Lots of winter veg benefit from early summer sowing so they reach a good size to plant out in autumn: fennel, Brussel sprouts, red cabbage, leeks, kale, beetroot.

Plant out: corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin, other veg seedlings, potatoes, potted herbs, flowers etc

Basil: keep in greenhouse in good sized pots with rich soil and water well but allow to drain well before watering again.


Fill in spaces with flowers, comfrey, daisies, herbs and love.

Dec and Jan:

-      Mulch vegetable garden well, preferably with old hay or old silage.

-      Mulch fruit trees well, preferably with bark chips

-      Feed food garden with seaweed solution for pest resistance and fish emulsion or home made worm brews.

-      Harvest and enjoy!

November 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide

 It has been WET, very wet. November is likely to also be wet, and warm, because La Nina is almost certain. Weather patterns shift and move around the world so southern Tasmania is influenced by sea temperatures, ocean currents, volcanoes, earthquakes and climate change, every day and through every season. Our bodies and minds are too. We are living in and influenced by all that happens on our planet, near and far.

Little and Often

I listened to a podcast from the Gardeners World magazine, with Monty Don. Asked “what is the secret of successful vegetable gardening?” he said “Little and often.” I agree. A few minutes every day is going to help more than one full day per week. He said many things, another of which was in answer to the question “How can I get rid of weeds?”. He said “The weeds are not the problem. The problem is you…. The solution is for you to weed a little bit every day, then the weeds do not become a problem.” Well, I am not sure about that here in Tasmania, in spring, when the weeds grow faster than a speeding bullet, but certainly the more often you see to your garden, the better it will be.

Little and Often also applies to seed sowing. Don’t sow a whole packet of lettuce at once. Sow a few seeds, maybe 6 – 10. When they are ready to transplant to the garden, on the same day, sow another 6 – 10….. and so on. Of course, through the year the varieties will change as some prefer winter, some summer. Many, many vegetables can be easily grown this way, almost all year round, so you always have some but never have too many.

Little and Often can also be the motto for compost creation. Yes, you can gather materials and make cubic meter piles, but you can also or instead spread the daily weeds onto the path and let them rot away. Here one day, there the next, every day, for months. Or you can have worm stations dotted about your garden and feed your daily weeds and veg scraps into one or another of them. Small is manageable.

Search online for Gardeners World Magazine podcasts and you will find treasure!

Late November is beans time (earlier if frost free)

Add a handful of potash and a good spadeful of compost per square metre and fork them in lightly. Water well. Add wet mulch. Sow beans into the damp soil and water only when the first leaves appear. It is a good idea to soak the beans overnight before sowing, to hasten germination.

Climbing beans: If you are lucky enough to grow your own hazelnuts / dogwood / bamboo / suitable willow then you can easily (and for free) make use of them to erect a frame. (Search Google images for ‘bean poles’ and see how creative you can be). But beware!! We live in the roaring 40’s!! Pole beans WILL blow over unless the structure is secure. I tie one end of my frame to a sturdy fence post. I especially love flat beans and long, thin, round, green beans like Lazy Housewife.

Bush beans: These produce bucket loads of fabulous beans all summer without the need for a frame but therefore take up much more room. I love the thin, stringless, French beans as well as borlotti beans. It helps to mulch.

Bush beans are great for Tasmania as they produce faster than pole beans. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from and saving seed for next year is simply a matter of letting some of the pods mature fully and dry off before picking.


My tip is to keep your tomatoes in pots until well after the Huon Show (13-11-21) if you live in a frosty area. I remember the year that many people woke to find a hard frost had burnt their entire tomato patch overnight in mid-November! I don’t plant them out until the first week in December. It is foolproof. I find that potting tomatoes up into slightly bigger pots at least twice, works really well as advanced plants suffer very little when planted out into warm soil, unlike the little ones planted out early into cold, wet soil.

Planting with tomato frames

·         One 30m roll of wire mesh will make 12 circles. Each roll is 1200mm high and the mesh is 100mm square. (I bought a 50m roll at Hollanders in Hobart, to make 20 circles).

·         Cut the roll into 2.5m lengths and join the ends to make 10 circles. Each circle will be 750mm across, suitable for 1 tomato plant. Do not skimp!!

