Monday 30 April 2007

Thomas Edison on the 'Perfect Tomato'

Very few of you will know this, but Thomas Alva Edison - the inventor of such things as light bulbs and the gramophone - was a closet gardener!
He deceived the general public into thinking that, in the following statements to the press, he was talking about inventing. In fact, it was all in code, as he was really explaining his experiences of life to the cognoscenti of the ‘Perfect Tomato Club’.
I have decoded his gardening work here for you, and have included a photo of his efforts to sterilize tomato seeds for storage: -

1) "To invent a new type of tomato frame, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."
2) "The opportunity to grow the perfect tomato is missed by most people because it is dressed in grubby clothes and looks like work"
3) "Gardening is one-percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration"
4) "I haven't failed to grow the perfect tomato, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work"
5) "Good tomatoes are what happen when opportunity meets with planning"
6) "I never failed once. Growing the perfect tomato just happened to be a 2000-step process"
7) "I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun"
8) "Nearly every man who wants to develop the prefect tomato works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged."

Sunday 29 April 2007

Wait'n for the Greens to Grow

10am - buying seedlings from Diana & Jen at the Farmer's Market

11am - plants in their new home

wait'n for the greens to grow

What is a Kitchen Gardener?

Kate posted a great link to Kitchen Gardens International on this Blog site (see links). This morning, because its Sunday, I had a few minutes to browse around over there, and came across their beautifully lucid description of why its so soothing and peaceful to grow one's own food. I've reproduced it here, along with a photo of Barb in her very own kitchen garden, just metres from the back door: -

"Find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands, and the mouth."-Lanza Del Vasto

First and foremost, Kitchen Gardeners love food, both product and process. They do not dream of eating a good tomato, but a true tomato, picked warm and juicy from the vine at the peak of its ripeness. Their enjoyment of the fruit is a complete one because it is inextricably entwined with the memory of the plant in its various stages of development. They taste not only the fruit, but the care and honest labor that went into making it.
In this sense, Kitchen Gardeners are gastronomes of the highest order. Unlike mere foodies who flit from one trendy spot to another in search of instant culinary gratification, Kitchen Gardeners set out roots in a place and begin planning their pleasure months in advance. Visions of pesto are not left for the heart of summer, but begin occupying their heads already in the spring with the purchase of basil seeds or plants.
Their love of food is a complete one that extends beyond the plate to the soil and the natural processes and cycles from which good food comes. Kitchen Gardeners are in tune with the natural world, the weather, and the seasons. They look for ways of working peacefully and harmoniously with nature, rather than fighting against her. They are stewards of the land, whether it be a farm or a window-box.
Kitchen Gardeners more often than not have a strong, independent streak. Rather than worship at the altar of celebrity chefs, they look for practical ways of bringing their own day-to-day cuisine into the realm of the divine by using the best ingredients their land, climate, and skills will allow. Their love of quality and freshness is reflected in the food they buy to supplement and complement their own production. Because Kitchen Gardeners understand where good food comes from and how it is produced, they tend to seek out food that is authentic, local, seasonal, and minimally-processed whenever possible.
Put simply, Kitchen Gardeners are a special breed. They are self-reliant seekers of "the Good Life" who have understood the central role that home-grown and home- cooked food plays in one's well-being. By seeking an active role in their own sustenance, they are modern-day participants in humankind's oldest and most basic activity, offering a critical link to our past and positive vision for our future.

Thursday 26 April 2007

Wide spread rain over Adelaide

At last - rain! Slow and steady, and coming down for the next few days.

After weeks of effort, and a gruelling day yesterday (Anzac Day Public Holiday), I've managed to connect most of my roof to most of my rain water tanks, so all that lovely salt-free water is all going into storage.

If you haven't already found it, radar images can be found on the Bureau of Meteorology website at, along with a one week forecast.

Just the thing for gardeners planning their irrigation!

Jewels in the garden

If you have dried up old beans hanging on the vine pick them and keep some for next year's sowing. The rest you can eat all winter long in soups and casseroles and dips. Soak them overnight, whatever sort they are, then boil for about an hour (this will vary) either in a soup or separately. If you want to use them in a dip, boil them until they are very soft and squash easily between your fingers. Next.....we hope Maggie will write out her ideas for us !!

