IN THIS ISSUE (click on the topic to go there directly)
Main speakers - strawberries, passionfruit
Kay's notes - Garden Problems - Nutgrass
Chris' 'Herb of the Month' - Sweet leaf
Notes from Trevor: Seedlings - Lucky door prize
Insect Hotel Building workshop
The Yacon - a gut-busting superfood
Elephant foot yam
House plants and air quality
Big dreams - a permaculture place to buy
OUR MAIN SPEAKERS
Thank you to Tina and Bruce from Tinaberries for once again coming along to BOGI. Whilst not organic, Tinaberries have implemented Sustainable Practices for Strawberries and Passionfruit. They grow strawberries for quality and taste in varieties, which are big, sweet and red all through, for a small niche market in Melbourne. Healthy soil = health plants = healthy fruits = less intervention.
Diseases cost time and money therefore Tina and Bruce integrate pest and disease management into their production. They use a range of chemical and bacterial treatments along with beneficial bugs.
Grey Mould is the main problem after heavy dew or 20 mm of rain. Plant leaves or flowers can’t dry out quickly, petals stick to the forming fruit creating an environment where disease gets in. Two spotted mites will suck the leaf sap and weaken the plant.
(See Notes from Trevor in the Newsletter.)
The farm has a problem on the full moon with ducks, which are attracted to the white plastic on which the berries are grown. Thinking the reflections are water they come in and feast whilst there. Rows are planted north/south for even sunlight throughout the day. Aeration is important for healthy plants and the first line of defence against disease, therefore plants are grown at a spacing of 450mm apart.
Soil is very important and prepared with compost, chicken manure, fish guts, seaweed and molasses. Carbohydrates in the soil feed the microbes. It is possible to overdo the application rates of these additives to the soil. Soil is tested fortnightly for trace elements, zinc levels, boron, potassium, phosphate and nitrogen. Plants are hand weeded. Ph levels sit around 6.2-6.3. Plants are monitored for performance as heat and moisture are ever changing.
Tinaberries annually replace the proprietary rights strawberry runners, which are purchased from a cooperative and planted out last week of March through April. Usually first flowers appear after 21 days. Plants go into dormancy during cold weather. Plants are trickle fed under the plastic. When finished they are slashed, plastic and trickle feed is recycled at the dump and the ground ploughed. Plastic is used for moisture and weed control. The plastic is used white side up, as the black side generates too much heat, which cooks the plants.
The farm now offers Strawberry Ice cream which is very popular and in big demand.
Passionfruit can’t be successfully sprayed and leaves hang down and hide scale and mealy bug, therefore beneficial bugs are released. Ants are stopped at the stem. Entomologists assess the population of pests. Everything needs to be in balance with a good mix of good and bad bugs. Tinaberries try to avoid chemical intervention. Spiders indicate a healthy environment. Fruit is picked before sun is on fruit.
Passionfruit prove a little erratic and consistency is unreliable. Plants don’t like wet feet and are drip fed in free draining soil. Every year there is a different issue. Fruit fly is a problem. Calcium hardens up the cell structure of the plants. Too much and the fruit hardens. Some varieties like Panama don’t travel well.
Tina has also been instrumental in developing an Overseas Tour Guide business for Farming Women, looking at different cultural farming practices and markets,
VEGIE CHALLENGE - JUNE
Did you know? Pigeon Pea is 26-28% protein which can be eaten green or dried, is nitrogen fixing in the soil, a shade plant, a forage crop, and also a chop and drop mulch. Pam brought in a big jar of dried pigeon peas and some leaves and gave us the above information. She called it her dairy cow in the form of a tree as pigeon pea has the same amount of protein as cows' milk.
There was lots of other very healthy produce.
GARDEN PROBLEMS - KAY'S NOTES
Weedkiller won’t destroy it.
Nutgrass is a sedge (not a true grass) and spreads quickly by runners and tubers. The tubers store energy that helps the plant to survive tough times.
Weekly spraying with organic herbicides will kill the tops, starving and weakening the underground network of tubers. Regular digging and removing by hand is also effective.
In fallow beds, ducks, geese and guinea hens will unearth and eat the tubers for you. Nutgrass can be a sign of low soil calcium levels. Try adding lime or dolomite. Gypsum will add calcium without alerting Ph.
Some gardeners report success with molasses. Dilute 1 cup in a 9-litre watering can and drench problem areas. This increases soil microbial activity that eventually rots the tubers. Reapply until weeds are controlled.
HERB OF THE MONTH - SWEEET LEAF - by Chris Jeffrey
Let's take a look at - SWEET LEAF, also known as Tropical Asparagus and Katuk.
