Tag Archives: Gardening

Spring into Green Villages’ Workshop

Spring is here

Parting a bud of a leaf, ready to capture the first growth of spring , when I spied a huddle of tiny brown insects between the branch and the leaf. Suppressing the urge to scream I reached out for my…watering can and watered the base of the tree. “That will show them!”

Lovely, warm breezy spring is finally here and none too soon, unfortunately with the birds and bees comes unwanted vistors like aphids. Taking advantage of nature’s growth spurt and its impending attack, K and I signed up for one of Green Villages’s “What’s Eating My Basil” workshop a couple of weeks ago.

Green thumb: what’s eating my basil?

Discover how to invite the good bugs into your garden and keep the bad bugs out. This practical workshop demonstrates organic gardening techniques such as building healthy organic soil, choosing plants that are right for your garden and creating natural pest remedies. Start gardening the low-impact way!

The workshop was hosted by the lovely people at The Grounds. I’m sure there are plenty of other blogs out there blogging about The Ground (great coffee, service and brunch!) so I’ll share some photos of their organic garden itself. The miracle of the cafe is that so many lemon trees and herbs are intact with so many kids running around grabbing things.

The Grounds and Green Village


Kale glorious kale!

Feeling sheepish

Feeling sheepish

Chicken run

Chicken run

Chooks at The Grounds

Suspicious chooks

The workshop encouraged gardeners to use non toxic solution when taking care of their garden instead of reaching for the spray. Inviting “good bugs” such as ladybugs, spiders and the like as well as growing a diverse garden mixing flowers and vegetable to confuse the garden. Despite the crazy wind, I really enjoyed the workshop. It’s a different way of growing a garden as well as giving me the more reason to grow flowers. Green Villages will be running the workshop again, check their website for more details, definitely highly recommended for the novice gardener.

As an added bonus we received bug friendly plants such as the gorgeous  smelling Pineapple Sage and Pyrethrum.

Pineapple sage

Pineapple sage


Mossy repelling Pyrethrum

In the meantime, my little patch is growing rather nicely. What I thought were chilli seedlings turned out to be some forgotten baby spinach. My kale is starting to grow its true leaves and the dwarf bean is growing a couple of cm in a week.

Week 4

Added to the family is a strawberry seedling and some corianders.

Strawberry seedlings


Coriander seedlings

Baby coriander seedlings

Not so great are the brown aphids attacking the Japanese Maple’s new leaves. Taking a leaf from the workshop I started watering the tree hoping that it is just a little dehydrated and can protect itself in time.
Budding Japanese Maple

Aphid attack


Keep calm and keep growing

Gardening notes

I’ve always believe that when in panic, channel all that lovely nervous energy to something else. Occasionally I wish I can convert all this latent energy into marathon training or something similarly physical, but somehow the idea does not appeal. So why the panic? I’m currently living life as lady of (panicky) leisure, as my contract expired a couple of weeks ago. In between bouts of boredom while applying and panic waiting for the phone (not) to ring(ing), my normal state defaults to watching the grass grow.

Amid a topsy turvy year, I finally moved to place with enough sun and patch of green to cultivate something other than mould. The last house I rented was a good metre lower than the other houses around it and with a giant lily pily tree blocking what remained of the sun only weeds thrived outside and mould inside the house. K’s garden balcony had also inspired me to start mucking around in the soil. Using a couple of pots he managed to harvest enough chilli for a year as well as herbs for everyday cooking. Blogs like the amazing Vertical Veg inspired me to use whatever space I have to be an urban farmer. The idea of self sustainability and reducing carbon footprint in the long run was appealing and it’s lovely to see Australian bloggers such as the Edible Urban Garden  and 500m2 in Sydney growing and harvesting from their backyard. With Sydney property being stupidly expensive and the dream of a big backyard with a shed at the back being a pipe dream for most, it’s liberating to think that even my patch of green can grow something that birds and slugs might find tempting.

So, what exactly am I growing and where? Out the back there’s a raised garden bed measuring about 2 x 1 metre filled with soil, weed and not much less. My aim is to slowly convert it into a veggie / plant patch.

I raked the bed, tore up a lot of the weed and made sure the weedy roots are uprooted before planting the following seeds:

  • Chilli pepper – cayenne
  • Dwarf beans
  • Coriander
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Blue cornflower

Week 1

Thankfully Sydney’s wet weather helped these seeds to germinate and after a week, the above baby plants are growing rather nicely. Very excited about growing kale and having a ready bunch when I need it. I first ate this spinach like green in New York where almost every cafe in Brooklyn served kale instead of spinach.

Now I just need to water occasionally, and continue writing applications.

Meatless Monday – Vegetable Lasagna and the uphill better to blog more

Vegetable Lasagna

Incredibly, it had been a full 6 months since my last post. During that period of hibernation from the blog sphere many things happened, but for the most part I was in survival mode through a long cold winter (both literally and metaphorically). With summer just around the corner and glimpses of warmth peeking through, I feel it’s appropriate to shake the winter’s blues and get back to the swing of it again with a Meatless Monday recipe.

Vegetable lasagna is one of those comfort dishes that can warm a cold winter’s evening. Unfortunately like its cousin the cottage pie, it is not the most photogenic of meals. Though Billy from A Table For Two can make the dish look oh so deliciously glamorous. On a side note, today is his book launch, a big congrats to him and a reminder to myself that I will need to pick up a copy at some stage.

The following recipe is one that I made up and tweak everytime I make lasagna, enough so that it feels like I need to record it for posterity sake to refer to in the future.

Ingredients for lasagna and filling – serves 4

  • 1 packet of lasagna sheets (you don’t need to use the entire box just enough to layer the lasagna)
  • 1 zucchini sliced
  • 100g of mixed mushroom (swiss brown and shitake)
  • 1 large egg plant 500g, sliced horizontally
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 brown onion – diced
  • 1 jar of passata
  • teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tablespoon of oregano
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 250g vegetable mince (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • 50g of parmesan and tasty cheese mix

Ingredients for bechamel sauce

  • 60g butter, chopped
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • 4 1/2 cups milk
  • 75g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 25g tasty cheese, finely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • good pinch ground nutmeg

Method for bechamel sauce

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from heat. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Return to heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 12 minutes or until sauce comes to the boil, thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in both cheeses salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

Method for lasagna filling

The night before slice the egg plant horizontally to create egg plant steaks. Cover both sides with salt, then layer egg plant in a dish and leaver overnight in the fridge. This will draw out the water from the eggplant and result in non spongy egg plant. The next day, rinse the salt from the egg plant steaks the next day. Place on paper towel and put aside.

Heat oven to 200 degree.

Heat oil in a pot. Brown the diced onion until tender, then add crushed garlic. Add vegetarian mince and mushroom until mushroom is wilted. Pour chopped tomatoes and passata into the mixture, add chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Wait until the sauce is boiling slighty, add oregano and sliced zucchini to the mix. Wait until the zucchini is slightly wilted and take the pot off the heat.

Layer the bottom of a lasagna dish with the eggplant steaks, handful of the mixed cheeses,  the tomato mixture, the bechamel sauce followed by the lasagna sheet. Repeat the order with the next layer and continue building the lasagna ending with the lasagna sheet on top. Cover the lasagna sheet with remaining grated cheese mix. Pop into the oven, turn down the heat to 150 degree, then bake for 30 minutes. Leave the lasagna to cool in the oven in order for the top layer of the lasagna to crisp and turn brown without burning.

Happy eating