Grow Your Own Immune Boosting Tea

For week 7 of our Crisis Gardening series we’re covering how you can grow (and make) your own immune boosting tea, or “immune-a-tea” as I like to call it.

Right now the whole world is trying to stay healthy, or get healthy – fostering a strong immune system is something we can all do to help this. This can happen in a range of ways, including drinking daily cups of this herbal brew. You can watch the whole process here, and read about it below.

The 5 herbs you’ll need are…

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Peppermint (Mentha × piperit)

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Can you use dried herbs instead?

Yes! If you’re not able to grow your own, you can buy them from a shop :-).

How to make the tea?

  • Pick equal amounts of the above plant, specifically the leaf of lemon balm, thyme, peppermint, the flower of the calendula and the leaf and flower of the yarrow.
  • Put them all in a large tea pot, add boiling water and cover it with a lid to steep for at least 10 minutes.
  • Drink one – three cups per day for maximum benefits.

How are these plants good for you?

  • Thyme leaf – lung tonic, anti-bacterial, antispasmodic (for coughs), relaxing expectorant
  • Peppermint leaf – digestive, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, diaphoretic (induces fever)
  • Calendula flowers-  anti-inflammatory, wound healing, immune stimulating, anti-bacterial
  • Lemon balm leaf – anti-anxiety, antiviral, digestive, mood uplifting, diaphoretic (induces fever)
  • Yarrow leaf and flowers – diaphoretic (induced fever), tonic, adaptogen

How do I know this?

I consulted with local naturopath Moncia Fancia who provided this recipe (thanks Monica) – you can normally find her working with the renowned Goulds Naturopathica or with Hobart Herbalists Without Borders. Monica and her colleagues have a wealth of knowledge and skill – can’t recommend them enough!

We wish you all good health!

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Three Ways To Grow Potatoes: From Your Balcony To Your Backyard!

From the balcony to the backyard, there’s a method for everyone to grow some of their own potatoes. Originally from South America, these small balls of goodness contain high vitamin C (amongst other nutrients) are one of the only carbohydrates you can grow yourself and there are literally thousands of varieties to choose from.

Our latest Crisis Gardening video shows you three ways you can grow your own. You can watch it now here.

1. The pot (or hessian sack, tree bag or maybe even a pillowcase)

This is the method for people with tiny amounts of space. Think balcony, courtyard or perhaps you’re renting and aren’t allowed to dig up the lawn.

You can buy a “potato bag” from a nursery, or use a hessian sack, tree bag or really probably a pillow case. Please note, I’m yet to try a pillow case, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for one season only (it’ll break down quickly).

2. The in-ground method

If you’re starting with lawn, this involves a fair amount of digging and weeding. It’s perfect for folks without access to lots of resources to build a no-dig garden. Due to covid-19, it can be tricky to source big loads of mulch and/or compost – so we really wanted to show you this method as well.

3. The no-dig method

This is our preferred method as it looks after, and fosters fantastic soil health. Wherever possible we always work towards a no, or minimal till approach to gardening so we minimise/eliminate how much we disturb the soil profile. BECAUSE, each time you dig the ground you’re releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying the structure of the soil. Sounds very dramatic – because it is. You can read/see a bit about no-dig gardening over here on a previous Crisis Gardening vlog.  You can also watch Mr Peter Cundall demonstrate another version of the no-dig potato bed here. Thanks Pete.

When to plant your potatoes

Late winter or early spring is the normal time to plant them – a few weeks before your last frost. Frost harms the leaf, so you’re looking to avoid the cold snaps. We’ll be planting a crop in then, however we’re also doing one in late Autumn (now) as we don’t have heavy/significant frosts on our property. This crop will grow slowly over winter and we’ll harvest it in spring. It wont be the biggest yields, but it’ll be some of the earliest in the region – and that’s what we’re after.

Dutch cream spuds already sprouting. This process is called “chitting” – by sprouting them before you plant them out, they’re getting a head start on growing. 

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Eat Your Weeds: Especially Dandelion!