·         Place all 10 circles, side by side, wherever your tomatoes will go. This way you can lay it all out and select one bed or several.

·         Move one of the circles aside. Plant your tomato. I push one tall, curly rod (from Shiploads) in the hole with the tomato but a long bamboo stick would do. In France they are called tomato stakes.

·         Replace the wire circle. Bang a wooden stake inside the windward side of the circle (or preferably 2, for those unexpected gales from another direction!) Staple the name tag to the top of one stake. Move to the next circle and repeat until all 10 tomatoes are planted.

·         Next, tie all adjacent circles together, to give strength from the wind.

·         Water in your tomatoes.

·         Get a coffee and your camera and share your amazing tomato planting photos!

·         When your tomatoes finish, use the circles for all sorts of other things in the garden. I used all mine up last year so had to go and buy another roll this year!

November Event

Cygnet Spring Garden Market: Saturday Nov. 13th, 12noon – 4pm @ The Cannery. Fundraiser for the Huon Refugee Support Group Inc. There will be 23 stalls, live music, gorgeous food and coffee, open bar and an area for perpetual, 30 minute gardening presentations. Find all the details on Facebook and Instagram! Covid compliant.

Jobs for November


Sow indoors to plant out later:

Cucumbers (Lebanese or Dragon’s Egg), zucchinis (Romanesco), tromboncino, corn, pumpkins. Almost anything!

Sow in the garden:

Beans (after frosts), salad leaves (not just lettuce!), brassicas (cover with moth netting), most herbs, salad and spring onions, beetroot, fennel, carrots, celery, parsnip, sunflowers and lots of other flowers.

  • Plant out frost tender seedlings, including tomatoes, late Nov.
  • Check your hose fittings, watering cans and irrigation equipment.
  • Share excess seedlings with friends.
  • Most of all, enjoy the garden😊
  • Keep grass under control (good luck!) Remember Little and Often 😊

October 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide

 I have spent hours weeding today and other days recently too. All this rain means I have also spent some frustrating days inside, watching the weeds grow! However, weeds can be your friend too, in several ways. Looking at a graph of this year’s September temperatures is enough to make me seasick! Don’t be fooled by any of the weather, there are nearly always beautiful warm, summery days, driving rain and snow and lots of wind, all the way up to Christmas!!

What to do about weeds

1.   If it is a whole bed that you want to clear, don’t bother pulling the weeds up, just chop them down with a sharp spade then cover with wet cardboard or newspaper and top with wet mulch. Soil life much prefers dampness so don’t use dry material when you want microbial activity, which is what will break down the weeds under the newspaper and mulch.

2.   Any weeds, including onion grass, weeds carrying seeds, couch/twitch – pack densely into a bin. Fill with water. You can also hang a kg or so of old manure in it in a hessian bag and add some wood ash and comfrey leaves if you want to. Cover well. Wait 2 weeks or so. Scoop a litre into a watering can, fill up with water and use as a light liquid feed.

3.   If there are no seeds or runners, feed weeds to your worms, your chooks or lay them on your paths. Even if your chooks don’t eat them, they will scratch them up, turn them over, poo on them and turn them into compost for you. Worm juice is simply made by watering the worm farm, collecting the liquid, diluting it to a very weak tea look and watering the foliage and soil of your plants. One of my worm juice making devices is a terracotta water filter from the tip shop. It lives in my little greenhouse. The worms are fed in the top section, with weeds and trimmings from the hothouse. I water it from time to time and this collects in the bottom. I use the tap to drain some into a small watering can, dilute it, then water my seedlings in the hot house. No fuss. No carrying of heavy buckets. The job takes 2 minutes. A big, worm-farm bath is outside for bigger jobs as are several worm towers. More about worms next time.

4.   In future, let your vegetables go to seed. Then some of your weeds will be vegetables that you didn’t even have to sow! Good seeds for that are lettuce, parsnips, chicory, frilly mustard, miners lettuce, corn mache, parsley, endive.

