“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

14 September 2015

Hi folks, aaaahhhhhhh, so waaaaaaaarrrmmmm! I think we all love Spring so much because its in contrast to winter. I reckon the weeds in the backyard at home have grown and gotten more intensely green just in the last few days. The chooks manage the grass and weeds in our little orchard very well, but they don't eat mallow, and its going gang busters. Fortunately the rabbits do eat it, so I pick handfuls each morning for the bunny brekky. The chooks are always most interested, hoping that I'll pull a plant out by the roots and expose a worm or some earwigs.

I'm sure there would have been lots of garden activity over the last weekend, and lots of wistful "wish I could get into the garden" for people who had other things on. Now is a good time to plant seed, directly, of leafy greens like lettuce and rocket and asian greens. Also a good time to get some early carrot and beetroot seed in, unless you have heavy clay soils which are still pretty wet and cold. We gave fairly detailed instructions for a good way to start off your carrot seeds in last year's newsletter about this time. Click the link to time travel there.

While I was looking to find the correct newsletter last year, I found the other one from September 2014 which has some good timely advice about tying up your peas, which can be blown about and bashed up by the winds around about now.  Have a read if you are interested!

Its a short newsletter this time, so much Spring activity to do outdoors! Keep an eye out for my food garden column in the Mercury's Home magazine - its there on Fridays, the column every second Friday. This week the column is about all the not-so-sexy things, like when you forget to plant the seedlings that looked so appealing at the nursery! Its good to share the flops and failures sometimes - they're the moments that teach us the most.

A dream job

We've had a dream job over the last month or two . . . installing the various elements of a food garden at Rosny Child Care Centre in Montagu Bay.  Our Garden Fairies Fin and Michael (or garden slaves, as they call themselves) have spent many days building the garden beds, chook house and enclosure, worm farms, dual purpose mushroom box seats, and other infrastructure in this lovely open space.

We've so enjoyed having the kids watch us through the windows, and they have done an excellent job of photo documenting the process (pics of tools are fave). We've also loved the hot lunches, mountain views and nice flat access! Kati the manager has been a resourceful and generous client, and a pleasure to work with.

A few Saturdays ago we had the grand planting day with parents and children from the centre. The chooks were installed and seemed to lap up the attention and settled well into their new accommodation. Its going to look gorgeous in a few months when everything has been growing. Here are some pics of the various elements:
The cute signs you can see were made by Cara (Fin's girlfriend) and the beautiful dovetail beds, and C-shaped beds by Bodie of Dovetail Timbers. The local council supplied waste tree branches that we cut into bits for the 'great wall' that keeps the mulch off the grass. This will of course be used as a balancing walk by the kids!

Thanks to John who lives across the street for the panorama shots - he is perfectly positioned to capture the whole garden, and has enjoyed seeing the project develop over time. He even let me know how the boys were working when I wasn't there!
(In case you're curious: "Very well, they never stop".)

Chop chop choppin' that green manure

Its green manure chopping up time. I usually do the chop and dig in the first half of September, so that the bed can be lightly turned over one more time before tomatoes go in late October or early November.

This year my green manure has grown magnificently, and is a bit ahead of schedule. In other words, its forming flowers and seeds already. This is not ideal, since as soon as the plant starts making seeds etc it gets tougher and will take longer to break down once chopped and dug in.

The slightly blurry photo at right shows a triticale (ryecorn) seed head forming . . . uh oh, I better get chopping soon. I think I'll cut the top layer into a tub and throw it to the chooks (they'll love it) and then chop and dig the rest. SOON.

Eating the evidence

You've been walking past that beautiful broccoli in the garden every day. Admiring the new little head as it formed, proudly exclaiming about the size it grows to over the weeks, feeling a bit pressured to pick it as the florets start to loosen up . . . and then eventually you try to avoid looking at it as the flower stalks lengthen and it starts looking like a neglected overgrown thing. But never fear! Broccoli STEMS are divine!
This overgrown romanesco broccoli could be seen by some as a sign of slack gardening. And they would be right. But I also see it as a whole lot of delicious broccoli flower stems - the best bit! This particular specimen is pretty aphid free, but sometimes the florets are all icky with grey aphids. However the stems can be easily washed clean. Not that I'm advocating leaving your broccoli to get to this advanced state . . . or am I?
Here's what I recommend: turn on the radio to your station of preference, or select your current favorite musical inspiration. Or, if you have company (or even without) pour a glass of wine, beer, cider or fave beverage of the moment. Now, peel the broccoli stems. Snap each one off the main stem, and starting from the bottom with a small sharp knife, peel away. You'll get the idea, its easy and strangely satisfying. Keep the floret bits on top if you want.
Once your broccoli has been skinned and dismembered (nature is brutal!), it is delicious in an omelette. Simply drop the sliced stems and floret bits in some boiling water for a few minutes, then drain well. Fry some onion and garlic, and bacon if you're inclined, whisk some eggs, then pop them all in the pan. Top with a bit of cheese. YUM!
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