Grow your own

Category Archives: Garden Tips

Grow your own
21st November, 2018

Small space gardening

Design and planting tips and tricks for maximizing your small garden from Steve Fleischmann.

Recently I have been asked about growing in small areas and growing in pots. A great question because so many people have small gardens and a few well-placed pots can help make unused corners of the garden become more productive and attractive.

Design is an important consideration here. Like many things, we don’t necessarily notice something well designed, we just enjoy its functionality. However, when something is poorly designed it can be really frustrating. Having your potted garden in a handy spot, that you both like and spend time in, means you are far more likely to water the garden, notice when plants are ready t harvest and generally enjoy the space.  Similarly, with a small garden, design it so that it draws you in – put a seat in the middle of it or plant aromatic herbs you can step on/brush past. Consider aspect and hierarchy. Most edibles need six hours of sunlight, and try to plant tall plants at the back of a bed and low sprawling ones at the front.

Map out the areas around the house that get the required sunlight and start thinking and researching what can be planted in these areas. If the sunniest spot is in the most remote/far removed area of the garden, don’t despair, plant something like oregano because it comes from rocky hillsides that are really dry, it can (usually) cope pretty well with some neglect, and it’s delicious as a fresh herb.

Pathways are also important. Ironically we tend to prefer curved pathways, but tend to walk straight from A to B. So designing a path through even the smallest of gardens can be a major design feat. Before you move a single shovel load, observe how you and others use the space. It is far easier to build to your habits than changing your habits to suit your build. Straight lines can be softened by herbs that tumble over the edge of a garden bed onto the path – making a straight line seem curved.  Furthermore, it can be good to have an “aim” at the end of a pathway – a herb and flower bed, a fruit tree in a pot, a water feature, a bench seat or something else that draws you into the garden.

From my own experience the hardest thing about growing in pots is the water issue. In Australia’s extreme heat of summer pots can dry out very quickly and that can spell disaster for many plants. A couple of solutions to this is to use saucer trays at the bottom of the pot, experience has shown me that they make all the world of difference. Another option is a wicking pot. Essentially this is a plant pot with a water reservoir in the bottom.

Additionally, pots need to be watered. I know, I know a no-brainer really, but hey, it has to be said because we have all forgotten to water the pots and had plants die. Having a watering can or hose handy (and by handy I mean between the house and the thing that needs watering!) will mean the job is more likely to get done.

The next serious consideration is plant choice. And this is a big topic regardless of the size of your garden. Some edibles are simply not worth growing in small gardens – I’m thinking of things like corn or even tomatoes (I know some will disagree with me on this!) because they take up a lot of space, take a long time to fruit and the season is relatively short. On the other hand, a mix of lettuces, mizuna, chives and parsley in a big pot can give you cut and come again leafy greens for ages in a short period of time. Many seed companies sell Mesclun mixes and these are great for small gardens and pot growing.  A potful of parsley will provide you with far more food over a growing season than a couple of corn plants. Other veg to try in small gardens include space-saver varieties of cucumber, zucchini, melons and pumpkins.

Finally, going back to design, but with a firm eye on plant choice, think vertical space. Grow up walls, create tepees or other trellis structures. Beans, peas and other vining plants love growing up support, look great, can hide ugly parts of the garden and are really productive.

Happy growing!

Steve will be hosting a gardening workshop at the Katoomba Community Garden Friday 23rd November see event for details.

It’s a village out there!
21st November, 2018

The Village by Matt and Lentil

A book to make you “yearn for that deep connection to people and places close to you.”

What an amazing book! Set out in three parts (the village, the growing and of course the eating) it is a thorough bible for sustainable living.

The authors’ shared experience of villages really makes you yearn for that deep connection to people and places close to you.

I loved Matt and Lentil’s advice on growing including ideas about how anyone can grow, even if you’re renting or living in a flat. The eight steps to natural gardening are so interesting and detailed. Being a novice in the garden, I found it really useful to read a frank description of what they do and when.

The planting projects are really inspiring and seem like a doable place to start. The idea to focus on one thing first up is great. I’m particularly drawn to grow an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini and rocket as suggested! Easy to grow, abundant harvest? Yes! The sweet potato crates sound pretty straight forward too.

