May 282019

Judy visits Deb and Peter Thomson’s garden in Research

Some of you will know Deb or Peter from Nillumbik U3A, or Deb from the Eltham Rural Group, or Peter from Eltham Mens Shed. Judy Vizzari was recently shown around Deb and Peter’s garden. As Judy says in her writeup: “I’m here to learn about Deb and Peter’s extensive and productive garden, although I’ve been forewarned by Deb that it’s not a good time. She says that their garden has been critically wounded by adverse climatic conditions. I’m curious to see the damage. As the land isn’t on mains water, it relies wholly on the collection of rainwater, grey water and treated sewerage. The sewerage, it seems, is processed using an in-ground Japanese method and provides a valuable resource for the garden. Six water tanks located on the property have, in the past, provided adequate litres annually to sustain the house and garden. But 2018 was different.” But also: “Yes, there is evidence of plants which have suffered the hot summer, but Deb and Peter’s plant choices have been judicious and the overall effect of hardy, grassy mounds interspersed with low growing fruiting trees, remains.Read the full writeup.

We need to find more gardens to visit and people to interview. We’d also like to find some more people to do the visits and interviews, particularly outside of the areas of Nillumbik and Banyule that Judy and I are most familiar with. If you would be happy being interviewed, or if you would like to try your hand at doing some garden visits and interviews, please email me.

Robin’s veggie growing tip of the month: planting asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable lasting, 30 years so it provides excellent value. July is when asparagus crowns are commercially available from nurseries. Asparagus bed preparation is time consuming so June is a great month to prepare a new bed, ready for planting in July.

Asparagus can be planted either in the ground or in a high-sided raised bed. Either way, trenches need to be dug to a depth of 30cm below the soil surface, 30cm wide, and with 30cm between trenches. At the bottom of each trench, make a small hill of soil down its length. This is to fan out and drape the roots over. Snip off any damaged or broken roots before planting (they will grow back quickly). Place the crowns around 30cm apart. Cover the crowns so that there is several centimetres of soil above them with no roots visible. Combine the soil with a mix of well rotted manure and compost (asparagus are heavy feeders).

As the crown shoots, keep covering the shoots in the same way until you reach the surface. This will take 3-4 months.

In the first year, do not cut any spears; in the second, cut 2-3 per crown; and in the third, cut as many as you like. Water well both during the establishment phase and thereafter. Asparagus does not like competition from weeds or other plants so mulch and weed regularly.

[Editor’s note: asparagus is dioecious (separate male/female plants). From an eating perspective, at least anecdotally, one would like all male plants, as their spears tend to be both fatter and more numerous. Over time, this can be achieved by replacing the females. During Autumn, you can tell which is which because only the females have berries.]

Read more of Robin Gale-Baker’s tips

The upcoming Darebin Homemade Food And Wine Festival and another giveaway

The Darebin Homemade Food And Wine Festival begins on Saturday. To celebrate, Steve Harris, the festival’s organiser from Darebin Council, would like to give away a couple of tickets to Local legends – Luul Aligas – tastes from a Somali kitchen on Tuesday, 4th June, 6.30-8.30pm, at Darebin Arts Centre in Preston. This offer is exclusively to newsletter readers! If interested, email me by end of play Wednesday and a winner will be selected at random.

Vegan food scraps are available from Power Plant in Templestowe

The vegan cafe Power Plant in Templestowe generates around 100 litres of food scraps each week. “We would love to see it go to a good home. If you can help us, please give us a call on 8838 1282 to organise pick up. No amount too small!” Thanks for the heads up, Judy Cinerari!

More on the ‘wash against waste’ initiative at South Morang Farmers & Makers Market

In last week’s newsletter, I wrote about the market’s innovative use of unbreakable, returnable, re-usable coffee cups combined with numerous ‘return stations’ throughout the market. The market’s organiser from Whittlesea Council, Randa Almushcab, has written in: “We call it the ‘wash against waste’ initiative and we now do it at many of our community events. It both reduces waste and saves money. We were so happy to see that it was well received by the community on the day. The secret is to find a coffee vendor (in our case, Cafe Soleil) that is totally supportive of the initiative and willing to learn along the way.

More on free community meals

Ebony King from Whittlesea Council has written in to point out that there is a free meal every Wednesday lunchtime at New Horizons Church in Whittlesea. That brings the total up to 20 (see the list and map). Thanks, Ebony!

Apart from the 20 on the list and map, does anyone know of any other regular, free meals open to the public anywhere in North East Melbourne? If so, email me

Live in Yarra Ranges?

