Archive for February, 2012

MINDFUL GARDENING

Costa Georgiadis, man of soil and soul

I met a man this week who made me rethink my whole outlook on gardening. Three hours talking to the ebullient and charismatic Costa Georgiadis, who will host ABC Gardening Australia programme this year, left me sort of like James Bond’s martini – but I was shaken AND stirred.

On my grapevine blog I’ve been focussing  on my home patch of ground. Costa sees the whole world as a garden. The way we live, consume, waste and imprint on the earth has an effect on its health, he believes. Just as we care and nurture our garden, feed it, enhance it, enjoy it and –  if we are lucky –  live off its bounty, so we should cherish the world likewise. It’s a kind of a take on ” Think globally; act locally”, but it’s also a call to think a bit more deeply about what we can contribute to the health of the planet. It might be protesting against genetic modification of  crops, or mis labelling of food or being extra vigilant about what waste we generate  and how it’s best recycled.

A landscape architect who has an all-consuming passion for plants and people, Costa knows how to bring out the best in both of them, and takes great pleasure in bringing them together. Costa believes in embracing and celebrating mother nature’s cycles and seasons and nurturing her balance, beauty and bounty organically. His holistic approach is all about gardening the soil and the soul.

Costa’s no joyless zealout. He’s a fun, enthusiastic and witty ambassador for gardening which he sees as a community activity par excellence. He made me laugh and he made me think. He has kick-started a gardening on the verge ( footpath) project in his street, involving all the residents in a learning and sharing activity and wants to take the idea across the country. Imagine a vegetables garden on every footpath, where street residents can stop and share and swap and just TALK; where kids can learn the basics of  growing things. What is the point of all that wasted grass space, that needs watering and mowing? Costa says the space is far better used to produce food and educate  people about growing things.

He gardens with his hands and his heart. But then, is there any other way?

GOT ME BEET

I said in my descriptive ( About) page on this blog that I have made every boo boo in the book when it comes to gardening. Add mistaken identity to that long list.  Some weeks ago I bought what I thought were beetroot seedlings, planted them and watched them thrive. I thought they seemed to be ripening very close to the surface and that accounted for their paler pinkish hue, not the deep red I expected. I plucked five big beauties from the soil last week and learnt I have been growing not beetroot, but something more like a turnip. But I am not really sure what they are. ( pictured). They have pale, pink streaked  insides If they are turnips, I  have done it all out of season, ( you should sow them in March and pick in June) but nonetheless, here they are and I am canvassing for some recipes. I am told turnips can be eaten raw, baked, steamed and stir fried with the leaves or cooked in stews and casseroles.  So a happy accident, really, because I probably would not have CHOSEN turnips, but will now relish  a new taste on the menu. I always associated turnips with punishment food, that is, food that you endured like chokoes, not savoured. I am probably thinking of the  enormous and coarse variety which humans and farm animals ate over the centuries.  ( I recall Peter Rabbit loved them in Mr McGregor’s garden) Turnip leaves and stems are spicy and lovely in a salad and probably full of vitamins and wrinkle- reducing qualities. ( I made that last bit up) They’re not sexy, rather stodgy and functional; the veg patch’s equivalent to a beige Homy Ped shoe.  But there’s got to be a yummy recipe with them somewhere.

I really do want to grow beetroot again, as I have successfully in the past, so I will be more vigilant at the seedling stall next time.

Have you ever planted one thing that grew into something entirely not what you were expecting? Come on. Fess up. I can’t be the only plant ditz around. Let me in on your dirty little secrets.

FIDDLE RIDDLE

Follower Peagreen wants to know if there is anyone  – particularly living on north side of Brisbane – with a  healthy fiddlewood tree (Citharexylum spinosum), a West Indian native. It seems they are susceptible to lantana beetle  infestation and her specimen included. But she has heard there is hope the trees may regenerate after it.  See comments.

Happy gardening.

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Whose garden is it, anyway?

