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Back to-Bascis workshop
At our May meeting Kevin Berghoffer and Val Wright spoke about our great staples
English potatoes and Sweet potatoes
Thank you Kevin for a very enlightening presentation on Potatoes.
Kevin grows Dutch and Desiree varieties.
Seed potatoes can be sourced from your own crop, via the Internet, Boylands, Bunnings, or Green Harvest. Storing seed potatoes - for best storing results, seed potatoes are spaced apart and stored in trays of wood shavings in the bottom of the refrigerator. Refrigeration slows the potatoes down and stops the shoots sprouting. Around November they are brought out, a wet rag is placed over them and they will throw eyes quickly.
Kevin recommends planting the seed potatoes whole and does not give them any treatment prior to planting. It is possible to halve them, however don’t plant with too many eyes as these are the growing points and will reduce the overall crop.
Kevin plants out twice a year in March and August. Seed potatoes are planted apart, eyes upwards, zig-zag pattern on a mound, into a hole about three inches deep with only a little dirt placed over them. He waters weekly for five minutes with a sprinkler. His usual test is a finger in the ground.
Pests: Ladybeetles eat the leaves, white fly and potato fly can be destructive.
Kevin recommends “bandicooting” after five weeks to see how the potatoes are growing or to harvest a few at a time as required. With this method, the plants will continue to grow and crop. The potato skin should be hard. If it peels off when rubbed with fingers DON’T eat it.
Storing: wash and dry potatoes thoroughly before storing. Potatoes will rot very fast if left wet. Store in layers in the vegetable crisper in refrigerator. In our climate, the ground is too hot to store potatoes.
Soil is built up in layers. Kevin grows a range of other vegetables and takes the lower leaves of the cabbages, rolls them into a cigar shape and finely slices the leaves into a five-gallon bucket. The layering begins, greens,dirt, greens, dirt until the bed is full. Do not clump the greens. This will break down in no time with the help of worms. No fertilizers are used. Kevin is experimenting with growing the same crop in the same bed. He also uses a rotary hoe.
Thank you Val for another interesting talk. Did you know the sweet potato is related to the morning glory? Val’s are tips for growing like the farmers do.
Take cuttings about a foot long, bend into a “U” shape and plant the U as shown in the photo. The more nodules on the U the more crop you will harvest. Plant about a hand span apart. Make sure you know where the U is, because that’s where your crop will be.
Plant in summer and autumn and crop takes about four months until harvest.
Water every day or two until new growth then once a week. Use a low nitrogen fertiliser, in our case an organic one. Cover sweet potatoes with mulch.
Nematodes, moth with a long green grub and weevils are pests. There is also the mosaic virus.
Plant a U every couple of weeks and sweet potatoes will grow all year round. Farmers don’t grow from tubers.
The shoots on the tubers are edible, as are the first two or three leaves. Sweet potatoes can be grown in a bag or container so long as they have room to make tubers. Farmers use a mound to provide room for the tubers to expand.
Varieties being grown commercially are Beauregard and A652. Most people like the orange variety, the white is dryer. There are numerous varieties available: purple inside, white with purple ring, cream and white flesh, redskin which is white inside. The more purple the more nutritional value.
MENTAL HEALTH AND EATING FRUIT AND VEGIES
Recent studies on MENTAL HEALTH showed clearly that fruit and vegetables in an "unmodified state" related to better mental health. The top ten were carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruit, fresh berries, cucumber and kiwi fruit. The emphasis was on fresh and not cooked, tinned or processed. It would have been very interesting if they has tested and compared ORGANIC PRODUCE!
These studies were very scientific with a large number of references and sent in by Alexandra van Beek.
FOOD IS FREE
Peter Van Beek sent a link to the"Food is Free Project" hhtp://foodisfreeproject.org/aboutus
This is well worth a look. It started in America and has reached Australia. People are helped to grow organic veggies in wicking beds in their front gardens and to share for free. This is building great communities with huge benefits for our health and the future of our world. People are becoming more and more ready for this sort of project, which is very heartening. Is Bundy ready yet?
