Kitchen Garden Guides

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

December 2020 Kitchen Garden Guide

 Everywhere I turn, weeds are happily springing up faster than I can deal with them. Certainly, many are edible. I make nettle tea, nettle soup and nettle pesto, for example. Many can be fed to the chooks, if your chooks are not as fussy as mine, who are not interested in chickweed or fat hen, despite their names suggesting otherwise. Most weeds make excellent compost or thrown down in garden paths (if collected before seeding) to rot away and improve fertility right there. The paths throughout my vegetable garden in spring are made up entirely of discarded weeds, trodden down by me, day by day, until, eventually, they become lovely compost, which I scoop up onto the beds after a few months.

Learning from Weeds

Weeds are also a source of information about your garden. I recently listened to a podcast by Nicole Masters about the information held in weeds. She said “….Millions of seeds land on the soil surface. It is the soil conditions that influence which seeds germinate and thrive….” Some weeds, such as that pesky, sheep sorrel, will germinate only in acid soils. If you have it coming up everywhere, then try adding lime. Thistles will practically push up through concrete, and compacted soils are no barrier to them but they dislike loose, friable soil. Other weeds prefer a soil low in fungal activity, yet others thrive where there is too much nitrogen or not much. The internet is brimming with information on deciphering weeds and by learning about weeds in your garden, you will be learning about your soil and be able to make adjustments to help your garden grow more and the weeds less.

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 my place they may be fine outside. Don’t overwater and do pick regularly.

Irrigation

This is the one thing that so many people get into trouble with. 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. If you followed my instructions last month then your tomatoes will be about 1m apart. These finger drippers are easily plugged into a run of 13mm black poly pipe. I put a click fitting on the end and connect my hose to this once a week for 1 hour. The water will soak in, the tomato roots will find it and grow nice and deep, where the even temperature and moisture will make for happy plants.

That far down, the soil will stay moist enough for at least a week, especially if you use a thick mulch. So, I will be giving my tomatoes deep watering once a week; not next to the trunk, but out about 30cms, preferably on 2 sides (between the tomato plants). Shallow, frequent watering, on the other hand, will ensure that 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!

Wind

Oh November and early December, how you batter my seedlings and developing fruit! A cold wind and days of showers are bad for tomatoes and any young seedlings, especially if the soil is bare and cold. To protect from the wind I surround the whole bed with walls of lace curtains from the tip shop. Lace curtains are a much under-utilised resource as they are also fabulous over any small or creeping plants, like cucumbers, to provide shelter but still let the light through. I use wire crates, often discarded from freezers etc, which I get from the tip shops. One edge of a lace curtain can be tucked under one side of a crate and a row of crates holds up the curtains from touching the plants, then the far edge can be tucked under the last crate. I also cut up curtains and just use a piece over one crate. Wire crates on their own keep birds off lettuce etc. I put a brick on top too, if possums or wallabies are around.

Summer seeds

Look out for the Cygnet Seed Library in the New Year, which will be offering a small range of dependable seeds, perfect for sowing in summer. All seeds have been grown by local volunteers and will be free 😊 More info will be on our facebook page soon. Everyone is welcome to join us.

 

 

December Jobs

January Jobs

Sow seeds: beans, zucchini, cucumbers, basil, carrots, celery, lettuce, leeks, parsley, sunflowers, radish, parsnip, pumpkin, chicory. SOW WINTER VEG too (Brussel sprouts etc).

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!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

NASTURTIUM ‘CAPERS’, 2 WAYS

From Sally Ives

01-01-2021

If I ever get more I would like to salt them like this.

Vinegar method

1 cup nasturtium pods/seeds

▢⅓ cup cider vinegar

▢⅓ cup water

1 T. sea salt

½ tsp. sugar

2 sprigs fresh dill/other

Sally’s Instructions

Pick nasturtiums and wash to remove dirt.

Place nasturtium seeds in a jar.

Fill a small saucepan with water, vinegar, salt, and sugar, bring to a boil.

Add a few sprigs of fresh dill in the jar, then pour pickling solution over the pods.

Seal and place in a dark, cool, spot. Allow to pickle for a few weeks before using.

(bay leaves, French tarragon, fennel flowers. Top with grape vine leaf)

 

Brine method

Sally: Mix 25g salt with 500ml of water. Drop seeds in a jar and with the salty brine. I added a few Sichuan pepper plus a couple of bay leaves too. 

The recipe for the the fermented one said 3 days on the bench but I had mine for just over a week before it got to how I like them.

Enjoy!!