Week 5 of our Crisis Gardening series has us looking at our weeds – and eating them. Specifically the mighty dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale).

Now, it’s slightly crazy that we spend so much time pampering “traditional” vegetables in the garden when some of the weeds growing in our lawn are significantly more nutritious than they’ll ever be. Take dandelion for example, this beauty of a plant is one of the most nutritious plants EVER tested by the US Department of Agriculture. It’s high in iron, calcium, vitamins A, B6, E and K, thiamin, antioxidants and beta- and alpha-carotene (The Weed Forager’s Handbook).

Obviously we all need to be eating dandelion! Watch our latest video here to get you started. 

More information

  • If you’d like to read about the process, you can also read a much older blog of making dandelion tea (aka dandelion coffee) here. 
  • The Weed Forager’s Handbook: You can buy your own copy of it here

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Hot Composting Video

If you’ve got lots of bulk organic matter in your garden, then hot composting is for you. It’s a great way to process large amounts of material to cycle it back into your landscape to improve soil health and ultimately, grow more food.  You can watch our latest covid-19 Crisis Gardening video to see how we do it in our own garden here.

Additional hot composting resources we’ve created over time include:

In conclusion, compost (in its many shapes and forms) is an essential part of living a good life. Whether you’re doing it in your backyard, community space or your local Council’s facilitating it for/with you – get into it. There’s nothing more satisfying than turning all that comfrey and spoiled straw you can see below into dark brown nutritious compost for our garden!

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Food Waste Composting Video

Food waste composting – it can be a baffling affair, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be a glorious, slightly magical process to help facilitate.

We’ve just popped up another little backyard video as part of our Covid-19 Crisis Gardening series, showing three ways people can compost their food waste – you can now watch it here.

A little disclaimer – it’s so hard for me to put this very brief overview up as I know there’s a million more bits of information that I missed out on telling y’all. For example, things to NOT put in a small compost bin (as seen above) include:

  • Weedy plants, i.e. runner grasses, oxalis and seeds from invasive species. As it’s a cold compost they wont break down and you’ll end up spreading them everywhere!
  • Diseased plants – if you’re plant’s sick, bin or burn it instead of putting it into your compost bin.
  • Large bits of meat/bones.
  • Glossy paper/magazines (too much heavy ink).
  • Some tea bags have polypropylene plastics – check with the brand if you’re not sure.

So be sure to dig a bit deeper into some of our free resources below for a lot more information and inspiration for you to wrap your beautiful brains around.

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Winter Cropping: What to plant now (& how)

This blog and accompanying video is dedicated to folks in temperate/cool temperate climates, which is where we live. Right now it’s Autumn (late March) and we’re doing some of our last winter plantings to make sure we can eat for months to come. Here in cool temperate Tasmania we have very specific windows in which we can plant crops to make sure we can eat from our gardens all year round. If you miss the windows, you miss out on a good garden. Don’t miss the windows.

Due to covid-19, there are a lot of us at home right now and a lot of us are wondering how to secure reliable fresh food for months to come. Ideally you’d grow some of it yourself. Our latest video shows how you can do just this,  you can check it out here.

Crops to plant now for winter eating (and beyond)

DS = Direct sewing and T = transplanting

  • Carrots – DS
  • Beetroots – DS
  • Parsnip – DS
  • Broad beans – DS
  • peas – DS
  • Asian greens – DS
  • Broccoli – T
  • Kale – T
  • Cauliflower – T
  • Celery – T
  • Lettuce – T
  • Leeks – T

Other quick growing crops people can plant now FOR MOST CLIMATES can be seen on our last  video and accompanying blog we did last week here.

Are you in a warmer climate?

For people in warmer climates (i.e. subtropical) check out Robyn Francis’s planting guide.

The key thing to remember

Is that there’s always something you can be planting or doing in a  temperate or cool temperate climate – always. To help you – check out Peter Cundall’s planting guide to help you know what to plant and when for Tasmania and other temperate areas.

