Bitter Chocolate Mexican Zucchini Torte

Zucchini cake 1

I deliberately planted minimal zucchinis this year – initially just one of the light green Mexican (Cucurbita pepo) heirloom plants.  Since then I’ve put another two in for late season crops of another variety called Cocozelle – which produces stunningly striped fruit.

Interestingly the Mexican zucchinis are supposed to be heat tolerant and this summer’s heat wave with the mercury hitting 46 degrees on one day certainly showed it to be resilient.  The only issue stopping me growing this variety again is the small super fine spikes which are nettle thin and even made it through my garden hardy fingers.  Gloves are a good idea until they’re inside and you can scrub the spines off with a scourer in water.

Being a big fan of baking with beetroot, I’ve been looking at another way of stuffing some fibre into sweet dishes to slow down the sugar hitting our systems…yes basically any excuse to continue eating chocolate cake.

This recipe has a few differences due to ingredients I had on hand, namely the addition of Tasmanian wholemeal spelt flour which I used for half of the flour requirement.  I’ve also used a tad less sugar than similar recipes so if you’re baking for really sweet tastes you may wish to substitute the 70% cocoa chocolate with higher sugar varieties i.e. normal cooking chocolate (milk or dark)

Zucchini cake 4

Ingredients

2 cups of grated zucchini

2 eggs

1/2 cup of milk

125g grass fed butter (at room temp)

1 1/4 cups of Plain flour

1 1/4 cups of wholemeal spelt flour (I used Callington Mill’s organic stoneground wholegrain spelt from Tasmania)

Salt – pinch

1/2 tsp dutch cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 vanilla bean (or tsp of extract)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup 70% cocoa chocolate chopped

Method

Usual cake stuff applies; sift your dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together.

Cream butter with the sugar in a large bowl add the eggs and beat.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the lovely insides with a sharp knife and add.  Mix in the milk and then add the dry ingredients.

Zucchini cake 2

Finally add the two cups of zucchini and grated chocolate.

Zucchini cake 3

I used a spring form 26cm round tin (torte in Italy is ‘torta’ which means a round cake so how could I use a square tin!?)

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Cook at 165 degrees C (fan forced) for 40-50 mins until springy and a knife comes out clean when carefully stabbed!

I finished it with a ganache of dark chocolate melted into cream.

Best served with Creme Fraiche

Zucchini cake 6

Fried Green Tomatoes!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green tomatoes.7

This recipe has been inspired by a challenge reluctantly put forward by BayFM’s Karen Mason.  You see Kaz doesn’t like tomatoes.  She never has.  So I’ve stepped up to the crease and have accepted the challenge to create something containing tomatoes that Kaz can actually stomach.

Fried Green tomatoes_Kaz 1

I started off a little optimistically, by offering Kaz two home grown varieties; Green Zebra and Money Maker.  No sale on the Money Maker I’m afraid.  Just as well radio isn’t a visual medium, as there were some interesting facial expressions taking place in the studio.  While Green Zebra was received more warmly, there was still no way Ms Mason was going to make her way to the nursery any time soon to start growing her own.

Time to bring in the big guns – Southern American cuisine.  If anyone can make a vegetable tasty, it has to be the home of fried chicken ’n’ grits!

Fried Green Tomatoes

For this recipe I used Amish Paste tomatoes as they are a good size and are producing large quantities of fruit, hence I was happy to use a few ‘experimentally’.

Ingredients

4-5 green tomatoes sliced 5-8mm thick (1/4 inch)

I egg

Splash of milk

Oil for shallow frying

Plain flour

Polenta

Salt

Pepper

Method

It’s a pretty standard battering process, but anytime you’re using hot oil it pays to get everything ready before starting the cooking.  Another great tip I’ll tell you for free is that you should try to keep one hand clean and dry.

Start by slicing your tomatoes quite thickly – another reason to choose larger tomatoes in the first place. Discard the ends and any blemishes.

Fried Green tomatoes.2

Place your sliced tomatoes in a bowl of plain flour.  This removes the moisture and helps provide a good surface for the egg and milk mix to stick to.

