Urban Projects

Project Thoreau – March-May 2009 Updates

Editor’s Note: Ezanee keeps us posted on his latest efforts with ‘Project Thoreau‘. We invite other project leaders to do likewise!

March/April 2009 Update

Apart from one major clean out in early March, work on the garden was pretty sporadic. I’m really only doing enough to keep the garden "presentable". It has also been a period of encouragement and discouragement all at the same time.

I’m encouraged by the fact that the rocket, parsley and nasturtium, which all self sowed and propagated, are absolutely flourishing. This is promising for the future in that if I can create the same circumstances in a different location, then these should continually regenerate themselves without any help or encouragement from me. A few New Zealand Spinach seeds have also germinated by themselves, and I’m hoping these enjoy the same level of success.

I’m less encouraged by the fact that the seeds which I sowed myself, such as silver beet, coriander and especially the beans, have been less certain and vigorous in their growth. I’m less encouraged by the fact that I’m not eating as regularly from my garden as I did during the summer, or in the same quantities. This is despite the fact that I realise things generally slow down as the weather gets cooler.

I’m still battling endlessly against the "pests". A combination of pellets and good old fashioned hand-to-hand combat seem to be the most effective way of dealing with snails and slugs at the moment. My capsicum and chili plants threatened to be overwhelmed by aphids. Thankfully I discovered an excellent nasturtium spray in a Reader’s Digest book which has proved very effective in keeping them under control. I’ve also been fortunate to have ladybirds frequently visit my garden in regular, albeit small numbers. Understandably however, they can only do so much to reduce aphid numbers.

I’ve also been fighting borers which killed my strawberries, absolutely infested one of my capsicum planter boxes, and threatened to overwhelm my potato patch. I cleared both out as thoroughly as possible before replanting in them. Currently, I’m just observing the state of the plants for any sign of possible reinfestation.

One nice piece of encouragement, however, is that the lemons are finally ripening after literally months and months of waiting. I realise that I did not exactly plant the tree in an ideal location. Instead I planted it in an existing hole simply as a matter of convenience, which just happens to be in almost constant shadow. Still, they promise to be worth the wait, and I’m looking forward to drinking lots of lemon water to keep my Vitamin C levels up during the winter.

Finally, a note of thanks to Ben for further putting me on the correct path concerning what I thought was a fruit fly threat to my lemons. It seems likely that is was a case of vinegar fly instead. It is the building up of knowledge and awareness like this that will help me carry out projects and tasks with greater assurance and efficiency in the future.

May 2009 Update

Well, it’s been a year since I completed my Permaculture Design Certificate course, and I’m pleased to say that my convictions concerning the role that permaculture can play in my life, and in the well being of the planet in general, are as strong as ever. I’m also pleased to say that the garden is also holding up pretty well, and more or less taking care itself. My input has been surprisingly minimal, and currently involves ‘small’ tasks such as keeping the plants sufficiently watered, keeping the weeds and grass in check, keeping an eye out for pests, and other minor maintenance. The ‘pests’ recently have been pleasantly dormant. The borers seem to be under control, and the snails and slugs are no longer roaming about in the rampant numbers that they had been in recent months.

Most of the beans that I had previously sown have germinated, and are now looking exceptionally strong. I have since sown several more beans, and I am hoping that these also germinate successfully. My goal is that if I don’t exceed last year’s bean harvest, then I at least want to equal it. The potatoes seem to be fine, the self propagated New Zealand spinach plants are also progressing well, and overall I am optimistic for the winter. I harvested my first lemon, which I squeezed into a glass of cold water, and it went down a treat. I also ate one of the stored pumpkins in the mistaken belief that it was starting to go off. No worries. That one lasted three months, and I still have one more in storage which I plan to hold on to for some time longer yet. Although I’m not consuming items from the garden on such a regular basis at the time being, it still gives me great pleasure and satisfaction every time I do.

Just out of curiosity, I know that you can eat nasturtium leaves, but I’m having trouble getting my head around that fact. This is despite the fact that my research shows that they are a good source of Iron and Vitamin C. Maybe it is just a case of old prejudices dying hard. At this point I’m using nasturtium primarily as a companion plant and pest control measure, but as can be seen in the photograph, I’m being flooded with it. Penny Woodward in "An Australian Herbal" says they can be used in salads, and that are good eaten with cheese or eggs. Is there anyone out there who regular consumes nasturtium, and if so could you give me any additional ideas for using them in cooking? I’m looking forward to seeing the suggestions….


  1. Your garden looks awesome Ezanee. Very inviting. :)

    As with you, the more time that has passed since taking my PDC, the more I know it was the right thing to do.

    I was wondering if you’d be willing to share your nasturtium spray recipe. I haven’t had any aphids yet, but it’s just spring in the Northern Hemisphere, so time will tell how my garden grows! :)

  2. With the nasturtiums, try folding or rolling the leaves up and then chopping them before adding to salads or sandwiches. They’re peppery, so you probably don’t want too much in each mouthful.

  3. Hi Ezanee,
    Don’t worry about nasturtium consumption at all! We eat them daily now & they are delicious. We go for oriental mustards in a big way, so the peppery flavour is great.
    Their flowers are great in ice-bowls, if you have the time & want to do something special for a salad/ fruit-salad for guests. Takes a while.
    Good gardening!

  4. I love the aerial view of your small garden space. Motivated me to get on with planting rather than bemoaning renting. ANyway, I type to share that when replanting/repotting my lemon tree yesterday a massive amount of earwigs, hundreds of them fanned out from the base of the pot. Er yuck how am I going to get rid of those? My chooks nailed them! So I wondered for you any space for a silky bantam chook. Small very loving pet.
    Keep up your good work, If you lost a fence to your neighbour more garden would be possible for both of you & sunlight.

  5. Nasturtium-wise, the flowers aren’t so peppery(the leaves are) & thier mildly flavored bright colorful petals are a joy visually in salads.Colored foods having other nutrients & anti-oxidents than greens, so sure to be beneficial. I’ve heard people pickle the seedpods, treat them just like capers. I’ve only ever eaten the leaves in a mixed green salad with vinegarette.

  6. It has been my experience that flowers seem to attract a lot of beneficial insects. In my garden there is a lot of self-sown chamomile which the ladybirds, that is what you guys call them right? I call them ladybugs. The ladybirds really seem to like chamomile. They also seem pretty keen on my chervil, once I let it go to flower. I see them devouring insects then taking breaks for nectar.

    Anyway, your garden looks lovely but would be prettier with more flowers!

    I am in Pittsburgh, U.S.A.

  7. Hello everyone

    Thank you all for your suggestions concerning nasturtium, and your encouragement in general. I ate nasturtium for the first time, chopped up as Darren suggested, and served with scrambled eggs. The initial taste was certainly unique, but the after effects were just like English Mustard or wasabi. If ever I get a blocked nose, I now have an easy solution to overcome it.

    Diane, I hope you read this. The recipe came from Reader’s Digest “Back to Basics” and is really simple. Just add a cup of nasturtium leaves to one cup of water and boil it for about 15 minutes. Once it has cooled, dilute it with an equal volume of water, pour it in a spray bottle, and then spray away. I’ve tried soap solution as well as garlic and chilli sprays in the past, and this seemed much more effective. I hope you have the same success.

    Kindest regards and happy gardening to you all.


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