Zucchinis, beans, lettuce, zucchinis, potatoes, zucchinis.
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29th January 2014

Phew it was hot yesterday. I gave the chickens and rabbits ice blocks (frozen 2 litre milk cartons of water) to lie next to and ice in their water. The chooks are pretty well insulated by their feathers, and they have the freedom to find a shady cool spot. The rabbits have good shade, but are more prone to heat stress since they can't pant or sweat. But they've all survived another scorcher ok.

Plants can't move about to find shade of course, and if you have small seedlings in the ground these hot days can fry them up pretty quickly, even if the soil is damp. You can make some temporary shade 'umbrellas' by sticking in some bracken fern fronds, or any leafy pruning from the fruit trees, on the northern side of your seedlings. Or you can drape a bit of shade cloth over some stakes or trellis support to create temporary relief from the sun for tender plants.

Your summer planting plan can also consider that we get a sprinkling of really hot days each year, and so it doesn't hurt to put lettuces and other soft leafy vegies on the shady side of tall summer crops like sweet corn, climbing beans or tomatoes.

We all these days mostly heed the message of 'slip, slop, slap' and try to stay in the shade . . . and we can consider the sunburn risks for ripening fruit too. In high summer many fruits are vulnerable, like apples, plums, grapes, pears. So if you are doing summer pruning (a good idea!) make sure you don't take too much leaf off and expose previously protected fruit. You can identify sunburn by burnt looking patches on the exposed side of fruit. If its bad, and starts a rotten patch, there's nothing to do but prune off the affected fruit and take care next time.

Garden Tour report

Our garden tour was lovely, as always, with around 16 enthusiastic people from all over the place: USA, China, Germany, NZ and, of course, Australia. All now calling Hobart home, and enjoying seeing some gardens in the suburbs near their own.
Uta's place was inspiring, with everyone keen to see the beautiful large enclosure, complete with central fruit tree plantings. It all looked beautiful and too good to resist, with people coming out with walking onions, springs of mint and other aromatic plants to pot up, and a lettuce for lunch (picked by Uta's daughter).

Uta also had some beautifully packaged home grown and dried tea for all of us - so aromatic and delicious! It included mint, elderflower, lindenflower, lemonbalm, lemon verbena, lemon flower, calendula, applemint, spearmint and camomile. 

And among the many lovely offerings from people for lunch (including chocolate beetroot muffins, yay for Jess!) Uta brought along an amazing 'pesto' made with lemon balm which was a surprise hit. She says its embarassingly easy to make, so at the risk of getting type cast as "that pesto newsletter", here's the recipe:

Uta's Pesto

  • 3 cups mint, lemonbalm (pictured right) or other herbs, chopped finely
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • approx. 1 cup olive oil to desired consistency 
That's it! No food processor required!

Fimbarista file: Carol in New Town

We've just installed some beautiful dovetail timber raised beds at Carol's place in New Town. Designed in collaboration with Carol, the simple and generous layout gives plenty of growing space, and maximises the capture of sunshine.

Below left we can see the 'before' shot. Carol was keen to utilise the lovely brick wall, but it faces pretty much south east, so only gets morning sun. We discussed putting a narrow bed along there to plant berries such as raspberries, which will get good sun till lunch time in summer. In winter, when the bed doesn't get much sun, the canes will be dormant anyway, and not suffer too much from the lack of warmth.

Below right and 'tha boyz' lay out the raised beds where the bulk of the annual vegies will be planted. Each piece in the raised bed jigsaw can go four different ways, but only one will correctly lock the dovetail joints together. So it can cause a few head scratches and a few slapstick comedy moves to put them all together, even with Bodie's careful labelling of parts!
Above left and the annual beds and two perennial beds along the fence lines are complete. We carpeted the whole area under and around the annual beds. This will help keep weeds down outside the beds, and help prevent invasion of the annual beds with the roots of the nearby magnificent big loquat tree. There were already quite alot of fine woody roots in the soil of the galvanised bed that we emptied and moved at the start of the job. We don't want to have to dig these out in a few years!

Almost every carpet shop has a big skip out the back where you can get free carpet. Always ask permission, and you'll be amazed at some of the high quality stuff that is thrown out. We think its very affluent to be carpeting the garden!

Above right and Carol is ready and rearing to get planting! The mulch covering the carpet is all fluffed up now that its just been spread, but it will pack down quite a bit with foot traffic and rain over the coming weeks. Eventually it will fade from the chocolatey colour it is now to a silvery grey. Its hammer milled gum bark, a waste product, and our preferred mulch for areas where you don't want anything growing.

We'll post some more photos in a couple of months when everything is growing.

Floral abundance

On the garden tour, someone asked about one of the weeds that was flowering amongst the lettuce. I hadn't had time to get the garden looking all spick and span, and decided that it was ok for clients to see a 'normal' garden where some of the jobs weren't done yet (like weeding the lettuces). But the comment got us talking about floral abundance, which is a useful thing for attracting 'good' insects like bees and hoverflies that do pollination and pest control duties. 

So if you have some borage, or dandelions, or speedwell, or even self sown hollyhocks (like those on the left) popping up around the place, think twice before consigning them to the compost heap. Are they actually threatening your lettuces, or just filling up the spaces between them? Can you bear a bit of untidiness for the sake of some nectar pit stops for the insects that will bring balance and diversity to your garden community?

And these 'weeds' can be so beautiful!

Hand tools workshop - any interest?

We have been chatting to the young and inspiring farmer / gardener / thinker / artist Bridget Stewart over the past little while about having her run a workshop for FIMBY people about hand tools - how to look after them, how to choose the right tool for the job, and how to use them efficiently.

Bridget has been working for some years on the farm that grows herbs organically for Gould's Pharmacy, and knows alot about wheel hoes, how to sharpen a scythe, and how to manage weeds effectively using mechanical means.

So, if you'd be interested in a workshop with Bridget, somewhere around Hobart in March, please let me know. If we get a good handful of people interested we'll book a date and lock it in!
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