Nov 302013

Join a vibrant food culture, growing and eating local

Covering all matters food North East Melbourne

Whether you just want to eat healthier, reduce your food mileage, grow veggies in your garden or are simply interested in enjoying your community life, Local Food Connect is for you!

Eltham Farmers’ Market, a Local Food Connect initiative, takes place every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.

Dec 072016

Want to buy some cherries and support Eltham High School drama group?

You will need to be quick – the deadline for ordering is 4pm on 9th December. They are selling premium cherries as a fundraiser for the Eltham High School drama group. All money raised will help them attend and perform at the Adelaide Fringe festival in 2017. Cost: 1kg box – $25; 2kg box – $45. Order by emailing Kim. She will then email you details for payment. Pick up of cherries will be at either Eltham High on Thursday, 15th December (3-5pm) or Going Green Solutions in Hurstbridge on Friday, 16th December.

Everything you want to know about urban agriculture but are afraid to ask

You might be aware that a major, two-day urban agriculture forum took place in November in Richmond. Well, Dana Thomson, our new Roving Reporter and healthAbility’s new Health Promotion Officer, was there and has written up some extensive notes. Thanks, Dana! As she says in her introduction: “Urban agriculture may include: vegetable and fruit growing; livestock raising (especially poultry); beekeeping, aquaculture, hydroponics and aquaponics; and value-adding (e.g. making preserves). It can take place on a variety of sites, such as: private gardens; land managed by private institutions / businesses, including rooftops and vertical gardens; privately-owned land, including vacant lots awaiting development; land owned by public / public-private utilities, such as VicTrack; publicly-owned land, including nature strips / verges, and street planter boxes; and schools, childcare centres, aged care facilities, universities, hospitals and other similar institutions.” The notes then cover: lessons learned about urban agriculture; how urban agriculture can potentially reduce poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition; learning from australian aboriginal agricultural practices; Melbourne’s food bowl at risk; accessing land for agriculture; role of local government and noting the food governance taskforce; the role of social enterprise in urban agriculture; and social and therapeutic horticulture. Read Dana’s notes.

If you prefer watching to reading, you can view a video of Costa Georgiadis’ take on the forum.

The local shops selling local products

In the words below, I am using ‘local’ to mean ‘in North East Melbourne’.

I am aware of 170 shops in North East Melbourne that sell at least one food product that was grown or made in North East Melbourne. That is a lot of shops.

But, of the 170, 130 appear to sell products from only one local food producer (with the other 40 selling products from multiple local food producers). And only 7 sell products from 5 or more local food producers.

Three important points arise:

  1. There are lots of local outlets for local food (e.g. the 170 shops).
  2. Hardly any of the local food producers are in more than a tiny fraction of these shops.
  3. Most of the shops selling local food only sell a small amount.

To illustrate the scale of the opportunity: Bolton Street Deli & Liquor, Eltham stocks products from 21 local food producers. If all 170 shops did the same, that would be 3,600 (170 * 21) ‘offerings’. This is more than 10 times the current number of ‘offerings’ (280).

In passing, of the 7 shops selling products from 5 or more local food producers, 6 are in the Local Food Directory (the 7th declined, for unspecified reasons). They are:

One less source of free sawdust

Stuart Rodda has written in to say that Charles Sandford Woodturning has temporarily suspended its offer of free bags of sawdust. The local resources page has been updated to reflect this.

Olive herb

Mala Plymin has written in to tell us about a herb that she has recently discovered that “tastes amazing“. The olive herb apparently has a pickled olive flavour. Mala buys hers at the Pepper Tree Place Nursery in Coburg and you can also buy the plants from Green Harvest.

Rats or foxes?

foxI happened to mention to Chris Kent the other day that, once again, I was getting ready to fight with the rats for ownership over my rockmelons. He asked if I was sure that it was rats and said that, in his case, it was foxes. Furthermore, he has photographic proof (see picture)!

From Googling, it appears that foxes, like dogs, are actually omnivorous rather than carnivorous and, indeed, according to Wikipedia “fruit can amount to 100% of their diet in autumn“.

Mac’s tip of the week

Admit your broad beans have come to their end … time to remove them and plant leafy crops like basil and lettuce to make use of the nitrogen that they have supplied. How much self-seeded parsley do you need? [Ed: I think this is what is known as a rhetorical question.] Time to cut back / rip out and use that space. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips.

