Phew! I've been a bit quiet on the blog while I tackle my first full-time semester of uni in over 25 years! It's been a great big learning journey. I have just a few weeks to go before a long summer break.
When I'm not at my desk working or studying, I'm trying to pop out to my garden regularly, because it's so calming for my mind. And harvesting great big bowlfuls of produce is also appealing... we have snowpeas, shelling peas, a couple of varieties of green beans, some broccoli, tons of leafy greens - Asian greens, lettuces, kale, spinaches, several edible flowers, gooseberries, mulberries, black sapote, chokos, lemons and lots of herbs in abundance right now. The chickens are also laying, and two hens had chicks recently. So life on the farm feels great!
To read some of my writing about gardening, go here.
Zeah and I did a Wild Weed Walk the other weekend. We both loved it! I used to take my bigger kids to lots of...
The term ‘bush tucker’ refers to Australian native foods – the huge variety of fruit, nuts, seeds, leaves, birds, mammals, roots, bark, fungi, herbs, spices, flowers, reptiles, insects, aquatic plants and fish. ‘Wild foods’ is another way to describe these, and includes non-native but often abundant food sources.
Wild foods are the ultimate in spray-free, packaging-free local food. So long as they are harvested in moderation from clean environments, they are a very low impact food source. These were once the only means of food and medicine for indigenous Australians – they are a valuable and viable resource worth learning about.
Our family have been discovering over many years and though each change of season, native and wild foods on our small farm and in the surrounding areas in Far North Queensland, Australia. Some we have found include red and yellow guava, lilly pilly, Atherton nut, lemon aspen, native ginger, pipturus and...
A no-dig garden is also known as sheet mulching or lasagne gardening. It is built by layering materials on top of the soil or in a large vessel, thereby creating a friable and nutrient-rich environment in which to grow plants, especially vegetables.
No-dig gardens are quick to build and require little on-going maintenance. They mimic nature with their layers of organic matter decomposing and being added to in time. There is no tilling and a covering of mulch so weeds are less of a problem. Because digging isn’t required the method is suitable for all gardeners.
You can begin on any fairly flat surface, including using an old bathtub or other recycled raised bed. Ideally, the garden will receive at least five hours of sunshine per day. If building on the ground you might like to edge with wood or rocks if you have them, but it isn’t vital to the project and is something you might do later. Creating a no-dig bed directly on the lawn is fine, too. The...
Time in the garden need not be only about planting, feeding, watering and harvesting. Another way to enjoy your garden is through art.
The garden itself is often seen as a form of art. Using plants’ colour, texture, shape and size the gardener creates a landscape of beauty. By adding accessories, either natural (such as stones) or man-made, we enhance and individualise our growing spaces. By looking at others’ gardens, parklands, nature, books and magazines from the library, and online, we can collate ideas of what appeals to us and from there gradually shape our garden through the addition of new plants or other items.
Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas. Elizabeth Murray.
Throughout history gardens have also influenced artists’ paintings, photographs and words. Famous garden artists include Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet and Georgia O’Keefe. Of course for many children, their first artworks include...
It is vitally important that our children have access to fresh, wholesome, affordable and tasty food. The freshest food is local food. Food from the earth, not wrapped in plastic from a store. The most local is our own backyard, balcony, or a school or community garden.
Potted gardens are quick to establish. They are ideal for those renting, living in small spaces, with changeable weather or anyone just starting out. This is possibly the perfect ‘garden’ for small children because they are so defined and more easily controlled than a traditional vegetable plot. You may have some space on your rooftop, balcony or steps to begin or add to your garden right away with pots.
On our family’s farm with hectares of arable land we grow a lot of our food plants in containers because they are easy to manage. I can move them around to suit the weather, the drainage is excellent, they are more easily protected from free-ranging chickens and...
Recycling in the garden has been increasing in popularity for more than a decade. In July 2008, Richard Reynolds and his team created a Recycled Garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The creators explained, “Everything in this garden would have been thrown away if we had not intercepted it. Reusing and rejuvenating old plants is one tactic guerrilla gardeners deploy when transforming neglected patches of public space. In this way both land and plants are given a new lease of life - sustainably and cheaply.”
In the United States, more than 600,000 tons of discarded material were recycled by landscaper and artist Richard Pocopalia for garden use. Items used in his designs include old guardrails, driftwood, broken crockery and other waste. What an achievement to reduce landfill by 600,000 tons whilst creating beautiful places!
Garden recycling is a great way to inspire interest in the environment especially with kids. Finding...
Animals are an exciting part of the gardening experience. We are blessed to have a garden large enough for many creatures, great and small. We also have a number of exciting wildlife around our place to enjoy. Here are a few of our backyard residents.
There are a lot of ways to incorporate animals into your gardens and your children’s lives, though, even without the luxury of having a lot of garden space.
Worms are fascinating to observe. They munch through food scraps and create fantastic fertiliser for your plants. Want to build a worm farm? Instructions are readily available online. Alternatively, you can buy a complete kit with worms and all requirements from hardware stores, gardening centres and sometimes your local farmers' market.
Worm Observation Experiment
Worm Farm from Recycled Materials
Bird feeders are a second option for those with limited space. A simple bird feeder can be created using a pot plant saucer and some string or wire, and hung from a...
Few things in nature hold as much magic as seeds. With a small fistful of seeds, children can observe the full life cycle of plants. They can observe how plants reproduce from watching plants flower, go to seed and germinate.
To save seeds from your garden or wildflowers, collect them at maturity during the late morning on a dry day. Clean them to store in a cool, dark, dry place for re-sowing. If you have enough seeds sprinkle them around the garden to see when they come up again. Collecting your own seeds will save on seed costs, create a connection with nature through the seasons, and improve your gardening success rate as the seeds adapt to your locale. For more detailed instructions on cleaning seeds to store and save, look to resources such as The Seed Savers Handbook.
Various types of plants have different methods for sowing and saving seed:
Annuals usually grow from seed through part of a year, then seeds are saved and stored or lay dormant in the ground until the...
Plants are amazing. They are the foundation for all life on Earth. Within the realm of plants there are some which amaze more than others…
Why grow ordinary varieties? As a gardener, you can choose to grow rare and unusual plants. Amaze your family and yourself with less common vegetables – colours, shapes, and sizes that aren’t often seen or expected. Many ‘green’ vegetables exist as purple cultivars – beans, carrots, capsicum, potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli are readily available from heritage seed sellers.
The tiny and the giant are also incredible – from bite-sized tomatoes to wheelbarrow-worthy squash – it’s a wonder to young and old to grow and eat food not normally seen at the market. Even asparagus, a delicate fern with rapidly shooting spears is delightfully different in the vegetable patch.
Cacti and succulents are fantastic hobby plants. Children are attracted by their diversity and love to collect these potted...