RTBG Thursday 17 October 2019

When I looked from my window, Mt Wellington and the sky were missing; cloud obliterated the city and the landscape features on the western side of the Derwent River, and grey puffiness was overhead. Yikes!  I shook my head in puzzlement. Isn’t this Thursday, the volunteering day at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) when the weather is always gorgeous.  Of course it is, I told myself.  What I am seeing is simply nature’s way of cleaning itself before the sun shines.  Be patient, I counselled myself.  This will change. And change it did. Of course.  Not much later, blue patches appeared above and sun sparkled through. The day turned into another spectacular Thursday.

This was the first of two days of plant sales offered to the public by RTBG; it was the annual tomato plants sale that is well known to locals. K was determined to arrive early to select plants before they best were snapped up and the queues of would-be purchasers grew too long.  But there was no shortage of plants.IMG_1702.JPG

Later, at my house we looked at the bag and boxes of purchases.IMG_7750.JPG

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My selection consisted of three plants:  a ‘Sweet Stuff’ capsicum,IMG_7766.JPG

a ‘Gardeners Delight’ tomatoIMG_7767.JPG

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and a ‘Hurma Ukraine’ tomato.IMG_7765.JPG

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Now you have read the plant descriptions above,  which had been thoughtfully prepared by RTBG Nursery volunteers and staff, you may have the following question.  What is a Determinate, Indeterminate  and Semi-Determinate Tomato?  Determinate tomatoes are varieties that grow to a fixed mature size and ripen all their fruit in a short period, usually about 2 weeks. Once this first flush of fruit has ripened, the plant will begin to diminish in vigour and will set little to no new fruit. On the other hand, semi-determinate tomatoes are those plants which are more compact than indeterminate types but are also capable of producing fruit throughout the season. Determinate tomato varieties are often referred to as “bush” tomatoes because they do not continue growing in length throughout the growing season. They are generally smaller plants than indeterminate tomatoes, with most growing to a compact 4-5 ft. tall.  I have to say I don’t remember seeing a tomato plant that crops almost fully in a very short period. Besides, I have become so used to my self-seeding cherry tomatoes which fruit for around 5 months.

Anyway these plants were robust, richly green, in pots with beautiful soil and they held the promise of great crops.

After the rush of the tomato sales it was time to volunteer;  stone work on the gabion wall required care and effort.  Thanks to K, I have photos to show.  And you will see Mother Duck was showing her ducklings the efforts as well.IMG_1722.JPG

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You might recall from an earlier post that I showed images of the formwork under construction.  K gave me the following photo showing me having a sticky beak at progress.IMG_1676.JPG

There are other visual records of the travels of the duck family.  IMG_1719.JPG

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Garden patches were being dug in preparation for planting, while hoeing and weeding proceeded in other garden beds.IMG_1715 crop.JPG

R was back picking tea leaves in the tea plantation.FullSizeRender.jpg

K had photos of me picking tea leaves. And she produced the most instructive photo of the tips that needed picking.  IMG_1678.JPG

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K has experimented with producing green tea at home from the tea leaves that we picked. She has tried three different ways and we will make a brew from each, one Thursday soon.  IMG_1726.JPG

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This was the day B brought in his home made Brie and Camembert cheese for all to taste.  I love the generosity of spirit of everyone. I am delighted to work with clever people who are passionate about all things natural, and particularly about the life of vegetation.IMG_1724.JPG

Thanks to K and R for their photos.

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Off to the side – a generous project

Two of my fellow RTBG volunteers  relocated to Tasmania in the not too distant past and settled on a orchard and vegetable laden property in the Woodbridge area. Their harvests, and those of neighbours and others in nearby areas, have been too large to consume so my friends R and A considered a new way to distribute the largesse across the community. They hit on the idea of accepting donations, collecting the produce and selling it at the regular community market in Margate which is held every Wednesday.

