RTBG – Thursday 5th November 2020

The glorious weather typical of pre -Covid times has returned. Pam kindly collected me and we drove through the morning sunshine, parked outside the RTBG and was abruptly told by an unfriendly policeman not to park where we had or he would write out a fine. ‘I am not going to argue with you’, he told me unasked. That unpleasantness interrupted our relaxed flow – but only for a moment.  Walking along the paths down through the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) is always guaranteed to lift my spirits regardless of weather or events happening elsewhere.  As its own world, the Gardens envelope me and block out my thoughts of before and after a visit.  And so it was on Thursday…

I had brought with me an unusual and special treat so that Coordinator Adam declared it was morning tea time well before 10am. The silver teapot was brought out and a brew of our green tea sat steeping. From my backpack I withdrew a chopping board, knife, bottle of olive oil – the residue of Adam’s three year preserved olives, a spoon and a freshly baked loaf of chickweed bread which still felt warm from the oven.

In my last blog post I displayed information about chickweed, a common garden weed and mentioned that one of the listed websites provided a recipe for chickweed bread. I knew my fellow Food Garden volunteers would be receptive to trying something new, and particularly to eating this weed – probably for the first time. And they were. I was surprised that the  ‘log’ that I thought I might have cooked was soft with a fine hard crust, and very tasty.  Everyone went back for more.  In a future blog post, I will detail the ingredients and explain how I cooked it because I used the website recipe as a guide and didn’t follow it slavishly.

All satisfied, it was time to get to work. After the previous week’s massive tomato planting efforts, last Thursday was devoted to weeding and some mulching.  Around the camellia sinensis (tea bushes) a host of unwanted plants had sprung. Some softly in the mulch and some rooted to the earth.

As usual, small flick weed, brown oxalis and other short and flat weeds hid themselves under the branches so it was slow meticulous work, initially for Pam and I and then later Janet joined us. By early afternoon we had cleared those rows and beneath the plants – but more will return as the days go by. Now that I have been volunteering in the Food Garden for a year and a half, I am constantly reminded that change and growth are the constants in life; there is no such thing as completing a garden task and then never having to repeat it again. Our Food Garden provides wonderful evidence that nobody can hold back time.  All the wishing in the world can’t make things ‘stay the same’.

I think the special mention for the day should go to Sandra who dug and dug deeply hoping to cajole the roots of onion weed from around the jump-over apple trees. Hard work. Unsatisfying work because it is impossible to get down to all bulbs. Like oxalis, onion weed has bulbettes (my word – I don’t know the technical term) from which, if even one breaks off, future plants plural can be expected. Multiplying.

Later, once the area was cleared, a walnut tree was planted.

Janet, Pam and I gently pruned the tea bushes and then set about picking out the tips ready for more green tea to be produced.

Meanwhile Neil methodically cleared the weeds from under the bean frame and spread mulch, while Janet weeded elsewhere. Later he and Sandra hoed the rows of flowering brassicas and other vegetables.

As usual, visitors loved looking at the broad beans. The white flowering beans are already ready for cropping whereas the pink flowering beans, which were planted a fortnight later, will produce their pods in a few week’s time.

When I had finished for the day, I stopped off in the RTBG’s gift shop. I had forgotten how interesting, creative, relatively inexpensive and useful many of their products are. I came away with a suspendible bird/bee bath which now hangs in my garden.

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