Feb 282018

Judy interviews Carol and Alan Woolcock

Many of you will know Carol as a participant at multiple food swaps, as one of the organisers of the Warrandyte Food Swap, or as a maker of delicious jams and cakes. Judy Vizzari has now interviewed Carol, and her husband Alan, about all these matters, as well as about their experiences as home growers. Here is how Judy introduces her write up: “Today I’m visiting Carol and Alan Woolcock, who live on a large, irregular block in Warrandyte on the north-east outskirts of Melbourne. Their property tops the hill which leads down to Pound Bend in the Warrandyte National Park. It’s close to the Evelyn Tunnel which was excavated in 1870 – a tunnel cut through an elbow of the Yarra River to facilitate gold mining. It’s an area which provides a fascinating glimpse of the endeavour of mid 19thC miners.Read the full interview.

One thing that I would like to highlight from the interview is that Carol and Alan were the recipients of a permablitz in 2013. Furthermore, the permablitz people re-visited in 2016 and provided a nice write up about the garden.

Robin’s veggie growing tip of the month

A well-dried herb should be the same colour as it was in its fresh state. Those supermarket ones that are heat-dried, lose not only their colour but also most of their volatile oils. The best way to dry herbs is to cut the stems in the morning once any morning dew has dried but before watering, as this will be when the herb’s volatile oils will be strongest. Then tie them in bunches, remove any brown, dried leaves and hang them upside down in a warm but shady place to dry out. Once fully dry, strip the stems, fill the jars, screw the lid on, label and you’re done.

Some herbs don’t dry well and are better preserved in oil. These include basil (though recently someone told me that basil dried in a very slow oven retains its flavour), french tarragon, oregano, savoury and thyme. If preserving in oil, use a hot oil method as the microbes on herbs (or any other vegetable) can cause botulism (which can be fatal).

Julie’s tip of the month

Julie French has written in: “I found these little bugs (see photo) in my garden last year. They were about the size of a ladybird. At the time I couldn’t find out what they were and didn’t follow up as they were only a few and only on the one eggplant. This year they’ve appeared in greater numbers on my beans and I’ve made more of an effort to find out what they are. In Australia, they’re called the green vegetable bug (Nezara viridula) and are pests on tomatoes, eggplants, capsicums, beans and other veggies. The ones in the photo are nymphs; the adults are bigger and can look like green stink bugs (which is what they’re called in the US, I think).

Permablitz’s ‘hero of the month’

Tromboncino: this is the zucchini with outstanding flavour that doesn’t get too big too soon. Be sure to train the quick growing vines up a trellis so it hangs straight or you’ll have lots of long and curlies!.

Read about all of Permablitz’s heros.

Mac’s tip of the week

It’s time to remove (and maybe tag for next year) most of your bird netting (obviously only from those trees where the fruit has been harvested). In so doing, you may need to prune any growth that has come through the netting. In fact, why not keep going and give your fruit trees a good ‘late summer prune’ rather than wait until winter dormancy, as has been more traditional. This can be particularly beneficial for stonefruit or any espaliered/trained trees where you do not want vigorous spring growth (water shoots) to ruin your desired shape. At this time of the year, wounds heal quickly and, whilst there will be some re-growth, it won’t be the vigorous, unproductive, vertical growth (water shoots) often seen after hard winter pruning. Broadly speaking, winter pruning promotes vigorous growth whilst summer pruning inhibits growth. So, while winter pruning is recommended for newly planted trees up until the tree has achieved the desired framework and height, summer pruning is a great way to control the size of your tree once established.

All the growth made since Spring should be cut back by at least a third noting that, for some fruit trees, it is this new growth which will carry next year’s crops. [Editor’s note: the fruiting schedule on our website includes a column which, for each type of fruit tree, summarises where the tree fruits. Where it says, ‘1-year-old wood’, this means that it is this year’s growth which will carry next year’s crops.]

Also remove rubbing / crossing branches. All major structural pruning should, however, still be saved for when the trees are dormant and less prone to stress.

Read a recent SGA article on summer pruning of apple trees.

Early Autumn is also a great time to cut out summer-fruiting raspberry canes that have completely finished fruiting. Cut out all dead canes, right down to ground level. All remaining (up to 5 or 6 per plant) healthy canes can be loosely tied together and, if necessary, secured to a trellis / wires or stakes.

Read all of Mac’s tips.

What seeds to plant in March

Here is a list (see the planting guide for more detail):


Brussels sprouts
Mustard greens
Pak choy

Other leafy greens



Broad beans

Compared with February, all the brassicas are now on the list, plus broad beans. The best months for planting brassicas are March and April. What I do is plant seeds in March so that, if they don’t germinate, I can either try again in April or cheat and buy some seedlings. My tip of the month is to plant mustard greens as a tasty, somewhat peppery, leafy green. Mizuna is another good option, but I tend to keep that for summer as it is bolt resistant.

Read Helen’s 2016 articles on growing brassicas and on autumn plantings.

Want a job with Leaf, Root & Fruit?

Leaf, Root & Fruit are hiring again, this time for a Strategic Projects Officer. The responsibilities include: set up and documentation of new systems; development of their new depot in Burwood; and optimisation of their existing urban farming and ongoing garden maintenance services.

News about local food producers

Sugarloaf Produce, from Strathewen, have started sending out fortnightly emails to local cafes, shops and restaurants outlining what veggies etc they currently have available. Read their latest email. If you would like to receive these emails, email them.

Website calendar upgrade – cooking classes

An increasing proportion of the local food events are cooking classes. All cooking classes are now highlighted in green text on the website calendar of all events. Furthermore, because ‘cooking class’ is now a category, you can view a calendar of the cooking classes only. And, of course, that also means that you can view a calendar of once-off events other than cooking classes!

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

Greta’s visit to Tuan Pham’s garden.

Pip pip

Pip magazine is still accepting nominations for their inaugural Pip Permie Awards 2018, with a closing date of 8th March. There are two awards:

  • The Best Permie Project award is open to projects which are current, create positive change and demonstrate the permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair share. The prize will be $250.
  • The Permie Of The Year award is for a permaculture practitioner working to create positive change in the world, where that person demonstrates the permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair share in their work. The prize will be an award pack (which includes garden tools and books) valued at $250.

The awards will be presented at the 14th Australian Permaculture Convergence (APC14). To nominate a project or person, email Pip magazine with their name, location and age. Include a brief description about what they’re doing, how they demonstrate these ethics, and why you think they should win.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

Greta's visit to Tuan Pham's garden.

Proverb of the month

Man does not live by bread alone. Meaning: physical nourishment is not sufficient for a healthy life; people also have spiritual needs. Or, as one website put it: no one says they don’t have time to eat food and no one should say that they don’t have time to read the Bible. The phrase was first used in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 8: 2-3) and this was then referred to by Jesus in the New Testament when tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4): And Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”

Read all the proverbs.

Gardening quote of the month

Gardening has just sort of grown on me. I find it therapeutic. And I like smelly things. by Clive Anderson.

Read all the gardening quotes.

Joke of the week

Submitted by Sabi Buehler: Can you tell me the joke about the peanut butter? No, I’m not telling you because you might spread it.

Read all the jokes. Continue reading »