Just as I started reading The Village I happened upon a bunch of zucchini that had split open. Sure enough, zucchini pickle featured in the book. I have it stewing away in the cupboard and can’t wait to be cracking it open over Xmas. Waste not want not.

The smoothie chart in the recipe section looks so simple and useful. It’s unique, setting out all the different elements and options/quantities to be used to build a great smoothie every time.

The beautiful photographs throughout draw you into a gardeny world and you just want to go live there…or recreate it.

Really inspiring.

Review by Bec Tyson, Co-op sales assistant

Bec’s home-made zucchini pickles. Recipe from The Village by Matt and Lentil, Published by Plum, RRP $45.00, Photography by Shantanu Starick.

The Weed Forager’s Handbook
18th October, 2018

Everything you need to know about weed foraging is contained in The Weed Forager’s Handbook – A Guide to Edible and Medicinal Weeds in Australia, by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser- Rowland. A must-have addition to your sustainable living library, the handy little tome, first published in 2012 and since reprinted numerous times, will fit snugly in your jacket pocket or backpack while you scour parks and gardens for your feed of wild food.

The five well illustrated and simply explained chapters cover the topics of weed appreciation, top 20 weeds, other useful weeds, recipes and gardening with weeds, highlighting not only the usefulness of weeds as food, medicine and soil improvers but exploring the philosophy and tradition of foraging passed down from our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

This well-thumbed edition belongs to Herbalist and Co-op worker Madison. 

Authors Raser-Rowland and Grubb are also behind The Art of Frugal Hedonism, which encourages us all to enjoy more while spending less.

Read more on weeds from Horticultural Editor of ABC Organic Gardener magazine Penny Woodward here.

 

 

Competition
17th October, 2018

Organic gardening tips

Did you know?

Attractive herb and flower hedgerows encourage diversity both above and below the soil by creating hotbeds of fungal mycelium, and providing habitat for native animals and beneficial bugs.

Tell us your top organic gardening tips to win a 2019 ABC Organic Gardener calendar and diary set.

How do you combat pests and diseases in your organic vegie patch?

Share your top tips to hello@bmfoodcoop.org.au and go into the draw to win an ABC 2019 ABC Organic Gardener calendar and diary set. Competition closes Friday October 26.

Waterwise spring gardening tips
12th September, 2018

Steve Fleischmann shares his tips for waterwise spring gardening, plus book into a seedling workshop at Katoomba Community Gardens.

The cooler weather seems to be behind us as the days get warmer and I’m writing this without the heater on! However, it is easy to be fooled and plant out frost sensitive edibles, then lose the lot when we get a late frost or it snows in October.

If you haven’t done it yet, order your seeds for summer – beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, cucumber – and start planting small amounts regularly. Your gardening life is about to get really, really busy. The Co-op has a fantastic selection of organic seeds, (and we’ve just received an order of over 700 new packets!) so check them out!

Herbs & salad veg

Something to consider is planting out a lot of herbs – I’m talking flat leaved parsley, oregano, all the basils and other soft leaved herbs – and use them regularly in your cooking. If you think about it, you would probably use oregano and parsley a lot more than you use corn, so plant in a manner that allows you to eat these herbs plentifully. The flavours of handfuls of fresh oregano leaves, parsley or basil in a salad are the things that make me go back into the garden over and over again.

Likewise, pea shoots are a delicious addition to a salad. Plant three seeds to a hole and, once the plants get to over 30 cm tall, start nipping off the growing tips and using them in salads. Their flowers are also edible and delicious.

Drought-proofing your garden

One of the things I have been thinking about a lot is climate change – the long dry spells we are experiencing are playing havoc with soils, flowering times and plants’ ability to flower among a host of other subtle and not so subtle effects. For example, my Echinacea barely flowered last season and I suspect it was a mix of low precipitation and changes in soil structure due to heat and lack of moisture.

