Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Free Masterclass #3: How to Start a Food Forest


Registration is now open for my next free online masterclass: How to Start a Food Forest.
I go live on Monday January 22nd, 8:00-8:45pm AEST (includes Q&A). Even if you can't make it, I encourage you to still register to receive the replay link.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Growing salt in your garden?!


Do you have a local variety of saltbush? Have you tried it? 

There are several types, but the main one growing wild around the Gippsland Lakes where I am now is Seaberry Saltbush. The leaves are so salty you can use it to replace salt in your meals.  

I've become quite partial to chewing a salty leaf or two of the wild bushes I find around this Island, and collecting a few to toss in with the dinner soup.

I've also taken to nibbling on the juicy saltbush berries growing wild around here. They are tiny, bright red, and simultaneously salty and sweet. The berries are abundant and when I find a good-tasting bush, I collect a handful to add to salads and sauces. 

Seaberry Saltbush (Chenopodium candolleanum syn Rhagodia candolleana) is of the Chenopodiaceae family - same as beetroot and spinach.

It is a scrambling dense shrub with glossy leaves that are semi-succulent and it has bundles of bright red berries at the tips of the stems around this time of year. 

It is a common Australian native plant that is found growing wild in many coastal environments in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

  • It grows in really tough conditions.
  • It is adapted to harsh saline conditions and can withstand lots of salt spray.  
  • It thrives in coastal sandy soils, on dunes.
  • It is a very useful plant for revegetation of degraded sites and can act as a small windbreak. 
  • It is fire resistant because of the juiciness and salt content of the leaves. 
  • It is also drought tolerant
  • It is moderately frost tolerant
  • It can tolerate full sun and full shade.

Birds love the berries too and particularly and it’s a refuge for them, lizards and little mammals.  They like to hide in the dense scrambling mass of shrubby stems.

Both the leaves and the fruit were eaten by Aboriginal people. 

Children like to use the red berries for painting and face paint!

Seaberry Saltbush is really useful in a polycultural edible garden. They attract beneficial insects (lacewings, ladybugs) and they are deep-rooted and hardy. They grow quickly, protect the soil and shade weeds. It has actually been used as a beneficial intercrop between lettuce beds.

It’s easy to propagate by cutting or seed. 

It’s quite an attractive plant that can be used in a garden setting too, but it would need a bit of pruning to keep it from scrambling too far.

A great plant for a coastal food forest, verge garden, perennial edible garden and bushfood garden. Would also be a hardy potted plant.



Monday, 8 January 2018

Seven year beans: grow perennial protein


We call Madagascar beans (Phaseolus lunatus) our magic beans. They:
  1. are fast growing
  2. live for 7 years
  3. are hardy and low-maintenance
  4. are adaptable to various soils
  5. provide abundant protein - great for us!
  6. produce abundant organic matter - great for soil life!
  7. are totally edible - all parts
Not only do Madagascar beans grow so fast and produce so much, they also taste great, add lots of fibre and protein into our vegetarian diet, are versatile to cook and, well, look fabulous - large purple-spotted beans!   I use them in soups, stews, curries, salads, veggie patties and dips. The beans can also be made into tempeh. 

The Madagascar bean vine is a vigorously climbing perennial legume for warmer areas - it thrives in hot humid areas. In my subtropical garden (which can experience frosts in winter), it dies back each winter but happily reshoots when the temperatures rise again. 

Each year the vine gets stronger and more productive. The main stem on my vine is now quite substantial. I have it growing on a strong trellis - it needs it!

Madagascar bean is actually a type of lima bean. The white variety is also known as butter bean - a common bean found in cans on supermarket shelves. This bean can be eaten as both young and dried beans. The young pods and leaves are also edible, but need to be cooked well - they can be fibrous and the leaves a bit bitter.

Madagascar bean is an ancient vegetable from the Andes. It was first domesticated in Peru possibly as early as 8000 years ago.

As well as producing food, these beans help create a mass of organic matter, improve the soil, and can be used to create summer shade and screening.

Click here to watch my new short film: Grow Perennial Protein.






Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Community shared milking: a neighbourhood farming project



I am part of a cow collective, a small group of neighbours who share the care of a few lovely cows and their calves for milking.  In this film I explains how it works and take you with my family down to the farm.

We take turns in milking and so milk just once a week. We take home around 20 litres which we use for awesomely fresh coffee cream, wicked smoothies, delicious yoghurt, kefir and superb cheeses.

Our kids love the milking morning, caring for the calves and cows. Working together with community makes things easier. We all share the care, the cost, the milking and the abundance.

Shared farming projects could provide an answer for many small-scale and urban agriculture activities.




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