I experienced another charming day in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. The start of my day was all the more satisfying because, after five minutes of waiting when I got off the bus at the Regatta Ground/Naval base stop, I was able to sprint (my slow style) across all the lanes of highway and not be skittled by the walls of traffic coming off the Tasman Bridge. Then I enjoyed a comparatively short walk (all up about a km) to the RTBG entrance gates. This compares favourably with a 25 minute walk from that bus stop to the top via the bottom entrance to the Gardens.
The 10am-3pm time slot for volunteering in the Food Garden seems to be flexible. I have been arriving around 9.45 but I others have started at 8.45. Then people leave at all sorts of times and usually there are only three of us left at 3pm. It all works well. We know that when we arrive, if Coordinator Adam is not around to check in with, we immediately get to work weeding – and, like any home garden, that process never ends. Everyone is quietly self-motivated. And trusted. Wonderful.
I had my heart set on tackling a massive invasion of oxalis behind one of the sheds but Adam, wisely, directed me to a patch of healthy oxalis growing directly in the public view as they walked along a distant established path. It was in this very large patch that I spent most of my day.
Curving around the edge was a ‘jump-over’ espaliered apple tree; an idea which I had not seen before. Part of this length can be seen at the top right of the photo below. I was assured that the apples, once formed, won’t touch the ground. They will all emerge from the growth points on the branches and remain in the air. Through the bark mulch, delicate white cupped snowflake bulbs had pushed their way to the sun, along with various weeds.
Elsewhere in this patch, the occasional spurt and clumps of oxalis needed to be found, often hidden below plant leaves, and then needed my attention.Deeply rooted and sometimes in hard dry ground, these required careful digging in order to bring up their bulbs ready for destruction – oxalis seed/bulbs do not get collected into the composting bins. Because of the size of some plants and the difficulty in digging through the hard bark mulch, I found weeding to be a very slow process. The photo below shows the low level plants under which all manner of weeds lurked happily. By the end of the day, and with the help of others, the weeds were very dead.One volunteer was relocating composted soil – the sort which Peter Cundall used to fondle and declare was good enough to eat. Just the right amount of moisture through perfectly broken down organic matter. The RTBG Food Garden has a three bin composting system.The left hand bin is the first repository for the leaves and weeds from the Food Garden. Eventually in the decomposing turning phase this is moved to the middle bin and then, with more decomposition and turning operations, the mass is relocated to the right hand third bin. It stays here until it has become the beautiful composted soil that I saw. The volunteer was emptying that bin wheelbarrow load by barrow load. It was used to top up a nearby garden bed.The experienced volunteer filled me in on the composting processes. Maybe I once knew and have forgotten; it all seemed like fresh news to me. I explained that I had never mastered the process of composting and simply dug my kitchen scraps straight into my garden soil. That is why potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes constantly surprise me throughout my garden; they rise up from my kitchen discards. What I learned from the volunteer, was that there are two types of composting process; a hot and a cold process. For the hot process having a bin about a metre square is needed so there is room for the mixture to heat up in the centre, to speed the decomposition, but not all the way to the edge so that worms are deterred by the heat. For the cold process, a smaller bin will be in use and it is important to keep its contents moist- to keep the moisture levels right so that the weeds, paper, kitchen scraps and leaves have enough to encourage decomposition without becoming slimy or saturated.
Throughout the day the warm autumn sun heated us all and made for a superbly comfortable day in the Food Garden. It was a pleasure walking from one part to the next. Idyllic.