One of the lovely things about winter, apart from the chance to enjoy cosy wood fires, comforting casseroles, stews and soups (maybe accompanied by a glass of robust red!) is the fact that everything in the garden slows down. The grass stops shooting up at such an alarming rate, weeds take a little bit of a break from their relentless attempts to take over the joint, and shrubs and hedges behave in a much more sedate manner.
This slowing of growth means less work trying to stay on top of things and gives us a chance to look at the bones of the garden, regroup, review and revise what works and what doesn’t. It provides an opportunity to perhaps change the design of the garden, and maybe even put in place some structures that will help protect your plants from sun, pest and insect damage come spring and summer.
The cooler weather, a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of summer, also makes it easier to get out there and do a few solid hours of digging, planting, mulching, trimming and pruning, without being chased inside by the hot sun and pesky flies, giving both you and your garden the perfect workout.
Winter is also a great time to get out there, get involved and learn something new – so why not sign up for one of our regular workshops? The calendar currently includes the second half of a workshop on Pests & Diseases, on June 15, and a workshop on Pruning & Care of Fruit Trees, lined up for June 23. More news will follow re workshops for July, August and beyond, so check back regularly on the website for updates.
Vegies to plant this month include: broad beans, cabbage, lettuce, onion, globe artichoke, peas (climbing and dwarf), radish and shallots.
So get busy, get planting, get inspired – and stay warm!
No-one got bitten by a snake. None of the marquees fell down. No-one got lost, or fell into the dam. The sun shone all afternoon in a huge, high, perfectly blue sky. And the CWA stall completely sold out of cakes and slices.
In short, the Tucker Patch Open Day really couldn’t have gone any better.
There was music – an impressive performance from the cute and talented woodwind ensemble from Gloucester Public School – and, perfect as a laid-back accompaniment to all the activities, funky guitar and singing from Ty throughout the afternoon.
There were stalls with interesting products to discover. Bamboo straws, toilet bombs, gorgeous bags (cleverly crocheted from those ubiquitous green and gray supermarket plastic bags) and a hanky revolution at the Eco Stall.
There was wine! Lively locally grown wines to sample at the Gloucester River Wines Stall. (You could even have a seat and a chinwag while quaffing!)
There was delicious local honey and fascinating info on bees and bee-keeping at Annemie’s fabulously decorated stall.
An informative worm farm demonstration from Stef. Face painting for the kids at the Fair Trade stall run by Dom and Amy. And a Gardening Q&A at Marnie’s Plant Stall, where you could also buy a whole range of gorgeous plants for the garden.
Ken’s Wicking Demo created a lot of interest from those looking for water-saving measures for their future gardening endeavours. Or if chilling was more your thing you could head for Linda’s stall set in a shady spot just next to the cottage garden to enjoy a relaxing free massage.
Kids had fun collecting live snails and searching for kangaroo grass and other plant specimens on the Scavenger Hunt, with a prize of seed bombs and fruit for their efforts.
There were Guided Tours. A Tucker Patch Information Stand ably manned by Pat, Jeanette and Rachel – which also featured a fabulous basket of goodies worth over $250 as a Raffle Prize. There was even a Ute For Sale!
The tantalising aroma of frying onions drew hungry people to the Sausage Sizzle, where Terry and Brian also served up Bacon & Egg Sandwiches, while our Afternoon Tea, hosted by Sue and Janine, with its pretty tablecloths and posies of flowers adorning the tables, provided a welcome oasis for those wanting to sit down and have a revitalising cuppa and a delicious piece of cake.
It was an afternoon to remember, with a certain dreamlike quality to it. In the mellow early autumn sunshine the gardens looked superb, and as the afternoon drew to a close the stunning Bucketts Ranges provided a perfect and quite startling backdrop.
We hope everyone else enjoyed our Open Day as much as we did. Thanks to all the stallholders for taking the time and making the effort to attend, all the visitors for coming along to enjoy the activities, all the Tucker Patch crew who worked so hard to pull it all together – and, not least, Marnie and her team for their amazing work in getting the grounds into shape before the event.
See you at the next one!
Just some of the produce available at the Tucker Patch Farmgate Stall on Friday 23
I’m sure most of us would be familiar with this novelty song from the 1920s!
The story goes that one day in New York in 1922, songwriting duo Frank Silver and Irving Cohn were on their way to work when they stopped for a snack. At a greengrocer’s, the Greek immigrant owner told them in his broken English: “Yes! We have no bananas today.” The reason the grocer had no bananas? A blight in Central America had caused a shortage. The songwriters made the phrase into the title of their next song and, in a Broadway revue called Make It Snappy, the tune was introduced by star Eddie Cantor and zoomed to number one on the hit parade for five straight weeks.
