THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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The Kitchen Garden Guide - July
Managing, rather than draining away, the water that falls on your land and the water that flows from elsewhere onto and through your land is an often misunderstood concept. For some reason getting rid of this water is seen as the aim, whereas making use of this water in the landscape is much more beneficial to you, to the flora and fauna, to soil life and aesthetically. Of course, rural living often means capturing and storing the water that lands on structures but even this can be achieved more attractively.
Seattle is a city of inspiration, when it comes to community gardens and interesting ways to manage water. I spent a fabulous few days there in 2008, being shown around by a fellow food gardening blogger, discovering their incredible P-Patch system of community gardens as well as the quirky and fascinating downpipes and drainage reserves all over the city.
My current renovations include new roof areas and downpipes and I will be incorporating some ideas from Seattle. One of these is to suspend two downpipes out across the path, above head height, into part of the vegetable garden, then down a series of interesting sculptures, into a purpose-built but attractive ditch which will, with a series of small soakage ponds, take excess water to an already existing, large pond. The ditch and small ponds will encourage as much water as possible to soak in and will provide spots to grow riparian plants and bog plants near the downfall and will water various fruit trees along the way, decreasing flow to less water-hungry plants further down the system. The position of the overflow from the big pond will be changed so that it meanders through and soaks into my new Japanese garden. Finally, if water makes it right to the end of all this, it will end up in the creek at the front of my property, which is itself already a series of ponds with overflow points, made by a previous owner.
If I had left the design to the plumber, there would be ditches dug and hundreds of metres of pvc pipe channelling all the water to the creek. Yuk.
A delicious, winter-ripening fruit is a rare treat and that is a good enough reason to invest in a few feijoas. Size wise, they are very manageable, making a nice, dense, tall, hedging shrub or small tree…. eventually! They are totally frost hardy, have attractive red and white flowers in autumn and keep their robust leaves all winter. Evidently there are quite a few varieties but I have not seen them in Tasmania. For all the information you could possibly need, head to the facebook page ‘Edible Gardens by Craig Castree’ and search for feijoas. He is in Tasmania. I have fruit this year on mine and am thoroughly enjoying them right now. You must wait for the fruit to fall. Don’t pick them. Bring the fruit inside and leave until they feel soft. Cut open and suck or scoop out the beautiful flesh.
Choosing and sowing tomatoes
If, like me, picking tomatoes from the garden is a favourite sport of yours then July is the time to get your seeds started. With no idea what this summer season will be like, we need to hedge our bets and choose a range of tomatoes; some that will produce in a cool season, some for a hot season, some that will thrive even in the rain and some that can tolerate wind.
I always grow some Rouge de Marmande because, no matter what, they will provide you with a prolific crop of medium sized, red tomatoes on sturdy, bush plants. I always grow one Black Cherry as they are the most flavoursome of the cherries, in my opinion, and are reliable. After that, I go for a dense, luscious, tasty tomato like Black from Tula which may not ripen as fast in a cool summer but is nearly always the highlight of my garden. Next I would choose San Marzano, as a cooking tomato as they go on and on for months. Last year I grew Speckled Roman; a large, red, cooking tomato, decorated with speckles and stripes. I will grow that instead of San Marzano this year. Very prolific, very long season and so beautiful.
Basically, fruiting plants like tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants need a long growing season, as they have to first get to a good size, then flower, then the fruits must grow and finally they need time to develop flavour and to ripen. Sow these now, preferably with even, bottom heat, rather than sun. Over each tray I put a sheet of glass. This is for two reasons. Firstly, successful seed germination depends on high humidity, but constant watering can be too much, causing low germination. Once the seeds are gently watered at sowing,
covering with a glass sheet keeps in the moisture without any further watering needed before germination. Secondly, mice love seeds and this is a fool proof way of keeping them out.
If you are interested in having a stall at a not-for-profit garden market in Cygnet, one is coming in September. Contact me at katevag@gmail for details.
In the frosty garden
Sow broad beans to harvest or for green manure. Plant out more leeks and onions.
Sow in situ in the greenhouse (or outside in frost-free areas)
Coriander, miners’ lettuce, spring onions, Asian veg, lettuce, bok choy, sugar snap peas.
Sow now to transplant later
Broccoli varieties such as summer purple-sprouting and raab, red cabbage, kales, parsley.
For a comprehensive, Tasmanian, monthly, food garden guide, search online for “Food Garden Group calendar”. Thanks to Max Bahrfeldt, in Hobart.
Holidaying at home with fresh eyes
Three months back I enthused about a lovely Tasmanian holiday experience in an article extolling the virtues of holidaying at home. Why travel overseas or interstate when we have such wonderful beauty spots on our doorstep? We are a wonderful holiday spot! Having been given a gift in early February of a few days accommodation at Lemonthyme Wilderness Retreat, we duly accessed our booking in mid-March. The trip was delightful, the accommodation very comfy and Dove Lake in the Cradle Mountain National Park was everything we expected. Beautiful. Why go overseas, we asked ourselves, when we have all of this? Whammo! Unfortunately for us all, COVID-19 happened. As the enormity of the health scare became apparent, people were becoming anxious to get back to their own homes. People began scurrying to return to all parts of the world, while locals tried to get home again to our state. Suddenly, the possibility of doing anything locally quickly became out of the question. Our state government applied rules to keep us all safe. Lockdown eventually occurred and we are the safer for it. Kudos to the state government and all the businesses who have complied. Thank you to the government, businesses and organisations for keeping the information flowing. Thank you to all frontline health personnel who worked to keep us safe. Nothing is ever perfect, but we have come through a difficult time quite well, folks, all things considered. Now, helping our economy by supporting local businesses is high on the agenda for us all. Trying to re-establish normal may not be the only way to recover. Maybe we have learned to enjoy the new ‘slow’ and unhurried pace. Maybe we can look more closely at our state and our lifestyle to be better prepared for educating our visitors, either guests or tourists, when life begins again.
