Michael Pollan's food rule #30: Eat well grown food from healthy soil. 
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8th October 2013

Hello again, welcome to October. We all (in Hobart) know what that means don't we? Yes, TOMATO TIME! I'll  make my usual plea for you to not rush into planting your precious babies too early (greenhouses excepted). Even if there aren't any frosts, the cooler soil means that the plants wont get going really well for some weeks. That said, the soil is unusually warm for this time of year (evidenced by lots of things germinating that usually come along later). But really, don't rush, its absolutely fine to wait till November to plant your toms. 

However I know that nonetheless some of you can't wait to plant out those exotic and wonderful sounding varieties you got at the Botanical Gardens sale. At least PLEASE harden your plants off properly first! Hardening off means gradually exposing them to the 'real world' over a week or more, by putting them out in the sun on warm days, and bringing them in at night. You can increase the outside time bit by bit, eventually leaving them out on a warm night. This helps reduce the shock of transplanting and adjusting to your particular microclimate.

And now, a Give-away!

I have lots of seedlings of around 10 different heirloom tomato varieties. I'll be selling some of them at the Sustainable Living Expo in early November. But if you'd like a set  of half a dozen colourful and tasty types, simply forward this email to some friends, and invite them to subscribe. There's a button at the bottom of this page to make it easy. The first 3 people to let me know that they've been responsible for 3 other people subscribing get the babies! They're small, but hardy, and will catch up to any big blowsey plants pretty quickly!
I like to hand weed after rainy weather with the sun on my back. And if the 'weeds' are small, you have the chance to see what's growing. For instance, this little sunflower that's growing gamely in amongst the garlic. Other 'volunteers' I often find include lettuce, leek, coriander, parsley, silver beet, rocket, kale, beans and tomatoes. If you like things to grow in their 'proper' place, you can gently transplant these little darlings as needed.

Kale chips

What could be better? Incredibly delicious, salty, crispy snack food that MAKES YOUR BRAIN BIGGER!
I guess many of you are smugly nodding because you already eat kale, the renowned super food, this way. Well I had heard about the method, even sold kale to people at the farmers market who gave me detailed descriptions; but never tried it until a friend cooked for me recently. Oh My! She tore the leaves off the stems and into little pieces about an inch or two square. Tossed them in oil and salt (actually she used truffle salt = posh). Baked spread out in a tray in a fairly hot oven for about 12 minutes. Eat them warm while they're still crunchy. So good. I might save a few kale leaves from the rabbits and chooks to bring into the kitchen now.

I'm sure you could vary up the flavours: a quick google search shows that people use paprika, cumin, garlic, lemon juice and all sorts of things to customise their version.

FIMBARISTA FILE

Rosemary and Brian Giles were some of our earliest FIMBY customers, in Tranmere. They were fantastic diligent gardeners and grew wonderful crops of peas, beans, zucchinis the size of wombats, tomatoes, herbs and all the rest. The sort of customers who make us look good! We even had one of our FIMBY garden tours at their place.

Rosemary wrote to me recently to let me know that she is still gardening, albeit in different circumstances now. She joined Brian in Kuching, Malaysia, 2 years ago, and writes:
"We live on the eighth floor of an apartment building on the waterfront in the centre of Kuching. We have a balcony and that's it as far as a garden goes. I have been experimenting with seeds in pots though and have had great success growing basil, spinach and rocket. You wouldn't believe how quickly seeds come up. In only a couple of days they are poking through the soil and then grow like 'wildfire'. It is very satisfying."

Rosemary goes on to explain that she hasn't has such success with tomatoes, but is happy trying lots of seeds on her balcony. Her local friends have big gardens with mango trees, but also with creepy crawlies like pit vipers to deal with.  Her final words:

"I really miss eating parsnip and swede here. I can't buy it anywhere and I'm told they wouldn't grow. When I eventually get back to Tasmania I'm going to re-establish the vegie patch and a big part of it will be swede and parsnip!"
We're usually filling beds up, not emptying them. Read the sad story of alien invasion.

Its an invasion

We installed three Dovetail Timber hardwood beds at Sue's place in West Hobart some years ago. She's grown fantastic crops of tomatoes in them. However she called us recently to say that the soil had been invaded by roots. 

Sue's garden is a beautiful lush oasis of established trees, shrubs, some lawn and vegies in inner city Hobart. We originally put the new raised beds in a grassy spot, and since they were 60cm high we didn't bother to line them. Our reasoning is that the grass would be killed by the depth of soil, and we didn't want to alienate all the healthy soil life (eg worms) that were living in the lawn. 

However! There is a very large and venerable deciduous tree within about 15m of the garden beds, and we reckon the feeder roots of this tree have found the delicious nutrient rich soil we put in the raised beds. It has steadily, and stealthily, invaded the raised beds, resulting in a mass of fibrous and woody roots colonising the space and making vegie growing more difficult.

The solution? Dig out the beds, line the bottom and lower sides with old carpet, and fill them up again with the sifted soil and a booster of some aged sheep manure. Ready to produce buckets of tomatoes again. 

In hindsight, we should have lined the beds at the initial installation. We thought the expanse of lawn around the beds would be enough to protect them from invasion. We were wrong!
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Above: Once the soil was removed, we lined the bottom and lower sides with carpet to prevent re-invasion with roots.
Below: A sheet of weldmesh placed over the bed made sifting out the roots easy as we shovelled the soil back.

Feed your soil,
Feed your plants

Its a good time to start feeding your plants, and the soil, as things warm up and get growing fast. A good way of doing this is to use Complete Organic Fertiliser, "COF", with the recipe from Steve Solomon's book "Growing Vegetables South of Australia". All the ingredients can now be bought at Hollanders on the Brooker Highway. We buy the expensive items, like kelpmeal and phosrock, in bulk, so let us know if you want just a small amount. We also have some ready mixed COF for sale in 5 litre buckets.
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