"When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant."

19th July 2016

I've had enough of the gusty wind now, have you? Its not conducive to a good night's sleep, listening to the rattle and bang and occasional crash of the wind and its playthings. South Hobart copped a bit of carnage during last week, as did many other places. Trees down, pea plants snapped, pots and tubs and foldaway tables tumbled and thrown about. Fortunately nobody we know of was hurt, or had seriously expensive damage. Its all a bit dramatic though, and I'd be quite happy for some calm weather for a while thankyou very much.

The silver lining I suppose is that with even more trees down at the farm, Mick has endless opportunity for milling timber! And I'll be building some big compost piles with mulched leaves and small branches mixed with our farm neighbour's copious chook poo stash. Two waste streams (fallen trees, chook poo) coming together to make something valuable (steaming hot compost). Love it!

Grasp that nettle!

We did have a calm and sunny day in the last fortnight, I remember it well, and I spent some of that lovely day weeding the herb patch. As you can see from the banner photo and the one above, we have a healthy crop of stinging nettles growing amongst the herbs. This is a recipe for disaster as I often pick the herbs after dark, while something is simmering in a stew pot and needs a herbal flavour boost. But brushing against this young crop of stingy things while trying to pluck a few herb leaves is not fun.

So somewhat defiantly (since I really should have been working at the computer finishing a report!) I sat down in the weak sunshine, and weeded around the herbs.
I was too lazy to go and get my gardening gloves, and so working bare-handed I had to make sure I grabbed the nettles from the side, getting my fingers to the stem without brushing the top surface of any leaves where most of the stinging cells are. If you do this, and move confidently (no room for wishy washy hand movements here) you can pluck out the nettles without getting stung. The young nettle plants went into a bucket to be covered in water to make 'nettle tea' over the next few weeks. This will be a potent liquid fertiliser for the leafy greens in the winter garden. Later in the season if I harvest a patch of nettles from somewhere, I love to use nettle tea as an unrivalled tonic for the tomatoes.

Hidden tarragon

If you grow French tarragon, you've probably had the same experience as I do each winter, when I wonder if its died out and disappeared. This delicious herb can be quite large and bushy over summer, then browns off and dies back completely over winter, ready to spring forth again in Spring. This makes it a 'herbaceous perennial'.
The tarragon patch was over-run with grass, rather than nettles. Not as nasty to touch, but with competitive roots and thick choking growth, the grass would be even more difficult to get out when the tarragon shoots come up in Spring.

The photo at left was taken after I'd already pulled out a couple of big clumps of grass. Its perfect timing to do this when the soil is so well soaked, as you can get much of the root system of the grass out. In drier conditions the tops tend to just break off, which just really stimulates the grass to bounce back faster and stronger.
After a meditative 10 or 15 minutes, the grass is mostly gone, and Voilá! Little tarragon shoots getting ready to do their thing, and grow big and strong and become the hero of a roast chicken dish, or the essential character of a bearnaise sauce story. Because the grass was so thick, there were inevitably a few tarragon pieces pulled out too. These rooted bits are now in pots, ready to give away. Root divisions are the best way to propagate tarragon!

Marvellous mallow

Still on the subject of weeds (its a bit of a theme this week eh?) I'd like to introduce you to one of the usual suspects -  Common mallow. Its tough, and pretty!
Also known as Blue Mallow (the flowers go blue as they fade) its botanical name is Malva sylvestris.  Its often called "marsh mallow" but that's the name of its more famous cousin Althea officianalis. The plant family that mallow belongs to is a large and important family: many species have medicinal properties, and are edible, and others like cotton give us useful fibre. Many also have lovely flowers, like hibiscus and hollyhock. Of all the edible flowers I've tasted, common mallow is my favorite.

So although its pretty in flower, and has edible leaves (boil or steam first), and some medicinal properties (an infusion of the flowers is good for coughs apparently) its a BUGGER of a thing to try to pull out. The roots are long, stringy, tough, and persistent. I've had some success pulling it out of our gravel pathways in the last few weeks, since the soil is so wet. Our chooks don't eat it, other than an occasional peck at the leaves, but the rabbits love it.

Espaliering workshop

Have you bought fruit trees this year on dwarfing rootstock? Planning to espalier them? Want to get the low down from an expert? Well, you're in luck!
Nik Magnus from Woodbridge Fruit Trees is running a short and simple espaliering workshop THIS SATURDAY  23rd July in Cygnet. Actually there are two workshop time slots: 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

Cost is $30, and if you take along a bit of extra cash you can purchase espaliering supplies (eg bamboo stakes, ties, secateurs) while you're there. The workshops will be held at the fruit tree pickup point, in Lymington Road, Cygnet. Note this is a different spot to where you might have picked up trees in the past.

To book your spot, follow the links HERE or contact Nik via his webpage.
Mmmmmm, I'm thinking lunch at Lotus Eaters before or after!

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