With wonderful memories from my first Thursday in the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, I was eager for the next Thursday to arrive. I expected more weeding and could not imagine which new activities I might experience.
I arrived, changed my shoes, stashed my belongings, and headed towards a couple of volunteers. They were partly hidden beneath a large olive tree. ‘You can help us pick these eating olives’, they suggested. Last year I planted two different varieties of olive trees in my own garden so I was interested to look closely at this tree and its olives. By the time we finished stripping the tree, 8 kgs of olives sat heavily in the bucket. What next? ‘Okay you can move to the olive tree along the way. Those olives are for making oil.’ A couple of us worked on stripping the second tree and collected nearly 2 and a half kgs. These olives were tiny by comparison with the first. In the vicinity were other olive varieties all still in an earlier growth phase and not nearly read to pick.
Autumn leaves were building up and weeds had begun to proliferate beneath some of the olive trees so I helped rake, sweep and pull to clear the spaces. Once the areas were clear, I was given a couple of dozen very large seedlings of two different varieties of mustard. I was told I could plant them at random or in patterns or rows – whatever I fancied. Random suited me. I placed the pots roughly equally spaced without a pattern, mixed up the plants and then dug each of them in. The dryness of the soil varied hugely and certainly there was little moisture below an inch for much of the area. I was given a sprinkler, the hose and tap were pointed out to me, and I set up watering so that each area got a very good soaking.
Not being sure what to do next, I spotted a tomato garden bed nearby displaying beautiful large healthy weeds. I realised they had to go and, with rubbish bin to hand, I started removing them. Along came the Coordinator and told me to smarten up some of the climbing tomato plants, to pull out others which had truly had their day, and to save any green tomatoes as I worked. Once that bed was cleared and tidy I looked around and wondered if I was the only one left for the day.
In the distance a couple of die-hards were weeding more of the brassica beds. Naturally I gave a hand – heavens they can’t have all the fun!
Some cropping has already occurred in these beds and gaps in the rows needed filling. A tray of pots with healthy Kale plants was waiting to be planted. The pots were placed in gaps around a foot apart. Then I dug into the soft loamy soil to give each plant a new home.
Time to go. We were gathering our gear when the Co-ordinator asked if we had tasted Yakon. I had never heard of this food. He dug a tuber, scraped its surface, sliced pieces and handed them to us to eat. Crisp pieces full of water making it a refreshing and re-hydrating food. Very delicate flavour. Very light. ‘Would you like some more?’ Yes -we all went back for seconds. This large gangly plant (I think I will remove the Buddleia in my garden and plant a Yakon) with pretty yellow flowers is a native to South America and more can be seen and read on this website.
I didn’t leave empty handed. A few chives, and parsley and mint sprigs were offered to me – an unexpected and wonderful way to finish the day. That the time whizzes past fast surprises me. Suddenly it is time to leave and all I can look forward to is next week’s discoveries. I realise that, in future, I must take photos during my days as a volunteer for RTBG – as my record and to help blog readers imagine themselves in that environment.