I am never sure what aspect of my Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) experience will thrill me when I volunteer, but I prepare, travel there, and then discover some freshness, vista, or collegial atmosphere that lifts my spirits. This week’s visit was no different. The produce continued to ripen letting some plants move on their path to death, the changing climate and weather lit the landscape with different colours and shadows, the people I worked with told new stories of ways of understanding the plants in their lives, and general visitors remained engaging – one way or another.
On arrival I was met with an array of boxes of tomatoes and a smaller collection of golden nuggets of pumpkin, cucumbers and beans. Later these wonderful vegetables were taken to a charity, Second Bite, for distribution to those in need.
In conversation with a casual visitor, we moaned a little about how we’d like everything to stop growing for a moment so we could catch up on our gardening chores – but, of course, plants are our reminder that we as humans are never in control and that change by the millisecond is the norm. When I see the harvests that the Food Garden of RTBG produces, they are remarkable affirmations of life. Clearly, managing the changing needs of our gardens is simply part of living.
For example, in order to get good apple crops, a nip or two of summer pruning is required. All day Neil worked at the archway trimming off the tentacles that sought more and more sunlight.
The vegetation around the secluded seating area through the apple tree archway had become overgrown – rather woolly – so that Pam and Trixie, later helped by Lesley and Meg, spent the day clearing. Coordinator Adam buggied away loads and loads and more loads of spent vegetation to the main Garden compost piles. Eventually the tools could be returned to the shed.
Nearby, Meg and Sandra cut horseradish and skirret down to size until they had a bonfire sized pile ready for despatch to the compost heap.
When I spotted dandelions, dandelion look-alikes and some other unwanted weeds trying to hide beneath strawberries and ground covers of thyme, I set to digging these up in order to leave carpets of wanted plants across the soil.
Elsewhere there were two types fruit trees that amazed me; every year they do so but it’s never less than amazing. The two varieties of quinces and the chestnut.
I was surprised to see sweet potato growing and thriving. This vegetable is not normally known for success in our southern climate. Undoubtedly the warm protection offered by the location of the RTBG Food Garden, is a great support.
How could a person not be moved by this collective largesse!