Mar 012017

Helen’s latest home-grower interview

Helen Simpson has completed another home-grower interview, this time with Heather from Box Hill South. Here is the first paragraph: “Heather enthusiastically welcomes Guy and myself as we arrive at her front door. We are eager to see her garden due to the expanse of food that Heather grows on her suburban block and over the next hour we are not disappointed. Around the kitchen table over a cup of coffee, Heather tells us how her interest in gardening began – firstly with the influence of her father who taught her the botanical names of plants, then later on through inspiration from a work colleague, who introduced her to newsletters from Permaculture Victoria.Read the full interview.

March is Harvest Month

As discussed in the last newsletter, March is Harvest Month in Nillumbik and Banyule. We have now produced a flyer of all the month’s activities (in pdf format). Click here to view or download the flyer. As you will see, it is rather speccy.

The activities during the month are diverse, ranging from talks on food growing and processing, through open veggie gardens, to opportunities to connect with your local farmers.

There are still spaces available for four of the events on the upcoming weekend. And all four events are free! And, you can book by simply clicking the links below! So, as Shia LaBeouf would say, just do it!

The Home Harvest Feastival

The Feastival took place last Sunday and, as I can personally attest, was very successful. It was at Edendale Farm and around 400 people attended. Here is a roll call of some of the local food producers and others who contributed.

The lead organiser:

  • Kirsty Bromfield from Nillumbik Council.

The lead chefs:

  • Duang Tengtrirat, from Real Food Catering.
  • Michelle Hegarty, from Homegrown Catering.

Local foodies who gave presentations:

  • Daniel Russo from Wholemilk Continental Cheese Company: cheesemaking.
  • Dianne Gordon from Edendale: presentation of worm farms.
  • Hanh Truong from PoppySmack: rice paper rolls.
  • Ian Culbard from Nillumbik Council: seed saving.
  • Kat Veilgaard from Bulleen Art & Garden Nursery: companion planting.
  • Paul Gale-Baker from Urban Shepherd: wicking beds.
  • Richard Lee from KABUU: soil block veggie seedlings.
  • Steve Laurence from Edendale: chooks.
  • Yvonne Ashby: sourdough breadmaking.

Local producers who donated food:

And, of course, there were many other volunteers who helped out.

A new food swap – at Heathmont

4th Saturday of each month, 10-11.30am. At Tables Community Garden, Heathmont Baptist Church, 78 Cuthbert Street, Heathmont, 3135. Organised by Outer Eastern Permaculture Swap. Contact: Karen Cheah at by email.

That makes a total of 29(!) regular food swaps in North East Melbourne – see the website for a list and map of all 29, together with contact details for each.

How about establishing a ‘fruit squad’ in your area?

The Darebin Fruit Squad (DFS) collects surplus fruit from local backyard fruit trees in Darebin and re-distributes it to local agencies who assist food-insecure people. These agences include the Darebin Information, Volunteer & Resource Service (DIVRS), with whom they work in partnership. Since their establishment in 2013, they have collected around 6 tonnes of fruit. Whilst some tree owners simply offer their surplus fruit, others are provided with maintenance services (fertilising, pruning, etc) in return for their surplus fruit.

Based on this experience, DFS and DIVRS are now encouraging others localities to develop similar initiatives. To assist with this, they have recently published a booklet entitled Harvesting the Urban Orchard, whose aim is “to provide practical information, tools and tips that you can use in establishing your own fruit-harvesting project.” Click here to view or download the booklet.

If you would like to discuss any aspects of this, contact Martin O’Callaghan by phone (9480 8200) or email.

Darebin winemaking mentoring pilot project

The Darebin Homemade Food and Wine Festival is looking for both mentors and mentees for a pilot project that aims to match older home wine makers with younger people eager to learn this amazing traditional skill from the experts! Mentors – you will be Darebin based, plan to make wine at home in 2017 and are keen to share your skills. Mentees – you will be Darebin based and available for up to 3 sessions with a winemaker between March and May. They will photograph and record some meetings in articles to capture the connections made through the age old art of making wine. For more information and to register your interest, please contact Lee Tozzi by phone (8470 8392) or email. Applications close second week in March.

What to plant in March (click here for more details)

Here is a list:
Broad beans
Brussel sprouts
Mustard greens
Pak choy

Read Helen’s 2016 article on autumn plantings.

Ringwood Farmers’ Market is “currently taking a break”

There haven’t been any Ringwood Farmers’ Markets (aka Eastland Farmers’ Market) in 2017. The Eastland website says that they are “currently taking a break”.

