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).
You may have noticed over the past few weeks that there have been a few changes to the Tucker Patch website, including a fresh new look and extra sections such as recipes, a regular blog, updates on what's happening in the Tucker Patch garden and more. We also plan to feature gardening advice from our growers and readers, so if you have any natural remedies or tips to beat the frost, or combat bugs and diseases, please send them in so we can share them.
I’d like to also introduce myself as the new Webmaster.
Hugo (my wonderful partner who is originally from Chile), and I moved to Gloucester from Gulgong six months ago and we love it here. We have wonderful neighbours, and have met some lovely people who have made us feel very welcome.
Hugo and I were particularly pleased and excited when we found The Tucker Patch and quickly became members only a week after we arrived.
I grew up on my family’s farm and my childhood was both educational and priceless – although I probably didn’t appreciate it at the time! My mother was a wonderful cook and had a cupboard from ceiling to floor just for her preserves. My two sisters and I would have to go and collect fruit, berries or whatever was ready for picking from Dad’s vegie garden for Mum to preserve. I thought she was being a bit hard at the time, when all we wanted to do was build a cubby house in the trees!
But now I say – thank you Mum. Today, just like my mother, I love to see my pantry full of preserves. The wonderful local produce from the Tucker Patch lets me continue preserving, as well as making delicious fresh, plant-based meals, smoothies and all sorts of other treats. And the best part is I know where it has come from and it is free of chemicals and pesticides – a bonus that will surely help us reach our goal of achieving 100 years of age!
- Lorraine Lawler
PS: If any of our growers or readers have any natural tips to beat the frost, or combat bugs or disease in the garden, please let me know so we can share!
Last Call For Tucker Patch Car Boot Sale!, and with a cut-off date for booking at COB Tuesday 30th, for more information go to: http://tuckerpatch.weebly.com/events.html
An old family favourite Gramma Pie
Make your favourite short crust pastry for this yummy gramma pie filling
3 Cups gramma steamed after peeled and seeded
1/2 brown sugar
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cup cream
small hand full of sultanas
1 teaspoon golden syrup
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp all spice
While still hot place gramma, eggs, cream, sugar and spices in a processor and whiz until smooth. Line a pie plate with short crust pastry. Pour cool gramma into the half cooked pastry shell base, cover top of pie with more pastry squishing the two edges together, not forgetting to make a rose and leaves for the top of your pie, brush top of pie with egg or milk and bake in a moderate oven until pastry is golden brown, Cool, serve with cream or ice cream, or just top with your favourite nuts and fresh whipped cream.
Our Working Bee this month was attended by ten people (or was it eleven?) and next time you visit you will immediately see the results.
A lovely new herb garden has been planted just behind the Farmgate Stall and the surrounding areas now look as neat as a pin, thanks to the group of "gardening" volunteers.
New plants in the blank spots beside the carpark are also looking hopefully up at the sunshine. And the packing shed has had a new lease of life, with all that "stuff" that's been collecting over the past year being cleared out, and everything dusted, tidied and cleaned - thanks to the group of "housework" volunteers!
We are a community group of dedicated volunteers who run the Tucker Patch in Gloucester, and we would be delighted to welcome you to see our work here.
You will see a unique example of a demonstration garden which champions the spread of local sustainable agriculture. You will be amazed to see how we have converted a barren, underutilised area into productive agricultural land without using any chemical sprays or fertilisers.
Here, we trial small and large-scale crops as a model for sustainability. You will see a large market garden that is farmed by one of our members, producing a variety of award-winning crops using organic methods; you will see a small plot where local students are trained in horticultural methods; you will see a beautiful permaculture-style food forest with everything from fruit trees down through climbing and bush vegetables to creeping ground crops; and you will see small gardens that demonstrate how you can produce a remarkable quantity of high quality veggies in your own back yard.
Our visitors are particularly delighted by our surrounds – our gardens have beautiful views over the Gloucester valley, and you can sit in our lovely cottage garden by the fountain and enjoy the clear air and the sounds of our delightful family of grey-crowned babblers, a threatened species of bird which inhabits the small area of bushland within our perimeter.
If you come to our Farmgate on a Friday morning, you will also be able to purchase some of our wonderful produce, or try out the local organic honeys, nuts, preserves, jams and eggs which local farmers bring to our farm gate, or even sit down in the cottage garden and enjoy a cup of tea.