Thursday 31 May 2007

Welcome to all our new members

Welcome to all who have signed up recently. Diana's gardening course always attracts a great group of enthusiastic organic gardeners. We hope to see you on Sunday , rug up as I am sure we will be wandering around the farm. Get your boots out and there will be lots of hot tea and homemade goodies.
What a great day yesterday was real woodfired pizzas cooked by Rob and Kath and lots of pizza sous chefs.
Best of all Julians talk and answers to all questions relating to gardening in pots.
Amidst all the munching of pizza and freshly picked salad greens there was the enthusiastic sharing of good health ideas
Talk about how bad talcum powder is , the benefits of green manure crops, recipes for gluten free pizza dough, the eco fair, Di and Jens market stalls, a trip to The Food Forest and much more.
Good luck with all your seeds and plants we look forward to seeing you all soon.
Next Hills & Plains Seedsavers meeting at Fern Ave is Wed, 25 July at 1:30pm.

Monday 28 May 2007


Sunday June 3rd 2pm is our visit to Biopark Organic Farm. It is located on Paech Rd., Mt Barker. Bill said bring a chair, he will supply tea and coffee. Someone should probably bring a cake. I normally would but I am a bit busy this weekend.

Fern Ave meeting dates

Wed 1.30 : July 25th , October 24th

Other dates

International Kitchen Garden day : Sunday August 26th (any ideas?)

That leaves Sept free. I want to visit someone's garden ! How about Cath Caon's or Joy's or Maggie's ?

Sunday 27 May 2007

Unusual Seeds #2

We were very fortunate recently; Eden Seeds ( - who save all sorts of wonderful open-pollinated non-hybrid vegetable seeds - allowed us to purchase several hundred packets of their seeds at a good price, for dissemination among our seed saving friends.
One of our responsibilities is to 'grow on' some of these unusual vegetable seeds. One of my responsibilities will be to highlight a few of these treasures every week or so, so that we may gradually learn about our seed heritage. Text and photos are courtesy of Eden Seeds.
Mild salad mix of greens and reds, usually includes lettuces such as Cos, Purple Oakleaf, Green Mignonette, Red Crunch, also Rocket, Tatsoi, Mizuna and Red Radicchio, ready to start picking outside leaves 25-40 days, grows all year round if sheltered, one packet is enough to start a new plot every few weeks. Add edible flowers. For autumn/winter you might add Endive, or Corn Salad. Seeds per packet: 450

SPINACH : NEW ZEALAND (Tetragonia tetragonioides) (WARRAGUL GREENS)
Spreading green vegetable, best to use young leaf tips which also encourages branching. Native New Zealand & Aust. vegetable popular world-wide. Long season, continues into dry summer conditions, hardy and disease resistant, survives frost and re-grows. Best cooked. Likes adequate moisture and sunny position. Sow in spring. 50 days. Seed count: 18/gSeeds per packet: 50

TOMATO (Lycopersicon esculentum)
Originates from the Andes and cultivated in Central America. Suppresses couch grass, high in vitamin C, companion to parsley. Prefers open sunny positions. Sensitive to frosts. Water in furrows rather than overhead to reduce disease, declines if waterlogged. Does well on light to heavy soils with good drainage and high organic and phosphorus. Sow anytime in frost free areas, can sow indoors 5 weeks before transplanting in cooler areas or after last frost. Seed count: 250-400 seeds per gram
Red oxheart shaped fruit 4-5cm wide and 5-12cm long, tasty solid flesh used for stews, bottling, drying and sauces, can be vigorous climber 2.5m. long. 82 days.Seeds per packet: 80

Autumn in the hills

Garden wise autumn in the Adelaide Hills is vastly different to what is experienced on the plains. The hills has four distinct seasons that follow the sun & its rotation. We have just over a month of autumn remaining to get those autumn jobs done then the winter will be heralded in by a community bonfire at Mylor. Celebrating the winter solstice in a wonderful way.
The hills climate varies greatly & many micro-climates exist. As a gardener you need to know & understand your own patch. In general here at Nirvana from the beginning of June to September it is cold, wet averaging 1100mm but frost are never an issue, sometimes an odd one in July, August which do no harm & are beneficial to some vegetables. Built in design protect from cold southerly weather, you get used to drizzle & fog

In the garden long before the seasons change from summer, preparations for the winter garden are well under way. The seeds of all the cabbage tribe compete for space amongst the summer bounty.
The tunnel house (a most valued space) is cleared of cucumbers, finished tomatoes (there is usually a couple still busily producing) in preparation for continuous harvest. Still producing & very happy is a capsicum preparing to go through its third winter, a couple going into their second & one from this summer’s outdoor gard

en. They all still have good crops of green & a few slowly changing to red. They will now all stay inside & produce well next summer & beyond it seems. There is one remaining tomato, the few basil plants have been joined by leftovers from the summer garden & will produce some more leaves up to the start of winter.
Seedling lettuce, celery, chard, spinach, beetroot, parsley, cabbage, broccoli & cauliflower from the garden now begin to fill the beds .of the tunnel house. While seeds are planted regularly in both gardens to ensure a continual harvest.
It is always an extra challenge to grow in an artificial environment... The main problem I have was getting the watering right, so the soil & plants flourish. In the past I have tried drippers in many combinations both automatic timed & manual, soaker hoses. I think I’ve managed to get the results right with my current system. Although those on mains water may not be able to use such a system. I use one ‘wobbler’ a garden sprinkler that puts out a low volume, over a large area of big, rain like drops. Over summer I put out about 15 mm once a week – this takes around 4 hours. In winter it’s around 1 hour every 8 days. This method allows the soil to develop, mulch to be cool & damp & plants love it.