If you live in Yarra Ranges and buy a compost bin, worm farm or bokashi bin before 30th June, you can claim $40 from the Council. Read more and apply

Local food producer news

Take Me Home, from Coburg, make pastas, gnocchi, pizza bases, pasta sauces and crostatas. They now have a shop (called ‘The Gnoccheria’) open 5 Monday to Friday at 89B Harding Street, Coburg. They are no longer a stallholder at Eltham Farmers’ Market.

Blue Pear Pantry, from North Warrandyte, make savoury rolls. They now have a number of new outlets, including: Aumanns at Warrandyte; Eaglemont Foodsmiths; Mt Evelyn SUPA IGA; Providence Melbourne, Surrey Hills; Ritchies SUPA IGA Diamond Creek; Rose St Pantry, Fitzroy; and Two Doors Cafe, Templestowe.

What veggie seeds to plant in June

Here is a list (see the June planting guide for more detail):
Broad beans
Mustard greens

The list is pretty short. It’s your last chance to plant broad beans and garlic, and arguably too late for them.

Back To Earth competition

If you live in Knox, Manningham, Maroondah, Whitehorse or Yarra Ranges, you can vote in the Back To Earth competition for your favourite garden or environmental project, with total prizes of $10,000. There are 28 projects to choose from. Voting closes 9th June.

Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea

Did you go to a Biggest Morning Tea event last week? If not, there will still probably be one near you in the coming weeks – as the Cancer Council says on its website: “The official date is 23rd May, but you can host your tea anytime in May or June.” For example, ‘Montmorency Kids’ are holding a Biggest Morning Tea event on Saturday, 1st June, 10.30am to midday at the Montmorency Scout Hall in Petrie Park, 16 Mountain View Road, Montmorency. There will be cupcakes, cookies, scones (from Eltham Bowling Club), a raffle and other entertainment.

Recent Open Gardens Victoria and 3000acres activities

Over the last few months, Open Gardens Victoria and 3000acres have undertaken a program of open gardens, workshops and videos. They have now submitted a report on their program for this newsletter.

The science of gardening

Jon Buttery has written in to say that he is doing an online Science of Gardening course by the University of Tasmania and that it’s fantastic. The Unit begins 24th June. Applications close 14th June.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The gallery of teams providing free Mitcham community meals.

Gardening quote of the month

God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.” by Francis Bacon.

Read more quotes.

Proverb of the month

A watched pot never boils. Meaning: time seems to go slower when you are anxiously waiting for something to happen. Invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1785 (with slightly different wording). As a scientist, Franklin would, of course, have known that watching a pot has no effect on how long it takes to boil. And, as a wit (or pedant) from the Washington Post once pointed out: pots never boil, only their contents do. So, of course, the proverb is meant to be poetic rather than literal. Franklin was famous for many things, not least the proverb fish and visitors stink in 3 days..

Read more proverbs.

Joke of the week

As submitted by Rosie Brock: What do you call a 5 0’clock shadow? Bristle sprouts.

Read more jokes.

New events – not cooking

Trees for peace: Wednesday, 5th June, 11am-1pm; Links Community Garden, Lalor.

What: India in Australia (Consulate General of India, Melbourne) and Links Community Garden are joining together to planting some native trees and to spread Mahatma Gandhi’s message of ‘trees for peace’. They will also be celebrating World Environment Day and commemorating 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

Open Cellars of the Artisan Hills: Saturday, 15th June and Sunday, 16th June, both 11am-5pm; Nillumbik.

What: Visit any or all of the family-owned wineries in Nillumbik, each with an individual style, where the grapes are hand-picked and hand-crushed by family and friends in the traditional style, with wines developed on site. This is a chance to sample wines at wineries not always open to the public. You will also find food to complement the wine, as well as live music and artworks from local artists at some venues. There is no entry fee, or tasting fee, at any of the venues. The participating wineries include: Buttermans Track, Easthill Estate, Giammarino Wines, Hildebrand Ridge Organic Vineyard, Kings of Kangaroo Ground, Massaros, Nillumbik Estate, Panton Hill Vineyard & Winery, Punch, Shaws Road Winery, Wedgetail Estate and Yarrambat Estate Vineyard..
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

Backyard chooks for beginners: Saturday, 15th June, 2-4pm; Edendale.

What: This workshop will cover the characteristics of different breeds (in order to make a selection that suits your setting and needs) as well as the housing and care of chickens. Participants will leave with the knowledge and confidence to begin keeping chickens and producing their own free-range eggs. This is an adult-focused learning experience and not suited to young children.
Cost: $35.
Bookings: TryBooking.

Bees wax wraps workshop: Saturday, 15th June, 3-5pm; Murundaka, Heidelberg Heights.

