What is the meaning of life? Michael Leunig says:
"For humans as for all the plants and creatures: know yourself, grow yourself, feel yourself, heal yourself, be yourself, express yourself."
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10th June 2014

Cold but sunny - perfect weather for a bit of weeding, compost making, and sitting by the window doing a bit of garden plannning. There are also, perhaps surprisingly, lots of things to plant in the cold months of June and July. Many of these plantable things include divisions of perennials like rhubarb, asparagus, chives, artichokes.

The other large group of perennials for planting in winter are fruit trees and berries. You don't need to rush, most deciduous fruit trees and cane fruit (like currants and raspberries) are best planted in July, even August, so you've got time to order some, or stroll around friends' gardens and say "Mmmm nice garden. Can I have a few cuttings when you prune or tidy up your raspberries / currants / gooseberries?"

The other traditional winter activity is pruning of fruit and berries once they've lost their leaves and you can see the structure of the plant clearly. We like to do some summer pruning for fruit trees, especially stone fruit, to make the winter pruning less brutal.

And we have a short notice opportunity for you to see some pruning in action - read on!

Magnificent Kiwi fruit

Kiwi fruit grow well in Tasmania, and now is the time that they are being picked to soften up off the vine. One or two vines will produce many buckets of lovely large fruit,  But kiwis do need a very strong trellis and a firm hand in training and pruning. We see far too many tangled masses of unpruned kiwi vines, with a few small fruit on the very outer edge of the messy canopy.

You may know that kiwis are dioecious meaning 'two houses' - in other words, the male and female flowers come on separate plants (or 'houses'!). So you need to plant a boy and a girl in order to get fruit: the male provides pollen, the female gets the fruit. One male plant can 'service' up to six females, they say! Best to wait till spring to plant vines, as they are frost tender when young.
Once the fruit have been picked, its perfect timing for pruning to keep the rampant vines under control and productive. My mum, in West Hobart, has some very beautifully trained vines, and has offered to demonstrate pruning, since its easier to show what needs doing rather than try to explain it in text. So if you're feeling curious, spontaneous, and adventurous, come along THIS SATURDAY!

Kiwi pruning demonstration

When:  Sat 14th June 10.30 - 12.00
Where: Ros Giudici's place, West Hbt
           (address supplied on registration)
What: Discussion and demonstration
          of pruning and training kiwi vines.

PLUS you get to walk around Mum's amazing garden and pick her brains for some of her considerable knowledge and experience! Session is FREE!
Please RSVP to Christina by this Friday, as morning tea will be provided and we would like to have an idea of numbers. And if anyone would like to get some red currant cuttings to plant, you can come back to Christina's place afterwards and see how these delectable jewels of tart deliciousness are pruned. Plenty of cuttings to go round!

Want to grow microgreens, and get paid for it?

We've just begun an exciting collaboration with Lynda and Mark from The Naked Carrot, a local business which grows microgreens for restaurants around Hobart. They are expanding their product lines to include edible flowers, and FIMBY is working with them to set up some outdoor growing areas, and plan for a beautiful, delicate harvest.

They are interested in hearing from people who love to grow things, and might have the time and space and attention to detail to grow some beautiful microgreens to help supply customer demand. Lynda thinks there is a good opportunity to earn more than just a bit of pocket money out of this, and you wouldn't need much more room than a table by a window. 

If you are interested in this, let Christina know, and we will set up a morning tea sometime soon to discuss what's involved and how you might be able to get growing. 

Sweeeeeeeet potato. In Hobart. Yep!

Yes, dear friends, this is what sweet potato looks like at harvest. The roots of a vine in the  convolvulus family. And yes, I know, I've told many of you who hopefully enquired, that you can't grow sweet potato in Hobart since its a subtropical species. And yes, this photo was taken in West Hobart at my mum's place. So, yes again, I was wrong!