Good luck – have fun and just know that gardens are incredibly forgiving, so if it doesn’t work out on your first go, be sure to keep going back for another crack!

 

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Fresh Food Fast: How to grow veggies you can eat within 8 weeks!

We’re living in deeply uncertain times with covid-19 ripping through our world – everything is changing dramatically and quickly *for everyone*. When in crisis we need to look for the opportunities – stuff that can hold us up and stuff that we can control to bring us the goodness and resilience we need. Growing some of our fresh food does this and is one of the most sensible things we can do right now.

Goodbye lawn and hello edible landscapes! Here’s six different ways you can grow food for free (or very little) in your back/front yard, in your courtyard, your balcony or kitchen bench. I also made a backyard video you can watch over on YouTube SHOWING YOU these six different methods in action.

What food can you actually plant right now? (Autumn in southern hemisphere)

This list can be planted in most parts of the world now – if possible, check with your local nursery or garden group to confirm your best options. Also see planting guides here for the rest of the year here for cooler climates, here for the subtopics (zone 2) and here for other climates).  If you’re wondering what climate you live in (for Australia) see this page to help you out.

QUICK crops you can eat within 8 weeks: All can be planted as seeds, directly sowed (DS) into the soil. 

  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Mizuna
  • Amaranth
  • Silverbeet
  • Kale
  • Asian greens
  • Spinach
  • Lettuces
  • Rocket
  • Coriander

LONGER crops you can plant now and eat within 8 – 12 weeks: DS = Directly Sowed, T = Transplanted as seedlings

  • Carrots – DS
  • Beetroots – DS
  • Swedes – DS
  • Garlic – DS
  • Brocoli – T
  • Leeks – T
  • Cabbage – T
  • Broad beans – DS
  • Peas – DS

Where to place your garden?

If you’re gardening outside, some things to consider include…

Sun: If you’re in a cool climate, make sure you place your garden where it get full (or lots) of sun. If you’re in a warmer climate, you also need lots of good sun, but keep in mind when summer rolls around, you may need to provide some shade for it to thrive.

Water: You need to have easy access to water to irrigate the garden as needed. This can simply be a hose and tap.

Access: Make sure it’s easy to get to and monitor your garden. Ideally it’s close to your house and you can see it from one of your windows so you can peek out and check on it as needed.

Protection: If you live somewhere with wildlife pressure like us in Tasmania (i.e. possums, deer, wallabies etc), then you’ll need to fence your garden to keep them out. Keep it simple, it can be some timber/steel stakes and a roll of wire mesh or netting.

Soil preparation

BEFORE YOU PLANT ANYTHING, YOU NEED TO PREP YOUR SOIL. Sorry to shout, but it’s really important. There are many, many great methods for you can learn about, here are a few to get you growing quickly that will either cost you nothing, or very little. 

In-ground method

For folks with limited access to materials and funds, this method just requires an existing lawn, a shovel and some seeds or seedlings.

Dig the desired area of ground and weed out the grass, add a border around the bed to prevent the grass from coming in. Make sure the ground is level and plant directly into the bed.

Be prepared for some weed pressure and some grass/weeds will grow back. You’ll need to manually weed these out.

The easiest in-ground garden bed option. Simply weed out the lawn and add a border (like a moat) to stop grass coming back. 

Sheet mulching

This method is for folks with weed pressure and who can source some cardboard/newspaper and compost.

Do the above method outlined above for in-ground gardening and then add a layer of wet newspaper or cardboard over the top, making sure there’s no gaps in between the sheets.  On top of that add a 5cm later of compost. You can plant seedlings into this immediately by punching a hole through the newspaper. The cardboard layer slows weeds coming back. They’ll still come (and need manual weeding), but this gives you some breathing space.

Wet cardboard to slow weeds coming back with a thick layer of compost (or aged manure) to feed the soil. 

No-dig Gardening

For people with really poor soils (too sandy/rocky or heavy clay), no-dig gardening allows you to build up. This method requires you to bring in all the materials, so only suitable for folks where that’s actually an option. See “box gardens” below for a smaller alternative for above ground gardening.