What: Learn how to make bees wax wraps from recycled fabric in preparation for Plastic Free July. Facilitated by Gail and Jo from Textile Art Community.
Cost: $15.
Bookings: Humanitix.

The art of espalier: Sunday, 16th June, 9.30am-midday; Bulleen Art and Garden.

What: What you will learn: growing espaliered fruit trees; different techniques to make the most of all available space for espalier; and improve your general gardening skills. Presented by Diana Cotter. “Go vertical” is the cry when garden space is limited. Gardening in two dimensions is what espalier is about and this class will cover the different types and how to get them started and then continue to train them into the desired shape. Topics covered include suitable fruit trees, pruning and training techniques.
Cost: $55.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

The joy of backyard chooks: Saturday, 22nd June, 9.30am-12.30pm; Bulleen Art and Garden.

What: What you will learn: how to get started with keeping chickens in a suburban backyard; how to house and protect chooks from predators; and how chooks can be used to improve your garden and soil. Presented by Sarah Hardgrove. Keeping a few chooks in the backyard used to be a staple of Australian suburban life, and their eggs made up a healthy part of our diet. But even though our house blocks might be shrinking, a smaller backyard doesn’t necessarily mean an end to raising or enjoying them. In this class, you will find out just how easy it is to keep a few hens as pets and as the ultimate garden recyclers, as well as everything you need to know about housing, protecting and feeding them, and lots of practical ideas on how to live harmoniously with them in your garden. Suitable for those who have never kept chooks before.
Cost: $50.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

Healthy productive compost and worms: Sunday, 23rd June, 9.30am-midday; Bulleen Art and Garden.

What: What you will learn: the importance of compost for soil health; how to fix common composting problems; and setting up and looking after a worm farm. Presented by Diana Cotter. Learn how to make great compost, the essential ingredient for a thriving and healthy garden. Look at worm farms and Bokashi as other options. They will also show you how to make a DIY worm farm using recycled products.
Cost: $50.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

Permaculture Design Course with Pete the Permie (12 sessions): starting Thursday, 25th July, 9am-4.30pm; Central Ringwood Community Centre.

What: On 9 Thursdays and 3 Saturdays. Permaculture elder Pete the Permie and his team of tutors will conduct this 80 hour course covering the full PDC. The class will cover such subjects as the principles of permaculture, water, trees, soils, zones, sectors, site design, animals and the many social structures that apply. Students will be able to design a project of their choice to present to the class on the final day. There are no prerequisites for this class. Once you have completed this course successfully, you will be entitled to use ‘permaculture’ in your business name.
Cost: $495.
Bookings: by phone (9870 2602).

New events – cooking

Baklava, gozleme and Turkish delight workshop: Thursday, 30th May, 7-9pm; Box Hill.

What: You will learn to make your own baklava, gozleme and Turkish delight. Bring your oven tray, apron, rolling pin and container.
Cost: $59.
Bookings: by phone (0403 046680).

Kombucha tea & fermenting workshop: Saturday, 15th June, 10.30am-midday; Central Ringwood Community Centre.

What: Learn to make your own kombucha tea with Dayle Barnett and take home a scobi to get you started. Dayle is a chemistry major who often has many different brews fermenting in all corners of the house and enjoys experimenting with kombucha, jun, kefir and ginger beer.
Cost: $25.
Bookings: just turn up.

Fermenting foods – meet your microbes then eat them: Saturday, 29th June, 10am-midday; Abbotsford.

What: You’ll gain an introduction to fermentation theory and lacto-fermented vegetables, learn simple sauerkraut & kimchi recipes, and sample fermented vegetables & condiments.
Cost: free.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Fermentation and good gut health workshop: Sunday, 30th June, midday-2pm; Chirnside Park.

What: Learn how to increase the level of good probiotics into your diet. Learn how to make kombucha tea, 24 hour yoghurt, sauerkraut and pickled vegetables.
Cost: $22.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Fun chocolate decorating: Monday, 1st July, and again on Monday, 8th July, both 10-10.30am; Ringwood.

What: What you will learn: how to use chocolate and sweet, salty, crunchy, colourful, gooey toppings; and how to decorate your own flat Easter egg. What you will get: a decorated chocolate egg in a gift box. For 3-7-year-old children. Enjoy decorating your own delicious chocolate bar. Choose from a variety of crunchy, chewy, gooey and crisp toppings. Have fun creating your own chocolate hand print too. Included is the bright chef apron and hat set.
Cost: $15.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

Summary of upcoming events – not cooking

Over the next week
Over the next month

Summary of upcoming events – cooking

Over the next week
Over the next month

View the complete calendar of upcoming events.