HERB OF THE MONTH – by Chris Jeffrey
This month, with the Winter Feast just around the corner, LET’S TAKE
A LOOK at – WATERCRESS – Nasturtium officinale.
Watercress is a hardy perennial, native to Europe, but introduced to
Australia with the arrival of the new settlers. The plant was carried on
board the ships as a source of excellent green leafy vegetable to hold
back scurvy during the long sea journey. The plant was very adaptable,
and although loving running streams and creeks, it will thrive in loose
soil, sun or shade, in large pot or garden. When grown in soil, give a
liberal sprinkling of lime regularly, as the plant likes a neutral to slightly
alkaline environment. Watercress is very fast growing and likes to
sprawl, so it is a good idea to cut stems regularly. This is great to supply
you with an abundance of fresh greens, and it will also ensure a strong
thick plant. Propagation is by the very tiny, brown seed, root division or
Constituents: volatile oil, glycosides, fibre, coumarins, protein with
amino acids arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, threonine,
phenylalinine, methionine, tryptophan, valine, isothiocyanates.
Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B17, C, D, E, K, folic acid
Minerals: calcium, phosphorous, potassium, iron, sodium, iodine, zinc, silica, boron, germanium, copper, magnesium, manganese, florine, sulphur, chlorine.
Actions: antibiotic, antibacterial, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, digestive, stomachic, antiscorbutic, antiseptic, antioxidant, and tonic.
Medicinal uses: Since early times, the herb has had many uses. Watercress was renown in herbal history as a spring-cleaning herb for purifying the blood and toning the whole system. Therapeutic uses are many, so I will list just a few- coughs, head colds, stress, pain, arthritis, stiff joints and back, failing eye sight, constipation, cataracts, leukaemia, cancer, to normalise cholesterol and blood pressure; for improved memory. There are many more uses, so be sure to go to the website:
Herbsarespecial.com or ‘info@herbs –to-use.com
Watercress contains more sulphur than any other vegetable, except horseradish. Sulphur rich foods play an important part in protein absorption, blood purifying, cell building and in healthy hair and skin. And as such watercress is valued for clearing and improving the complexion by eating and applying externally as a lotion. Cook with it, use as a salad, in smoothies, pestos and soup – endless possibilities, JUST USE IT! For your health.
The list goes on and on for this fabulous winter green. My source is :’How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life’, and I cannot think of a better book in which to invest if you have not already done so. The wonderful Bundaberg library is sure to have a copy, but it is so good to have on hand at all times, so you may be a blessing to someone in health trouble - as a guide.
Kay’s Notes - SOIL AND SOIL TYPES
To an organic gardener, soil is the most important aspect of the garden. Building and maintaining a fertile, healthy soil must be the first priority.
Soils are usually formed from the degradation of parent rock, or volcanic deposits, silt from old rivers, or windblown deposits. The type of soil and how it is formed determines its depth, nutrient status, acidity and alkalinity.
Good Structure: Soil is easy to dig – a sweet earthy smell – no hard compacted layer – lots of worm channels – and plant roots penetrate deep.
Poor Structure: Soil is sticky or very dry – an unpleasant smell – compacted topsoil layer – few worms – plants are shallow-rooting.
Clay soilis common in warm climates. They are poorly drained and difficult to work; quickly becoming waterlogged during rainy periods, then sets like concrete. Incorporating organic material into clay soil will improve drainage and make the soil more friable.
Sandy soil has large air spaces between the sand particles through which water drains quite readily. The free-draining water carries away valuable plant nutrients with it. (Referred to as leaching.) Gardeners should consider growing and incorporating a green manure crop where this will increase the amount of organic material in the soil and the nutrients provided will remain where plant feeder roots are most active.