Are you eating genetically modified food?

As Heather Eliott said on Facebook, Choice has just published a straightforward summary of the genetically modified products currently available, or in development, in Australia.

Eltham Farmers’ Market, quesadilla and leftovers

In partnership with local chefs, healthAbility has been running a series of quarterly cooking demonstrations at Eltham Farmers’ Market to show how easy it is to plan and prepare quick and simple healthy meals which can be made at home using fresh, seasonal produce. At 10.45am at the 11th December market, Duang Tengtrirat, from Real Food Catering, will be demonstrating how to make quesadilla. Read Duang’s quesadilla recipe.

A major ingredient of the quesadilla recipe is ‘leftover veggies’. As some of you will know, leftover veggies is something that Duang has been thinking a lot about lately. Here are her four top tips:

  1. As soon as you put food into a container to store in the fridge, stick a note ‘EAT ME FIRST’ to it. Then use this first either as a re-heat or re-purpose.
  2. When preparing to put leftovers away, make it easy to use them again. For example, remove cooked chicken from the bone so it’s ready to use.
  3. When ready to use leftovers, think of its ‘re-purpose’ use. How can you breathe new life into something from yesterday or the day before?
  4. Look around to see what you have in your pantry that can work as ‘supporting casts.’ For example, in your pantry: rice, pasta, wrap; or, in the fridge: cheese, sauces dressings.

New events

Become a junior chocolatier

What: In a 45 minute ‘parent-free zone’, children aged 6–12 years can learn from their chocolatiers how to make their very own chocolate creations. Includes personalised badge, chef’s hat and apron, graduation certificate plus take home three chocolate creations to enjoy.
When: Tuesday, 10th January; Wednesday, 11th January; Tuesday, 17th January; Wednesday, 18th January; and Tuesday, 24th January. In each case, 6 45 minute sessions a day at 9am, 10am, 11am, midday, 1.30pm and 2.30pm.
Where: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, Yarra Glen.
Cost: $40.
Enquiries: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie by phone (9730 2777) or email.
Bookings: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Beekeeping workshop

What: What you will learn: bee behaviour; the various major items that make up a bee hive and how to construct them; and the major tasks in hive management. What you will get: a wooden beehive frame that will have beeswax foundation inserted as part of the workshop; and a $5 discount on the book Bee AgSkills (normally $27.50, $22.50 with discount). There will be live bees and honeycomb to look at in a secure exhibition cabinet and a discussion of bee behaviour and hive management. The major items that make up a hive and their construction will be discussed. The equipment a beekeeper needs to work bees will also be reviewed. The major topics discussed will be: establishing a hive; understanding the tasks to be carried out in Spring; how to go about robbing and extracting honey; and swarm control. Participants will be limited to 8 to maintain an informal interactive format.
When: Saturday, 21st January, 9-11am.
Where: Bee Sustainable, Brunswick East.
Cost: $65.
Enquiries: Bee Sustainable by phone (9939 7301) or email.
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Victorian cider & pork festival

What: Set amongst the trees at the Rochford Wines estate, this two-day festival showcases the best ciders from Victoria and around the country and the tastiest pork dishes from Melbourne’s leading chefs. Make the most of live entertainment, cider tastings, cider and pork master classes. At least 15 local, boutique cider producers will be in attendance, including: St Ronan’s Cider, Napoleone Cider, Punt Road Cider, Batlow Cider Co, Square Keg Cider, Hills Cider, Custard & Co, Daylesford Cider Co, Flying Brick, Sidekick Cider, and Young Henrys. The beer producers will include: Stone & Wood , Colonial Brewing Co, Hargreaves Hill Brewing and Punt Road Brewing Co. Masterclasses held over both days of the festival will enable visitors to make the most of the cider tastings and learn about varying ranges of ciders. Event-goers will have to opportunity to attend a Q&A session with leading cider makers and witness a range of cooking demos by leading Melbourne chefs, including: Jess Pryles, Ben O’Donghue and Robert Murphy.
When: Monday, 23rd January and Tuesday, 24th January, both 11am-7pm.
Where: Rochford Wines, Coldstream.
Cost: $40 (includes 1 schooner of cider or beer).
Enquiries: festival organisers by email.
Bookings: their website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Preserving know how: making bottled fruit, jams, pickles and relishes