R told me “Our intention is to sell excess garden produce from our local area (the Channel), that we have either grown or gathered ourselves or that has been brought to us and that would have otherwise gone to waste, and to donate the cash proceeds to a local Charity/community organisation/not for profit entity.” After their first Wednesday all proceeds were donated to “‘Kingborough Helping Hands’, a non-profit organisation facilitated by Edna Pennicott that dispenses free food etc out of Loui’s Van in Kingston each Thursday”. Since then primary schools have benefited. But R tells me that, because they are newbies in the area, they don’t know groups who need a donation so will welcome ideas for the future. Ultimately she wants to have enough options so they can draw a lucky ‘winner’ each week.

Meanwhile the produce is rolling in. A and R have been happy to go and pick fruit and harvest vegetables where owners haven’t had the time or inclination, on their request. R tells me “If you have excess garden produce that may be going to waste, please send a message or give us a call. We are happy to come collect, depending of course on where you are, but better still, we can also receive produce donations to our home on Channel Highway Woodbridge, as we have some storage space. We will only be collecting/receiving produce on a Tuesday afternoon for the Wednesday market – we want it to be as fresh as possible – and will not be holding over any produce through the week.” Now every Tuesday they fill their day with harvesting and getting the produce ready for sale.

This couple pay the cost of the stall and any biodegradable bags or boxes required to sell the fruit out of their own pocket. The running around gathering the produce, giving up two days of their time, and any costs associated with the market stall are their generous contribution. So every dollar made from the sales is free to go – and hundreds of dollars are now made and donated each Wednesday. It is an outstanding achievement.

The benefits for R and A are many but include the pleasure of meeting new people in the district. In addition, they are doing their bit to stop waste, share the value of home grown fruits and vegetables, and to provide the community with the freshest produce available. No two weeks are the same – what is for sale is totally dependent on what people offer.  Last week, for example, the produce included dozens of boxes of the sweetest greengage plums – how delightful. I wonder what is being sold today – yes today is Wednesday.

A and R started with one market table and already that has grown to two to hold all the produce that has been donated. Produce is sold at market price so as not to undercut other markets stall holders. The growers love it, the market people love it, the customers love it, and those receiving the donations love it.

So, if you have excess food or want to buy some then visit the Channel or if you live there then get involved either by giving or receiving. R helps with market promotion on her flyer: “If you haven’t visited Margate market, do yourself a favour and have a look – it’s very accessible with plenty of parking. It is a delightful space, with some local produce, delicious food for lunch etc, a coffee van (I believe), home-baked goodies, high quality hand-made products and lots of smiles. Margate Hall is clearly loved, very well-maintained, clean, bright and airy, a truly lovely space.” The details of the market are:

Kingborough Market 

Margate Hall

1744 Channel Hwy

Margate

11 am to 3.30 pm Wednesdays

When you visit the market, please tell R and A you read about their stall on this blog!

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RTBG Thursday 20 Feb 2020

Unexpectedly I woke at 9.10 am. Often, at this time of day, I was already at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG). So my mind was all over the place as I raced to get ready. Then I did the normally unthinkable. I decided to dispense with all the delays of getting to and from and catching two buses. Instead, I Ubered my way to the gardens and arrived on the dot of 10am. The recommended working hours for our group of Food Garden volunteers is 10am to 3pm but that has never stopped any of us starting before or finishing later. There is a wonderfully trusting flexibility with our volunteering roles. So, as I arrived and signed in at the Hub, another fellow volunteer B was just arriving; of course he was oblivious to the fact my head was in turmoil from not proceeding calmly through a morning routine.

We wandered down the pathways noting fresh clipped hedges which were immaculate in the detail of their flat planes.

B went off quickly and returned with a wheelbarrow loaded with the seed heads of giant sunflowers. One of his jobs for the day was to remove the heavy tough stalks and clear that garden patch. In some ways it was a shame they were removed because their size was a magnet for visitors who stood in awe of these large plants with their massive decorative heads.

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One plant offered a mutation when it crammed four heads into one awkward shaped larger head.