Out in the garden the garlic is well developed –It’s always (last 24 years) planted on the autumn equinox & harvested on the summer solstice. The watercress has taken off with the onset of cooler weather. Secession plantings of carrots, lettuce & other greens, spinach, parsnips. Swedes, turnips, peas, board beans, kale, chard, and onions find themselves in little groups scattered around the various beds. As winter approaches the growth slows dramatically & the garden is a store for some vegetables, while others will be transplanted into the tunnel to keep up the supply of fresh vegetables.

Friday 25 May 2007


Do you need a recipe for using all those pumpkins ? I have just put one on the recipe link from the Cook and the Chef. Looks great.

I have spent a couple of hours weeding and doing a couple of jobs in the chook yard. I have had 30 bales of peastraw delivered from the Magill Grain Store and, next Wed. when my garden group comes, we are going to make some serious compost bays with some of the straw. We collected about 10 bags of assorted manures on Mothers' Day on our drive back from Sunningdale Farm and some of this will go into the compost heaps too. Mountains of dry stuff - bark, leaves etc - has been collected by (a now cashed up) Hugh (sailor son) and put through the mulcher (by me) and is filling up about 6 or 8 old manure bags. This will be added along with the 1/2 composted kitchen scraps in the plastic bin and all those weeds I dug up today, plus more (if the chooks don't eat them all first). I may also include the last compost heap that didn't do very well over summer because it was so dry and I preferred to water the garden than the compost then. By spring this should be done and will give the summer vegies a good start. I am determined to make as much compost as I can using mostly what I have at hand plus manure.

To me organic does not just mean "without chemicals", where natural ingredients are used in place of synthetic ones. It encompasses a whole other dimension of reducing our dependence on inputs from elsewhere so that, overall, we leave this life at least having tried to break even, rather than being responsible for consuming huge amounts and therefore leaving the world with a massive loss, which once we are gone we can never repay.

Consequently, our place seems to be full of and surrounded by things that might be useful one day and we can't bring ourselves to throw away. Hard rubbish collections mean we gather more stuff and get rid of very little. Even our sons come home with all sorts of things which is quite surprising, if you knew them. Alex came home last time with suitcase and inside was a tag with Prof. Paul Davies name and address ! Hugh somehow fitted a vinyl reclining chair into his small car and, I must say, it is very comfortable and rather good in the rumpus room. My main weakness is the old carpet underlay made of coconut fibre ; as a weed suppressant nothing beats it as it lasts for about 18 months before beginning to rot away and in 2 years has turned the worst weeds into compost.

Seedsaving is central to this theme and I hope it will take us all another step closer to clearing some of our debt. If everyone saved seed from at least one thing per season, we would be rich indeed. Let this be our first season of commitment to our seedsaver title.
I think this blog idea fits very nicely into the sustainable lifstyle as we can exchange ideas and have fun for the cost of quite a small amount of electricity. Blog on.

Thursday 24 May 2007

What is Slow Food?

Slow Food is an international non–profit association founded in Italy in 1986 as a response to the standardizing effects of fast food & the frenetic pace of the ‘fast life’. It now involves over 80,000 people in 104 countries around the world.
Through the understanding of gastronomy with relation to politics, agriculture & the environment Slow food has become an active player in agriculture & ecology. Slow Food links pleasure & food with awareness & responsibility. The association’s activities seek to defend biodiversity in our food supply, spread the education of taste, & support producers of excellent food.
Slow Food is the intersection of ethics & pleasure, of ecology & gastronomy. A stand against the homogenization of taste, the unrestrained power of the multinationals, industrial agriculture & the folly of fast life. Slow Food returns culture dignity to food & the slow rhythms of conviviality to the table. & seeks to protect our invaluable food heritage.