What: Learn how to preserve fruit and veggies safely, using a variety of techniques. These techniques can be used on most fruit and veggies so that you learn to make your own preserves, with no artificial additives and nasty numbers. No preserving background is assumed as you go through the science of how to prevent food spoilage using the preserving methods of bottling, jam-making, pickling and making relishes. Dehydrating is also demonstrated. You will discuss the jars and lids to use, safe storage and use. The workshop is fully hands-on, where you are involved from the processes from start to finish. What you will get: recipes all of the preserves made; small (new) jars of the 4 preserves made on the day; and tastings of other preserves made by My Green Garden.
When: Tuesday, 31st January, 10am-1.15pm.
Where: Donvale.
Cost: $70.
Enquiries: Maria Ciavarella by phone (0424 083057) or email.
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the rest of December

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

Nov 292016

Helen interviews Maria Ciavarella

maria01Helen has now completed her first interview, which was with Maria Ciavarella from Donvale. If you read it, you will see that it is a doozy. To give a flavour, here is the first paragraph: “Maria Ciavarella is well known around North East Melbourne for the abundance of informative and practical workshops that she runs, with topics ranging from sustainable home growing food practices to food preserving, jam and passata making. Meeting Maria for the first time, I am struck by her generosity – from the fresh, delicious scones that await my arrival to the huge quantity of mulberries she picks for me from the largest mulberry tree I’ve ever seen – whilst we talk in her garden.Read the full interview.

Editor’s note: now that you have read how complimentary(!) Helen is about the people she interviews, would you like to nominate someone for interview? Even yourself? All they need to be is a home grower with something interesting to say. Just email me with your suggested names.

Mac’s tip of the week

It is called the Three Sisters. If space is limited, or even if not, the sisters get on well and help each other out (i.e. companion planting). Maize, climbing beans and squash (aka sweetcorn, beans and pumpkins) – a very old combination. Plant the sweetcorn first as structural support. Then, once growing, plant climbing beans around the base, maybe 4 per corn; the beans climb the corn while also adding nitrogen to the soil to help the corn. Once beans have grabbed hold, plant the pumpkins, which then shade the soil to retain moisture, gain nitrogen from the beans, and may also climb the older corn. Messy but very productive in a small space. Google for more info. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Editor’s note: I first read about the Three Sisters in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is a fascinating book about why Eurasian civilizations, rather than anyone else, conquered the world. Part of his theory is that, whilst the Native Americans had cultivated sources of protein in both beans and sweetcorn, both the pulses (e.g. peas and lentils) and the edible grasses (e.g. wheat) in the Fertile Crescent were better sources of protein. So, the people in the Fertile Crescent could live closer together and could form more complex societies. So, the current composition and distribution of the world’s population depend on where lentils happen to have originated!

A new food swap in Brunswick

Hosted by SEEDs Communal Garden. The 2nd Saturday of every month, from 11am to midday. 331 Albert Street, Brunswick. Facebook: seedscommunalgarden. Email: Maxine at

That brings the grand total of food swaps in North East Melbourne to a whopping 28. See the website for the full list.

Do you want a free gum tree?

Vicki Jordan has a self-seeded gum tree in a pot to give away. It is currently 2 metres high but, over time, will grow big. Pick up from Lower Plenty. If interested, email Vicki.

A couple of weeks ago, we asked for help to maintain the planter boxes in Diamond Creek. Thanks to Julie for responding – Pam Jenkins says that she has already made a noticeable difference.

Home Harvest FEASTival news

seedlingFor a limited time only, register as a grower for the Home Harvest FEASTival and receive a free veggie seedling pack from Edendale to get you started. The Home Harvest FEASTival is a celebration of local food and the summer harvest featuring a shared harvest meal to be held at Edendale on Sunday, 26th February. Your donation of homegrown produce = your ticket to attend. They have a Facebook group

People who have registered receive the occasional newsletter. The last newsletter included two broad bean recipes by Duang Tengtrirat (aka the best cook in Nillumbik): broad bean soup and broad beans linguine with ricotta. We now have 6 broad bean recipes in our website database and 10 recipes by Duang.