 

(Tas pepperberry leaves, bay leaves, 2 chickpeas, 1 sultana, tiny pinch mustard seeds, cover with vine leaf)



 

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

November 2020 Kitchen garden Guide

Spring, glorious spring, has arrived, with little bits of winter and summer thrown in here and there. It is the busiest time of year for food gardeners, as we struggle to control weeds and grass while sowing seeds, caring for our seedlings and preparing beds from which will grow many ingredients for our summer meals and beyond. Amongst all the work, every morning and most late afternoons recently I have been reading one of three books lent to me by a friend.

Observe and interact

The first principle of permaculture shows its true worth in one paragraph from the book ‘Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate: At work in the wild and cultivated world’ (by Wendy Johnson), which I paraphrase here…. Harry,  part Native American, part Irish, was a wise and knowledgeable man who taught food gardening at Green Gulch Farm, north of San Francisco. Every Sunday for a year he took his students out into the garden and asked them what they saw, as they looked across to a hill beyond the gardens. “Deer tracks”, “ripening grasses” they replied. After 8 months of making no comment, he jumped with glee when one student said, “A tiny bit of green grass amongst the brown grass” and got them to mark that exact spot with a stick. For 3 months, no more comment was made then, one Sunday, he brought a young, ‘King David’ apple tree and asked one student to plant it where they had marked the spot. The rest of the area was also planted up with apples and became the orchard. Now, 25 years later, the only tree surviving voles, deer, drought, erosion and wind is the King David. It has its roots in a spring, evident that day as a few blades of green, amongst a sea of brown.

The world before flowers

‘Seeds: time capsules of life’ (by Kesseler & Stuppy) is at once a history of life on earth and a photographic wonderland of seeds under the microscope. If you would like to understand the journey of plants, animals, fungi and microbes, through many hundreds of millions of years, and how they developed in relation to one another, then please do find and read this incredible book.

As we sow seeds now, for our food, it is quite mind expanding to try to imagine a time before seeds and, therefore, before flowers. During the early dinosaur period (150 million years or so ago) there were no flowering plants yet, at all. The forests were only trees with cones, cycads, gingkos, ferns, mosses, fungi, bromeliads etc. Most life on the planet was still in the water; seaweeds, various sea creatures and fish were well established.

By the end of the dinosaur period, flowering plants had flourished so much that many of the pre-flower plant species disappeared. The reasoning behind all this is in the book.

Since humans evolved much more recently, early foraging included a huge range of seed producing plants, leading to the beginning of seed sowing about 10,000 or more years ago. Phew. We didn’t have to live on fungi, seaweed and fish every day! However, our ancient roots tell us that eating those things are still some of the best ways to feed our modern bodies. As you sow your seeds, think about a world before seeds and you will realise how vitally important they are to human existence on earth.

Planting with tomato frames

·         One 30m roll of wire mesh will make 10 - 12 circles. Each roll is 1200mm high and the mesh is 100mm square. (I bought a 50m roll at Hollanders in Hobart, to make a good 15 - 18 circles).


·      Cut the roll into 2.5m lengths and join the ends to make circles. You will make 12 circles. So, each circle will be 750mm across, suitable for 1 tomato plant.

Make the cuts right at the edge of the squares to allow the prongs to hook onto the edges






Make sure to twist a couple of prongs right around the flat edge, so the circle does not spring apart when you pick it up!




·        Place all the 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 in 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 in a 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 that 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!

The books

·         ‘Always Home’ by Fanny Singer….. growing up with Alice Waters for a mother. Fabulous book!

·         ‘Seeds: time capsules of life’ (by Rob Kesseler & Wolfgang Stuppy)…. Like no other book. Beautiful, fascinating.

·         ‘Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate: At work in the wild and cultivated world’ (by Wendy Johnson). Wendy spent 25 years growing food at the Zen buddhist, Green Glulch Farm, near San Francisco. Another incredible, enlightening book.

 

Jobs for November

 

Sow indoors to plant out later:

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

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 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!)

 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Kate's Sourdough Workshop videos


Follow along as I make my no-knead sourdough bread, showing you all the steps and giving you tips, history lessons and sourdough stories along the way. All notes and recipes are free for you to download.


