Aug 142019

Ann visits the garden of Olwyn Smiley, from Heathmont

Some of you may know Olwyn through her business The Backyard Vegetable, where she helps people to establish their own veggie patches. Others might know her through her involvement in Bedford Park Community Garden. Ann Stanley has now visited Olwyn’s garden and talked to her as a home grower.

As Ann says in her writeup: Olwyn’s garden “has around 30 fruit trees, thriving vegetable beds, vines and chooks. There is a potting area, a grey water system and winding paths. Both the back and front yards are heavily cultivated, as is the land beyond the property’s boundaries between the bike path and train tracks (this is with Council approval!). It is Olwyn’s ‘zone 5’ (for those who speak permaculture), and she and her husband, Lloyd, have planted indigenous plants there.

And “To attract beneficial insect predators, she aims to have something in flower at all times of the year to feed them. She has observed, as I have, that blue-banded bees love salvias. When I ask her what she loves best about gardening, Olwyn says that it’s making a whole meal from food that her garden has produced and ‘getting to know the insects’.

One of the (many) things that I like about Ann’s articles is the links that she provides for enthusiastic readers to explore issues in more depth. For example, this article includes links to The Facebook group Amateur Entomology Australia, Retrosuburbia, Victorian Strawberry Fields and the American Environmental Working Group (EWG) (who produce the annual dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists.)

Read the full writeup.

Mac’s blast from the past

With the wattles in bloom signalling a change of season from winter to spring, it’s a good time to start sowing your tomato seeds. They will still need protection from possible frosts so indoors on a window sill, or in an igloo or glass house, is ideal. Or you can use the bottom half of a soft drink bottle over a 14cm pot. Seed raising mix makes all the difference.

Read more of Mac’s tips from 2017.

Want some spent coffee grounds for your garden?

One of the cafes in Eltham has contacted me to say that they would like to give away their spent coffee grounds to anyone willing to pick them up. Ditto their tea leaves. If interested, contact me by email (

If you don’t live in Eltham but still want spent coffee grounds or husks, our website lists a number of cafes and coffee roasters who offer such material for free.

Finally, if you know of any other cafes who would like to offer such material, tell me about them.

Know anything about lunch boxes?

Local Food Connect is working with the Eltham Leisure Centre through their Tiger Paw program to develop a parent’s guide to healthy lunch boxes. They are looking for good photos, tips and recipes. If you can help, email them. Some produce from Eltham Farmers’ Market will be given to the best responses.

Want to volunteer at 3000acres?

3000acres are looking for a Communications Volunteer. Read more and apply.

They are also looking for a Web Volunteer. Read more and apply.

Want to run to fund raise for a worthy cause?

FareShare, in Abbotsford, cook and give away 6,000 meals a day but this generates a huge electricity bill that they have to pay. To help them fund this cost, they are participating in the 2019 a2 Upstream Challenge on 9th November. The idea is that you raise funds for them by doing either a 20km or 50km walk. Read more.

In Darebin, you can soon put food scraps into your green waste bin

In the 26th June newsletter, we reported that residents of Moreland and Nillumbik can put their food scraps into green waste. From 1st October, they will be joined by residents of Darebin, as reported in The Leader (picture right).

Grant opportunities now open

Junior Landcare grants

Woolworths, in partnership with Junior Landcare, is inviting primary schools and early learning centres to apply for funding for environment projects. The grants are up to $1K and can be used for activities such as: planting a vegetable garden; habitat restoration projects; planting bush tucker gardens; and running a composting or recycling project. Closing date: 6th September. Read more and apply.

Community gardening news

St Johns Riverside Community Garden in Heidelberg have been awarded a grant of $4,200 from Bendigo Bank and others to help pay for a gazebo.

Local producers in the news

Imbue Distillery, from Research, have featured in The Leader newspaper (see picture right).

How to prune grape vines

Newsletter reader Angelo Eliades has written another article, this time on how to prune grape vines. It is as comprehensive as are all of Angelo’s articles. There are lots of useful graphics, including the two below.


Read more food-growing articles by Angelo.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

How to cut each shape of cheese.

