Tuesday, 20 April 2010 04:39

april 2010

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please tell me if this is too long

Hasn’t this been a wild Wet – I can remember when we used to go camping at easter and it was cold! Now it’s still wet and humid. No complaining though. The tanks are full.

We put in some swales this year under the mango trees to capture more water. Luckily where they are growing, the ground is full of really water absorbent rock and the soil between is pure compost so it holds water really well. Fingers crossed – and high expectations – we want to see if we can only water the mangoes and citrus twice – once in August and again in September. I know it is cruel. But carting water does make you cruel.

With all this rain over such a long season ferns have gone mad – and the moss. Actually, I slipped over on slush growing on my new clay brick path (it looks good but not the best path for the tropics) the other day and nearly broke my neck. Have you ever looked at moss closely - it’s like hundreds of tiny pine trees. (no this is not another aside). You see as my legs went forward, my head collided with some moss covered rocks, so I was able to contemplate the moss for quite a while.

Mould is another fascinating plant I’ve had the opportunity to study this week - especially on towels. Isn’t it interesting the way the towels rot so quickly when left wet on the bedroom floor for a couple of weeks. (I have got to stay home more often – or find someone to help me clean up before I go). I always thought mould was flat dark stuff, but you know if the conditions are right, it can grow into a beautiful lacy fur. Don’t we get over indulged - half the year clear blue skys and the other half, overcast, cool and plenty of rain - it’s a hard life - but we try.

Enough nonsense!

There is plenty to do around the garden. Now while it is till raining the garden beds need to be made. I’m one of those people who is full of passion and vigour at the beginning of a project but is hopeless at the day to day maintenance. So every year I’m clawing at the hoe to get out there and start the vegie garden, slaughter a Wet season’s worth of weeds and restore order in neat rows of mulched plants and compost. (When it’s time to fertilise, squash bugs and mow, I can’t drag my self out of back door let alone through the gate.) But now I love it!!!

One year I got out so early and that I ran out of enthusiasm and seeds before the rains had stopped - pumpkins grew though. My first spark of enthusiasm usually finds me at the local library in the ‘homestead’ section poring over Permaculture, Organic farming, Surviving in the ‘90’s - seeking the secret to that infamous successful vegie garden without maintenance.

I found a book on circle gardens. Fascinating – they are designed to minimise water and fertiliser use. That sounds good. They create micro- ecosystems that concentrate the earths energies, produce bumper crops and best of all, after the initial preparation, there was no work. You just pick from nature’s abundance.

Well it didn’t turn out quite like that. I did have to fertilise and do some weeding but it did reduce the amount of wasted water and fertiliser and what weeds weren’t shaded out, I just covered with newspaper and suffocated.

I don’t have a circle vegie garden every year but sometimes when the enthusiasm is low and the weeds high, for something different, a bit of spice in my life, I make my circle gardens and they look fantastic. They are good for years when the rain doesn’t want to stop and it is very hot and humid and enthusiasm although high – is focused on staying researching in the airconditioned library rather than out in the garden.

The first thing to do is to get rid of the six foot tall weeds. I just drag in a 44 gallon drum and roll them down flat. Then, I mark out the circles with a shovel, about a metre and a half in diameter and pull all the weeds out within the circle space. This usually loosens the soil enough so I only have to hoe around the edge to build up a bank. Then rake the dirt from the centre out to the rim to create a dish effect with a outside wall about 10 cm high. Sprinkle a handful of dolomite over the area and rake it in - water well.

Create as many circles as will fit in your fensed in garden space - leave a path around each circle wide enough to walk through. I usually lay beer cartons along the paths because they are thick and usually last the season but newspapers, old bits of woollen carpet, geotextile, anything that will stop the weeds growing is great.

My garden is big enough to hold three rows of circles so I just run a 3/4 inch poly pipe down each row of circles and plug a micro jet or spinner straight into the pipe in the middle of the circle. We’re running off tank pressure and this works well.

Once the plants are established they create a barrier which stops most of the water getting outside the circle. After a week and three or four showers add your fertiliser. I usually throw a handful of blood and bone or dynamic lifter in the dish and rake it into the top soil then add as much compost as I have and anything that is biodegradable to bring it up to 10 cm above the rim. Mulch the rim thickly with hay to stop weeds growing and reduce water evaporation. This little compost bin should provide the plants with a food and moisture if it is topped regularly. It is best to leave it a week before planting.

