What’s happening in the Gardens?

by Mascha Florisson
Summer 2015/16, Living Well Magazine

I’m writing this in late October but it feels like summer has already arrived. With warmer than average temperatures for the last month the gardens have burst forth with new growth. The grass, our vegetables and unfortunately the weeds are all growing at incredible rates and there is more than enough to do to keep us happy and busy.

Our first seasons’ asparagus harvest has been amazingly abundant. The asparagus have literally been popping up overnight; growing at 1cm an hour (I’m not exaggerating, at the height of the season they can grow 25cm tall in a day!)  So it goes without saying that asparagus have featured strongly on the menu in the our retreat kitchen over spring, but we are now giving the plants a break and letting the remaining spears grow so they can store some energy into their roots for next year. If you look after your asparagus plants they can last for 20 years. What an amazing vegetable!

The forecast seems to be for a hot, dry summer this year, so we have been taking extra care in preparing the soil with lots of organic matter before planting our summer vegetable seedlings. Organic matter such as compost or a green manure crop, dug into the soil a few weeks before planting your vegetables will not only feed your crop but help retain moisture in your soil for plants to use during hot, dry summer days.  We have also been mulching around our vegetables with hay and comfrey leaves to help retain soil moisture.

Some of the vegetables we are planting over late spring and early summer are beetroot, parsnip, lettuces, celery, celeriac, silver beet, broccoli, capsicums, tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, button squash, zucchini, cucumbers, basil, corn, beans, spring onions, parsley, and leeks. We have been harvesting lots of snow peas, kale, cabbage, lettuce and asparagus, and we’re looking forward to harvesting garlic, onion and broadbean crops soon. Our thornless blackberries are also in flower and look like they will be providing a bumper crop of sweet berries for on our kitchen later in the summer season.

In winter we said farewell to Ellise who resigned from her job at the foundation to move on to other ventures.  It was a lot of fun working with Ellise over the last couple of years to transform the vegetable gardens into the field of abundance it is today, and I wish her all the best for the future.  Ellise’s position has is now being shared by two other amazing women, Raelene and Wendy, who are experienced horticulturists and bring a wealth of knowledge, vision and enthusiasm to the gardens and I look forward to continuing the gardening journey with them.

“As I wandered the forest, the green leaves among, I heard a wild flower singing a song.” -William Blake 

It’s widely recognised that spending time in nature is good for your health in many different ways. Therefore as a way of introducing the new garden team we’d like to share with you what this means to us…

“I love being in the natural environment away from the business of life. It is my quiet place where life slows down and I can reflect, pray and be renewed.  Gardening enables me to connect with the natural environment in a creative and nurturing way that enables us to reap the rewards of its beauty and abundance of food.” – Raelene

 “I am incredibly fortunate to do what I love for my paid work. I have found weeding, planting and making compost give me a direct contact to the earth and nature that I benefit greatly from.  I get my hands in the soil and it slows me down enough to notice details like the smell and feel of the soil, the root structure of different weeds and plants and the insects that are on and around the plants I’m working with. Working outdoors, in the natural world with plants, compost, soil, sunshine and rain connects me to something greater than myself and helps me to live in the moment. Working in the gardens of the foundation is a wonderfully diverse and interesting job that I enjoy immensely.” – Wendy 

“Outside absorbed in the joy of tending my garden, the forest all around me, the song of birds in my ears, the smell of the earth on my hands I can lose all sense of time and place, I am present in the moment, distracted only to watch a bee collecting pollen from a nearby flower. Here… engaged with the natural world and surrounded by the wonders of nature… I feel most alive.” – Mascha

We’d love to know how spending time in nature or in your garden benefits your health and wellbeing. Send us a few lines and a photo of yourself in your favourite spot in nature to gardens@gawler.org, and with your permission we would love to feature some of you in our eNewsletter and magazine from time to time.