In the Adelaide Hills we are working on:
· Holding on to traditions. Preserving Cultural Heritage. We have a rich & varied treasure of traditions to dip into. However many of the custodians of the treasures are now elderly & the speed of life means food traditions are being lost to convenience foods as well as cooking skills. The connection between how where & when food is grown & the end product on the plate is lost. We need to record and learn what’s necessary, so these traditions can continue.
· . Local produce Although much of our hills farmland has already been lost and diversity diminished, there are still a wide range of producers ranging from large down to small, both part & full time. All these need recognition & support. At present a handful of Hills food producers are promoted to the point of boredom so we are aiming to build a relationship between all local primary producers by conducting an area survey. .Knowing who’s out there is the first step to enable us to support our local producers & connect them to consumers. We will conduct ‘Meet the Grower’ walk, talk & taste & Develop Seasonal Food Trails.
· .Hills Seasons Australian culture shows little regard for the seasons, there are no seasonal celebrations. Few people know what’s in season at any one time. Through seasonal events .we aim to develop a sense of seasonality
· From Garden to Plate There is something special about Growing, preparing and enjoying your own food. We aim to enable people to share experiences, growing tips share seeds. Here we also have the resources of Duck Flat Community Garden at Mt Barker to get down to the nitty gritty.

For more information sees or Deborah Cantrill 8339 2519

Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it called Slow Food?
A nod to the contrast with fast food values, Slow Food is a reference to living an unhurried life, beginning at the table.
Why is the snail our symbol?
The snail was chosen because it moves slowly and calmly eats its way through life.
Why was Slow Food born in Bra, Italy?
Bra, home of founder Carlo Petrini. Is located in an area famous for its wines, white truffles! Cheese and beef. Food has traditionally been an integral part of socializing on the Italian peninsula. This town provided the perfect incubator for the Slow Food movement.

Does Slow Food mean organic?
Slow Food is in favour of the principles behind organic agriculture, like promoting agriculture that has a low impact cc the environment and reducing pesticide use around the world. Yet Slow Food maintains that organic agriculture, when practiced on a massive and extensive scale! Is very similar to conventional monoculture cropping and therefore organic certification alone should not he considered a sure sign that a product is grown in a sustainable way. Although most of the Presidia practice organic techniques! Very few are certified due to the high casts of organic certification. To become Presidia, products must be consistent with the concepts of agricultural sustainability, and beyond that, Slow Food works to guarantee that they are traditional, natural, safe, and - above all - of high taste quality. It is a goal of the Foundation far Biodiversity in the next few years to promote (and finance, where possible) the certification of Presidia products for which this certification could broaden markets or increase earnings.
What is Slow Food’s position on genetically engineered crops?
While not opposed to research by universities and public bodies, Slow Food is against the commercial planting of genetically engineered craps. We are capable of transplanting a gene from one species to another but we are not yet capable of predicting or containing the results, creating a threat to our natural and agricultural biodiversity. Another problem with GE crop cultivation is its tendency to take the choice at what crops to grow out of farmers’ hands. When pollen from GE fields drift miles dawn the road and pollinate conventional or organic fields, farmers unwittingly put labour and capital into harvesting crops they did not plant. Slow Food believes that all products containing genetically engineered ingredients should require accurate labelling, allowing consumers to make an educated choice a they support and ingest.

Tuesday 22 May 2007

Once Upon a Wintery Day

I'm still at work, and it's dark and raining outside, so at the end of a long day, what better to do than keep sitting here with my feet on the heater and poking about among old photos of the veggie patch from this season some years back?

One of the great things about living in Adelaide's Mediterranean climate is that we can grow stuff right through winter, especially all the brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, the Chinese stir-fry vegetables like Pak Choy and Wong Bok, kohl-rabi plus cool-weather greens such as spinach and silver beet. Peas replace beans as climbers.

So here's a few photos from June 2004 of just such greens, planted in compost-covered beds, along with rainbow chards and kohl-rabi.

Time to get wet walking home...

Tickle Tank

I am really keen to encourage you to take a drive to Mt Barker on Sunday and visit Tickle Tank. I am sure you will not be disappointed to see what this amazing artist has created. See my previous post on the Tickle Tank for the details. While you are in Mt Barker go around the back of the Mt Barker Hospital & in the hospital grounds and you will find another amazing community garden - the Duck Flat Community Garden. Visit their web site for more information.


Sunday August 26th is Kitchen Garden Day.

Maggie has suggested we get together for a harvest picnic somewhere. Any suggestions for where ?
By then I should be picking sugar snap peas, beetroot, spring onions, various lettuce and salad greens, wombok, bokchoy, spinach, kale, coriander and other herbs, broccoli and maybe fennel and a few other things. What about you ? This week I will pull up my water chestnuts but they will all be eaten by August. Did I tell you I sold 11kg jerusalem artichokes to Wilson's last week?


I have got over skipping across the kitchen to rejoice in rain, log fires and wintery weather and am already into the reality of barrowing in loads of firewood from the woodheap, picking vegs for dinner, in the rain (move the coma to make it read "picking vegs, for dinner in the rain"! Isn't English so interesting ), using my wet weather gardening gloves, remembering to take my slippers off before darting out the laundry door to pick some herbs for some tea, and wishing we could catch every drop of rain that falls on the roof.

