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18th December 2013

Greetings from Western Australia! I came over here a few days ago with my West Australian fella for Christmas and some time with his family. Its hard to be away from the garden at the moment, with harvest of zucchini and beans, carrots, lettuce and potatoes in full swing. And the strawberries, gooseberries and early nectarines are just starting to ripen in reasonable numbers.

With tomorrow's hot day make sure you water the garden tonight or early in the morning. But you don't need to be too paranoid about watering during the day. The main reasons people say not to water during the day include: not wasting water through evaporation; and not creating a really humid atmosphere amongst the leaf canopy of plants like tomatoes. Some people have very paranoid ideas that they will kill plants if watered during a hot day. But no, better to get some water around their roots than watch them shrivel up and keel over!

Have a wonderful time next week celebrating with family and friends, if that's what you do. I'm hoping to celebrate the summer solstice here in the west by looking out to the western horizon from a beach somewhere as the sun goes down!

Sharing the lovage

We had a lovely exchange recently of the sort that makes gardening so enjoyable. Nica from Romania, who recently moved to Hobart with her daughter, found us with google's help and contacted us to see if she could purchase some lovage plants. According to Nica, lovage is "the king of the soup" in Romania. Along with missing her friends, Nica was missing a ready supply of fresh lovage leaves for cooking. 
Lovage is a hardy perennial plant that dies right back in winter. Its ridiculously easy to grow, and has a strong savory flavour like a cross between parsley and celery. It reminds me alot of the dark seasoning sauce called "magi" from my childhood.

I dug a few bits of root and shoot from the side of the plant for Nica, and she tells me they are already shooting in their pots. I'll also keep some of the prolific seeds for her when they ripen. The bees (and many other insects) are all over the flowering umbels at the moment.

If you too would like to try some of this under-appreciated herb in some soup, you can find Nica's recipe on our webpage or follow the link HERE.

Fimbarista File: West Hobart Wonders

Julia and Zoe in West Hobart are the queens of the huge harvestables!
We harvested their garlic and parsnips together the other day, and the results were so stunning that Julia had to have a little lie down on the trampoline! While Zoe was inspired to march around the garden, garlic scape held aloft. Yep, these guys are definitely Fimbaristas! We celebrated a big beetroot haul on our website HERE.
We started gardening together about a year ago, with Julia and Zoe enrolling in the Fimby Garden Craft program. This is an extended mentoring relationship, where Fimby come and visit once a month, bringing seeds, seedlings, fertiliser, garden stakes . . . whatever is needed. We work together in the garden, and talk about what's happening in your patch. 

We have a particular topic of focus each month, and as well as talking through some basic principles, we leave our customers with written notes that capture some of our experience. For example, in December the focus topic is watering. 
Other months our curriculum covers composting, saving seed, understanding soil, mulching, garden planning and more. Our aim with the Garden Craft program is to help our customers become confident gardeners in their own garden. We also get to know people pretty well over the year, and many Garden Craft people become friends that we stay in touch with for years.

One of the things that people say they really like about the program is that it is structured. In other words, we will turn up each month with seed, seedlings, and most of all enthusiasm to exclaim about the successes, offer suggestions where things are not going so well, and help carve out some gardening time from busy lives. It helps keep people accountable, and many is the time we have arrived to find a new pile of freshly pulled weeds and a fimbarista with a sheepish expression that says "I thought I better get a few of these out before you came . . . "

Kiss my artichoke . . . 

We chose the artichoke as the FIMBY logo because they're spunky, delicious, easy to grow, and make a great visual statement in the vase or on the page in colour or mono!
We always have a vase of massive sexy flower heads at our stall at the Sustainable Living Festival, since the timing is perfect. And we always get enquiries from people about how to get the flower heads so big. The answer is to feed the plants really well, and make sure they have plenty of water in the warmer months. Also selecting good stock to start with helps alot. 

Artichokes are perennials that grow easily from seed, but are extremely variable in their size and shape if grown this way. The first ones I grew from a single seed packet labelled "Purple globe" turned out in every variation from green to purple, skinny to fat, spiky to smooth. Which is great if you want a range of types to select from (eg some for the dining table, some for the children's "dinosaur garden"). Once you've found one that has qualities you like, you can propagate it from suckers that grow at the base of the plant, and this way you will get babies that have the same characteristics as the parent plant.

The next two months are perfect timing for carefully removing suckers from the base of established plants. Simply dig them out with a spade or mattock, trying to bring some roots with the sucker. Trim off any large leaves, and plant in a well prepared spot (or a pot) and feed and water well. You might find that the suckers looks pretty sad and floppy for a few weeks, but they nearly always recover and get some good growth on before the winter months. 

Artichokes can crowd themselves out over the years if you never remove suckers, so its a good idea every 3 or 4 years to dig up the cluster around an original plant and divide them all up over a larger space. I'll be cutting back the current season's growth and digging suckers in January some time, so if you'd like a few suckers from my magnificent purple beauties, let me know and I can reserve a few for you.

The photo below shows a well established sucker, and teeny tiny one just starting, next to the big tough stems of this season's flowering stalks.

2014 - what's in store?

There's lots of exciting things we're looking forward to for FIMBY and Fimbaristas in the coming year. We're establishing a grow and pick vegie garden at Transend at their New Town base, and running a series of seminars there about food growing with interested staff. We're also running workshops and seminars, as well as plenty of hands on sessions, with clients of Headstart in Hobart.

We have lots of new gardens booked in for establishment in January, and some very enjoyable design jobs for both suburban blocks and acreages.

We're scheduling some fantastic garden tours, and will probably throw in another zucchini pickling party when the zook load becomes too much!

Take care in the next few weeks, and we'll be in touch soon!
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