Mix a splash of milk and one large egg with a fork until combined.  Dunk your floury tomatoes into this mix until coated.

Fried Green tomatoes.4

Next comes the ‘dredge’  This basically a seasoned flour mixed with polenta.  You can also use breadcrumbs instead of the polenta or a mix of both!  Season pretty heavily with salt and pepper – I probably used a good teaspoon of salt.

Fried Green tomatoes.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coat your tomatoes well with the dredge before popping small batches into hot oil.  I used olive oil as coconut oil is too damn expensive to use in bulk and I no longer keep any vegetable/seed oil in the house.

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Many recipes from the U.S. suggested ‘ranch dressing’ which I assume is a ketchup-sweet mayonnaise dressing – not swapping your clothes for a cowboy suit.

I was actually surprised to find them really tangy, refreshing and a great late summer dish – perfect for the impatient amongst us who can’t wait for their tomatoes to ripen…

Oh, and Kaz loved them!

Fried Green tomatoes_Kaz 2

Marianna’s Polish Potato Salad

A bag of home grown spuds from my Dad has inspired me to revisit this recipe.  Plus, with Christmas just around the corner the more recipes that can be made in advance the better!

I was shown how to make this potato salad about 15 years ago by a great Polish cook called Marianna and it remains a favourite recipe today.

Potato salad 6

Especially good when made the day before, it packs a much bigger flavour punch than your average spud salad (it’s really a vegetable salad) and is great for summer and winter alike.

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Ingredients:

7 average sized potatoes (desiree are the best for this recipe but I’ve used Coliban as that’s what my Dad gave me)

6 carrots

1 leek (just use the white)

5 pickled dill cucumbers (seek out Krakus brand)

6 hardboiled eggs

1 can of peas or approx 400g fresh peas cooked

1-1.5 cup of mayonnaise (Marianna always uses Thomy brand egg mayo)

Salt and Pepper

Method:

Cook your potatoes and carrots together, but DON’T peel or cut them into pieces!  They should be ready at the same time – check using a skewer through the largest carrot.  I noticed my colibans started to disintegrate which make sense as they’re a fluffier spud that the waxy desiree.

Potato salad 1

Put your eggs onto boil – for newbies the trick to cooking good eggs is to get them out of fridge and up to room temperature.  Place into a saucepan of COLD water and gently bring to a simmer.  Once simmering cook for a further 8 minutes.  Cool down and peel.

While all this cooking is going on dice the leek finely and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt.

Potato salad 2

Peel the dill pickles and dice those finely too.

Cook your fresh home grown peas (or drain your tinned peas…shhh) and pop these into a mixing bowl with leek and pickles.

Potato salad 3

Drain and cool your potatoes and carrots.  When cool enough to handle, peel and dice and pop into a big mixing bowl.  Dice your eggs and add them to potatoes and carrots.

Potato salad 4

Add 20 good grinds from a pepper grinder and a really generous pinch or three of your best salt.

Combine all ingredients and mix until evenly distributed.

Add the mayo (I used around 380g of a 470g jar of Thomy)

Potato salad 5

I haven’t changed the recipe at all to date, but would love to add some fresh dill (none growing just now) and use my own pickles next time.

Potato salad 7

3 great organic pest solutions

If you’re keen to cut down on those chemical nasties in your veggie patch, while still protecting your precious crops – then keep on reading!

Petroleum Free White Oil

Off the shelf white oil stinks and to be honest it feels like a bad idea covering your edible citrus crops with it. If you have problems with insect pests such as scale, white fly, leaf miner and aphids, then take five minutes to whip up this concentrate. It will last for ages.

1 cup of vegetable oil

1/4 cup of dishwashing detergent (I used Eco brand)

Citrus scale

Mix this together by shaking in a jar or bottle. This makes the concentrate – you only need to add 2 tablespoons of this concentrate to your spray bottle for every litre of water and away you go!

Caterpillar Soap Spray

Caterpillars are pretty harmless…until you find those beautifully camouflaged green buggers hiding in your home grown broccoli. You only need to eat one before changing to blanching or other cooking methods…yuk.