Now I am going skippity doo because of spending the day with all of you at Fern Ave. I have been a solitary kitchen gardener for ever, since I was about 18. Yes, my garden group friends are great but they are not into the growing for health thing as much as me and I was beginning to think I was a bit loopy. Now I know all of you and we can all be loopy together !
I had no intention of spending all day at Fern Ave on Sunday, as (generally speaking) I like to share my time with other species and find I have little in common with most humans. However, every minute was filled with the joy of growing.
A young lady called Sarah came along when my I was very thirsty from talking, and offered to get us tea and muffins ! How lovely. Much later in the afternoon Kath came by and offered herb tea. That was perfect timing, I had nearly had it by then ! The best thing was that Cath Caon told me she had bought some (not even just 1 ) of my pumpkins from Wilsons' and that she had some pumpkin soup in her thermos for lunch that day !
I also met some lovely people, such as the 2 very old ladies who, at first, were so tentative and just bought 1 broccoli seedling. I said goodbye and off they went....Some time later they were back and a few more things went into their baskets. I offered them some of Joy's Cos lettuce seeds, for free and they said no, they weren't too sure about that. Off they went again... At least 1/2 hour later I saw them bending over some vegs in the garden so I went and spoke to them. We chatted along and I found that they had got really keen to grow some of their vegies and once again returned to the stall and took the cos seeds, as I had shown them some growing in the garden there. It is never too late to embark on the joy of gardening, especially for food.
Another old lady (I always seem to attract them, even in the supermarket) lamented her tiny unit and how she hated throwing away things that could go into making compost, such as veg scraps, paper etc. I told her how Joy makes compost in a garbage bag and turns it by rolling it along. Her smile was reward enough for me - she thanked me, almost with tears in her eyes - and I felt pretty skippity doo too. Another happy gardener.
These are some of the reasons that I feel so skippity doo today.
ps All those dry beans husks make great kindling !


We have a kind invitation from Bill Hankin to visit the Biopark Organic Farm, where he is the manager. Most of you would have met Bill at Andrew's. He has been involved in organics and seedsaving for a long time and is a very nice chap. I really look forward to seeing an organic farm in action. Bill says to rug up. He will light a fire / BBQ for us too !. If anyone wants to share my car, ring me.

Sunday, June 3rd, 2pm

Biopark P/L Organic Farm
Paech Rd
Mt Barker

8391 2287
0412 149 146

Monday 21 May 2007


Obviously I'm still having trouble adding to this blog, but hopefully this works. It seems that not everyone is aware of the Magill Grain Store situated on Magill Road, just beyond the Magill Primary School. It supplies bales of straw (pea straw will be in short supply next spring) and lucerne hay, fertilisers (Neutrog etc.), bird and chicken feed and some dry dog food. I've just recently purchased some seed potatoes, and bulk broad beans (just a kilo, but that will probably last forever). Kate has said that she buys her green manure seeds there as well. Delivery of anything, no matter how much or where, costs $10 (even for me who lives just around the corner). It's open usual hours during the week except for Saturday, when they close around lunch time - and I'm sure they're closed Sunday.

Friday 18 May 2007

Feeding the Family from the Backyard Veggie Patch

G'day All
Kate has asked me what Sunday's talk will be all about...
I'm going to 'ad-lib' a brand new version of a lecture I gave about three years ago to SASA, called "Feeding the Family from the Backyard Veggie Patch"
I've no intention of telling the audience how to grow vegetables, but hope to leave them with the feeling that doing so is both worthwhile and beautiful.
So, it's a philosophy lecture, really, but the slides from my garden are gorgeous; they are printed out in glorious technicolour, laminated, Velcro dotted, and awash with gardening quotations that I dug up from all over.
And as I don't have a slide projector, I'm going to stick them up on a display board behind me, and so invent a whole new way of delivering a public lecture.
Do I know what will be in the talk? Not until I'm talking!
It starts at 11.30am at Fern Avenue Community Gardens in Fullerton, and will run for about 45 minutes.

Thursday 17 May 2007

Fern Ave Open Day

Just to remind you all that the Open Day at Fern Ave on May 20th is part of the Australian Open Garden Scheme and there will be the usual entry fee of $5.oo. It is on this Sunday May 20th.
We are having a stall and will be selling Andrew's collection of new seeds as well as meeting lots of gardeners who might like to join us. Some people are helping but of course the more the merrier.
If you have seeds, cuttings, plants, produce or whatever to give away bring them with you or give them to someone beforehand to bring for you.

The gates are open from 10am and Andrew's talk is at 11.30am.
There will be potted herbs and Nicholas will have rare fruit/plants for sale also.
David Corkill will give a composting demonstration and talk at 2pm and the Unley Plant Rescue will also be selling plants.
We are hoping to have some of Pam Marshall's Environmentally Friendly Products information brochures available if Pam can't be with us on the day.
Tea/Coffee and muffins will be available all day.


I have just received the calendar of events for the Slow Food goup I have recently joined and it all sounds so good. One thing is a Culinary Quiz Night on Sunday 22nd of July.

Now I normally shy away from quiz nights because I know nothing about movies or sport, which is their primary focus, it seems, but this sounds like more fun to me. If anyone is interested in making up a table send me an email. The price is $15 and it is at the Unley Citizens Centre, Arthur St, Unley.