Let’s talk about our city’s environment

It’s official: according to the Climate Council, 2016 was Earth’s hottest year on record. The time to act is now. Whittlesea Council is calling out to all of its residents to complete an environmental survey by 31st March. The survey should take no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete. By completing this short survey, you are automatically in the draw to win one of three prizes: 1. $50 voucher for The Environment Shop, Northcote; 2. $30 voucher for La Trobe Wildlife Nursery, Bundoora; and 3. Seasonal Regional cookbook by The Sustainable Table valued at $40.

The City of Whittlesea is also inviting community members to attend focus groups in March to express their environmental concerns. To enquire about this, please call the Sustainability Planning team by phone (9217 2195) or email.

Foodbank Victoria

As you may know, Foodbank Victoria is a major organisation whose purpose is “to source and distribute healthy food to assist Victorians experiencing hardship.” Each year, around 500,000(!) Victorians apparently receive food that came from the Foodbank. Much of this food is delivered via ‘Foodshares’ as part of the Statewide Emergency Relief Scheme.

‘Crowd harvest’ tomatoes for Easter

People are invited to donate their homegrown excess tomatoes at any time from 30th March to 12th April. Anyone growing tomatoes in their own backyard usually produces excess. By contrast, Melbourne food relief providers are currently being faced with higher demand for emergency assistance than they can manage. Donate your excess via any of DIVRS, Preston, Liberty Church, Epping, STREAT, Collingwood or The Green @ St. Columbs, Hawthorn. They will then distribute, either fresh or preserved (as passata, chutney, sundried or dell’olio), through their food relief programs. Any questions, contact Cath Lyons (aka Tiny Trowel) by phone (0401 814679) or email.

Mac’s tip of the week

It’s time to remove (and maybe tag for next year) most of your bird netting now that your 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 is 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. Until next time, remember: dirty hands are still good hands in 2017.

Talking with Mac earlier this week, he was raving about the garden of one of his clients, saying that it had ‘homegrown’ written all over it (established fruit trees, veggie beds, berries, herbs, chicken run, beehive, vines, etc). The house is 8-10 Zig Zag Road, Eltham, it is up for sale and you can read all about it at

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips.

Joke of the week

What do you do if life gives you melons? See a doctor, because you’re dyslexic. (Thanks to Sabi Buehler, here’s a non-food version of the same joke: Have you heard of the dyslexic Satanist? He sold his soul to Santa)

If you don’t understand this joke, have a look at this Wikipedia page. If you do understand the joke, have a look at the Wikipedia page anyway as it is rather interesting.

As you may have noticed, every newsletter always contains at least one photo. This week’s photo, of two men in fruit-themed body paint, was photographed by Claire Miller. As Claire says “I was watching a rather out there acrobatic busker act on Southbank by a Japanese gymnast calling himself Jackie Chan Chan when these two turned up and started scoring his act. They seemed related to possibly promoting Juice Boost but I can’t be certain. They were just such a bizarre addition to the crowd watching an already bizarre act that I snapped the photo. Cool body paint, though!

Some links

Karyn Knight suggests that you read the article How do we keep gardening in the face of a changing climate?.

The Urban Harvest team, who run the Box Hill South and Forest Hill urban harvests, have sent me a link to a quirky little article on three ways to save tomato seeds: fermenting, drying and burying.

New events

Palestinian cooking workshop

What: Led by nutritionist Rasha Tayeh. This workshop will take you on a sensory journey into Palestinian cuisine and look specifically at foods and herbs that support us during the transitions of autumn, as we move away from the warmer months of summer into the cooler months of winter. You will: focus on traditional herbal infusions & remedies, from selected herbs and spices used in Palestine and the Levant; and cook a delicious vegan meal and discuss nutritional benefits of seasonal produce. Participants will go home with: recipes of the meal shared on the day; a deeper understanding & curiosity for delicious foods from Palestine & traditional herbal medicine; and a jar of their personally crafted herbal infusion (optional for $8 each during the workshop, cash only). The workshop is limited to 12 spaces.
When: Sunday, 26th March, 2.30-4.30pm.
Where: CERES community kitchen.
Cost: $65.
Enquiries: Rasha Tayeh by phone (0403 843923) or email.
Bookings: Trybooking.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

3000acres public meet-up

What: Ever wanted to know more about 3000acres? Know of a vacant piece of land with food growing opportunities? Looking for help or guidance with starting a community food project? Bring your questions and your big ideas along to the first 3000acres public meet-up for 2017. They would love to hear any thoughts on how they can help more people growing more food in more places.
When: Wednesday, 8th March, 6-7pm.
Where: Jewell Community Garden, Brunswick.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: 3000acres by email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Cool season vegetables

