Posts from the ‘Urban agriculture’ category

Learning The Art Of Growing

Good things happen when people come together around food, so our ‘Real Skills for Growing Food’ workshop on the weekend was particularly great, as people got to learn how to grow their own food (and eventually eat it of course).

We love these weekends, it’s a time where we can bring together some of Tasmania’s most talented growers to share their skills, passion and deep knowledge on all things productive and edible. Here’s a whirlwind tour of what went down.

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We started the weekend in Suzi Lam’s urban market garden. This woman, I tells ya – she’s more than good, knows soils inside out and her passion for gardening and life in general is contagious.

Suzi took the students through the importance of soil health and approaches to achieve this, including making complete organic fertiliser, using ramial woodchips and making hot compost.

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image2Building a compost pile with Suzi

We then moved the workshop to the Hobart City Farm which is a project very close to our hearts and hands. Here we explored propagation and seed saving with James Da Costa who’s one of the co-founders of the City Farm.

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IMG_4141Sand, coco peat and compost, three key ingredients for a propagation mix.

IMGP0079Broad beans, one of the easiest seeds to save and grow.

Day two of the workshop saw local grower, Jonathon Cooper take folks through an overview in market gardening.

IMG_4147Jono showing folks a broadfork – a popular tool for any market gardener

He took everyone through the fundamentals including must have tools, the importance of good design, managing weeds, crop planning and extending your season – which can be critical in our cool temperate climate.

IMG_4173Stacey and Megan weeding the garlic patch with stirrup hoes, with the very wonderful Bridget supervising.

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To finish off the weekend, Anton tool the class through a range of techniques for growing food including the biointensive method, companion planting, no-dig gardening, and planting fruit trees.

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IMGP0074   IMGP0089Happy students!

Students had a go at laying out beds for crops using the biointensive method with close spacings to make the most out of the area available.

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IMG_4195Planting out and watering in the no-dig garden

IMGP0020 2Megan working on the no-dig garden bed

Thanks so much to all the wonderful people who came along, we wish you a life time of growing, inside and out…

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Thanks also to our special teaching team – (from left to right) Jonathon Cooper, James Da Costa, Suzi Lam and Anton Vikstrom. If you ever have the opportunity to work with, or learn from, any of these people – grab it, they’re gold.

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Our next ‘Real Skills for Growing Food’ workshop will be in 2016, join our monthly newsletter to make sure you hear about it.

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Mashua: AKA Perennial Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are my favourite plant ever – one of my earliest memories is of drinking rain drops out of their leaves (cause that’s how the fairies did it) and they’ve really stuck with me ever since. As I grew older I loved the fact the you can eat the leaves, flowers and make ‘poor man capers’ out of the seed pods, plus they’re a great living mulch in the garden, attract beneficial insects and easy on the eye.

Over the years I’ve planted them in pretty much every house I’ve lived in and these days I have a giant mural of them on our bathroom wall. I even took it to the next level and requested that Anton (my now husband) sew my wedding dress so it depicted a nasturtium patch… And he did – it’s amazing, as is he. So when I found out that there’s a perennial nasturtium (called mashua) only less than a year ago – well, I got excited.

Mashua-PhotosImage from here

It’s official name is Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) and it was traditionally grown in South America as a root crop. That’s right people, you can eat the leaves, flower AND TUBERS. I know, amazing.

While it is a perennial, it’s sensitive to frost and cold so will die back in winter and grow fresh plants from new tubers in spring. So late winter is the time to pull it up, subdivide all those tubers for eating and/or growing.

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It grows rampantly as a climber or ground cover and the flowers and leaves are similar to the common nasturtium plant, but have their own twist.

mashua-Pilifera-plant-1024x767Image from here

IMG_3939The leaves die back as the cold sets in with winter

As this was the first time we grew the plant, we just watched to see what would happen. They spread out under our fruit trees, had a half hearted go at flowering (it was a bit cold) and then slowly started to shut down and go ‘green/brown’ as winter set in.

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In recent weeks we started weeding the orchard and noticed a plethora of tubers at the base of each plant. Up until then, we didn’t realise that (a) they had such prolific tuber production and, (b) you could eat them. It was a happy day of discoveries that one. So far we’ve only tried eating them roasted (just like potatoes), sadly we weren’t in love with their taste, but will keep trying different recipes until we are.