Check out my beans and pumpkins on the photos link.

Monday 23 April 2007

Beauty and Mathematics in the Veggie Patch

Mathematics can be scary stuff, but some of the most beautiful shapes and forms in nature are described by the simplest possible mathematical formulae.
The photo shown is one I found of a Romanesco Brocolli by Googling for Images under 'fractal' on the web. What a great desktop background!
Perhaps not surprisingly, this shape also demonstrates another esoteric piece of mathematics called "Fibonacci series", which describes all sorts of spriral shapes in nature, from sunflower seed heads, pineapples, nautalus shells, plant branching, flower petals, pine cones and this brocolli.
Does Fibonnaci sound familiar?
The new Cafe Fibonacci in our Botanical Gardens pays tribute to the Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa (1170 to 1250) , known as Fibonacci

Sunday 22 April 2007

Aboriginal Food and Plant Trail

We spent and excellent morning with Uncle Wally Kite at the Botanic Gardens. It was facinating to learn that Eucalypts, Yuccas and other indigenous plants had such a variety of uses. Did you know that the Cycad seeds, which are very poisonous, are prepared in a special way to make edible tasty flour. Possums roasted taste like mutton and the bones can make spear heads. Of special interest 4 possom skins make a vest and 16 possum skins make a cape for grandma.This was a talk where trees and plants were respected and implements and tools made from old bendy roots and knarls and burrs rather than chopping and destroying nature. I left the talk with a new awareness of the trees and plants around me and sad that I have just heard this for the first time after spending my whole life with almost no knowledge of Australian Indigenious culture.

Saturday 21 April 2007

Seeds and Drought

The last of my rain water is in sight, and there are mutterings in Government circles about moving Adelaide to Level 5 water restrictions, where we will only be allowed to use water from a bucket or a watering can for three hours per week. At that point, we will start to lose established fruit trees that we backyard gardeners have had for years, and it will be decades, not months, before we can recover through replanting.
In the Murray-Darling Catchment, where 40% of Australia's food crops are grown, this same situation has a high chance of coming to pass anyway, just on a far grander scale, and within the coming year. It will mean hardship for many, and fresh food prices in the city going through the roof.
If that happens, we should expect a surge of interest in backyard gardening, even in quite small plots. So folk who are gardening now will be called upon to train countless others in 'how to' fruit and vegetable growing that we've all learnt by experience during the good times.
Even if heavy winter rains save us from a disastrous situation this time around, we should all be doing things now that will help us survive if hard times come back in earnest. One of the hidden sources of demand in a prolonged drought will be upon our seed stocks, which may not be so readily available, or where demand may exceed supply. As Peter Bennett was fond of saying "There’s nothing so sad as ‘too late!""
I’ve written before about my efforts to capture this coming winter’s rainfall to make it available for next summer’s vegetable patch (see "All tanked up and waiting for rain" on this Blog site). But there are other things that I am now thinking about doing with a greater sense of urgency than a few months ago.
If water is short, then efficient irrigation will be the key to bringing the same crop to the table on reduced amounts of water. So I’m going to change next year’s garden to sub-surface drip, which minimises evaporation, but does restrict plants and other soil organisms to a narrow wetted section of soil, requiring more geometrical plantings.
Then I’m going to have to mulch more heavily, at a time when pea straw and wheaten hay will be expensive and in short supply if winter rains do not bring on supplies next Spring. So I’m thinking to grow more ‘green manure’ crops over winter, if I get the rain, then mow them down in September to provide mulch and nutrients ‘in place’.
One of the best ways to store water is in the soil itself. As the water-holding abilities of the soil depend on the amount of organic matter present, I will be boosting my compost inputs to the garden over winter. This is the best time to buy in such organic compost (as I do by the truckload), because one can have Mother Nature ‘wet down’ and ‘season’ this compost before it is needed in Spring. Just lay it on the surface, to a depth of at least 100 mm, and let the earthworms come and get it for redistribution through the soil profile.
Compost itself can act as an excellent mulch, keeping the soil below cool and moist despite harsh sunshine up above. So compost laid on paths and between working crops is a good way to provide extra habitat for soil organisms like earthworms.
Compost will become scarcer in a drought, because considerable amounts of water are used in its production from Adelaide’s green waste. Some suggested suppliers are Jeffries Compost, SA Composters and Peats Soils. The Adelaide City Council also sells compost from their depot beside the River Torrens near the archery fields.
Finally, I am going to stock up on seeds this year, just so that we as a group have them to hand for distribution to the public, and to diversify their supply in hard times. It should be cheaper for us to, buying direct from the manufacturer. I can start a web-based spreadsheet on this Blog site so that we can all shop at our own ‘seed collective’.
As a Seed Saver, I have my own stocks and my own favourites. But I’d like to hold this pool of commercial seed for days like the Open Garden Day at Fern Avenue Community Gardens, where we should – ethically - have a good stock of ‘starter seeds’ to get others interested in backyard growing, and by extension, seed saving.
Is this hard? No – it’s fun! Back when I was with the Soil Association of South Australia, I was the sales officer, and I used to love the buying and selling of seeds, herbs, books and plants to the general public. There’s no better way to convert some one to basic food self-sufficiency than over a packet of seeds. The photo shows Claudia behind the counter in the Herb section of the SASA stall at the Go Organic Market in September 2005.
Anyone for seeds? I’m your man!


