RAIN! Rain rain rain RAIN!!

3rd May 2016

Aahh the rain. What a relief! We should have known it would get wet (and muddy) given that Agfest is on at the end of this week. Of course, we view the rain through out own particular prism. For example, your attitude to rain will vary depending on the scenario (a) you've just planted seedlings or seed (b) you were planning to get in the garden to plant some seedlings or seed (c) you just hung up outside all the bedsheets in the house (d) you're organising a big outdoor event with no wet weather contingency.

All jokes aside, I'm pretty sure all gardening or gardener-affiliated readers of this newsletter will be grateful for the rain. And the good people who make their living growing food, fibre, beauty and medicine in Tasmania will be very very happy too.

"Help! Help! I'm being oppressed"

Its a bit like that with the mushrooms. Not cute little buttons anymore, oh no. The rain has encouraged them to grow enormous, really fast! I've picked several big baking trays full in the last 10 days, from six bags of compost that are stashed in a shady spot near the side gate. Been giving them away left right and centre. Even wandered the neighbourhood last night with a box of just picked beauties.
We've been eating them in curry, in soup, fried up on toast, made into delish paté, cooked into a tart with pumpkin and brie (. . . mmmm recipe is on our website HERE), stuffed with walnut pesto and baked . . . . mmmm again. And STILL we have boxes of them on the kitchen bench.

Next plan is to pickle some more - might try a recipe from Stephanie Alexander's book that looks good.

I loaded up the wonderful second-hand excalibur and dried a batch as well.
After all, we love having dried porcini in the cupboard. I was planning to grind some of the dried ones up for future flavour enhancement of soups and stews. But unfortunately the smell of the dried mushies makes me gag. Anyone want some?

About that messy garden . . .

Yes my garden is still far from the productive and cared-for oasis that I wish it would be. But I have made progress! After an appointment got cancelled a week or so ago, I managed to spend a few hours cleaning up some of the months-old weeds and dried out summer plantings. I started piling up old sweet corn stalks and zucchini plants in the compost 'storage' area until I have time to properly chop and layer it.
Then came armloads of grass and other weeds that had taken over the beds. The compost area was full, so I decided to build a new heap in situ.
Suddenly the game changed from getting rid of weeds, to feeding the new heap on the garden bed. Serious scrounging was in order now!
I piled up layers of weeds, some pooey litter from the chook pen for a bit of kick, more weeds, some pretty red leaves from the local street gutters.
I topped it all off with a bag of mushroom compost to give me a weed free top layer, and scattered some green manure seed on the surface. That was about 10 days ago, and just now I braved the rain to take a picture of what's going on.
We have germination baby! As this mixture of legumes and grains grows, the weeds and chook litter and leaves and so on underneath will slowly compost down over winter and early spring. Sure a few stray weeds might start an uprising, but they can be easily dealt with, and the green manure crop will compete strongly with most things. Next October, I'll pull and drop the green manure, maybe after chopping it up a bit first, and plant my tomatoes.
This should hopefully give me a nicely fed, super worm-infused, high organic matter enriched layer of goodness for the new tomato babies. And it helped me deal with a big weed 'problem'  by using it as an input for a useful process - ie composting.

Making baby asparaguses

Do you remember when I did a bit of rant about gender equality in asparagus in a newsletter last year? You can revisit it HERE if you like.

If you have asparagus plants that you grew from 2 year old crowns purchased at a nursery, you'll most likely have all male plants. But if you grew from seedlings purchased from a fair or gifted by a friend (cheaper but needs more patience), you may have some female plants. I have some girls, and this year they are particularly fecund: ie they have lots of little red fruit on them (see photo above).
If you want to turn your little red asparagus fruit into squillions of new asparagus babies, here's what to do.

Option 1: let them fall on fertile ground, and stand back and wait. That's according to some sources that say they will become a weed easily.

Option 2 (for more controlling types):
Collect the fruit, squish them in a colander, then rinse and swish and rinse and swish till you have got rid of the red fruit detritus and are left with just the hard black seeds.
Spread the clean seeds out on some paper towel to dry thoroughly. Then package them up into paper envelopes or whatever is your preferred seed saving vessel, and label well with date, location, variety etc. In Spring you can plant the seeds out in little pots - they have excellent germination rate according to Fin the garden fairy. Grow them on in pots till the following winter, then plant them out in their final home.

You'll have both girls and boys, so if you want you can cull the girls after a few years (once they reveal their gender by making fruit). But I don't reckon you need to!

Gardening assistant required

The South Hobart Primary School are looking for a gardening assistant to manage their Kitchen Garden Initiative. The role will be paid at a Teacher Assistant salary for 2-4 hours per week, and a few key Fimbaristas with the parents and friends association have been working hard to raise the funds! If you would like to find out more information, or express your interest, please contact Uta Green by email.

Got your garlic in the ground?

Many of you will have planted your garlic by now, but if you haven't, we have some spare seed. And if you have planted already, we have some spare for eating!
We've just got to planting this year's crop at the farm. In fact, I haven't quite finished: that's tomorrow's job. But we have sorted out all our seed requirements now, and know what is spare and available for other people.

I have some beautiful seed garlic - larges sizes sorted specially for planting, for $30/kg. For reference, you get around 100 cloves per 500g. Then there is all the small stuff, perfect for throwing into a roasting tray unpeeled, for just $20/kg.
Let me know if you'd like some and we can figure out pickup / dropoff etc.

Evolution of the upcycled milk crate gardens

Here's Lissa from SLT with part of our display of upcycled milk crate gardens at the Clarence Plains Festival that was held last Saturday. We had several super architectural structures on display, created by the students we're working with from Rokeby High School, Rokeby Primary School and Clarendon Vale Primary School. It was great fun seeing the kids come by and show their families which crate was theirs. We had some spare empty crates and sacks for people to buy for a gold coin, and sold out quickly! Fun times.
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