A composting workshop at the farm

Brisbane received torrential rain on Saturday so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the allotment on Sunday morning. Although the ground was waterlogged nothing had suffered, and the potatoes were really growing strong. They seem to have just shot up in a couple of days.

In any case, I had other things on my mind yesterday morning as we had sixty folk booked in for a composting workshop at the farm and I had been asked to head up the hospitality team and lay on a morning tea.

Volunteers turned up early to set out the tents, chairs and bales of hay to give us extra seating. Despite the heavy weather and the fact that it was so wet underfoot we had a good turn-out. The sun came out and we were able to enjoy a beautiful morning in this peaceful setting.  The workshop went really well. Folk were anxious to learn more about composting and improving their soil.

We were catering for 60 people, plus helpers, for morning tea and so it was a combined effort from allotment holders, members and volunteers to make all this happen with home-made cakes, biscuits and savouries. Waiting for the ‘hoards’ to descend, Peter on the left, I’m in the middle and Dixie on the right.

Plenty of calories lurking on this table. There was still heaps left afterwards.

More happy helpers. Judith, Helen, me and Kathleen.

I finished off my morning with a walk around the community garden next to my allotment.

It was then time to get changed ready for a birthday lunch to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s birthday.

So it was a fun day all round.

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Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

This is meant to be a light hearted blog about the joys of running a (very) small allotment.

But there is a dark side.

After a few weeks ruminating about it I have been persuaded, by my son Nigel, to come clean about the rhubarb.

I have happy memories of the wonderful rhubarb and custard of my childhood in the UK. And that was the time when anybody who took rhubarb growing seriously followed the horses round the street with a bucket and shovel in their hands and a hopeful look on their face. Local kids who got lucky could sell horse poo to their neighbourhood rhubarb growers.

So there is a long history of us dedicated gardeners and rhubarb lovers.

And I want to grow rhubarb!  I want great arms full of it!

So I bought a plant from Bunnings and fed it up and nurtured it and kept it weed free.  And this is my reward. The label is a bit bigger than a matchbox.

I even went as far as showing this to gardening guru Annette McFarlane who came up with the answer. “It want’s to live in Tasmania”.

So there you have it.

You want decent rhubarb. Move south.

Another Wednesday morning at the farm

I went to the farm on Wednesday, as usual, to work with other volunteers in the community garden.  Not surprisingly we were a much smaller group as many were following the ANZAC Day parade in the city.

While the others worked on planting garlic and brassicas my personal challenge was the carrot bed which had been prepared with plenty of sand incorporated to give a free draining light soil for the carrots.  Well, in the last week – weed heaven!  Just about every weed known to man had taken up residence in that lovely light soil. The feathery topped carrot rows finally emerged from the green carpet of weeds. Very satisfying. Should have taken a photo – ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Morning tea was big social event as usual. Talk, eat cake, drink tea.

I finished off the morning at my own allotment. The salad bed is coming along nicely and I picked salad leaves and cherry tomatoes for my lunch-time sandwich. Doesn’t get much fresher than that.

The ground was pretty damp so I didn’t need to water but I did have a bit of planting to do. I still had a few more seed potatoes to go in, they were sprouting nicely so I should get a good crop from them.  My daughter-in-law had given me a couple of Brussel sprouts plants the day before and I was keen to get them into the soil  too.

I was delighted to find that the Nicola potatoes I had planted a couple of weeks ago were popping up their heads. You can just about see them. This pic looks as if these little spuds are growing in a bed of rock!  I think it looks worse because I was trying to get a good close up of the shoots. Makes you wonder how they struggled through all that heavy looking soil tho’.

A bit of action in my garlic bed. Just starting to send up shoots.

And finally (as always!) I picked snake beans.

 

Brazilian Spinach recipe with potatoes

I found an interesting recipe for Brazilian spinach today from the Vera Street Community Garden in Toowong, Brisbane.

If you have Brazilian spinach growing in your garden or allotment, you might want to try Indian potatoes & spinach.

Brazilian spinach still going strong

For Kim. Here is the Brazilian Spinach still growing strong after a long hot summer in Brisbane with hardly any attention from me. So many green leafed veggies seem to struggle through our summer but this one revels in the heat and humidity. I’ll be propagating from this plant for the Morningside Fair in July. I’ll use it as a fund-raiser for Beelarong. I am told you just break off a stem, stick it into the ground, and ‘voila’ – new plant!

You might also be interested in this link to Clare Richard’s blog of Tropical Cuisine fame.

Monday morning at the allotment

I spent a few hours at the allotment this morning.  The first job was to give the plot a good watering. Then I gave the seedlings a liquid feed, did a bit of weeding and general tidying up.

My Black Russian tomato plant has been struggling for weeks and not doing a lot. Shame really, but it was going nowhere so I put it out of it’s misery and yanked it out. It offered no protest at all, just gave a weary sigh.

A different story with the snake beans as you may have seen from previous posts. They must be testosterone fuelled. Picked another great bunch of them today. Fortunately I found a new (unsuspecting) allotment holder who was delighted to take some. Either way, it’s snake beans for dinner (again) tonight!

Really pleased with the salad greens.

Here’s a lovely crisp cos lettuce.

These peas were just grown as an experiment. I was at the gardening group some weeks ago at New Farm Library. Tatiana who was leading the group had heard that you could grow peas using the dried peas you buy at the supermarket.  And she dished a few dried peas into each outstretched hand. Well here’s the proof. I picked sweet juicy peas today.

