Spring is supposedly just around the corner, actually it’s here! By Kathleen McCann

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann – About Regional permaculture guru. By Ian Campbell

Are you set to get into spring and all that it entails – making your garden ready for the next few months of warming conditions? In some gardens on the south coast, plants (as well as animals and birds!) have already begun their explosion of flowers, perfume, and accelerated growth.

What to do?

Well, hopefully you’ve survived the challenge of a very dry winter. Some of the crops I planted were very slow to grow, but since the last good drop of rain a few weeks ago, my garden has started to pump again. I have broccoli, parsley, three types of lettuce and mizuna really taking off, keeping me in greens.

A little slow to start at first, the peas have finally come in and the broadbeans are also flowering and fruiting fast.

Broadbeans have really responded to our recent rain. By Kathleen McCann
Broadbeans have really responded to our recent rain. By Kathleen McCann

But I’m contemplating what to do to get my beds ready for even more food.

I’ve got some horses that have moved in next door and my chickens are making an excellent pile of poo for me too. So it’s out in the paddock with a couple of big buckets and a shovel for the horse manure then I am raking up the chicken debris under the roost to help my garden along.

Usually, I would put both manures through my composting system – which I did throughout winter – but I am also going to put it straight onto the beds and lightly dig them in. This will give the micro-life in the beds a real boost, plus I am going to add some potash and dolomite and to top it off a healthy dose of mulch.

Choose your mulches wisely, if you are buying from a produce store make sure you enquire where the bales have come from. Organically grown or chemical free is the best to get – or slash your own if you can – as long as seed heads have not appeared, most grasses are good for mulching. I am lashing out and have bought a couple of organic sugar cane bales.

A mini hot house to protect fragile seedlings from cold late winter nights, with lady bird watching on. By Kathleen McCann
A mini hot house to protect fragile seedlings from cold late winter nights, with lady bird watching on. By Kathleen McCann

But rice straw, lucerne (horse food grade), wheat and oat straw work well too. Lucerne has more goodies in it because it is a nitrogen fixing plant. I steer away from pea straw as I have heard that it is sprayed with herbicide to make it easier for baling. It’s good to always check.

I’m making up seed trays out of old styrofoam vege boxes (free at the back of most supermarkets – goes straight to landfill otherwise).

My soil mix for planting seeds is two parts old sawdust, one part old manure, one part compost.

I’ve already got tomatoes going and springing into life! I placed a couple of old glass louvres on top to make a simple greenhouse – keeping the moisture and warmth in. As the weather warms overnight I will take the glass off.

Next to go in the boxes with be all my summer lovers – zucchini, cucumber, more lettuce, and maybe some extra different heritage tomatoes. I plant beans, corn, carrot and beetroot straight into the soil.

This year I am also experimenting with more subtropical plants – two types of sweet potato, ginger, turmeric and choko.

My garden - in need of a spring tidy up. By Kathleen McCann
My garden – in need of a spring tidy up. By Kathleen McCann

I did plant some yacon one year, but it doesn’t agree with my belly! (A bit like Jerusalem artichoke). I’ve also planted more tamarillo and passionfruit as my older plants are on their way out now after 4 years of growth – both plants usually only last 5 years.

So get out there and get started!

Fruit trees have already started flowering, the soil is receptive for more planting after the good rain we’ve had so it’s an ideal time to get into it!

Happy playing and planting,

Kathleen

Words and pictures by Kathleen McCann – permaculturist, artist, good chick and number 1 worker at Luscious Landscapes.

River Cottage Australia @ Central Tilba sold! Meet the new owner

River Cottage Australia at Central Tilba has been sold.
River Cottage Australia at Central Tilba has been sold.

The new owner of the River Cottage Australia property at Central Tilba on the New South Wales Far South Coast is a 36-year-old single builder from Sydney looking for a place to put roots down and call home.