Hi Kate,

Here is a lovely email I received this week. Please go to the KGI website by clicking on the link. There you will soon see our blog, together with blogs from gardeners such as us, from all over the world.

Hi Kate

Thanks so much for being in touch. Now, I know who to hang out with next time I’m in Adelaide!

It’s great that you’re bringing people together in this way at the local level. We’re trying to encourage the formation of community groups like yours because these activities are more fun when shared with others.

I’ll be happy to add your site’s link and hope we can find others ways of helping each other out.

Thanks again for joining individually!

Roger Doiron
(KGI founder, cheerleader-in-chief)

Friday 20 April 2007


Last week the garden group came to my place and we pulled out the self-sown and (my)self-sown squash and pumkins from in the driveway garden. There was a lot of variety and a lot of produce. I took 1 in to Wilson's organics on the Friday to give them and they said they would buy them all ! So on Monday I loaded up the car and in I went. Antony helped me bring them in and then weighed them. 95 kilograms it came to ! I left with $100 in my pocket. That will pay for lots of blood and bone etc for the next year ! I still have lots of pumpkins left for friends and family. If you go into Wilson's you will see the label "Grown lovingly by Kate, a customer" .This is truly acting very locally, just as it should be.

Thursday 19 April 2007


Aboriginal Food and Plant Trail
Join the Tauondi Guides as they reveal how plants have sustained Aboriginal life for thousands of years by providing food, shelter, tools and medicine.

When:11am, Sunday 22ndApril
Where:Meet at theSchomburgk Pavilion
Bookings essential – 8222 9311The Colocasi Mystery:

Wednesday 18 April 2007

Seedsavers at the Economic Gardens

Thanks for your company and thanks to Kate for the cake.