Anyhow, they unfortunately go with the territory when trying to grow cabbage family crops anytime other than the middle of winter. Try this soap spray to reclaim your greens:

1 Litre of warm water

2 tablespoons of Lux soap flakes (you’ll find it in the cleaning section of your supermarket near a bunch of other stuff you haven’t seen for 20 years)

Lux

Add the soap flakes to the water and stir until dissolved. This is ready to use and as well as dealing with your caterpillars, it will also help with aphids.

Short Black Spray

Yes, even snails and slugs are learning to embrace our cafe culture. With a bit of luck they won’t be embracing much at all after this great home made remedy…

espresso

1 cup of water

1 shot of espresso (or brewed stove top coffee from a mocha pot etc)

Mix together and spray this over the soil, around and onto the leaves that snails and slugs can’t resist. Great for delicate seedlings.

Important!

Although these are less nasty than your standard chemical pesticides, always remember to keep them in properly marked spray bottles and jars WAY out of reach of little people and pets. You’ll find they don’t hang around as long as commercial sprays so be prepared to spray after rainfall etc.

Spring Nettle Tart

I’ve been obsessed with eating nettles for a little while now, so I’m always after a new way of preparing them! This is a tasty tart that’s filling enough for a main meal where you’ll want to serve it with a salad (it’s pretty rich!)

I actually made this with my Mum as I wanted to learn our family’s shortcrust recipe (actually belonging to my Dad’s mum – Una Lucas). While catching up with Mum she showed me her first cook book!

yvonne school cook book no label

Una’s Short Crust Pastry

10oz plain flour (approx 300g)

2oz S.R. flour (approx 50g)

6oz butter (approx 150g)

3 tbsp cold water

1 whole egg

pinch salt

(and if making a sweet short crust add 1 tbsp of caster sugar)

I found this left enough shortcrust over to do almost another tart…maybe a dessert?

First up you need to rub the diced butter into the sieved flours and salt. This helps to coat the flour and prevents the gluten forming. VERY important as while we want gluten when making bread it’s the enemy of delicate short crust pastry!  Okay now give the egg a quick whisk then add it and the cold water to a well in the flour mix…

shortcrust 2 shortcrust 1

Using a cold knife helps to keep your warm hands off the mix, and cutting the ingredients together rather than kneading helps prevent the dreaded gluten forming!  Once the mix is just starting to come together, tip onto a dusted surface. Gently knead until it just forms a ball…well kind of a ball.

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Wack some plastic wrap or a damp tea towel around the pastry and pop it in the fridge for approx 30 minutes.

This gives plenty of time to prepare the other ingredients:

8-10 slices of pancetta (chopped)

1 large leek (sliced, mainly the white)

2 spring onions (sliced)

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

Approx 400 grams of tender stinging nettles (I harvested around a 9 litre bucket loosely filled and this was the correct amount) These need to be dropped in boiling water for a few seconds to lose their stings, then you can go ahead and chop the leaves off the stems.

3 eggs

150g nice cheddar or Gruyere cheese (grated)

50g parmeson (grated)

200ml milk

150ml pure cream

seasonal herbs (I used dill this time around)

Asparagus – trimmed to fit (about half a small bunch)

Cook the diced pancetta and once the fat yields, pop in your garlic and spring onions – you won’t need extra oil.  Squeeze the excess water out of your nettles and chop them finely

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Take your nice and chilly pastry out of the fridge and roll it out until it’s big enough to fit comfortably over a pie dish. I’ve used a 23cm pie dish that’s around 5cm deep.

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Gently push the base down and use a spoon or fork if you’re feeling like making fancy patterns.

Now you NEED to blind bake this pastry so it stays nice and firm after cooking. Pop some baking paper in and cover with beans (keep using the same ones)

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Blind bake for about 15 minutes in a 180 C fan forced oven

While that’s going on you can whisk the three eggs, milk and cream. Add the chopped herbs too.

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Once your shortcrust is done take the beans out and if the base is still soft, pop it back bean-less for another 5 mins.

From here it’s an easy few steps of assembly. Put the nettle and pancetta mix in first.

