Monday, March 21, 2011

photo record - garden beds

This is a record of what is growing where at the moment - at least at one end of the beds.

Carrots, Endive, Fennel. Carrots have struggled with imperfect soil conditions and a re a bit stumpy.

Beetroot, Parsnips and Mizuma
 The Beetroots have been pulled now and replaced with Tat tsoi and lettuce seedlings.
Broccoli, Silver beet and Kale
We skipped over the Tomatoes and Rhubarb beds as they are in the last blog post. The Tomatoes are still producing lots of fruit - 3kg picked yesterday. Strawberries are producing lots of leaves and runners.
Zucchinis, Shallots and runner beans in view.
While the Zucchinis have mildew on the older leaves , they have a good set of newer leaves and are still producing when the weather warms up.

Potatoes ready for harvest

We have already harvested a couple of 10 litre buckets of potatoes. Kipfler and Tasmanian pink eye so far. The "Dargo goldfields" variety at the rear has quite a lot of leaf still.
Cabbages, Brussel sprouts, Bush Pumpkin (Bush buttercup) and Borlotti beans
A new trellis has been erected beyond the cabbages and this has been planted with Delta Louise Sno peas, which are a mildew resistant variety.

Maturing Zebra beans and Dutch pole beans - empty beds were peas.
 The Zebra beans are still producing well while the Dutch pole dried beans are yellowing off and have had most of their crop removed.

I now have hard decisions about what will go in all the beds next, keeping in mind that i need to remember to leave space for spring plantings. I'm sure i need more space.
On top of that dilemma i am waiting for my latest compost pile to mature ( i still have some of the old heap left but it will probably only do one more bed.

The is one more bed at the bottom of the garden with Cauliflower and one more at the top with young Asparagus. The Asparagus struggled to do much this year - probably because of the lack of soil prep. It should take of next spring when the worms have done lots of aeration over the winter.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A time to reflect

I was struck today by how far we have come on this bit of land since we arrived in early November.
From buying all of our vegetables weekly ( a forein concept to us) to almost self sufficiency in our vegetables in about four months.

Some photos illustrate the transformation well.

The Rhubarb and Strawberries

The Tomatoes.
Our baskets are filled daily with stuff from the garden and our meals are almost all garden produce apart from grains and pulses.

A  basket of produce on a random day in March
Our pantry, fridge and freezer are getting incrementally fuller by the day - something is being preserved on most days. Drying apples has been all the rage in the last few days thanks to some prolific roadside trees.
Pantry full of goodies
Although we are now swimming with produce and look forward to an even better year in the coming spring, it was not all plain sailing. There were many points along the way when, after observing something was not quite right, that an intervention was required.

There have been hundreds of litres of liquid manures spread all over the garden this year because i noticed that the fertility of the soil was not quite up to scratch - and that buried wood chips in the soil were most likely robbing nitrogen from the soil.

Caterpillars were rife and i would have lost many crops if not for prudent timing of control.

I have learned that although Bracken (Pteridium esculentum) is high in potassium and abundant - it is not the panacea for fabulous compost that i was hoping. It has a very waxy coating on the leaf and resists breakdown even in the extended high temperatures of a compost heap.  I am now including some shredded bracken with lots of other material that has been put through the mulcher.

I have observed and learned what plants look like sitting in bad quality potting mix with no fertilizer and how much they don't grow.

I have learned that Bower birds will devour tomato leaves and bean leaves but not peas or potato leaves. I have also learned that they disappear for much of summer and are only now making a sporadic appearance.

 I have learned that Turkeys' are fun to keep but are a bit naughty at times.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A garden perve

I don't know about other folk but i love looking at other peoples' gardens and if the owner of the gardens are around so i can pick their brains, then all the better. It really is a way to fast-forward your process of experimentation in your own garden. You often see things you didn't think were possible or just better ways of doing things. That is also why i think community gardens are great - you can learn just by looking.

So this brings me to Kate Herds' book "Kitchen Gardens of Australia"

A mixture of 18 gardens around the country with food growing at their centre. Some of them are very formal and well designed - while others like our Alice Springs garden are thrown together with recycled bits of wire and wood and make no claim to being pretty - at least not in the dead of winter!

Kates' introduction to food gardens is all about the benefits that they can bring to individuals, families, children as well as the biosphere. Growing food is one of the most "real" activities we can engage in. We all need to eat, but increasingly we are finding we need to inoculate ourselves and our families from the pressures of the modern world and media in particular. Time in the garden is a tonic, an education, a slow outward breath when we are in the moment and the other pressures of the day disappear.

But I'm sure i am preaching to the converted about the benefits of gardening.
Another thing Kates' book may help to do is to to expand the area of vegetables and fruit grown in more formal settings. Through her chosen gardens it is obvious that vegetables can be beautiful and a desirable part of any garden (each garden has an overview design page). If we can bring food plants back into the main stream gardening mixture then we are one step closer to a more grounded suburbia, where people preserve, swap produce and share something of substance. 

A timely book and another tool in the arsenal to encourage sustainable gardens.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Funghi in the forest

Apparently mother nature has decided that it's time for the field mushrooms to come out. Something to do with copious rain (250mm) and humidity this month. These mushrooms are however more forest than field and are liable to be found in the lovely mulch beneath silver wattles (Acacia dealbata) on the edges of paddocks. They seem to have a particular aversion to growing under Eucalyptus around here - whereas in South Australia they could be found commonly under Red Gums (E. camaldulensis).

Mushrooms day 1

As i am a lover of mushroomy flavours in soups and stocks I'm drying mobs of the field mushrooms in the food dryer and filling the larder. I added the fresh fungi to a risotto tonight which was delectable - but dried mushrooms can also be used.

Mushrooms day 2
My second mushroom preserve which as turned out to be extremely delicious is mushrooms preserved in oil. The recipe comes from an excellent book called "Preserving the Italian way" by Pietro Demaio. You boil the mushrooms for 3 minutes in a mixture of 1 part white wine vinegar and three parts water. Squeeze the juice out of them by leaving them over night with a weight on top, and put them under oil the following morning with herbs etc. Use a light Olive oil to get the most out of the mushroom flavours.

mushrooms day 3

The good part of this recipes is that you can eat them on sandwiches or biscuits and they don’t have to be mixed into a meal. We have had issues with certain young people complaining about mushrooms in their meals so this recipe keeps adults and children happy. And who knows the children may even be tempted to try one?

Mushrooms preserved under oil and dried mushrooms