Permaculture Workshop June 2nd
On a beautiful sunny morning and into the early afternoon, fifteen people thoroughly enjoyed the company of Reisha & Peter Marris, at their property (Dragonfly Ridge). The day commenced with morning tea, then we moved to the deck and later extended to walking around the cottage, for a most interesting talk on some of the aspects of permaculture design.
One aspect discussed was when designing your landscape there are many factors to consider. For example: think about what you want from your garden; what sort of lifestyle you want; what types of plants you want to eat; what is your end goal, etc.? Then you need to consider all the external elements, such as, your region’s climate and weather patterns, landform, direction of wind & rain, the winter & summer sun path, etc.
Another consideration is whether you want to enhance or deflect certain elements and how best to do that. Reisha suggests that the research and planning is the most time consuming and the most important aspect of planning any functional, regenerative, permaculture design.
Another consideration of permaculture design is that there are generally seven to nine layers recognised in a Food Forest Garden. Note that the Emergent Layer, not shown in this list, is found in natural forest systems, which are the singular trees that ‘emerge’ from the canopy.
Canopy Layer: the tallest trees in the system and provide the most shade (large fruit & nut trees).
Sub-Canopy/Understorey/Large Shrub Layer: smaller trees/large shrubs that revel in the dappled light under the canopy (dwarf fruit trees).
Shrub Layer: a diverse layer of woody perennials of limited height (most current & berry bushes).
Herbaceous Layer: some plants in this layer die back to the ground every winter if very cold. They do not produce woody stems as in the Shrub layer. Most culinary and medicinal herbs are in this layer. A large variety of beneficial plants fall into this layer - annuals and perennials (comfrey, herbs).
Groundcover Layer: there is some overlap with the Herbaceous layer and the Groundcover layer; however, plants in this layer grow much closer to the ground, grow densely to fill bare patches of soil, and often tolerate some foot traffic. Cover crops retain soil and lessen erosion, along with green manures that add nutrients and organic matter to the soil, especially nitrogen, (strawberries).
Rhizome/Rhizosphere/Root Vegetable Layer: root layers within the soil. The major components of this layer are the soil and the organisms that live within it such as plant roots (root vegetables).
Vertical/Climber Layer: climbers or vines (beans, melons, passionfruit).
Aquatic/Wetland Layer: plants that grow in water
Mycelial/Fungal Layer: mycelium within the soil. Travels over vast distances.
Another element when designing your garden, one needs to think of which plants to grow and what are their functions – companion, native, repel (for pests), pollinate, edible. Designing to encourage wildlife predators and pollinators creates a more balanced ecosystem that reduces workload, is more resilient and is great for the environment.
The Comfrey plant was strongly suggested to be included, as it has deep roots and brings up the minerals for other plants. The dead leaves, either leave on the ground or place in your compost.
Mulching for bacteria (greens) and fungi (wood) activities, in the soil. Need to feed the microbes and to develop good plant root systems. It helps to maintain moisture in the soil and regulate temperatures.
Growing Bananas and succulents are some examples that will help with the slowing down of an out of control fire. To slow down the water flow on a decline and sink it into the soil is to use the method of Swales - a leveltrench with an overflow at one end. The dirt placed on the lower side of the trench is the berm. With this method, any top soil and minerals from the water are held in the trench and can be returned.
I’m sure that everyone enjoyed the knowledgeable talks, great food, interesting company and the bushy environment. Many thanks to both Reisha and Peter.
Shirley Pennington, Joan Smart and Reisha Marris
Back to Basics
We had a very successful Back to Basics afternoon on June 9th at Betty-Ann's place. We watched, helped and learnt how to convert a large raised bed into a wicking bed system. It is a lovely deep bed, which we planted out with mostly greens to cut for the Bundy Flavours Festival. Betty-Ann had also planted seedling punnets with 6 different veggie seedlings for us to give away at the festival. I hope some lucky families will be inspired.
Alas the wicking bed construction photos were among the missing photos. We hope for a retrieval.
The next Back-to-Basics will be on Sunday morning, 12th August. Details to be announced.
Building Resilience -
The Secrets of Home Food Production and a Happy, Healthier, Longer Life.
