RTBG Thursday 28 November 2019 – post 1 of 2

Do I need to tell you what the weather was like today?  For Hobartians we know it was gorgeous. For blog readers elsewhere – I can confirm it was another sunny rain-free glorious day down here near the bottom of Tasmania. Why?  Because it was volunteering day in the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG).

I didn’t set the alarm happy to wake whenever. But I woke earlier enough to arrive at RTBG a few minutes after  9 am following 25 minutes of walking and two buses. Our scheduled start time is 10am so I wondered if anyone else would have arrived. But of course N beat me there by a mile. He had arrived at 7.45 and straight away started clearing weeds.  Ah the commitment. Ah the love we all have for our work there;  our love of the experiences and learning there; just being there. Salve for the spirit. Balm for the heart.

As I stepped through the RTBG gates, within seconds the level of the noise of the highway dropped many decibels and a sense of profound calm descended.  I spotted two ducks tucked asleep like small rocks beneath a tree. Almost unnoticeable in the dapple of the shade.

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Then I passed a plant which earlier this year I had photographed in different stages of flowering growth. Now in its full cloak of green leaves it looked rather ordinary.

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Healthy as, but not sensational like when it had flowered.  Let me remind you with an example of a photo I took months ago of the Chinese Paper Bush.

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I continued along to the Food Garden and realised that over the past few weeks collectively we have begun to tame the spring growth. Of course, weeds were still proliferating and other plants were expanding or changing in different ways.  However, some sort of order seemed to be beginning to prevail.

Of course weeds grew again around the long bed of shallots and garlic.  Overhanging in patches were the spiky canes of berry fruits.  I asked Coordinator Adam whether they should be trimmed. ‘You like pruning don’t you’, he remarked. Probably my whole face beamed. Yep!  ‘What I want you to do is to cut on both sides of the ‘fence’; cut off the fruitless meandering canes and especially those encroaching onto the walkway. They won’t go into the compost. I will take them away.’

He handed me his own personal secateurs. I grabbed a large rubbish bin.  Where to start first. There was a lot to do along this row of three large berry ‘bushes’ –  boysenberry, loganberry, and thornless blackberry.

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The fact these had been trained along a framework of uprights and horizontal wires, had kept in check much of their boisterous growth behaviours.  Nevertheless, the canes were in entwined density at the base of each plant where I tried to clip the unneeded canes.  Two had thorns which required concentration to avoid.

In addition there were self- seeded new plants everywhere along this part of the garden. Some had grown from the seed of fallen fruit last season and others had put down roots after laying across the soil from the mother plant.  These unplanted additions needed to be removed.  After almost three hours, these berry canes were tamed.  However, I know that with a little water and more sun, they will begin to arc and extend almost immediately.

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Meanwhile other volunteers had arrived and much was achieved by them. R was denuding a bed of dying coriander and trying to collect some seeds. Later Adam remarked these might still be too green to keep for next year and the best that could be done would be to cook with them now. On their way to the compost bin, it was clear these plants had grown tall.

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Later, after the clearing the patch, R dug it over, layered fresh compost across and prepared to plant tomatoes. These were tied to encourage them to follow a frame as they grow.  By the time R finished, zucchinis and eggplants were also in that patch.  A very good morning’s work!

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Meanwhile N had weeded and dug a patch, and was planting. He was following the method of making a hole for the plant, soaking in water, then unpotting the plant into the hole, before mulching with straw.  Then more watering.  This is in contrast to only watering after the plant is in the ground.

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L persisted with weeding around  leafy shallots.

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Elsewhere, D and T harvested produce for SecondBite, I think R and A weeded in the orchard, and S was hard at work – now what was that work.  So sorry S – I can’t remember.  But you are a dedicated and hard worker so whatever you did would have made a substantial difference.

We all sat companionably around the potting shed over lunch and chatted about garden related matters. This included a discussion involving R and A’s invitation for us Food Garden volunteers to come to lunch this Sunday;  we will all being trying to bring a dish using produce from our own gardens, and are looking forward to seeing their garden – apparently a work in progress. Heavens! Aren’t they all.

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