Creating a garden that provides you with seasonal food, all year round, with (eventually) very little work, is like growing a family where you spend a lot of time tending and nurturing and feeding for a couple of years then the jobs change to encouraging and managing and letting things go a little bit wild. Eventually, if all goes according to plan, you have created a beautiful base for life to grow on its own. By then you will have learnt a lot too, allowing the next child / patch of earth to evolve more easily. My motto is: start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.

Codling moth

The larvae that turn into the codling moths that lay eggs in our apples overwinter amongst the bark of your trees and the debris near the base of the trunk. Chooks are the best line of defence as they eat them for you before the larvae even get to adulthood. If possible, give your chooks free reign of your fruit trees or design your chook yard to include access to your fruit trees. My chooks even like to hop up onto the low branches of various of my fruit trees in winter, when there aren’t any leaves.

Now is the time to set codling moth traps for apples, pears and nashis to catch the adult moths before they lay eggs in your fruit. You can buy sticky, pheromone traps that lure the males in, then they get stuck to the sides and can’t escape. The girls get to remain free but unfertilised so do not produce fertile eggs (like chooks without a rooster).

My mother had a different way which almost totally removed codling moths from her garden in a few years. She lured the males with port. She hung one or 2 empty tins (tinned tomatoes, for example) in each apple and pear tree, by drilling holes and threading string through the tins so they could be hooked over branches that she could reach. Into each tin went a good dash of port and the same amount of water. Codling moth males (and many human males!) love port and died every night in those tins. After a few days she would sieve or scoop out the moths, top up the port and re-set the tins into the trees. There are usually 2 hatchings of codling moth eggs, one in mid spring and another in late spring or early summer, so the clever little things can get to the early and late flowering trees! So, don’t give up too early and the moths are not fussy, so get the cheapest port you can find!

Local Events

Cygnet Seed Library – at Oura Oura House, Cygnet: fortnightly, Sunday afternoon pack n chat sessions and monthly gardening workshops. See our website and facebook page for dates, details and fact sheets.

Cygnet Spring Garden Market – at The Cannery, 12 – 4pm Sat. Nov. 13th: All things gardening! Stalls, 30 minute presentations, food, coffee, open bar and live music. See our facebook page and local flyers for details.

Sow in October


For transplanting later, especially in frost prone areas

Any vegetable that fruits or has edible seeds: (Tomatoes – a bit late), zucchinis, corn, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, capsicums, eggplants


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.

September 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide

 Winter has been a mixture of everything this year, with the frequent, unusually mild nights causing early bud burst and the suggestion that spring is here. But, as we all know, cold, wet and windy weather can still prevail, on and off, until Christmas. Keep your tomato, pumpkin, cucumber etc seedlings under cover until much later in the year!


Hazelnuts can be pruned and turned into a thicket edge. The long prunings are traditionally used for fence weaving and many garden structures. Check out Monty Don online. Here is an excerpt from his book….”To coppice a shrub or tree means regularly cutting it right to the ground. Almost all deciduous trees will take this treatment and regrow perfectly healthily for hundreds, even thousands, of years without any ill effect. Indeed, coppicing a tree is a way of making it live up to twice as long. This provides a harvest of wood for beansticks, thatching spars, fencing posts, firewood, charcoal and, historically at least, a hundred other uses, as well as stimulating the plant to regrow vigorously. The secret is regular dramatic pruning. It looks brutal, but is the key to survival for all these plants. By cutting the understorey to the ground regularly (I cut my hazel every seven years) you not only let in a great flood of light, but also create a very sophisticated, evolving habitat with diminishing light and increasing growth between each cut.”


War and seeds

Have you ever thought about what happens to the heirloom seeds saved for generations by traditional farmers when they become caught in war zones and their crops destroyed or abandoned? The rich diversity of crops can sometimes be lost forever and a community devastated by fighting may never regain the foods that had graced the tables of the community for thousands of years.

Throughout history there have been many passionate seed collectors who have braved war zones to save seeds. One such was a man who was collecting from farmers in Russia when World War ll caught up with him. Nickolay Vavilov was the world's greatest plant explorer. He collected more seeds, tubers and fruits from around the world than any person in human history. He started out collecting seeds in about 1916 and worked up until his arrest in the early 1940s and imprisonment by Stalin where he died of starvation. The man who taught us the most about where our food comes from and who tried for over 50 years to end famine in the world died of starvation as a prisoner of war.

