Potatoes in the ground

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Three packets of seed potatoes, waiting for the new garden bed
Three packets of seed potatoes, waiting for the new garden bed

One of the things that I really wanted to try in our first year of gardening was potatoes. So I placed an order with Diggers Club, and six (long!) weeks later I had:

  • 8 x Kipfler seed potatoes
  • 8 x King Edward seed potatoes
  • 8 x Desiree seed potatoes

Now, on reading the notes that came with the potatoes, I quickly realised that I’ve probably ordered too many. Way too many! Apparently each seed potato will generate 10 new potatoes, making 240 potatoes in total. That’s a lot of potatoes.

No matter, better more than less 🙂

Now all that was needed was somewhere to put the potatoes; cue another garden bed. Luckily I rode past some workmen cutting up an old (and somewhat rotted) paling fence, and they were very happy for me to take away what would otherwise be going to the tip.

One car trip later, I pulled together the following supplies:

  • Four pieces of 50×50 treated pine, recycled from under the house and cut into 600mm lengths
  • 24 recycled fence palings, roughly 2m in length
  • weatherproofed phillips head screws

The result was a large 2m x 2m garden bed, with the ability to add extra planks to raise the height of the sides as the potatoes grow. That should increase the size of the harvest.

Potato bed made of recycled fence palings, with room for upwards expansion
Potato bed made of recycled fence palings, with room for upwards expansion

Now came the tricky part, preparing and planting the garden bed. Reading up, I obtained a number of different pieces of advice, not all matching up. If in doubt: make it up, and hope for the best.

This is what I decided to do in the end:

  • thick layer of newspaper
  • layer of straw
  • thin layer of soil and compost
  • potatoes, at 40cm x 40cm spacings
  • mix of soil, compost, straw and cow mature to a depth of 10cm

Now to wait, and hope for the best. I’ll post another photo when the potatoes have sprouted.

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Producing less rubbish

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It’s been interesting to see how little rubbish we’re producing in our new house. Now we’re no zero rubbish fanatics, but this is how much our regular rubbish is down to:

  • Red bin (normal rubbish): 1/4 full each week (we actually didn’t put it out at all last week)
  • Yellow bin (recycling): 1/4 – 1/3 full each week
  • Green bin (garden waste): barely used at all, except during initial removal of grass and for weeds

Our current shopping and eating practices have a lot to do with this:

  • we buy our fruit and vegetables loose, either as part of a food box or at the local greengrocers
  • our food waste all goes to the worm farm or compost bin (apparently this can be up to 1/3 of normal household rubbish)
  • we cook most nights, from raw ingredients
  • which means that we purchase very little pre-packaged food other than breakfast cereal
  • we don’t eat take-away, except when we’re really lazy

This still leaves cartons of milk, orange juice and stock, jars of sauce, and plenty else. We’re not cutting back on the essentials or the nice-to-haves.We’re not buying in crazy bulk amounts, or shopping around for zero-packaging goods.

It just doesn’t seem to add up to much rubbish. This makes us happy.

Guerrilla gardening in the U.S.: flyer boxes

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flyer boxI found a blog post this week about a guerrilla gardener in the U.S. who has converted a flyer box into a planter box.

I’m not sure how sustainable it is (what happens if somebody closes the box???) but it’s a cute idea nevertheless.

Proposed staff cuts to Lewisham train station

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Although this is a little off-topic, we want to let all locals know about the proposed staff cuts to Lewisham train station.

Basically, the NSW government is allowing RailCorp to cut staff at train stations and Lewisham station is one of those listed for cuts. This will result in:

  • Reduced levels of customer service. I have spoken with the various staff at Lewisham station and they have told me the station will be staffed from 6am – 8pm Monday to Friday under the proposed changes. There will be NO STAFF ON WEEKENDS OR EVENINGS. Too bad if you don’t have change for the one ticket machine.
  • Limited or no assistance for elderly passengers, disabled passengers and parents with prams. At Lewisham station, too get to the platform you have to go up a flight of stairs. Try doing that with a pram by yourself!
  • Longer ticket queues. If you catch the train on Monday or Tuesday mornings you will have an understanding of the chaos at Lewisham during these peak periods (there is only one ticket machine and one ticket window … I have missed trains while queuing for a ticket on a Monday morning). If an accident happens at the station during these peak periods, the station will be chaos as there will only be one staff member at the station to deal with issues.
  • Poorer security, particularly during evenings and weekends when there will be no staff around. I don’t know about you, but I feel safer knowing there’s always someone in the ticket office at the station.

YOU CAN HELP by contacting our local member, Carmel Tebbutt, and registering your protest:

Phone: 9228 4866

Email: dp.office@tebbutt.minister.nsw.gov.au

Please don’t be apathetic about this … your phone call will make a difference!

The harvesting has begun

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Tuscan kale, the first produce to come from our garden
Tuscan kale, the first produce to come from our garden

The obvious milestone for starting a new vege garden is the first harvest, straight from the garden to the plate. While everything grew rapidly during autumn, the cold snap over the last week has definitely slowed things up.

Still, this was a good week for home-grown food:

Last Sunday: a handful of tuscan kale, sauteed with butter, garlic, verjuice and parmesan. A perfect side-dish with lemony chicken!

During the week: the first small handful of snow peas, stored up for eating tonight.

Today: a generous basket of silverbeet, english spinach and tuscan kale. All of which will be going into spanakopita (cheese and spinach pie). Can’t wait!

A small handful of snow peas, with more to come
A small handful of snow peas, with more to come

I’m hoping that by next weekend we’ll have a good crop of sugar snap peas, more snow peas, and pak choy. Then tomatoes and further silverbeet.

Five colour silverbeet, just about to go into a cheese and spinach pie
Five colour silverbeet, just about to go into a cheese and spinach pie

Grants for community gardens

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The Open Garden scheme has just announced details on their 2009 grants program for community gardens. This gives cash to community gardens across Australia that are of ” lasting benefit to the local and wider community” and are  “accessible to the public on a permanent or semi-permanent basis”.

I think it’s wonderful that there is money available for these gardens. At this point we’re pretty busy on our own private garden, so I don’t think we’ll be applying this year. 🙂

There are also plenty of good inner-West community gardens nearby (but you can’t have too many!).

Serendipity and tomatoes

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Tomatoes growing out of left-over soil
Tomatoes growing out of left-over soil

We we moved, we had some left over soil and compost in an old garbage bin. I left this beside the side of the house, and thought nothing more of it.

Until tomato shoots starting poking their heads up. This is pretty normal: we have tomatoes appearing out of our compost at the drop of a hat. This was a particularly good effort though, growing in a bin whose contents are in permanent shade, coming into winter.

Apparently no-one told these tomatoes that they’re out of season. So I thought I’d help them along with some garden stakes, and I’m wonding what kind of tomatoes they’ll turn out to be…