So, what to do? It’s a really, really big prime-ministerial question. And one with no easy or simple answers, but there are a few things we can do in the garden to mitigate problems. Firstly, massively increase the volume of organic matter in and on your soil. Organic matter can be compost, grass clippings, well-rotted animal manure, or weed-free mulch. Organic matter stores water where it is needed for plant growth and provides both food and habitat for the micro- and macro-organisms that are part of soil biodiversity. The sandy solids we have in the mountains seem to use up organic matter in a season without a lot of effort, so it pays to think actively about where you will get the volumes you will need (without spending a lot of money).

Additionally, it is worthwhile adding some agricultural clay or volcanic dust to your compost or soils. These have the benefit of helping to improve soil structure, preserve water and adding micro-nutrients.

Install drip irrigation and a timer. Pretty much a no-brainer. It delivers water where it is needed and at rates that are a lot more efficient than overhead spraying. Look for irrigation systems that are simple and do not have a lot of bits and pieces – the more complex the system the easier it is to break. I tend to use what is called “in-line” drippers, as they are simply pipes with holes that regulate the outflow. Installing is a bit of a job, but well worth it.

Finally, research the varieties you are planting – look for those that are proven heat lovers and have low water requirements, and save the more sensitive plantings for spring and autumn.

Want to learn how to plant seedlings for a bumper yield? Come along to our first spring gardening workshop with Steve Fleischmann at Katoomba Community Garden.

Friday September 28th 9am – 12pm. To book click here.

Milkwood – Real skills for down-to-earth living
12th September, 2018

Kick start your sustainable life with down-to-earth skills from the dynamic duo behind Milkwood permaculture.

The first book from the founders of Milkwood Permaculture, sustainability advocates Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar, is not only the realisation of ten years of hard-won practical know-how, it is a celebration of lifestyle. A lifestyle where time-honoured traditions of growing, cultivating, foraging and preserving food are practised with respect for the environment and enthusiasm for self-reliance.

Homemade and heartfelt, this beautiful instructional tome thoroughly explains five areas of the pair’s expertise – wild food, natural beekeeping, mushroom cultivation, tomatoes and the harvest and use of one of Australia’s least utilised resources, seaweed – providing readers with practical skills, recipes, hacks, inspiration and a glimpse into Bradley and Ritar’s own down-to-earth life.

BM Food Co-op caught up with Kirsten Bradley to find out how the book came about.

Q: You teach various courses at Milkwood Permaculture was this book a natural progression from that and what do you hope to achieve with it?

Kirsten: Yes in many ways it was, we wanted to share knowledge in a way that it can sit in your lounge-room or backyard with you, and be absorbed over time.

Q: Why did you focus on just five subjects – Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Beekeeping, Seaweed and Wild Food?

Kirsten: Well they’re ‘five of our favourite things’, so to speak, and also we didn’t want to just give a little bit of info about too many subjects, we wanted to dive in deep! So we started with five subjects that we love doing in our daily life, which are also super fascinating AND super delicious. Our next plan is to do another five subjects, and then another five…

Q: What advice would you give someone wanting to embark on a more self-sufficient life?

Kirsten: Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can! We’d recommend starting with just one small habit, and learning to do that really well. It might be keeping a worm farm, or learning to make yogurt, or learning to identify 10 local edible weeds where you live. Once you’ve got that one thing nailed, and you’re doing it regularly, in your daily life, choose one more thing. It’s amazing where you can end up.

Q: You practice what you preach – do you ever get any down time and does it ever feel too hard living a self-reliant life?

Kirsten: We don’t get a heap of down time, but on the other hand, part of our ‘weekly work’ is things like weeding, or taking the goats down the gully, or making bread. And for me, those sorts of things are what I’d want to be doing with my spare time anyway, so it works out pretty well. It can get a bit crazy in harvest season when the kitchen floor is covered in just-picked food that all needs to be bottled NOW because it’s a heatwave and otherwise it will all be mouldy by tomorrow, but still I wouldn’t have it any other way. And if you have too many pears to process, you can always share them up and down the street. It’s all good.

Q: What’s next for Milkwood – are you already planning a sequel?

Kirsten: Yes I’m bursting to write another five chapters, actually! There’s so much to share, it’s pretty exciting. And we’re so lucky to all live in a place where these skills and ideas are accessible and possible, so I do feel the best way to spend my days is sharing this knowledge so that more and more households and communities can grow and be healthy. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? x

Milkwood – Real skills for down-to-earth living by Kirsten Bradley & Nick Ritar

Murdoch Books, RRP $45

 

Wild Weed Workshop
12th September, 2018

You will never look at weeds in the same way again after taking part in this workshop.