Other events include: Cooking Lamb, visit to Bovoliva Olive Company, Tapas Banquet, Wood Oven Day, A Feast of Local Fish and Seafood. I intend to go to some of these.

I will forward the full details to everyone by email.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Seed Catalogues

Three cartons of seeds turned up in the post yesterday; just couldn't believe I'd bought so many, even after going way overboard to the tune of over $600!
So this morning I got up early, with every intention of sorting them into 'families' - alliums, herbs, solanums, curcurbits and so forth. Two and three quarter boxes contained catalogues, and down the bottom of the last box lay the seeds.

But to be bluntly honest, there's as much pleasure in reading about all these rare and wonderful seeds as there is in growing them. So come along to the Fern Avenue Community Garden this coming Sunday, between 10am and 4pm, and your free catalogue will be waiting for you (if you are a member). There are also a limited number of catalogues from Daley's Fruit Tree Nursery, so we've got the whole garden covered.

Seeds and books will be on sale to the public at our trading table. By all means bring along seeds, vegetables, cuttings, potted plants or whatever; one of the things we can do with our slush fund is to continue to buy bulk seeds for distribution among our members. In this way, we can choose to maintain seelcted rare varieties for future generations.
So today's photo and seed snippet is from page one, number one, in the Eden Seeds catalogues on offer: -
GRAIN AMARANTH (Amaranthus hypochondriacus)
Greens rich in vitamins and minerals, leaves have less oxalic acid than spinach. Eat raw or cooked. Protein leaf and grain. Seeds have over 18% protein, higher than corn or wheat, eat popped. Hardy summer annual to 1m, don't sow deeply, scatter on top of soil and rake in. Sow after frost. 95 days. The processed products are available through Coles and Woolworths supermarkets and selected Health Food stores. The cereal can be used alone with milk, fruit, and honey, or mixed with other cereals.
Seed count: 400/g Seeds per packet: 350

Tuesday 15 May 2007


Anne Duguid is a gardener after my own heart. Plants are allowed to come up and grow where they like and vegs and flowers co-exist happily together, making a carpet of intricate detail and fascination at every turn. The house is on a rise and is surrounded by a ring of garden so that every door of the house opens onto vegetables, herbs and flowers. They include such companion plants as parsley, yarrow, tansy, coreopsis, fever few, cosmos,leeks and buddleias which attract ladybirds, lacewings,hoverflies,beetles, wasps, bees etc.
Beyond the house are 190 rolling acres of organic / biodynamic vealer calves. Beyond this you can see the Murray and the lakes. Picturesque is inadequate to describe the property.The drive in is through scrub in which they have identified 45 varieties of birds. There is a trail mown through the bush for walking and, after the recent rains, everything is lush and green . Anne is a lovely person and very welcoming. Together with her husband Phil they run the property and have a stall at the Showgrounds Farmers' Market selling produce and their daughter sells quiches and cakes too. If they have another open day I would suggest you go and soak it up.
The drive to Mt Compass via Hahndorf is beautiful after the rain and there are great venison hamburgers to be had at a cafe in Mt Compass ! A lovely mothers' day.
Click on the photos link to see more.
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Sunday 13 May 2007

Happy Mother Earth Day

Happy Mother Earth Day to all gardeners who care for the earth and nurture seedlings. The seedlings become our good food and then us. The garden is a constant reminder of the cycle of life. I am very grateful that we have this blog and that we can share so much with each other. I have had a lovely day seeing family and friends and have tried several new recipes using the great rocket that we have in the garden.

tomato season 2006-7

  • TOMATO SEASON 2006-7
    As I pick the last of my tomatoes I reflect on the season that was. Overall it was an excellent season for vegetables, especially tomatoes & walnuts due to the dry spring & hot summer but a very poor season for most other things due to the big dry.

    The tomatoes we have enjoyed
    Principle bourghese. Small prune shaped with great fresh flavour for salads. It dries well.
    San marzano 2. Very long narrow tomato. Roma type. Great in sauces as well salads. Dries well.
    Cour di bue. Large heart shaped. Very meaty. Excellent flavour fresh & cooked. As these are very large they have taken a long time to develop & ripen. But we are still enjoying them.
    Delicious. A traditional type large round tomato. Excellent flavour. Good on toast. Its was also slow to develop & ripen.

Can't give you an overall favourite we enjoyed them all. My favourite Saturday breakfast is eggs poached in fresh tomatoes. Cook up the tomatoes then poach the eggs in it.
Have also dried, bottled & made sauce to enjoy the flavours til the next season starts.

How they got to our plate
The seeds were planted on the 7th August (2days before the full moon) in my own mix of seed raising mix (sifted compost & oak leaf litter)
The varieties the seeds planted this year were Franchi, an Italian brand. Principle bourghese, San marzano 2 and Cour di bue.
Once planted they were raised inside.
Mid Sept they were moved outside to harden off.

