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.