Tristan Diethelm says he is comfortable with the price he paid for the famous TV set but wouldn’t reveal the final figure.

“Considering it was River Cottage, I am sure I paid a bit more, but opportunities like this are rare,” Tristan says.

Reportedly listed for $895,000 in late April, Tristen told About Regional that the 9-hectare property was a dream come true.

Bermagui based real estate agent Julie Rutherford was the exclusive agent and says it was a real thrill having such a famous listing on the books.

“The fact that it was the home of River Cottage was a factor in the level of interest,” Julie says.

“But there were also many buyers who were attracted by the size and quality of the land, the beautiful Tilba landscape, the character of the home and the temperate climate of our area.”

Tristan Diethelm and Paterson
Tristan Diethelm and Paterson

The sale comes after production of the TV show wrapped up at the end of season four late last year, much to the distress of fans.

Host Paul West has also moved on, his young family settling into Newcastle in recent months.

“We’re keen to get back to the South Coast in the next couple of years, especially as Otto gets ready to start school,” Paul says.

“I was so busy with the show, I needed to reconnect with family and take some time out and keep a low profile.”

The new owner of the property says he is keen to carry on the principles Paul put in place.

“I want to tap into local food and the community, that’s part of what attracted me in the first place,” Tristan says.

Currently living in and renovating a terrace house in Paddington, Tristan has plans for the Punkalla Tilba Road property.

River Cottage will be open for holiday rentals in time for spring 2017.

The heart of River Cottage Australia - the kitchen.
The heart of River Cottage Australia – the kitchen.

“It will be a place where family, friends and I can escape to, but I will be listing it for holiday rentals on Airbnb soon,” Tristen says.

All the animals that starred in the show alongside Paul were sold off late last year, the veggie beds remain and have continued to produce under their own steam, indeed a carrot from the River Cottage garden has become somewhat of a trophy for locals.

“I’ve pretty much bought the place as is,” Tristan says.

“Most of the furniture and what people saw on TV comes with the property, so it will feel like a River Cottage experience to fans of the show who want to stay.”

Being handy on the tools, the new owner also sees great potential in some of the property’s other buildings.

“The bedrooms in the house need a little bit of work, and the old dairy and silos could perhaps be turned into further accommodation,” Tristan says.

The vendor in the sale wasn’t Paul West, the property was owned by British TV production house Keo Films.

The new owner of River Cottage Australia sees great potential in the properties out houses.
The new owner of River Cottage sees great potential in the properties out houses.

David Galloway, Executive Producer and Director of Programmes at Keo says, “After several seasons making the show and watching Paul grow the property it was a hard decision to sell.”

“Unfortunately without a TV commission, it was a business decision in the end.”

Up until tonight (July 3) the show was only available on pay TV and DVD, but SBS will screen all 64 episodes weeknights at 6pm, opening the show and the South East of New South Walse to a whole new audience.

“Who knows where that may lead to in terms of future programming,” the Keo TV boss says.

“For Keo, River Cottage Australia was a hugely successful venture, with four seasons airing on Foxtel’s Lifestyle Channel.

“It also gave the company a production base in Australia from which other highly successful Keo formats – like Struggle Street’ (SBS) and ‘War on Waste’ (ABC) have been produced,” Mr Galloway says.

Paul West. From RCA Facebook page.
Paul West. Source: RCA Facebook page

As the new owner of the property, Tristan Diethelm chuckles as he confesses to only watching the first series of River Cottage Australia.

“But I’ve been looking for a property outside of Sydney for a while, there’s a buzz about the South Coast at the moment and I’ve been scanning the area for about a year,” he says.

“I am keen to nurture the property and would love to be working in the area down the track.

“There’s the beach nearby, a rural lifestyle, and a beautiful little town, it ticks so many boxes.”

While he lives in Sydney Tristan says he doesn’t feel like he has a hometown.

