Nov 302013

Join a vibrant food culture, growing and eating local

Covering all matters food across North East Melbourne

Whether you are a local food producer, want to eat local food, grow veggies in your garden or just want to meet like-minded folks, Local Food Connect is for you. Join now.

Eltham Farmers’ Market, a Local Food Connect initiative, is held every Sunday.

Jan 132021

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Bev Robertson, Cath Lyons, Claire Smith, Jo Buckle, Michelle Smith, Pam Jenkins and Velyne Moretti.

Re-opening news

In last week’s newsletter, I wrote that most (but not all) food swaps have now re-opened. Claire Smith (the organiser of the Mooroolbark Food Swap) has written in to say that “whilst most food swaps have now re-started, some are currently meeting outside due to council restrictions on the use of their venues. For such cases, BYO chair if you need to sit at all, wear a face mask if you feel safer, use the hand sanitiser if available and sign in.

Eltham Food Swap has now re-started on the 4th Sunday of each month, 9.30-10.30am at Eltham Farmers’ Market. The next swap will therefore be on 24th January. One of the organisers of the swap, Bev Robertson, has written in to say that they would like some more people to volunteer to help organise the future swaps. If you are potentially interested, contact Bev by email (

Another new seed library in Darebin

Jika Jika Community Centre, 1B Plant Street, Northcote (corner of Plant and Union streets).

That makes 4 in total, with the other 3 being:

  • Alphington Community Centre, 2 Kelvin Grove, Alphington.
  • Newton Street Community Garden, 9 Newton Street, Reservoir.
  • Sylvester Hive Community Garden, corner of Dean and Gray Streets, Preston.

Best edible gardens in schools in North East Melbourne

Each year for the last 43 years, The Victorian Schools Garden Program (VSGP) has given out awards to a variety of schools for their gardens. Their 2020 awards were recently announced and they include:

  • Diamond Creek Primary School: Best Edible Garden among primary & special schools with less than 280 pupils.
  • Oxley Christian College, Chirnside Park: Best Edible Garden among P-9, P-12 and all secondary schools.

A key person at the edible garden at Diamond Creek Primary School is newsletter reader Jessica Betts. Congratulations, Jessica!

To be in the running to win an award, a school has to apply. From the awards page, it appears that the applications for 2021 will probably open at the beginning on March.

Whilst Googling the above, I came across this page on the Junior Landcare website. In 2020, 25 childrens’ groups around North East Melbourne received a total of $100K in grants to pursue biodiversity projects.

Woolly aphids

Last year, Jo Buckle asked for advice about the woolly aphids on her apple tree. She has now written in with an update: “Advice ranged from ‘do nothing’ to using organic sprays. I’m not keen on sprays, even organic, and I’m also quite lazy, so I chose the ‘do nothing and worry’ option (although I did re-prune and feed the tree). In spring, sure enough, the apple tree was infested with around a million aphids. However after a few weeks I noticed some little alien type red and black creatures on the backs of the leaves and, with the help of Google, I identified them as ladybird larvae. These little helpers eventually ate all of the aphids and then disappeared. My apple tree now has an abundance of growing apples. I have to admit that, until now, I have considered organic gardening to be a compromise where if you love nature you’re prepared to have a substandard (or no) harvest. This is the first time that I have actually witnessed the things that I read about in gardening books!

Do you know – apple problem?

Velyne Moretti has a problem with the apples on her tree (see the photo). Is it the dreaded Queensland Fruit Fly? Email your response.

Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF) – sources of advice?

Jo Buckle has written in to say that she lost all her plums this year to QFF and is looking for the best sources of advice for next year.

One of the main problems with QFF is that it can infest a wide range of fruit trees, not just plums. Watch this introductory video from Agriculture Victoria.

Here is some advice from the National Fruit Fly Council: their overall advice to gardeners, choosing a control strategy and methods for control and prevention.

[The National Fruit Fly Council divides home growers into ‘gardeners’ (that’s you) and ‘less able gardeners’ (that’s them over there)! Re QFF, their advice for less able gardeners is effectively: don’t grow fruit trees!]

Here is some advice re QFF that has appeared in previous newsletters.

There is lots of advice re QFF on the Internet but what do you think are the best sources of advice? Email me with your suggested links.

Do you know – maize seeds?

Michelle Smith wants to grow some maize in order to make flour for human consumption. She is looking for advice about what varieties to grow. For example, early learning, manning white, multi-coloured aztec or silvermine? Email me with your thoughts and I’ll pass them onto Michelle.

Guy’s food growing tip – bananas

Last week, I harvested my first ever bunch of homegrown ripe bananas! Here is what I have learnt:

  • It is possible to grow bananas successfully in Melbourne. Furthermore, they taste yum.
  • The plants need protection in both Winter (cf. the frost) and Summer (cf. the intensity of the afternoon sun). I use shade cloth in both cases.
  • The plants grow quickly, become enormous (mine are around 5 metres high) and can’t be pruned.
  • The trick to getting the bananas to actually ripen is, according to local banana grower Stephen Onians, frequent fertilisation in small amounts.
  • A banana plant only ever has one bunch of bananas and then slowly dies (although it produces multiple pups before it dies).

I’m current experimenting with growing veggies in the chopped up logs of the cut down plants that have had bananas. I’ll report back at some stage.

Has anyone else had their bananas ripen successfully this year? Email me.

Read more of Guy’s food-growing tips.

Want to associate your event with a major Melbourne festival?

The 2021 National Sustainable Living Festival will be held in the month of February. If you would like your upcoming event to be associated with this festival, apply here.

The 2021 Urban Agriculture Forum will be held in the month of April. If you would like your upcoming event to be associated with this festival, apply here.

‘Crowd harvest’ – summer herbs

During January, take your surplus herb plants in pots, freshly cut herbs or dried herbs to NewHope Community Care in Blackburn North. They have clients who could make use of these herbs. Read this Facebook post for more information.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link was Angelo Eliades’ article on leaf problems on cherries and plums.

Joke (or pun) of the week

Did you hear about the Italian chef that died? He pasta way.

Read more jokes.

Upcoming events – introduction

Website calendars

By type of event: All once-off events (Cooking, Everything else, Free).

By Council area: Banyule, Boroondara, City of Yarra, Darebin, Manningham, Maroondah, Moreland, Nillumbik, Whitehorse, Whittlesea and Yarra Ranges.

Upcoming Home Harvest home garden tours

During February and March, LFC and NERP will be jointly organising some tours of people’s gardens. The first two will be:

Upcoming events – not cooking

Newly announced

Upcoming events – cooking

Many of the upcoming cooking classes are in Richmond, which is at the edge of our North East Melbourne 'catchment area'. A number of you have requested that I separate out the Richmond classes from the other cooking classes, so that they latter can be more easily assimilated and this is what I have done below (with the exception of the newly announced events).

Newly announced