Saturday, July 24, 2010

Circling the herbs, and other spices

Herbs planted and mulched

Curry Leaf , Murraya koenigii, is a member of the Rutaceae family with about 1800 species. Citrus and Boronia belong to this family, which is notable for aromatic glands on the leaves. The leaves are used almost daily in Malaysian cooking, and commonly in other asian cuisines. A handful of leaves stir-fried in oil, butter or ghee with ginger and garlic transforms any dish.  This plant is a small tree to 5 metres and has droopy ferny leaves.
Curry Leaf in flower

Boronia fraseri flower, another member of the Rutaceae family

This is Murraya paniculata,  used as a hedge and common in gardens here in the Hunter

Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) belongs to the Asteraceae family, which is also called the Compositeae. The family of Asteraceae/Compositeae are the daisy-type plants with a dazzling range of over 22000 species including globe artichokes, sunflowers and lettuce. Curry Plant only grows to about 50cms.

Curry plant

Chris planted a nice range of herbs with the help of Annie's grand-daughter.  

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Peak Soil

Here's a straight cut and paste from

1. Keep the soil covered. Soil that has dried out during a drought has a diminished capacity to support microbial life and it’s more prone to being blown or washed away. Spread a layer of mulch, preferably something that will gradually break down to feed the micro-organisms in the soil. The use of cover crops in the veggie patch will perform a similar role.
2. Soil can be replenished. It takes time and effort to do so, but through the continual addition of organic matter to depleted soil, fertility can be significantly increased and microbial life enhanced. An added benefit of soils rich in organic matter is the capacity to store moisture. The easiest ways to improve soil at home are by making compost and growing green manures.
3. Avoid cultivating the soil. No till gardening isn’t practical (try growing carrots in non-sandy soil that hasn’t been dug), but we can all aim to make our practices minimum till. Don’t dig for the sake of exercise, and once soil has been dug, try to implement point one (above) as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to regularly spell beds in the food producing garden."

So what is "Peak Soil"? Historic collapses of civilisations  coincide with fall in soil fertility due to over-grazing, no time for soils to replenish fertility between crops, and too much ploughing and tilling. The estimate for Australia and its ancient already depleted soils is around 2060. So read the bit above again, be kind to your garden. Farmers in the Big Garden are beginning to learn and adopt better practices.  Your grandchildren's grandchildren will have a future when we change our bad habits.  
Here's another place to get some information

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Other community gardens

This is the website for the proposed  Warners Bay Community Garden.  I have just had an email from a friend who is one of the hopeful gardeners about a Vegeblitz the group did in her yard.  

"Well, I reckon the first Warners Bay Community Garden's organised VEGEBLITZ (today) was such fun - and wasn't the weather just gorgeous!
I wasn't sure if anyone would come, but I made a pot of pumpkin soup and fresh loaf of bread anyway... at least I would eat it if no-one else came.  I wondered if I should tidy up the garden - but I thought its probably better to see the 'before' and then (after the 1hr of work) the 'after'.
 I shouldn't have worried though - right on time at 1pm, I opened the door to see the first VEGEBLITZ team member - Tony, standing there ready for action with his own spade and pitchfork. We got stuck straight into the clean-up of my vege garden and were joined shortly after by several other friends (team members: Dani, Heidi, Lani, Sonia and Steve) - pulling out the ageing pumpkin vines, putting in my bags of manure and digging it through.  The diggings were quite interesting - with several strange bones and old gardening gloves etc found.  I'm not sure they believed my stories about the bones...."
The establishment of WBCG  garden is yet to happen after nearly two years. A great deal of angst has been caused through finger-pointing  of groups competing for use of the land at Bunya Park and Lake Macquarie council. Ominously, the website has "The Politics" in the list of pages.
Pointing a finger means there are three pointing back. Those three fingers are a reminder   
1/. the person pointing must do some self-examination of actions and motives  
2/. there is more than one  viewpoint to consider, 
3/. backing off and negotiating gets results.  
The warm soft space between the fingers and palm holds a good result, with a triumphant "thumbs-up". This applies to CSCG as well, both within the group and in our relationship with the landowners. And it can be done with one hand tied behind your back!!

Maree, the writer, has a resident group of Water Dragons in her native plant garden which take banana pieces from her hand and will even sit on her lap.  She regularly sends updates on her Dragon Diary. This picture is of George.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Photos of features and new growth

 This small grevillea will grow to about 1 metre and bring in the birds in Winter
One lonely surviving banana in its protective nest


Raindrops on oranges and mud on my gummies

The parterre garden has been planted with a geometric pattern of flowers, herbs and vegetables in rings of colour - red, purple, orange - which will show up as the plants mature. 
"Parterre" simply means "on the ground". 
So Duh! aren't all gardens like that, on the ground? 
Originally they were show-off gardens of gravel and carefully clipped hedges which allowed you to demonstrate your wealth because you could command the services of many serfs/slaves/servants - parterres of this type were and are high maintenance. Ideally you would stand at a height and view the pattern created in the garden, usually from the raised platform in front of a glorious chateau. 
We will have to make do with the steps behind the Old Hall and we are a bit short on serfs.