Past Visits

On Sunday 7 May the Food Garden Group visited Margaret's garden at New Town:

On a morning when rain threatened and temperatures did not reach double-digit figures a good crowd met in Margaret’s winter garden.

Here Margaret (blue shirt) welcomes everyone. She then realised how cold it was and quickly rugged up before showing us her garden.

One bed had a rich crop of Pepito pumpkins (seed from Diggers). This pumpkin variety is not grown for its flesh, but for its seeds.

Margaret opened one of them and showed us the all-important pumpkin seeds that don’t have a hull and that can be eaten raw, roasted or microwaved. They are eaten in things as diverse as muesli, salads or stir-fries.

Margaret’s winter garden also contained many brassicas and a great crop of Queensland Blue and Butternut pumpkins.

Margaret designed her house herself and gave it an L-shape, with the inside of the L facing North. This has created a very effective sun trap that is protected from winds. She uses the area to great advantage for things like a Cumquat and a Tamarillo. Her Tamarillo tree is thriving and has an incredible amount of ripening fruit. In a row of laundry basins she grows herbs, tomatoes and other crops that prefer warmth.

But the space ‘on the outside of the L’ (on the shade-side of the house) is not wasted: there she grows berries and Cape Gooseberries successfully. Margaret picks kilos of Cape Gooseberries every year. It was interesting to see how far she had pruned back these bushes, now, at the beginning of winter.

Her block used to be dominated by large trees that have now been removed. This makes her garden a lot more open and light. Margaret has now planted a row of fruit trees and berries that she will espalier along her Northern fence. The photo shows a Nashi pear.

When the house was built Margaret had a large water tank installed that in most years catches enough water to irrigate the garden until around mid December. In her house she has a nifty C-Bus system that controls all electronics in the house from a panel in her kitchen (see photo below).

She also uses this to automatically irrigate six areas in her garden, and finds that this automated system lowers her water bill.

Power lines go underground to six electronically operated valves called solenoids (black little box in the photo on the left) that open and close according to Margaret’s watering schedule. Beds are irrigated with drip lines.

This was an instructive and very enjoyable morning with great contributions to morning tea and the produce table. Many thanks to everyone!

I like to thank Margaret for being happy to host this visit at a time of year when many gardeners prefer not to host a food garden visit. Her willingness to make her kitchen/dining area available for morning tea was much appreciated because the cold would have made for a short morning tea outside.

On Sunday 23 April the Food Garden Group visited Mandy's garden at Snug:

After over night rain the weather gods decided to hold off on more rain and this allowed an almost record crowd to have a great time in Mandy's completely-netted food and ornamental garden.

Mandy pointed out that the area might be no bigger than the average suburban garden, but the fact that it is completely dedicated to and designed for growing fruit, vegetables, ornamentals and chooks, makes this garden very efficient, productive and attractive.
Mandy's fully netted food and ornamental garden
Mandy's land is sloping down from the road to the Snug River.  When she bought the land some five years ago Mandy planned to have her house built along the road, but she was not allowed to do so, so she then put her netted garden there and is now very happy with the result. 

Here Mandy welcomes us and explains how the netted area was constructed
Mandy has a real eye for combining produce and ornamentals and that makes this garden a delightful area to be in.  Many of us felt inspired to try and achieve the same in our gardens.

Mandy has 2 x 4 raised beds for vegetables
On the road side of the netted area is a row of fruit trees espaliered in a shape that I had not seen before.

I asked Mandy how she had managed to have two small espaliered apple trees with 20 - 30 big apples  without thinning and without coddling moth holes, and her answer was good stock (from Woodbridge Nursery) and beginners luck, because I did not do anything special to achieve this.  The trees are of course protected by the netting and Mandy's 'improved clay' must also be a reason.

And look at these grapes.  Mandy must be doing something right.

These Aubergines in one of her raised beds were also very happy.

Look how ornamental these Mustard plants are:

In the photo below you can just see the border of espaliered stone fruit trees on the right.  There is a corridor within the netted area, on three sides of the garden, that Mandy uses for her chooks.

I hope to describe this garden in more detail (layout, components, construction etc.) in a future blog post to inspire those who have problems with wildlife to build their netted areas.

At the entrance to the garden is a solar panel that collects electricity for lights that are at the top of poles.  This allows Mandy to garden after dark.

These are standard garbage bins fitted with a worm habitat retro kit.  Mandy uses them successfully as worm farms (for more info see ).

Mandy very kindly offered to show her award-winning passive solar home to those that were interested.  It is one thing to be aware of energy-efficient building, but to see in real life how successful this can be was appreciated by many of us.

Morning tea was a veritable smorgasbord!

And the produce table was also thriving!

Many thanks Mandy for hosting this wonderful food garden visit, and thank you everyone for your contributions to morning and produce table, and making this a successful event.

Everyone had a wonderful time.

