RTBG Thursday 29 Oct 2020 –what a day!

Thoughtful Pam offered me a lift to the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmania Botanical Gardens, a gift that raised my spirits enormously. I wasted less time in travel and used the opportunity to water my newly planted tomatoes before departure.

Tomatoes were the fruit of the day for us all when we reached the RTBG. In previous weeks, some garden beds had been cleared and lay waiting for a quick weed to remove the occasional interloper before being smothered with a layer of mulching straw.

Then tray after tray after tray of various bush and climbing tomato varieties were placed out.

We dug into the richly composted soil and lowered each healthy plant into their hole. Rocket Fuel pellets were thrown around before Andrew and Janet watered these in using a mix of GoGo Juice. Finally, each tomato plant needed labelling. We recycled old labels using ‘elbow grease’ to scrub with Metho’ and remove names used in the past; dedicated Neil was definitely the best at this.

Clearly these tomatoes were given the best start in life and we have great expectations of dense crops. We knew the RTBG nursery sold 95 varieties at the recent annual tomato sale, and while we didn’t plant all those, a smaller diversity are now growing in the Food Garden. Future comparisons will be interesting.  The bulk of the plants were the KY1 variety. Added to this was a sprinkling of Tasmanian Yellow, Snow White, Wonderlight, Dragon’s ??? and many more – alas, I can’t remember them all. 

I do remember when Robyn and I were preparing to stake three-pronged tepee-style structures for a range of tomatoes on the slope near the tool shed, we were most thoughtful. We considered the colours of each and whether the tomato would be an early, mid or late developer before arranging them across the space. Our hope is for an educational and colourful display which will demonstrate clear incremental changes, and the difference between tomatoes. We have a lot to learn.

Janet, believing it was time I showed up in my posts about the RTBG, took the following photo.

None of this work was difficult but it all took time as everything does when gardening. Finding and selecting old stakes to be the same length was a matter of trial and error. Hammering in each stake was a good TA (trades assistant) job which Pam and I worked hard at. Robyn focused on tying the stakes to ensure a sturdy structure. Then there was the actual planting which took no time at all with four of us on the job.

Elsewhere Neil staked a small garden bed in such a way as to encourage the tomatoes to grow up.  In front of these a line of tiny basil plants has been added.

After lunch Robyn planted three climbing tomatoes in their own bed. We were instructed to create a set-up with three pairs of crossed stakes with a bamboo pole resting across, tied to each in order to link the three. I am left wondering whether we should have dropped lines down from the bamboo pole so the tomatoes can climb – next week I must check on whether that is needed or something similar.

In another bed Andrew planted a dozen or so zucchinis.

When Coordinator Adam was not nearby and we were unclear on the next job, we typically pulled a few weeds.

With our recent weed pulling efforts that job has become more maintenance than mainstream – but they do keep growing, and we cannot let them get away. Our particular concern was through the tealeaf plantation (camellia sinensis) where those pesky flickweeds liked to hide.

The moments when Robyn raked the paths to remove excess leaves and wayward mulching strands, to create Japanese garden style circles were wonderful to watch.

If you want to know how she created such perfect circles then watch this video.

While planting work continued across the Food Garden, Tony worked purposely to cut and harvest vegetables before filling bins to take away for charity which will, in turn, disperse to the needy.

We all loved the high visibility of our achievement during the day. Everywhere beds were mulched and watered and beautiful tomato and other plants stood proudly.

Many visitors wandered around the RTBG during the day; many with tiny children. While the tiny tots looked for ‘hidden’ pictures of teddy bears in order to complete a game spread throughout the entirety of the Gardens, mothers routinely admired the new healthy tomato plants.

It is always interesting talking with visitors who strike up a conversation. In addition, I can always feel their surprise and joy and that doubles my pleasure in volunteering. So it was for all of us on Thursday; that is, a day of great joy. And it worth noting that the weather gods allowed old habits to return for a blue sky, often very warm sunny day.

As I walked off at the end of the day I passed the row of giant pumpkin plants.

The RTBG is open to the public every day of the year and entry is free –if you live in Tasmania, plan to visit, or revisit if time has passed since your last visit.

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