Joke of the week

Submitted by David Hicks: If you boil a funny bone, it becomes a laughing stock. That’s humerus.

Read more jokes.

New events – not cooking

Winter pruning workshop: Saturday, 24th August, 9-11am; All Nations Kitchen Garden, Northcote.

What: Bring your pruning questions and learn how to correctly prune your fruit trees in this practical demonstration. The All Nations Kitchen Garden is a multi-layered garden of fruit trees, edible understory and ground cover. Click here to read about the garden.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

The French wine and cheese masterclass: Wednesday, 28th August, 7-10pm; Northcote.

What: Anthony Nania has picked some of the greatest value wines from each region of France and will help give you an appreciation of not only the personality and quality of each of these wines but will also help demystify the labelling conundrum that is normally associated with French wines.
Cost: $54.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Australian plants expo: Saturday, 14 September and Sunday, 15 September, both 10am-4pm; Eltham Community & Reception Centre.

What: A two-day event by the Australian Plants Society – Yarra Yarra. Sales of native & indigenous plants, books on related subjects, native flower displays, environmental displays, talks, demonstrations, workshops, giftware and refreshments. The plant sellers are likely to include: APS Yarra Yarra growers; Friends of Melton Botanic Gardens nursery; Goldfields Revegetation nursery (see plant list); La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary nursery; Natural Plantscape nursery; Sunvalley Plants Nursery (see plant list); and Vaughan’s Australian Plants.
Cost: $5.
Bookings: just turn up.

Mulch, manure & plant sale plus roving refills: Sunday, 15th September, 1.30-4pm; Pentridge Community Garden, Coburg.

What: Pentridge Community Garden is throwing open its doors for an afternoon of fun featuring: environmentally friendly cleaning products for sale from Roving Refills (BYO container); straw & manure for sale; produce swap; plant sale; and an opportunity to see what’s growing in their organic communal garden. This event also marks the public debut of their composting toilet! Click here to read about the garden.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

Native pollinators: Monday, 7th October, 7.30-9pm; Nunawading Civic Centre.

What: Karen Thomas, Regional Agriculture Facilitator for the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority (PPWCMA) will explore the actions that we can take as gardeners to boost pollinator biodiversity and keep plants fruiting and setting seed. All participants will receive an insect attracting plant to take home.
Cost: free.
Bookings: EventBrite.

New events – cooking

Tea making: Thursday, 15th August, 11am-midday; Diamond Valley Library.

What: Discover the healing benefits of tea using the herbs or produce in your garden including lemon balm, lemon verbena, rosemary, and a locally made chai.
Cost: free.
Bookings: their website.

Cook Indian by the creek: Friday, 6th September, 6.30-8.15pm; Diamond Creek.

What: Menu (vegan): street food (chaat) plus gulaab jamun (doughnuts). Cook Indian by the creek came into existence with the idea of breaking the myth that Indian cooking is complex and difficult to nail. In each session, they will share their traditional recipes and go through the step by step cooking process. The classes are held in a private kitchen.
Cost: $65.
Bookings: by email (

Cooking master class – ‘foodie favourites of 2019’: Wednesday, 25th September, 7-9pm; Gourmet Living, Templestowe.

What: Enjoy 3 tasting size courses cooked by chef Bek McMillan, from Gourmet Living, who will demonstrate step by step. All recipes are included. Menu: gnocchi pesto bake; quick simple chicken cacciatore; and chocolate mousse tart.
Cost: $42.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Diabetes and diet: Tuesday, 15th October, 7-8.30pm; Hawthorn Community House.

What: Join their resident dietitian for increased knowledge, awareness and understanding about diabetes, the resources and tools to help prevent type 2 diabetes, and how to manage diabetes well.
Cost: $25.
Bookings: TryBooking.

Christmas hamper cooking: Tuesday, 15th October, 7.30-9pm; Kilsyth.

What: Homemade goodies to give to teachers, coaches, friends, family or just for yourselves. This class will go through their personal favourites, new ideas, gift wrapping hamper items and how to cook these goodies. Get organised this year and make your Christmas gifts early.
Cost: $21.
Bookings: EventBrite.

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.

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