Open day was fun. Somebody (it might have been Diego?) said that Peter Cundall‘s idea of gardening is that you should spend 50 percent of your time just sitting and looking. We did our fair share of this on open day, although we threw drinking cups of tea into the mix too.
The day started with collecting a bumper box of cuttings from Betty, the cafe lady (above). Betty sped through her garden at home in Marrickville before coming to the college, pulling out anything that she thought might be good for us.
There’s nasturtiums, some sort of sweet potato, rosemary, cheremoya, sugar cane, dragon fruit, chilli, garlic chives, and a few mystery plants whose names we’ve forgotten. Doesn’t matter, we’ll plant them all! (and she’ll tell us their names again next time).
The sugar cane is one of the most exciting ones for me. Betty’s idea is that we should be growing it and slashing it back to make our own mulch.
And speaking of sugar and its uses – my old gardening crony Lisa showed up with a jar of orange-coloured liquid. It turns out that this is sugar cane juice, from her own garden!
That morning, Lisa had been to the Flemington Markets to have the tough canes squished and transformed into this sweet nectar, which we all shared around with cautious sips. (Perhaps it’s an acquired taste – or perhaps it’d be good with some sort of booze at the end of a hard Tending day?)
Heather, one of Tending’s greatest local supporters, showed up with baked potatoes to sustain us, and coaxed Lisa and I away from the garden for an hour. We strolled with her down to Lilyfield to see the verge garden she and her buddies from Transition Leichhardt had installed in a back street.
Here we are en-route, not being able to resist taking a photo of this hilariously-stating-the-obvious street mirror. (Heather, who is notorious for avoiding the camera lens, lurks in the far background of this panoptic reflection):
Heather said that she and her friends had identified that street as nice and sunny and a good spot for a verge garden. They did a letterbox drop asking if anyone would like to have their nature strip transformed for free. This particular fellow said yes, so away they went. And now, it seems that the next door neighbour is curious to have his lawn dug up, too…
Here’s some of the edible greenery now gracing the verge:
On the way back, we passed a rambling old house bursting at the seams with biological growth. The lady who lives here, a therapist of some sort, had reclaimed the bitumen, wrapped a bunch of mulch and clippings with some chicken wire, and just gone for it!
Heather knocked on her door. The therapist-lady emerged very cautiously, looking like she was going to get in trouble for something. Little did she know she was about to get a hearty congratulations from us, and an exhortation to “keep at it!”
Back at Tending, the boss and I planted the last of our potatoes – these ones (gourmet pink eye, King Edward and Kipfler spuds donated by Jenny from freecycle) we planted directly in the soil. So now we have 3 methods to compare and contrast: “mulch only” in chicken wire; the car tyre method; and direct soil plantings…
And we met Liz Day! For some time we’ve been wondering about her strange grass farm in the corner of the courtyard. It seems she is growing grass for an exhibition at Casula Powerhouse gallery next month. It’s an odd one: she cast plaster in the shape of letters to form particular phrases. Then she grew grass into the plaster. Once the grass is thick, its roots reach into the recessed letter shapes. Liz can then peel back the grass, and let it die off. It forms a dense organic carpet with an embossed sentence!
Here she is posing in front of her grass farm:
…and here’s one of the letters she peeled back:
Paul began by forking the grass to make it more permeable:
He then put down a layer of saturated cardboard to stop the grass from growing back, followed by a ring of sandstone pieces, and filled it in with soil. Here’s how it looks now:
Paul planted a bunch of heavy-feeding spring-summer seeds: pumpkins, zucchinis, beans and corn. Here’s his map of the planting:
We’re hoping this bed is going to spill out everywhere and clamber over the surrounding grassy terrain, triffid-like…
-Til next time, Tenders!