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And they’re beautiful, don’t you think? We’ve currently got a big bowl of them in our house and each friend who comes through leaves with at least one in their pocket to have a go in their own gardens. Plus we’ve sent some over to the Hobart City Farm to grow in their perennial beds. Gotta spread the love round.

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We’re feeling a bit ‘mashua rich’ at the moment – all this loot came  from one plant.

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From what we can gather, mashua generally grows in a temperate climate and, like seed potatoes you can cut each one into smaller bits, with each one becoming its own plant. If you do this, just make sure each piece has at least two eyes (the dimply depressions) on it and that you harden them off so the cut can dry out and form a callus.

Where can you get your own mashua plant?

If you’re lucky enough to be in Tasmania, visit Provenance Growers at the Hobart Farm Gate Market and they’ll sort you out. If you’re in the US, I found this fantastic mob called Cultivariable who stock it, plus a million other great, lesser known food plants.

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Urban Living At Its Greatest

Meet Fin and Cara, they’re rad.

We met these two on our first Permaculture Design Course (in Good Life’s name) back in 2013 and have loved bumping into them around the place – they’re doers these two, and rather talented ones at that. Fin is one of the gardeners at The Agrarian Kitchen (and makes a mean homebrew) and Cara works as a school gardener and a graphic designer and can do pretty much anything as far as I can tell.

I paid a visit to their tiny rental home recently in central Hobart as word has got out about what they were up to. Not only do they have a beautiful multi layered garden in their own rental home, they also have a mini market garden AND they have a little shop out the front of their place where they sell homegrown produce, preserves and flowers. Oh the greatness!

IMG_2410Cara and Fin flanked by citrus trees, worm farm, scarlet runner beans, grapes, cucumbers, herbs, chillis and more

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These two moved into the house a few months back – their landlord (another old student of ours) used to live here and planted a lot of fruit trees so these guys are now reaping the rewards of his work and taking it to the next level with adding a pumping vegetable garden in every nook and cranny they can find.

IMG_2407Annual and perennial crops (and these two lovely humans) live super closely side by side in harmony

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Clotheslines aren’t safe around these folk – they become structures on which to grow edibles such as beans (above) and tomatoes (below). They definitely have their priorities straight…

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IMG_2379Walking around Fin and Cara’s garden is like a treasure hunt as you get to find surprises like little worm farms hiding beneath the critus tree.

As well as selling vegies, flowers, herbs and preserves, Fin and Cara sell compost worm kits (online through gumtree) for people to kickstart their compost and garden. I know – they’re on fire aren’t they.

10353724_799478036826454_6638145003553653910_nFin sorting his worm castings from the worm farm

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Then, out the back and around the corner of the garden is a small hot house used for propagating all their plants…

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And then there’s their kitchen – which is as tiny, spunky and productive as their gardens. Despite its smallness, it’s massively alive with ferments, preserves and good vibes – gotta have those vibes.

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10980756_799478130159778_5110270482523560480_nSauerkraut in action

Now, in addition to this wonderful garden – Cara and Fin have also got busy and made a mini market garden at their friends place in the next suburb over. This is where they keep their chickens and grow bulk crops. Check it out…

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Finally, there’s their shop! This is where they sell all their excess produce and bring joy to everyone who gets to walk past it.

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This sweet-as shop sells all their latest produce from their two gardens plus any preserves or excess seedlings they have. There’s a simple ‘honesty box’ where people can pop in their cash and pick up their goods which means Fin and Cara don’t actually need to stand on the footpath all day, every day. You usually see this type of thing out the front of farms in the country – we love that they’re doing it in down town Hobart. Legends.

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IMG_2397It happened to be Valentines Day when I dropped in – so the flower side of things was particularly pumping.

You can drop in and check out their shop anytime, it’s on the corner of York and Gosvenor St, Sandy Bay. If you’re lucky enough to actually see Fin and/or Cara while you’re there, be sure to given them a high 5 for making good stuff happen.

*PS – On a tangent – if you ever need some super funky graphic design work done – Cara’s your woman, she’s a very multi talented lass this one. Track her down through they’re compost worm add here.

**PPS – Thanks to Cara for letting us use some of her photos – all the good ones are hers. In fact if you ever need a photographer – ask Cara.

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