You will need:1/2 cup rye sourdough starter1.5 cups wholemeal rye flour (I recommend Four Leaf, which is organic, Australian, unprocessed and freshly milled)500g wheat bread flour, at least 50% wholemeal (I recommend Four Leaf 85%)1.5 tsp saltwater
Schedule:
First day, 9am we will feed the starter together . You will need the starter + the rye flour + a spoon and access to water. 1. Fed sourdough starter 2. 500g bread flour, preferably " Four Leaf 85%" from Heartfelt Wholefoods or another wheat flour which is at least 50% wholemeal . 3. 1 x small mixing bowl+ 1 x medium mixing bowl. 4. Steel tablespoon or a wooden spoon 5. A plastic bag or other suitable covering for the medium bowl. The next morning at about 8am we meet again and do the second rising. You will need .... 1.either a cane banetton or a nicely shaped bowl, (which I will explain beforehand.) 2. A little oil and a little bit of rice flour (or other gf flour). Don't stress too much if you don't have any gf flour. 3. An oven that can work at 240C 4. A cast iron pot with lid or alternative. We will discuss this beforehand. That night at 7PM we will make the dough. Here's what you will need for that....
1. Fed sourdough starter

I introduce you to the bowls, pans, utensils and extras , along the way.
You can find all the notes and recipes here.....

Step 1
Feeding the starter

Making the loaf
The second proof
When to turn on the oven
Turning on the oven
Putting the loaf into the oven
Taking off the lid and turning down the temperature
The finale!


We are aiming for fairly even holes through the whole loaf, with a thin but crisp crust. Don't cut it for 2 hours or it will be wet and horrible :-)


Friday, May 18, 2018

Rekindling the spirit within

It is only weeks until I hand over my little wholefoods business to new blood. Tiny though it is, its creation and success has been in no small part due to my intensive commitment to sourcing organic, Australian ingredients from individual farmers and makers as well as the individual needs of my customers. The time involved in doing so has meant my head has had little room for the finer workings of my food garden and its seasonal systems.

Last night I began reading some of the food gardening blogs in the side bar here and it has sparked a firecracker reaction in my heart and head to sow and plant all manner of interesting edible plants again. Maybe it will happen that I reconnect with old food gardening bloggers as well as find new ones, from far corners of our planet. Facebook has not taken them all away and turned them into clickers and likers; they are still there, writing and sharing their experiences to any who choose to come by. Below are the food gardening bloggers who gathered at the Oxford Botanic Gardens in 2008. None of us had ever met before but we had all read each others blogs.

DSC_0014  Bloggers gathering at Oxford Botanic Gardens, 2008

As winter creeps in and my head loosens its ties to being a wholefoods sole-trader the spaces will be filled with the inner warmth that comes with sorting and sourcing seeds, reading and writing about food gardening and planning for more nooks in my garden, to grow unusual vegetables. I look forward to working in the cold, misty, winter garden, rugged up and conscious of the life there; in the soil, in the trees, in the pond and in the sky.

My house is full of books about growing and cooking. During these past 8 years I have not stopped buying and reading them. Now the future will be about the doing and the eating and the sharing and the pure joy of it all.

Life is good and I am almost there…..

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February 2018 Kitchen Garden Guide


Today, 800 million people around the globe are engaged in urban agriculture, which can produce up to 15 times more food than a rural plot of the same size, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In addition, the FAO notes, urban farming “generates employment, recycles urban wastes, creates greenbelts, and strengthens cities’ resilience to climate change.”

Not only that, but doing something productive like growing some of your own food is satisfying and getting your hands into the soil can bring a glow to your cheeks, microbes to your gut and consequently a smile to your whole body!

Did you know that Australia has the longest history of food growing in the world? I recently read an eye-opening book called Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, about how the Aboriginal peoples of Australia were not just hunters and gatherers but also successful, innovative farmers; saving and sowing seeds, dividing roots and making extraordinarily complex fish traps way before any other civilization on earth. You may have seen Bruce Pascoe on Gardening Australia’s first show for the year, last week.

Pear and cherry slug


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

Watering tips


Yes it is lovely to stand about and day dream while spraying water with a hose, over the leaves of hot, dry plants. I do it often but it benefits mostly me, not the plants, as water needs to soak all the way down (and out) to the root tips, which may be 20cms below the surface and at least the same out from the stem.

  1. Buy a rose (ie a hose fitting) that cascades like a watering can head and simply adjusts the flow by turning the head or operating a lever with your thumb. I bought mine from Bunnings. Never use a gun style or those dreadful ones that only change the shape of the jet. I think people who design watering attachments should have to be gardeners!
  2. For hand watering in the garden, water each plant for a few minutes. What I do is walk around the garden beds several times because it is quite hard to stand still and water one plant for very long!
  3. Use a sprinkler, if you are on town or dam water or have another plentiful supply. Leave it on for an hour. Reduce the frequency of your watering. The roots will grow deeper and withstand much hotter weather.
  4. Use a deep hay mulch, lightly shaken over the soil. The water will penetrate and not just water the roots but also keep the microbes happy where the hay meets the soil.
  5. For my tomatoes, which can suffer with diseases if watered overhead, I have installed a line of 13mm irrigation pipe and inserted finger drippers between each tomato plant. These have adjustable little knobs that distribute water out to the size of a spread hand, like fingers. I attach a hose once a week and leave it on for at least an hour. This way every tomato plant receives a deep watering over both sides, a good 30cms or more from the stem. As the plants mature and when the weather is cooler, they need less water. This is also good for cucumbers and zucchinis which prefer not to be watered on the leaves too much.
  6. Group plants together that have similar water requirements.