Nigel (no friends) the roo

I made a wrong call when I said this patch I play in was mine.  Certainly I pay the mortgage and the rates and mow, trim and tender it. But who really calls the tune in this garden is the wildlife. It is very obvious when I take my eye off things for even a short while, that it’s largely the grasshoppers that munch freely on anything they can land on. All the care and attention in the world on herbs and vegetables comes to nought when deluges of rain kept me  indoors for a few days. I ventured out on the first fine morning and discover what the little hoppers haven’t  eaten through, the continuing rain has waterlogged and rotted. Mother Nature is no polite visitor. She rarely makes appointments and often outstays her welcome.

This garden is also casa insecta for the aphids that swarm all over the roses without so much as a bye your leave, the toads that play and procreate freely among the ferns and invade the compost bins. The caterpillars crawl between the lettuce leaves and make filmy webby cubbies in the lemon and lime trees. The bandicoots and rabbits dig up the beetroots and radishes. Try stopping these little varmin with a Keep Out or a No Trespassing sign. As if !

It’s a constant reminder that we co-exist here on this earth and the sooner we accept  and go with the flow, the happier we’ll be. It doesn’t mean total surrender to the elements and creatures that worm away your garden industry. But be prepared to give up a part of your produce, labour or space to the creatures in your patch. The permaculture peeps say you should allow one third of any crop for the birds and the vegie rustlers and bet on keeping two thirds.

Three cheers for the welcome invaders to the garden; the bees and butterflies that pollinate the flowers and fruit trees and vines; the birds that eat the lawn grubs and maggots, cockroaches and beetles, and that trill, chirrup, screech or honk  from the treetops. But they live by their rules , not ours.

And who’s to give marching orders to the herds of kangaroos that bound through as if on some ancient radar signal that their ancestors followed across the fences  and through the paddocks?. They congregate and lounge under the large paddock fig like old men at a picnic. Try tell them it’s not their place to play in, that they have to go round or go back.  One little lame roo, right,  who has been ostracised from the pack has decided ours is a safe and welcome haven. Perhaps retreating from some kind of roo rage, he’s left the herd and made the house yard his own, alternating between lying in the shade under the golden penda tree or slumbering under the cotton palm. He has staked his claim on the front lawn and gives a distinct guttoral warning sound if I try to reclaim the territory. This critter’s not for turning.

So ownership is a fleeting notion in a garden.

APARTMENT ASSIGNMENT

Emma and her Cambrook gardeners have a challenge . Send in any ideas and suggestions for their task below, by clicking on comments.

She writes: “We’re long time fans, first time writers and hope you may impart your inspirational gardening advice to transform an open space into a private oasis for owners at our apartment block! We have a grassed area that is shaded, north facing about 5m x 7m. We intend to screen it off with some mature plumbago hedging then put in some plants to create a shaded, secret garden. Advice on where we might find some mature plumbagos and what plants might suit that space is much appreciated. We are also looking at buying some hardy ground cover for our main garden, which is north-easterly facing.  Currently there is a mix of sygium australis, agaves and cycads. And last but not least, do you have any great recommendations for material to create a small path about 3m long to the clothes line area!”

I’d use stepping stones ( ie pavers) for the pathway and plant herbs like basil or marjoram between them.  They form a pretty carpet and smell delicious when you tread on them. My suggestions for hardy ground cover are gazanias and  santivalia and pratia. All  All are robust and attractive .

CHILLI JAM

Leafy Greens from Cooroy has a green thumb and an artistic eye, going by the picture she sent of  her glut of pretty red bell chillies. She can’t use all her bounty at once and is looking for ideas to preserve.

I froze about 150 of these about two years ago, placing them in those little containers that dips come in. I am still using them, most recently last night in a curry. They thaw in a matter of minutes and are right as rain for cooking and have retained their bite. Meanwhile gardening guru Annette McFarlane says putting chillies in oil is a cinch.

ROSE TO THE TASK

And I take back the whinge I had last week about roses being difficult for me to grow. Yesterday, my white rose bush produced two splendid blooms that were dazzling after the rain and stark against the lush green foliage of surrounding vegetation. Don’t know why I planted white roses. They are only effective as a contrast to their colourful sisters . But seeing any rose open in my garden makes me weak at the knees. They would look nothing indoors in a vase, so I left them on the bush for everyone to see and enjoy.

Thanks Mother Nature.

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