Garden Preparation
My garden consists of small raised beds. The tomatoes were grown in 4 different beds which were all prepared in early September.
2 of beds grew a green manure crop of oats & broad beans which were dug in the first week of September. My Compost & garden lime were also added.
The other beds both had grown a mix of winter greens & carrots. My Biodynamic compost & lime were dug in.

All the garden & tunnel received 2 applications biodynamic 500 on September 10th & 24th.
Some of the seedlings went into the tunnel house on September 21st (new moon) for early crop. Very necessary in the coolest parts of the hills.
The seedlings, along with a Delicious seedling purchased at the seed savers Seedy Sunday were planted out on October 21st (new moon).

The seedlings were watered in with casuarinas spray/nettle mix*. 2x a week for the first 3 weeks .In previous years this has helped keep them healthy in the tunnel house as there is limited space for rotations. I used it outside in the garden as well this year.
They were mulched with wheat straw. All were given one deep water per week from November to March.
This has been an excellent season for tomatoes due to warmer spring & long summer I am still harvesting from the garden. Seeds have been saved ready for next season.

*Casurarina Tea
300 g casuarina needles cover with 10 litre water simmer slowly in a covered vessel for 20 minutes .Strain and dilute 1:4 with water.
Nettle Tea
Add 10 litres of water to 1kg fresh nettles (Urtica dioica) Leave until rotted (8 days -4 weeks depending on temperature) strain. Can be stored. To use dilute 1:9 with water.
The mix I use is
2 litre casurarina tea, 1litre nettle tea diluted to 9 litres.a type.

Saturday 12 May 2007

Comfrey: A Short History

Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, was a common plant of ditches and other damp places in England. It also existed in Europe. It found a role in folk medicine very early and was reputed as the medieval herbalist's favourite bone-setter. The plant is a bushy, hairy perennial growing up to three feet high (900 mm) with wide, deep green, spear-shaped leaves. It has thick mucilaginous roots which in times gone by were dug in Spring, grated up and mixed with water to form a kind of plaster, which was applied to broken bones and fractures, much as a plaster is today. It set well, but a lot of its worth was due to the presence of allantoin, which aided the healing process. The whole plant has been used as a wonder herb from drawing splinters to healing ruptures.
In addition to the medical uses, Comfrey has always found popularity as a fodder crop for all kinds of grazing animals. A nurseryman, near Lewisham, England, was the first to discover the agricultural possibilities of Comfrey. James Grant, in 1810, claimed yields of from forty to sixty tonnes an acre from five to six cuts per year. Constant cutting was the key to such enormous yields. The variety most grown for agricultural use at that time was Symphytum asperum or Prickly Comfrey, with prickly leaves and vivid blue flowers. This was one of the symphytums raised by another London nurseryman, Conrad Loddige, from plants sent from St. Petersberg, Russia, by a Joseph Busch, who was the previous owner of Loddige's nursery and who then, in 1790, was head gardener at the Palace of St. Petersberg, from where he sent the plants.
The plant used by herbalists remained the English native Symphytum officinale. This had cream, white or yellow flowers and a variety "phylum officinale var. patens had purple flowers. Today in England and Europe, there are many Comfrey hybrids resulting from chance crosses between Symphytum officinale and Symphytum asperum.
The 1870's to early 1900's saw Comfrey peak as an agricultural crop in England. The press was full of discussion on yields and varieties and numerous monographs were produced. The agricultural journals of the time were filled with discussion on the uses of Comfrey, its propagation, yields, etc. Due to the enormous interest, Comfrey was analysed for the first time by a Dr. Auguste Voelcker, consulting agricultural chemist to the Royal Agricultural Society of England. His conclusions were that "Comfrey has the same feeding value as green mustard, turnip tops or Italian ryegrass grown on irrigated land." This kind of report only added to the existing boom in the plant.
Medicinal uses of Comfrey
The root and leaves, generally collected from wild plants, have been used medicinally for centuries. The main constituent of the root is mucilage, of which it has even more than marshmallow. It can also contain up to nearly ten percent allantoin, a useful amount of calcium and vitamin Bl2 Comfrey is mainly used as a demulcent, astringent and expectorant. As the plant abounds in mucilage, it is frequently given for intestinal disorders. It forms a gentle remedy in cases of diarrhoea and dysentery. Its use has been extended to lung troubles as well as whooping cough. Pulmonary troubles were often cured with Comfrey, as was internal haemorrhage. Generally for the above conditions, a decoction of the roots is used.
The leaves are of much value as an external remedy for sprains, swellings, bruises and for the manufacture of poultices for inflammatory swellings. Comfrey ointment is excellent for wounds, inflammations and especially external ulcers.
The action of Comfrey in aiding the knitting of bones which have been fractured or broken has been variously ascribed. An important reason is that by reducing inflammation in the immediate neighbourhood of the fracture it allows union to take place more quickly.
Today, these effects are attributed to the allantoin contained in Comfrey. Allantoin has a powerful action in strengthening epithelial formations, and is a valuable remedy, not only in external ulceration, but also in ulceration of the stomach and duodenum. Many preparations for chronic wounds, bums, ulcers, etc., use allantoin extracted from the Comfrey root, although, like many a green medicine, allantoin is now manufactured artificially.