Another of the newsletter’s articles concerned Beales Road Farm and The Veggie Empire. Beales Road Farm started three years ago in response to the social isolation being experienced by the leaseholder of the land in Greensborough where it is based. The leaseholder, Hayden, has autism and needed to meet new community members to help him feel safe and connected to his community. Gardening was something that he was interested in. Eighteen months after it began, a small community gardening team known as ‘The Veggie Empire‘ joined the original gardeners and have helped develop the food system into a vibrant and viable local food system. The team have been involved in one way or another since the first Home Harvest Feast in 2012. This year they are growing leeks, tomato, eggplant and zucchini and are looking forward to celebrating local food within an inclusive community activity.

Victorian Pleasurable Food Education Package

Pleasurable Food Education is what the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation (SAKGF) call their food education program. The Victorian Government recently announced that they were subsidising the program, to reduce the cost to a school to $550. healthAbility has just announced a further, Nillumbik-only subsidy, which reduces the cost to a school to $275. Click here to read about the program or click here to read about the latest offer.

Congratulations to Alan, Greta and Robin

The 2016 Banyule and Darebin Sustainability Awards included three newsletter readers: Alan Leenaerts (Montmorency Sugar Glider Project), Greta Gillies (a Local Hero) and Robin Gale-Baker (also a Local Hero).

Whenever I decide to include a news item like the above, I also do a bit of Googling to see if there is anything else to say. This time I discovered that newsletter readers, Going Green Solutions, won the North Melbourne 2015 Award for Industry-Education Engagement.

Congratulations to Carol

Newsletter reader Carol Woolcock’s garden featured in this month’s Permablitz re-visited.

Spare Harvest website

Spare Harvest is a new website (and app) which is designed to enable local communities to help connect, share, swap and sell all things related to gardening and growing food.

It is similar in concept to both the relatively new Food Forage and the more established RipeNearMe websites.

And, finally, as reported by Local Harvest: the Tinder of food waste, ShareWaste.

garlic-farmerGarlic farmer

Courtesy of Lucinda Clutterbuck, see picture right.

New events

Summer pruning

What: Led by Chris England. Using the demonstration fruit trees in the orchard of the Burnley Gardens, you will learn how to summer prune fruit trees and also how create espaliers. Summer pruning gives you maximum fruit in a minimum space. Then, under Chris’ watchful eye, have a go yourself.
When: Saturday, 3rd December, 10am-1pm.
Where: Burnley College, Richmond.
Cost: $75.
Enquiries/Bookings: Friends of Burnley Gardens by phone (9035 6815) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Absolutely famished community day

What: Explore the food cultures and gardening traditions of migrants and refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East living in inner city Melbourne, sample a selection of culturally diverse foods, and talk to cooks and gardeners from the local community. Rare and unusual food plants for summer growing will be on sale including sweet potato, kang kong, ginger and turmeric. All plants have been grown through a collaboration between participants at the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre and staff and students at the Burnley Campus of the University of Melbourne. There will be free consultations on growing these food crops in Melbourne’s climate. This event is being funded through the University of Melbourne engagement grant program and the Carlton Connect Initiative. It is part of Absolutely Famished, a creative exploration of future food and the 22nd century market place.
When: Saturday, 3rd December, midday-3pm.
Where: LAB-14, Carlton.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Chocolate discovery class

What: Anyone aged 12 & above can join them for a one-hour chocolate discovery class, indulging in a range of chocolate tastings, crafting your very own chocolate bar, and delighting in six handmade filled truffles, while each is passionately explained by their European Chocolatier.
When: Saturday, 10th December, 11.30am-12.30pm.
Where: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, Yarra Glen.
Cost: $40.
Enquiries: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie by phone (9730 2777) or email.
Bookings: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Gingerbread houses

What: For children aged 4-11. Each child will be provided with a uniform and will receive a certificate of workshop completion. Bookings (by phone or email) essential.
When: Saturday, 24th December and Sunday, 25th December, both 1-5pm.
Where: Third Place Cafe, Wollert.
Cost: $50.
Enquiries/Bookings: Sibelleus Chefittles Express by phone (0406 653430) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

