Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose
Photo: Journey Worker Productions, CC SA 3.0 (C)

Monday, 23 March 2015

Retrospective: Jan 2014 summer / straw / weeds / seasonality / Bee sustainable

(from early autumn I think; the sort of species mentioned as the random planting below)

I have spent a bit of this morning and this evening (the cool bookends of the day) just cut up straw from the old plants, and got the remaining seed pods from various daikons, pak choi, beetroots and kale plants (lots of kale and daikon seeds especially!). The dried husks of the seedpods and the straw remnants of the plants I have let dry over the last 2 months, being the first two months of summer. 

I got about bucket of straw mulch. I took all the old potplants, watered and cleared them of non-starter weeds etc. (all remulched too, minus their seeds), and added worm castings to them, then mulch of straw. 

Digression - Among the delights among the weeds were a solanum nigrum (Blackberry nightshade) has popped up, along with an existing Fat Hen plant, which I have allowed to grow in a corner, and is now 2ft tall! (and ready for harvesting - the lower leaves have started redding-and-yellowing, indicating a lack of nutrients relative to the plant's growth-and-reproduction needs. Fat Hen is a snail-unfriendly, hardy resistant spinach substitute, which I like to have fresh-steamed with steak). I have also bought some fat hen in a seed packet, in order to practice cultivating it once winter rolls around. I am really quite delighted that all sorts of weeds have infested the place, which is allowing me to sort through them and eat the edible ones! (and let the inedibles have their moment, and work as summer shade, then as flowers and then as biomass).

I identified a plant I'd thought was a retarded cucumber, but which also turns out to be another edible weed - a mallow plant, in this case an Australian mallow methinks (a malva preissiana - Australian Hollyhock, but Im going to check the identification again to be sure, and will write something on it. Its an intriguing plant. I had let it grow hoping it would be a Devil's fig weed - which I could use for grafting on eggplants and tomatoes, but it was not to be). 

I have let a load of things go semiwild this summer, to see what turns up, because my travel plans meant it was a bit tough to do regular watering, and because Ive wanted to see what occurs, or to put it in Heideggerian terms, what unconceals itself. For example, Ive wanted to let some of the grasses grow to see what species they are. 

But now Im restoring a new line of veggie pots.

So they've been fed, watered, had a layer of worm casting added, and then the straw-mulch added. The following species are randomly strewn throughout:

Pak Choi
red giant mustard
Kale chou moullier (this is exciting - it is more or less a small kale tree if it works. If it fails, it fails because it is preferential snail fodder. Everything growing near kale-and-a-snail flourishes. I have plenty of established 'kale buckets' so if these end up as snail diversions, thats ok). 
fat hen
coriander cilantro

[An update a year later: the pak choi was ok, the mustard was excellent and very disease proof, the kale chou moulier was hopeless, the mizuna was good but there wasnt much of it, and the fat hen was excellent and I got a lot of greens out of it. The coriander didnt take at all. The enjoyable surprise was the emergence of Amaranth]

I didnt plant any giant russian cucumbers, I have to do a bit of research on where and the when on that.

Some of them are being sown a bit out of season, but I am experimenting. My hypothesis is that optimisation of plant seasons is less of an issue in Melbourne, where it almost never frosts, and doesnt go above 35-40 that often (yeah, 44 deg 4-day heatwave in mid Jan 2014, I know). Indeed, given that the classification into S-W-A-S is a Europeanism that we might have adopted a bit quickly, and Aboriginal 6 season schemes might be more accurate/helpful, I wonder whether one has to be rigidly controlled by EuroSeasonality. (Indeed, my biggest forced embrace of seasonality is our adoption of it in terms of the academic year and the liturgical calendar. What Australian hasn't occasionally thought in September or October that this should be Lent time, or thought that Lent seasonally makes little sense in March-April? Anyway, we forebear the same and God forefends change. Mother Country heartaches is not something I really do very well, so Im happy to try something different. (Should I do a post on local aboriginal seasons, which made much more sense than SWAS, I wonder?). 

(Then there's the fact of whole emergence of liturgical calandars in the Mediterranean, invalidating turning my grumps about seasonality into arguments).

These were all Eden Seeds varieties I got from our friend Robert at Bee Sustainable

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