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Then cheeses and finally the milk/cream mix and top it off by pushing in the asparagus spears…

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Drop the oven temp to around 160 degrees for a fan-forced unit and cook for a further 30-40 minutes until just set and golden.

 

Kaleslaw!

kaleslaw main

If you’re lucky enough to bring little people into this world, please DON’T let their first experience of Coleslaw be from Kentucky Fried Chicken AKA – ‘The Dirty Bird’!

KFC coleslaw

Even well paid food stylists can’t make this stuff look good…

 

This sickly sweet sloppy mess remains one of the few salad offerings from the big fast food providers and really doesn’t deserve the name sake – originally taken from the Dutch “Koolsla”, the shortened version of “Kool Salade” meaning Cabbage Salad.

With two types of Kale still growing with vigour in my garden (Purple Russian and Tuscan) I decided to make them the main raw veg ingredient in a little dish I like to call…KALESLAW!

I’ve also added some sweet, just picked baby savoy cabbage from my garden.  Staggering the picking of cabbages i.e. using some young and some more mature helps to avoid the:

“Oh my God – I’ve eight giant cabbages that need to be used and I don’t like sauerkraut!”

 

Backyard Harvest Kaleslaw Recipe:

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

2 cups of grated carrot

1/2 small Spanish onion (or a couple of spring onions)

1 cup of thinly sliced purple Russian kale

1 cup of thinly sliced Tuscan kale

2 cups of finely sliced savoy cabbage

Chopped fresh coriander to taste

Dressing:

1/2 cup Whole Egg mayonnaise

Splash of cider vinegar

Salt (I’ve used some black lava sea salt from a recent trip to Hawaii)

1 tblsp Coconut sugar (keeping with the Hawaiian theme)

kaleslaw 1

Grated carrot and finely chopped onion

kaleslaw 2

Red Russian Kale on the left is less known but has a more delicate leaf than the Tuscan on the right.  Both grow with well all year ’round and have far less pest problems than cabbage varieties.  Oh and they’re SUPER FOODS!

kaleslaw 3

Both kale varieties are finely chopped and added…

kaleslaw 4

This sweet, sweet savoy cabbage was picked just moments before this pic and had more crunch than a new season apple!

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Mixed and ready for dressing…

kaleslaw 5

That black stuff isn’t pepper – it’s ‘Black Lava’ sea salt from Hawaii – can’t wait to run out so I have an excuse to go back to Maui!

Baring all this winter!

Deciduous fruit trees are at their most dormant stage right now.  This means they can be removed from the ground, bundled up and kept in moist saw dust by your local nursery.  But it’s a relatively small window we have to get planting.  After August you’ll notice buds starting to swell indicating the tree is out of its winter slumber and preparing for Spring (see below). This drastically increases the chances of transplant shock and is best avoided.

Bare rooted trees are relatively small and it’s easy to forget how big they may eventually grow.  Most fruit trees will get to around 4m x 4m by the time they’re 20 years old so if that doesn’t appeal check out if there’s a dwarf variety available.  Additionally you want to make sure you plan for the lateral (sideways) growth of the tree.  It’s often you’ll see a garden path made redundant because the once small fruit tree now has an established vase shape and threatens to bump the head of anyone passing nearby!  Of course you could just whip up an organic helmet…

Soil preparation and planting

I always dig holes for my new bare-rooted fruit trees a week or so before I plant them.  This allows me to see if the water will drain freely or whether there’s going to be an ongoing issue of root rot etc.  Simply fill your hole up with water and note how long it takes to drain.  If the water hasn’t subsided by a day then you can either mix in some gypsum with the soil or build up a hill above the original surface.   Gypsum won’t work on all clays (it’s not just adding sand, it actually causes a chemical reaction with certain clays that breaks them up) so it’s worth re-filling the hole with water again to check drainage.