Companion planting is perfect for circle gardens because as you have plants confined to a small area they must benefit and compensate for each other. I usually grow basil and tomatoes around the inside of the rim and then a row garlic chives right the way round the lip.

Wrap a circle of pig wire around as a trellis for the tomatoes - it makes them easier to pick. Also, you can plant corn and snow peas around the inside of the rim and a variety of short bean around the lip. Short varieties of beans should be planted around most of the circles as they are a legume and fix a certain amount of nitrogen into the soil naturally. And of course marigolds.

Make a teepee with some fence droppers (anything straight) over any circles and tie them together to make a ladder for climbers like cucumbers, yams and beans. Circles are a bit too small for Queensland blue pumpkins, and massive watermelons but they are perfect for Jap pumpkin and rockemelon – even some smaller varieties of watermelon.

A starpicket with an old umbrella frame tied to the top and covered with an old mossie net is perfect protection for the snow peas.

Harvesting?

Limes, kumquats, bananas, the last of the mulberries, pawpaw, sweet potato.

Prune?

The mulberries – I know you have been tip pruning them all wet because I said you should – but this is their last prune before they stop growing rapidly so it is just to shape them and prepare them for the flowering in October /November.

Limes, kumquats, ruby grapefruit are at the end of their season – you can start pruning as you pick the last fruits. It is such a scratchy prickly job that it is best done over a few days. Never – ever – in the whole entire world – drop citrus cuttings on the ground. If you do, they will lay waiting for years hardening and sharpening their points until one day when they are as hard as steel – they will you in the bare feet, break off, go septic and then you will die of a tropical ulser. Or the broken off bit will travel up one of your veins to your heart and kill you dead (well that what my Grandma told me anyway).

Planting?

If there was a book it would be saying that april is planting time – get all your southern veggies into the garden. But it is still too wet – keep them in the shadehouse under protection until the rains have finished properly.

The best bet is to transplant the tomato seedlings out of the seedling trays into bigger pots – but keep them in the shade house or somewhere they are not going to get watelogged. When it is still raining the chance of the plant getting the disease tomato leaf roll.

The virus that causes the disease is now known as the Tomato leaf curl virus, Australian strain (TLCV-Au) which is a gemini virus. The virus is transmitted to tomato plants by the sweet potato whitefly, Bemisia tabaci which is quite active in the wet season. So keep them safe a little bit longer.

I just had a paw paw tree die of wet feet – poor bugger – so here are the recipes I’m trying at the moment to use up the green paw paws.

Annabelle’s Green Paw Paw soup

Ingredients:

1 moderately large green paw paw (no yellow showing on the skin)

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon margarine

3 chicken stock cubes, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups water extra

250 grams light sour cream

Ground black pepper; additional salt if required.

Method:

Remove seeds and skin from paw paw and chop flesh into chunks.

Melt margarine in saucepan or microwave bowl and fry onion until transparent.

Add pawpaw, stock and water, and cook (simmer or microwave) only until the pawpaw is transparent.

Cool slightly, then blend in electric blender until all ingredients are smooth.

Add sour cream and ground pepper and blend again until cream is thoroughly mixed through and soup is light and fluffy.

Add additional salt if desired.

Reheat (try not to boil) and serve with crusty bread.

Variations:

Reduce the amount of cream to make a thinner soup.

Add 3 dessert spoons coconut milk powder to the blender when adding the cream.

Ralph’s Green Paw Paw salad

Ingredients:

1 Paw Paw - real green and grated

2-4 cloves garlic

2 birds eye chillies

1 teaspoon - tablespoon sugar sprinkled on top

Good squeeze of lemon

Good squirt of light fish sauce (Good Shit)

Handful of toasted peanuts.

Crush the peanuts, add the chilli and garlic, crush and mix, add the paw paw, sprinkle the sugar on top while still mixing , the good squeeze of lemon during the operation and the light fish sauce which smells disgusting but taste real good.

Other uses for Green Pawpaw

Green Pawpaw is a great tenderiser for meat. Slice strips and put it between the steaks an hour before a barbecue.

Be careful not to leave it too long or it will tenderise the meat until it is disgusting.

It‘s great to cut into cubes and let with the meat for sartees especially .

When you put the meat on the skewers put on some onion, the cubes of pawpaw and some pineapple.

Whole paw paws can be filled with mince or rice combinations of any sort and - if you get the mix firm enough you can slice it like a meat loaf - beautiful

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Leonie Norrington

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