Thinking of better times
Now that things are getting better, we can think more seriously about holidaying at home, within guidelines and limitations, of course. There is so much for us to see and learn about our state and its charms, that the need for rushing off to somewhere else seems a bit ridiculous. I have never liked the idea of a boat cruise, or crowds, or too much organisation of my leisure. Outdoor recreation in many forms, including walking, exploring, boating and fishing has more attraction. The locations where we have most enjoyed these pursuits now deserve a better look. Where to start? With so many options, we decided to spend some time on the peninsula, at Port Arthur, but this time without a boat in tow. We are looking forward to looking at the sights with fresh eyes. Many friends are thinking of doing the same, the main requirement is that we can spread ourselves around and help the local economy!
Fresh eyes of experienced guides
The local dog park is a good way to safely and casually chat to others, exercise, get some outdoors time and give our best friends some much needed socialising and their own rambunctious exercise. Over the weekend we were discussing plans to visit local spots for exercise for people and pooches. I mentioned Skinner’s Creek had been partially reopened. A young man who had brought his dog to the park thought I had said Lake Skinner, leading to a chat about out of the way places, including Macquarie Harbour, surrounding areas and Denny King. This young man talked of King’s lomatia, or Lomatia tasmanica, an extraordinary ancient plant, thousands of years old, found in the area. It is apparent that all known plants of Lomatia tasmanica are of a single clone. According to my Tasmanian plant bible, Tasmania’s Natural Flora, fossil leaves found at a different location have been dated at more than 43,000 years old. The plant and the site are precious. We discussed how important it is to know about the uniqueness of plants, their sites and protection of natural treasures. This articulate, intelligent young man is a professional tour guide. He is looking forward to being able to show locals and visitors around again soon. The experience of the great outdoors could certainly be enhanced by engaging an experienced, professional local tour guide who knows and loves his work. By learning more we can help to educate and entertain tourists and visitors, spreading the word about our special state.
To bee or not to bee
Do you remember when the European bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) first appeared in Tasmania? It was back in 1992 that the first one was spotted around the Hobart dock area and a call went out for people to report seeing them so their progress across the state could be mapped. There has been strong debate ever since about whether they were deliberately or inadvertently introduced. For those that oppose the bee, concerns include its potential, with its much larger size, to spread the pollen from weeds and introduced plants, threatening native species. However, the flip side to this debate is that the bumble bee can assist with horticultural activity, saving millions of dollars in local production costs.
However, this was not the first European bee to be introduced, as I found out recently whilst doing more family history research. Bees were first successfully introduced into Tasmania in 1831.
Thomas Braidwood Wilson FRGS (1792-1843) was a surgeon, naturalist, and explorer who had a very eventful life. He was born in Scotland, the son of James, and Catherine Boak. Several of his siblings came to Tasmania in the early years and settled in the Midlands. But Thomas studied at Edinburgh University and became a doctor of medicine. He joined the Royal Navy in 1815 and made nine voyages to Australia as a very caring and compassionate surgeon-superintendent on convict ships. He states in his book that the information in the appendix was based on his supervision of, “nearly two thousand prisoners, without having met with any difficulty, or disturbance, worth mentioning”.
The times were extremely dangerous and many of the sea voyages were eventful. In 1829 he travelled on the return journey of the ‘Governor Ready‘ to Australia when it was shipwrecked in the Torres Strait. Wilson and some of the crew rowed 1,600km to Timor.
Aboard the ship, ‘John’, Wilson returned in 1831 to Hobart Town with a hive of bees, which had survived the trip to Australia, together with many European plants. The bees were the first European bees brought to Tasmania. Wilson was presented with an engraved snuffbox with the inscription praising him for, “introducing to (the colony) some of the most valuable plants and animals, but especially the honeybee, which are now in a manner become indigenous to it.” (Keith Campbell, ‘Bees’, ABC Radio National, Ockham’s Razor with Robyn Williams, 2002).
Thomas Wilson sailed around Western Australia and named, after his commandant, many of the features like the hill overlooking what became Mount Barker. Wherever he went he collected seeds to take back to his friend Allan Cunningham at the Sydney Botanical Gardens. A species of grevillea from Western Australia, Grevillea wilsoni, was named after him, as was Wilson’s inlet in Western Australia’s King George’s Sound – now home to the thriving town of Albany.
Somehow, he found time to write of his travel experiences and published them in 1835. (Wilson, Thomas Braidwood – Narrative of a Voyage round the World. London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper). The title page of the book describes the contents as: ...an account of, the wreck of the ship ‘Governor Ready’ in Torres Straits; a Description of the British Settlements on the Coasts of New Holland, more particularly Raffles Bay, Melville Island, Swan River and King George’s Sound; also, the Manners and Customs of the Aboriginal Tribes: with an Appendix, containing Remarks on Transportation, The Treatment of Convicts During the Voyage, and Advice to Persons Intending to Emigrate to the Australian Colonies. – by T. B. Wilson, M.D. Surgeon, R.N. Member of the Royal Geographical Society.
Wilson’s first land grants were in the Oatlands area of Tasmania, where his brother George lived, however, he exchanged these for grants in the Braidwood district (NSW) before settling there in 1835. Wilson’s grants in Braidwood amounted to 2,000 hectares in recognition of his exploration, to which he added another 1,600 plus hectares of purchased and leased land. The family property was known as “Braidwood Farm” (since changed to “Mona”). When the township was formed it took the name of Braidwood in his honour.
Like the TV program, Who do you think you are, you never know who or what you will turn up!
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