Dr Uwe Stroeher is a microbiologist and the manager of research and development at Neutrog and he explained a relatively new garden mulch/fertiliser to me.
Called Whoflungdung, it has been recommended by Canberra horticulturists and the longtime staff in the garden section of Bunnings, Fyshwick, who say they use nothing else. As I queued with a big bag, a woman ahead of me had three bags in her trolley and said every time she goes to the store she buys more.
The product was named by Angus Irwin, the owner of Neutrog, who invents all their product names. Neutrog was formed in 1988 at Kanmantoo, 60 kilometres southwest of Adelaide. Kitchen gardeners will be familiar with their Gogo juice of kelp and other seaweed and Gyganic, an organic based, biological fertiliser for fruit and veges that is used in enhance fruit size.
The mulch was trialled for a number of years at various locations, including the rose gardens in the Adelaide City parklands and the kitchen garden at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, where the results were spectacular, with the soil becoming more friable and easier to dig over and seemed to maintain its structure. and a large area in the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens where, he said, the climate is probably a little closer to that of Canberra.
Like most mulches, Whoflungdung reduces water usage and suppresses weeds but, due to its partially digested nature, it stimulates the soil microbiology through the correct balance of carbon and nitrogen. The most important thing with the product is to water it in well.
During the trial, Dr Stroeher used it 30 to 40 millimetres deep in his own garden in the Adelaide foothills. On a sloping block the water repellent nature of the soil around evergreen Alders improved and it reduced evaporation so the trees suffered less heat stress. Autumn is a good time to apply it to retain soil warmth to help establish plants. In summer it keeps water usage down and protects the soil from extreme heat, particularly for citrus.
His garden gets very warm in summer and is cool enough in winter to grow cherries, apples and stone fruit and he puts the mulch/fertiliser around them in winter when it has a stimulatory effect on soil biology. His unattended strawberry patch suffered in summer so this is now a soil-rich raspberry growing area.
The soil in his vegetable patch is fed gently from autumn to winter but keeps it away from the stems of plants and seedlings to avoid rot. A proclaimed lazy gardener, Dr Stroeher is growing lettuce, beetroot, silverbeet, radishes, brassicas including cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and peas on an area exposed to winter sun. Harvesting is underway for some of the crops.
So, with your dung flung, it is time for a taste of South Australia. To start, crackers with handmade artisan Udder Delights Brie, sold in Canberra delis, including IGA. The cheese comes from its Hahndorf-based cellar in the Adelaide Hills but they work with dairies from the hills to the Fleurieu Peninsula. They make a brie quince paste torte for weddings so you should serve the brie with Maggie Beer quince paste.
In Maggie's Farm (Allen & Unwin, 1993) by Maggie Beer from the Pheasant Farm in the Barossa Valley her chapters from autumn to winter have a produce theme. Quinces, of course, figs, grapes, wild duck, pears, mushrooms, olives, root vegetables, snails. Maggie is the queen of quinces and she says, "the cooking of quinces can put a fire in a person's breast. No to mention a gardener - quinces are a pretty fruit with a wonderful blossom and scent".
By chance, a friend and I had just eaten a shared main dish at Lamshed's in Yarralumla and chef Jeff Lamshed generously shared some kitchen hints. A fortnight ago, the restaurant received its first delivery of quinces for the season.
Lamshed's duck, couscous, quince
Step one: Roast a duck breast, skin side down, after salting both sides.
Step two: Add saffron threads to the water when cooking the pearl couscous.
To poach the quince:
Step three: The reason it is so good is that they use the same poaching liquid a number of times for both savoury and sweet dishes. It is made up of 3 parts water and 1 part sugar to which cardamom, star anise, fennel seed and cinnamon are added.
Step four: The peeled, sliced quinces are gently cooked for five hours. Leave the seeds in the fruit as that produces a deeper ruby colour.