Also worth noting that in recent years our increased rainfall means you have to be more mindful of drainage than 5 years ago.  Make your hole a little deeper than it has to be and about twice the width of the roots of your new tree.  You can tell the original depth the tree was planted at by the different colour on the trunk/stem i.e. the below surface stem will be darker.   DON”T PUT ANY FERTILISER IN THE HOLE!  Your tree has gone through quite a shock with a large amount of its fine roots removed.  The new root growth will not take kindly to any fertiliser so resist the temptation to give your new tree a thriving start by putting a shovel load of chook manure in the hole with it!   Wait until spring when you can apply some organic fertiliser on the surface and let it gradually reach the root zone.

As the roots have been trimmed in bare rooted trees, you need to take of about a third of the above ground growth to compensate.  This is fairly easy, although many nurseries will do this for you when they pack your trees.  Keep in mind the final tree shape you’re after as this first heavy prune will decide whether you keep a main central leader (pyramid) or promote the lateral growth (vase).

Avoid staking unless your tree is really exposed and simply don’t buy it if it doesn’t look robust!

Backyard Harvest’s Top Five bare rooted recommendations

Ultimately your tree choice comes down to personal fruit and nut preferences.   The five I’ve listed will fit in most compact urban yards and either pollinate themselves or rely on one of the others.  If you’re renting don’t forget you can also pop them in large pots.

Apricot (Moorpark)

Surely the king of stone fruits, most of us have fond memories of apricots you could smell before you could taste.  I grew up near Mildura where a massive apricot tree used to produce fruit by the bucket load every summer and gave me an early appreciation of home-grown fruit.  Moorpark is a variety not favoured by the commercial growers as it just doesn’t travel well.  It’s just too bloody succulent!  So it’s not just nostalgia that made the apricots of your childhood taste better – they were most likely a backyard cultivar that never made it anywhere near a supermarket.

Almond

Also known as the peach that’s gone a bit nutty, the almond is a great way to show your kids how nuts actually grow.  Make sure you ask for a self pollinating variety.

Apple #1 (dwarf Granny Smith)

You know there actually was a granny Smith.  About 130 years ago she threw a crate of rotting apples by a creek bed like magic some of the seeds germinated and morphed into the world’s best cooking apple.  Nice one Granny.

Apple #2 (dwarf Gala)

Like the dwarf Granny Smith, this Gala will grow to about 2.5m x 2.5m keeping the fruit within reach.  Of course if you’ve got the space go for a full sized ones as they are truly beautiful trees.

Peach (Elberta)

There’s few things that top picking a ripe peach straight from the tree and eating it.  Commercial peaches have to be picked way before they’re ripe so it’s rare to buy one that can go close to matching the home grown experience.

Fig (Black Genoa)

One of the most underrated fruits in Australia.  During the last drought I saw fig trees happily producing fruit using virtually no water while eucalypts a few blocks away turned up there toes and died.  Beautiful shade trees, great for kids to climb and why pay $40kg for organic figs when you can grow them in your backyard!

 

Not so boring broad beans!

Broad beans seem to be treated with far more respect in Europe where they’ve even made it into fairy tales…remember Jack and the beanstalk?  Yep, that was a broad bean stalk that took Jack up into the clouds.  There’s even a town in Germany that has the Broad Bean as its mascot!  I received this as a gift from a German brother and sister while operating a backpackers a few years ago. Yes, they take broad beans very seriously!

Well I’m here to fly the flag for these wonderful legumes as they’re easy to grow, give a huge yield like nothing else and if you know how to prepare them, are really tasty!

When and How to grow them

Broad beans will grow happily over winter and are best planted around now (almost May) through to the end of winter.  Peter Bennett, the author of the fantastic Australian Organic Gardening now in its 7th edition, is a big fan of later plantings as he argues the flowers won’t set into pods if the weather is too cold.  This year I’m placing a bet each way, so in addition to the crop I’ve already planted, I’ll plant another in a month or so.

As they’re part of the legume or bean and pea family, broad beans can be planted in a garden bed that’s previously had a heavy feeding crop such as broccoli, lettuce, asian greens etc.  While you won’t need to specifically add any organic fertiliser, it’s wise to add compost to the soil and in the case of broad beans sprinkle some potash and dolomite over the soil and work in prior to planting.  This is one crop that grow best when planted from seed – don’t bother getting seedlings as it will work out to be hideously expensive and you’ll struggle not to damage their large root structure removing them from the punett.