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The picking of tomatoes had started.

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Soon after arrival Adam the Co-ordinator told me, ‘I have just the job for you’.  R and I were directed to the patch beneath the fruiting olive trees and urged to clear beneath the trees completely.  It seems so recently but in fact it was many months ago that I helped to harvest the olives, and then later planted violas and lettuces and rocket across this patch. Since that time I have been back to weed occasionally. But now to be clearing the ground  completely– phew – that made me realise I am working up to almost having been volunteering for a year in this garden. There were new lettuce seedlings appearing but I dug them out and along with the purple flowering violas and the weeds they gradually filled a large rubbish bin or two – which we dumped into the composting bins. The established sage plant we left; it looked too healthy.

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Our favourite bandicoot was sorry to lose the ground cover of the weeds and disappeared under the rosemary bushes.

N surprised us to show a couple of freshly picked capsicums. Wonderfully healthy specimens.

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When we walked back to the tool shed, N and S were hard at work extracting the seeds from the sunflower heads.

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When I looked at the large seeds I wondered what variety of sunflower was used to produce the slim seeds which I buy to eat.

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So I stood, selected a seed at random, used my finger nail to scrape off the papery thin striped layer – a layer which reminded me of but was thinner than the layer over garlic cloves. The result was a creamy solid seed.  I was convinced this had nothing to do with those I eat regularly. Then accidentally I squeezed it along some sort of fault line and it cracked open. Lo and behold inside was a slimline seed exactly like those I eat. Mystery solved. Clearly this was a well evolved plant that had created excellent protection for its seed.

R collected a bucket of blood and bone and while she strewed it liberally around the olive tree patch I emptied buckets and bins and returned tools to the shed.

I watched L with the flaming weed burner working valiantly to scorch the fine weeds growing through the gravel paths.

By then it was lunchtime and we settled into a friendly chattering group; in part we were planning a social lunch for next month. The theme is foraged food and over the next couple of weeks we will all work out what we can offer as part of the meal.

After lunch Adam felt R and I would enjoy digging out the horseradish plants. I didn’t know where they were located and had no idea about the shape or growth of these plants.

I learnt a great deal during the rest of the afternoon. Horseradish plants were best grown in pots if you don’t want a take-over across the ground. In addition because their roots are so long and often thick, it is almost impossible to extract the whole plant from the ground – so any remaining root  regrows and a new sprouting of green leaves will eventually emerge. R and I armed ourselves with spades and forks, and bins (for the tops) and trays (for the roots). When Adam demonstrated, it looked easy but clearly removing the whole root without breakage wouldn’t be easy.

A great number of plants needed digging out. I started with the fork. Now I am sure you know the depth of a fork; well the horseradish roots can be twice or three times as long and therefore it was with much pushing and pulling of the fork to loosen the ground that I eventually, but regrettably not frequently enough, could bring out the entire plant with all the root attached. R worked with the spade and like me was surprised at how challenging it was to try and remove the whole plant. The dampness of the soil/the dryness of the soil varied and when the ground was closer to rock hard, this was very physical work. When R muttered ‘perhaps this is a job for the men’, despite my increasing fatigue I was firm: ‘we can do anything the men can do’, I declared as I struggled with one more root. That we were slower than they might have been is not the point. So we soldiered on. I enjoyed the physicality of the work. And the more plants I dug, the better I understood the plant and its roots.

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Once the plants were removed we cut the leaves off and gradually began to fill a tray with the roots.

Before I left for the day I wandered around the Food Garden to see what other work had been done or was in progress. Blood and bone was being spread on cleared garden beds.

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Edges of beds were being snipped.

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Tomato plants were being tied to stakes.

Then I came across a woman who makes gin. She was collecting, with permissions, some fresh hops and a variety of other herbs.