What: Gardener Katie Grace will talk about cool season vegetables, the best crops to sow, soil preparation and how to layout your garden for a successful harvest
When: Thursday, 9th March, 11am-midday.
Where: Heide Museum of Modern Art.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Heide Museum of Modern Art by phone (9850 1500) or email.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Apple tasting at Petty’s Orchard

What: Sample the seasonal flavours of the Heritage Apple Collection. Around 15 varieties available for tasting. Limited quantities available for purchase. Orchard tour included. Bookings essential.
When: Monday, 13th March, 4-6pm.
Where: Petty’s Orchard.
Cost: $15.
Enquiries: Heritage Fruits Society by phone (0449 508318).
Bookings: Heritage Fruits Society website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Backyard chooks workshop

What: Go along and learn the basics of backyard chicken-keeping. 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! Facilitated by Farmer Stephen from Edendale Farm. Hosted by Earth Co-op and Murundaka Cohousing Community.
When: Saturday, 18th March, 3-5pm.
Where: Murundaka Cohousing Community.
Cost: $7.50.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Vietnamese cooking and costume show

What: Enjoy a taste of Vietnamese culture with a cooking demonstration with the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, followed by a Vietnamese traditional costume show.
When: Monday, 20th March, 10.30-11.30am.
Where: Thomastown Library.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Thomastown Library by phone (9464 1864) or email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Propagation workshop

What: Facilitated by Robin and Paul Gale-Baker from Sustainable Macleod. In this workshop you will learn how to propagate from seed (in punnets and direct sowing into the garden), cuttings and root division. If you have secateurs please bring them. If you are a beginner gardener, this workshop will help you to get started while more experienced gardeners will enjoy taking advantage of the expertise of the facilitators.
When: Sunday, 26th March, 2.30-5pm.
Where: Alice House, Heidelberg West.
Cost: $15.
Enquiries: Mikoto Araki by phone (9450 2665).
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Easter chocolate novelties workshop

What: Join Irene Williams from the Victorian Cake Decorating Society to make your own Chicken in a Rocky Road Nest. Bookings essential.
When: Monday, 27th March, 10.30-midday.
Where: Thomastown Library.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Thomastown Library by phone (9464 1864) or email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Opportunity to set up a community garden in Lalor

What: Links Community Group is looking for people who are interested in starting a community garden in Lalor. They have a pending lease application at 405 station street Lalor (right near the train station) with VicTrack. This site has 24 hour access and can thus meet the needs of those who can’t normally attend during office hours. The purpose of the group will be as much about fostering community connections as gardening so all those who are interested in cooking, preserving, sustainability, sensory gardens, providing meals for those in need, upcycling, outdoor mothers, other social groups, eating or simply enjoy being in nature are encouraged to attend. Anyone interested in participating in the community garden, either attend this event on 25th March or email Matthew Odgers or simply join their Facebook page.
When: Saturday, 25th March, 10.30am onwards.
Where: Lalor Library.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Matthew Odgers from the Links Community Group by email.
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, 1st April, 9-11am.
Where: Bee Sustainable, Brunswick East.
Cost: $65.
Enquiries: Bee Sustainable by phone (9939 7301) or email.
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Olive magic

What: What you will learn: improve your culinary knowledge; learn how to preserve olives; and understand and experience different techniques for preserving olives. What you will get: take home olives ready to eat; take home olives that you will continue to cure ready to eat at a later date; recipes and notes on the different techniques used; and olive preserves tasting with cheese, biscuits and wine. Presented by Lucy Marasco. Transform bitter unpalatable olives into gourmet delights! This hands-on workshop will show you a variety of different ways Italians use to preserve green olives straight from the tree.
When: Saturday, 8th April, 9.30am-12.30pm.
Where: Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.
Cost: $45.
Enquiries: Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery by phone (8850 3030).
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Gardening with kids

What: What you will learn: how to grow fresh produce in your own backyard and have heaps of fun doing it; how common household items can be reused in the garden; and how ‘good bugs’ can help you to look after your veggie patch. What you will get: seasonal vegetable seeds and/or seedlings to grow at home; detailed course notes; and booklet of gardening ideas and activities to try at home. Presented by Nicole Griffiths. Growing food is a great way for children to connect with the natural environment and to develop an appreciation for the food that they eat. It also happens to be heaps of fun. In this hands-on class, you will explore some easy and inexpensive ways to grow food at home, regardless of whether you have an acre of land or just a windowsill. Children (and grown-ups) will get their hands dirty with practical gardening and craft activities using recycled and re-purposed objects. By the end of the class, each student will have made a variety of goodies to grow and use in their gardens at home. The class is suitable for children aged 5 to 10 and children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Please note that the class cost covers both a child and 1 accompanying adult.
When: Tuesday, 11th April, 10am-midday.
Where: Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.
Cost: $35.
Enquiries: Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery by phone (8850 3030).
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Seed raising with Felicity Gordon