This was the title of a very interesting talk given to Brisbane Organic Gardeners by Graeme Sait of Nutritech Solutions at Yandina on April 5th. Here are some highlights. The whole talk (4 pages) is in their May Newsletter. We have a copy at our meetings.
After 10 decades of chemical extractive farming a global awakening is underway. Many are seeking change to these completely unsustainable practices.
HUMUS The simple message is that the majority of CO2 in the atmosphere came from the loss of humus in our soils and when we build rather than loose humus in agriculture, we are sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. Humus is the stabilising soil glue that determines whether dust storms and floods strip our thin veil of precious topsoil.
HUMUS - dramatically improves soil water holding capacity and offers the most efficient water storage technique for plant roots. It improves the nutritional value of our food, is the primary vehicle for mineral storage and delivery in the soil and is a major driver of soil and plant resilience. It stores: Carbon, Water, Minerals - the trio most impacting soil, plant, animal, human and planetary health.
Graeme regularly meets vegetable growers who will not eat their own produce and have a separate patch out the back to feed the family!!
10 tips for a problem free, super productive home garden.
Harvest immediately before consumption.
Interplant Lucerne with everything: Fixes nitrogen, releases acid to break the bond between calcium and phosphorus in the soil and also encourages beneficial fungi. The chop and drop potential provides the best known fertilizing mulch, attracting both protozoa and earthworms.
Use worm juice liberally: contains billions of unique beneficial organisms.
Bring back your earthworms for major benefits. They are fertilizer machines, will increase infiltration and water holding capacity of your soil, they are lime-workers and their calciferous gland adds calcium carbonate to everything. They transport minerals from deep in the soil up to the root zone, they compost 4 times faster than normal composting and they incubate bacteria that are invaluable in the soil and only found in earthworms.
Lucerne tea is a great way to restore protozoa numbers, reclaim earthworms and encourage nitrogen recycling.
Correct your soil PH: 6.4 is ideal. Nutrient uptake is PH dependant.
Direct ‘inject’ your nutrition: excesses can occur e.g. phosphorus from chicken manure. This can shut down other important minerals. Foliar fertilizing is 12 times more efficient than mineral delivery via the soil. Several key tips to successful foliar fertilizing include - spray direct on the underside of the leaf, spray early morning or evening. Calcium is important as a foliar spray because this mineral is poorly translocated. Broad- spectrum trace minerals are also important.
Measure for mastery: a refractometer measures for food quality but a simple test of sap PH can easily be done at home. Squeeze some sap from a leaf using a garlic press and test on a simple PH strip. 6.5 is ideal.
Organic Matter Matters: Humus is the essence of soil health. It is created by microorganisms and serves as their home base and support system, is the storage and delivery system for all minerals and houses a suite of microbial exudates that help create disease-suppressive soils. So COMPOST COMPOST COMPOST!
Compost is the cornerstone of gardening vitality, an invaluable source of stable humus and a triggering mechanism to reclaim the humus building potential of your garden.
Graeme goes on to give in detail 3 ways to make compost. One- the normal way over at least 3 months. Two- a 4-week method using one of his products with Trichoderma, which control over 30 diseases and create humus and stimulate plant immunity. The third way was making BAM compost. This takes 8 weeks and uses his BAM composting product and is anaerobic.
Supporting the workforce: Great nutrients include, simple sugars, fulvic acid (the most powerful known bacterial stimulant), humic acid (the second natural acid of tremendous benefit in the garden which specifically feeds fungi). Fungi create stable humus, which lasts 35 years in your soil. Kelp, a wide range of minerals derived from seawater, vitamins and iodine. Most of these are available from Nutritech Solutions.
Naked Soil is never good: Learn to love cover! Plant cover crops to provide biodiversity, manage weeds, feed soil life, prevent erosion, manage pests and nurture bees. Then MULCH MULCH.
Graeme's business Nutritech Solutions is at Yandina in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Phone 07 5472 9900 Website