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Many visitors were enjoying their discoveries across the RTBG. One asked me whether he could eat the green strips of the onions on the compost bin. I had no idea what was on the compost bin and I had no idea whether the visitor knew his plants – heavens, I thought, he could poison himself. I walked to the bin with him and clearly garlic chives not onions had been cleared from a patch. He walked away happily chewing a handful of chives. I tried a strand and it was refreshingly tasty – especially so because the afternoon was very hot and sunny. This was a good food to nibble on in these circumstances.

Last week I showed you photos of a small and a large pumpkin – these two have grown dramatically since then. First the newly enlarged small one, then the engorged large one.

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Before  I knew it, 3pm had arrived and others were preparing to leave. I was able to take a few pieces of horseradish root; a piece to plant at home and a couple of small pieces to freeze ready for me to make horseradish cream at some future time (probably to give a kick to potato salad). Then I collected my gear and headed off.

Surprise surprise – I passed a spring bulb in flower – snowdrops (yes, it is February and spring is 6 months away)!

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RTBG Thursday 13 February 2020

Perhaps blog followers have given up hope that a new blog post with garden details might be published. Sadly I have been stricken by a bad cold so have not volunteered in the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) for seemingly yonks.  But I returned last Thursday and only put in a tiny three hours work – not yet strong enough to do a day’s work! Nevertheless I was super excited to see the growth of plants, look for missing plants, and to catch up with fellow volunteers.

In earlier blog posts I have mentioned and photographed the pine trees I pass on route from the bus stop to the RTBG.  Last Thursday the remnants of Black Cockatoo chewed pine cones littered the pathway.

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Was the day a sunny one?  Well not at first. As I walked from the bus stop to the RTBG entrance, I observed the air and water of the Derwent River were decidedly and delightfully silver. Not a golden day I thought and then mused as to whether silver was second best.

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After reviewing my photos for the day I am surprised not to have images showing the sun came out and that the day turned out gorgeously.  I very much needed my gardening sun hat.

Naturally, as I walked into the Food Garden, I spotted weeds trying to hide beneath plants. I made a mental note to extract those before my day ended.  Of course the further I walked the more I saw – there is no end to weed growth but each pull or dig removes one allowing the goodness in the soil to be taken up by the vegetables and fruits that need it.

The jump-over apple trees were looking healthy and bearing fruit; the tree has been trained to be virtually at ground level but new growth spurting vertically is diverting any would be jumpers.

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The garlic bed stays resting and empty of all but the self-sown tomatoes which I didn’t pull out every time I weeded around the garlic plants.

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The pumpkin plants were spreading across the bottom slope.

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Up closer to the tool shed, another pumpkin plant was stamping its authority.  Two pumpkins remain in order for the plant to direct its energy into them and not into a myriad of small ones. The pumpkin in the second photo is already almost too large for me to be able to lift.

I was curious to see how the lawn was growing in the new area where the gabion wall has been built.  I noted the temporary fences had been removed so I realised the public now had access.  I walked along past the capsicums and violas and pansies and more – and saw a quick brown movement.  It was ‘our’ bandicoot I decided. Last year we enjoyed watching a bandicoot a couple of times in the mature fruit tree area of the garden. I guessed this was the same animal (later others told me they thought this was a smaller animal than that in the fruit tree garden). Glossy and brown. In and out speedily under the foliage.  Not particularly concerned about me.  Brings a smile to my face even now.  Makes me glow with the pleasure of the memory. S/he is beautifully camouflaged in the shade of the leaves – I doubt you can spot the bandicoot in the following photo near the top centre.

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The new space looks terrific. In a few years when bushes and trees are established, this shady resting place for visitors and volunteers alike should become a mecca.

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Months and months ago I cleaned up the passionfruit vine area and removed nutrition grabbing weeds.  The process has helped these vines bear masses of fruit.

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Time for work. It was suggested I weed the corn patches. One held well established corn plants and newbies, and the other only had relatively new plants. Apparently these small plants were the third lot of replacements for others that had been eaten overnight by wandering native critters. So I weeded then wafted circles of blood and bone dust around them to give each plant a boost.

