RTBG-Thursday 21 January 2021

Pam picked me up and while travelling to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) we discussed how we wanted to continue to learn and that this fact was a significant driver in taking us to the Food Garden of the RTBG on Thursdays. So what did I do and what did I learn this past Thursday. 

Adjacent to our “Patch”, Hearing Australia had set up to offer hearing checks and be ready to talk to visitors about hearing options – so we stopped and chatted.

Activities: I weeded all day, some of my fellow volunteers did the same, while others removed dead vegetable remnants, scraggly banana leaves, trimmed pumpkin runners, pruned salvias and tied up sprawling tomato plants.

As usual Tony picked fresh produce ready to distribute to charity and one of Adam’s job was to rotary hoe a veggie patch.

It was the giant pumpkins that were my education tool in a number of ways.

None of these were full term and all had a long way to go before being sufficiently mature for picking. One had been punctured so this was cut from the plant. We were curious to see what was happening inside and whether, in that early state of growth, it was edible.

Once cut, clearly the interior was pale yellow in colour. An undifferentiated tissue. In the centre the barest hint of forming seeds could be seen. Water rose to the cut surfaces and I realised this was a hump of liquid. I cut small pieces and, when we ate these, they were refreshing but without flavour. We all hate waste and discussed whether one of us would take this ‘ball’ that was roughly the size and weight of a medicine ball, home for cooking. But, in the absence of any flavour and with its high water content, I couldn’t imagine making any good use from it. So it was ‘ripe’ for the compost!  Now I know what an immature pumpkin looks like and why it is worth waiting for ripening.

I have been astounded at the rapid growth of these pumpkins and the size they are now swelling out to. On the 21st October last year the flowering brassicas were cleared from the garden and it was made ready for the new plants.

The following week, on the 29th October the pumpkins were planted.

On the 19th November Neil noted: “The row with the giant pumpkins was given a light weeding and several loads of compost were deposited.  A variety of corn seed was planted by R & A into these newly composted beds in between the Atlantic Giant pumpkins.”

By the 3rd December last year the pumpkins had reached the size shown below.

On the 15th January this yearLesley told me ‘Neil and I got to select 2 pumpkins per giant pumpkin plant and cut the longest stems back from taking over the sweet corn nearby. Then we weeded around the pumpkin’.

Last Thursday the size was astounding.  Early in the morning I walked the length of this patch marvelling at the scale of each plant in all their aspects. Because extra fledgling pumpkins has been removed in recent weeks, all the goodness now focused on, what was known as, the Number one and then the  Number two pumpkins on each plant.

Later in the day, Number one pumpkins were lifted onto a sheet of cardboard placed on top of a wooden pallet in order to prevent rotting in future weeks. Hopefully, by being lifted off the ground, the pumpkins will be sufficiently aerated. Number two pumpkins will get future lifts.

Elsewhere in the Food Garden other smaller varieties of pumpkins flourished.

The corn was leaping high.

The Zucchini plants looked healthy.

A few hazelnuts were picked but generally these were found not quite ready for harvest.

The serious delight for the day was seeing sunflowers with inflorescences across their entire span.

In a different patch, on what I saw as ‘normal’ looking sunflowers, seeds were forming.

The Food Garden is a place of joy and learning and, if you have never  visited or haven’t been for ages, and particularly if you live in southern Tasmania, I urge you to go and have a look. Please note that the produce is not for picking by visitors, so even though a berry or a bean or apricot or whatever looks ready for you to eat, it isn’t for you.  Remember all this produce is committed to be given to the charity Second Bite.

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