I'm kind of happy to be so wrong about this one, and will definitely be trying to grow some sweet potato of my own next summer. Up till I saw this with my own eyes, I've only heard about the occasional experiment with trying to grow sweet potato down here. And the results are usually reported to be pretty poor, with little skinny roots the result. But I can vouch from direct eating experience - these West Hobart grown roots were delicious and substantial enough to roast without being fiddly. Being fresh the skin just rubbed off when we washed them.
Mum was pretty excited when she harvested them, as you can see in the pic! She brought two seedlings in pots from Chandlers nursery last summer, and planted them after her tomatoes, so probably in November. Harvest was last week, and the eating was immediate.

You've probably heard Juliet and I mutter, roll our eyes, shake our heads disapprovingly at nurseries who sell tropical and subtropical plants in Hobart. But fortunately Mum didn't consult with us before she made her purchase, and in the spirit of experimentation, popped the vines in a sheltered spot. This spot was warmish, but not the most sunny spot in the garden. Nevertheless: Voila!

Sweet potato is usually grown from a sprouted root 'slip'. Mum is going to see if any of these small root pieces sprout.
But we'll be looking in the nurseries around October / November for some sprouts in pots, and planting them in a warm spot with plenty of compost, then standing back and hoping for success! There were big harvests of sweet potato at Transition Farm (beautiful website well worth a look) on the Mornington Penninsula in Victoria this year, so maybe we'll be lucky. Good on you Mum! 

Stuffed Capsicums - the capsicums are stuffed

Capsicums grow pretty well here in a warm summer. We have many clients who seem to do a beautiful job growing them, although I have more success with chillies in my garden. Although the plant is perennial, they're generally grown as an annual here. However, if they are in a warm and frost free spot they can survive winter and shoot again in Spring for another summer of producing sweet fruit.

Now that we're starting to get some really frosty mornings, the plants will slow down, and potentially be killed by the cold. They may be stuffed. If you have a really prolific and tasty variety that you don't want to lose, you can try protecting it over winter with some floating row cover or insulnet type product to keep the frost off.

With regard to the fruit - as I mentioned earlier - they may be stuffed (did you see what I did there? Tricky, eh?!). I recently pruned some fruit trees for Carol and Tony at Penna, and came home very happy with the exchange: a morning of conversation and inspiration, a bag of Carol's fresh lovely capsicums, a duck for the freezer, greens for my rabbits and lots of funky feed bags to upcycle into tote bags. 

Carol is a superlative cook, and suggested I try stuffing the capsicums. So I cooked up some brown rice, fried up some onions and bacon and mushrooms, combined all this will handfuls of chopped parsley, and loaded up the decapitated capsicums. Half an hour in a moderate oven, and dinner was ready. And so tasty. I ate till I was stuffed.

Strawberry planting

Now is a very good time to tidy up and refurbish your strawberry bed, and to plant out new plants if you're starting a fresh patch.

Strawberries can be easily propagated from runners from your own plants, or from friends, family, the school fair etc. But a word of caution about getting runners from old plants: you might be getting dud material.
Strawberries are prone to getting a virus that is spread by aphids, which are pretty ubiquitous. The virus doesn't harm the plants' growth, but will eventually make the plant less productive - ie more leaves and less fruit. So if your strawberry plants have been growing for more than 3 or 4 years, and they're not as productive as they once were, it could be time to turf them out and start a new batch of virus free stock.
Most nurseries stock bare rooted strawberry runners at this time of year, and its a much cheaper way to buy them than individually potted up in spring or summer. If you get runners that have masses of long roots, you can give them a trim before planting into cleared and composted soil. Mulch well around them.

For existing strawberry patches that are still producing well, you can cut off most of the big old leaves, even flower stalks (the fruit wont ripen now) and just leave a few new small leaves growing. A slug and snail collection can reduce the population a bit, then feed the plants with a nice few handfuls of compost or old straw around them. Go easy on high nitrogen fertiliser like chook poo though.

Vertical garden at the Arts Factory

Its getting closer to reality. Jorgen the FIMBY gardener / artist / writer / creative type has secured support for construction of a vertical garden at the Arts Factory in South Hobart. He's assembling materials as we speak (as you read).
We'll have a working bee to create something lovely, inspired in part by the picture at left, on Sunday 29th June.

Full details to follow in the next newsletter. Let Christina know if you're keen to be involved, and what tools, materials, creative genius or cake you might be willing to bring along!
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