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.
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
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.