Nov 232016

Guerilla gardening comes to North East Melbourne (sort of)

guerilla-gardeningGuerrilla gardening is something that quite a lot of people talk about but, as far as I can make out, not many people actually do, at least in Australia (although Gardening Australia’s 2016 Gardener of the Year was apparently won by a guerilla gardener from North Fitzroy). I did some a few years ago: we went out in the middle of the night and planted a bunch of stuff. It was actually quite an adrenalin rush: what would happen if someone caught us planting the lettuce by torchlight?! Anyhow, it has recently come to my attention that a newsletter reader who wishes to remain anonymous has been verge planting in Warrandyte (see picture). The veggies currently growing include cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, silverbeet, butternut pumpkins, cucumbers, oregano, apple mint, common mint, salad burnet, garlic chives and lettuce. She has also started doing food-is-free veggies and her neighbour does food-is-free lemons.

Anyone want to do some seed bombing (aka seeds of dissent)? Or moss graffiti?

Mac’s tip of the week

Remember to train your tomatoes! Now that they are growing fast, you will need to tie them about every 20cm of growth. As they are starting to flower as well, best to tie loosely above the cluster of flowers. If you have single stakes, and planted close together, best to train to a single stem. This means pinching out side stems (aka branches) that are growing in the crotches between the leaves and the main stem. If you have a cage or trellis, or have spaced wide apart to allow more support stakes, allow maybe four main stems but pinch out further side stems. Older heirloom varieties often do better with multiple stems rather than a single. By training you will not only get a tidier plant, but also less fungal problems and quicker fruit, as your plants put more energy in to flowers and fruiting rather than to stem and leaf growth. Potassium is a key to success and liquid tomato food is full of it, as is sulphate of potash. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips on our website.

A new food swap in Preston

South Preston Food Swap. The 4th Saturday of every month. Corner of High Street & Oakover Road, Preston. Organised by Transition Darebin. Facebook: Darebin-Urban-Harvesters-244273112267925. Email:

That brings the grand total of food swaps in North East Melbourne to 27. See the full list.

Local food producer in the news – Quists Coffee

quistsResearch-based Quists Coffee won a silver medal in the recent Golden Bean Coffee Roasters awards. They were also inducted into the Australian Coffee Roasters Hall of Fame. Congratulations Doris and Jim!

Crowd Harvest – seed banks for Christmas

Seed banks help people facing difficult circumstances to access the seeds and establish food gardens. Local home growers with excess seeds are invited to send them in a Christmas card or holiday card to one of the following organisations, who all maintain seed banks:

A related event – Crowd Harvest at Epping on Sunday, 27th November – featured in this week’s Leader newspaper (see picture).

Crop rotation

crop-rotationA newsletter reader has written in asking about crop rotation. How would you have responded? Here is my reply:

“The principle underlying crop rotation is that there should be a considerable gap in time between plantings of veggies from the same family in the same place. This helps stop particular diseases building up and also gives the soil a rest from particular burdens placed on it.

“Veggies can be divided into the following 8 ‘groups’ (most of which are families or sub-families):

  1. Legumes (beans, peas, etc).
  2. Brassicas (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mizuna, pak choy, rocket, etc).
  3. Alliums (garlic, onions, etc).
  4. Roots (beetroot, carrots, celery, parsnip, etc).
  5. Cucurbits (cucumber, pumpkin, rockmelon, zucchini, etc).
  6. Solanums (capsicum, chilli, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, etc).
  7. ‘Anywhere’ (basil, coriander, lettuce, radish, silverbeet, spinach, etc).
  8. Perennials (asparagus, globe artichokes, rhubarb, etc).

“Perennials are not relevant to crop rotation – they should be planted elsewhere. The ‘anywhere’ group are also not relevant – just plant them wherever and whenever you have gaps. So, the ideal is a 6-bed, 6-year rotation for the other 6 groups. If you have fewer beds, then you have to do one or more of three things:

  1. Combine some things: so, for example, plant alliums and roots in the same bed.
  2. Omit some things: so, for example, never plant brassicas.
  3. Plant a cool season crop (e.g. brassicas) followed by a warm season crop (e.g. solanums or cucurbits) – or vice versa – into a single bed over the course of a year.

