Friday, August 27, 2010


I found this beautiful creature dead outside my back door today:

We've had some crazy weather in the last couple of weeks: snow down to 200m (it was snowing just up the road from me), ghost-imitating howling winds, rain, cold.... 

It seems like an odd place for it to die, but a friend suggested that it probably just had a wee steering problem and smacked into the window.  It's currently wrapped in tissues in a takeaway container in the freezer.  I was going to bury it, but a local woman who makes jewellery out of animals who have died of natural causes is going to pick it up and give it a new life, so to speak.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Real Estate Poison

When I moved into my house, I didn't assume my garden was 'organic'.  Who knows what the last owners got up to with poisons and additives.  But then again, the Real Estate agent never pretended that it was organic.  When I finally found the key to the garden shed a couple of months later, a couple of squirt bottles of round-up and some snail bait confirmed that the previous owners were trigger happy. Case closed.

However, in some Real Estate sneakiness, Raine and Horne are currently selling a house in Bathurst Street with the description 'A Very Peaceful Organic Garden' (their capitalisations, strangely).  Now, I know the tenants currently renting that house, where they nurture an admirable vegie patch.  While they don't use poison in the garden to my knowledge, the real estate agent never asked them if they do, which means that there's no way that the Raine and Horne should be advertising the garden as 'organic' (although they'd probably something along the lines of 'it's organic in that most items are carbon-based'). 

Luckily, most people have a healthy scepticism of real estate agents, and this probably just reinforces the profession's bad image. Still, I think it's ridiculous that they advertise happy organicness, and then... wait for it... tell them to kill all the oxalis in the front yard NOW (in your dreams, estate agent).  Personally, if I were my friends, I'd take poison to the oxalis. 

Next house inspection, I'd probably also leave out those buckets underneath the  'great use of [leaking roof and] skylights' and let potential buyers see for themselves just how  '[dodgily] well restored & extended with quality [makeshift] fittings and [common] exceptional [mould] taste', the house actually is.

Buyer beware.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Brassicas and Composting

I pulled out all my cauliflowers a couple of weeks ago.  My inability to judge when to eat vegies meant that I missed the short period in which the flowers are tight and good to eat, and so a lot of them went to seed.  They were riddled with aphids.  Due to the aphid problem (which couldn't be fixed with white oil, derris dust, or any other organic housemade mixture found on the internet), I'm not sure if I'll grow them again the near future.  For me, aphids are just too hard to rid of on cauliflowers. 

Anyhoo, I had these massive cauliflower plants with their quite sculptural heads, and I was about to stuff them into my already very full compost heap when I remembered that I'd read somewhere that cauliflowers (and other brassicas) shouldn't be disposed of in compost heaps.  This is apparently for the same reason why you should wait 3 years before planting brassicas (cauliflowers, broccoli, cabbage etc) in the same garden bead - they carry brassica-specific diseases in the soil.   So I guiltily squished the mature plants into my garbage bins, aphids (+white oil) and all.  Does anyone know if this 'no brassica in the compost' rule is true?

On the topic of flowering plants, I've left quite a few of my vegies to go to seed, and as a result I have a stunning flowering display in one of my vegie patches.  The rocket flowers are particularly lovely: tiny brown and white flowers on tall stems.  The bok choi has tiny yellow flowers, which are lovely against the light green leaves, and like the rocket, the plants are now huge.  I suspect that I'm going to have to get a bigger compost heap...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Newspaper mulch, weeds and those birds (you know the ones...)

This was going to be a happy post.  I was going to wax lyrical about the benefits of using newspaper as a weed prohibitor and mulch.  But alas, the blackbirds have hatched for the season.

It takes quite awhile to lay newspaper, particularly if it's around those stupid roses in my front yard which are thankless at best, leaving marks on your wrists that suggest that you're not really coping with life (I know I should just rip the pink-flowering devils out, but I feel guilty at the prospect of killing them).  You have to water the ground underneath, lay some compost, then layer wet newspaper over the surface of the compost (it takes longer than you think), and cover it in pine bark, sugar cane mulch, straw or other similar mulch, so that it doesn't dry out too much or fly away into your anally retentive neighbour's backyard.

The newspaper is fantastic for keeping down weeds and will break down readily, feeding your plants.  Excuse my scepticism, but I believe it's also a far more efficient way of recycling newspaper than the council bins.

However, I didn't take into account the blackbirds.  I can hear them making spring babies in my gutters in the morning.  By mid afternoon, they're digging up the newspaper: scratched up flakes of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull lying in the dirt amongst the hybernating roses. 

The weeds are rebuilding their empire, and so Spring begins.

Monday, August 9, 2010

'The Metaphysics of Cutting Grass'

I just want share a link to this wonderfully poetic article by Jerry DeNuccio published on the Smart Set, a website managed by Drexel University.

'The Metaphysics of Cutting Grass' discusses the connotations of grass, the zen of mowing, and varying relationships to the plant (and to the weeds that wage war amongst the blades).  He explains that "mowing is applied art; in doing it, one edits the lawn, grooming the ragged, shearing the shaggy, making the unruly ruly," relating this 'transformative' activity back to his job as a university teacher and his relationship to his students.  I read this article just as I finished teaching my first year class, so it definitely struck a chord.

What do you think? Is cutting grass a zen activity? Do you wage war on the weeds that invade your grass, or do you coexist?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

asparagus, raspberries, and a lot of patience

I bought some raspberry canes and asparagus crowns today.  I love the names: 'crowns' and 'canes'.  Last September I launched into my 'in-ground' gardening with more ephemeral plants: lettuce, spinach, cauliflowers, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, rocket etc.  Yet one of the major benefits of having your own garden is that you can invest in long-term plants.  I posted recently about planting my fruit trees, which won't be fruitful for a couple of years.  I've also planted globe artichokes, blueberries, lemon and lime trees, and I was lucky enough to inherit some rhubarb from the previous owners, the only edible plants still in the vegie garden beds when I moved in.  However, I'm an asparagus addict, and I love raspberries (which are always disappointingly mouldy when you buy them in the shops), so I thought I'd invest in a couple more long term plants.

Like something out of Harry Potter: one of my soon-to-be-buried asparagus crowns

For an asparagus lover (particularly a gen-Y one), these plants are surely torturous as you can't eat them for at least 3 years after planting them, and it takes a further couple of years until you can eat them with vigour.  They're a similar plant to rhubarb in that respect.

Raspberries don't require so much of a wait, however, I don't think I'll be getting any fruit this season.  I bought the Chilliwack variety, which is not the most popular Tasmanian variety (Lloyd George), but is a popular commercial variety.  I haven't actually planted the canes yet (that's tomorrow's task), because I'm reconsidering where I should plant them.

I came to my raspberry variety decision after speaking to the peeps at Stoneman's Garden Centre in Glenorchy.  I'm a recent convert to their nursery.  They seem really knowledgeable, and they have a wide variety of stock, and the prices aren't bad.  Obviously, the seedlings aren't as cheap as the ones at K&D, but for things like fruit trees and asparagus, they're very good.  My other favourite place to buy seedlings and plants is the stall at Salamanca Markets, usually outside Salamanca Arts Centre (but I think they're on winter holiday at the moment).  Like many of the plant stall holders, they grow the plants themselves, and can give you excellent growing advice, and as a bonus, they're much cheaper than regular nurseries.  The only drawback is that you have to walk the entire length of the market to compare produce as Hobart City Council irritatingly doesn't bunch the produce stalls together.  The Hobart Farmers Market on Melville St on Sundays also has some good plant stalls.