Thursday 10 May 2007

Unusual Seeds

I've just blown six months of savings on buying rare and wondrous seeds.
I convinced myself that this was for our stall at the Fern Avenue Community Gardens Open Garden Day on 20th May 2007, but truthfully, I just like being surrounded by seeds! 220 new packets, plus my own stock of 100 varieties, should set me up nicely to be able to supply anyone wanting to propogate the weird and wonderful. Given time, I'll post my stock list to this blog-site, and we can actively save some of the rarer varieties, while eating well from the more commonly available herbs and vegetables. Here's a few samples, along with their descriptions, as posted By Eden Seeds up in Queensland on their excellent website at

EGGPLANT (Solanum melongena) From India, developed in Spain in 16th century. Growing conditions as for tomato, though Eggplant needs a longer growing season, treat as perennial in warmer climates, annual in cooler areas. Can sow indoors up to 8 weeks before transplanting, harden for one week by taking off heat and put in full sun. Picking regularly encourages production. Sow early spring. Seed count: 200-250 seeds per gram

TURKISH ORANGE Beautiful red-orange fruit, round to 75mm, abundant yields. 65-85 days. Seeds per packet: 50

OKRA (Abelmoschus esculentus) Annual bush to 1.2m, taken from Ethiopia in pre-historic times. Also know as Gumbo. Use similar growing conditions as tomatoes. Thrives in well drained soils in full sunlight. Harvest all pods when young at 7-10cm. Use fresh or dried in soups and stews. Sow after last frost. Seed count: 16 seeds per gram

STAR OF DAVID Extremely fat pods to 15cm, best picked at 7cm, old heirloom named because pod cross-section looks like the Star of David, plant to 2m with purple leaf views. 60-75 days. Seeds per packet: 30

PUMPKIN (Cucurbita species) Summer vine, originating from the America. Fruit kept for winter eating. For seed saving it is best to grow only one variety within 2km. Can save seeds from ripe fruit when eating. Likes rich soil. Harvest as vine dies off and stem dries out. Sow after last frost. Seed count: 5-12 seeds per gram

TRIAMBLE Large three-lobed fruit to 6kg, tough grey rind, deep orange flesh, sweet, firm and dry. Seeds per packet: 20

KALE (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)A primitive vegetable from the Mediterranean area. High in vitamin A, young leaves used like lettuce, older leaves cooked, like cabbage. Likes well drained soil with near neutral pH and sunny spot. Keep well watered. Mature plants tolerate frost. Sow late summer, autumn. Frost hardy. Seed count: 250-370 seeds per gram
CHOU MOELLIER (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) "The cultural details are the same as cabbages, the only difference is, it is harvested the same way as loose leaf lettuce, you just keep removing the bottom leaves. The plant grows 1 to 2 metres tall on a strong centre stem. The leaves are green and are much better eaten raw. It is an excellent plant leaf to feed poultry and they love it. ...I last grew it in 1938 and I have not seen the plant or seed since, until I found the present seed." Harry Pryce. Seeds per packet: 350

Autumn Biodynamic Activities

Autumn is a very important time for all biodynamic gardeners & farmers
Its time to ‘put down the horns’ i.e. to make BD500 & some of the compost preparations. In May each year members of the Adelaide Hills Biodynamic Group meet at Nirvana to share these tasks. It’s always a fun afternoon with usually some new chums as well as the experienced members. This year was no exception & last weekend we all got the tasks done filling around 200 horns as well as preparing 502- 506 (507 is made in summer when the valerian flowers) these where all buried in the earth to develop over winter, when all that is below the earth is most active. In 6 months we will met again to unearth them.

Another task was to make a ‘cow pat pit’ this is a type of small compost made in a bottomless box buried in the ground (originally a barrel) it is comprised of a barrow load of cow manure, some finely ground egg shells & some basalt. This is mixed well together until the texture changes. This is usually done with a spade, however inspired by watching ‘How to save the World. one man, one cow, one planet’ on biodynamics in India where they mixed it in their hands. There where a few keen to try. I had a turn & it was amazing how good it felt & after only a few minutes of finishing the manure smell on the hands had vanished. The rest is simple the manure is put in the pit & 3 sets of BD compost preps are inserted into the manure it’s then covered & left for 3 months or so.

Incase your wondering what it’s used for; it’s an ideal for carrying the influence of the compost preparations over the land. For home gardeners it’s a great way of making your whole garden a compost heap by controlling the breakdown of organic matter & the build up of humus. Its also useful to add to small garden ‘composts’.
The other major important job of a biodynamic gardener is putting out the autumn 500 & this autumn as offered excellent conditions with soaking rains & warm soils. So I’ve been busy in the afternoons stirring & putting out both 500 & ccp on the orchards & gardens.

