THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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The Kitchen Garden Guide
I do lots of gardening. I read lots about gardening in books, in magazines, on Facebook and elsewhere online. I talk with all sorts of people, mostly about food – growing it and cooking it and eating it. I learn all sorts. Here are some things I learnt this week.
the cutting edge
Secateurs have a blade and
a curved, blunt edge. The blade does the cutting and the edge holds the stem firm while the blade cuts. Try to position the blade so it is on the side of the plant that is going to remain attached, not on the side that is going to be removed. As the blade cuts, the blunt edge is being pushed against the flesh of the stem. You want the bruised part to fall away and the clean-cut side to stay attached.
Try it and you will see what I mean.
Watering tomato seedlings
We all know tomato plants don’t like their leaves to be constantly wet. But when the plants are small, it is quite hard to avoid overhead watering. Well, as I was doing some shopping in Cygnet, a friend stopped me and told me about
a man who had a great solution, which she happened to recall as I had four one-litre containers of milk in my basket.
Here’s the deal. Put small holes in milk cartons, one on each side near the bottom. Plant the cartons in the holes, alongside your tomato plants, nice and deep; even deeper than the roots. The soil should come a fair way up the side. Then remove the caps and fill the cartons with water. Loosely replace the caps. Bingo. Just top up the water now and then and your tomatoes will grow deep roots and won’t get wet leaves. You can also give a bit of liquid feed and some liquid potash this way, later on in the season.
When it is forecast to be a hot, dry summer or if you are short on water, it is time for the terracotta pot treatment. I seal up the hole in the bottom of some old, chipped terracotta pots by sticking something over it with silicon, put them into the ground up to their necks and fill them with water, then put on a lid and let the water soak out into soil that
I have already watered well, to get it started. Keep refilling the pots. This keeps the soil moist and an even temperature.
In Adelaide, I planted lettuce seedlings around some pots then celery and bush beans around another. This kept five lettuce plants growing happily through a heatwave which lasted two weeks at over 40C with humidity at 3%. I could even pick leaves in the hottest part of the day, and they were crisp. The beans grew fast and strong and the celery was the best I had ever grown. It only went to seed after six months of eating the stems piece by piece all through summer and beyond. Don’t forget to mulch the plants well.
My improved method included linking a line of the pots together (under the lids) with a dripper in each pot. Then I could just turn that on at the tap and fill all the pots at once.
The adult female codling moth lays approximately 60 whitish grey eggs that are about the size of a pinhead on the surface of the leaves of apples, pears and quinces when the average temperature is over 15C in spring and early summer. To reduce their numbers you must act now.
Codling moth eggs hatch after 10 days and the small caterpillars emerge to feed on the leaf surface and make their way to the fruit. They burrow into the fruit and head for the core. They will spend about three to five weeks inside the fruit feeding and putting on body mass until they are ready to emerge. This is the stage we see, when fruit displays the tell-tale hole which leads to brown insides or early rotting when stored.
My mother’s remedy works well though she became embarrassed at the frequent visits to the local bottle shop it necessitated every spring. She had a stash of food tins through which she drilled holes and tied string so she could hang them in a tree. She put
a dash of port and a double dash of water into each, and hung two or three in every apple, pear and quince tree. The male coddling moths are attracted to the port and drown in it, reducing the number of fertile eggs laid by the females. My mother topped up the
Full of beans
Late November is the time for growing beans (earlier if frost free).
Add a handful of potash and
a good spadeful of compost per square metre and fork in lightly. Water well. Add wet mulch. Sow beans into the damp soil and water only when the first leaves appear. It is a good idea to soak the beans overnight before sowing to hasten germination.
Keen to grow climbing beans? If you
are lucky enough to have your own hazelnut, dogwood, bamboo or suitable willow, you can make use of it to erect a frame. (Search Google images for ‘bean poles’ and see how creative you can be).
But beware! We live in the path of the Roaring Forties. Pole beans will blow over unless the structure is secure. I tie one end of my frame to a sturdy fence post. I especially love flat beans and have found some seeds at last.
Bush beans produce bucketloads of fabulous beans all summer without the need for a frame but therefore take up much more room. I love the thin, stringless, French beans as well as borlotti beans. It helps to mulch them.
Bush beans are great for Tasmania as they produce faster than climbing beans. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Saving seed for next year is simply a matter of letting some of the pods mature fully and dry off before picking.
Plant out frost tender seedlings, including tomatoes, after Huon Show Day.
Check your hose fittings, watering cans and irrigation equipment.
Share excess seedlings with friends.
Keep grass under control. (Good luck!)
Most of all, enjoy the garden.
...to plant out later:
Cucumbers (Lebanese or dragon’s egg)
Sow in the garden
Beans (after frosts)
Salad leaves (not just lettuce!)
Brassicas (cover with moth netting)
Salad and spring onions
Sunflowers and lots of flowers
Electric shocks and razor cuts
Margate resident Carol Ebsworth wondered what was happening to her when a strange twitch flashed through her left eye. Then Carol was startled by severe pain. She said it was “like having needles shoved into my eyes”. These days her pain moves around the left side of her face from her temple down through her lips. Carol says,
“It can feel like I am being jabbed in the eye with an electric wire.” She is one of many Tasmanians suffering trigeminal neuralgia.