“You then have to decide the order of how a bed should change over time. A principle here is that heavy feeders should, where possible, alternate with light feeders. So, for example, legumes (light) – brassicas (medium) – alliums (light) – cucurbits (heavy) – roots (light) – solanums (heavy).

“Finally, you have to choose whether the annual rotation should be in Spring or in Autumn.”

For a longer discussion of crop rotation, read Angelo Eliades’ article.

New events

Community garden workshop

What: Join Karen Sutherland, from Edible Eden Design, to learn about all the variety, freshness and fun you can bring into a small space garden. From a small plot to a balcony garden, look at: the options for plant selection for fruit, herbs or veggies; the best way to use pots; dealing with pests; growing upwards; and other considerations in your own growing space.
When: Saturday, 26th November, 10am-midday.
Where: Brunswick Neighbourhood House.
Cost: $40.
Enquiries: Brunswick Neighbourhood House by phone (9386 9418) or email.
Bookings / Further information: Weteachme.

Permablitz 194 (Eltham North)

What: Anne-Marie and her family would really like to make much better use of their garden space to be more productive. She also wants their children to both understand and appreciate where food comes from. They already have two veggie boxes. Workshops: wicking beds; compost bays; ponds; swales and capturing water; and green manure. Tasks: construct compost bays; construct pond; create wicking bed; fruit tree companion planting; constructing swales; sheet mulching; and planting green manure and other plants.
When: Sunday, 4th December, 10am-4pm.
Where: Eltham North.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Permablitz by email.
Bookings / Further information: Permablitz website.

How to make sense of food labels

What: Tour a supermarket and learn how to read and make sense of food labels so that it is easier to make healthy choices. The tours are led by healthAbility’s qualified dietitian and open to anyone interested in healthy eating. Bookings essential as places are limited.
When: Monday, 5th December, 9.30-11am.
Where: Eltham.
Cost: $15 (includes a healthy shopping guide booklet).
Enquiries/Bookings: healthAbility by phone (9430 9100).
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

Nov 162016

Robin and Paul Gale-Baker write about how to grow eggplants and capsicums

capsicumAs you will know from the 26th October newsletter, Helen Simpson is moving on from writing growing guides to interviewing selected home growers. The results of her first interviews won’t be available for the newsletter for some time so it looked like there wouldn’t be an article for December. But Robin and Paul Gale-Baker, from Sustainable Macleod, have stepped into the breach with an interesting article about growing eggplants and capsicums. Thanks Robin and Paul! As it is getting late to grow these veggies, I have decided to publish the article now rather than wait until the start of December.

eggplantThe article starts by recommending that you plant seedlings rather than seeds: “Eggplants and capsicums are members of the Solanaceae family, as are tomatoes and potatoes. Unlike tomatoes, however, they are difficult to grow from seed because they need much higher temperatures to germinate and, by the time they do, it is often too late to grow them and get a decent crop. So, buy seedlings from your nursery and pot these into larger containers, and grow them on before planting out. Transplant capsicums once the temperature is steadily over 16°C. You can also buy (though they are much more expensive) grafted eggplants, which will produce a higher yield. For eggplants to set fruit, the temperature needs to be over 20°C at night.” It then goes on to discuss where to plant, pests & diseases, and campanion plants. Read the full article.

And the winner is … Joel Brown!

joel-brownThose of you that read this newsletter carefully may have realised that we never announced the overall winner of our video competition. Well, the wind scuppered our plans to select the winner at the 9th October Eltham Farmers’ Market, so we postponed it to the 27th October, and the winner picked up their prize (a bag of market produce of their choice) at the 13th November market. Congratulations, Joel Brown (pictured here with his mum, Ali).

Help needed to maintain the planter boxes in Chute Street, Diamond Creek

As you probably know, the 8 planter boxes in Chute Street, Diamond Creek, are food gardens and the produce, once it is mature, is available for anybody to pick, share and eat.

The team who maintains the boxes are looking for some food-minded people to help tidy and re-plant with summer veggies, herbs and flowers. Seedlings, plant food and mulch are all provided free of charge and the major watering to fill up the wicking bed reservoirs is done by the CFA. Working on the boxes is intermittent and easy. If you want, you could adopt a box or two, perhaps the ones outside your favourite cafe, hairdresser, or dress shop. If potentially interested, please email Pam. No experience necessary – just a smile and some enthusiasm!