Side dressing time

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

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

Seeds to sow now
Broccoli raab
Kale
Beetroot
Shungiku
Lettuce
Asian greens (late Feb.)
Carrots
Spinach & silver beet
Spring onions
Hakurei turnips
Tas. swedes
Parsnips
Radishes
Plant out now, yes now, or before!
Brussel sprouts
Cauliflower
Broccoli – regular, sprouting and raab
Lettuce
 
Jobs for February
Plant or move citrus
Summer prune stone fruits
Prepare beds for autumn plantings
Save seeds for next spring
Give pots and the veg. garden some seaweed and fish liquid feed in a hosable spray.

 

Books of the month

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
The Mix and Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffery
Australian Herbal by Penny Woodward

December 2017 Kitchen Garden Guide


Hot, very hot and dry. Suddenly cold. Then windy and VERY wet for days and days. Now warm again! What a couple of weeks we have had and if your body is out of kilter, think for a moment about your garden. At least you could go inside and avoid the worst of it!

Priorities


Garlic: Garlic does not like to be wet once its bulbs are maturing! Now it is saturated at the worst possible time. I pulled my early garlic last week when I heard the forecast. Now I am going to check my mid season and late season garlics by digging up a couple. If you see any signs of the stem going floppy or if your soil is clay (and therefore waterlogged and devoid of oxygen) dig them immediately and lay out in a tin shed to thoroughly dry off. For good storage, garlic needs to be firm and dry. 

Once you have harvested your garlic, plant out with other lime-lovers such as broccoli and be sure to plant amongst some camouflage like marigolds and leeks and add an aphid repellant too, like nasturtiums. There is more on this, below.

Tomatoes: There may be outbreaks of diseases so check regularly, over the next couple of weeks, for yellowing leaves, general wilt, spotty or curled leaves or purple leaf veins. Pick off any affected leaves and dispose of. Some of these symptoms may mean the plants should be relaced. A dose of liquid seaweed solution could help them fight off diseases. Listen to Peter Cundall’s radio show as I bet he will be inundated with questions about too much rain in the vegie garden.

Beans: If, like me, you sowed beans only a day or 2 before the big rain, the bean seeds may rot before they germinate. If the seedlings have not emerged soon, dig in with your finger and have a look so you can re-sow quickly, while the soil is deliciously damp, if needs be. Now is the perfect time to sow beans, after rain. Do not water until they emerge.

Mildew and other fungal attacks


Usually these come towards the end of the summer, when plants like zucchinis are coming to the end but this wet then warm weather may breed up spores very quickly. I use a spray of 1 part milk to 9 parts water, thoroughly over the leaves but I have also recently heard of using carb soda to ward off mildew on gooseberries. Check out the Gardening Australia website for more on this.

Plant out in the damp soil


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.

Camouflage, deception and more


Sow brassicas now, in pots, for next winter’s broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and Brussels sprouts harvest. As they emerge, keep them covered with netting to keep those pesky cabbage moths away or cut out little moth shapes from white plastic (eg icecream or yoghurt containers) and string them about to fool the moths into thinking there are already moths in that area. I have some larger broccoli plants in pots, ready to plant out (heaven only knows why I grew them this time of year!). I will dot them about amongst lettuce, herbs and tall flowers like cosmos so that the moths cannot fly overhead and immediately pick out a row of broccoli to lay their eggs on. Camouflage also works for distracting birds away from my raspberries, some of which are overhung by tree mallows and others are along one side of a large apple tree. I am a seriously lazy gardener and try to use nature as my ally.

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 hot 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 my place they may be fine outside. Don’t overwater and do pick regularly.

December Jobs

January Jobs
Sow seeds: beans, squash, cucumbers, basil, carrots, celery, lettuce, leeks, parsley, sunflowers, radish, parsnip, pumpkin, chicory.
Sow seeds: Lots of winter veg benefit from 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,
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
-      Mulch fruit trees well, preferably with bark chips
-      Feed food garden with seaweed solution for pest resistance and fish emulsion or home made brews
-      Harvest and enjoy!