The cherry tomatoes are a bit blurred because I was trying to get a close up. I managed to harvest a couple of hands full. These cherry tomatoes grow like weeds at the farm. This one is self-seeded but I let it stay, and it’s a metre across now. Obviously not as fussy as the Black Russian variety! The bit of string you can see was my feeble attempt to control this plant when it was small. But I ran out of stakes, and string, so now it just rambles where it wants.

I can never have too much parsley.  I grow this curly parsley which I prefer to use in my parsley sauce when I’m having fish.

But I also grow the flat leafed variety which seems to be called for in so many recipes these days. I like to keep a bunch of parsley on my kitchen sink, all ready to go.

The wonders of modern technology. I’m writing this at my favourite coffee shop Cibo.

So all in all it’s been a very pleasant day.

Happy gardening.

A beachside garden

I spent a lovely weekend with friends at Palm Beach on the Gold Coast.

I couldn’t help being fascinated by the interesting plants and bushes growing in the sandy soil. It’s all so different from vegetation found just an hour away in Brisbane.

As well as their ability to grow in such poor sandy soil is the fact that they are salt resistant. Most plants would be burnt by the salt in the air, but these plants survive and thrive.

The plant below comes originally from the Hawaiian islands.

A lovely view looking south.

This yellow hibiscus flourishing along the side of the house.

The New Zealand Christmas Bush, below, can grow up to twelve metres high.  They make a terrific hedge when trimmed regularly. They are abundant with flowers throughout the summer which attracts many birds.   The last couple of years this particular bush has flowered most of the year thanks to the good rainfall.

An exotic parrot feeding on one of the blossoms

Here’s another exotic bird of the short blonde hair variety!   This pic shows just how big these beachside plants can grow in the right environment.

Back off to Brisbane later today, back to the humble cabbage and lettuce in the allotment!

“Down to Earth”

Today I visited Dymock’s book store in Brisbane to meet Rhonda Hetzel.  Rhonda has a terrific blog Down to Earth and has recently produced a book of the same name.  She was at Dymock’s for a book-signing. I have been meaning to purchase her book so this was a chance to not only treat myself, but also to have her sign it for me.

Rhonda lives in the Sunshine Coast hinterland with her husband Hanno and bloggs daily Monday to Friday about living a simple life. I start my day with a cup of tea and Rhonda’s blog. In her own words she writes about  “baking bread, making soap, vegetable gardening, cooking, chickens, housework, home maintenance, crafts, paying off debt, budgeting and life in general”.  Here is the link.

Time to change into my old gardening clothes and head off to the allotment for a bit of therapeutic weeding!

Cars – and Rosella Jam

Not a lot of news on the gardening front today as I have been out looking at cars.

I love my old Toyota Celica, old being the operative word, it’s a 1983. It’s been well looked after by Tony and Ben from Valley Car Clinic who have kept it on the road for me. But the time has come. I know it will be a wrench.

I think I’ll probably settle for a Toyota Corolla.

Anyway, enough of that. Back to the farm. When I was visiting the allotment I took this (rather poor quality!) photograph of one of the beds of rosellas that we use to make jam as a fund raiser for the farm. The jam is delicious and has such a reputation around the area. We sell as much as Dorothea, our accomplished jam maker, can make.

But check out this website. When I was googling ‘rosella jam’ I found Gourmet Jack’s. Jack is a ‘foodie’ Australian style. And the photos on his website are much better than the pathetic photo I feature above as he takes you through his jam recipe step by step.

Even if you never plan to make rosella jam, I think you would still find his website entertaining.

Mulching on a Wednesday morning

Wednesday morning has come around again and it’s time to work as a volunteer in the community garden at Beelarong where I rent my allotment. There must have been about twenty of us there today, mostly regulars but we have a few new faces too which is great.

We cleared a huge area in the community garden which had previously held sweet potato. After renewing the soil with fresh compost from our compost bins we planted out lettuces and prepared a new bed ready for the garlic to go in next week.

My first job this morning was to harvest produce for the share table. I picked lettuce, aubergine, cherry tomatoes, basil and a vegetable which is foreign to me and try as I might I cannot remember it’s name – but I know it’s good in stir-fry!   To this I added snake beans from my own plot (yes, snake beans still going strong). Volunteers then shared this produce at the end of the morning.

My job after morning tea was to barrow a couple of bales of sugar cane mulch down to the community garden and spread it over the potato bed which was planted a couple of weeks ago, then I covered the beds which have been planted out today. This layer of mulch is to help deter the weeds.

I took these few pics this morning of the community garden, after the mulching has been done. The bed without mulch has been dug over and prepared for further planting next week.

Below is a pic of one corner of the community market garden with the lovely trees and grassed area in the background.

Pic below, mulched, a job well done!

I checked out my own allotment while I was at the farm. It’s looking ok. We’ve had enough rain so I didn’t need to water, and the seedlings are coming along after the liquid feed I gave them the other day. I try not to get too caught up in my own allotment on a Wednesday morning as the idea is to work on the community garden.

It was a beautiful morning. We are now in autumn in Brisbane and after the high temperatures of the summer it’s lovely to get into the garden without expiring in the heat.

I couldn’t resist this shot below – there is always another job waiting.

Happy gardening.

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