Vitamins - A, B1, B2, C, K
Minerals - 2.77% - almost 2 times bananas
Calcium - 2.77% - almost 2 times milk
Phosphorus, magnesium, iron
Actions - Tonic, antioxidant, febrifuge, antibiotic, diuretic.
The Katuk bush is originally from Borneo, where it is a staple diet. It can grow to 1.5m tall, with oval shaped green leaves, which have a nutty flavour. Humid conditions in India and Malaysia are ideal for prolific growth, but the plant is also easy to grow from suckers or cuttings in tropical Australia.
Potassium is important to our body for our muscles, heart and liver function, the transportation of oxygen to the brain, nerve impulses, blood and skin. The root of the plant is high in calcium and magnesium (which is essential for a healthy heart and muscles) and iron - vital for oxygenation of the body and the haemoglobin in every red blood cell.
The leaves are great for pick and eat - raw in salads or to quickly add to stir-fry at the last minute before serving. The tubers are a great food source also and can be used in various cooking methods, from frying, boiling, roasting or to use in dips. All this, and packed full of the best ingredients designed to help you stay healthy. So - maybe try this yummy recipe:
KATUK SALAD WITH PEPPER MANGO DRESSING -
1 bowl of fresh Katuk leaves.
Blend 1 mango, 1 sweet red pepper and 1 hot pepper or cayenne if unavailable.
Chop 1 cucumber, an orange and a red tomato.
Place on top of blend and then add a diced avocado.
BUNDY FLAVOURS FESTIVAL
Our presence at the Bundy Flavours Expo on Saturday 7th October was a resounding success. Both the Food Tasting Stall and the Plant & Seedlings Stall were constantly inundated with people interested in what we had to offer and to learn about our club. Most people did not know there was an organic gardening club in Bundaberg but were delighted once they found out.
We talked about growing & eating organic food, our Monthly Social Get-togethers, various workshops & activities, the new website and, of course, our wonderful diverse membership. We promoted our club to a large number of the 18,000 strong crowd and therefore succeeded in our endeavours. Hopefully we’ll get a large number of visitors to our next meeting.
Thank you to everyone who helped out leading up to the day by supplying items we needed, growing plants for display, seedlings for giveaway, and loads of other things. Thank you also to all the wonderful helpers on the day who helped within the stalls, the setup and the pull down of the stalls. The success of these stalls was because of the fantastic effort of the people that got involved.
Pam Burgess was thrilled with the success of her tasting stall and estimated that 600 plus tastings were given away. People were amazed that greens could taste so good and that salad wasn't just lettuce. Almost everyone loved the herbal tea, which was a specific recipe to heal, coughs, colds, sore throats and lung complaints. I hope some people will go to the garden instead of the Chemist!
Reisha and Maureen were equally happy with the responses to the seedlings. Many people were surprised they were free and happy to take some home to plant and took pamphlets about BOGI.
Thanks Pam and Peter, Reisha and Maureen for your huge efforts in the organising and leading these stalls and to all members who contributed in so many ways. It was marvellous.
Click her for the recipes of the tea, salads and salad dressings we handed out to taste:
NOTES FROM TREVOR
For each monthly meeting we have two people grow some seedlings for giving away. That is great and the growers of these seedlings also gain by testing their skills at this task.
However, if you have a few spare seedlings please also bring them along. When you buy a punnet of cabbages, not many gardeners want 12 cabbage plants, so please bring along the spares for giving to other members. Any small number of extra seedlings to share will boost our variety for members.
Lucky Door Prizes
Each monthly meeting member’s bring a pot plant or produce or some item for this table and then a draw is made each evening.
However, our items for this table are dwindling so please give a gift. When you are repotting a herb slip a few cuttings in or share some plants or share some vegies or share some unwanted tools or plants for this table.
Footnotes to June talk by Tina from Tinaberries
Spiders in the passionfruit are a concern to workers and fruit pickers!! Why is this? Most farms and gardens don’t have too many spiders. Spiders are good bugs that often eat insects that damage our crops. When growers don’t use chemicals and encourage insect predators the presence of spiders is an indicator that the insect system is growing and hopefully becoming effective at reducing bad insects. A balance of good and bad insects is healthy and generally insignificant damage to crops will occur when this is achieved. So lots of spiders is good.
Persimilis is the large red mite that eats the two-spotted mite
Two spotted mites in strawberries can cause lots of damage. Spraying is expensive, often ineffective as the spray needs to go under the leaf and can breed resistant mites. Predatory mites such as Persimilis may be introduced by the farmer to eat the two-spotted mite. When they breed up to big numbers they can control the two spotted mite.