There was a seed bank down in the basement of an old Russian building that had not only Vavilov's 220,000 seeds, but another 150,000 from other collectors. During the Siege of St. Petersburg in 1941, the staff locked themselves in the building. They didn't know where Vavilov, their leader, was, but they were so dedicated to the mission to collect and conserve the world's food diversity that they locked themselves in to protect the seeds both from the Nazis and from starving people in their own streets who wanted to find grain or potatoes of any kind and eat them.

Over a series of months in 1942 and 1943, a dozen of the scientists starved to death while guarding those seeds. One of them said it was hard to wake up, it was hard to get on your feet and put on your clothes in the morning, but no, it was not hard to protect the seeds once you had your wits about you. Saving those seeds for future generations and helping the world recover after war was more important than a single person's comfort.

Seeds for our foods are our life-line and without their biodiversity there is not the gene pool to adapt to climate change. That is one really good reason for allowing self-sown abundance in our home gardens.

Raising the seeds of your summer harvest

Raising seeds is easy. All the know-how is in the seed. Turning those new seedlings into strong, healthy plants ready to plant out into your garden can be the hardest part of vegetable gardening.

This time of the year, when you have tiny tomato seedlings and you are waiting until November for the frosts to finish; there are some important tips to success.

·         Pot them up gradually, not from seedling tray to large pot in one go. Make them use up the soil they are in. This will ensure you get early flowers and not just masses of leaves. When the roots start coming out the bottom, it is time to pot them up.

·         Do not rely only on bought potting mix. I buy cheap potting mix and mix in ½ to 1/3 of home-made compost, plus a dash of blood and bone. I also water the young seedlings with a seaweed tonic from time to time. In France I learned about stinging nettle tea as a tonic and use this now too, whenever any plants looks a bit off colour. Stinging nettles are a fabulous tool in the garden (and the kitchen!), being packed full of silicon which strengthens cell walls and helps to reduce pest and disease attack on plants and inside you.

·         To keep growth happening through September, while the nights are often still very cold, supply tomato seedlings with warmth. Even a little will help, especially at night.

·         Provide bright light during the day. Weak seedlings often result from not enough hours of strong sunlight.

·         In a sheltered spot, on warm days, put them outside. A perpetually sheltered environment (such as a hot house) is a sure-fire way of producing weak plants. Seedlings need a bit of breeze to strengthen the stems as they grow, but not a gale from the Roaring 40’s!


Indoors to transplant later

Outside (late Sept if very cold)


Celery, celeriac (love it wet, lime)

Capsicums, chillies





Broad beans


Kales, especially Squire and Blue Curled



Herbs (NOT basil yet!)

Brassicas (if you are prepared with netting to keep the cabbage moths off)

Spring onions






Lettuce + other salad greens

Radishes including daikon

Still a bit early for cucumbers and pumpkins if you have late frosts.

Prepare some water tubs for water greens and water chestnuts.

Chit or Plant out

Divide and plant out

Potatoes (leave to chit or sprout if frosty where you live.

Plant out later)

Globe artichokes



August 2021 Kitchen Garden Guide


It is hard to imagine a more weather-diverse July; 5 frosts in a row and my pond frozen for 3 days straight, followed by t-shirt days and balmy nights. All this will affect our gardens in August in ways that we have to tune into, to notice.

Curly Leaf

It is time to see that the early fungus that causes leaf curl on peaches, nectarines and related fruit trees does not get a hold, by spraying every nook and cranny of every branch, stem and bud with a copper spray. Peter Cundall recommends Burgundy mix, which you can make yourself, because it does not clog up the spray nozzle, like Bordeaux can. It is also beneficial to spray apples which had scab last year and

raspberry canes which had leaf rust.


Burgundy Mixture:

1. Dissolve 50 gram of washing soda (from supermarket) in 2.5 litres of warm water.
2. Dissolve 50 grams copper sulphate in a separate 2.5 litres of water.
3. Slowly pour the dissolved washing soda into the dissolved copper sulphate.
4. This is Burgundy mixture. It is at its most effective strength when freshly mixed so must be used immediately or within a couple of days.
5. Spray thoroughly over the bare branches of peach, nectarine and other stone fruit trees to help control leaf curl and brown rot disease. It is also useful when sprayed over raspberry canes in late July/early August for control of raspberry rust and on apple trees that had scab last year.