Sow in rows about 50cm apart with the seeds spaced about 10cm apart.  They’re huge seeds so make sure they’re sufficiently covered by soil (about 5cm).  Water well once covered and don’t worry about watering again until the seedlings have emerged (usually around 2 weeks).  These guys will get quite tall (sometimes well over a metre) so it’s important to support them from falling over, especially in the windy weather we get in spring.  A good strategy is to plant in small plots so you can support a group of them together.  Simply place stakes at each corner of the plot and loop pantyhose around the stakes so the broad beans are enclosed.  Avoid using string as it can damage the plants in strong winds.

This is a photo of last year’s crop about a month after planting.  Leaving enough space between rows allows you to easily weed using a dutch hoe so no back breaking work and the weeds become a green mulch.  These stakes will eventually provide support for the beans.

Cooking broad beans – one tip you can’t miss!

Before I get to the tip an important medical fact with broad beans is that they should never be eaten raw by anyone taking antidepressants that contain monoamine inhibitors…the results can be fatal!  Okay now the scary stuff is over the most important tip for making sure your broad beans never resemble those greyish looking horrors from our youth is to DOUBLE PEEL them.  How?  Well you simply take the beans out of their velvety pods and pop them into boiling water for 30 seconds.  Take them out and refresh in cold water until cool enough to handle.  You’ll find the beans have an outer skin that can be removed with a small cut from a paring knife or long fingernails if your fortunate enough to have them.  This will reveal a new, green bean within which I guarantee will change your life…well almost.  This light blanching will be enough cooking for young tender beans, they’ll just need rewarming when added to non-salad recipes.

Generally speaking broad beans are a fairly dense bit of veg, and if you simply serve up a bowl by themselves it’s kind of like trying to eat half a cabbage.  They are best when served with flavours that are going to cut through and enhance their veggie goodness.  So think of strong cheeses (romano, parmesan, feta), bacon, panchetta or chorizo and of course my favourite – organic butter and sea salt.

They work really well with pasta dishes and can liven up stodgy dishes where other greens simply wilt away.

One final recipe idea which I’ve stolen from Stephanie Alexander (which she stole from Stefano de Pieri and he probably stole from a little old Italian lady) is as follows:

As above, pod, blanch and peel your broad beans.

Crush them in a mortar with a pestle – if you don’t have one you can do small pulses in a food processor making sure you don’t overdo it – it’s not a dip.

Remove into a clean bowl and mix with a grated hard cheese such as pecorino

Give them a good glug of some of our great local olive oil (I’m using extra virgin Camilo from Teesdale)

Season with ground black pepper and sea salt

Serve on toasted or better still grilled sourdough (make it La Madre or Zeally Bay) which has had a clove of garlic rubbed onto it

My own addition is to add some marinated Meredith Goat Cheese just prior to serving it up – perfect if you want a light meal rather than an entree.

A perfect way to celebrate spring and enjoy a bruschetta type snack long before you’re first tomato has ripened!

No Dig Gardening

No-dig gardening has been written about since the mid 1940’s.  I mean just take a look at Albert Guests’ “Gardening Without Digging” (below).  Kinda reminds me a little of myself, standing there in my double breasted suit, smoking a pipe while admiring my garden.

But is was wonderful Esther Dean, who took the concept to the mainstream in the 1970s with her book “No Dig Gardening”, which has sold over 100,000 copies to date.

More recently it’s been promoted as “A new layering system…” or Lasagne Gardening with Patricia Lanza’s book.

 

How to get started?

Firstly you’ll need to assemble some ingredients:

Materials for a border: Straw bales, timber, bricks.  NB: If you’re building a garden over concrete or bitumen you will need boarders at least 30cm high.

Newspaper or cardboard boxes.

Bales of hay- ideally lucerne but straw will do (pea straw is great)

Manure – chicken, cow, pig – I’m not a huge fan of horse manure as it tends to include more weeds.  Would be fine for a deeper bed.

