What is the meaning of life? Michael Leunig says:
"For humans as for all the plants and creatures: know yourself, grow yourself, feel yourself, heal yourself, be yourself, express yourself."
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11th July 2014

Well, its been a month since the last "fortnightly" newsletter! Sorry to keep you waiting. We've had a few (good) distractions. One of these is very exciting: Mick and I have bought some land near Bream Creek which is forested, and has a cleared area of around 15 acres. This will, in time, be our farm! wooo hooo! You can imagine how many ideas are spinning around in my head. For now we will take it slowly, and spend weekends getting to know this beautiful parcel of country that we are so fortunate to be custodians of. We'll stay in town for several more years, until we can afford to build and move out to the forest / farm. Stay tuned for some FIMBY workshops out there in the meantime though! And just because I know you're curious, here's a photo:

Eat your pea tendrils

Many of you will have peas growing at the moment, some perhaps even flowering in this weirdly warm winter. I've tasted a few snow peas in customers' gardens in the last few weeks - a sweet surprise and delight! The flowers are usually frost tender, but we've hardly seen a decent frost so far (look out, we'll probly get a doozy now!).
Dont worry if you haven't got any peas growing yet: you can still plant peas through August for a late spring harvest. They can be slow to germinate in cold wet soil, so its not a bad idea to soak the seeds overnight in water before planting. If you have raised beds that are not too gluggy and wet, plant them now.

While you're waiting for the harvest of pods, there is a by-product that is extra delicious. The tendrils! If you look at the growing point you'll see just below this the leaves opening out with tendrils on the ends. Some of these are helping the plant hold onto your trellis system, but some are just waving about, photo-synthesising and looking cute. You can eat these, and the leaflets! Yummy in a salad or even better as a garden snack.

We came, we saw, we pruned. Well, Mum did.

On Saturday 14th June we had our kiwi pruning demo, and a happy band of fimbaristas came along. We started with coffee and cake, and a sample of mum's recently harvested kiwi fruit. Everyone was ooohing and aahhing about the fruit - so delectable!

We then went out and had a talk and demo about kiwi growing habits and fruiting pattern and mum did a bit of demo pruning. I managed to get a photo of some of the gang (they smiled after some prompting  . . . the previous shot when they were concentrating hard looked a bit severe!).
Kiwi fruit are renowned for 'bleeding' alot when pruned. In other words, the sap in the vine drips out of the cut areas. They can bleed for days, especially if cut later in spring. However, interestingly, Mum reported that the pruning she did at our demo resulted in zero bleeding. She attributes that to the timing relative to the moon: we pruned in the week following the full moon. This is the best time for any pruning, according to biodynamics practitioners and lots of other smart people with good observation skills. Maybe we'll do a whole story about lunar timing of garden jobs in a coming newsletter

Propagating (the tricky) perennial herbs

Some perennial herbs like thyme, oregano, and rosemary are ridiculously easy to propagate: just break a bit off and stick in the ground or a pot. Others, eg sage and tarragon, are a little more tricky, but still easy if you know the right technique.
French tarragon (shown at right) doesn't produce seeds, and doesn't strike well from cuttings. The best way to propagate this one to share around is to take root cuttings or divisions from an established plant. It dies back a bit in winter anyway, and if you cut back the straggly long stems from last season, you can sometimes see the new shoots waiting to burst up in Spring. You can carefully pull, dig or cut some of the roots that have these shoots on them.
Plant these in a pot or the new plant location, and hopefully in spring you'll get some new growth. Tarragon are really variable in taste from one plant to the next, so if you get a good one its handy to be able to duplicate it and share around the neighbourhood.

Sage can also be hard to strike from cuttings, so layering is a good technique for this (my most favourite) herb. Layering is when a long flexible stem is bent down to touch the ground, and pegged into position. After some time, roots grow out of the stem into the soil. Once the roots are well established, the stem connecting the original plant to newly rooted bit can be cut, and the new plant dug up and moved.
Sometimes, actually quite often, this happens all by itself. In the photo above you can see my sage plant. The original plant is on the right, and has mostly died back and been cut off. A stem has layered itself and the new growing part is on the left. The part of the stem that is embedded in the soil with its own roots is circled in red.

Leaf by leaf eating

If you managed to sow some seed in April / May, you'll potentially have lots of small plants needing thinning about now. Coriander (shown left), pak choy, lettuce, rocket, English spinach: there are many leafies that grow best from seed and that need judicious thinning to avoid crowding and stress. 

Some people harvest a few leaves here and there to add dainty shapes and flavour profiles to salads. If you're careful you can also pull whole small plants out, thinning and harvesting all at once. While the soil is damp following that heavy rain last weekend is a good time to do it.
A super lovely way to eat these delicate and tender thinnings is in rice paper rolls, a suggestion from Greer as we were gardening together yesterday. Look up the recipes online - there are lots of variations. If you use fresh mint and coriander you'll have mouth-watering results. You could add some pea tendrils for a truly gourmet affair!

Headway Horticulture Group

Here are some of the happy faces of the Headway horticulture group that FIMBY works with every fortnight. We're gardening in the respite cottage garden at Lindisfarne, as well as running workshops about microgreens, taking cuttings, understanding soil, and making compost. We're keen to start a worm farm at the cottage, and will be demonstrating a home made version in a laundry tub soon. If anyone has an unused commercial worm farm, complete with trays, working tap and lid, we'd love to help you recycle it, and have a place picked out on the veranda ready to go. Warm fuzzy feelings guaranteed!

Beautiful borage

Borage is a great plant to have around the place. It grows fast, self seeds, has beautiful blue flowers that the bees love (as do most gardeners I know). The flowers are edible, and you can freeze them in ice blocks to make a very spunky summer punch.

The leaves are also edible, and are very nutritious, containing lots of Omega 6 fats (good ones). The trouble is the leaves are quite rough and almost prickly, so if you're determined to eat them you could add them to smoothies, or puree into a fancy schmancy sauce with nettles and such like. The taste of the flowers and leaves is quite cucumbery and refreshing.

Borage is an excellent compost activator too, and brings lots of micro-nutrients into circulation for your hungry vegies.
You can find seeds pretty easily at nurseries, and if you sprinkle some around once that's probably all you need to do to have this generous herb as a lifetime garden companion. My garden population started as a few seedlings pulled out of a friends garden and transplanted to mine.

There is also a white flowered variety around Hobart - which has slightly different tasting flowers according to Sue, who grows them and has a finely tuned sense of taste!
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