Trigeminal Neuralgia is one of 140 neuralgias of the face and head, and is particularly nasty version.
The pain can be frightening, with many sufferers having a sensation of electric shocks through one side of the face or of hot knives burning through their teeth or tissues or slashing through their eye. Some find a gentle breeze on the skin can trigger the pain. Eating, talking and brushing the teeth can cause agony. It’s no laughing matter – even a laugh may bring on the pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia sufferers usually experience pain on one side of the face, and may feel it around the eye or in the upper or lower jaw, or sometimes in two or three of these locations.
Trigeminal neuralgia affects people differently along their trigeminal
Being hit by the shock of a ‘lightning strike’ of trigeminal neuralgia pain for the first is rare. It affects five new sufferers in every 100,000 people each year.
The condition has been referred to as the ‘suicide disease’ because the severity and relentlessness of the pain can drive sufferers to extreme measures. The pain is unpredictable. It may continue daily for years, or it may stop suddenly. Getting an accurate diagnosis can be difficult in Tasmania. Often the pain masquerades as a dental or eye problem.
The volunteer-run Tasmanian Trigeminal Neuralgia Support Group holds regular meetings. The group aims to ensure no sufferer feels alone, isolated or ill-informed about the options for help.
The Trigeminal Neuralgia Association of Australia runs conferences, distributes regular newsletters, sends free information packages to new sufferers, and is supported by expert members of a medical advisory board.
Further information is available from Tasmanian Support Group leader Helen Tyzack at email@example.com or on 0459
Information on the Trigeminal Neuralgia Association of Australia can be found at tnaaustralia.org.au, or from secretary Mary Milanovic at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0400 022 971.
Support group meeting
The next Tasmanian Support Group meeting will be on Saturday, 23 November from 9.55am to 12pm at the Rosny Library at 46 Bligh Street. All facial pain sufferers are welcome. This meeting will welcome a special guest, Melbourne-based neurosurgeon Dr Jeremy Russell.
Carol Ebsworth can be contacted on 0409 979 314 or email@example.com. (Please note that if Carol is in pain, she maybe unable to talk.)
The UK will be going to the polls again in December. The news brought to mind a discussion with relatives in the UK about elections, and the different way we do things.
I struggled to explain the Australian system. Now I have read a book called From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia got Compulsory Voting by Judith Brett, it is far easier to get my head around.
Australia is one of only 19 countries that have compulsory voting (out of the world’s 166 democracies). Only nine of these strictly enforce it.
This is one element that has made US politics so different to ours. Here, registration has been compulsory since 1911, and the turnout is always above 90%. Not only is it compulsory to register, but since 1924 it has been compulsory to turn up at polling booths. This is thanks to a piece of legislation that passed a private members bill through both houses of parliament in a single day with hardly any debate.
Initially the fine for not turning up to vote was two pounds (about $160 in today’s money). Now it is $20. It is also possible to turn up, be marked off the role, and then deface your paper or leave it blank, although it seems few people do this.
Another difference between Australia and the UK is that, in the UK, you are registered at the polling booth nearest your home and are required to vote there, though UK citizens can vote by post or by proxy. Here we have advance voting, and we can go to any polling booth we wish. So, we are not disadvantaged if we are away from home unless, as happened to me at the last election, the candidates are not confirmed before you leave – there were no polling booths aboard our cruise ship in the Indian Ocean...
Australia’s flexible arrangements have come about because voting is compulsory. If the government forces you to vote, it has to make it as easy as possible.
Another difference between Australia and the UK is the day we vote. Australians vote on a Saturday, but UK citizens vote on a Thursday. I now know this is a hangover from when Thursday was market day. Hardly a reason for continuing, you might think.
Australia also has preferential voting, another complex concept. Back in 1970, I had a long discussion with a local MP who tried to explain it to me. Most democracies have a system called ‘first past the post’: the candidate with the most votes wins.
Brett’s book helped me grasp Australia’s proportional representation system, which caused consternation in parliament when it was first proposed. According to early 19th-century politician and prime minister Chris Watson, this “fancy method of voting” was too confusing compared with the “simple and easily understood system” of placing a cross against the name of the desired candidate.
Simple it might be, but it does not necessarily ensure the winner has the support of the majority of voters.
If candidate A has 15% of votes, B has 15%, C has 20%, D has 35% and E has 15%, D is clearly the winner with the most votes. But 65% of the electorate voted for someone else. Australia’s formula of quotas ensures the winner has the greatest support, even if he or she was not the first choice of many voters.
I am enjoying the 1975 series of Poldark and have just watched the episode which features an early 18th-century election. The local landowner observes the poll, and woe betide anyone who doesn’t vote according to his wishes.
To combat this problem, Australia became the first nation to hold secret ballots. Secret polling did not begin in Britain until 1872 or across the United States until after the presidential elections of 1884.
In Tasmania, the practice began in 1856.
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