So how, you might be wondering, does this relate to the Tucker Patch website?
Well, like many other regions of NSW, Gloucester has been going through an extended hot, dry spell that has impacted many aspects of everyday living – including how our gardens are bearing up under the pressure of intense heat and limited water. And Tucker Patch is no exception. With a dry dam and the high cost of town water, production has slowed, with limited amounts of produce anticipated over the next few weeks until the drought breaks and we get decent, solid rains.
This, compounded by the fact that one of our main growers, Wild Lemon Farm, is moving interstate, means we may not have such a wide range of fresh vegies available at our Farmgate Stall for several weeks to come. It would be wonderful to supplement our supplies if possible, so if you have any spare produce in your garden (even if it's only one bag of tomatoes or a bunch or two of herbs) please feel free to bring it to the Farmgate on Friday mornings between 8am and 8:30am, either to swap, sell or donate.
Don’t forget to sign up for our Asian Vegies Workshop, which will be held next Friday February 23 at the Patch. Time’s running out, so don’t miss out! Go to the Workshops section of the website for more information.
Meanwhile, perhaps a raindance or two to the tune of ‘Yes, we have no bananas’ is in order.
Happy New Year to all our members! We hope you all had a wonderful festive season with family and friends and are surviving the current spell of hot summer weather.
If you’re in the process of planting late summer crops (see ‘What to plant now’, below), make sure you protect your seedlings from the effects of the burning sun by using at least 30% shadecloth. Don’t forget to also provide shade for your tomato vines and other fruiting crops and vegies, keep them well mulched and water either early in the morning or in the cool of the evening after the sun has gone down.
Interestingly, the 2017 Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere took place at 3:28 am on Friday, 22 December – so in some ways this means summer is on the way out. Although the heat we’re experiencing is likely to continue for some months yet, the days will now start to get shorter, which means it’s time to also start planning our autumn and winter crops. Log onto this column every month for details of what to plant, when.
And if you’re looking at planting something different this year, why not come along to our workshop on Growing Asian Vegetables and learn the ins and outs of growing lots of tasty, nutritious vegies such as pak choi, Chinese broccoli and cabbage, mustard greens, watercress, shallots, Chinese celery, Daikon radish, lemongrass and more. The workshop will be held on Friday 23 February at 1.30pm – more details will be distributed soon.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to stay cool yourself! Get your gardening done early in the morning and come indoors when it gets too hot – and if you’re partial to a nice cool beverage when the sun goes over the yardarm, why not try our ultra-refreshing Gin & Cucumber Gimlet in our recipe section under ‘Drinks’, provided by Tucker Patch member Tess Hilleard. It’s a great way of using up excess summer cucumbers too!
Enjoy … and happy gardening!
What to plant now: climbing beans, bush beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, leeks, lettuce, spring onions, parsnip, potatoes, radish, rhubarb, silverbeet, sweet corn, turnip and zucchini.
As spring gives way to early summer, nature must surely be at its most stunning and productive best. Trees, shrubs and garden flowers are exploding into bloom creating a riot of colour in our gardens, while in the vegie patch there’s the promise of bumper crops of delicious, nutritious produce.
Out at the Patch, thanks to our gardening volunteers and growers, there’s been a burst of new life, both in our Food Forest and Market Garden area, with an abundance of seasonal vegetables coming into fruit, including interesting varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, onions, garlic, lettuce, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, leek, beetroot, radishes, potatoes, silverbeet, kale, rocket, carrots, rhubarb, rocket herbs and more.
This of course means that in the coming weeks we will have an even wider range of fresh, organically grown produce for sale at the Farmgate Stall, so if you’re looking for healthy, yummy vegies to add to the Christmas lunch menu, make sure you head out there on a Friday morning to see what’s on offer.
If you’re growing your own tomatoes, your plants may well be producing tasty fruit already. Don’t forget to give your plants some extra TLC as the weather heats up. Daytime temperatures consistently above 32°C or nighttime temperatures consistently above 24°C create all kinds of stress for tomato plants:
• It’s too hot for tomatoes to be pollinated, which means fewer fruit.
• Heat stress forces your plants to increase transpiration to survive.
• It slows down production.
• Heat stress also makes your plant more vulnerable to diseases and pests.
To help your plants survive and stay healthy, there are several things you can do:
• Work out the best place to plant in the first place. If your summer afternoons are the equivalent of a bake off, plant tomatoes where they get 6-8 hours of morning and early afternoon sun – or morning sun and dappled afternoon sun.
