The sky was patched with blue in places but often overcast during the morning. A warm mid 20 degree day was forecast with rain expected at the end of the day. Ah – the new normal. I can accept that. The earth needs the water.
As I arrived at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG), I noted some leaves were beginning to change towards their autumn colours.
The first thing I checked was the giant pumpkin patch. Over the past fortnight I swear the girth of the ‘big boy’ swelled by another third. Massive.
When the ‘little boy’ was lifted, we could see small patches of mould had appeared on the base where the pumpkin had not been supported on a pallet or dry straw.
Later in the day, N manhandled the very heavy ‘big boy’ with great difficulty (while protecting his back) while R stuffed straw beneath. These are show pumpkins because of their exaggerated size and there is no expectation that they can be edible when fully grown. Visitors to the Food Garden are in awe so it seemed like a good idea to raise them off the earth and protect them for as long as possible.
I watched D and T carrying and collecting vegetables and herbs for charity.
I loved seeing the freshly picked quinces with their softly furred skins.
I loved seeing the diversity of tomatoes.
Meanwhile, elsewhere everyone was enjoying pulling weeds. I noted a darkening sky and later drops fell but it never rained continuously.
I was alerted to the parlous state of the corn. Something has been eating the corn cobs, and occasionally breaking some stems. We talked without resolution about which animal or bird might have been responsible.
Perhaps the culprit was a mouse, but definitely not a human. Unfortunately some visitors to the Food Garden pick fruit and vegetables (even stripping plants or trees!!!!) when staff and volunteers are not around; in doing so they deprive the charities who distribute produce to the needy in our community. During the day I found a woman who had walked across a garden bed to help herself to some ripening blackberries. She looked at me guiltily and said ‘I shouldn’t be eating these should I.’ ‘No’, I replied and explained how they would be collected for charity – and we chatted amiably. A man accompanying her exclaimed, ‘those berries aren’t very nice to eat’. I ignored his comment, knowing the berries weren’t ripe enough yet to eat. Two competing ideas floated in my head; he deserved to have an unpleasant taste in his mouth. At the same time I recognised the glossy plumping berries look inviting and I could understand why a visitor would be attracted and want to sample.
I was joined by S, R and L for my first work for the day. The Brussel Sprout patch was infested with weeds and we tackled this wholeheartedly. Out came nettles, euphorbias, milk thistles and a myriad of other weeds brought on by the recent rain and the related humidity. Interspersed between the Brussel Sprout plants were occasional self-sown lettuces. To some extent we left those in for the decorative effect they had between the broad leaves of the main plants. S collected a few such accidentally pulled plants and saved them in her coffee mug.
Later in the day a visitor asked why we didn’t take the tops off the Brussel Sprout plants as he had been taught to do. I didn’t have an answer and had never seen such a practice before. Later a few of us talked and felt that since the little Brussel Sprout balls expand from the bottom of the plant up, perhaps by topping the plants it would limit the amount of balls that would grow. More information required.
I set off to clear the weeds from the old garlic patch and particularly the weeds sprouting through the adjacent path edge.
A few large self-sown tomato bushes remained. These were stripped of their green tomatoes ready to be used to prepare relishes and sauces.
My final job for this area was to trim the wandering blackberry and other berry canes that were crossing the garden bed intending to cross the footpaths. Over the past few weeks Adam, the Food Garden Coordinator, has been talking about clearing this garden bed ready to rotary hoe the soil. By deweeding, removing the tomatoes, and clearing the canes, he will have easy access to the area.
As usual I had difficulty removing all plants: I couldn’t resist leaving the healthy clumps of self-sown strawberry plants. Undoubtedly the simple job to remove these will fall to another.
L and R weeded a patch that they have worked on many times before.
The spaces around the tea leaf producing bushes were flush with new growth and A tackled these weeds successfully.
Elsewhere I watched S at work carefully removing weeds near the rhubarb.
For me and others the day was incredibly successful. We had a great hardworking team. Everywhere I looked, garden beds had lost their weed cover.
In particular we loved the fact that the weed Oxalis could be extracted with all their bulbs intact – mostly. We made a mental note to watch each March and see whether this is the best month to remove this plant ensuring we get it all. Certainly at other times of the year we know the myriad of bulbs come loose and stay disguised in the soil ready to sprout again and multiply easily.
As I left for the day I passed two chestnut trees and gloried in seeing the distinctive covers on their fruit.