Produce collected for the day, for distribution to charities, included the following:

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I learnt that tomatoes are best if picked when they just begin to turn colour, then you should bring them inside but don’t refrigerate them. Instead leave them out on your bench to finalise their redness.

Once my corn patch work was finished I joined L and A in the fruit orchard.

They were tackling the vexing problem of the weed vetch. I decided to lift the easier to remove plants from the dandelion type family that had begun to edge the pathways in that area ad send up their stalks with the typical yellow ‘daisy’ on top.  The three of us were working in a triangle around a couple of fruit trees and ground covered in knee high marjoram laced with vetch.  Suddenly a surprise. Out bounded a small wallaby who had, quite sensibly, seen this as a safe cool place to spend the day. S/he bounded towards the convict wall then without shelter headed in an alternate direction. I don’t know what the frightened animal found but they are clever and I have no doubt sleep was back on the agenda soon after. We were sorry to have dislodged this native animal but also excited to have seen one in the garden – our first. I did wonder if the young corn plants of the past had been nibbled by this wallaby.

Before lunch I meandered over to the weeds that I had noticed first thing that morning.  Lovely weeds. Their long tap roots came out so completely and so easily. Very impressed.  Once I had a bin load I dropped these into the hot composting bins.

Then it was lunch time. We gathered on the boarded area below the tool shed.

boards at lunch

While chattering amiably, a visitor arrived.  Our visitor stopped our talk except in hallowed whispers and we didn’t move an inch. Onto the boards came our bandicoot. S/he hurried onto the boards, ran around, looked at us, looked for insects etc (which we kindly suggested weren’t to be found just there) then darted back off to the nearby garden.  Jumped around happily, whizzed back a few times to say hello then eventually gave us up as a bad lot in terms of us helping him/her to forage, then disappeared in the direction of the golden marjoram and back to the capsicum and pansy garden. Or so we thought.

Not long later N came looking for his camera. ‘The bandicoot is on the lawn feeding’.  I grabbed my phone and zipped along to have a look. There s/he was seemingly nosing down into the grass. ‘What is he feeding on?’, I asked.  N noted the ants running up and down the blades of grass. What a feast.

I was so close. He was so unafraid.  Delightful par excellence! What treasures the RTBG throw up each week!  How fortunate I am to be able to volunteer in this remarkable place alongside people who have similar loves.

I left the RTBG in high spirits as usual. On route to the bus stop I noted a parked car with the message ‘Getoutsidetas’ – and that is what I had been doing; Getting outside in Tasmania.

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RTBG Thursday 16 January 2020

It’s a Thursday but I haven’t volunteered at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) as expected. I spent the night coughing like a smoker and was much sleep deprived by morning so decided not to volunteer today.

As the whole world knows, many parts of mostly eastern Australia have been engulfed in dramatic and killing flames. These fires have connected with each other in places and the amassed conflagration has turned properties into ash, and caused the death of dozens of people and billions of native animals and birds and insects.

Australia doesn’t have scientists as decision makers for the nation so there is resistance from those in power to understanding the impact of humans on this planet. The result is levels of governments which applaud Australia’s coal burning emphasis and deplore lots of alternative energy producing methods. These supports a plethora of intensive regulations and legislation so that lower level decision makers become hesitant to conduct regular burn-offs of dry scrub. Of course it may be that the tipping point has passed and regular burn offs, as the original land dwellers before European settlement used to undertake to manage the vegetation, cannot be undertaken in many places. The build-up of dry under-storeys is now too dense in places to enable a managed fire.

Yesterday Hobart was shrouded in smoke blown from Tasmanian fires in the primitive wilderness forests of the west and south west and from the fires to the distant north in the State of Victoria, the smoke of which had travelled 1000 km by crossing the Bass Strait and then mingling with the smoke of our own fires to blanket Tasmania. During the day I checked the Air Quality index for Hobart and further afield.