“My Dad is a yachtsman and we spent a lot of time sailing the world when I was young, so I am looking for a place to put down some roots,” Tristan says.

“And if Keo wants to film another series one day, I’d open up the property again for River Cottage.”

*Photos supplied by Julie Rutherford Real Estate, with photography by Kit Goldsworthy from Tathra (internal and some external photos) and Josh McHugh from Bermagui (drone aerial shots).

Put the kettle on, it’s time to get in the garden. Kathleen’s autumn-winter checklist.

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann

The colder months are here and our region really feels it.

Life retreats only planning to stir with the first rays of spring, but don’t you retreat from your vegepatch or orchard, there are things to be done and still food to grow.

First a bit of observance – with a cuppa and sitting in the sun in the middle of the garden to peruse some of the issues that came up last season.

Some thought starters…

Do you need to rearrange the beds? What beds worked well last season and what didn’t? Do you need to put in a green manure crop to reinvigorate a bed where plants didn’t really thrive?

Take the time to really see what went well and what didn’t.

Start to make a list of some of those jobs you’ve been putting off in the garden…

Red daisy helps bring the good bugs in
Red daisy helps bring the good bugs in

Clean up the old summer beds and compost all that you can. You have been feeding and improving your garden for a while now so it’s good to keep what you’ve grown in the system.

Remember to collect fully grown seedheads from the best plants, dry them out and store in airtight containers.

Fork and aerate beds, reinvigorate with dolomite, potash and your favourite type of fertilizer, mine is my compost with added chicken manure from my girls.

Mulch all the beds again, I use slashings from the farm, rotted bales from the produce store and sometimes grass clippings if they don’t contain seed heads.

Plant out winter crops – brassicas, rocket, parsley, peas, chives, onions, garlic, silverbeet, spinach, coriander, all the root crops and don’t forget the broad beans!

Have you thought about what flowers to plant around your patch?

I have lots of geraniums, nasturtiums, marigolds, chrysanthemums, salvias and daisy family around mine. Someone is guaranteed to be flowering all through the year. The good bugs will thank you and help you control the bad ones.

Keep on top of any pests – aphid, white moth, cabbage moth, snails, and slugs all appear around this time of year before the harsher temperatures make it difficult for them.

Aphids! A little eco-freindly washing liquid mixed with water in spray bottle will take care of them, but you'll need to keep it up
Aphids! A little eco-friendly washing liquid mixed with water in a spray bottle will take care of them, but you’ll need to keep it up

For the ‘slimers’ I put ash around my seedlings to protect them, for aphids and moths a small amount of mild eco-detergent mixed with water in a spray bottle helps. The key is to be consistent, once is usually never enough!

Feed the citrus – cow/chicken manure, some potash, and a little Epsom salt, and mulch them.

Rake up leaves from deciduous trees and compost them, or better still put them into the chicken yard and let them play around in the leaves and turn them into compost for spring. Most deciduous trees are ok, but research your trees toxicity to chickens first if you have any doubts.

Planting more fruit trees?

Bare-rooted stock is now in and autumn is a great time for planting out. Remember to plan where your trees will work best and how you’re going to manage them throughout their (and your) life.

Clean up under all your fruit trees.

If you’re growing stone fruit or any of the pomme (apples, pears, etc) family get some help from the chickens in cleaning up. It is fine to leave the ground bare under the trees for a couple of months.

Red ribbed dock and horseradish, I eat the dock leaf and the root of the horseradish
Red ribbed dock and horseradish, I eat the dock leaf and the root of the horseradish

Start to think about how you’re going to prune for next years crops. Plus how are your tools going? Maybe an afternoon of cleaning and sharpening is in order?

Look for dead or dying branches to remove. Your first prune of the year should be the apricots – June is the usual time for this group. Wait till it’s very cold and all leaves have dropped to prune the rest of your orchard, that’s mainly so you can easily see next year’s fruiting spurs.

