Published in The Green Issue 207
Since the reign and subsequent demise of the sunflowers on our herb spiral, we’ve experienced a great flush of growth. The chickens received the sunflower heads, and the stalks were chopped in as mulch. The legumes we grew as green manure have also mulched down nicely, and the soil on the spiral has become rich and friable.
The longer, warmer days and a few showers of rain have produced some impressive early growth with flourishing herbs making it to our plates daily.
If you haven’t already discovered the health and taste benefits of herbs, now is a great time to start experimenting. Cooked, raw, in drinks, salads or stews; there’s rarely a wrong place to add herbs.
Whether you have a dedicated herb spiral, a simple garden bed or a few pots on a windowsill, all produce the same results; beautiful, healthy herbs. Regardless of the preferred growing method (from seed, seeding or runner), this time of year is excellent for planting basil, oregano, dill, coriander, chives, thyme, sage and parsley and it’s always a good time for mint and nasturtiums.
The stronger smelling herbs are great as companion plants and can protect more delicate species from pest attack. With their own scent, they mask or altogether hide the other plants, ultimately making them invisible to otherwise invasive species. Garlic chives do a great job of keeping pests, such as aphids and thrips, off roses. They also look pretty when they flower. A lush bunch of garlic chives can hide a rose bush’s gnarled and prickly stem, and also, are a great addition to a stew, risotto or frittata.
Nasturtiums are a great all-rounder and are one plant I can never imagine being without. Not only are all parts of the plant edible, but they are also great as cut flowers and will equally brighten up a salad or a table in an instant. Luckily they grow easily, as they make the perfect decoy species. Their sweet, peppery scent is rather irresistible to pests, and many will feast on their showy blooms rather than your tasty vegetables. With nothing more than a bit of regular watering, they will play defence in the garden on your behalf. To be honest, that kind of ‘not gardening’ brings me as much joy as the successful harvest of any crop to date.
Published in The Green Issue 203
We’ve rounded out August with a few cool, windy days (just to remind us what winter is all about) and we’re heading into the new growing season with a suitable drenching and topping up of the liquid supplies that our plants and we require.
Given the relatively warm winter, we’ve been given somewhat of a head start in the garden, but how do we best capitalise on this? Well, the soil has been nicely softened by the rain, which has made it easy to pull out sneaky weeds, old tomatoes, the peas and beans that have finished fruiting and any other spent or neglected reminders of those cooler days. You remember the ones, where you stayed inside in bed, waiting until it got nicer, rather than going outside tiling the beds to make them nicer!
Well, now it’s time to make amends with your veggie patch. Feed it up with some Blood and Bone, chook manure or seaweed-based fertiliser and a few shovelfuls of compost and dig it over, so it’s nice and friable. The next thing to consider is what you put in these beautiful beds that are suitable for our region and the time of year?
While there are good times of the year to plant all types of veges, now is when we get the most success with the largest variety. We have the chance to establish many of the plants that would never make it as tender seedlings in the punishing heat of summer.
To extend your harvest, you could pop in some new tomatoes and beans, get the kids involved in creating a quick-growing radish patch and if eggplants and pumpkin get started now, they should end up robust enough to cope with any mildew that attacks these plants as the weather becomes more humid. It’s always a good time for lettuce, and other salad greens and root crops like beetroot and carrot will have a good head start if planted now.
As flowering annuals finish with their last blooms, it’s a good time to cut them back so they are ready for their new foliage and it’s a good time for pruning larger bushes and shrubs, especially natives like Callistemon and Grevilleas, to keep them from becoming straggly.
Not only is spring a great time for our gardens, but it’s a wonderful time to renew our connection with Mother Nature, get our hands dirty and enjoy the glorious outdoor lifestyle that our beautiful hinterland location offers us.
Published in The Green Issue 201
There’s no doubt that on a day-to-day basis, the weather affects what we do and how we feel, but there are also long-term seasonal impacts that have a more subtle effect on us.
In parts of the world that experience extremes in light levels, such as the midnight sun of summer and the 20 hours of darkness in winter in the far Northern and Southern hemispheres, people’s moods (and therefore their behaviour) can be severely affected. The documented effects of “mango madness” that distress residents living in the constant high temperatures nearer the equator are well known. But these afflictions are not just limited to the extremes. People living in Britain and Canada have been shown to have a decrease in mood and an onset of depression with the long, dark, cold seasons.
Aptly named SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), this disorder has been extreme enough to be responsible, in some cases, for suicide. While here on the Sunshine Coast, we are blessed not to have such extremes, we still feel the cycles of our seasonal weather patterns.
On The Ridge, it’s not just the creeping mercury that hints at change. The last couple of weeks have been a hive of activity – all of which looks to future growth and productivity. Neighbours are building dams, clearing paddocks and dangerous dead trees are being tackled before August’s wild winds sneak up.
Everyone I speak to lately seems to share that they too have been compelled to change along with the season and agree it feels good to open up the house and air out their cupboards. Oppressive chores suddenly feel cleansing, and there is such a feeling of preparation and anticipation in the air.
Having solid reminders of the beautiful environment we live in and opportunities to make the most of our experiences certainly makes me glad to be living here and excited to participate in the bounty this groundwork will no doubt provide.
Published in Eumundi Green Issue 199
When you are building a house and have acres of land to maintain, you might dream of spending a couple of weeks relaxing on a tropical island while the kids are having a midyear break from school. And dream we do. The reality, however, is quite different. At the moment, we get our ‘tropical’ fix from a morning at the beach or some pineapple for a snack, which we wash down with a little bit of coconut juice. If we’re fortunate, we get a little memento of this beachside break and end up with some sand in our shoes.
Don’t get me wrong; this is a super way to spend a morning with the kids while they are on school holidays, but what then. Well, here on The Ridge we have several cleverly devised jobs, I mean activities, for unoccupied hands.
Seed Bombs are always a winner and can fill as many hours as you have resources available. Digging up clumps of lemongrass and vetiver and dividing them up for re-planting is another easy one, and always something that needs doing. This last ‘activity’ is great if done as a competition. Setting a kitchen timer with a fixed interval, both motivates and results in a lot more work getting done (I mean, fun). Pulling weeds can be made interesting if you tell the kids they can then launch them into the chicken pen. Luckily for us, recent experience with Shot Put at the school athletics carnivals has made this a popular pastime and helps provide a little entertainment to both chooks and children.
On a purely child-focused note, each holiday we enjoy renovating our ‘fairy gardens’. These are just large plant pots we have previously set up with cactuses or flowers, houses, plastic animals and the like. Depending on the particular mood and current interest of the children, we usually add some new plants, paint stones to resemble beetles or bugs and generally breathe new life into them.
Our favourite activity in the wintertime, though, is to collect sticks, leaves, pinecones and any other small flammable detritus to throw on our celebratory mid-year (let’s keep warm) bonfire.