I could see from my home windows that Mount Wellington had disappeared from view and mostly it was impossible to discern the Derwent River and the western shore of the Greater Hobart Area. The smoke haze was thick and dirty pink. So I went online to check the official rating of the air quality.

At 11 am it was as follows:

Air Quality 1

At 1pm it has risen to an even more unhealthy level as follows:

Air Quality 2

The worst it became for the day was a rating of 168. Then the smoke lingered. Wind was almost non-existent. Despite a closed house, by the time I went to bed last night tiny smoke particles had infiltrated through various nooks and crannies. I slept fitfully waking often with a smokers cough and gritty throat. Awful. Not breathing easily.

Then I remembered that I had checked the air quality in south east Victoria during the afternoon to compare with distant Hobart – it’s numbers were astronomical. 400s, 500s and 600s. And I thought I had problems! Sadly air quality is not the only concern for the hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists in these affected areas.

Tennis players at the Kooyong Classic in suburban Melbourne had to be helped from the courts suffering respiratory problems yesterday. Then the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament organisers (which starts next Monday) attracted the free involvement of a number of globally known professional tennis greats to play some entertaining tennis for an enclosed arena full of paying spectators as a fund raiser for those affected by the fires. By the end of the night almost $5 million had been pledged and donated by supportive Australians and visitors to our smoky country. Elsewhere other charities and businesses are receiving millions in donations. Collectively these contributions will give some help to those who have lost much, and for rehabilitating injured animals.

Today, a mild thunderstorm and drizzle in Hobart has washed down some of the smoky particles but Mount Wellington across a dimly lit Derwent River is barely in sight.

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I was hoping for a deluge to clear the air, deeply wet the soil and, if I had been at the RTBG, make it easy to pull weeds. I hope my fellow volunteers are enjoying their day.

The latest report on the air quality closest to my home is encouraging:

Air Quality 3

Alas for those on the south eastern corner of the mainland.

Vic and sth NSW

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RTBG Tuesday 14 January 2020

Seeds-sweeping. That’s what I expected to be doing today at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG).  However this extra volunteering job is over for the year. The rare and endangered Philotecha freyciana plants have more or less stopped throwing seed so there is little to harvest.

The following image comes from here.

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RTBG Thursday 9 January 2020

I was grateful when K offered me a lift to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG). This gave us both a chance to emote strongly about the expected joys of being back volunteering in the Food Garden after the Christmas and New Year break.  And, of course, it was a gorgeous blue sky day. But one that promised to heat over 30 degrees.  Being smart we arrived around 8am instead of the expected 10am, with the view that we would leave early. As it happened most left soon after the communal happy chats of a shared lunch time.  I found some workable shade and didn’t leave until after 2.30.

So what did we do?  It was a day for weeding three week’s new growth.

Coordinator Adam directed K and I to work in an area edged by two high convict built walls, flanked by tall espaliered pear trees, and reached through arches dressed in apple trees and sawdust pathways shaded by a multitude of other fruit trees.  In the centre was a tiny flagged courtyard with a weighty wooden bench for visitors to sit on and meditate in private.  Sometimes this seems like a hidden sanctuary that some wandering tourists never find.  In the heat of the day it is not so pleasant but in the relative cool of the early morning, it was delightful. But overgrown.

Our first job was to trim the low level chamomile and a row of medium height irises, whose flowers were losing their petals, down to ground level before the sun encouraged bees to collect any remaining nectar. The intention was that we would not be stung. The aroma of the herb thyme spread through the air as our hands brushed across this ground cover while we trimmed.  Lifts the spirits.

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There were old borage plants to remove but we could leave the white flowering yarrow in place.

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Intermingled with some patches of chamomile were entwining strands of clover happily enjoying the relative shade offered by the taller stems of the plants. They made it much more difficult to trim everything to ground level.

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Two hours later R joined us;  by the end of the morning we named her the Clover Queen. She had the impressive knack of being able to tame that spreading weed.

The profusion of tall strappy leaves had to be cut to the base.