Friday 13 April 2007

All tanked up and waiting for rain

If there is a salutary lesson from the water restrictions accompanying our worst-ever Australian drought, it’s that a gardener is critically dependent upon readily-available water in order to garden, and that Government water policies do not take into account those of us trying to think globally and act locally.
Water in Adelaide - sourced from the Murray River – costs us city folk $1 per 1000 litres, compared to ten cents for the same amount of water used by an irrigator along the Murray to grow our food.
I once measured how much water it took each week to keep the family supplied in fresh fruit and veggies from the backyard garden. It worked out at about 10,000 litres per week (costing $10/week) and took me about ten hours of watering to get that on with a sprinkler.
So along came Level 3 water restrictions, allowing me three hours of sprinkler use between 5 am and 8 am on Sunday mornings (selected, no doubt, to force one to make the harshest possible choice between sleeping in and consuming water!) I can also make use of a trigger-controlled hose for the rest of the week. That’s seven hours of hand-held watering, for those of you not following the arithmetic.
OK, so I’m the only man locally growing food locally; my neighbours don’t actually leave their houses all summer, as their pavers don’t use water, and no wildlife, chickens, fruit or vegetables need be supported as a consequence. So I applied to SA Water for some dispensation or exemption, on the following grounds: -
1) I don’t water lawns at all, ever
2) I recycle household water onto the garden
3) I use rain water for seedlings and household drinking water
4) I don’t water flowers or ornamental plants – heck, I don’t have any, they’re mostly natives
5) Local gardens save huge amounts of energy otherwise used in shipping produce in from Queensland
6) I use the garden to test instruments I’ve designed and sold that have been used by over 2000 Australian irrigators to save water
7) If we buy fruit and veg, we go and get it on our bicycles
8) The vegetable garden is heavily mulched every summer to save water
9) I’m monitoring soil moisture, and watering only as needed.
10) I’d restricted my planting area this year by one third to save water
11) I’d ordered another 45,000 litres of rainwater tanks, bringing my total on-site water saving capacity to 60,000 litres.
12) This property is over 1500m2 in size, which is more than two to five times as large as most other blocks in this suburb, where large blocks are the norm anyway.
OK, so that’s a dozen good reason for giving me a fair hearing. I even sent SA Water a copy of my book – ‘Tales of a Backyard Farmer’ – just to show them I was fair dinkum about this gardening business, and had been at it since the age of four.
Months dragged by with no reply to my application, months in which I spent large chunks of my life looking down the hosepipe. Finally, with summer officially over, I received a form letter from SA Water informing me that I could water three hours early Sunday morning, and spend any extra watering time staring down a hose pipe…
So after much effort, I’ve cleared all that kikuyu on the dark side of the yard, and there stand my three new rainwater tanks, which took six weeks to deliver, as demand has outstripped supply. Now I just need to plumb them into the guttering, the house, and the garden…
Despite these efforts, I can’t escape the maths; 60kl is no more than six weeks supply, in a state where we don’t get decent rains for months on end. Pity I can’t get a sympathetic ear from my water provider, or trade water rights with my Paver Neighbours!

Playing Possum…

For the past year, I’ve gritted my teeth and put up with the ravages to my apricot trees, plum trees and grape vines created by what seems to have been an ever-increasing number of possums. This has been a very real test of my values as a gardener and as a naturalist; I believe that I should share space with all the creatures around me until a natural balance is reached. The obvious parallel for a gardener is one’s attitude to insect pests and weeds; blast ‘em with pesticides and herbicides, or let nature find a predator-prey balance?
Possums in Australia are a protected species, which means I can’t shoot them, trap them or even move them off the property onto someone else’s. They live in a big pine tree on my driveway and (I suspect) the garage roof, and travels by aerial pathways all over the district; on power and phone lines, rooftops, trees and fence lines. Not having seen a single possum for decades, in the last year they have become a common sight after dark walking along the power lines to our roof top, or running and squalling back along the same route in the early hours of the morning. Walking down the backyard at night, bucket and torch in hand on the way to the rain water tank, I’ve come across mother possum, babe on back, dashing along the wire fence line back to the safety of the lemon tree. Moving a pile of bricks recently – to make way for more rainwater tanks – I’ve found a possum asleep wedged headfirst inside the stack at ground level. Perhaps the pine tree’s full? Moving him to the almond tree proved no solution; he shot up it, took the long route around the fence line, and disappeared into the woodheap.
While restraining an urge to shoot the damn things, I’ve wondered at the bigger picture that has brought them down here to the drought-proof Adelaide plains from the drought-stricken Adelaide Hills some kilometres to the east of us. What really set me thinking was the appearance of a small koala in the gum-tree in the front yard for a few days. Things must be bad in the bush for them to be down here risking dogs, cars and humans in their search for one of the few Eucalypt species that they find edible.
Other new visitors have also arrived lately; this time flocks of 40 or more corellas squalling over head just towards sunset. These are not a bird I’ve seen over the city in the five decades I’ve been outside, watching the comings and goings of the dozens of feathered species that live in harmony with me here in the backyard veggie patch.
So perhaps I should have expected the disaster that has befallen us in the chicken coop. The first sign was an insidious wave of disease racing through the newest members of our young flock of Australorp chickens, raised from fertile eggs under a broody hen. These diseases are brought in (I’m convinced) by the ever-larger flocks of non-native Indian Turtle doves that descend upon the chicken yard to steal chicken food. But it was the fox that came twice that finished off eight of the nine new birds; I’d become too complacent since the last episode a decade ago, believing that foxes has disappeared from this local area. Now I’m locking the hens in after the fox has bolted.
But old Mother nature is as tough on her own as I have not been; one possum found dead in a neighbour’s yard a few weeks back, and today, another found dead on the road just up from here, killed by a motor car. I’m glad that I’ve stayed my hand. Perhaps, after all, there will be a balance struck that I can live with.
Now I just have to figure out how to bring those fruit trees through the damage and the drought…