• Keep plants watered – once or maybe even twice a day when temperatures are consistently high. However, only increase frequency of watering, not the amount of water, to avoid water logging.
• Give them shade, especially during the hottest hours of the day. The most common method is to use shadecloth, a specialised fabric set over a structure or on supports that you drape over your plants. Use shadecloth that provides 30%–50% light exclusion.
Tomatoes will be sweeter and more nutritious if allowed to ripen on the vine, however you can harvest your fruit when they are in a mature green state – this means the tomatoes are mostly green, with hints of red beginning to appear around the exterior of the fruit. Fruit will continue to ripen after picking.
While the unpredictable weather is keeping us on our toes and in some cases has caused a bit of damage to plants in the home garden, the recent rain has certainly been refreshing and given a new lease of life to the various sections of ‘the Patch’ – not least the Food Forest, which just keeps getting better and better as work continues. Next time you come out to the Farmgate Stall to buy your vegies, have a wander through and see for yourself how it’s all progressing.
Of course, the wet change no doubt had a direct impact on our planned ‘Beating the Drought’ Workshop – rather ironically, it rained just as we were distributing our flyers around town and advertising it to our members and on our website! With no takers at the time, the event was cancelled – however, we have since had a bit of interest so may well run it in the next few weeks or early next year. Watch this space for more news!
We are also in the process of putting together a 2018 Workshop Calendar on a diverse range of gardening and other topics, so keep an eye out for any that might interest you.
In other news, we plan to kick off our new Community Street Stall in the main street of town (outside the bookstore) on Tuesday November 14. The stall will feature a range of information plus a limited amount of fresh produce for sale, so come along and say hello.
If you’re still trying to get your vegie beds stocked, there’s still plenty of time to get these in: bush & climbing beans, beetroot, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, celery, cucumber, eggplant, kale, lettuce, spring onions, parsnip, potatoes, pumpkin, rhubarb (crown), radish, rockmelon, silverbeet, spinach, squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon and zucchini.
It’s hard to keep the garden looking good and continuing to be productive through a long, dry summer without spending a bucketload of money on water. And we all want to avoid that if possible.
Just as with all our home gardens, it’s looking pretty dry out at Tucker Patch at the moment, but fortunately the permaculture methods our volunteers use to protect precious plantings go a long way to minimising the impacts of drought.
With no certain end to this dry spell in sight, this is a time when deep mulching and clever watering systems really come into their own. And there are plenty of other ways to minimize your water use and keep your garden flourishing through the hot, dry weather, without breaking the bank.
Once again it’s been a busy time at the Tucker Patch, with more seasonal plantings in our market garden area, a new asparagus bed, an old strawberry plot resurrected and plenty of good old-fashioned maintenance work carried out by our wonderful volunteers in the Food Forest.
The Patch also ran two successful workshops in the last few weeks – a Make Your Own Marmalade demonstration and Raising Healthy, Disease-Free Tomatoes.
The marmalade-making team used a variety of citrus from the Tucker Patch, as well as a range of donated fruit, to make several dozen jars of delicious marmalade including Seville Orange, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Lime and Mixed Citrus. Workshop participants were given a jar to take home, but if you missed out you can buy some at the Tucker Patch Farmgate Stall on a Friday morning when you pick up your fresh vegies.
Our two-hour tomatoes workshop was presented by local organic grower and horticulturist Marnie Johnson, and was a source of fascinating information. The workshop focused on raising the healthiest tomato, capsicum, eggplant and potato seedlings possible and reducing the risk of common diseases such as wilt, without the use of chemicals.
Marnie shared some priceless tips, such as spraying young seedlings with soluble aspirin to boost crops and protect against diseases such as blight, grafting your preferred tomato variety onto a more disease-resistant rootstock, solarizing your soil to kill soil-borne fungal diseases and more.
Attendees had the option of bringing along a flash drive so they could take home extensive notes from the workshop.
There’s lots more in the pipeline at the Patch, with plans for a new community stall in town, and an action-filled Open Day at the Patch in December. Stay tuned for more information, but meanwhile, keep reading for a quick fix for runny marmalade and tips for growing luscious, tasty strawberries.
Runny Marmalade? Sorted!
• For every 6* cups of marmalade, mix together 1/3 cup of granulated sugar, 1/3 cup water, 45mls of lemon juice (use bottled lemon juice from the supermarket, it's more concentrated) and 6 teaspoons of dried pectin (the sugarless kind, you can get it from Ann at the Health Food Store).