What: Join local permaculture expert Felicity Gordon to learn the secrets successful seed raising.
When: Tuesday, 18th April, 11.30am-12.30pm.
Where: Diamond Valley Library.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Dione Fisher by phone (9434 3809) or email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

The joy of backyard chooks

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 Maria Ciavarella. A couple of chooks in the backyard were once a staple part of the suburban quarter acre block and their eggs a healthy part of the diet. Smaller backyards needn’t mean an end to keeping these most versatile of creatures. Join their class to find out how easy it is to keep a few hens as pets and as the ultimate garden recyclers in a sustainable household. They will cover housing, protection, feeding and varieties, as well as practical ideas on how to live harmoniously with them in your garden.
When: Thursday, 20th April, 6.30-9pm.
Where: Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.
Cost: $45.
Enquiries: Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery by phone (8850 3030).
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Apple tasting at Petty’s Orchard

What: Their last tasting of the apple season. A selection of late-ripening apples – dessert, cooking and cider. Taste 15 varieties over a 2-hour period. Orchard tour included. Coffee and nibbles included. Booking essential.
When: Saturday, 22nd April, 2-4pm.
Where: Petty’s Orchard.
Cost: $15.
Enquiries: Heritage Fruits Society by phone (0449 508318).
Bookings: Heritage Fruits Society website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Home harvest Manningham

What: A series of presentations to be held on the last Wednesday of the month when there isn’t a ‘Smarter Living’ presentation. More specifically:

  • How to design a clean food growing system: Wednesday, 26th April, 7-9pm.
  • Garlic masterclass: Wednesday, 28th June, 7-9pm.
  • Fruit tree essentials: Wednesday, 30th August, 7-9pm.
  • Tomato masterclass: Wednesday, 27th September, 7-9pm.
  • Worm farm and composting: Wednesday, 25th October, 7-9pm.
  • Summer harvest: Wednesday, 29th November, 7-9pm.

Where: Manningham Civic Centre.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Nigel Philpott by phone (9840 9173) or email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Native herbs for the kitchen and garden

What: What you will learn: which native produce-plants are suitable for growing in the Melbourne area; what to harvest and when; and how to use them to flavour your dishes and enliven your garden. Presented by Karen Sutherland. Explore edible native Australian plants that are easy to grow, attractive and add flavour and interest to your home-cooked dishes. Lemon myrtle, bush pepper and native salt are just a few of the flavours we can smell and taste, and they and many others will be discussed in terms of how best to use and grow them in your garden. All plants covered are suitable for a Melbourne climate, and many are suitable for pot cultivation. Add bushfoods to your garden and plate without delay!
When: Saturday, 29th April, 9.30-10.30am.
Where: Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.
Cost: $45.
Enquiries: Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery by phone (8850 3030).
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Introduction to horticulture – 9 session course

What: This is a 9-session course spread across 9 weeks. And it is only $130 for the full 9-session course! Working as a team with fellow participants, you will gain a broad overview and practical, hands-on experience such topics as: introduction to plant recognition; propagation; planting; soil properties; environmentally sustainable work practices; and career pathways/further study in the horticulture industry. You will spend a lot of time outdoors (getting your hands dirty!) under the leadership of an experienced trainer and horticulturalist, along with some time in the classroom learning basic theory and exploring study pathways. The course will be run by Justin Calverley, a horticultural expert with twenty years’ experience. Inter alia, Justin is a lead trainer in adult education at CERES, where he has presented workshops on topics ranging from fruit and vegetable production to bush foods, and from garden design to sustainable gardening.
When: Saturday, 29th April – Saturday, 8th July, 9.30am-3pm. Also, Monday, 1st May – Monday, 3rd July, 9.30am-3pm.
Where: Edendale.
Cost: $130 for all 9 sessions ($73 concession).
Enquiries / Bookings / Further information: Living & Learning Nillumbik’s website.

Keeping backyard chooks

What: Felicity Gordon will cover the basics of keeping chooks in your own backyard. Topics covered will include: how to set up a fox proof chicken coup; advantages of different breeds; what to feed chooks; how to keep chooks in good health; and how keeping chooks can be a valuable part of a productive food garden.
When: Saturday, 29th April, 11am-midday.
Where: Watsonia Library.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Watsonia Library by phone (9088 3417).
Bookings: just turn up.
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).

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