Diego Bonetto is a weed forager, artist, storyteller and an expert on identifying the nutritious plants that grow under our feet that most people call ‘weeds’.

Take a walk on the wild side and discover the edible and medicinal plants that grow around us. Learn about the role weeds play in repairing and building soil. Find out how they have been used for food, craft and natural remedies. Discover ways to safely harvest from the wild and enrich your diet with vitamins and minerals.

Each participant will receive a booklet detailing 16 of the most common wild edibles of the greater Sydney region.

The Weedy One

We asked Diego Bonetto aka The Weedy One what got him into weeds.

Q: What got you interested in wild food and foraging?

Diego: Where I grew up, on a dairy farm in northern Italy, harvesting seasonal bounties is just another chore. I grew up with collecting bitter greens from the fields in springtime, summer berries and autumn mushrooms. When I moved to Australia 25 years ago I continued with the same practice of collecting gifts from nature.

Q: What are weeds useful for?

Diego: All sorts of things. “Weeds” are pioneer species, opportunistic plants with a specific ecological task: to cover soil and start the process of remediation after a disruption. It also happens that many of them are edible and/or have medicinal qualities. We can talk about co-evolution if you want, and that would explain why we have so much to answer about the proliferation of pioneer species. Weeds are good, and food.

Q: You do a lot of foraging in urban areas – how do you mitigate contamination by pesticides, animal faeces or other pollutants?

Diego: You only ever forage where you know it is clean. Even then, it is now proven that wild urban plants do not take up as much contaminant as we might expect them to. A simple vinegar wash would cleanse the plants of any dust and oils. But anyhow. I always say that the best place to forage is your own garden, so that you forage where you know how many dogs there are, who sprays what and also a bit of history of the soil.

Q: Do you have a favourite weed you like to cook with or use medicinally?

Diego: Depending on the season. At the moment I am waiting for the mulberries. In Sydney we have a lot of wild mulberries, and they are delicious.

Q: Are there any “weeds” you know of that are endemic to the Blue Mountains?

Diego: I do not think you can have an endemic weed. I guess native species that are a bit too aggressive could be golden wattle and sweet pittosporum.

There are still a few spots left so to book your ticket for the Wonderful Wild Weeds workshop click here.

Location: Upper Blue Mountains – to be confirmed

 

What’s on in September
4th September, 2018

Grow heirloom fruit & veg
15th August, 2018

ABC Organic Gardener Essential Guide: Heirlooms

The latest edition in the ABC Organic Gardener’s Essential Guide series celebrates the incredible world of heirlooms. From 900-year-old ‘Purple Dragon’ carrots, to apples and oranges that arrived with the First Fleet, Heirlooms shows you how to grow your own and recommends the best cultivars for your patch.

Featuring content previously published in the popular magazine plus new articles by trusted horticultural writers including Penny Woodward and Justin Russell, the ‘mook’ (a cross between a book and a magazine) includes advice and tips for growing old-fashioned fruit, veg and flowers, seed-saving, raising heritage chook and pig breeds, and even the joy of scything. Heirlooms would make a welcome addition to your gardening reference library or a great gift for a green thumb.

We have two copies to giveaway. Simply email your contact details to  hello@bmfoodcoop.org.au with Heirlooms in the subject line, and a brief description or photo of any heirloom fruit or veg you’ve grown to be eligible to win.

ABC Organic Gardener Essential Guide: Heirlooms is on sale in newsagents and from ABC Centres and abc.net.au/shop and retails for $10.99.

 

Edible Garden Festival 2019
5th July, 2018

Organisers of this year’s hugely successful Edible Garden Festival and Trail are planning an even bigger and better festival for 2019 and they need you, the food growers of the Blue Mountains, to register interest.

Jump on their facebook page to like and follow for updates and information on how you can be involved in this great community initiative. Or drop them an email at ediblegardenfestival@gmail.com

Photo by Cameron Bryce taken at the Whitton’s garden.

 

 

 

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