• Mix this with your runny marmalade then bring it to a rolling boil over a high heat and boil for 45 to 60 seconds. Test for thickness (using the cold spoon on the freezer method). This should work perfectly, but if not add a couple more spoons of pectin and boil again for another minute.
*Don’t try to fix more than six cups at a time. Do it in batches as necessary.
10 Tips for Growing Delicious Strawberries
1. Grow in full sun in a slightly acidic soil (a pH between 5.8 and 6.5 is ideal)
2. Choose a site with excellent air circulation and drainage and provide a nutrient-rich soil high in organic matter
3. Plant strawberries in rows one-plant wide to help sunlight penetrate the entire plant and increase fruiting
4. Avoid areas where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers or raspberries have been grown in the past five years, as these plants can act as hosts for verticillium wilt
5. Planting holes should be wide enough to accommodate the roots. Carefully fan out the roots and be sure the top of the crown (the dense area between the roots and stem) remains slightly above soil level while the roots are well buried below
6. After strawberries are planted and fertilised, follow up immediately with a deep mulch
7. Water thoroughly and try to keep the soil evenly moist as the season progresses. Consistent moisture is essential for strawberries’ shallow roots, which need 10–15mm of water per week during the growing season. This is especially important when the flower buds that will turn into next year's crop are forming.
8. Help your plants settle in by removing all flowers for the first four to six weeks
9. Renovate your beds after each harvest period. As a bed ages, plants become too crowded, berries become smaller and yields decline.
10, After renovation, give your strawberry beds a good weeding and feed the remaining plants. Renew mulch between plants and, where winters are severe, cover plants with loose mulch. Remove the mulch in early spring.
Winter tends to be the quietest time of the year in the garden, but at Tucker Patch our group of gardening volunteers have been busy as bees, clearing out old beds, weeding and mulching in the Food Forest, and planting new-season veg in our extensive and ever-expanding market garden.
Thanks to these dedicated volunteers, the gardens are flourishing, jam-packed with healthy citrus trees, salad vegies, herbs, and winter veg such as broccoli, onions, leeks and more, and strawberry plants coming along nicely.
Three types of onions growing in the market garden
.The gardens just keep getting bigger and better, with plans to keep extending and creating new beds that volunteers can use to grow their own food, either just for themselves and/or family, or to sell at our Farmgate Stall on a Friday.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our Volunteer Program, helping in the gardens and learning about organic and permaculture growing methods, contact us at email@example.com or call us on 0484 001 390
Part of the Food Forest after extensive weeding and mulching.
While spring is just around the corner, and days have been mostly warm and sunny, the danger of frost is never far away. Here are some tips to protect your plants:
• Water the garden thoroughly before nightfall. The soil will release moisture into the air around your plants during the night, keep the air warmer.
• Even a slight breeze will prevent cold air from settling near the ground during the night. You can help keep frost from forming by building breezeways.
• Cover up before dusk! By the time it gets dark much of the stored heat in the garden has already been lost. Try building a simple frame around your plants – even a single stake may do – then drape a cover of newspaper, cardboard, plastic tarp, bed sheeting or any other lightweight material over the frame to create a tent. Remove in the morning, once the frost has thawed, to let the light and fresh air back in, and prevent overheating by the sun.
• For smaller, individual plants you can use glass jars, milk jugs with the bottom removed, paper cups and upside-down flower pots as heat traps. Don’t forget to remove these covers in the morning.
• Collect heat during the day by painting plastic milk jugs black, filling them with water and placing them around your plants. The collected heat will radiate out throughout the night.
• Potted plants are particularly susceptible to frosts because the roots are also unprotected. If you are unable to move your container plants indoors or under cover wrap the pot in burlap or bubble wrap, or simply bury it in soil, in addition to protecting the foliage.
• Create heat sinks in the garden, such as gravel beds and ponds.
• Rake mulch away from plant roots in winter to maximise the heat that can be absorbed during the day and radiated at night.
You may be surprised to learn that frost has some benefits too! It can check rodent populations, help prevent the spread of cane toads, kill some undesirable weeds, break the breeding cycle of pests such as fruit fly, help kill pathogenic fungal spores, limiting reinfection, and improve soil.
August is a great time to sow: globe artichoke, jerusalem artichoke, broad beans, beetroot, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrots, capsicum (use a heat mat), celery, choko, kale, lettuce, onions, spring onions, parsnip, climbing peas, dwarf peas, potatoes, radish, rhubarb (crown), silverbeet, spinach and tomatoes (indoors).
From the patch