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).

About Regional, podcast 13 – Reusable water bottles for every high school student

Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic Collage at Pambula.
Philanthropist Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula.

This week, one man takes on the garbage building in our oceans…

Every high school student in the Bega Valley will soon have a reusable drink bottle, cutting the need for single use, light weight, disposable plastic water bottles.

Over the last couple of months’ students at Eden Marine High School, and Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula have received a stainless steel drink bottle to refill at school taps and bubblers.

Kids at Bega High School got there’s today (May 16), and Sapphire Coast Anglican College down the road will soon have theirs.

This marine environment initiative comes from Bega Valley philanthropist Peter Hannan.

As someone who loves the ocean, Peter says he felt compelled to act after hearing of the impact plastics are having on the world.

Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.
Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.

Following last year’s Marine Science Forum, hosted by the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, Peter made a pledge to buy 2500 reusable bottles and distribute them to year 7 to 12 students across the Shire.

Peter comes from a family of community action, his late mother Shirley, established a trust before she died to fund a national portrait prize that is held every two years, which has since grown to incorporate a youth prize in the alternate year.

See below for audio options to learn more.

My partners in this podcast are Jen, Arthur and Jake at Light to Light Camps in Eden –  offering fully-supported hikes along Australia’s most spectacular coastline, it’s wilderness done comfortably.

Thanks for tuning in, your feedback, story ideas, and advertising inquiries are really welcome, send your email to hello@aboutregional.com.au

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See you out and about!

Ian

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.

The next step in the Eurobodalla’s local food economy. Have your say here!

The popular SAGE Farmers Market each Tuesday from 3 in Riverside Park, Moruya. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
The popular SAGE Farmers Market each Tuesday from 3 in Riverside Park, Moruya. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

The Eurobodalla food economy is pushing forward – like a pumpkin vine that sprouts from a compost heap.

“Growers are outgrowing the farmers market,” says local food advocate Kate Raymond.

“They need more avenues through which to sell at a high enough margin to keep doing what they’re doing.”

In recent years, the river town of Moruya has seen increasing numbers of market gardeners, spurred along by the community of people around the SAGE Farmers Market.

Shoppers gather like sprinters in the 100-metre race at the Olympics each Tuesday afternoon at 3 in Riverside Park waiting for the bell to ring – a signal that sales can start.

“Small-scale farmers are establishing businesses and creating a flourishing local food system,” Kate says.

“It’s a movement whose time has come.”

The river flats and volcanic soils of Moruya have a proud agricultural heritage that in their day supported large numbers of vegetable, dairy, and beef growers. For whatever reason, those practices all but died out but there is a growing sense ‘that day’ has come again.

Since 2009, when the community organisation Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) started working towards its mission of ‘growing the growers’, locally grown food has become easier to access.

The award winning farmers market that has been the backbone of the SAGE initiative has created an appetite and an industry that requires more.

The bell that signals a start to trading each Tuesday in Riverside Park. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
The bell that signals a start to trading each Tuesday in Riverside Park. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

“A farmers market once a week can’t service everyone who wants to eat locally grown food and local farmers need to reach more customers,” Kate says.

An increasingly common sales avenue for farmers around the world is to sell their products through what is known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

A CSA is a farm share program, where the consumer and the farmer enter into an agreement of goodwill to exchange money for food. Consumers pledge to purchase the anticipated harvest well in advance.

“A farmer can plan their crops with greater confidence knowing that they will sell what they grow and sell it at a fair price,” Kate says.

“By supporting the farmer in this way, the customer receives a box of fresh seasonal produce every week, delivered to their door.”

The idea springs from frustration with the dominant and most familiar food distribution system – the supermarket, which mostly excludes local and small-scale growers from their supply chains, leaving local farmers no option but to sell directly to customers.

Moruya watermelons were a big hit over summer at the SAGE Farmers Market. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
Moruya watermelons were a big hit over summer at the SAGE Farmers Market. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

Woven into the arrangement is a sense of shared risk between the farmer and the consumer, which takes the CSA model beyond the usual commercial transaction we are used to.

If the season is difficult or hit by extreme events, pickings can be slim which impacts the quality and amount of produce a customer receives in their weekly box.

Local Harvest in the USA lists over 24,000 family farms on their website who are part of a CSA arrangement.

Local Harvest believes the element of shared risk creates a feeling of ‘we’re in this together’.

Their website says, “Some CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce.”

However, they say the idea of shared risk creates a sense of community between customers and farmers.