On Sunday 19 March the Food Garden Group visited Karen's garden at New Town:

As you walk past the house the first impression is that you are entering a large, level, classically styled, ornamental garden. But when you look past the pleasingly trimmed hedges, nicely ball-shaped bushes and arches, you begin to see a very interesting array of food plants, some of which are not common.

Karen (2nd from left) welcomes us and discusses her projects
Fruits and vegetables can be found throughout the garden. The area in the photo below is one of two specifically dedicated to them. It has vegie beds (foreground), a large netted berry area behind that, a hothouse and a chook pen. The chooks were happily foraging in a sheltered area between the berries and the fence. The second vegies area is at the other end of the garden and is maintained by Karen’s husband.

Karen's main veggie garden
Karen demonstrated making netting out of recycled baling twine (photo below).

Karen making nets in her gazebo
She uses these nets for instance to grow zucchinis along them (see photo below). The system is working well because she does not allow her zucchinis to become too big. The netting gently moves in winds. It is a great way to grow zucchinis without taking up very much ground space.

Zucchini plants happily growing skyways
The photo below shows an Italian zucchini variety called Tromboncini (seed bought from Diggers). They often have a more circular ‘trombone shape’. This one may have ‘gone straight’ because it is hanging.

Zucchini Tromboncini
This year Karen grew a tomato variety named ‘Sam’s Tomato’ (bought it at Denis McKercher’s tomato sale).  There was still one giant on a bush when we came, but my photo did not make it clear how big it was.  Below is a photo Karen took a few weeks back.  The largest one was 120mm across.

Sam's Tomatoes are enormous

A nice crop of capsicums
Sweet corn going strong
One of Karen’ ongoing projects is growing bananas.  She is building up a collection of banana plants, all at different stages of growth, both in her hothouse (see photo below) and north-facing sunroom.  She hopes to gradually arrive at the situation where she can pick some ripe bananas every year, but this is not so easy to achieve in our climate (for more info about Karen’s banana growing see blog post Growing bananas in Hobart ).

Two banana plants and two aubergines in the hothouse
Karen demonstrated how to separate a young shoot from its parent banana plant and pot it up (see photo below).
Separating a shoot and putting it in its own pot

Against a warm north-facing wall of her house we saw a Yacon (South American – grown for its sweet tasting tuberous roots).  The plants were tall and looked very happy in this spot.  Karen digs up the tubers in mid winter when there is not much produce coming out of the garden.

In the same patch another uncommon plant, Sweet Potato (see photo below).  Karen showed us how she had pegged a Sweet Potato branch to the ground in the hope that a new plant will develop.

Sweet potato growing vigorously

Around the corner we found an interesting variety of citrus trees in pots.  This Kaffir Lime (photo below – notice the double leaves and remarkable spikes) stood out for me.

Kaffir Lime
This visit once again made it clear that every food garden is different and there are always interesting things to see and learn. I always come away with new ideas re what I would like to add to my own garden.

Many thanks, Karen, for sharing with us your enthusiasm, expertise and creativity. It is great to see someone experimenting with unusual food plants.

Also, a big thank-you to everyone who came and contributed to the produce table and morning tea. It made for a very enjoyable morning that was appreciated by all.

On Sunday 19 February the Food Garden Group visited Chris and Corinne's garden at Kingston Beach:
Rain had been forecast but that did not stop a good size crowd to come and see the delightful combination of food and ornamental garden that Chris and Corinne created on a steep block that was no more than a paddock five years ago when they moved in.

In order to overcome the considerable height differences between the front and back of their land, Chris and Corinne terraced their whole block and brought about an amazing transformation.

The result is visually very interesting.  There is a small fruit tree area, a chicken run, olive trees, a pond, a compost area and many vegetable beds, combined with ornamental plants.

When I first saw this garden in October last year the area to the right of the driveway was just a narrow sloping gully with a mass of agapanthus and other wild plants.  Since then this area has undergone a complete makeover and the result is more delightful terraced garden beds and pathways.

It is all irrigated with a combination of normal and thin drip lines.

The olive trees, now in their fourth year, are beginning to produce.

On the northside of the house is a brick wall that is used really effectively as a heat-bank for capsicums and eggplants.  They were obviously happy here and inspired me to look for a north-facing wall in my garden, to try the same idea next year.

On a shady side of the house is a productive worm farm.

Many thanks everyone for your contributions to the produce table and morning tea. Things hardly touched the produce table before they were taken by someone, so this photo does not really show how much people brought and went away with.

People were interested in recipes of delicious things Loes (Zucchini Muffins) and Denby (Apple Spice Cookies) made.  Both recipes can now be found on the [Hall of Fame] Recipes page on this blog.  Click here and you will find them at the bottom of that page.

Many thanks to Chris and Corinne for hosting this visit to their delightful garden.  You showed us how a blank canvas can be turned into a very interesting productive garden.