Wednesday 9 May 2007

Le Petit Potimarron

Potimarron is a combination of the French potiron (pumpkin) and marron (chestnut) and probably not so coincidentally, it tastes like pumkin and chestnut. It comes from Japan and the most popular variety is called Hokkaïdo. They usually grow to about 1 - 2 kg and are a delicious source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, starch, natural sugars and carotene. Quelle surprise! The potimarron can be stored in a dry cellar for months and it will not only stay fresh, it will actually increase in sweetness and vitamin content.
Another enchanting tidbit I found was the obligatory Potimarron Festival! Why not? This little squash is heralded every September in Lunéville, France which is in the eastern part of France near Nancy and Strasbourg in the Lorraine region. “Although the potimarron is the guest of honour, the day is a celebration of home growers, small farmers and everything that grows in the garden.”
Tonight we are having Potimarron soup and a salad, all picked a few minutes ago from the garden.( I have saved some seeds but they may not be true to type because of all the other friendly pumpkins in my garden !).Life is good. Skippety Doo !

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Seedy Recipes

Thanks Skippity Doo for setting up the link to enable us to post our favourite recipes. Fish, beans, curry & dip. Lets have a nice spicy cake recipe posted.

Happy gardening & eating.


Just now I felt strangely happy. I skipped across the kitchen, feeling light and breezy. It is not often that adults do such things, especially when no particular event has caused such frivolity and no alcohol has passed their lips. I paused to wonder at this and put the reason down to the arrival of a true autumn day - crisp air, sunshine, damp soil and also the fact that I had lit the first fire for the year, this evening.

Funny how some people love the heat of summer and others, like me, smile from ear to ear when the chill sets in. Whether its foggy, raining or sunny, so long as the soil is wet and the air is crisp I am happy. So, if you thought I seemed like a pretty happy sort of person up until now, you ain't seen nothin' yet !

All my little seedlings are popping up - peas, broad beans and earlier sowings are growing well - Kath's broccoli, fennel, kale, red onions etc. And I have basil self-sown and growing under my plastic domes ! Skippety doo !

Saturday 5 May 2007

Old Dud Murdoch on Weeds

This small article comes from one of South Australia's great backyard gardeners and recyclers, Dud Murdoch, who died about a decade ago, but lives on in "Dud's corner" - small snippets he wrote for The Living Soil, the Journal of the Soil Assocaition of South Australia. This one - on weeds - comes from 1992. Dud was a retired farmer - he always said he was responsible for growing the biggest acreage of Horehound (a noxious weed) in the state...

"If the concept of a weed is a plant one doesn't want, well, I have no weeds. Every plant that grows in our garden is used one way or another.
Marshmallows are encouraged under the Nectarine and Peach trees; hung in the branches they ward off curly leaf. Nasturtiums under the Apple trees keep off woolly aphids; Stinging Nettles don't do our Lettuces any harm. Wild Turnip, wild Oats and Barley grass from the Mallee hay we use for mulch are easily pulled up and go to the compost heap.
Kikuyu lawn clippings also make a layer in compost container, which is aerobic and takes layers of weeds(?), plant refuse, pigeon manure and soil.
What to me and many others, is a horrible, noxious weed, but to Chelsea Flower Show in London, is known as an herb; Horehound, also makes compost
Dud Murdoch
TLS Nov-Dec 1992 p9."

Tuesday 1 May 2007


In 24 states throughout the USA, beekeepers have noticed their bees have been disappearing inexplicably at an alarming rate, threatening not only their livelihoods but also the production of numerous crops, including California almonds, one of the nation’s most profitable.
The sudden mysterious losses are highlighting the critical link that honeybees play in the long chain that gets fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and dinner tables across the country.
Beekeepers have fought regional bee crises before, but this is the first national affliction.
Now, in a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.
As researchers scramble to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call “colony collapse disorder,” growers are becoming openly nervous about the capability of the commercial bee industry to meet the growing demand for bees to pollinate dozens of crops, from almonds to avocados to kiwis.
Along with recent stresses on the bees themselves, as well as on an industry increasingly under consolidation, some fear this disorder may force a breaking point for even large beekeepers.
A Cornell University study has estimated that honeybees annually pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the United States, mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts. “Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food,” said Zac Browning, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation.
The bee losses are ranging from 30 to 60 percent on the West Coast, with some beekeepers on the East Coast and in Texas reporting losses of more than 70 percent; beekeepers consider a loss of up to 20 percent in the offseason to be normal.To cope with the losses, beekeepers have been scouring elsewhere for bees to fulfill their contracts with growers.
Lance Sundberg, a beekeeper from Columbus, said he spent $150,000 in the last two weeks buying 1,000 packages of bees — amounting to 14 million bees — from Australia.
He is hoping the Aussie bees will help offset the loss of one-third of the 7,600 hives he manages in six states. “The fear is that when we mix the bees the die-offs will continue to occur,” Mr. Sundberg said.