“If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli,” the Local Harvest website says.

“Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their customers and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first.”

There is a yin and yang to that shared risk though. When the season is powering and a bounty or surplus of produce is created those involved with a CSA benefit.

In that situation, recipes are swapped to add some variety to the way abundant veg can be used in the home kitchen, that produce can also be preserved and used out of season.

Where a supermarket supply chain might struggle to cope with a surplus, the CSA model summons peoples creatively, extending the harvest and reduceing food waste.

As part of a Eurobodalla based group keen to establish the CSA model here, Kate Raymond says, “Consumers increasingly demand to know more about where their food comes from and how it was grown,”

Local growers selling direct to consumers. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
Local growers selling direct to consumers. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

“Joining a CSA can answer their questions. A CSA connects the consumer to the grower in a very direct and transparent way,” she says.

To test the idea locally, a number of vegetable growers in the Eurobodalla are currently undertaking market research into the viability of establishing a multi-farm CSA program.

“This is significant, as it’s a symptom of a local food economy that is outgrowing the perception that local food is a niche enterprise and is in fact becoming a bona fide industry,” Kate says.

The next phase in the Eurobodalla’s agricultural heritage is well underway.

Click HERE to take the local survey and add your thoughts to the market testing that’s underway.

About Regional, a new place for the stories of South East NSW, Podcast 10

Marshall Campbell, Sharon Zweck and Geoffrey Grigg
Marshall Campbell, Sharon Zweck and Geoffrey Grigg

The Gang Gang Cockatoos have arrived in the bush around my place, a sure sign autumn is here.

Mind you I was in Cooma this week and the trees in Centennial Park aren’t showing any signs of it.

Given that we are about to tick over into April, those leaves will soon be changing.

Autumn is a theme that runs through our conversation today.

In August 2013 many in the Bega community were outraged when Bega Valley Shire Council cut down a stand of mature Blue Gums in the town’s park.

Council felt the risk of falling limbs was too great, and to be fair some in the community backed them.

Littleton Gardens was leveled to make way for a new civic precinct.

New trees were planted but the site has been the victim of vandalism a number of times – on one night in May last year around 50 mature trees were snapped, hacked or pulled out of the ground – the communities love and connection with the space had been broken.

In the last 6 months Littleton Gardens has got its mojo back, a partnership between Bega Valley Shire Council and SCPA – South East Producers – who use the space for a weekly farmer’s market, has seen leafy greens and other vegetables planted in the park.

The community is invited to pick the crop free of charge.

With autumn plantings going in a local charity will soon start grazing in the park, taking ingredients for the weekly meals they cook and serve to people and families doing it tough.

I caught up with the two volunteer gardeners working this space, Geoffrey Grigg and Marshall Campbell, also joining the conversation Sharon Zweck Coordinator of Ricky’s Place.

Thanks for tuning in and to my partners for this week’s program, Light to Light Camps, who let you explore the track between Boyd’s Tower and Green Cape Lighthouse in style, check their website for more info.

Your feedback and stories ideas are always welcome – flick me a note to hello@aboutregional.com.au

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Thanks!

The big dry – how to help your garden survive with plants up to the challenge

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann

Everything is crispy, trees are turning up their toes and dust is now the common ground cover.

How on earth can we keep a productive vegetable patch and prevent fruit trees from losing their crop in these extreme dry times?

Part of the answer – grow plants that are up to the challenge.

Heat tolerant plants for the vegetable garden:

Arugula – wild rocket, spicy peppery flavour
Beans – dwarf varieties
Broccoli – picking varieties
Capsicums – all peppers including chili
Corn – nothing better than your own
Cucumbers – the small varieties work better in tough conditions
Eggplant – once again the smaller varieties work better and grow quicker
Hardy woody herbs – Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary or bush basil
Pumpkin – the smaller, quicker growing varieties
Silverbeet – perennial varieties work well
Spring onions – keep planting out to keep up a supply
Tomatoes – smaller varieties of fruiting toms grow well in tough conditions
Weeds – yep, you can eat’em. Purslane, warrigal greens, dandelion; all good to add to your menu
Zucchini – smaller varieties again do better

Fruit trees that cope with heat (to a point):

Almond
Apple – dwarf and smaller fruit varieties
Apricot
Avocado
Banana – on greywater if possible
Pear
Passionfruit
Plum – Asian varieties
Pomegranate
Macadamia
Red Mulberry
Walnut

And once you have them in the ground, some tips on keeping the moisture up to them…

During the planning stage of making your garden it is vital to think about water – availability, easy access, recycling and ways of keeping it on (or off!) the block for as long as possible as needed. This determines the size of the garden and what you can produce using the resources you have.