Photos from paradise

Deep in the heart of Magill lies the source of eternal health. After months of negotiations, permission was given for a select group to meet the man responsible for creating health and well-being in his own lifetime ! Would the secrets finally be revealed ? Is it true that he is nearly as tall as his beans ? Could he answer questions from the world's finest gardeners ? Is his wife as good a cook as some have claimed ? Decide for yourself as you see the photos, now available for viewing exclusively on this blog via the link.

Thursday 12 April 2007


We are meeting next week on:

Wed. April 18th, 1.30pm

Botanic Gardens Economic Garden

See map on

Lets meet in the Economic garden so people can come when they like and we won't all be waiting around. There is so much to see there - I had a sneak preview on the weekend. I have some ideas to toss about.....

If you have any ideas for other places, or would like us to visit your garden, please email Kate or put it up on the blog.

Wednesday 11 April 2007


I have put up a few new links lately, including one under construction by David Corkill. David runs courses at Fern Ave, similar to Diana's and is very knowledgable about organic gardening in our area. I have called the link Local Gardening Info.
Click on any of the links and you will be taken to its website to investigate some interesting ideas and to read some wonderful information.

Thursday 5 April 2007

The Food Forest

Autumn Workshops (exact dates to be announced)
Preserving and Storing Your Harvest, May
Building with Strawbales, May
Organic Vegetables & Poultry, June
Spring Workshop Series, Sept-Nov
Permaculture Design Certificate, January 2008

Wednesday 4 April 2007


Growing garlic seemed a new thing for some when Jan and I were doing the course last year. I've recently ordered some garlic from Digger's, and with the garlic, came some planting instructions which I wondered if others might like. Diggers instructions were to check if the garlic was sprouting. If so, plant immediately. If the garlic is dormant, put it somewhere outside where it will be dry, so that the garlic can sense the outside temperature. Early to mid varieties will shoot from late March onwards. Mid to late varieties will want to shoot from May to June. Ideally the best time to plant garlic is just before it shoots. The garlic I ordered wasn't designated early/mid/late, so I was advised to slice a clove vertically looking for a green internal shoot. When that's evident, plant immediately. If not, wait a couple of weeks and try again. (I'm hoping that I don't use up all the cloves in trying to find that internal shoot). If garlic is planted too early it may rot.

I saw some garlic which was grown in Australia, in the local supermarket a week or so ago. Not having received Digger's instructions at that time, I broke up the cloves, planted them, and three are already sprouting. I guess that means they might be the early variety, or I'm just lucky.

Tuesday 3 April 2007

Nourishing Traditions - the book

Hi folks
We whipped out this book during our garden tour; it's one that both Claudia and I enjoy reading snippets from to one another, as its full of really interesting information about traditional ways of preparing things from the garden and the bush.
You can get your own copy from John Patchet 0n 08 8365 1960.
I enclose some stuff from her website, but she will be here in Adelaide in ealy June (see info elsewhere on this blogger):
"Journalist, chef, nutrition researcher, homemaker and community activist, Sally Fallon is the author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This well-researched, though-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: Animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels.
Ms. Fallon's lifelong interest in the subject of nutrition began in the early 1970s when she read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. Called the “Charles Darwin of Nutrition,” Price traveled the world over studying healthy primitive populations and their diets. The unforgettable photographs contained in his book document the beautiful facial structure and superb physiques of isolated groups consuming only whole, natural foods. Price noted that all of these diets contained a source of good quality animal fat, which provided numerous factors necessary for the full expression of our genetic potential and optimum health. Ms. Fallon applied the principles of the Price research to the feeding of her own children, and proved for herself that a diet rich in animal fats, and containing the protective factors in old fashioned foodstuffs like cod liver oil, liver and eggs, make for sturdy cheerful children with a high immunity to illness. "