Strawbale Gardens

Want something super easy and quick? This one’s for you. Again, you have to bring in all the materials, unless you already happen to have some bales lying around your garden.

This is a short-term, one season type of garden where you simply put a series of compost pockets (2 handfuls of compost) directly into the bale and plant your seedling immediately – plus add water. You’ll get a great crop for one season, at the end of which the bale will have started to break down. At this point you can compost the whole bale or use it as garden mulch for another section of your property.

Box Gardens

Box gardens are for those who have no access to earth and limited space, i.e. balconies and courtyards.  Styrofoam boxes can be sourced from local grocers and are small enough that they’re easy to move around. Some will need to have holes punched through the bottom for drainage, while others come with holes. It’s a good idea to add a layer of coarse woodchips or blue metal stones to increase drainage.

Growing Sprouts

If nothing else, you can grow sprouts on your kitchen bench. All you need is a jar, some whole lentils, water, and a clean bit of cheese cloth or a tea towel. You can also use a range of other pulses or seeds – lentils are are go to favourite. You can see the SIMPLE process below – thanks to The Lean Green Bean for these graphic. You can also see a video on the process from our dear friends at Milkwood  over here.

Seed Raising

If you are growing from seed, you might consider growing some crops in seed trays (or egg cartons) in a more controlled microclimate (inside near a sunny window). There are many different recipes for making seed raising mix. We make our seed raising mix with the following – you can also buy some pre-made.

  • 2 parts compost – to provide nutrients
  • 2 parts coco peat – to retain moisture (you could also used aged sawdust/fine woodchips)
  • 2 parts coarse sand – to provide drainage

Where to buy seeds?

In Australia, we use Seed Freaks, Southern Harvest and Diggers as our main ones – but there are so many more. Please post where you source your seeds in the comments below for others to read. Thanks!

The secret to good gardening?

There are a few key things that will help you succeed…

  • Water – make sure you provide adequate water. Notice if it’s been raining (or not) and do the moisture test of sticking your finger in the soil. If it comes out wet – it doesn’t need watering, if it comes out dry then you need to water. I know – so high tech.
  • Weeding – all gardens will need to be weeded at some stage. The hot tip is to weed often when they’re young as it’s 100% easier to remove them then before they become established.
  • Turning up and paying attention is one of the most important keys to successful gardening. This is where you’ll notice any problems and address them.
  • Having a crack! Just have a go, gardens are very forgiving, don’t care if you stuff up (numerous times) and want to grow. Just start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.

Good luck, have some fun with it and may it nourish you and your loved ones. Together (while apart) we can do this.

One more thing

If you reeeeaaalllly wanna chat and learn from us face-to-face (in a remote kind of way), we now offer online consultations which you can read about over here.

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Live Sauerkraut Demonstration With Sandor Katz!

The world is a big and interesting place full of uncertainty right now. Perhaps it always is – but we’re *all* just being personally impacted by it right now due to the global spread of coronavirus (covid-19). Because of this rapid spread, a lot of people are now choosing to self-isolate in their homes as a preventative measure for their own health and to help slow its spread, and we support them.

So much so, that this weekend we moved our “real-life” fermentation workshop and talk with Sandor Katz online to prevent any possible community transmission of covid-19. We were sad to do this, so much time, energy and love goes into planning these events. But we would be more sad if people got sick as a result of us not making this call. So in an effort to still deliver some Sandor fermentation greatness, we streamed a fermentation demonstration to the world via our kitchen. Thanks Sandor, you’re a gem.

You can watch it all below and find more information and resources (including his two books) at his website here. And please excuse the filming quality – it’s just me on my phone, standing in the corner of my kitchen – just focus on the content!

Live "Kraut-A-Thon" with Sandor Katz!

Posted by Good Life Permaculture on Saturday, 14 March 2020

 

 

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Propagation (& Wash) Station Design

For almost 8 years we’ve propagated most of our annual plants (and some perennials) between our sunny dining room table and random patches of grass around the garden. Often the plants I germinate in the pots left in the garden are forgotten about and I unintentionally kill them cause they’re hiding behind the giant corn patch, or the comfrey leaves grew over them. In other words it’s all been a bit random.

