Today is going to be a little bit different to most of my posts. I headed off for a visit to Steve Solomon’s garden yesterday and this post is going to be all about my visit. Steve Solomon is an ex-pat American man that moved to Tasmania many years ago and calls my local area home. He developed a seed company in the U.S.A. that my good blog mate Christi who is a prolific author and gives us all her wonderful take on life in Western Washington at http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ regularly purchases her veggie seeds from. He has produced a range of seeds and fertilisers specifically for our local area with mindfulness of how depleted and ancient our soil is in Australia. The man certainly knows his stuff as this interesting article posted on Mother Earth website will show you (along with a free recipe for his great natural homemade fertiliser)
As you can see there were quite a few people that turned up to this event. Most of them were interested in organic vegetable growing and some of them just wanted to get more out of their soil and grow better veggies. Steve gave his undivided attention to everyone but there was one younger man who just earned himself a felt hatters moniker. In the photo above he is the young sunglass wearing (on an overcast rainy day mind you…) man in the navy blue jumper and blue jeans standing just to the right of the elderly white hatted man. This guy just couldn’t shut up! I thought that I had a problem with being a bit of a know-it-all but this kid made me look like a mute! He had verbal diarrhea littered with as much scientific jargon as he could muster from his overcharged brain. Steve is a bit of an old hippy and admitted that “I just want everyone to be healthy” to which our sunglass wearing young entrepreneur asked “what is your marketing stragegy?”I rest my case! I could have forgiven him his verbosity if I hadn’t found out that he had booked a spot to gush on we less intelligent mortals at the upcoming Food Sustainability Day that I will be attending. At least I have forwarning and can take some ear plugs should the need arise to give my poor ears a rest!
I left Steve Solomon’s garden with a new passion for growing vegetables and with newfound hope that our soil may not be quite as bad as I thought that it was. It obviously isn’t as glorious as the red Ferrosol soil that Steve bought his property because of, but our silty topsoil covering a subsoil of clay and rocks will give us really good soil moisture retention. I am going to dig up as much comfrey as I can from my daughters place in town and plant it EVERYWHERE on Serendipity Farm. Comfrey is a fantastic perennial herb that has very deep penetrating roots and that should be able to deal with our soil and bring minerals and nutrients to the surface. I can then use its leaves to throw into and accelerate our compost making thus killing two birds with one plant! Yeh…I know…I mixed my metaphors…I was never one to adhere to metaphoric correctness 😉
This part of the post is pre-garden visit. Steve and I had a quick drive-by viewing and Steve’s garden is decidedly underwhelming at the moment but then again, most gardens in Tasmania’s north are the same thanks to a long, cold, hard winter. It will be very interesting to see what Steve has to say about gardening in our local conditions. It will also be very interesting to talk to him about how he developed his seed catalogue to get the best of them with our local growing conditions. According to Christi, his previous seed company, “Territorial Seed Company”, is the place to go to get seeds in her neck of the woods. I think that the word “neck of the woods” is most pertinent to Christi’s local area as I would have a cricked neck for a month from looking up at all of those amazing conifers that grow naturally where she lives. I am particularly interested in one of his earlier books titled “Gardening when it counts: Growing food in hard times”. Steve says that he grows half of his families food requirements in his garden and it will be interesting to see just exactly what he grows to do this. All in all it will be a most interesting visit and at least Christi should be interested in this post :o).
We all got to sample some of the vegetables from Steve’s garden cut up raw and aside from some delicious carrot sticks and some lovely fresh cabbage there was a butter yellow coloured vegetable that was tinged with green that tasted as sweet as an apple but with a hint of brassica. We couldn’t work out what it was but assumed that it might be the “Tasmanian Butter Swede” that he had been developing for the seed market. Upon asking the man from the Tamar NRM who was busy passing platters of vegetables around we were told that it was kohlrabi! The only experience that I have had of kohlrabi have been decidedly unpleasant and I swore never to eat it again thanks to stringiness, an over pronounced cabbage flavour and a distinct bitterness from the specimen that I purchased from the supermarket. Growing your own vegetables allows you the freedom to choose what you grow as well as which varieties. You can sample your way through the vegetable catalogue and arrive at your firm favourites and then you can allow the biggest and best to go to seed and collect the seed for next year ad infinitum. Steve is very passionate about people growing their own vegetables and taking control of their own health and nutrition in the process. He is just about to start up a soil testing facility in conjunction with an American soil testing agency and as his first “clients” we were given the chance to have our soils tested, a consultation with Steve regarding our results as well as a personalised fertiliser compiled from the data assessed for $20. My friend from the witness protection and I turned to each other and both said “Bargain!” Steve took us all into his lovely home and proceeded to talk about his past life developing seeds and how he got into the nutritional profiling of the vegetables and soil that he dealt with. Steve has a new book coming out in November called “The intelligent gardener: Growing nutrient dense food” that teaches people how to analyse their own soils and how to redress the problems that present themselves in your soil profile. We now have the instructions for how the soil needed for testing needs to be collected and we will be collecting our soil samples, bagging them and taking them around to Steve’s next week to be sent off and within a month they should be back and we can begin finding natural ways to get the best out of our soil for growing nutrient dense vegetables.
I am racing to get this post ready to post and am going to leave it here. Again, I realise that I have barged my way into your heads with sustainability, soil profiling, horticulture and seeds and if this is so much “yawn*” for you I appologise. To the rest of you who are in similar situations and who can see just how chuffed I am with what I am learning and the potential of it all I share my excitement and my delight :o). Hopefully the rest of the week will be kind to you all and you will hit 5pm on Friday running and ready to spend your weekend productively however you see fit. Take it easy and see you on Saturday :o)