Mac’s tip of the week

It’s time to buy ear plugs! It does not happen every year but, from the few I’ve seen emerging, it may be a good year for the iconic (and loud) cicada. Sure, they have been pupating underground, sucking sap from your tree roots, but they have been down there for the last 6-7 years, waiting for a good year. Adults only survive for 3-4 weeks, trying to find a mate to start the cycle again. And yes, as always (so I have been told), it is the males that are the ones making all the noise. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips on our website.

Australia’s Right to Food Coalition

Dana Thomson has written in to highlight Australia’s Right to Food Coalition. As they say on their website: “Australia’s Right to Food Coalition (RTFC) exists to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians by working to ensure equitable access to nutritious food. We are a coalition of organisations, practitioners, researchers and community workers united in our cause.” They have a Victorian branch and they would welcome new members. Click here to join (as, indeed, I have just done!).

Filtering the website calendar

The website calendar contains a lot more events than it used to, partly because more people now tell me about their events and partly because I have become better at finding them on the Internet. Some of you might only want to look at the events that are close to you (e.g. in your local authority area) or of a particular type (e.g. community garden). This can be achieved on the website by filtering by either location and/or category. Read the help page to understand how to do this.

When filtering, I find that it is easier to read the results using the ‘agenda view’ rather than the default ‘month view’ – again, refer to the help page to read how to do this.

To coincide with this little article, I have added a new event type: ‘garden tour’. So, for example, click here to view a list of all the garden tours over the rest of November.

New events

Gnomes Farming Co-operative (Westgarth site)

What: In the run up to the Urban Agriculture Forum, this is one of several community gardening locations opening up to welcome visitors. There will be tours of their urban garden and verge space. Gnomes will be there to chat with people about what they do, how to join them, or how to start your own urban garden sharing community. There will also be a fundraising stall included with tasty treats, seedlings and succulents. There will also be books and clothes with a bit of a garage-sale vibe.
When: Saturday, 19th November, 10am-1pm.
Where: Northcote.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Gnomes Farming Co-operative by email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre multicultural food garden

What: In the run up to the Urban Agriculture Forum, this is one of several community gardening locations opening up to welcome visitors. Head Gardener Sebastian Beck will give you a tour of the garden and explain its design and evolution into a multi use mini-urban farm providing a wide range of veggies and fruit for their multicultural community.
When: Saturday, 19th November, 3-5pm.
Where: Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre by phone (9347 2739) or email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

The Plummery

What: In the run up to the Urban Agriculture Forum, this is one of several community gardening locations opening up to welcome visitors. ‘The Plummery’ is a small-scale 280m2 urban permaculture system which produces most of the veggies, herbs, fruit and electricity consumed by the household, as well as recycling all organic waste on site. The owner, Kat Lavers, currently manages a popular sustainable gardening program, My Smart Garden, for Hobsons Bay City Council in the Western suburbs and is a volunteer coordinator of Permablitz Melbourne.
When: Saturday, 19th November, 4-5pm.
Where: Northcote.
Cost: free.
Bookings: Email with the subject title ‘The Plummery – RSVP’.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Urban forage and feast: a celebratory community dinner

What: Youth Food Movement (YFM) Melbourne are whipping up a feast made exclusively with local fresh produce straight from community gardens, balcony backyards and small producer farms. The dinner aims to highlight the range of food produced within Melbourne, the stories connected to them, and to encourage eaters to support these local food champions. Have some homegrown produce you would like to donate? Have an out-of-control lemon tree? Spare a few leeks from your garden? Email them if you have some produce you would like to share. Growers who donate produce will be entitled to a discount on the ticket price. The food will be vegetarian – however, please let them know if you have any other dietary requirements. Stay up to date on their Facebook event page.
When: Friday, 2nd December, 7-9.30pm.
Where: Brunswick.
Cost: $27.
Enquiries: Youth Food Movement by email.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Christmas cookie decorating

What: With Christmas around the corner why not make your own packaged cookies to give as gifts to friends and family. Learn how to decorate cookies using fondant icing and different techniques. You will be provided with the cookies and equipment to decorate and package them.
When: Friday, 9th December, 2-3pm.
Where: Fawkner Library.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Moreland Council by phone (9353 4000) or email.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).