If your garden or orchard is on a slope you may have to introduce terracing or swaling (a ditch on the contour) to help slow water down so that it seeps down into the ground instead of running off the top.

Check your taps and connections, every drop counts.
Check your taps and connections, every drop counts.

Do you have access to town water?

If you’re on town water you will have to decide if you’re prepared to pay for its use. If you are on dam water or tanks then it is important to manage your use over the drier seasons.

You have to regularly maintain all taps, connections, and joins – leaks stick out rather easily with lots of green turning up in unusual areas.

Remember 1 ml of rain on 1 square foot of roof catchment means 1 litre in the tank.

Watering the garden deeply once or twice a week, usually in the evening, really helps maintain good root coverage below ground. If you miss an evening, early morning is second best.

In prolonged extreme temps and hot winds, you may have to water every day or every second day depending on water availability.

You could also look at recycling your greywater out into the garden. There are certain rules to follow so read up on the local council regulations.

Kitchen, bathroom and laundry greywater will need to go through a filtration system to take out any impurities.

You can use laundry greywater straight out on the vegetable patch – but only if you aren’t washing nappies. If you do wash nappies you will have to put the water through a filtration system before it goes onto the garden.

There are many designs out there on the net, ranging from simple reedbed systems to very expensive technology.

And remember to use eco/soil/plant friendly detergents for greywater use.

Mulch deeply to keep in moisture

I start my beds with no-dig gardening techniques and keep adding throughout the seasons as needed.

I make sure I have at least 10cms of mulch around the summer vegetables that need it – leafy greens, tomatoes, soft herbs such as basil, brassica’s, capsicums, chilli, zuchinni, etc.

I don’t mulch around any alliums though – onions, spring onions, chives.

Remember to keep up the slug and snail baiting throughout this time too as deep mulch can also help them survive the heat.

With fruit trees, mulch to the drip line of the tree – where the end of the branch hangs down to the ground is the usual size of the root ball.

In extreme weather conditions, you may have to decide what to keep growing and what to let go?

If you do have to make the decision to stop using some garden beds, it is a good idea to ready that bed for fallowing – letting it sit there – weed free if possible, fertilised and mulched – until the weather turns and you can replant for the next season when it looks like enough rain has returned.

Too many apples, remove half or more to help the tree cope in dry times.
Too many apples, remove half or more to help the tree cope in dry times.

Plant out larger vegetables on the hottest side of the garden to help protect and shade the smaller, less hardy varieties. Companion planting guides will help you choose who can tolerate who.

If you have a netted orchard you could plant a shelterbelt of smaller trees on the west/northwest side of the fence to provide shade and wind shelter.

You need to make sure the shelter belt is far enough away so that root invasion isn’t a problem in the orchard. Choose trees with a small root ball.

Most eucalyptus have roots that can travel up to 45 metres looking for sustenance.

In extreme conditions, shade cloth can be hung above your fruit tree and to the windiest side to help keep them cool.

If you have limited water you may need to take half or more of the younger fruit off to help the tree cope.

Play, plant and go well my gardening friends.

About Regional – the podcast, episode three, November 6 2016

Tim Elliott and Ian Campbell
Tim Elliott and Ian Campbell

About Regional – the podcast, episode 3, November 6 2016

Thanks for clicking on, in this week’s program:

  • A lesson in youth engagement from Cayce Hill from the Funhouse in Bega and a pitch for their Pozible campaign. They are chasing a year’s rent to expand on their dynamic program in 2017. Read more here.
  • A snap from a literary lunch at Bermagui featuring author Tim Elliott and his memoir ‘Farewell to the Father’, part of a joint effort during Mental Health Month by Candelo Books, Il Passaggio and About Regional
  • The morning after an exclusive 10 course truffle dinner, Executive Chef Patrick Reubinson from Stroudover Cottage at Bemboka speaks of his passion for truffles.
  • Last season’s capsicums brought back to life by Tanja Permaculturalist Kathleen McCann. Read more here.

Feedback, story ideas, and sponsorship options to hello@aboutregional.com.au

Still working out a few little production hiccups, hope you can forgive them.

Cheers

Ian

To listen and subscribe:

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Coming soon to iTunes!

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!