RTBG – 17 and 19th December 2019

What’s this, you may think?  When you notice two dates in one week, you may wonder what this means.  Remember the last post; it was about my new seed-sweeping experience. That was on a Tuesday.  Okay – so now you think you have it worked out that I went seed-sweeping on Tuesday and undertook my normal Food Garden volunteering at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) on Thursday. You are correct but there is more.  On Thursday I started the morning seed-sweeping before continuing on to the Food Garden. So it’s been a big week.

As I walked to my first visit of the week, I was enthralled watching galahs hunting for seeds and insects in the shade – they know how to protect themselves.

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Once into the RTBG, I observed a squawk of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos feasting up high on nuts.

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On Tuesday I partnered with volunteer D and showed him the ropes literally as we untied each bay ready to sweep the seeds of the Philotecha freyciana plant, one of the endangered species from the east coast of Tasmania.

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The short frayed ropes annoyed me; at  home I knew I had a roll of unused rope and enquired if I could bring it in and use to replace the bay ties. So on Thursday, after Y and I had swept each bay, I decked each bay with bright red (Christmassy coloured) twine and large bows which should make opening and closing each bay tightly that much easier.

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I loved the way that the native Tasmanian Trigger Plant has self seeded and now seeking the light from beneath the bays.

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Regrettably between Tuesday and Thursday birds had found a way in to the enclosed area; apparently someone on work experience had been watering and not secured the enclosure tightly. Across the mesh around plants in their pots, and strewn across the bay floors were the remnants of seeds, plus bird poop.  It was a great shame.  Nevertheless we swept it all, including some seeds.  The aim is to collect 10,000 seeds and the misfortune of bird entry and their feasting, changes expectations. Nevertheless seeds were swept and undoubtedly more will be swept but the total harvest over the next few weeks might be reduced.  I will return in the new year for more seed-sweeping and I hope the seed fall won’t be over before then.

In the Community Food Garden there were two changes of note.

The most dramatic development can be seen in the area behind the Facility buildings.  Over the weeks I have shown you photos of concrete being removed, gabion walls being built, curved edges being cut and tester soil and plants being added. On Tuesday I was delighted to see a smooth surface of new soil.  The area was taking shape and I could imagine the smart and relaxing space this will become.

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Then on Thursday I was delighted to see turf had been laid and cut in to the curves by, I am told, a Bali machete!

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Now it is being watered in to allow the roots to join that soil underlay. I expect further planting to occur on the upper level – perhaps that will wait until the hot weather passes.   I will be curious to learn what is the best way of managing that area.  Overall, I imagining that this will soon be ready for public access.  A small sanctuary rather hidden away.  Should be a delightful surprise to all.

The left over turf was planned for elsewhere.

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Nearby, fresh picked shallots were drying.  Coordinator Adam explained that they were not yet ready to give away to charity. Without drying somewhat these bulbs won’t store well; with their outer high moisture content they would rot in storage.  Of course home gardeners might only be harvesting one or two as needed for cooking and then drying isn’t necessary.  However, if a larger crop was harvested, then simply resting them where fresh dry air can pass around them will be best for their longer term preservation.

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The other change in the Food Garden will not surprise you; weeds had grown and needed plucking. With the Christmas holiday break, our volunteer team is not required again until the second week of January.  Therefore it was imperative we cleaned up the main garden patches so that they will look as good as possible for visitors during the coming weeks. We all realise that in three week’s time our main job again will be weeding. I love the fact that this represents life and the unstoppable force of nature.

With R and later R, I took on the job of weeding the long garlic patch.

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Occasionally a tomato or a potato had self-seeded into healthy plants and I let them stay. Suddenly I was stung (I seldom wear gloves when I weed so that I can feel the root and get all the plant); I mused. It had to be.  It was a healthy stinging nettle.  You would think that since I picked nettles and made nettle soup recently that something would have passed through my eyes to my brain so I would have known. But I reflected as I shook my tingling hand, that when weeding I am only grasping anything that is different and for much of the time I am not identifying particular interlopers.

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A great deal was achieved across the patches. Examples include the following:

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I had missed attending for the past two weeks and so it was terrifically comfortable once again to enjoy the spirit of comradery that permeates our wonderful volunteering team.  Thanks to R we enjoyed the treat of homemade hummus as we sat in the shade of a spreading tree during lunch.

This was Thursday – and what was the weather like – hint above. I said ‘shade’. Of course it was a gloriously sunny day but increasingly rather too warm – let’s say hot – to work out in the sun.  I left earlier in the afternoon than I had intended and others wandered off around then as well – the searing sun made gardening a challenge that we didn’t feel we needed to meet.

Thanks to a question from a visitor, now I will recognise a walnut tree with its early developing green seed pod; only by enlarging the following photo are you likely to find the small green balls amidst the canopy.

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As I walked off to catch the bus, I was impressed to see a trio laying left-over turf; admittedly they were working between a couple of very large trees so I imagine they stepped aside from time to time to enjoy the shade. Meanwhile a ship load of visitors buzzed slowly around the extensive gardens smiling and looking relaxed.

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The RTBG seems to have a calming effect on everyone and it is probably the best place to be during these hectic days leading to the Christmas and New Year week.  Until 2020 my friendly followers – best wishes for the season!

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