"To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves."
Mahatma Gandhi

4th January 2016

Well here we are, at the beginning of another cycle around the sun. I hope its starting well for you, with a few snacks in the garden of early beans, or hopeful peering under tomato leaves, careful collecting of baby zucchini, or smiling at fingers stained from berry picking. I've done all of the above this morning, plus a bit of standing in a semi-trance as I contemplate the unruly but productive space in the front yard.

I also managed to FINALLY spray the poor lemon tree with a good dose of white oil - the scale insects have an embarassingly large population all over it. I'll need to follow up in a week or two - before the next FIMBY newsletter!

We've spent quite a bit of time down at the farm over the festive season, with friends and family - its been wonderful. The waterlily I planted in our little dam has bloomed, despite being tipped over as the water levels dropped, and nibbled at several times. Next hot day we'll be braving the leeches, and jumping in to pull out lots of cumbungi (bullrush) to stop it taking over the dam. I'll keep the leaves and use them for a weaving workshop in Oatlands later in the year. Good use for a problematic plant!


We've been picking, cleaning and plaiting garlic at the farm alot lately. The house has a pungent but pleasant aroma, and no vampires to be found. Even our friends, on a slow recovery New Year's Day at the farm, were sitting around a pile of just picked garlic, stripping off the outer leaves, chatting like peasants in times past.
Our harvest at the farm was a full 6 weeks later than at South Hobart, for the same varieties. Just shows the difference a bit of altitude (320m), wind, and relatively un-nurtured soil can make. Our bulb size is smaller at the farm than we'd hoped, but lots of the smaller bulbs are made up of 4-6 lovely plump individual cloves. This will be great for seed for next time, and for cooking!

We had a bit of rot and splitting in the crop at the farm too, since Christmas then rainy Boxing Day got in the way of perfect harvest timing (but huge YAY for the rain!). We're clearly not hard core enough to abandon family Christmas lunch yet! We've been cleaning the bulbs as we go, to make sure that no rot-affected ones go into storage. Its time consuming but quite meditative, and great work for conversations to meander along to.
If you'd like to get your hands of some of this beautiful, organically grown Tasmanian purple stripe garlic, from a paddock with a breathtaking view, let us know!
We're selling the stunning 1kg braids to hang up in your kitchen for a mere $25.
Or a 500g basket of the bulbs to sit on your kitchen bench for $12. Bargain!

Head Gardener material

Sara is doing our extended mentoring program - the Garden Craft program - at the moment, and she is a rockin' great gardener! We mentioned our progressive garden makeover at Sara's place in our Oct 2015 newsletter.

Since then we've been working with Sara in her garden, enviously watching the basil and tomato plants fairly explode with vitality. Sara keeps sending me photos of other bits of her quirky ornamental garden that she's razed to the ground to make more room for food plants. My hero!

Last time I visited, we were chatting about the cucurbits (pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers in this case). They are growing in some of the original beds which are mostly sandy crappola soil, with some horse manure on top, and are invaded by neighbouring tree roots. We've done all the right things: daily watering, good organic fertiliser applications, pea straw mulch, but they just weren't doing very well.

The "soil" in those beds is really really hydrophobic. In other words, it repels water, and so even with daily watering, doesn't really get very wet.
Enter genius gardener, stage left. Sara said "how about I get some plastic drink bottles, and cut off the bottom, and bury them in the soil next to the plants, and fill them with water?". I said "why not, sounds like a good idea." So she did, and it was.

A few days later, I got an excited text: "Look how perky they are, and I haven't even watered them since yesterday morning!". The new watering system makes sure that some water at least is delivered down into the soil profile. Genius! And, pumpkins!

Sweet potato hopes

In the spirit of experimentation, and admitting mistakes, I've planted three sweet potato plants this year. The mistake was to say, for years, that sweet potato just wont grow in Tassie. Well, in a good year, they will! And I'm hoping this is a good'un.
They're in a reasonable spot - good sun, beautiful rich soil, getting plenty of water. We've had a good warm summer so far, and they're sending out runners in a most pleasing fashion. I've heard the leaves are good to eat, but I'm not game to reduce their 'solar panel' area at all, so will leave the leaf eating for another year. I bought these as seedling 'slips' from a nursery, but next year would like to produce my own slips by sprouting an actual sweet potato.
Anyone else out there trying them? I know that Fimby Garden Fairy Michael was growing a sprouted one in a pot, would love to hear how other people's experiments are going. I've heard of people having reasonable success growing them in bathtubs in a greenhouse. If I can crack this one then my Tassievore challenge will be easier!

Three sisters, by accident

I've written about the ancient North American planting guild of corn, beans, squash - the Three Sisters - before. I've also been on record as saying that it can be hard to establish in practice, if you try to get the beans to climb up the corn stalks.

Well, this year I've got an exemplary three sisters guild, by accident. I planted climbing beans on the rebar trellis (cascade giant, or rattlesnake, my favorite purple striped delicious meaty bean). I planted some corn in a block next to them, and spread loads of compost over the soil around the new corn plants.

UP came a whole bunch of zucchini plants from the compost. I remembered (too late) that I had thrown a couple of monster big zooks into the bottom of the compost area the year before. So I pulled out most of the zooks, but left a few around the edges. They're doing well, and the whole symbiotic interraction between these three species seems to be working a treat.

I've also got a lovely understory of white clover, which the bees are loving. That's a result of pretty much ignoring my garden in South Hobart for the last 18 months as we've focussed on the farm, and not having time to 'weed' the home garden.

Bartering goodness

This little bundle of home grown goodness, pictured above, was my ticket to scoring a lovely electronic keyboard just recently. I highly recommend you check out the fabulous Ho*Barter facebook page. Set up by Bridget, a top notch farmer / muso chick in Hobart town (and one of the 5 wonderful farmers in the Hobart City Farm ), the Ho*Barter site is for trading stuff. No cash, just trades.  I've discovered that home grown veg, berries, fruit and eggs are considered pretty high value in this system!
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