If your fruit tree has wooly aphid, scale, or sooty mould then it is usually a sign the tree is not doing so well in its root system, or rot has set into the heart of the tree.

You’ll need to make a decision, whether to save the tree or cull and start again. Often the tree is failing because of an issue within itself – just like us!

Keep up the watering, this time in the afternoon, when it is a little warmer.

A lot to consider, you might need more than one cuppa!

Play, plant and go well my gardening friends.

Words and pictures by Kathleen McCann – permaculturist, artist, good chick and number 1 worker at Luscious Landscapes.

Veges galore – What is the secret to an abundant garden?

It’s all about the base, ’bout the base, ’bout the base…the garden bed base that is. If you want to grow luscious healthy, strong and abundant vegetables, herbs and flowers, you are going to need good quality soil.

As well as good soils, a vegetable bed needs aeration, sunshine, water and lots and lots of food – if you want to have a continual abundance in plant life.

The soil itself can be made up of different types of sediments: clay, sand, loam or decomposed rock – a combo of all four is the best – lucky you if you have it!

Most of us in Australia have either a clay issue or a sand issue, but you can bring it to life with the following:

  • Broken down manure – cow, sheep, chicken, horse, alpaca
  • Some sort of organic mulch – like straw, broken down sawdust, seedless cut grass, shredded leaves
  • Compost – made at home if possible, the bagged stuff you see in stores isn’t that fantastic, so I’d steer clear of it if possible
  • Mineral enhancers – rock dust, potassium sulphate, dolomite
  • Moisture – not too wet, not too dry – consistency in moisture is the key
  • Worms and other good little helpers for decomposition

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned commercial fertilisers.

You can use them – blood and bone, pelleted chicken manure with additional minerals, etc, but these are commercial, processed animal products from who knows where and are often advertised as ‘organic’ but that can simply mean that the contents of the bag came from something that was once living.

You should look for the Australian organic label when buying processed fertiliser and always read the list of ingredients and mineral components on the back of the pack – some products contain elements of heavy metals.

The trick to continual good vege bed health and excellent cropping is regular top-ups as you harvest.

Most people don’t pull everything up in their home gardens at once, it’s usually a continual picking regime for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As you start to make space in your beds, you want to keep planting – add some more goodies if you can. Remember what you take out in mass (in terms of the size of your veg) you really should put that and a bit more back in as compost, manure and mulch. Aerate with a fork first if needed and then add the goodies.

Remember what you take out in mass (in terms of the size of your veg) you really should put that and a bit more back in as compost, manure and mulch. Aerate with a fork first if needed and then add the goodies.

Aerating works better than turning the sod over – biologists have discovered different microbes and small invertebrates live at different levels in the soil profile. Turning the sod means they are in the wrong place and can die, leaving your soil without little helpers for breaking down nutrients for the plants to eat.

I also suggest that you don’t put the same type of plant back into the same spot, a practice that helps to reduce the risk of disease. Follow a root crop with a leafy crop, follow a leafy crop with a heading crop, follow a heading crop with a vine crop. For instance, carrot then lettuce then broccoli then pea. All while keeping an eye on the seasons and what works best when!

I started off my vegetable garden with the no-dig method, mainly because my soils are clay-based and were rock-hard. From that start I have just kept up the layering, adding more and more good stuff and 4 years later I have a bed that sits around 15cms above the path. Fifteen to 20cms is a good depth for most vegetables.

Next bit is – should I go seedlings or seeds?

There are guidelines on most packaged seed. Root crops do better when sown direct into your bed, so do corn, peas, beans and cucumbers. Other seeds should be sprouted and raised in boxes or pots before planting out. Getting tomatoes off to a good start in a greenhouse or glass-lidded box is a good idea and some people start them off as early as June or July ready to be planted out when the frost has (finally) gone.