However chemical sprays also kill the predator mites. So while the farmer waits for the good guys to breed and build numbers to control the bad guys, damage to the crop can occur.
Again the farmers want lots of other good insects such as spiders and lacewings to build up in the strawberries and this is difficult when each year the farmers needs to remove the plants and recommence next season. The insect system is also removed and needs to re-establish each year.
Our gardens can have both good predator insects and bad guys living in harmony all the time. Note the predator Persimilis cannot live without eating the two-spotted mite.
WORKSHOPS COMING UP
AUGUST, Sunday 19th – Gin Gin Landcare & Bush food Garden visit with Ray Johnson.
9am – 1pm ish. Enjoy an informative walk & talk including native & exotic species, both food & ornamentals. This amazing bush garden, one of the best in Australia, is right on our doorstep! .
BYO chair, hat, cup, morning tea to share & lunch. No cost but bring $ as plants are available for sale.
Max 20 attendees so ring 0419 199 168 to book.
SEPTEMBER, Sunday 9th - Fermenting with Greer Hardy.
10am to 2pm, 38 Heritage Drive Bargara. Phone 0418 853 122 to book. Bring morning tea and lunch and a couple of medium sized glass jars to take home sauerkraut and more.
Sign on sheets with more information regarding the above workshops will be on the table at the next Gathering - Tues 31st July at the Uniting Church Hall, Barolin St.
INSECT HOTEL BUILDING
This workshop was held 8th July at The Haven, Bucca.
First of all I would like to thank everyone for coming on such a cold, windy day. I noticed everyone enjoyed themselves with laughter and good camaraderie. We hosted six members and nine visitors which included four children. A great day started with morning tea inside by the fire. After a brief chat in defence of insects we went out to the shed and started our projects. Everyone worked in teams of two in the confined space of the shed and carport.
People who hadn't used band saws, nailing guns, bamboo splitting equipment, pull saws and other Asian bamboo tools did so with apprehension in the beginning but confidence grew quickly and their insect hotels began to take shape. The frames were pre-made which saved many hours of work for the participants. They had a choice of three different shapes and sizes. Photos were taken during the building process and brag "pics" of the finished hotels.
A sumptuous feast of shared foods was enjoyed in the dappled sunshine of the front garden out of the wind and we finished off with a garden walk. Everyone left with a wonderful and unique insect hotel to place somewhere in their garden for their insects. A big thank you to those participants who helped with the cleanup of both the workshop and the kitchen, it was much appreciated. The children, some of whom had visited before, impressed us all with their retained knowledge of plants that we tasted. They had been there before. It is great to see these future organic gardeners being enthusiastic in sharing what they had learned previously.... as they represent the club's strength and future.
THE YACON - A GUT-BUSTING SUPERFOOD
This information comes from Graeme Sait of Nutri-Tech Solutions in Yandina. It is from Nutrition Matters - his online newsletter.
He thinks chia seed, tumeric and moringa are all worthy of being called superfoods and Yacon is another worthy contender. It comes from South America but can be grown anywhere in Australia. Yacon, the Peruvian ground apple, is a 2metre tall, sunflower-like annual that produces an abundance of cream-coloured tubers, which are harvested when the large plant dies back in June.
The tubers are attached to rhizomes, from which the next generation is spawned. Each plant produces about thirty good-sized rhizomes and thus becomes a substantial secondary income for Yacon producers. Each rhizome reliably produces a vigorous plant, which is best started in a nursery in winter and transplanted into the soil in Spring. Sounds like it would be worth giving it a go and saving rhizomes for the rest of the club!
ELEPHANT FOOT YAM
Available free to a good home. See Trevor.
Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, the elephant foot yam or whitespot giant arum, is a tropical tuber crop grown primarily in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the tropical Pacific islands. Because of its production potential and popularity as a vegetable in various cuisines, it can be raised as a cash crop. (Wikipedia)
I have been watching another summit on Toxic Houses. Almost every speaker talked about one of the best solutions being indoor plants. A lot of our house materials and furnishings outgas toxic chemicals for years. One example is Formaldahyde from particleboard and there are many others. We are very lucky in this climate to be able to have our windows open for most of the year but maybe we should also be nuturing more plants indoors, especially in the bedroom where we spend such a lot of time. Not only do the plants absorb toxic chemicals, they also boost up the levels of oxygen in the air.
NASSA have tested how much toxins plants absorb and it can be up to 80%, which is very impressive. There is plenty of information on Google about which plants are best and which absorb specific chemicals for anyone with further interest. Greer