Not any more folks. The propagation station of my dreams is here. It’s compact, efficient and easy on the eye. AND it doubles as a wash station for us to clean any excess dirt off crops before bringing them into the kitchen. We’re feeling very pleased with ourselves.

And when the door’s are closed…

Key features include

The sink: The bench is a sink from the tip shop. This means it’s easy to clean, can be happily soaked with water most the time and is darn hardy.

The cupboard: This is where we store pre-mixed potting mix, pots/trays, watering can and a bucket to catch the water from the sink. Eventually we’ll plum it into a garden drain – but for now, it’s more than fine.

The little tray thingo: I’m in love with this $3 tray from the tip shop. This is where all the random little irrigation/hose bits will live, plus some tools I frequently need for propagating. No more losing them throughout the garden.

The shelf: Made from some steel mesh stuff (also from the tip shop), this is where pots/trays will live while growing up. We water them with a watering can and all the excess water flows through the mesh into the sink and the bucket below. Very nice and tidy.

The whole set up is beneath a clear polycarbonate roof – so plenty of sun and it’s protected from strong winds. However in the depths of winter it’s still too cold to germinate plants, so we’ll still germinate some seedlings inside on our sunny dining table and in our cold frame.

Slowly, we’re implementing our property design where little nooks like this result in efficient systems and practices becoming the norm. Goodbye random!

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Home Harvest: Host Callout!

We’re happy to announce we’re working with Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania to hold the inaugural “Home Harvest” garden tour in the Hobart municipality!  Special thanks to the City of Hobart for funding this great initiative.

Home Harvest is going to be a one day event on March 7th, 2020 in the Hobart municipality where productive gardens open their gates to invite the public in to have a look – best day ever right?! The main aim is that people are inspired to start (or continue) to grow their own food to increase local resilience and for all round general health and wellbeing.

Right now we’re doing a big callout to find more productive gardens in the Hobart municipality who’d like to be included. For more information, read on below…

Click here to register your garden here and we’ll be in touch shortly. Please note, applications close on January 31st.

Host Information

To be a host you need these things:

  • A productive garden! This can be tiny, small, large or massive – there are no limitations on scale and we aim to show a large range of diverse gardens of all shapes and sizes. A productive garden can include vegetables beds, orchards, animals, compost systems – or it might be a balcony garden with one herb garden. We want them all!
  • To be in the Hobart municipality. As this project is funded by the City of Hobart this is non-negotiable.
  • Up for a chat – they’ll be a lot of questions on the day and you’ll be required to show people around and explain what’s happening in your patch.
  • Available on March 7th for a set amount of hours. The hours you open your gate are negotiable and will be clearly promoted so people only come in this time.
  • Passionate about growing food in urban spaces!
  • You can be a private garden or a community space and we wholeheartedly welcome people who are renting.

Keen? click here to sign up today!

What support do you receive to do this?

  • There is a small fee to reimburse you for your time of $100.
  • We will provide you with a “Home Harvest” host sign that can be attached to your fence/gate so people know you are part of the tour and can easily find you.
  • Good Life Permaculture will organise all bookings in consultation with you so you can control how many people come and when.
  • Prior to the day we’ll drop off some free gardening resources you can hand out to visitors to help them get growing and composting.

Privacy

We respect your privacy and won’t publish your home address on our website. Instead, we’ll provide a brief profile of each garden on our website and a general location in Hobart (i.e. suburb). Once people book in to your garden, we’ll provide only those people with your address details in a private email.

Is Home Harvest free for folks?

Yes, for people wanting to come along on the day there’s no charge at all.

Click here to register your garden here and we’ll be in touch shortly. Please note, applications close on January 31st.

Home Harvest is a partnership project between Good Life Permaculture, Eat Well Tasmania, supported by Sustainable Living Tasmania and funded by the City of Hobart.

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