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Then L arrived and took on the responsibility of identifying those apples into which the coddling moth had a grub or two and then removing these from the trees.

On a walk to get more water to drink I spotted T harvesting the Duganski garlic.

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Back in our corner, the four of us worked companionably until midday when called for lunch. In the meantime we had high filled the buggy four times with the cuttings.  These were driven off to be composted.  In this way (almost ) every plant supports the growth of future plants. Of course, we separated the few weedy oxalis plants from the herd and these went off to be destroyed.

The before …

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The during…

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The after…

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Elsewhere extensive weeding was underway near the recently trimmed artichokes. Spreading strands of nasturtiums were ripped and binned by A and R.

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B and S pulled potatoes, many of which had lost their soil cover and were green edged and therefore not edible.

After lunch I returned to an area, extending from my morning work, which ran next to one convict wall. Only about a metre was in shade and this is where I worked – near the tree with the sign ‘Heritage Apple’.  I didn’t count the number of visitors who stopped and read out the sign and then oohed and aahed. “Heritage”, they would intone in a meaningful voice.  Signs elsewhere specifying a particular type of apple never had that reaction – it was the word heritage that touched a nerve.

Where else to weed?  Where else was in the shade? I looked across the path to the asparagus and Yakon patch.

Before…

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The row of Yakon’s was in shade and the space to the wall was infested with a healthy array of weeds. This was where I spent the rest of my day.  Happily.

After…

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Finally, and exhausted with the heat, and with feet not happy in my gardening shoes, I collected my backpack, added a couple of handfuls of year-old unshelled hazelnuts, two freshly pulled garlics, and some undistributed shallots, then smiled my farewell and padded off to the bus stop. Happy with the day. Very. A lasting image of very tall sunflowers represents my happiness. And don’t you love that blue sky!

Postscript 1: shelling the small hazelnuts with a walnut sized nutcracker is a challenge, but the effort is worthwhile.  Previously, via a stall at the Bathurst St Farmers Market, I have tasted the nut of freshly picked hazelnuts so that I had a comparison with the year olds.  These are terrific but don’t have the spirit or ‘life’ of new ones.

Postscript 2: recently I pulled the remaining garlics from my own garden and nearly cried. They were so tiny and I felt that I would never be able to grow garlic – which everyone tells me, anyone can grow because it’s so easy.  Well I feel a little better knowing that the Food Garden’s garlics, while not as tiny as mine by a long shot, are simply below par.  For some reason this season hasn’t been a good one for garlic.  So I will give it another go this year when planting time comes around.

Postscript 3: I have never eaten fresh shallots. I cannot believe how delicate the flavour and how crisp but soft the texture.  I am in love!  Wrongly I had always thought that these were the second unnecessary cousins of onions. Now I think quite differently.  I wonder if I can grow them?  More research required.

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RTBG Thursday 2nd January 2020

Today I was back at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) but not for volunteering in the Food Garden.  Co-ordinator Adam was still away and therefore, without someone to oversee volunteers and unlock the tool shed, our volunteer team had an extra week off.  We will be back working in that garden next Thursday.

Once I arrived at the RTBG of course I walked through the Food Garden. I was looking for massive weed growth and any sign of damage by the strong recent winds and the excessively hot days – those in the 30s and then our one day with the temperature over 40. Someone had made sure the plants were watered and I was surprised there was minimal change, except growth of the tomato and zucchini plants. Considering a fortnight has passed since we weeded, the new growth will be manageable next week.

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The reason for my visit to the RTBG was once again to undertake seed-sweeping. This time I paired up with Seed Nursery Curator Lorraine to pick up the tiny black seeds from pot tops and sweep the floor of the enclosed bays in which the Philotecha Freyciana bushes were growing. Nothing new to report on that job. I am not rostered next week but expect to have two stints the week after – if the bushes continue to throw seed.  The expectation is that the harvest may be over before then.

It was good to be back there and now I look forward to a new year of learning.

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