You could be like me and not worry about it and just chuck stuff (seeds) around randomly and hope for the best – it’s haphazard, works 70% – 90% of the time, and it does confuse the pests a bit too.

You can let plants self-seed and run wild through your garden, but sometimes you run the risk of inbreeding, stunted growth and bitter tasting veg as the plant returns to a wilder form.

I save the healthiest, slow to bolt plants for seed. Remember though that the one lettuce head can produce 60,000 seeds, yes you read right 60,000! Non-hybrid and heirloom plants are the best to collect seeds from.

Seedlings raised at home are generally strong and healthy. Commercially grown plants are often forced into growth to look good for the consumer and have little resistance to pests and disease.

Locally grown seedlings from your farmers market are generally better quality than from a supermarket or hardware store.

I always follow a planting out of seedlings with seaweed concentrate or worm juice, just to give the plants a feed to get over the shock of transplant. If a plant looks poorly, I will follow-up with regular liquid feeds every few days, till I see an improvement – if it doesn’t improve after 2 weeks, pull it out and start again.

Watering consistently will also help in vegetable abundance – early morning or late afternoons are the best times through the warmer months.

Splitting fruit and bolting to seed are an indicator that you are not watering regularly enough. Never be cuaght out with the notion that just because it has rained your vege garden will be okay – you should check the soil after rain to see just how far the rain penetrated.

Happy spring planting!

Pioneering ways of growing and financing forges future for Bega Valley winery

Carlin Stanford, Tasmen McKenzie, Permona McKenzie, Paul West (Host of River Cottage Australia) and Euan McKenzie

Fresh from their time in the spotlight in episode one of season four of River Cottage Australia this week, a one of a kind Bega Valley winery is preparing to step into a future that is rich in the values of its past.

Rescue helicopter pilot Euan McKenzie and retired soldier Carlin Stanford put their first vines in the ground at Verona, near Bega NSW in 2009.

Armed with a degree in Oenology and Viticulture from Margaret River, Euan and Carlin’s dream of Together Wines was growing well until just before getting ready to sell their first drop.

Despite their old dairy having produced food for the region for around 100 years, current legislation stopped it from being used to produce, bottle and sell wines.

A new straw bale building is on the drawing board with a crowd funding call out hoping to make the new Together Wines facility a reality.

Euan and Carlin are looking to make the financing of their family business just as sustainable as their management of the environment.

Despite some killer hot days since planting, their vines have never shown any signs of heat stress. What makes that even more remarkable is that their vines have never been irrigated.

Together Wines is working with nature to produce Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rose that demonstrate their time and place. Traditional wine making techniques with low intervention as well as organic and biodynamic viticulture adds further depth.

Vines were first planted  into deep wide holes ( 2475 holes in total 400mm wide, 800mm deep) that were backfilled with decomposed green manure, sending the roots deep into the famous soils of the Bega Valley. A technique not generally used in commercial vineyards, but something Euan and Carlin thought essential in their sustainable dream.

Grasses and herbs around the base of the vines are used to regulate water uptake, as well as provide minerals, mulch and habitat.

The end result is a wine that reflects each unique season.

By launching this crowd funding campaign Euan and Carlin are hoping to open up what Together Wines really means.

It’s only “together”, with small contributions from people with a passion for sustainable farming, good wine and regional innovation that Together Wines can take the next step.

A pledge of $100 builds momentum towards the $24 000 target and sees people become a Friend of Together Wines with a lifelong discount of 20% on future wine orders. Bigger pledges open up more opportunities including private vineyard tours and barrel sampling.

An opportunity for wine lovers to connect with the grower and build the future.

Go to www.togetherwines.com.au or email info@togetherwines.com.au

Pic1 : Carlin Stanford, Tasmen  McKenzie, Permona McKenzie, Paul West (Host of River Cottage Australia) and Euan McKenzie

Pic2: Together Wines at Verona, north west of Bega. Over 2000 vines are in the ground growing deep into these famous soils.

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