Compost

Potting mix

Water

Step by Step

1. Place your newspaper and/or cardboard in a sturdy wheelbarrow  right where you’re working and fill with water.

2. Mark out the edge of your new garden with your border material

3. Take the now soaked newspaper and place down thickly (the tougher the grass/weeds, the thicker it needs to be)

4. Throw some veggie scraps over the newspaper to encourage worm activity

5. Place down a thick layer of straw (if the straw breaks off into ‘biscuits’ go one layer deep)  approximately 20cm

8. Water well

6. Cover with a good layer of manure – use the ‘hottest’ first e.g. chicken.  Again water well.

7. Cover with another straw layer and follow with with manure, watering between each layer.  Continue until you’ve reached the height of your border.

8. Finish with a final layer of pea straw or sugarcane mulch.

9. Pull aside holes in the top layer of mulch and put in a few handfuls of potting mix.

10. Plant directly into the potting mix and water well.

Here’s a time-lapse clip showing how it’s done.  Maybe turn the volume down though…

 

 

Important Tips!

If you’re planting directly over lawn, mow the law on a very low setting just before starting the newspaper layer

Make sure you remove plastic tape from any cardboard boxes and plastic wrap from magazines.  Staples are fine.

Don’t use waxed vegetable boxes as in most cases it will be a petroleum based wax.

Some permaculture books suggest using old clothing, jeans, bed linen etc. as a sheet mulch for the bottom layer.  In my experience this is no longer the best idea as many of these now contain polyester which won’t break down.

The more thoroughly you can water whilst building the no-dig bed, the less is will sink down afterwards.  It also helps to speed up the composition of all your ingredients.

No dig gardens are better suited to well established seedlings – not seeds or root vegetables.

Now get (no) digging!

Crop Rotation 101

Why bother?

When starting a kitchen garden, we focus a lot on plants and yields.  What do I like to eat?  What do I want to grow?  As time with dirt up your nails increases you tend to get more focused on the soil and its needs – then the plants take care of themselves.  Part of this acknowledgement is realising it’s actually a pretty amazing thing to grow such high nutrient food year after year in plain old ‘dirt’.  But it’s not all a oneway street.  Soil gets depleted of elements and especially the three majors: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.  We can work around this natural cycle though, by planting in tune with the soil’s fertility.  Additionally, by moving plant families around, you’re less likely to have problems with soil borne diseases and other pests.

We are family

To effectively use crop rotation we have to understand the different plant families.  Some of our veggies are fairly obviously related e.g. carrot and parsnip.  Some are less so…think potatoes and tomatoes or beetroot and spinach.

Here is a quick run down:

Onion Family (Alliaceae)

Garlic, Leeks, Onions, Shallots

Cabbage Family (Brassicaceae)

Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard, Bok Choy and other asian greens, Radish, Swede and Turnips

Carrot Family (Apiaceae)

Carrot, Celeriac, Celery, Fennel, Dill, Parsley, Parsnip

Potato Family (Solanaceae)

Eggplant, Capsicum, Chillies, Potato, Tomato

Marrow Family (Curcubitaceae)

Cucumber, Zucchini, Melons, Pumpkin, Squash

Bean and Pea Family (Leguminosae/Fabaceae)

Alfalfa, Beans, Clover, Fenugreek, Lupin, Peas

Daisy Family (Compositae/Asteraceae)

Lettuce, Chicory, Endive, Jerusalem Artichoke, Salsify

Now we categorise our veggies according to the parts we eat (basically).

Legume

Bean and Pea Family

Root

Onion Family

Carrot Family

Leaf

Cabbage Family

Daisy Family

Fruit

Potato Family

Marrow Family

Let’s get started

Know we’re armed with all this knowledge we can start to plan our beds.  To start with a four-bed system is a good idea and if you don’t have separate garden beds you can simply divide a large patch into four.  It’s also a good idea to throw a little lime on the soil after the ‘fruit’ season as this will sweeten the soil for root crops.

 

  Season One Season Two Season Three Season Four
Bed One Peas or Beans Leaf Fruit Root
Bed Two Leaf Fruit Root Peas or Beans
Bed Three Root Peas or Beans Leaf Fruit
Bed Four Fruit Root Peas or Beans Leaf