A morning’s work in the community garden

Today was our usual Wednesday morning gathering of volunteers who work together on the community garden at the farm where I keep my allotment.

The weather didn’t look very promising, dark clouds coming and going and a threat of rain. We turned up in our various wet-weather gear.

I wore enough layers to tackle Everest – I feel a bit ashamed really because Brisbane is 19c degrees today. But I did peel a couple of layers off once I’d been working for a while.

My first job in the community garden was harvesting. The carrot bed is coming along nicely, when the seeds were planted we incorporated plenty of sand to lighten it up. Despite this, we still found some of the carrots were a bit forked. But this is the one I pulled up first and I think it’s a beauty.

Then we cleared the ground of the old beans which seemed to be going nowhere, into the compost they went, and we planted some fresh seedlings.

Beans cleared and new seedlings planted

Another bed was cleared. We opened one of the big compost bins and barrowed the stuff over to build up the bed before planting English Spinach seedlings.

Bed cleared, compost added, English Spinach seedlings planted

This cauliflower is looking so healthy and strong, no caterpillar holes, but no flower head either! Oh well, perhaps there is still time. I can’t believe it’s not possible to use the leaves anyway, they just look too good to waste. It calls for a bit of ‘Googling’ to find out what to do with them.

Cauliflower – without the flower!

The broad beans are looking good, except that they are just starting to be attacked by bugs.  So one of the ladies mixed up a home-remedy organic liquid and we sprayed it on. See if that works.

Broad beans in the community garden

My last job was over at my allotment. My daughter-in-law had given me a couple of red cabbage seedlings. I planted them and watered them in with Seasol liquid seaweed to help them get over the shock of transplanting.

Red cabbage seedling

My plan is to pickle the red cabbage when it’s mature and I do not intend sharing it with the caterpillars. To that end I have put a cage over the seedlings – one cage per seedling – are they spoiled or what?  Next time I’m over there I’ll cover the frames with a fine mesh.

Cages for red cabbage seedlings

(The frames were hanging around the farm and look like they were originally shelves from an upright freezer. Either way, I think they might do the job.)

We can but try. Happy gardening.

Another Wednesday morning at the farm “Eat, Drink and make … Compost”

Today was our usual Wednesday morning at the farm when volunteers and allotment holders gather together to tend the community garden and work on their own plots.  We all down-tools at 10am for morning tea. Gallons of tea, plenty of cake, and lots to talk about.

The weather in Brisbane is just beautiful at the moment even though we are supposed to be going into winter.  I took this photograph this morning looking across the community garden, it was early so just a couple of volunteers in the background. But will you look at that lovely blue sky.

Looking at the grass in the foreground it looks as if Peter has already been round with the lawn mower and the whipper snipper.

Blue sky over “Beelarong” community garden today.

I thought I’d show you one of the huge tumblers where we make our compost, we have half a dozen of them going at the moment. These tumblers were built by John who is one of the volunteers. He built them some years ago and they are still going strong. Heather oversees the filling of these tumblers and builds them up like a lasagne. Layers of lawn clippings, newspaper, chicken manure and weeds that have been put through the mulcher are assembled, the top half of the tumbler is then locked into place and a date put on the side.

The tumblers are turned every week and after about eight weeks we have great compost ready to use. In the summer it might be seven weeks, in the winter a little more. But I think it’s extraordinary that compost can be ready to use in such a short time. Heather tells me that ideally they would be rolled every day, but even rolling them each Wednesday morning gives a great result.

John’s compost making tumblers

At the end of each visit to the allotment I love to wonder around the farm. It is such a peaceful spot, and hard to leave sometimes. Wondering around today I ‘snapped’ this tiny pansy growing among the tomatoes. I thought it looked rather pretty.

Tiny pansy growing among the tomatoes

Bean there! done that!

I had big plans when I set out for the allotment this morning with a long list of  jobs to do including preparing a new bed for the root vegetables, making up a molasses spray to deter the caterpillars and planting more garlic. The garlic I planted a few weeks ago seems to have suffered in the rain and only half of the stuff I planted actually came up.

But the first job on the list was to dig up the old snake bean plants and remove the climbing framework. Then prepare the bed with fertiliser and compost ready for the next lot of plants. Shouldn’t take too long.  WRONG.

Even though the old bean runners were really on their last legs they just wouldn’t give up. I spent ages snipping away, untangling and removing the old growth from the framework, and all the old bits of string I had used in my valiant attempt to train it in the early days.

Should have been straightforward except that every time I delved into the bush I found beans hidden away and I just couldn’t ignore them.  Well, you wouldn’t, would you?  I ended up with a bucket full. The young beans will do nicely for dinner, some of the old ones will be shelled and go into minestrone soup, and some seed I’ll save for next time.

By the time I had finished I ended up with a massive pile of greenery which I had to drag to the compost bay ready to be put through the mulcher. Fortunately one of the chaps is in charge of the mulcher, so that’s good!

I took a break and had a yarn over the fence with Helen who lives next door to the farm.

Then back to the allotment – spent the next hour digging over the empty bed, adding lots of lovely new compost, and leaning on the fork occasionally.

If anybody is reading this, and feels like yawning. How do you think I feel?

So I went home and had a big soak in the bath.

Snake Beans R.I.P.

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.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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