Just a day before the first day of winter tomorrow, here is an update on our autumn days at the garden. And what a crazy autumn weather we’ve had this year! Most of April was extremely warm and May with all sunny, warm and beautiful days quickly turned into windy and cold day and nights. Our plants must have been so confused though most managed to survive and produced good, tasty harvest while some have been succumbed to unfortunate pest attacks.
We enjoyed plentiful harvest of Jerusalem artichokes after the plants displayed beautiful sunflowers both inside and outside beds. Snake beans were planted a bit late in summer but still produced well and dwarf bush beans from outside bed were so tasty, thanks to Bruce Michell’s dedicated attention there! And aren’t we proud of our heirloom Purple King Climbing beans? They are the 10th generation from our own seeds and almost guaranteed to produce healthy crunchy beans year after year.
Climbing beans are supposed to be plants for warmer months, so we planted just two seeds of Red Lima beans among the Snake beans bed early November. After Snake beans have finished, these Red Lima grew and grew to form a lush green wall on the 1.8m high trellis filling the entire bed. They have been producing hard skinned green pods (not suitable for eating) from late summer well into autumn and maybe into winter as they are so drought resistant and hardy. Since pods are not really edible, once beans inside look large and fat enough, we pick them. Inside each pod you will find a few beautifully coloured and shaped Red Lima beans. Young beans have white and pink skin and turn bright green and opaque white respectively once cooked and skin removed. Mature ones are dark maroon red in colour and used as dried beans, so need soaking overnight before cooking. I’ve enjoyed cooking young beans in salads so far and they taste very nutritious, a bit like crunchier version of broad beans.
While organic community gardening brings us such a joy, it is almost a constant battle with pests as we attend to the garden on a weekly basis, not on a daily basis as farmers or keen gardeners do. So we try to protect some of our veggies with mulch, netting and practice companion planting where possible. A couple of months ago Colin Jacobson and I visited The Coal Loader Platform Community Garden for a tour led by Eric Sturman, Streets Alive Co-ordinator at North Sydney Council. Eric showed us an amazing array of healthy looking leafy vegetables and herbs growing there in the newly designed raised beds with special watering system. We also saw their neat structure of tubes and netting which Eric suggested we could also utilise at MCG. So, following Sunday Eric helped us to prepare some beds with new netting structure. Hopefully the new netting would protects plants from some pests and birds, and occasional thieves!
As daylight is becoming shorter and the midday sun is lower in the sky, we have noticed large parts of the garden are in shade during the day affecting our plants growth considerably. This is because large trees, one inside the garden and another beside the children’s playground in particular, cast such large shadow making it difficult for plants to grow to produce decent crops. We spoke to Council to access trimming of these trees in order to allow sunlight to come through. Although trees have been trimmed lightly recently, we are expecting more to be trimmed in coming weeks. Over the 9 yeas of community gardening at MCG, our plants grew and so did trees in and around the garden.
As we like chilly winter morning or not, we are going to harvest some Turmeric (for the second year in a row) and Sweet Potatoes (hopefully plenty!) over the coming weeks. So, see you at the garden soon! Many thanks for your support and help always!