The Bream Creek Show is on this Saturday 21st March. Go along and check out the giant pumpkins!

16 March 2015

Hi everyone, hope Autumn is treating you well. There is a decided nip in the early morning air these days, don't you think? And I heard there was a frost in Cygnet and Oatlands a week or so ago. Poor folks . . . just getting a few ripe tomatoes, then BAM! But don't give up on your toms just yet, they will continue ripening for another month yet, as long as it doesn't go crazy frosty too often.

Yes, the temporally accurate amongst you will be itching to note that this "fortnightly" newsletter is three weeks since the last one. Sorry! The pears, and quinces, and tomatoes, and apples got priority over you, dear reader. Bottled, jellied, sauced and dried respectively. I hope you'll understand!

We have a few lovely gardens for you to oggle over in this newsletter, plus information to help you figure out when to harvest your pumpkins. And we have a hot tip for some most excellent scrounging. FREE pea straw! Yes, really. But just for the fast few who get back to us right away. 

Fimbarista File: Vivienne and Des

Vivienne and Des live just around the corner from me in South Hobart. SUNNY South Hobart as you can see! They produce amazing bounty in a quite small area.
The trick with this design was to make maximum use of the sunny side of the space between their balcony and their boundary fence, which ranged in width from about 1 to 3 metres. Where the space was narrow, the answer was, obviously, a narrow bed. Vivienne and Des want to stay at this place as they get older, so raised beds will make their gardening easier in future. 

As the space got wider, the raised beds got wider too, until the point where they would not be able to reach all the way across to the bed from the path. Solution: the "E" shaped bed.
This is a variation on the 'keyhole' path idea. We designed and built a bed shaped like the capital "E" with the long side to the back. That means we can walk into the space between the arms of the E and reach all the bed, without losing too much growing room. But the gardeners' attentiveness, care and devotion is what is really producing the abundance of greens, pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplant (that's around the corner), spring onions, carrots, beetroot and basil that has come out of this garden in the last few months. I've been the lucky recipient of some fragrantly spicy bunches of basil. Made my #Tassievore photos look better (below left) and my taste buds happy with pesto (below right).

When do we harvest our pumpkins?

This is a common question at this time of year. How do you know when the pumpkin is 'ripe' or fully developed. Especially tricky when you're growing a variety that is new to you, and if you're not sure what its supposed to look like.

A good indicator is to see if the stem that attaches the pumpkin to the vine is still thick and green, or drying out. If its shrivelled up, then you may as well harvest since the pumpkin is no longer getting any goodness from the vine.

Most pumpkins actually improve in flavour with a bit of storage post harvest. And if you pick some too early, you can still eat them, they just wont keep so well. You don't want them to catch a frost out in the garden though, as this will damage the skin and shorten their storage life. If a cold night is forecast you can cover them up with some straw or a blanket or old jumper or something.

I wrote a bit more about pumpkin harvest tips in our newsletter back in March 2010 (old fashioned pdf newsletters back then, so takes a little while to load):  if you'd like to read more, down the wormhole you go with the link HERE.
We get a few related questions quite commonly at this time of year. For example: How do I know when to pick the sweet corn? See our answer from a few seasons ago HERE.

And how do you know when your apples are ready to pick? You can take the apple in your hand and gently lift it up so that the stalk is horizontal. If its ready, it will come off in your hand. If its not ready, you'll have to yank hard to detach it. You can also slice open a picked or fallen apple and look at the seeds. Ripe seeds are brown, unripe seeds are still white. But the best test is the taste test!

Oh deary me

This is a branch from my lemon tree a few weeks ago. My beautiful generous bountiful lemon tree that I've allowed to be terribly infested with scale. You can see the larger dark brown button like things - they're the insects. And all the small paler yellow ones are a massive new population getting started. There are ants all over the tree, and areas of really bad sooty mould. Both (ants and sooty mould) are secondary symptoms that come along with the scale.

Fortunately, my tree is well fed and watered, so it should manage to shrug off this infestation and ripen all the lovely little green lemons on it if I treat the problem.  To treat, suffocate the scale by spraying with white oil or a home made alternative. Thoroughly spray all the affected stems and undersides of leaves. At least twice at weekly intervals. Maybe three times.
I hate showing you this picture of my neglect, but we learn as much from our mistakes than from when everything goes right. That's what I'm hoping. Maybe we can have a big cathartic, no judging, let it all out, mistake-confession-fest sometime!

Pea Straw Muster

Pea straw is a wonderful mulch, especially when its chopped like in the picture above. Its light and fluffy (at least until the rains get to it), easy to spread, high in nitrogen, breaks down in a season to feed the soil, and worms love it. But its so darn expensive these days. Ridiculous even. If you have a little garden then its probably worthwhile, but it's cost prohibitive to buy large quantities.

Enter Fimbarista Martine to save the day! She lives near a farmer who chops and bags pea straw for sale to nurseries. He has quite a bit of 'escaped' pea straw in his shed that he'd like cleaned out. All we have to do is turn up and bag it and take it away. Woo Hoo! We've had a few scrounging sessions already, and we thought that we'd invite a few more Fimbaristas to help with one last big effort.

This Thursday. Near Woodbridge. It would be most worthwhile if you bring a ute or trailer or van, some bags (old feed bags or big strong garbage bags will do), and a mask (its dusty work). We have space for about 3 more people. Let me know if you're keen and I'll send you details. I loaded the ute up with 36 bags last week, with help from Des who lives around the corner.

Ironically, now is not really the time for mulching in the vegie garden. We don't want to create a cold wet blanket on the soil going into winter for annual vegies. But you can go crazy with mulch around fruit trees, perennial vegies like rhubarb and asparagus (see photo above), berries and artichokes. Or store you bags of loot for distribution in Oct/Nov when the greedy summer crops will really benefit.

Book review

I found this short book by Horst Kornberger incredibly moving and compelling. He invites us to look at the bee crisis and consider different ways of thinking about it. So this isn't a typical science / ecological text, more an exploration that is profoundly philosophical, rich and I think important. The author Horst is a difficult guy to pigeonhole. In his own words: he is a creativity consultant, interdisciplinary artist, poet, writer, lecturer and researcher into the field of imagination and creativity.
I met him at a talk in Hobart that a friend who is into biodynamics invited me to. What a fascinating and stretching evening! He asserts that we desperately need imagination, and new ways of thinking, to solve our global challenges. Very inspiring. He has a website if you're curious or would like a copy of the book.

SeaSoulStudio in the cottage by the sea

I recently met Sarah, the creative energy behind SeaSoulStudio through an exchange on instagram! She posted a pic of some ceremic brooches, which included a very cute chook. I responded enthusiastically, and our eventual catchup in her gorgeous garden emerged from there.

I couldn't help snapping pictures, there were so many great ideas, uses of recycled materials, and lush abundance everywhere. Hope you enjoy the slide show!
A quince tree branch is encouraged to be more horizontal with a rusty old hook. 
Mosaic tiles made long ago now grace the garden paths. I had to brush off the mulch and duck poo, but they still bring a smile with colour and pattern.
Old apple crates make great asparagus beds. All the timber and gates around the garden are salvaged from garage sales and tip shops. Even the old shutters on the house windows have been repurposed as garden gates.
The fruit and berry section is a favorite hiding and foraging place for the ducks.
Sarah has plenty of produce - more than enough for the household. She has a great arrangement with a chef who lives just down the road - he drops by on the way to work with a laundry basket, picks what needs picking, and takes it to his work in a restaurant that same day. Pays Sarah for the super fresh, low food miles produce. Win-win!
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