The mixture colours the sprayed plants blue. The spray can withstand light rain but should be re-applied after persistent rain and done at least twice before any buds open. Do not spray once the leaves and flowers open.


Bare rooted fruit trees can be planted now. Do consider if you really want full sized fruit trees or if, like me, you would prefer more, smaller trees, providing fruit over a longer period.

It is great to use vertical space for food production and it is easy to trim fruit trees flat against a frame or fence. It also makes them easy to protect from wildlife when they are fruiting as they are a much more manageable size for netting etc.

I just dig a hole, work in some compost then make a small mound in the bottom of the hole for the roots to sit on. I put the tree in the hole, stand back and look at its shape in relation to my desire for it to end up being flat against the fence, turn it so it looks good, then fill in the hole and water in thoroughly. Make sure the graft is well above the soil.

Next, I prune off anything that is sticking outwards away from the fence. Then I cut a few pieces from a ball of the stretchy fabric type of twine and start tying the remaining branches back horizontal or slightly upwards, to the fence. At this point some of the twiggy branches or those getting in the way of others, can be removed. Then, all year round, I simply prune off anything growing outwards and anything growing over the top of other branches.  If it is a single stalk, I prune off to a bud that is facing the right way to grow along the fence. If you want to learn about how to espalier almost anything, you can attend one of the Cygnet Espalier Workshops put on by Nik Magnus. Check out the dates and book on the Woodbridge Fruit Trees website.

Oxalic Acid

Some leafy vegetables have large amounts of oxalic acid in them, rhubarb being the highest concentration and everyone knows not to eat rhubarb leaves. Next comes spinach and anything related to beets; silver beet, rainbow chard (which is multi-coloured silver beet) and beetroot, for example. My mother always told me that these need to be cooked in lots of boiling water and drained well. If I want some greens to put in soup or to stir fry etc, I use leaves with the least oxalic acid, from the table below. I eat a lot of greens, many raw, so I like to vary what I eat and choose according to how I am going to prepare them.

Raw Vegetable

Approx. oxalate content milligrams per 100 gram



Beet greens (silver, rainbow)










Bok choy, mustard greens, endive



Water and Frost

If you have land but no garden yet, winter will show you how your land handles rain and frost. Are there boggy areas that are constantly wet? Are there patches that remarkably stay bone dry (like under large trees)? Perhaps you have a slope that turns into a sheet of running water or a creek that becomes eroded or overflows? Does the frost affect some patches more than others? Take notes, draw a rough map and mark out distinct zones with sticks because you will forget!

One way to modify the land is to make your garden interesting with cleverly designed mounds and shaped low areas that lead excess water to a pond or already existing creek. My garden has such a design, directing water around the garden in shallow, grassy depressions which end up either in my pond or in the creek. There are paths crossing the dips, with small “bridges” which keep a walker’s feet dry, which are anything from a few, short planks embedded into both sides to a metal grate or some nice rocks. These features make land into garden and plants can be selected for their habitat requirements where the soil is often damp.

This is Tasmania so make use of our climate and our diverse native Tasmanian plants, many of which are edible and which will result in frogs, insects and our gorgeous, tiny, native birds and small mammals inhabiting parts of your garden. Make frost your friend!

Plant and sow in August

Plant rhubarb, strawberry runners, raspberry canes, asparagus and get all deciduous trees and shrubs in before they leaf.

Start sowing summer vegetables with bottom heat:

·         Tomatoes

·         Capsicums

·         Chillis

·         Eggplants…. Good luck!

And while you are waiting for them to mature, why not grow some sprouts in the kitchen for a nutritious and delicious treat for your taste buds and body…. lentils, chickpeas, fenugreek, buckwheat

Sow now in trays to plant out later:

·         Onions including red, salad, spring and most others

·         Broad beans (it is not too late)

·         Coriander

·         Brassicas

·         Asian greens

·         Lettuces

·         Peas and to eat as pea shoot microgreens


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.