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17th March 2016

Hello vegie heads! Another pic of beautiful beans, just shelled the other day. I post a similar pic each year, always enthralled by the beauty of these living seeds. The ones above are a mix of borlotti, cannelini and red kidney. They grow well here, but you don't get a huge yield for the area they take up. An example of growing something because its so satisfying, rather than making absolute economic sense.

But I do love how you can start with about 10 seeds of a variety of bean, and then with just those plants, harvest hundreds of seeds to share around, or eat! I've often thought that a good pocketful of bean seeds would be a good thing to have in some sort of energy crisis. And a patch of good soil, and some clean water. And the key to the wine cellar!

A quick update on the mushroom compost: we've locked in a delivery and pickup date, which is Friday 8th April, between 2 and 4pm. Big thanks to Peter at Waratah in South Hobart for agreeing to let his business be our unloading place and for providing a forklift driver. Anyone who has ordered bags will receive an email from me in shortly with details of payment etc.

We've had orders for ALL the 550 bags on the truck! But if you haven't ordered and you'd like some, we're making a waiting list in case anyone who has ordered is unable to make the pickup time. So let me know if you'd like to be on that list.

Save the figs!

My friend Tilly is a fabulous gardener. We studied Ag Science together at Tas Uni, a loooooong time ago! She's an experienced orchardist, and skilled pruning queen. She also has an AWESOME garden in Sandy Bay. With many fruit trees, including figs. Anyone with a fig tree is probably battling the birds at the moment. Tilly sent me this photo the other day with the following message:
"How to keep birds from stealing your figs. It works perfectly!
$2-3 from Shiploads for a pack of 5 bags. Spread the word to your Fimbaristas!"

Thanks Tilly! Thanks too for the box of quinces. Mmmmmm, good cider coming!

Its all OK - really!

I've had a few conversations while gardening with fimbaristas recently that have prompted me to post this photo of my garden. Taken this afternoon. Not very gorgeous looking is it? These are the weeds I've  been growing since the garlic was pulled back in November, and the beans got too big and therefore forgotten, and the zucchinis succumbed to mildew (thank the Gods) and the pumpkin vines shriveled up.

We tend to focus our social media sharing on the good stuff, naturally.
But growing your own food is always a mix of success and, um, not success. In my case, the garden in this deplorable state is an indication that I've had some busy months, and that we go down to the farm every weekend. So the poor old garden is pretty neglected.

It can become burdensome. A few friends that I've helped out recently have definitely been psychologically bullied by overgrown gardens. Often its not nearly as bad as people think - an hour or two with a friend and some great conversation while working . . . and an embarrassing weedy patch can suddenly look cared for, sporting newly planted seedlings and a great compost pile next door.

Its a good idea to tackle a small, achievable section at a time, and get some good feedback by seeing at least one area that you've brought into line. And water the working patch the day before you weed - it will be MUCH easier!

But really, its OK for the garden to be crazy some times. It just shows that you've got other priorities right now. And good weed growth means you've got a fertile patch! Better than a desert where nothing will grow. Ask around for help - swapping a short working session with a friend in a similar situation is a great way to get motivated.

Upcycled modular portable gluten free gardens

Remember those broken milk crates that we were getting? Well a good number of them have been cable tied together to make some shelving in sheds at the farm. And another lot are waiting to be screwed to the wall down the side of the house, neatly stacked with all my empty plastic punnets and small pots.

But the main batch of them have just been turned into modular gardens with the kids at Rokeby High School and Clarendon Vale Primary School. The project is part of the Healthy Eating workshops we are doing with the legendary Lissa from Sustainable Living Tasmania. Kids love to shovel soil, and plant things. And water them.
We got a heap of used coffee sacks, and put one in each crate, and shimmied the extra material down the outside of the crate. We even turned up fashionable cuffs at the bottom to use up some of the extra length.

Then we filled the crates with a soil mix that was boosted with extra compost - to keep the mix light and to have good water holding capacity. Then planted a range of Autumn vegies.
Peas, spinach, spring onions, lettuce, rainbow chard, broccoli, kale, radish, beetroot, carrots. They got to choose what they wanted to plant in their own crate garden (until we ran out of carrot seed). Lots of the students are keen to take their crate home or make another one to take home.

We're having a display at the Clarence Plains Festival on 30th April, and some of the students are already planning architectural wonders built of milk crate gardens! My favorite ideas so far are creating a stepped 'ampitheatre' of crates, and creating a huge strawberry tower of crates tied together, and planted up the sides with strawberries.

There are so many structural possibilities! If you're keen to get some crates let me know - we'll probably have some spares after the festival when we dis-assemble the creations that the students have put together.

Strawberries running

Speaking of strawberries, you might have noticed lots of 'runners' on your strawberry plants in the last month or so. Mine have been shooting out heaps, especially since I started feeding them a bit more regularly with some liquid fertiliser (seasol alternating with charlie carp). If your plants have been producing good fruit, and are only a year or two old, you can propagate alot of new plants for free from the runners.
The runners are long thin shoots that come out from the parent plant, and they develop a little cluster of leaves at a node. Sometimes the runners are quite long before they develop a new plant, up to half a metre even.

Have a look at the leaf cluster, and you'll see some little bumps on the back which are root nodes. If the cluster has touched down on soil, it may have already grown roots. You can carefully snip off the stem either side of the new little plant, and pot it up in some potting mix. They seem to survive best if there are some roots already growing. Cut off any big leaves.
Give your new little plants a dose of seasol, and keep them well watered for the first week or so. Some of the existing leaves might die, but don't give up hope too soon!

If your parent plants are more than 4 years old, its pretty likely that they will be carrying a virus that reduces fruit production. If that's the case, then don't propagate the runners from those old plants. Rip them out and get some new certified virus free stock from a nursery in June, when you can buy runners bare-rooted and cheap.

Sweet potato SoHo style

Yeehar! I grew some sweet potatoes in South Hobart! Remember how Mum grew some in West Hobart two years ago and I had to admit after years of telling people that they wouldn't grow in Tasmania that they actually would. And I said "grow them grow them" to everyone, and then the next summer (last year) it was a total flop?

Well, I tried again with three slips that I bought at a nursery. Planted in November (2015) into good soil in a sunny spot outside. We had a good warm summer, and I was able to keep the water up to them. The vines grew well, and the other day I just couldn't wait any longer. I carefully dug up one plant, and found lots of lovely roots! I should have waited longer, because as well as the proper big ones, there were about 8 or 10 quite small roots (thumb sized) that would have filled out I'm sure.

At least I have another two plants still growing. I'll leave them alone till the vines start to die off, then dig up the buried treasure! Next year's experiment will be to grow my own slips from a tuber. I think Michael the FIMBY garden fairy has done that, so I'll have to pick his brains to see how he did it!

Out and about

There are LOADS of groovy events going off all over the place this month! Two of them happen this weekend, and we'll be at both! Saturday is the Bream Creek Show.
HUGE pumpkins (the winner last year was 289kg and I think that record will be shattered this year!) and wood chopping and animals and machines and nice food and drinks. Mick and I are volunteering as stewards in the hall of industries, and will be on our best behaviour as those CWA ladies take their sponge cakes pretty darn seriously!
Then Sunday is the Huon Small Farms Expo - only its second year but reputed to be a fantastic day out. I'll be there looking after the Tas Tea Co stall: come and say Hi!
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